Monday, February 3, 2014

Breaking Bad Put Me Through the Ringer

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT for Breaking Bad and my apology for a long post.

I came a little late to the party as far as Breaking Bad, the TV series is concerned.  I knew about it, understood the premise and had even seen snippets here and there but did not start watching it until some time in late October.  Through the magic of Netflix, we were able to watch 5 years worth of show in a few short weeks.  At first we figured we'd watch it when nothing else was on but, when I (we - Moondoggy was equally invested here) did start, I was hooked; pun intended.

I don't think I've ever experienced this depth of emotion with a television show; characters I loved and loathed, often in the same breathe. The subject matter was ugly, the presentation often humorous.  That's life.  One of the arguments I've read against the show was that it glorified crystal meth.

Glorified? I lost count of how many people died because of the stuff - perhaps more indirectly than directly. Periferal characters that had great potential died via murder, overdose, greed. Countless also are the many lives beyond the immediate users and producers that were negatively impacted simply by the production of the stuff.  Glorfied?  No.  To me the obvious message was Meth = Bad. I see no glory in that.  But here is where the brilliance of that message, the writers, directors and actors drive the point home.   They are not gorgeous, well dressed, financially successful people. In fact, they define ordinary with all of the blemishes that come with it. Walt, Skylar and Walt Jr. (Flynn) are just average people, we identify with them and understand that on some level, we are them. How close am I (you) to finding yourself in a desperate situation?  At what point is doing bad for good acceptable?

There are long running themes and literary devices that ribbon their way throughout all 5 seasons.  Dual identities: Walter/ Heisenberg, Walter Jr./ Flynn, Marie/ any number of personas as she flits from Open House to Open House. Good vs. Evil: Walter as the teacher and family man vs. Meth cook and murderer, Gus Fring as a Do-Gooder Chicken Franchise Owner vs. Cold blooded Meth Kingpin, Saul "Good"man as the crooked lawyer. I won't even explore the nuances of color.

What was most shocking to me was the way the show's themes stirred my emotions.  As I said , from the first episode I was hooked.  I loved it.  I wanted more.  And so, through the magic of Netflix, we set out to watch an episode when there was nothing else to watch on tv.  That quickly escalated into a episode a night, which by the 5th episode became two and three at a sitting.  We watched as Walt, in his best teacher role, guided Jessie through perfect cooks to attain the purest meth around. It's all fun and games until someone dies (and believe me, they start dying in droves).  Then, it get's intense.  What does a chemistry teacher do with a dead body?  Dissolve it in a barrel of acid, of course.  Shocking.

And after a nightly marathon of Breaking Bad, depending on the episodes, I would feel exhilarated, or anxious, sometimes sad or even downright pissy.  We both felt it. We knew it was from the high dose of "Bad" we had watched and had to force ourselves to watch something funny before going to bed just to take the edge off. We rollercoastered through seasons 3 and 4.  High highs, low lows. Moondoggy would ask, "What do you want to do today?"  I'd reply, "Nothing. Nap, maybe.  Another Breaking Bad."

With each episode and each new season, affable Walter allows his bad ass alter ego to emerge.  Through 5 and a half seasons we watched as he faced true evil in Gus Fring and later with Uncle Jack. He faces them and outwits them and continues to produce a product that has been called the downfall of our nations youth.  His justification?  His product is pure.  He is doing it to secure the financial future of his family because, after all, he has cancer and is going to die.  Does that make all of it more pallatable?  Is it supposed to? I don't know.  It didn't for me.  I despised Walter by the fifth season. And then something terrible happened, the fifth season was released in two parts; the second and final part UNAVAILABLE on Netflix.  Not only was I not going to get my fix of BB, it wasn't going to be available for awhile.  My heart pounded, I felt panicky.  And that is when I realized my addiction to BB was parallel to what addiction is like for users.  I was willing to go out and buy the whole boxed set just for the last 8 episodes (thankfully Moondoggy talked me out of it).  I checked Netflix daily sometimes hourly to see if it updated with no luck.  Finally, I found a video store (an actual store where you can rent dvds - almost impossible to find around here).  Motherlode! I could feed the monster that was my need to see BB to the end.

In a two day marathon, we watched all 8 epidodes;  the final demise of Walt. He dies. . .gunshot wound, death through meth, not cancer.  Fitting.  I worried about Jessie who wanted out so badly but was always dragged back down because of Walter until he was not only a figuative prisoner of Meth, he was literally a prisoner to Uncle Jack, forced to cook Meth to stay alive.

But even with the closure, a few concerns remain. I worry about the effect of all of this on Walter Jr. I wonder if Skylar was able to get out of her money laundering charges. Jessie is finally free, but what happens to him?  These questions weren't answered so I have taken it upon myself to sketch out what I'd like to have seen after the credits were finished rolling.

A small group of people sit in a circle.  It's a rehab group. One of the group, a young housewife, is talking about a particularly difficult  moment during the week where she wanted to use.  An unseen voice thanks her and then asks another young, withdrawn, angry looking guy if he'd like to say anything.  Anything.  He is silent, his jaw is twitching.  Finally he sneers and looks up at the group leader and snarls, "You bitches have no idea what I've seen and done,  you'd never understand."  The camera pans to the group leader, Jessie Pinkman, "Probably not," he responds, "but why don't you tell us."

Finally, in a busy Dunkin Donuts in Omaha, Nebraska, Saul Goodman runs the counter.  There is a jar on one side of the counter marked "Tips" and a jar on the otherside maked "Legal Tips".  A thug stands in line, orders a donut and stashes a handful of cash in the Legal Tip jar.  Saul Goodman hands him an envelope.  The thug leaves, Saul cleans out the Legal Tip jar and then puts a five dollar bill back in the jar .


Now I have to go watch some Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother reruns.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Playing Eighteen

I had the pleasure of spending last week with my sister who makes me laugh until I am crying, hacking and peeing.  Amongst our laughing this week, came this gem of a story. I so wish I could take credit for it, but this bit of genius goes out to her friend, Annie.

My sister Betsy’s good friend, Annie and her husband, Mark, had come up to Traverse City for their annual “Up North” vacation.  On one of those days, the tradition is for Annie and Betsy to spend a day at the pool lounging.  That’s what they do.  So, a few days before their rondevouz, Betsy received a text from Annie:


Betsy replied: OMG!  What’s wrong?


Betsy:  That’s great - clears the way for us to sit by the pool.


The all caps should signal that Annie was PISSED!

When Betsy and Annie finally hooked up that Saturday, Annie shared the following story. Please picture a small, dark haired fireball with a slight yiddish lilt.

“So, we were sitting with Mike and Patty the other night at The Lake Inn having a nice dinner -  broiled fish, light but still filling.  Anyway, they start talking about playing golf.  The good courses, the difficult courses, their best and worst shots.  Well, anyone who knows me KNOWS I loathe golf.  Don’t play, don’t watch, don’t care so I checked out. But these three people, unbeknownst to me, had the NERVE to make a golf date for the FOUR OF US on our last Saturday of vacation without even asking me if I wanted to join them.

So Mike and Patty showed up today about an hour before Tee time and I announced that I would not be joining them for the game.

There was silence.  Blank stares.

Patty asked, ‘Why not?’  So I pasted a big ass smile on my face and reminded her, I dont play golf, I don’t watch golf and I don’t like golf.  To which Mark and Mike both said they thought I could drive the cart and watch. AND WATCH!? Doesn’t that sound fun?

I told them I would happily meet them for dinner but would not be going out on the course with them.  Golfing was not something I wanted to do.

Silence. More blank stares.

So I said. ‘Let me put it in terms you might understand.  Lets say all four of us go to the Grand Traverse Mall.  Shopping, now that’s something I enjoy doing. We can go to eighteen different stores where I can search for an incredible outfit. . .one in each store.  Then, I’ll go try it on while you guys watch.  You can clap for me when I come out of the dressing room and model for you.  Doesn’t that sound fun?


Mark finally spoke, ‘Tell Betsy I say hi!’ and he lead the golfing group out the door.”

Point made.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Everywhere

My husband comes by it honestly.  You know, that penchant for exaggeration?  His mother suffered from the same affliction.  A bleeding hang nail was hemorrhaging.  If someone spoke pointedly, they were hollering at her.  We learned early on to put it through a reality filter.  My husband and his oldest brother are the same only their targeted victims are the family pets.  Their favorite phrase?  It's EVERYWHERE!

My husband is convinced that the animals in our household intentionally make messes to irritate him.  He is so convinced of this that he has, on many occasions, mistaken something as simple as a wet leaf for a dog pile.  "Your dog pooped all over the basement," he will announce in disgust as he comes upstairs.  If I laugh he follows with, "It's EVERYWHERE."  To which I will dutifully go downstairs and find three or four leaves that came in on paws scattered around the floor looking for all the world like wet leaves not piles of poo. 

You can interchange my husband for my brother-in-law and the conversation is the same.  It's become a code for us Coltman women when we think our spouses are going overboard.
 We will roll our eyes and say, "It's EVERYWHERE."

Last week my husband, Moondoggy, got a true dose of what everywhere really means.

It is important to know that we have two dogs.  Moose, our Bichon is almost twelve, wise and sneaky.  Our Goldendoodle, Porter, is a puppy - eleven months old.  He is the happiest dog on earth and he will tell you so every minute of every day.  He's never really been in trouble so he has no frame of reference for "naughty".

We were in the final phases of moving with the house clear of all furniture when we decided to go out for supper.  These changes had caused some agitation with the dogs to which Moose reacted by moving one of the gates just enough to escape into the basement and torment Porter who could not fit through the small opening.  As furniture disappeared, we were forced to come up with different ways to keep the gate in place. So, on one of our last nights, Moondoggy hauled in a 5 gallon bucket with my basil and thyme plants and set it in front of the gate.  We were gone no more than an hour.  When we returned, I entered to find the basil and thyme pulled from the bucket and the partially eaten plants strewn across the hardwood floor among clumps of dirt. The gate had been moved just enough so that Moose could go downstairs while Porter was stuck in the kitchen.  As I looked around at the mess, I could see Moose giving me that look that said, "Don't blame me, I was downstairs."  I didn't say a word and quietly swept then vacuumed the floor as Dave shook his head, his lips pursed, holding in his mounting anger.

The next night we again headed out to grab some food.  This time, we had a heavily packed box that we dragged in front of the gate, certain that it would do the trick.  We were gone four hours.  Upon return, I opened the door and peaked inside.

The lower cabinet lazy susan was pushed open.  From the cabinet had been pulled a twp pound bag of confectioners sugar and the remnants of a five pound bag of flour.  They had been gutted.  They had been dragged across the room.  They had been been deposited in every nook and cranny available, on the walls, in the cabinet grooves. The happiest dog in the world greeted me at the door, tongue hanging out. It was as if he was saying, "Look!  Look what we found!  Watch.  If I roll in it and shake I can make a cloud.  If I get a running start, I can slide across the floor and if I lick it, it sticks to my fur.  I LOVE this! Come!  Roll in the sweet white stuff with me!"  Moose, on the other hand was cowering in the corner.  He knew he was busted because he is the animal that knew how to open the lazy susan in the first place.

I turned to Moondoggy who was hyper-ventilating and said, "See THIS?  THIS is everywhere."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's a Girl Gotta Do?

If I were to simply list the stats for the past two weeks, you might think I am a fairly avid athlete.  I have run about 27 miles, walked close to 10 miles, biked 23 miles and participated in 3 sessions of water aerobics and lap swim.  Impressive for a 52 year old woman who believes beaches are for lolling, not volleyball.  

I began the whole run thing last September in an attempt to shore up my heart.  My family heart history errs to the side of weak and I wanted to beat the odds. . .and drop some weight.  I have been successful at both.  My resting heart rate is in the mid 40s, I've lost a significant amount of weight and in the process have become addicted to running.  Bravo.

So, here is the problem.  My resting heart rate (which I already mentioned) is at the same level as a Lance Armstrong type. . .which would be great if I was in the same physical shape.  I'm not and I've had that heart rate for several years, so really there has been no change.  I still have high blood pressure and always will (thanks, Dad, Grandpa, etc.). I have high cholesterol (same family). I have made a concerted effort to accurately and honestly write down everything I eat and drink (and yes, that includes the 2-3 glasses of wine on Fridays with my friends).  I literally cut most restaurant meals in half and take the other half home.  That being said on MOST days (sometimes you have to live a little) I stay between 12-1500 calories a day.  You would think I would be completely transformed.  Yeah, you would think.

So, I look in the mirror and assess.  What do I see?  I don't cast as large a shadow (credit to Ralph for that phrase), but it's still the same body.  Still round, still fat.  This is where I will tell you that it's ok.  I am happy with the achievement, accepting of a body that carries genetics beyond my control.  I am at peace.

But, that would be a lie.  

I can't leave on that sour note so I will let you in on a secret.  It is my summer cocktail-- low calorie, yummy and effective.

Hole in One

If you enjoy an Arnold Palmer (lemonade and ice tea sweet). . .this will kick it up.

1 packet Crystal Light lemonade
2 oz Seagrams Sweet Tea Vodka
1 large tumbler

Mix the Crystal Light (I like mine stronger so I use about 2/3 C. water to mix) with water.  Add ice.  Pour vodka over the top, mix and enjoy.  132 calories.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

On The Soapbox: Marriage, Race and God

I don't normally climb up on my soap box and preach, but this week I have three times been poked just hard enough to make that climb.  I am sure I will get a lot of hacked off readers for this, but the beauty of it all is I really don't care.

I loathe politics.  I am neither red or blue and I think politicians lie.  The other day I read some diatribe written by some dude that proclaims to be just to the right of republican.  His beef?  Gay marriage.  I refuse to reassemble his arguments here but suffice it to say his bottom line is that gay marriage is sick, immoral and disobedient to God. His platform included a proclamation to Republicans that if they were true Republicans, they would agree.  I don't remember the guy's name and I wouldn't print it if I did because I do not want to support anything he says.  If I were a Republican, I would be appalled that he is single handedly undermining the more relevant issues of the Republican platform.  I would stand up for the more critical issues of my party and leave love alone.  Love is not heterosexual and it is not partisan.

Cheerios has a commercial where a little girl asks her mom if Cheerios is good for the heart because daddy said it was.  The mother confirms - yes it is.  The little girl then goes to her father napping on the couch and pours a box of Cheerios on his chest (knowing that is where his heart is located.)  Cute?  You bet.  I love that commercial.  I saw it at least three times before it registered that the couple is bi-racial and the beautiful little girl is of mixed race.  I loved the commercial even more.  However, there has been a very public backlash against this commercial - name calling, complaints, outright proclamations of disgust.  I am shocked and disappointed. I thought we, humanity, had evolved from that.  And I wonder - IF the parents were both Caucasian and the little girl bi-racial;  the unspoken message that the couple had adopted her, would it THEN be acceptable?  Love isn't race specific.

Finally, I had a discussion with a friend who is heavily involved in her church.  I admire her dedication to her church family, I respect her deeply held beliefs.  She believes that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior as the ONLY way to salvation are damned to hell. And that's where we part.  I believe in God but I no longer attend any churches or belong to a specific religion.  I was once asked by a pastor why I had not become a member of the church I attended for quite a few years.  I told him that I could not stand up and proclaim that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.  I cannot believe that a loving God would create so many vastly different, beautiful people and cultures, so many different belief systems, only to make the sweeping majority wrong in the end.  The more I think about it, the more I feel like organized religion is a function of the mortal demand to manage God.  If God is love, He loves us all.

I do not feel a need to back-up my beliefs with Bible quotes, philosophical arguments or political facts.  It's what I believe and I don't have to justify it to anyone.  That is freedom.

Judi Coltman is an author of mystery books.  She is currently working on her fourth novel.  Follow her at 
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Books available by clicking on the covers in the sidebars.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Enjoying The Second Act

The first time I heard that phrase was out of the mouth of Frankie Heck, the mother on "The Middle."  I love that show - a show about an average family with average kids who have quirks and ego and the ability to blend into the wall paper (Sue Heck reminds me of me except she has the guts to try out for everything and I tried out for nothing.)  In one recent episode Frankie is let go of her car sales job and is faced with figuring out what she should do, "What," she asked, "should I do for my Second Act?"  A second act, the chance to do something completely different, a frightening prospect or an opportunity? 

I was faced with the same decision about five years ago.  Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, I resigned from my position with our local school district and was faced with the question, "What next?" For me, the question wasn't dire.  I am fortunate to have a family situation that allows me to indulge my creativity.  I had time to test the waters, paint, draw and write.  The truth is, if asked, I always wanted to write a book.  I was not unfamiliar with the "writing" world having worked for various publications in the 80s and 90s before shifting to the world of elementary education (which, by the way, has the schedule most conducive to parenting).  I have written pieces on point of purchase advertising, the benefits of end cap displays, unique sales incentives and many a piece on Nuclear Power.  Is your mouth dry yet?  That was NOT what I wanted to go back to writing.  With some gentle prodding from my youngest child (who told me to get off my ass and write a book), I took the intrepid step.  

My first book is a series of humorous essays based on my life and observations.  It was an experiment.  If I could float that, then I could go for what I really wanted to do. . .write fiction.  Is It Just me? or Is Everyone a Little Nuts not only floated, it sailed and still continues to enjoy numerous sales each month.  With that under my belt, I endeavored to write a novel.  In The Name of The Father was inspired by an incident that occurred while on vacation in Virginia Beach and it blossomed into mystery/thriller.

My latest novel, No Such Thing, is a fictional account of a child killer based on events that happened in Michigan on the 70s.  It is both dark and sad but there is a healthy dose of redemption as well.  I am proud of all of my books but, this one, in particular came from deep within.  Amazon chose No Such Thing out of 10,000 entries to be a quarter finalist in its Breakthrough Novel Award.  I am proud of that, too.  The letters I have received from readers along with reviews are remarkable and evidence that I hit a nerve.  Sales of late have been so-so. I'm ok with that.  The feedback I have received has more than validated that I have done a good job.

So, my second act?  I can now say with confidence, I am a writer.

If you have any interest in my books, click on the covers and they should take you to the Amazon links.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ain't Life Grand?

My neighbor is an energetic woman, a nurse, an avid walker, a gardener.  She is trim and attractive as well as active. She is often seen playing Pickle Ball with kids in the yard. 

Her garden, though, is her hallmark.  Packed with perennials that start with crocus and daffodils before the snows have melted away, she has a pallet of ever-changing colors blooming through October.  Trees, flowers, and grasses explode like summer fireworks expanding in the sky before they slowly die out to make room for the next show of color.  Sitting in my sunroom, I mark the changing seasons by the state of her garden. 

I think my next door neighbor has a boyfriend.  I first noticed something going on a few weeks ago.  A silver pick-up would drive slowly by several times a day.  Up the street, down the street, moving at a snail's pace, the pick-up once slowed to a stop in front of her house before driving away.  

Spring has been slow to arrive this year.  Snow, heavy rain, cold temperatures and winds have forced the intrepid crocus and bold daffodils to hide out a bit longer.  Last week, a break in the weather brought her out to the garden.  She assessed its state, trudged to her shed and pulled out the tools of her passion.  She only worked for a few minutes before she disappeared into the house.  Perhaps an hour later, she reappeared, a man following behind.  She led him to the shed and I watched as he pulled out the heavier gardening equipment and together, they worked the garden.  He followed her cues and instructions and slowly the garden was cleaned up and ready for spring.  They laughed together, worked quietly together and then she led him to the memorial stone the neighbors bought to remember her deceased husband.  He stood in respect.  He put his arm around her and gave her a hug and then they walked back to the house where he started the grill while she retired to the kitchen to prep burgers.
They ate out on the deck.  In her driveway, a silver pick-up.

My neighbor is in her mid 70s.  Ain't life grand?