Like some of the tastiest recipes, the best moments in life have few ingredients.
Savor the simplicity of family and friends. Relish water, sun and trees.
Best when marinated in love and sautéed in the spirit of felicity.
Remember the Analog!
My husband posted this clever and thought provoking statement on Facebook the other morning and it perfectly ties together the theme of this blog which has been bouncing around in my head for weeks.
When contemplating the reasons why I miss the experiences of the 1980s so much, it comes down to some pretty basic things- some simple human needs that that time satisfied for many in my generation.
I often ask, Why do Gen Xers love the Netflix Stranger Things series so much?.
In my first blog on the topic, I discussed four things that the ST characters and plot exemplified:
Upon further reflection, I realized that these things are all analog and are supported by in-person, live connections and relationships. In short, most analog activities make us happy.
I also discerned that my four reasons where also closely aligned to the five basic human needs outlined in William Glasser’s book “Choice Theory” which are:
Choice theory psychology posits that almost all behavior is chosen and we are driven by our genes to satisfy these five basic needs.
I find myself longing for more analog activities like riding bikes, playing board games and socializing with friends because it brings me more joy and relief from the bitter and angry world of social media.
The positive memories of growing up in the 1980s is a safe and happy shelter for many people and this is why period pieces like Stranger Things and GLOW are so popular. Plus, the clothes and the music of the 80s were just so funky and hilarious.
For me, the feeling of being part of a group where I could have free, fun, empowering adventures was an amazingly strong and positive gift that I wish I could replicate in the world today.
So how can we get a piece of that happiness back in our lives without having a TARDIS or a flux-capacitor fitted DeLorean?
When looking at these activities through a psychological lens- they do seem to satisfy the human needs of Freedom, Fun, Power and Control ( with #19 & 20 clearly being for Survival).
I am a huge fan of the series Stranger Things and GLOW on Netflix and I hope that these thoughts and ideas can help bring you a bit of the fun, happiness and adventure I had growing up in the 1980s.
Memories of my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in central New Jersey came rushing back in full neon color. It was 1983 and I was a Hostess at the York Steakhouse and if you can believe it, my work uniform was ten times as dorky and considerably more ugly than the sailor suits that Steve and Robin donned at the Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor in the Starcourt Mall. My lovely restaurant server wear was a heinous burnt orange, one-piece polyester dress with puke yellow trim. It was cut above the knee and was a remnant from a bad 1975 style. Oh how I sympathized with Steve and his silly sailor’s cap.
I do have many positive memories of my childhood at the local mall and some of them actually include the color orange. My favorite all time dessert drink is the Orange Julius and the show had me craving it and a big, warm chocolate cookie in the worst way.
In the first few episodes of Stranger Things Season 3, the scenes in the mall were fun, campy and true to most of my memories. I don’t recall my mall being as crowded in the summer months because most of us in were playing outside or down the shore.
Growing up, our mall’s anchor stores were Bamberger’s and JC Penney and I spent many hours in The Children’s Place, The Gap and at the Piercing Pagoda were I got my ears pierced at age nine. I was encouraged to wear earrings because my haircut at the time was very short (a failed attempt at the “Dorothy Hamill look”) and my sister didn’t want people to mistake me for a boy. I, like Max in Stranger Things, was a bit of a tomboy and I didn’t like to dress up in frilly clothes. I spent many fun and unsupervised hours in the early 1980s riding either my skateboard, my Huffy ten speed bike or my Schwinn unicycle. Riding bikes with my friends topped the list as my all time favorite thing to do.
While there were many threads and plots in the rich and complex Season 3, the overarching theme that resonated with me most was the strength and unshakable power of the friendship bonds among the characters. Even though they were all were changing and growing in strange new ways, they never stopped caring about each other. Even though they were often confused and upset with each other’s words and actions, they never gave up and never stopped fighting or sacrificing for one another. That’s what I remember about my friends and family in the 80s- a strong sense of loyalty, honor and integrity.
The bold, stark and often comical contrasts of many of the scenes had my emotions shifting faster than the bumper cars at the fun fair carnival.
In all, it was an action-packed storyline with a strong and emotional ending. No spoilers here!
The other fun and random things I enjoyed about ST Season 3 include:
Life is a crazy rollercoaster and sometimes you just have to laugh at the absolute insanity of it all.
This is why Part 4 of my compelling blog features the phrase “Just Keep Laughing” for the letters JKL. I thought this was more helpful and inspirational than “Just Kidding Loser” or worse yet, the dreaded “Just Kidding LOL”. Is it just me or do you find LOL to be annoying?
My Mom’s favorite express was “Live, Love, Laugh” and I always admired her warm smile and jolly laugh. She had a tough life with many challenges but she never let it get her down.
So when the crazy/mean/rude/obnoxious people in this world start making you feel like your head is going to explode, remember Just Keep Laughing!
Plus, as an added bonus, laughing has many health benefits for you, including:
I was happy to attend a festive holiday party with my Ahwatukee Toastmaster friends last week and little did I realize that it was supporting an anti-cancer lifestyle.
The annual white elephant gift exchange is a lively and often hilarious tradition at many Toastmaster year-end gatherings and this one did not disappoint. The devious antics played out and the most “stolen” gifts were a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure and a particular plunger of questionable origin ( new, with tag).
The biggest gift of the evening came to me a few hours after the party, while I was reading in bed. While scrolling through notification messages on Facebook, I noticed an interesting article posted by my good friend Nancy in Texas. I clicked on the story and dove into an intriguing piece written by Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, a Houston based Professor and Researcher who introduced the “Mix of Six” as a way to reduce ones risk of developing cancer.
At this point you may be wondering, is the mix of six some new drink recipe?
No, it’s not the latest libation trend but rather group of factors and lifestyle choices which, when combined, can radically transform health and delay or prevent many cancers.
The Mix of Six factors include:
The bonus is that the fun, laughter and social connectedness I enjoyed from the joyous Toastmaster event was supporting my health in ways I never imagined (plus the food, especially the homemade samosas, was delicious).
Bottom line: Emotional support and fellowship is the best medicine for combating loneliness and illness.
The White Elephant in the room could be your best Doctor!
But wait, there’s more!
Research shows that having a strong circle of positive, supportive family and friends helps with stress management which in turn helps with sleep. It’s like getting a 3 for 1 deal toward your the magical mix of six.
Warning: Overstuffing on holiday food and drink can be can be slippery slope and should be enjoyed in moderation.
So be present and give yourself the gift of health this holiday season. Enjoy connecting with others in the light heartened spirit of sharing, laughing and sometimes “stealing” a white elephant gift!
Festive gatherings and silly, zany gift exchanges are a fun and wonderful way to share in a circle of wellness and jolly goodwill.
My nostalgic yearning for life as it was in the 1980s continues for a number of reasons. Sad news of the passing of a childhood friend, an upcoming family visit to my hometown and the longing for simpler, more authentic experiences have me pining for my happy days growing up in the small, friendly community of Spotswood, NJ.
Last year I wrote a two part series on the popular Netflix series Stranger Things and the Dungeons & Dragon phenomena and today I am excited to share with you the latest update on Stranger Things season 3.
This quirky teaser trailer for season 3 had me LMAO and vividly remembering my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in 1983.
I visited the shopping mall the other day and it just didn’t have the same positive vibe that I remember growing up.
It looks like we will have to wait a bit longer to get our next 1985 fix since season 3 of Stranger Things isn’t scheduled to release until mid 2019.
The other thing I loved about the 1980s was the music. Everyday I listen to SiriusXM radio on my drive to work and I always end up on the 70s, 80s or Classic Vinyl/Rewind channels. Hair Nation is also a favorite channel with its compilation of arena rock concert music.
Images of black and white band jerseys come flooding back every time I hear a song from Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or Lynryd Skynryd.
I also enjoyed Casey Kasem and the weekly Top 40 countdown so I thought I’d share with you my own list of memories from the decade of big hair and great movies.
The Top 40 List (in no particular order) of the things I miss most about the awesome 80s:
Once upon a time in a land called Spotswood, there lived a small band of boys who wanted to escape to faraway places. Some were heroes and some were villains but all were creatively powerful. The young lads were named Peter, Chris, Bob and Jake. Led by a Dungeon Master, they met every week to map out their adventures and roll the dice for their fate.
The group ducked out of the doldrums of tedious tasks from school and created a magical world beyond anyone’s dreams. It was wondrous place of exploration and discovery where the only limitation was the boundaries of their imaginations.
A small square of land inside the boundaries of the brook and the streets of Bruning, Maiden and Manalapan became mystical whenever the boys met to embark on their adventures by waging war against the monsters.
Each boy became a rich and clever character with varying abilities and they often worked together to strategize, solve problems and overcome challenges. Other times they plotted and schemed and sought more control and power.
Some were Human and some were Elves. Others were Dwarfs or Wizards.
No matter what class they were, they assembled face to face around the table to slay monsters like Dragons, Giants, Orcs and Demogorgons.
In my last article “Friends Don’t Lie and other Stranger Things”, I highlighted how the elements of Freedom and Adventure were more prevalent for kids growing up in 1980s and were fostered by the very popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). The lack of electronic distractions combined with the creative power of the face-to face interactions with a dedicated group of ongoing characters propelled a generation of geeks and nerds into one of the most innovative and explosive periods of American prosperity, the 1990s.
One of the things that fascinated me most about the Netflix series, Stranger Things, was the central and influential role the D&D-like game played. The plot, time frame and characters were perfectly set and most Generation Xers will proudly tell you that the story line would not have worked as well in another other decade.
When I was a young girl, my heroes were Wonder Woman and Samantha Stephens from Bewitched. Science fiction and fantasy were my favorite books thanks to my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Muschla. So as you might imagine, I love the idea of average, ordinary people possessing special powers that enables them to kick ass and defeat the stronger villains and monsters.
Role-playing games like D&D are so popular because they so strongly tap into that primal urge to be secure and defeat any threat to one’s safety. It is all the more fun and appealing when you add in a sprinkle of magical powers that help you slay an evil foe with a bit of fire and flair! Merlin and Harry Potter showed us this.
Although I wasn’t an elf or a witch or even a fairy, I had a carefree and adventurous childhood growing up in Spotswood, NJ. Everyone in the neighborhood knew each other by name and we all played together in the streets and explored in the woods and by the outlets, rivers and lakes.
I grew up on a small street called Maiden Lane and soon branched out with friends on Bruning Lane and Manalapan Road. After junior high school my world expanded to include friends from faraway places like East Brunswick, Milltown and Old Bridge (they were really only a few miles away).
The close-knit friendships we forged in the 1980s were organic and lasting. The creative minds and sense of unlimited potential propelled us on an exciting journies to battle strange enemies and malevolent beings. Little did I know it would send me to the Persian Gulf in 1990 to fight in a war against Saddam Hussein but that is a story for another blog!
During school, my circle of friends was diverse and interesting included a quirky group of kids. They were mostly marching band members who were smart and dare I say slightly dorky. I had the fun and privilege to watch some of them play D&D for hours on end and was fascinated by the creativity and power of the character development. The concept of underdog heroes having powers to stop villains appeals to me and perhaps some of this influence is what planted the seed for me to join the US Army in the late 80s.
I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with some childhood friends from Spotswood to get their perspectives on Stranger Things and specially the influence of D&D. Luck would have it that I was Facebook friends Peter C. (Spotswood SHS class of 82) and he has been a Dungeon Master for the past eight years and played with the boys on my block in the early 80s. Jack Pot! What fun we had talking about Stranger Things and strolling down memory lane, if not Maiden Lane.
Pete explained that D&D puts you into the adventure and makes you a hero. It sparks your imagination and for him and his friends it made their comic books come alive.
As a Stranger Things fan, Pete felt that “the D&D connection in the show allows the kids to relate to the weird events having around them. They have readied themselves for these battles. D&D has taught them to be heroes and they are putting it use fighting the Demongorgon in the Upside Down. Mind Flayer and Truesight are also out of D&D and are referenced in Season 2.
The New Yorker magazine recently published an article by Neima Jahromi titled “The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons and Dragons” (Oct. 24, 2017) and it summarized well some of the key ideas I had percolating in my mind after binge-watching Stranger Things Season 2.
The themes of escaping and being “off the grid”, connecting with a close and trusted circle of friends and fighting a common enemy are alluring and powerful in any decade. The creativity that is unleashed by unplugging and sitting face to face around a table for hours is amazing and satisfying for many people. The level of immersion, concentration and focus that results from this type of experience is also something that is lacking our in hyper distracted and multi-tasking world.
This is why! This is the reason why Stranger Things resonated so strongly with me and millions of others.
People long to escape and share their stories and experiences. Role-playing games like D&D bring people together and gives the group sense of camaderie and belonging.
Like the band of boys from the land of Spotswood, you can enter a magical world that is an exciting place of exploration and discovery where the only limitation is the bounds of your imagination. You can become a long-standing character that can grow in skills and power. You can be a force for good or you can chose to become a monster. No matter what, you will have fun and shared adventures with a trusted circle of friends.