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Netflix Family Movie Night

February 28th, 2015



We finally did it. Last month, we canceled our cable movie subscriptions and went Roku. Now, we watch everything on Netflix and I have to say, I don’t miss Cinemax and Showtime too much. (The channel that played all “A Haunting In… shows? That cancellation hurt a little.)


Anyway, along with a whole new world of big screen wonders opening up to us on Netflix has come a tendency to indulge in Family Movie Nights on one or both weekend days. Cuddled up on the couch, fighting over blankets, yelling for someone to make pizza STAT, it’s all become a fledgling and occasionally beautiful tradition.


I know most people probably already do Family Movie Night, but I never claimed to be with the times or the least bit organized enough to put one together without my kids making it happen for me. Thank goodness they’re both old enough to do things so I don’t have to!


Meanwhile, I thought I’d share the last few movies we’ve viewed together in case any of you are looking for Family Movie Night suggestions. SOMEONE MAKE THE PIZZA!


Here are some of our favorite recent views:



Living On One Dollar

So my husband and I sort of shoved this documentary down the kids’ throats. Because “everyone has an iPhone but me!” and “can we go to Aruba for spring break?” and “what car will I get when I’m 16?” We really wanted our girls to come away from watching this movie with a sense of less entitlement and a greater world view.

In the short documentary, four 20-somethings travel to rural Guatemala and live as the locals do – on less than a dollar a day. Along the way, there’s sickness – and no way to treat it without spending hundreds of dollars, despair, and human kindness.


“Living on One Dollar” runs less than an hour, and it’s an excellent way to open your kids’ eyes to the fact that hunger and other issues affect much of the world and no, they are not the ONLY ONES without an iPhone.


Alternatively, you can drive your kids to inner city Chicago in a white Cadillac like my dad did when I was little. Because everyone in inner city Chicago loves to see a bunch of suburbanites gawk at them through tinted DeVille Touring Sedan windows, DAD.



Forrest Gump

This one presented a conundrum: do we introduce our girls to the charming catchphrases and delightful slow talk of Forrest Gump or do we wait until they’re older because there’s some questionable scenes involving bo#bs and war violence? We choose the latter, because we’re progressive, which is code for the kids talked us into it.


I’m glad they did, because the “you-can-do-it” message and “always-keep-trying” theme of the movie won the kids over, and sometimes, the more PG13 scenes can provide good teaching moments.


If you do decide to watch Forrest Gump with the family, do be aware that there are some “hands-over-ears-and-eyes” moments and it may be better to wait until your kids are older (my girls are eight and 11).



Cowgirls ‘n Angels

My husband watched this movie with the girls while I watched another movie with the other girls (code for Cabernet). Turns out my daughters liked Cowgirls so much, they ran downstairs the next morning to watch it again.


The storyline involves a 12-year-old girl, Clayton, whose father deserted the family, an act that haunts Clayton every day. After she joins an all-girl rodeo show named America’s Sweethearts, the coming of age (family-friendly-style) begins.


To sum up, “Cowgirls ‘n Angels” is like a cross between “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “Bridge to Terabithia.” Or neither of those, because I didn’t see it.


All I’m going on is that it’s been playing non-stop in my household for the last 16 hours.


That’s about where we are to date with Family Movie Night. Next, I’m thinking “Baby’s Day Out.”  Until then, I’m counting down the years to when I can start showing the kids every inappropriate John Hughes movie ever.


What are your Family Movie Night go-tos?

Photos from!




The Chicago Stories

January 26th, 2015

As I drove to work the other day, my life played before my eyes. It does that sometimes, random bits of memories fly into my brain unbidden and I’m back to 26, waiting at a lakefront bus stop beset by wild wind, untethered and lonely, feeling quite like a failure for not being further along in my career. Or an image of me standing on the el platform will come as a jolt, and I see myself clad in a chiffon flowered skirt, black sateen blazer, and platforms, all very itchy in 89-degree weather, on my way to a downtown temp agency to apply for something requiring Excel skills that I faked.


As close to a mullet as I ever came. And I attended college in 1980s Milwaukee, so that’s really saying something.


Most of my life-flashing begins and ends with living in Chicago in my mid-20s because it was a waiting period of sorts, a kind of fun purgatory after which everything began to change. I spent less than three years in the city, then returned to a job in L.A., met the man who would be my husband, and settled in San Diego forever and ever amen. “Real life” began as a sprouted tendril during those post-college midwestern years, I suppose, and I regard the Chicago days as starting the chain of events. I also look at that time as free of restraint, when what was to be next stretched out tantalizingly before me.


But as the memories came quickly during the hour drive, in synapse-firing bursts, I realized that details fuzzed and edges blurred. I could no longer recall in any detail the weight of the el’s token in my hand, the disc the size of a dime, but in light gold, that I’d slip into the turnstile on my way downtown to one of many jobs I’d hold during my Chicago tenure. Or I could remember, but it took awhile, and I was unsure if my mind had it right.


So I decided I should write down those Chicago times. Not exciting recounts these, but necessary so I’ll have them always, for the next time the memories come and the el train token’s dimensions are lost forever in the mind of a woman growing older, and bewildered by how fast it all goes. I was just 26. Only 26.


I expect no one is here in this space anymore, and the few who do read will find the minutiae of someone else’s stories tedious and masterbatory, but I need to put these down because those driving-memory gifts dwindle, and I’m going to grab them from the ether.


So Chicago Stories cross the brain barrier and hobble onto the screen, to show up here over the next few weeks in all their bittersweet purgatory glory.


Because 26 was the river’s mouth.



10 Songs I’ll Listen to for the Rest of My Life

January 9th, 2015

Fun lyrical factoid: If you’ve ever hung out with me for more than five minutes, and audio devices lurk nearby, you’ll inevitably face the “I’m just going to play you this one song!” San Diego Momma shakedown. That’s because I’m the person who makes you listen to her music, whether you’re complicit in the process or not. I’ve even been known to shut people in quiet rooms at parties with my phone and a pair of ear buds just they could “hear the words” of my latest favorite tune. One time, I emerged from a guest bedroom with a friend’s husband, looking flushed and pleased that he “got” the melodiousness of Blitzen Trapper’s Furr. Needless to state, this exuberant bedroom exit didn’t go over well with the party crowd, particularly those who were married to the husband.


My husband quasi-tolerates my hijacking of music systems and people’s ears with very few warning glances and heavy sighs. This past Christmas Eve, I sat with a fellow music-loving friend as we scrolled through YouTube, yelling “Just listen to this stanza!” and “Did you hear the guitar there?” at each other while our long-suffering spouses smiled stiffly and affixed glassy-eyed “Here we go again” stares into the middle distance.


When you’re in the company of someone who gets your squirming on your seat anxious to share your latest melodious love with him or her, there’s no equal feeling to it, if you’re not a meth addict. My friend, V, and I spend many long Friday nights hooking our respective iPhones to external speakers and rocking back and forth in unison to each other’s songs. Most often, those evenings devolve into us playing the same rotation of six or seven songs we’ve both heard 40,000 times but enjoy anew because once you’ve found “your songs,” 40,000 airplays is nothing.


This all got me thinking about which songs I might not mind listening to forever and into eternity. Then, in a twist of serendipity, I happened to visit my friend Gigi’s “Idea Bank” of blog post writing prompts and I was off. There’s very few songs I’ll listen to for the rest of my life, but I find myself turning to the same choices again and again, which follow below.



1. The Answer

I mean, Sarah McLachlan everything, but this song in particular makes me cry every damn time. It’s the orchestral maneuvers, and the cosmic humming in the background, and the lyrics. Always the lyrics.


2. Maybe, Tomorrow

When melody and words intersect into emotionally-raw alignment, I’m a goner. This song from Stereophonics thrills me each time I hear its opening strains. The singer’s rasp coupled with the yearning, and tripled with the instrumentals make this my always song.


3. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

I remember it well. After another epic fight with my mom, I took off in the Hyundai Excel, popped my remix tape into the cassette player, and listened to Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word 14 times in a row. Ever since, it’s been my forever song. Because my mom and all the things in my heart I couldn’t say right down to the time she died.


4. Vienna

Vienna sounds like yearning and what you want to do with your life and what you might not ever do and what you hope your children will do to make up for you’re not doing it while hoping they do it within reason but secretly hoping they do it with abandon and a very small dollop of reason. But still survive and not get STDs.



5. Pour Some Sugar on Me

So this one’s here. Overriding reason: college. And a mental picture for you: a gaggle of twenty-somethings gathered around a keg excessively gesticulating, “I’m hot, hot, sticky sweet, from my head, head to my feet, yeah…” Please don’t perseverate on that mental picture.


6. Love’s Recovery

Just listen to the words. You’ll see.


7. When I Get My Hands On You

The newest song on my eternity list, When I Get My Hands On You is part of The Basement Tapes effort, and it’s amazing. I’ve made no less than two men cry when I played it in front of them and their wives. Those are good men.


8. Wise Up (Aimee Mann)

This one time I thought it would help my friend to hear this song because her boyfriend was an asshole. Turned out I was wrong. He was an asshole, but she didn’t find me telling her that in song helpful. I still love the words. The only good thing about assholes is they make excellent songs.


9. Wasted Time (The Eagles)

Ever since high school, ever since high school. Seems I like the yearning songs.



10. Be Still (Head and the Heart)

Actually, this might be the newest song to join the Forever Lineup. I’ve fallen in love with the Head and the Heart, and this song clinched the deal. Seems I like the crying songs.


Those are the songs! Come join me on the back porch and let’s play our eternal songs for each other! Bring your spouse! I don’t want a repeat of the party-guest-room incident.

(What are your 10 songs you’ll listen to for the rest of your life?)


My Netflix Find of the Month: Camp Takota

December 30th, 2014

(Photo from

Ever since I fell in love with My Drunk Kitchen, I’ve kept semi-tabs on the YouTube series creator, Hannah Hart’s, whereabouts. Last year sometime, I heard she’d signed to appear in an independent film with other YouTube personalities, including Grace Helbig, and Mamrie Hart, and I promptly Googled all I could about the film.


Turned out the movie was a comedy written by Mamrie Hart and directed by The Brothers Riedell, who are also popular on YouTube ( as well as writers/directors in their own right) (as well as hot). Named Camp Takota, the movie would be distributed through digital channels and was available for pre-order, a move I didn’t make at the time because all the money was out of all my pockets.


Still, the idea of a feature-length comedy written and starring by people who’d made their reputations online, intrigued me. Although I’ve been a blogger since the dawn of the new millennium, the fame and fortune gained by digital personalities turns me on. There’s a ton of talent out there that’d never otherwise be seen and appreciated through traditional avenues, and I’m glad I have the chance to discover these people on my own terms, and not remain subject to who publicists and movie studios deem watchable. Because Kim Kardashian.


Yet Camp Takota eluded me. After my initial spurt of Googling the hell out of it, I forgot it ever existed for almost a year. Until yesterday, when I noticed that Netflix now streamed it and the movie was available for my eyeballs to watch.


So I did what any one in my position would do. I withheld love, affection, and lunch from my kids for two full hours as I watched Camp Takota in bed with a full bag of Veggie Sticks and a spoon (for the full pint of ice cream).


Telling the story of a down and out young woman (Grace Helbig) who’s lost her job and her fiancee and hightails it to her childhood summer camp to work and escape, Camp Takota is yes, predictable, although in the best way possible. When you know what to expect from a movie, especially a comedy, it’s somehow comforting and satisfying, because the girl will get the boy and the cheating fiancee will be punished, and the camp will be saved from the money grubbers.


The YouTubers’ performances turned out well, which admittedly was semi-surprising because the transition from online personality to film actor is a leap, but they all jumped and made it to the other side, even if a leg dangled off the cliff here and there.


I’ve already watched certain parts two or three times because Camp Takota has that you’ll-repeat-some-of-its-lines-into-old-age quality held by all the John Hughes movies. It’s a cute, fun romp in the hay with a formulaic but sweet premise that’s totally watchable.


I’m recommending Camp Takota for immediate Netflix streaming, not just because I’m a blogger, but because we all need to to lie in bed with Veggie Sticks and ice cream pints and enjoy adorable comedies from time to time. Life is hard. Let’s Takota it.



 P.S. I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team, but Netflix doesn’t tell me what to watch ever. Facebook does.



Top 5 Netflix Titles To Give Thanks For This Month

November 21st, 2014

I’m a latecomer to Netflix. I’ve had it barely a year and there’s so much on there! Why didn’t you people tell me about this?



(I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team)



Meanwhile, I’m all about finding the new stuff, but I also dig finding some of the old stuff that I’d forgotten I loved. When’s Twin Peaks getting up there? (“Up there” means “Netflix.” Apparently I talk like the old folks do about technology.) So below, enjoy my ad hoc, Thanksgiving-themed Netflix list of shows/movies I’m into this month. But you’re probably already seen them all. Because you’ve had Netflix for 10 years.



1) Cropsey: I’m a spooky movie lover, and while I know that Halloween was last month, I can’t help but share this Netflix pick with you in November. Focusing on an East Coast urban legend about a child killer named Cropsey, the documentary highlights the culture around an abandoned State Island sanitarium on whose surrounding grounds inmates and employees still lurk in tunnels and woods. The story is true and the mood and ambiance evoked by the sanitarium ruins rivals any thriller out there today. Once the story focuses on a man convicted of the crimes on which the legend is based, things get interesting as the filmmakers delve into the likelihood that he abducted and murdered the children who went missing around the sanitarium. This documentary remains one of my favorites showing on Netflix this year.



2) Hours: My husband spent a good many minutes scanning Netflix titles for a movie appropriate yet absorbing enough to watch with our daughters, ages 8 and 10. He settled on Hours starring the late Paul Walker about a man whose wife dies in childbirth during Hurricane Katrina, leaving him the sole protector of his daughter surviving on a respirator. Once the hospital is evacuated and the power goes out, dad and baby are left on their own as the storm rages outside.



I’m not exactly sure what possessed my husband to choose this particular film as a “family movie,” but my girls loved it and it certainly sparked a lot of good conversation about the love a parent has for his children. There are some anxiety-producing scenes when criminals break into the hospital, but it all stays PG13.



3) The entire 10 seasons of Friends: I don’t know about you, but if I catch a glimpse of a “Friends” rerun playing on cable, I’m in for the duration. If it’s a marathon, I’m totally screwed. I first fell in love with this series in 1994 and I adore its comedy to this day. There is no better binge watching when you need a pick-me-up. All I have to do is see “The One With…” episode title and I’m a goner.

Netflix features the complete series starting January 1, and if you’re a Friends lover, start watching in 2015 and say goodbye to the next 300 hours of your life. It’s great post-New-Year’s-Eve viewing! Don’t even get up off the couch, just sit there and reminisce about the Friends clan and how Monica afforded that NYC apartment.



4) The X-Files: So we’re established that I like paranormal, scary stuff, right? It’s no surprise then that I’m giving thanks for the X-Files showing on Netflix this month. Normally, I’d troll the Chiller channel or catch an errant X-Files episode playing after 11PM at night. But now I have nine entire seasons to work my way through at all hours. There’s nothing better for this unexplained mysteries lover.



5) Wayne’s World: This movie consistently makes me laugh and brings me back to the early ‘90s. Given that I’m rapidly approaching middle age, both are good things. Also, I went to college in Mil-walk-kay. I think I want to share this one with my kids, but I’ll have to watch it again one last time to ensure monkeys aren’t actually flying out of butts.



What are you watching on Netflix this month? I’m always looking for something good.

Favorite Beauty Finds

October 29th, 2014

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat in groups of women talking about the products they use on their hair, faces, and bodies. All I can tell you is that it’s a lot of many times. One of my favorite things is to learn about the cleaners, mascaras, lip glosses, and conditioners other people count as their holy grails, and if there were a beauty retreat where all I do is sit there and listen (and sample), I’d be all in with rapt ears and a ready face for the product slathering.


As it happens, every now and then, I hit upon my own beauty must-haves and consider it my moral girl-code duty to share, which I’m doing right here, right now.


So…below are the products I’m digging hard core and why. Maybe they will help your hair, face, and body as they’ve helped mine:



Skin Authority Brighten & Firm DUO


They had me at “firm.” Fact is, I own most Skin Authority products and haven’t looked back for the past year-and-a-half I’ve been using them. Normally, I bounce around from skincare line to skincare line because my face is a picky disaster and something always makes me break out, somewhere. But back in July 2013, I began using Skin Authority’s everything and experienced zero breakouts and 100% happy epidermal layers, so have mirthfully reordered its products ever since.


The Brighten & Firm DUO is especially wonderful because it comes with the Resurfacing Accelerator (if anyone needs her face resurfaced, it’s me) that acts like a daily peel to get rid of old skin cells and bring out new ones. I use this nearly every night and my skin feels new(ish) in the morning. It also feels firm. I love the word “firm.” And while I despise the word “moist,” I must say the Resurfacing Accelerator is a good moistener (is it possible to make the word “moist” any more gross? Unless it’s referring to your face?).


Here’s where things get even better: after resurfacing, I use the Tri-Power Peptide Hydrator to plump up the volume. Adding the two products together supercharges the awesome-skin results, which is possibly why Skin Authority named them the “Brighten & Firm DUO (I get it now!). My good friend even asked me the other day where my crow’s feet went, and that’s a question I don’t mind answering. Of course, I have no answer other than “Skin Authority must have a place it keeps people’s old skin? Maybe like a face dump?” I assume the company is sustainable that way. All those ancient skin flakes need to go somewhere.


Meanwhile, word to the wise, unmoist ones: I usually get my Skin Authority products on the website and they’re not cheap, even if they last forever. BUT, on October 30 at 5PM (PST), Skin Authority’s founder will be on HSN’s Beauty Report selling the Brighten & Firm DUO for $79 (both products together normally cost $138).


I’m telling you, if you’re into firm, lifted, moist (ew) skin, you might want to check these products out STAT.



Hourglass No. 28 Lip Oil


I read about this product on another beauty site about a year ago, and stuck its specs in the back of my head for a rainy day. Apparently the emollient properties of the lip treatment ranked as epic and far surpassed any other lame product I might have tried. Considering that up until last week, I’d been using a chapstick I received at BlogHer in 2010, I figured now was the time to go big. And big it was, because this treatment is $42, which is no small potatoes for someone who’s been using a free chapstick for four years.


Unfortunately, the Hourglass lip oil shocked and awed my lips and I’ll find every other treatment completely subpar for the rest of my penniless life.


The lip oil is a little thick, but not tacky and manages to velvetize my lipstick so my lip lines don’t look like Magda’s from “There’s Something About Mary.”


I wear it alone most days, and it has the consistency of a clear lip gloss that jazzes my lips up a bit, and when I wear color on my lips, I put the oil on underneath and over the lipstick.


It’s a winner, dammit.



Urban Decay Naked2 Basics


I know. Most of America and Europe has this already. I’m not a trend setter, just a girl trying to make it through Sephora without pawning my wedding ring to afford all the blings. I usually don’t wear eyeshadow because I feel like it settles in my lid lines a la Magda, so I’ve often hesitated before buying palettes. But yes, most of America and Europe, you were onto something, because the Naked No. 2 eyeshadows glide over my lids eradicating all sense of Magdaness (wear an eyeshadow primer to really see awesome lid action). I love the neutral colors that increase in intensity, and am really into the smoky color situated at the end of the palette for eye drama on those days I wear something other than my husband’s sweat socks.


There’s a bunch of Naked palettes available in varying color combinations, but No. 2 is the most user-friendly for my needs, and it was less than the lip oil ($29).


So there are my new things! What are you using? I need to know! No seriously, I need to know. I have FOMOOBP.


Disclosure: Skin Authority provided me with a Brighten & Firm DUO to replace my dwindling Resurfacing Accelerator and Tri-Power Peptide Hydrator , but I buy all my other Skin Authority products. Everything else was purchased by me and is not sponsored in the least little bit, nor are there affiliate links included here. Thank you kindly.


You Know You’re a San Diego Gal When…

October 14th, 2014


(Pretty much when I first moved to San Diego. So take the below list with a big crimping iron, which translates to “grain of salt” in San Diegoish.)


You’re a San Diego gal when:


  • Christmas beach day!
  • Carne asada French fries!
  • Don’t you dare make fun of In n’ Out.
  • Silk Stalkings!
  • You have tank tops in colors not even invented yet.
  • There’s an entire wing in your closet for flip flops.
  • You wait all fall to wear boots, then put on every pair you own during the boot window of 9AM, November 21 to 2PM, November 21. Central Standard time.
  • Your neighbor works for Qualcomm, your husband works for Qualcomm, you used to work at Qualcomm. 
  • There’s not a name for how blonde you want your hair to be.
  • You remember when Fashion Valley only had a Nordstrom’s.
  • You used to party in Tijuana, but wouldn’t be caught dead now on Revoluccion. Or you would, and that’s why you don’t go. 
  • You lived in OB at least once.
  • You go black widow hunting.
  • You kinda had a crush on King Stahlman.
  • You still call it Der Wienerschnitzel.


There’s plenty more, I know. I’m not an indigenous San Diego gal, but I’ve been here so long, I forgot all about what it’s like to be a Chicago gal. Except summer street festivals. And fireflies. And cicada invasions. Plus, Ferris Bueller. And rooftop parties. Also, the Cubs!


I should write a Chicago version! Because Wiener Circle.


PROMPTuesday #236: Back to Spooky

October 7th, 2014


It’s my favorite time of year: spooky movie season. I troll the Lifetime network and the Chiller channel obsessively from October 1 through Halloween, hoping to happen upon a cheesy, ghosty, scary show I can tuck into with full abandon.


Even better is when I’m in bed, the lights are off, and everyone is asleep. Spooky goodness galore!


As I do every year with the October PROMPTuesday I’m asking for a scary story. This can be something that really happened (I love those!) or a tale you make up in your head. I’m posting a horrible thing I wrote many years ago, but it fits the theme: cheesy. (Was that the theme?)


Nevertheless, keep in mind that PROMPTuesday is all about just writing something off the top of your head to get the juices going. It doesn’t have to be edited, or finessed or polished. Raw is best. Pick at the raw nuggets later to extract the good stuff, but for now, there is no pressure to write a masterpiece.




Add your post/comment/prompt answer below in the comments or write a post of your own and include the link for us to read!


To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.


Or, catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.


So: what scary thing has happened to you?



Susannah heard the sound after it was gone. What it was, she couldn’t say. But her subconscious had registered it and woke her with a jolt.

Her eyelashes snapped against her lids as she lay, prone, listening. Her heart beat that deep, ragged, thumping way it does when you think your plane is going to crash.

But she wasn’t in the air, she was in some guy’s bed, wondering where the hell he was, as her peripheral vision caught the emptiness beside her.

Some guy…Ron? That was it. Out with friends for happy hour, she’d ended up with Ron after a heartfelt discussion of life, love, and all that other stuff you talk about three martinis later.

She knew she shouldn’t have followed him to his place. She was, after all, in the middle of a three-year relationship, but she allowed herself this irrational act for no good reason whatsoever.

She kept her eyes on the ceiling. A sound loud enough to wake her up, the stranger beside her gone, a complete eerie silence…this wasn’t good. The air felt heavy, and pawed at her. In her deepest self, she knew something was very wrong (the plane was losing altitude…).

But no more noises…just movement. A swath of shadow cut across a small corner of the ceiling dimly lit by the glow of a nightlight. Susannah followed the circle of light down to a dresser on the right side of the bed.

Ron sat crouched on top of the dresser.

His face was expressionless as he threw a book at the nightlight, knocking it out of the wall, plunging the room in darkness.

She lay there, feeling like she would hit bottom any minute, and wanting to, because anything was better then waiting in the dark for something to find you. She strained to hear anything, some sound that would give away his next movement, but Susannah couldn’t hear a thing but the rumbling echo of her own heartbeat.

Should she roll over the side of the bed and get on the floor? Maybe under the bed? What then?

Any movement would creak the bed frame or rustle the sheets. She couldn’t change her position without her pursuer knowing about it. But, dammit, she couldn’t stay there.

She had to do something now. Her mind clung to option after option, but nothing stuck and Susannah ended up immobilized. Suddenly, a dot of light flickered. Then, another, and another, randomly. It was like, it was…fireflies? In here? She hadn’t seen the bugs since her Chicago childhood. She lived in the city now, and nearly forgot the things existed. With each flash, and resulting glow, she caught all-too-brief glimpses of the room. And with a lurch, she saw the top of the dresser now bare.

Why couldn’t she hear him? Her precious fleeting light afforded no comfort, especially when it disappeared altogether. She lay there, blood rushing, as a pile of crushed fireflies fell upon her face.