Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Gen X Movie Marathon (Week 30 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

When I was in high school I used to do movie marathons during winter break either by myself or with a friend.  Four or so movies in one day could mean seeing something like twelve movies in just three days.  Now I'm in my 30s with infinitely more responsibility so it could take several weeks to watch the same number of movies I used to be able to see in a few days.  There have been some holes in the list of quintessential Gen X movies I'd seen throughout my life and I felt it was time to fill those holes in.  This week was the end of a movie marathon I did over the past couple of months and these were some of the movies I recently watched:

Pretty in Pink (1986) - One might wonder how I can call myself a poster child for Gen X if I had never seen this movie.  I meant to.  I just never got around to it until now.   My defense is that I always really wanted to see it.  Now I have. I liked the classic love story line of people falling in love from the opposite side of the tracks.  Molly Ringwald was the teenager that all of us younger Gen X girls looked up to who had not yet become teenagers.  We were sure that she knew everything that we did not - like how to go to a prom with or without a date AND make your own dress.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) - Until now, I'd only seen small fragments of this movie out of chronological order when it would air on some movie channel and then I'd have to turn it off and go do my homework.  Considering that this is a time-travel movie, you can imagine that this would be a bit confusing.  I finally got to see it in its entirity AND in chronological order.  This helped things make much more since when Billy the Kid and Socrates go ice skating at a local mall.  I laughed out loud more than a few times.

Labyrinth (1986) - I have heard Gen Xers reference this movie seemingly hundreds of times during our childhood and teenage years.  While I wasn't crazy about the plot, Jim Hensen and George Lucas both worked on the film, both of who, of course, are very important to Gen X - our childhoods would not have been the same without them.  This meant enormous work went into creating the Muppet characters and the set which had both M.C. Escher and Alice in Wonderland qualities.  I had to smile at the random electric guitar solo soundtrack background that were sometimes accompanied by some crazy synthesizer sounds, too. Very mid-80s.

The Outsiders (1983)  - This was the film in which many from the Brat Pack made their first appearance and it was interesting to see many of them when they were still so very young.  The story is set in an earlier era than the one Gen Xers actually grew up in (the 1950s) and deals with class warfare.  Seeing everyone with their lives and careers ahead of them is sort of amazing since so much of the cast went on to become famous in the years that followed the film.  The cast includes Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane.

Tron (1982) - I can proudly say that I first saw this movie when in first came out in the theater, which makes me so very Gen X.  Of the $33 million it grossed, about $3 came from my ticket. I was just a six-year-old, so I didn't have the ability to really follow the story line, but I was mesmerized by the glow of the red and blue backlit animation that has vividly resided in my memory all these years.  I liked it even more this time around and I totally see why it became a cult film.  It's amazing to watch a film you haven't seen in 30 years and to recognize every scene.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hot Chocolate and a Charlie Brown Christmas (Week 29 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

This week, my family and I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas while sipping hot chocolate. Recently, I have thought a lot about Gen Xers as kids watching classic holiday specials as the weather turns cold - a Gen X seasonal ritual. Getting the full experience of any Charlie Brown holiday pretty much requires that you drink hot chocolate and curl up on the couch with a blanket - possibly like the one Linus has.

For all of the evenings throughout my growing-up years that this was shown on TV, I invariably was trying to get through a mountain of homework, and I'd watch it during a study break.  No matter what math test was coming up that week that I was stressing about, no matter how behind I was on my history paper, whenever this came on TV, this song made me feel so peaceful - like everything would be completely okay.... (Get a cup of hot chocolate ready before you watch this if you can.)

I remember standing and talking with a Gen X friend in her living room when we were teenagers. I was chatting on about something inconsequential and this was on the TV right near us.  She asked me with a certain seriousness to be quiet for a moment so we could watch this.   It felt that in this moment we were in the presence of something sacred.  This scene had been very important to her throughout her childhood, and it made me realize how important this was to the childhood of Gen X.

Frustrated again and again by how commercialized Christmas has become, Charlie Brown asks,  "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"  This is the answer he gets....

This has become one of the most beloved animated Christmas specials of all time and it has a special place in the heart of many Gen Xers.

Merry Christmas.


Recipe for Chloe's Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate (Sugar-Free)
canned coconut milk
powdered cocoa
sea salt
Put three or more tablespoons of cocoa powder in a pan on medium heat.
Pour in one can of coconut milk.  (One can makes about two cups).
Put in a tablespoon or more of stevia to taste.
Whisk while it heats up until the cocoa is totally mixed into the coconut milk.
A few shakes of sea salt brings out the taste of the chocolate.
Take off the stove right as it starts to boil and pour into your favorite mug.
(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gen X Stories (Week 28 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Throughout the Fireflies at Dusk project, I have asked Gen X friends to tell stories about their Gen X childhoods. Their stories have reminded me of Gen X memories long forgotten and have inspired me to come up with new ideas to write about. As they told me their stories, a story about my own childhood came to mind....

After 2nd grade I went to summer school at a local community college. They had all kinds of classes available for kids, so many of us took a half-day of an assortment of classes throughout the week. On the first day, me and about three other kids in my class were panicking because it said "You're On Your Own" on the print-out of our schedules that we had gotten from the administrative office. Our schedule of classes read something like this:

8:00 am Basics in Dance
9:00 am Fun with Art
10:00 am You're On Your Own
11:00 am Outdoor Sports

As it got closer to the time to be 'on my own,' I found myself getting pretty nervous - it made it hard to focus on the class I was in. I looked around and noticed at least a few other kids looking concerned, too. We were worried that soon we were going to be on our own at this big college campus to wander around aimlessly for an hour. We weren't sure what to do until a teacher finally told us that "You're on Your Own" was the name of a class, and pointed us in the direction of the building to find it.

You're on Your Own was actually a class for latchkey kids. Don't ask me why I remember this so well, but the syllabus was something like this:

1) Fire safety, followed by a film about why you shouldn't play with matches.
2) How to mend your own clothes.
3) How to call the police.
4) How to make simple meals on the stovetop (another review of fire safety here).
5) How to cook meals in the microwave if you are scared of the stove (per my request).
6) How to just make cereal for dinner if you don't want to use the microwave (per some other kid's request). We found out it's the same as making it at breakfast - you just eat it while watching prime time instead of morning cartoons.
7) Why you shouldn't get in someone's car if you are walking down the street and they pull up to you and say, "Hey, will you help me look for my lost dog?" (Another review of how to call the police here.)
8) How to make a magazine collage with scissors and a glue stick if you get bored.
9) How to make homemade play dough if you get bored.

The teacher was nice, the class was fun, and we all walked away a little less afraid of being on our own. Or maybe a little more. Either way, the class was fun.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Best Gen X Memories (Week 27 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Throughout the course of the Fireflies at Dusk Project, I've asked several Gen Xers about memories that stay with them from their Gen X childhoods.  These are some of my favorites from their memories:

Drinking Jolt and eating Pop Rocks at the same time

Slip 'n Slide

Going to McDonalds with my Mom (who was wearing huge hair/bangs and a huge baggy sweater) and listening to "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" by Starship on the radio

Garbage Pail Kids

Watching great sports moments with family (Mary Lou Retton, etc.)

Wearing Hypercolor shirts, "jellies" shoes, crimping my hair

Going to a "Super Mario 2" game play party the day the game came out

Having a waterbed/having a canopy bed/having a smurf bedspread

Raggedy Ann and Andy

Watching School House Rock

• Sitting in the school cafeteria and opening the latches on my metal Holly Hobby lunch box



Family home movies recorded on a huge beta camera

The Christmas Fruity Pebbles commerical

Of all the memories, the ones that came up the most were the TV shows they watched.  This included Ramblin' Rod and Voltron before school to after-school specials and Little House on the Prairie when the school day was over.  It also included weekend and weeknight favorites like Pee Wee's Playhouse, The Cosby Show, Fraggle Rock, Punky Brewster, The Facts of Life, and Family Ties.  The grand prize for best TV memories goes to the Gen X friend of mine would play sick to stay home and watch The Price is Right.

One year later update: A friend of mine said she remembers going to Pick and Save to buy "Where's The Beef?" stickers.  I told her I must add this to the Best Gen X memories list.  These weren't just any sticker - these were puffy 3D hamburger stickers.  Awesome.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Giant-Sized Lite Brite (Week 26 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

One of my best Gen X memories is playing with my Lite Brite.  I remember getting up early before Saturday morning cartoons would start while the curtains were still closed in the living room so that the room would be dark to give the light more contrast.  Plugging in the Lite Brite to let the colorful glow reflect on my face while laying on my stomach on shag carpet with a bowl of cereal in hand was a cozy way to start a morning.  We took my daughter to the Portland Children's Museum this week and they had this giant backlit board with slots for colored pegs that you could slide in and illuminate.  It was mesmerizing to me because it was exactly like my old Lite Brite, but on a larger scale.  

As part of the Fireflies at Dusk project, I have been looking for ways to pass on my history, my Gen X culture, and other parts of  who I am to my daughter.  I hope that when she is older, when she looks back on the entirety of what I strove to teach her and to pass on to her, that she will see a lot of color, a lot of hope, and a lot of light.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vintage Soda (Week 25 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

A grocery store where I often shop recently started selling vintage soda bottles.  This week, I gave these as an early Christmas present for my husband to put up on a shelf in a room in our house that is decorated in a vintage style.    

Bubble Up (first bottled in Ohio, 1917) - As an elementary school kid, I had a babysitter who had grown up during the Depression and had stockpiles of random things in her house just in case of another one.  I remember the huge case of these stored in her garage.  If there had been a second Depression in her lifetime, she would have been ready to face it without the worry of running out of lemon-lime soda.  (Hey, if you had lived through the Depression you might do the same.)

Frostie Root Beer (first bottled in Maryland, 1939) -  I remember chugging down a foamy, cold can of it back when cans still had pull tab tops in the early 1980s.

Dad's (first bottled in Chicago, 1937) -  I remember a friend from high school always had this at her house in the early 1990s and she would let us have one whenever we came over for lunch.

Sometimes when I see the transparent color of sodas - like orange or the blue pictured above - I think of all the times I saw these colors in bottles of soda at the the truck stops or convenience stores I've passed through in my nomadic life.  Since I began the Fireflies at Dusk project, I have discovered how much color played a part in my childhood, and in all our Gen X childhoods.  Distinct colors bring back distinct memories in the same way an old familiar song comes on the radio and in a moment you are transported to another time and another place.  Throughout the project, as I have opened containers of play dough, as I have found old copies of my out-of-print textbooks, and as I have looked back on the food that Gen X ate while growing up, I have seen how these still images in our minds - these images of color and shape - have imprinted themselves on our collective memory.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why the Holidays are Hard for Gen X (Week 24 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

There were a lot of things going on for Gen X during the holidays of their growing-up years that were difficult. That is in part because Gen X grew up during the highest divorce rate in history, which led to the most blended family situations in history. Take all the complications of that in addition to the usual problems that go on in families -- the hopes and expectations of what we feel the holidays should hold, the hurts and disappointments of what it often does hold -- and you end up with a lot to deal with.

If you are a Gen Xer who had to spend holidays with a step-family/more than one step family, you may have noticed:

a) they didn't really want you there, or
b) they didn't really want you there but tried to at least be cordial (or at least some/most of them did)

Or perhaps you had a step-family that seemed initially welcoming and made you think that you could really be a part of their family until some painful moment occurred when you discovered that you were, in fact, just really an outsider. You may remember trying to navigate your second, third, or fourth step-family situation. This kind of situation is hard because you still have scars from the previous situation, and by this time all your your naivety has been replaced with cynicism, yet you've got to find the energy to completely start again. This kind of situation might mean that you had more than one moment when you are left out of some group conversation at a holiday meal or you don't get the punchline to an inside joke. It was in one of those moments that you realized that you essentially spent your life as some sort of foster child and that you raised yourself.

Now you don't have to go to those holiday dinners anymore. Now you have a choice to do what you want.

This means you do not have to:

a) pretend to smile and be happy, or
b) get in trouble for not smiling and being happy

As you go on in life, when you find yourself sitting at yet another table where you have to swallow your anger or hold back your tears...don't eat at that table anymore. Most importantly, now that you are the adult, make a conscious decision to never treat others the way you have been treated.

If you are a Gen Xer who has created a blended family of your own, remember what it feels like to be the step-child -- it would in fact be hard to forget. During the holidays, treat your step-children with genuine love if you can, or at least genuine kindness. Kids can smell fakeness from a mile away, and holidays are some of the most vivid childhood memories they will have for the rest of their life.

One very Gen X person I used to know in college told me a story once that his mom's boyfriend dragged their Christmas tree outside when he was a child, poured a can of gasoline on it, and then lit it on fire. The man was angry that he didn't get to have Christmas as a kid, and apparently that is how he dealt with the anger. My friend was only a little boy at the time -- he and his brother watched through the cold panes of the window as the ornaments melted and the flames scorched the branches. Then he looked at his brother who dryly said, "Well, there goes Christmas."

When I heard this story in college, I felt sorry for my friend and his brother. As I have grown older I have also begun to feel sorry for the tree-igniting boyfriend. I have seen so much more of life and how people's suffering can make them do crazy things. My advice this holiday season is to take extra good care of yourself. Bring yourself to the present moment when your mind drifts to unhappy memories, and give others the most genuine love you are able to. Even if your holidays were horrible when you were growing up, even if you have every reason in the world to be mean to other people, don't be the guy with the gasoline can.

This week, and for the rest of the holiday season, I have given myself permission to go take a moment when I need one, and to take it easy on myself.

Take it easy on yourself, too.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jumping in the Autumn Leaves (Week 23 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

When it comes to the associations and memories of a generation, some things are specific to that generation and some things are timeless in that they apply to everyone. One of these things is scooping leaves into a pile and to jumping into them....

I knew that having a child would make me slow down a lot, but I didn't realize that it would even make me experience time differently.  When my little one stops to study a pebble on the sidewalk when we need to be somewhere on time, I need to remember that she is making me live more within time instead of constantly chasing it.  This week, I decided not only to jump in the autumn leaves, but also to be more intentional about noticing the tiny things that she notices without rushing myself on to the next thing that needs to be done or looking down at my watch. 

Nothing gets me thinking about time like autumn.  All around us are  the red and gold reminders that nothing is permanent.  It seems our minds bend in every direction trying to understand time.  You always hear the same expressions about time.  Adults say things to children like,  "You are growing up so fast!"   Or friends reminiscing about a shared past say things like, "Where did the time go?" There are endless clich├ęs about time,  and we cannot stop saying them because we are constantly stunned by the way time passes.  

I watch my daughter grab a handful of red leaves and throw them above her head and stomp on the piles I have made for her in the park.  I think to myself about how one generation grows up, and another grows old.  I am on the other side of growing up.  I am on the side of growing old, and in the bigger picture, I am only in this life for a very short time.

Those once-green leaves that are now being released by their branches and are fluttering down to the earth from where they came.
Go jump in them.

This time we have is a gift, don't let it pass you by.  The people we love are a gift.

Appreciate the gift.   

- A generation comes and a generation goes, but the earth remains forever.  The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises...Enjoy Life....  - Ecclesiastes

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved


Thursday, November 3, 2011

All the Good Food of Autumn (Week 22 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

This week the Fireflies at Dusk Project was all about making and eating good Autumn food.  This included roasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash soup with spiced roasted pecans sprinkled on top, and baked cinnamon apples.  Here were the highlights...

An organic pumpkin spice latte on the table on a
 cloudy, cold morning.

Tomato bisque soup with a dollop of sour cream and crushed
pistachios for lunch on a busy Saturday. 

Mini berry cobblers for all!  Made with an oatmeal topping and
 homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert at the end of a long day.

Many of the good memories through the seasons of my life have been connected to food.  One of the most important aspects of a culture is its food, and a generation is a culture within itself. Many Gen Xers grew up on a lot of processed food/convenience food, and there has been a gradual movement of Xers trying to get back to natural/homemade foods. There are all kinds of food allergies that didn't exist a generation ago, too. I've decided to create a "page" (which can be found at the top of this blog on the homepage) about revisiting Gen X American food in a new and healthier way.

(c) 2013 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Vintage Gen X Halloween (Week 21 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

This year my daughter's Halloween costume is serious vintage.  I made an amazing find on Ebay: a never-been-worn toddler costume from the 1960s that was cheap because it just needed some repairs and cleaning.  Ben Cooper  was a company that sold packaged Halloween costumes that included a mask and an outfit:  in this case it was pink fuzzy flannel.

Ben Cooper made costumes from the late 1930s to the early 1990s.
From the 1950s-1970s, the company was iconic of an American Halloween. 

I have a distinct memory of Halloween night in 1979: after I was done trick-or-treating, I remember opening the front door with my dad to hand out candy to kids and seeing a small kid in my neighborhood standing in front of me wearing this exact costume.  So either they were still making this costume in the 70s, or it was a hand-me-down from their older sibling.  Why do I remember this since I was 3 at the time and now I'm 35?  I have this weird knack for photographically memorizing patterns like the one on Fluffy the Bunny's crazy bow tie...    

Still in the original box! I remember taking my costumes
out of boxes just like this when I was a tot.

I imagine this box being stored in someone's attic under some old Super 8 reels which would explain the dent on top.  When I look at the pumpkins at the bottom of the box all I can think of is "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."  They look just like the pumpkins at the party where Lucy goes bobbing for apples and finds Snoopy in the water. 

Here's to all the vintage memories of Gen X watching Halloween specials on TV, running through neighborhoods in the dark, collecting candy in the cold air, and feeling condensation form on the inside of a plastic mask that turned you into someone else, even if just for one night.  

(c) 2011 photography and wrting by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gen X and Live Aid (Week 20 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

"It's twelve noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for: Live Aid...."

- Richard Skinner (British Radio and TV Broadcaster) opening the show

Many Gen Xers remember Live Aid as a monumental event that took place on July 13, 1985.  The concert  was a collaborative effort between JFK stadium in Philadelphia and Wembley stadium in London, along with acts happening in other parts of the world like the INXS performance in Australia.  I remember the buzz going around my sleepy, small-town neighborhood about the event, though at the time I could not have imagined how big it all was.  I did not know that weekend would hold "the day music changed history."

I was just an elementary school kid who hadn't really gotten into music yet - I could recognize a couple of Top 40 songs from the radio, but that was about it. By the end of the day though, things had changed - I had been introduced to the best bands of the decade, along with the concept of social consciousness.  Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats had organized "the greatest live concert ever staged." Roughly $283 million was raised for the famine in Ethiopia at the time.
I will never forget that day.  Around 2 billion of us were watching this broadcast.  Gen X watched this together from both sides of the Atlantic and countries around the world.  I spent the day learning who different bands were.  I also worked on figuring out all the male singers with blond hair - Sting, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams....

Broken-up bands reunited even if just for one day, but when the day was over Duran Duran had split.  Queen's set was considered by many to be the best performance in rock history.  The feed was supplied by the BBC, ABC, MTV, and the radio.  Any musician you can think of from that era was there, meant to be there, or helped to write some of the music.  Fuses blew, cords came loose, a generator broke down, but the show went on.

Clips I decided to watch of Live Aid this week included:

 1)  Bono saving the life of a girl about to be crushed by a massive wave of  people pushing forward toward the stage - they were performing Bad, and everyone thought he had just picked her to dance with him.

2) Cyndi Lauper's commercial to get people to buy the Live Aid book - unlike now when you can go online and look at info. and photos of an event immediately, back then you had to drive to a book store, bring the book home, open it, and actually turn the pages....

3) Simple Minds singing Don't You Forget About Me - What could possibly be a more iconic Gen X moment than this?

Older Gen Xers will remember Live Aid as something they looked forward to for weeks - it was a day they took off to stay glued to the TV.  If they couldn't get the day off, they listened to Live Aid from radios as they worked at their minimum wage summer jobs.  Younger Gen Xers like myself may remember Live Aid as the Saturday we put our cartoons and toys aside to open our eyes to the larger world around us.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gen X and Tradition (Week 19 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52 Week Project)

The fog lifted over the fields so we could see the blue mountains in the distance, and the rain stopped for a while as my family began a new yearly tradition of going out to the pumpkin patch.

Any generation who grows up during a tumultuous time either in their home life or in the world in general finds themselves especially needing tradition and familiarity.  Too much of the lives of Gen Xers has been filled with stress and has gone speeding by.  Too many seasons of my life have passed when I was consumed entirely by work or school or others' expectations of me.  Now it is time to live more intentionally in the moment - and in the season.  Walking through the cool air on the soft earth, we went back to the car in our muddy rain boots. Pumpkins rolled around in the back seat as we turned the corner to get on the road to take us home.

This was the best thing we could have done with this day that was given to us. 

______________(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved_____________

This entry was featured on the blog of Jennifer James: 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday Morning Cartoons and Waffles with Maple Syrup (Week 18 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

This weekend my family and I ate waffles and watched a sampling of old-school Saturday morning cartoons.

Cartoons I watched as a kid that immediately come to mind...

Rocky and Bullwinkle, Rainbow Brite, Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, The Care Bears, Richie Rich, He-Man, Pac-Man, Looney Tunes, Heathcliff, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mighty Mouse, The Jetsons, The Flintstones.    

Sometimes, in 2nd grade, I'd get up in the morning and then proceed with following events:
1) change the channels and try to find cartoons on TV
2) get mad because cartoons were not on
3) realize it was not Saturday
4) realize it was Friday
5) panic
6) scarf down a bowl of Rice Crispies
7) grab my Snoopy lunch box, throw it in my backpack, and run to school as I put my hair in a side-ponytail

As diverse and multi-ethnic as Gen Xers are, the ultimate common thread of our experience is what we watched on TV.  The most common experience of our childhood may be a very important ritual we adhered to - Saturday morning cartoons.  This kind of collective experience is what makes a generation.  Although we didn't realize it at the time, all of us 46 million Gen Xers ate our waffles together....

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Sunday, October 2, 2011

School House Rock and Root Beer Floats (Week 17 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

My husband went out of town for the weekend, so I promised my two-year-old a mom-and-daughter weekend-o-fun.

Itinerary for mom-and-daughter weekend:
jump on the couch 
eat whipped cream straight from the can 
sing extremely loud at will 
watch School House Rock and drink root beer floats!

Good old YouTube.  We watched a bunch of classic episodes, and every time I showed her one, she wanted another.  I didn't think she'd be that into it!


As I've said in a previous post, my mind sometimes turns into an old VHS player -- as in I can actually hear the tape rewinding until it stops to show me a still-image memory long forgotten.  As I've been doing the Fireflies at Dusk project, I've been seeing images and hearing sounds that I have not heard for decades.  It is a bit strange to reconnect myself with these mementos of my life.  It feels something like a pang of homesickness or that sort of grieving that you feel when the sun sets on the last night of summer before the first day of school.  When I saw the episode about the number 8, and the girl began ice-skating in a figure 8 shape, my mind went into rewind mode, and I was suddenly a little kid standing in front of a TV on shag carpet and sun was spilling into the room.  When I started this project, I did not know why I was compelled to do it.  Is it to create a scavenger hunt of finding puzzle-piece memories in my mind to put them together to form some sort of mosaic?  If so, what is the picture I'm going to see?

Your assignment for the week:
1) Sing your favorite School House Rock song in the shower as loud as you can.
2) Jump on your couch at least once when no one is looking.
3) Eat something that tastes really good - some comfort food from your Gen X childhood that makes you really happy.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gen X and Shel Silverstein (Week 16 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Many Gen Xers grew up with Shel Silverstein's iconic works of children's poetry, either because they had his books, or because their teacher read his poetry in class on some Friday afternoon when everyone was ready for the weekend and in the mood for something funny.  Shel had an impact on our sense of humor, our sense of creativity, and even our sense of morality.  

I loved his 'epic' poetry like Sick about the girl who woke up and said she could not go to school because of a very extensive list of ailments until she discovers it's Saturday and all of the sudden feels just fine.  I also loved the beauty in the simplicity of those that were just a few lines long.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be tough, but I might go with Two Boxes - I love way they meet on the road and go home hand in hand to have some dinner.

Today, a posthumous collection was released.  I ordered mine online weeks ago and I was counting the days for it to be shipped.  It arrived on my doorstep today and I devoured it.  Those familiar with his work will appreciate how his illustrations make the writing come alive.  Just like all his poetry, you will laugh and laugh until all of the sudden there's a little twist, and suddenly you feel a little pain to the heart, or you feel that you have just learned something extraordinary.  If the main calling of a writer is to express the human condition, then this will involve both a bit of laughter and a stream of tears.

The poem that really struck me is called Dirty Face.  It is a message to adults who have forgotten about the joy of childhood.  An adult asks a child "Where did you get such a dirty face...?"  The child replies with a whole list of amazing and fun things he did during the day.  It ends with "I got it from ice cream and wrestling and tears/And from having more fun than you've had in years."

If you read Shel's poetry as a child, then the message he is sending you as an adult is don't forget to have fun.

Shel Silverstein 1930-1999

(c) 2013 by Chloe - all rights reserved

(Copyright for book cover and poetry: 2011 Evil Eye, LLC/Harper Collins Publishers) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Would be the Symbol of Your Gen X Childhood? (Week 15 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Mine would be a pinwheel.

I remember standing in my front yard as a three-year-old holding my pinwheel up to catch a passing breeze on warm summer evenings while my parents were doing yard work....

This week, in our neck of the woods, summer decided to leave us and fall decided to set in.  Just before the sun started hiding behind the clouds for the upcoming months, we caught its rays on the metallic surface.  As the last of the warm breezes came into our backyard, my little girl and I watched them spin in silver and blue.  

Time passes all too soon.  We must catch it and live this moment
while we can,
 any way we can.

For Jill 
(c) 2011 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Gen X Anniversary at the Arcade (Week 14 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

What do two Gen Xers do for their 5th anniversary?  With our tot in tow, we decided to spend the first half of the day at a funplex to play in an arcade, watch galaxy bowling, and have lunch.  (We spent most of our time in the arcade!)

What could be a more Gen X day than this?

Ski-ball rules!
 I forgot how satisfying it is to watch the machine spew out a ton of  tickets.
 I traded in the tickets for a litttle stuffed turtle for my daughter.  She named it Roxy. 

Kind of fun to watch her have her first arcade experience...

Every generation wants their children to know their roots.

I picture parents throughout time, journeying back to the places they are from.

I imagine them saying things to their little ones like:

"When I was small like you, this is the street I lived on."

"These mountains and this river are a part of my childhood."

Gen Xers take their kids to arcades and say things to their little ones like:

"When I was small like you, these are the games I used to play."

"These digital sounds and graphics are a part of my childhood."


Most Gen Xers spent part of their growing-up years in arcades.  It was a place of familiarity, a place where things were consistent even when the rest of you life was not.  It was a place of escape even if just for a little while, and it is an important piece of who we are.

(c) 2011 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gen X and the South (Week 13 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Some of the most vivid memories of my Gen X childhood are of the South.  The best of these memories was going on a road trip with my great aunt and uncle from their home in small town Louisiana to their vacation house that was propped up on stilts of cinder blocks near the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi.  The little house contained mix-matched furniture and worn pots and pans leftover from 1950s camping trips.

Sometimes here in the Pacific Northwest, when the day is a little too long, or rainy, or cold, I think about the smell of ocean or barbecued shrimp drifting through warm, balmy air.  I find myself longing for the sights and sounds of streets lined with Gulf-port hotels, antebellum homes, and sunburned people.

Since the Fireflies at Dusk project began, I have found myself thinking a lot about the South.  Several weeks ago, my family went out for southern food and it brought me a certain happiness that I had almost forgotten.  We were immersed in the smell of ribs being smoked.  Our table was covered in corn-on-the-cob, beans, and coleslaw, while the smiling people across from us dined on pecan pie.

This week, a close friend of mine came over for southern food.  She lived a lot her growing-up years in Georgia, so we share childhood memories of the South.  We feasted on a spread representing all the regions of the South and chased it all down with sweet tea.

As I try to make peace with my Gen X childhood, I find myself gathering up remnants of the cultures that made me who I am.  I will always remember watching my Southern-born great uncle standing at the mirror shaving and talking, passing on pieces of his unbounded wit and storytelling - letting it infiltrate my consciousness as a priceless inheritance.  I will never forget my older second cousin teaching me the unspoken code of the heart of hospitality that can only be shown and not explained.  In her garage hung the giant butterfly costume she'd wear on visits to local nursing homes.  She'd take me swimming and then offer me watermelon and fried chicken to devour afterward for lunch.  I think about these amazing people that I loved so much, that have now passed on to the other side, just as I think about that little vacation house as it was swept off its stilts by the force of Hurricane Katrina.

Any kid who is in and out of multiple cultures, getting moved in and out of several different schools, usually gets singled-out in some way, especially if you've brought with you the accent or some other baggage of the last place you lived.   If you are Gen X, I can guarantee that you probably felt misplaced or discarded at one point or another.  You know the feeling of being 'a man without a country.'  Because of the decisions of others, because of  divorce or remarriage, or the military, or the economy, or because your family was so rough that you had to run away, you most likely lived in many different places.

Gen Xers with tough childhoods sometimes want to block out any memory of their childhood altogether.  I have decided there is a better alternative:  taking back the memories that are rightfully yours.  Reclaim the good parts in spite of the bad and bring back to life the parts that were happy and peaceful - even if those parts were only a small part of your experience.

I remember peacefully floating on my back in the Gulf of Mexico at that Biloxi beach, staring at the gray sky - letting my body become weightless in the water made me feel that not only was I connected to the earth, but that I was made of the same substance.  The feeling of connection made me believe that I would truly have a place in the world - somewhere, someday.  Upon moving from one place and situation to another, and another, when I was not accepted by the people around me, I could always find my solace in the landscape.  That is where I could sense God.

I can name a hundred ways in which our generation got the shaft.

But I think the greatest gift our generation received was the opportunity to experience so many different cities and landscapes. When you have been exposed to many different places, it changes you - it makes you less narrow, less limited.

The not staying still made you who you are.

Keep moving forward.

If Gen X has been a lost, or wandering or displaced generation, then our curse was our blessing.


Recipe for Chloe's Organic Sugar-Free Southern Tea

Magnolia tea leaves
Purified water/ice
Liquid stevia
Organic fresh mint

Bring two cups of water to a rolling boil.  Put into a tea pot or glass measuring cup
with at least two or three tea bags depending on how strong you like it. 
Steep for 10 minutes.
Fill a pitcher to the top with ice.
Put in five droppers full of liquid stevia.
Pour the tea over the ice and pour in more cold water to top it off.
Serve over more ice in glasses.  Add more drops of stevia to taste to get it even sweeter!

Garnish with mint.  Drink with eyes closed and a smile.  Enjoy!

(c) 2011 Photo, writing, and recipe by Chloe - all rights reserved.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nothing Like a New Guitar (Week 12 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

I got myself an electric guitar.  I'd always wanted one as a teenager.  I never really stopped wanting one.

I bought one online several weeks ago.  When it was delivered to the doorstep, my heart was pounding.  I ripped open the packaging, set it aside, and planned to play it that night once I had gotten all the responsibilities of the day over with.  That afternoon, I was cutting some dried fruit with a dull steak knife (bad idea) which slipped onto my finger. It tore open my fingernail so deep that it even ripped into the skin underneath.  As blood came rushing up to the surface, the first thought I had before "Should I call 911?" was "Now I can't play my new guitar!"  This week it finished healing so I finally got to play.  I had taken a semester of guitar in college and I used to have a classical guitar, so I can do some basic chords.

All the music that influenced Gen X in our teenage years is still near to me.  The songs became threads in the fabric of who I am.  As a teenager, I'd allow myself one new CD per paycheck from my minimum wage jobs.  After picking up a new CD at the mall and bringing it home, I'd play the cd for the first time and I'd look at the lyrics and drink them in like poetry.  I remember the rush I'd get from the smell of the paper the lyrics were printed on. It was something like the smell of fresh cut grass after the lawn mower has just been put away, or when coffee beans are just coming out of the grinder, or maybe something like the chemicals we used in high school photography class back when pictures had to be developed in dark rooms and digital photos weren't part of our vernacular....

That is what inspired me.  That is why I wanted to play the guitar - to be a part of all that.

U2 was my favorite band then, and still is now.  Tonight, when the sun goes down, I'm going to take out the sheet music to The Joshua Tree.  These songs were the background music to my life, and to the lives of so many Gen Xers.  Tonight I'm going to play the songs I have loved with all the intensity that I felt when I heard them for the first time, the second time, and even the thousandth time.

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Go Find Your Blue Donut (Week 11 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

After all this talk in my recent blog entries of things like farm-fresh berries and sunshine, it's now time to talk about blue donuts eaten in dark parking lots.  A certain blue donut is demanding that its story be told.  Call it a metaphor.  Or just call it a donut.

A long while back I was having this intense craving for blue food.  I had passed by the bakery of the grocery store several times on several different days trying not to give into the temptation of the donuts with blue icing.  For weeks, anytime I saw something blue, I was overcome with the need to consume blue food.  I had just decided/announced that I was going to eat way healthier, which meant donuts were not on the menu.  Once again, I was at the grocery store when the donuts were, once again, seductively calling out to me,  and I realized it was actually a psychological thing drawing me to the blue icing.  I needed to see what unknown road this was going to take me down and I gave in.

Because I had made a big announcement about my eating changes I realized I'd look like a liar unless I hid and ate my donut  in the car of the dark parking lot of the grocery store where this blue thing had forced its way into my life.  I ripped open the little paper bag it came in, and rain started spitting down from the sky.  The street lamp above started sputtering its light.  I was in a film noir and the only part that was in color was the blue donut.  

I bit into my donut.  I closed my eyes in a state of bliss.  The taste took me directly back to some birthday party in 1st grade that I hadn't thought about in years.  I had been so happy that night - I had loved my classmates and the whole class was invited - no one was left out.   I was in this really great class where everyone got along and being together having fun created such a happy energy.  In the dark parking lot thinking back on this, I realized that being at this party was as happy as I ever was in this life.   At that party, the birthday boy had a cake with blue icing on it.

I was still fully myself during this time of my life, before so much of my true self evaporated.   We all start out fully ourselves before we get told to act differently, before it matters what brand of clothes we wear, before we think we have to do all these different things to fit in, to please people.  Before people tell you that you are not good enough.

This week I decided to be intentional in thinking about how to get back to the person I was - the person I was at that party in 1st grade.  This is what I came up with:

1) I need to get back to enjoying life more fully and surrounding myself more with things that make me happy.
2) I want to reclaim the sense of humor I used to have.  Parts of it remain, but I need to get the rest of it back.  

And you...what rules are you following that you don't really believe in?

When your conscience warns you that you are not being true to yourself because you are placating the powers-that-be in your life, you need to go find your blue donut.  I am much closer to my blue donut now, to my true self, than I was on that rainy night in the parking lot, but I am not as close as I was that night at the party in the 1st grade.

Go find that thing that helps you get back to the person you really were...

...the person you really are.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gen X Reclaims the Outdoors (Week 10 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Happy conversation and the sound of live music in the background.  The sizzle and scent of     barbecued bratwurst.  The gentle sunlight on the red skin of the tomatoes.  Flower bouquets in every hue of pink and purple sharing their scent to the the passers by.  Local artists displaying their work, their genius, to the world on canvas.  Small homemade soaps in soft colors wrapped in brown paper.  Small golden raspberries hiding shyly behind colossal black marionberries.  All this beauty from the rain, the sun, the soil, our hands.   

In the 1970s, it was no big deal for kids to play outside all day without checking in with parents, to take trains to places across the city, or to spend a lazy afternoon picking flowers in meadows.  Then, during the 80s, most kids had to leave their sandlot for their basement rec rooms to play video games because the world seemingly had turned into a scarier place. In the very early 80s, as a small child, I remember running around our neighborhood  with my next-door neighbor.  This pack of teenage boys would fly by on their skateboards making their usual neighborhood rounds as we'd head to the park.  Then, one day, we were told not to go to the park on our own anymore.  A lot of the memories of older Gen Xers are of nature, of breathing fresh air, and of running back and forth to any place they felt like.  Many of the memories of younger Xers are of just basically being inside.   

As patterns are set and traditions are formed for my daughter's childhood, I am trying to reclaim the outdoors as a part of weekend and even everyday life.  This is why the last two entries were about park festivals and outdoor picnics.  We also want her to experience local Farmer's Markets -- to remember the pink and purple flowers of  her childhood summers along with the yellow squash and orange pumpkins of her childhood autumns.  

If you wished you could have had a little more time outdoors during your Gen X childhood, it's not too late to make up for the time now....

(c) 2011 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Of Bouncy Houses and Summer Park Festivals (Week 9 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

It's perfect that the people in the foreground are shadowed.  It's like this photograph
 is exclaiming, "picture yourself here!",  which is the heart of the Fireflies at Dusk Project.
Experiencing the fullness of summer requires spending as much time as possible outside.  My family and I spent a warm afternoon at a park festival that happens in our city every year and after getting lunch, I could hardly wait to get over to the bouncy house section.  Whether you are the one bouncing or the one looking inside to watch others do the bouncing, I really cannot imagine a place happier than a bouncy house.
I find bouncy houses to be an iconic piece of the childhood of Gen X.  No matter how good or bad you are at sports, or at school or anything else, we all become equals in the bouncy house.  This is because there is no score, no competition, and really there no wrong way to jump.  The higher you jump, the harder you bounce and the higher everyone else jumps, too.

It would be very hard not to smile in a bouncy house.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Soda Spilled on an American Quilt (Week 8 of Fireflies at Dusk: a 52-Week Journey)

Warm weather passes quickly in the Pacific Northwest so we have to enjoy it now. 

This past weekend my family and I walked to the park for a summer picnic.  The picnic table we had was slanted and it was tricky trying to keep our drinks upright, so of course, I spilled my soda onto our colorful family quilt.  I was packing all the barbecued chicken, chips, and strawberries back up as my husband and daughter went and played in the grass, and I started thinking about the metaphor here: life is a quilt unfolding on a slanted picnic table inviting inevitable spills.  The sooner we can make peace with this and not fight against it, the better.  I found it oddly beautiful the way the soda soaked into the stitching.  It sunk into the texture of the cotton and make this new quilt look instantly antiquated.

The colors of the quilt reveal are our hopes and our dreams -- colors always changing or fading with time.  The beauty is the imperfection, the peace is in finding it beautiful - that random thing that could be so easily overlooked, that frustration or pain that could surprisingly bring us joy.

One generation makes an American quilt, or some heirloom that can be tangibly held, another finds comfort from its familiarity.  The more weathered, the less perfect, the better.

(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Best Playhouse You Could Imagine as a Kid (Week 7 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Think of the best playhouse (or other fun thing or experience) you had or could imagine having as a child.  Then go make that real for your own child or some other child in your life.  

A play kitchenette made from shelves.
This is where the idea of the Fireflies at Dusk Project first sprouted from more than a year ago - the idea of parents recreating the good parts of their childhood for their own children (and making it even better!). When my daughter was younger, I put together a playhouse for her as her birthday gift.  This week I decided to do all the finishing touches I haven't had time to do over the past year.

If you look around online for ideas on how to make a homemade playhouse you'll find that a lot of parents have taken old entertainment centers and turned them into play kitchens.  With that as my inspiration, I used a set of shelves and made her a kitchenette which went into the closet under the stairs - a cozy little space. 
A little couch and side table next to the kitchenette.
A closer view of the left side of the play kitchenette

Because so many people have asked about the details of making the playhouse, here it is:

First, I assembled a set of ClosetMaid brand shelves with nine sections.

To make the sink:  I used a  stainless steel bowl from Goodwill, stainless steel cabinet knobs from the hardware section of a local store, and the top of a soap dispenser.  I took off the regular shelf here and replaced it with some particle board for easier cutting.  I used a small saw to cut out the circle to drop the bowl into it.  I used contact paper in a pattern that look like kitchen counter granite.

Casdon Toys makes realistic looking hot pots, toasters and other fun things (the more realistic, the more fun, I say!)  We are always rotating toys from storage from the garage - these pictures show what is in there at the moment - thank you to everyone who has given us fun toys for the little house!

A closer view of the center of the play kitchenette

Target has a polka-dotted bathroom set - we use the washcloths for tea towels, the tumbler for a utensil crock, and the material from a hand towel for the pillow on the couch.  We also got the cupcake set from Target.  More contact paper on the counter.  My old spice containers became her new ones.  Put up stick-up lights in any compartment you like and it starts to feel like a very real little kitchen!! 

A closer view of the right side of the play kitchenette
To make the stove: stainless steel contact paper, Folger's ground coffee lids for the burners, black cabinet knobs.
I used contact paper that looks like stainless steel and borrowed the shelf from the left side and mounted it on top of the one already there (since I used a piece of particle board and set it on top to make the stove top thicker and more realistic).
Most any time I went online to search for play toys for the kitchen, I just did online searching for 'Montessori style toys' and I found a lot of things that look realistic from Amazon or other places.  More contact paper was used for the back splash.  
This was a lot of trial and error, a lot of measuring and remeasuring, cutting and then gluing back together what I shouldn't have cut and somehow it all just came together after working on it for about 15-20 minutes a day for about three months.  You could do this in a weekend or two if you dedicated more uninterrupted time to it!  

Have fun!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Muppet Show with Popcorn (Week 6 of Fireflies at Dusk: a 52 Week Project)

This was Muppet Show Week which means I introduced my little one to a very important piece of my Gen X childhood.

As a little kid, I'd be so excited to go to my father's house at the end of the week - I'd get to see him every weekend before he moved to another state.  One  my best memories during this short time was making a giant bowl of popcorn and leaning back on over sized pillows to watch the show. 

So this week it was onto YouTube to watch season one (1976) - I don't remember watching these until they were on TV until the early 80s, but some of this looked familiar. 

I watched my little one watch the show for the first time and here is my report on her reactions:

1. Her eyebrows went up at the poofs of smoke lit up by colored lights as Dr.Teeth and the Electric Mayhem Band played their music.

2. She seemed suspicious as the Swedish Chef made a sub sandwich and then it began to fly.

3. She didn't seem interested in muppets circulating on the dance floor dropping one-liner jokes, but she did approve of Rowlf the Dog and his eagerly floppy ears.

As I watched this show for the first time in ages, I realized the two things that I loved most:

1. I loved when it would show the audience in the theater - all muppets themselves.  This made the muppet theater - a place always alive in my imagination - more real.   The audience would be cheering like crazy at the acts - so excited that they were sometimes unable to stay in their seats.   Who could blame them?

2. The second thing I realized I loved were the backstage conversations, the comraderie, the excitement getting ready to go live on stage, Kermit trying to sort out personality conflicts and dressing room space issues. 

In watching these backstage conversations I was learning how to deal with human relationships.  Jjust like muppets, every human being is at least a touch neurotic in their own unique way, yet we all need a chance - we all need to be loved anyway.  The affirming nod the muppets give when another one of them is talking is priceless.  Sometimes one muppet is speaking their heart and a whole room full of muppets nod simultaneously with boisterous validation.  If this happened in real life with people around you, imagine how happy that would make you feel!  If you had an audience so excited about your performance they could not even stay in their seat due to uncontainable excitement and applause, just think how confident you'd be! Could we humans all do that for each other more?
The next time you look around you at the people in your life, think of Kermit as the stage manager trying to sort out everyone's issues - these multi-colored foam rubber creatures full of quirks, complications and boundary-pushing gusto.  Kermit had his limits, which is important, but He still gave them a chance to go onstage - even when their jokes weren't all that funny, even when they hadn't quite shown up on time, even when they accidentally set things on fire.  Think of the people who gave you a chance to go onstage in spite of yourself and see if you can find an audience that appreciates your act so much that they explode with excitement at the end of your performance.  After taking your bow, make room for them onstage, go find a seat in the audience, and then do the same for them.

This blog entry is dedicated to my dearest friends who have cheered me on as I have decided to step up and go live with this blog.  I hope as our lives go on, that I can cheer you all on as much as you have done for me.


(c) 2011 photo and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved