Friday, September 5, 2014

More password problems.

My AOL account was hacked, which is rich when you consider that I have NO idea what the password was. To make things even more enjoyable, Matt bought me an awesome new computer that I'm still trying to learn cause it has Windows 8.1 (which is the epitome of joy when I barely figured out Windows 7 - but still the computer is really awesome). I had to go thru a bunch of documents to find my master password list. Unfortunately, I must have changed the password, because the one I had written on the master password list didn't work. Then I had to reset the stupid thing, which required me to log into my Gmail account - but I couldn't remember the password for that account.

To make things even more fun, Matt told me that the new computer was coming in soon, and reminded me that it was going to have the new version of Windows. So, there I sat for most of 2 days, watching youTube videos, reading articles (many of them how to make the new windows look like the old windows), and trying to get as informed as I could before the anticipated arrival of a computer that was built in this decade. And then it came in & the Heavens parted while angels sang Hallelujah; we got it out of the packaging & Matt set it up. However, the screen looked nothing like the screens I'd spent so much time studying.

Turns out, Matt meant Windows 8.1 - I had been studying Windows 8.0 which was a very, very different animal.

Shoot . . . . me . . . . . now.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Texting - ugh.

There’s nerds, dorks, and geeks. I’m all of them in one; I’m a Nerdorgeek. Actually, I’m the Queen of Nerdorgeeks. While many think that implies being technically savvy, it doesn’t always. It also means those who have absolutely no prowess when it comes to any type of grasp on the technological pulse.

Still, that hasn’t stopped me from diving into the hi-tech pool head first without stopping to notice there’s no water. Some of my many faux pas have to do with learning the shorthand language of texting and emailing. And, like a lot my blunders, things usually start or have something to do with my minions; or, as others might refer to them, my children.

Texting and emailing proved to be no different.

The kids’ “phone” plan (I put phone in quotation marks because they don’t use them to talk to anyone) had minimal amounts of actual air time, and unlimited texting. They made me crazy because when I called them they’d be mad that I was using up their minutes. They had a point, as Matt and I make them pay for their own plans. Still, I couldn’t resist noting that they wasted at least 30 of their precious seconds every time I called to remind me that I’m wasting their seconds. This usually results in another wasted 30 seconds of them complaining that I pointed that out, which makes me giggle.

I’m hoping that other parents will think that’s funny. In order to survive our kids, we have to have a sense of humor, mixed with a tiny streak of evil and a heaping helping of being easily amused. Either that or I’m going straight to hell.

At first, I didn’t see what they saw in typing on tiny keyboards. Then, one night, we were watching a movie and the girls spent half the show texting. I asked who in the world they were texting. They were writing private messages back and forth to each other. Part of me thought they were being rude. But the other part knew that if my sister, Jill, and I had that ability growing up, we’d be texting each other every minute as well. And probably doing the same thing my kids were - laughing at our parents.

As for my cell, I’d always had a decent-sized clam shell flip top phone, and liked it very much. Then a few years ago, it died and I was introduced to the world of Blackberry. Sadly, we never became good friends. No matter how many emails they sent, crowing about all the things I could do with it, I wasn’t impressed. As far as I was concerned, I needed it for one thing. Phone calls.

The kids, on the other hand, were thrilled since now they had a reason to force me to text them. I looked at the miniature keyboard and (correctly) saw nothing but trouble ahead.

At first, I had no idea what they were saying when the first flurry of texts came through. They use abbreviations, or, texting shorthand. I told them that I didn’t understand much of what they were writing, but they insisted that I join the 21st century, and learn them. Once, Aubrie sent me a message with several abbreviations, but I had no earthly idea what she was talking about.

I knew that Elyse was in her room, so I called up the stairs, “What do “IDR, LYL, and TTYL” mean?” She yelled back, “I don’t remember, love you lots, talk to you later”. So I said, “Oh, OK, I’ll ask Aubrie when she gets home.”

I thought Elyse was going to hurt herself, she was laughing so hard.

Another time, I had to send some bad news to several members of the family. Matt saw the message and asked why I thought it was funny. I was confused. He pointed to the “LOL” I’d put at the end of the message, and said, “That means laughing out loud.” I had thought it meant lots of love.

I spent the rest of that afternoon on the phone calling everyone who received the email.

It’s been a few years, and I’m getting the hang of texting. Well, when I have my reading glasses handy; which isn’t all that often. Still, we homeschooled the kids, so we’re all pretty adept at deciphering odd messages – for the most part.

What the kids don’t know, however, is that since I hate texting, I figured out a way to get them to call me. I start punching random letters and spaces and hit “send.” The phone usually rings in less than a minute with a kid saying, “Mom, what the heck are you talking about?”

And every once in a while, my inner evil streak rears its head as I answer, “IDR.” It’s good to be Queen.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Down the Shore

For the almost 26 years I’ve been a member of the very large Kells family, we’ve vacationed together in Ocean City, NJ, over an extended Mother’s Day weekend. We'd all get down there on a Thursday, and stay until Sunday or Monday; pretty much inhabiting an entire floor of the resort.

Perhaps the word “inhabit” is a bit tame. Take a loud Polish/Irish Catholic family, throw in some beer & other assorted alcohol, house them in cramped quarters, & let's just say that things can get pretty rowdy.

Occasionally, an errant family had the misfortune to be wedged in a room between our very vocal clan. We just did what Star Trek's master race, the “Borg”, would do and assimilated them; it was the only humane thing to do. Besides, resistance would have been futile.

Something that has plagued our Mother's Day vacation almost every year has been rain. Not just any rain, a passing shower, or even a thunderstorm. I'm talking about torrential, coming down sideways, build an ark type of rain. Of course, on the day we're scheduled to leave, the sun comes out accompanied by perfect 80 degree weather and a balmy breeze.

One year, however, we watched in awe as a forecaster promised a sunny weekend.  Not willing to get our hopes up, we still packed our ponchos, umbrellas, and assorted ark building supplies. To our great surprise, the weather held. We walked around as dumbfounded as Pavarotti at a rap concert. We were convinced, however, that a freak monsoon, complete with a tsunami, was on its way.

To our utter amazement, the monsoon blew in on the day we left. For once.

Having so many people gathered in one area, we've had a few “incidents” over the years. But nothing beats the time that fire played a starring role during our vacation.

As a result of the ever present rain, every time we'd come back to the condo, we'd be soaked. Due to the lack of laundry facilities, we'd often turn to my mother-in-law, Gretchen, who is a highly skilled oven-drying virtuoso. After the kids would peel their clothes off, she'd have them dried in no time.

One afternoon, my daughter, Elyse, came home drenched. Unfortunately, she couldn't find Gretchen. So, she stuck her favorite pair of jeans in the oven and began the drying process. The only thing was, being a novice, she put the jeans directly on the heating element. Then, to speed the drying time, she turned the oven on to 450 degrees.

Thankfully, the room came equipped with a fire extinguisher.

The fireball was doused in short order, but Elyse's jeans were no more. Sadly, that wasn't our only brush with fire that particular weekend.

Two days after we'd checked in, we met our neighbor, Roseanne. She seemed pleasant enough; at first.  We never saw her during the daytime after our original meeting, though. The few rays of sun peeking through the clouds must have been toxic for her; or maybe they made her shimmer.

But when the sun went down, she turned into Katie Couric on crack; up all hours of the night entertaining quite the variety of visitors. We knew this because her door was constantly being slammed open or closed. And for some reason, she didn't seem to like her apartment in the evening hours, as the shared hallways held some odd fascination for her and her plethora of drunk, obnoxious friends.

None of them seemed to have a decent grasp of the English language, either. I have never heard curse words strung together with such stunning consistency, gleeful abandon and utter ignorance of all the other non-offensive words in the English language in my many years. I kind of felt sorry for all the other verbs, nouns, and adjectives that must have died from neglect within their limited vocabulary.

But I digress.

One evening after dinner, I smelled something. It smelled like fire, which of course I'd just smelled the day before following the oven drying/burning incident. Sadly, I’ve also lit our home kitchen on fire a few times - I'm becoming a connoisseur of the scent.

I looked out our window and discovered that our neighbor (who we'd taken to calling various names, such as Elvira) had brought along her hibachi. Problem was, she didn't seem to be knowledgeable of the correct (and safe) way to get the coals going.

I say that because the hibachi appeared to be engulfed in fire; white hot flames were leaping to the second floor. Although I'm no expert, I'm guessing that the reason for the fireball may have involved copious amounts of lighter fluid - the acrid smell was a bit of a give away. Add to that the fact that under normal circumstances, throwing a shrimp on the barbie doesn't require the services of the fire department, and you get why I suspected lighter fluid's involvement.

To my dismay, Vampira was no where in sight – probably because it was still light out. Not wanting to be marshmallows in our neighbor's bonfire, I began packing furiously. Matt and several others were battling to keep the fire contained, and thankfully, were successful.

Blessedly, the fire department didn't have to come out after all and no one was hurt. We couldn't help but remark that this just had to be the only clear day of the vacation.

And that's when God proved He has a sense of humor; dark clouds gathered and rain came teeming down.

Thankfully, the next few days passed by uneventfully. True to form, the little rainstorm that began after we'd successfully avoided being the main course at the Princess of Darkness' cook out lingered. We also had a lightning storm, but it was a breathtaking sight as it lit up the ocean.

Turns out, God's also an amazing artist.

Magical Mascara?

I'm a makeup and beauty supply freak. I buy every lotion and potion that comes down the pike and claims to do this or that. I keep thinking that there's no way people can make the claims that they do, right? It's so bad that my daughters barely buy makeup themselves. They just ask if I have whatever it is they're out of.

A few weeks ago, Aubrie mentioned that she was almost out of mascara. I went into my stash and produced the latest miracle product. As she took it from me, she just shook her head and said, “They see you coming, mom.” And she's right.

Mascara makes the most amazing claims. This one or that is going to take your lashes to amazing lengths. Another will fatten up thin lashes. Yet another will find lashes you never knew you had. Where were they hiding? I'm pretty sure I would have noticed a few stray hairs, but I could be wrong. 

Still I watch the commercials, praying for a miracle mascara that will make my eyelashes look like the ones in the commercial. Sadly, my eyelashes are way less than perfect. Mine are so short, I have to use a magnifying glass to apply mascara, and even then, half of it ends up on my eyelids. Once I’m finally done putting the curling, fattening, lengthening, volumizing, carbon black and waterproof mascaras on my eyes, the first blink deposits most of it on my cheeks.

The commercials continue to make fantastic claims and, as everyone knows, if it’s on the tv, it’s the God’s honest truth. I bought mascara after mascara because of their claims to give me long, lush lashes. 

Ever the optimist (and having been raised in the TV generation), I trotted to the store like a trained circus monkey and bought one after the other.  Upon closer inspection and in the smallest print possible, you can barely see a disclaimer. Usually, it’s something like “results not typical”, followed by an even smaller admission that the model’s extra long eyelashes didn’t come from mascara. They came in the form of false eyelashes.

Wait – next you’re going to tell me that the shiny hair I’ve been chasing by coloring my locks is just lighting and shilac.  

None of the cornucopia of mascaras that I purchased lived up to their claims, but at least they coated my tiny little lashes and made them somewhat visible to the naked eye. Still, I wasn’t willing to give up on my quest for long lash bliss.

You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was when I saw that a make up artist was coming on a local talk show to demonstrate how to make dramatic lashes. I grabbed a pen and paper and patiently waited until her segment came on. 

Her first “trick” was to use an eyelash curler. She curled her model’s lashes, and then applied a coat of mascara. While the mascara was still wet, she sprinkled some loose talcum powder on her lashes, followed by another coat of mascara. The model looked into the camera and boy, did she have some awesome lashes. 

Circus music played in my head as I went to the store to buy a curler and some powder.

Now, there may have been some warnings about proper usage of the curler, but I was just too excited to try it. I held the contraption up to my eye and pressed down – firmly.

Turns out, you’re supposed to check for placement before you apply any pressure. Since I hadn’t, part of my tender eyelid found its way into the little jaws of death. 

I now understand what people mean when they say they saw stars; I was seeing constellations. 

I ditched the little torture device. It took about a week for the eyelid to heal, but then I was back at it.

I decided to try the talcum powder trick. I put mascara on, then lowered my lashes to my hand that held a pile of talc. Unfortunately, I got a little too close to the powder. The talc got into my eye, and instinctively, I began blinking like a caution light in a construction zone. This caused the mascara to get under my eyes and on the top of my lids. When I could finally see again, I looked in the mirror, only to see a deranged raccoon looking back at me. 

Thinking I’d learned from my mistake, the next day I tried again. Thankfully, I was smart enough to keep the talcum from getting in my eye. Unfortunately, being inexperienced, the powder turned to massive, mascara laden clumps. I looked like there were hairy tarantulas attacking my face. I tried to use a lash comb, which helped a little. But sadly, most of the talcum covered mascara landed in my eyes.

After a few days, I could finally put my contacts in.

Weeks later, I spotted a beauty supply store, and decided to take a look around. There was a whole section entirely devoted to false eyelashes; I was mesmerized. I had no idea that there were so many different brands and types. Some were labeled “natural”, “dramatic” and one that said “demi”. Having no experience with them, I grabbed a dramatic pair.

Here’s a handy tip; be careful which fake lashes you buy or you’ll stand out like a drag queen in church.

I got them home and, for once, read the directions. I flexed and applied the glue that came with them to the lashes. I tried to get them as close to my eyelash line as I could, but not being used to having gigantic lashes coming at me, they ended up in the middle of my eyelid. I pulled them off, but there was still glue on my eyelid, which temporarily glued my eye wide open.

In other attempts I managed to get the glue on my lower lid, and glued my eye shut. It took a lot of Vaseline before I was comfortable prying them apart.

Sadly, despite all my best efforts, it seems I’m doomed to walk the streets with tiny little lashes. And when I watch television commercials advertising revolutionary mascara, I have a mantra going through my head that no mascara will make me look like I’m wearing false eyelashes.

Wait a minute – hello! I just saw a commercial about a break through mascara that has tiny fibers that will adhere to your lashes and make them ten times longer!

Queue the circus music.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tan in a Can

My dad, Don Knight, with my little sister, Jill-Baby (Jill Woolsey).
The white boy is my brother, Mark. 

There’s Cherokee blood in my family, but I didn’t inherit my dad’s skin tone. In fact, I’m so white, I glow in the dark. Add to that the fact I've been told that sun is bad for you (with scary words like melanoma used for emphasis - for good reason) , I avoid sunlight like a vampire. Still, I want to look tanned, and have at least some resemblance to my heritage. So, if I can’t get it from the sun, I’m getting it myself from a bottle.

Knowing that almost every ill conceived, hair brained idea I’ve ever had came from thinking I could duplicate a professional, you’d think I’d learn.

My first foray into the world of sunless tanners left me with striped orange and white legs; I was a human version of Tony the Tiger. It took several days for the effect to finally wear off. I walked around in jeans instead of shorts in the middle of a heat wave to hide them. So much for claims such as “won’t streak” or “won’t turn you orange”.

I decided that maybe going to a professional would be the best way to go (I know, it boggles the mind that I gave up my DIY mindset). Off I went to a tanning salon and paid a good amount of money to be spray tanned. They called it something like “UV free tanning” but honestly, that’s a nice way to say that like a wall, you’re getting spray painted. The professional results were nice, but in order to maintain the look, I was instructed to return every 5-6 days. That would be a pain in the butt, not to mention expensive; so that was out.

DIY was back in. Sigh.

I went online and searched for professional products to duplicate my salon experience; I stumbled upon an airbrushing system. It looked terrific, and the website crowed that it was almost the same system the salons use. Sadly, I knew there was no way to justify $1,500 so I can sport a tan. Well, I could - Matt, not so much. He’s all practical & stuff, which annoys the daylights out of me.

Then, I hit gold.

I came across something that purported to be a spray tan in a can. It, too, claimed that I would experience salon results without the expense; they backed it up with glowing recommendations & lengthy testimonials. Sadly, as you may know if you’ve read my drivel for any length of time, I believe just about anything coming from the tv or magazine. I placed my order for the buy one, get one free product and watched the mail like a child waiting for the ice cream truck.

When it finally came, I could almost see the clouds part and hear the angels sing. I just knew that I’d found the perfect product that would bestow a golden California tan on my milky white limbs.

Even though I had the flu and was running a fever of 101°, I didn’t care. I was getting started right then. I pulled out the instructions, as I meant to follow every single one of them. For once.

The first step was to strip my body of previous sunless tanning product. Matt suggested we get in the hot tub, a cornucopia of chemicals that would almost surely rid my body of layers upon layers of assorted tanners. To be sure, after that, I took a shower and scrubbed, hard, with a combination of an exfoliator and a loofah.

If the desired outcome was to be bright pink, then call me Porky.

Next, Matt “volunteered” to be the spray painter. He explained that he could see any streaks and had a much better chance of distributing the product evenly.

Ladies, I don’t think I have to tell you this, but between us, it’s just easier to pretend we buy the load of crap they shovel our way.

I was de-tanned and scrubbed; I got into the shower and Matt began to spray. To my horror, the spray turned into little balls that streaked down my skin. Of course, I blamed Matt; I thought he didn’t shake the can hard enough. He shook it again, took aim, and sprayed. I gasped as little balls of golden tan were rolling down my legs. Over and over he sprayed but the solution kept balling up, streaking down my body like an out of control luge. I figured that the can must be defective, so I made Matt get the other bottle and try again. I was NOT giving up.

At this point, the room was so hazy, China looked like the ambassadors of clean air and the fumes could choke a horse. We could hardly see or breathe. Matt started worrying about black lung, and I was ready to kill Matt.

“Look,” I hissed, “YOU were the one who just had to spray me. Stop complaining, ya’ big baby. Besides, it won’t be black lung; it’ll be bronze. Big difference - tanned is healthy”.

What was supposed to be a quick glazing had turned into a nightmare. Matt wanted to stop, and even tried to flee the room. Seeing my face, he gave the other can a try, with the same results. The floor, walls, ceiling and shower curtain, however, were a beautiful golden brown. Even Matt had the beginnings of a beautiful tan. Brown streaks were running all over me, pooling at my feet.

I looked like an albino seal struggling to get out of an oil spill.

The next morning, I wrote an email to the company. As one would imagine, it was a complaint. Shortly after I fired off my snotty little email, I got a lovely note back from the company. A sweet girl named Janessa asked me what type of exfoliator I had used.

Turns out, the brand I used left a moisturizing layer of professional strength Vaseline; I was a human slip and slide. Not even commercial grade paint could have gotten through.


After a good sandblasting, I tried it again. To my great joy, the elusive golden brown sun goddess tan was finally mine. Well, mostly. Matt turned out to be right; when I sprayed myself, I ended up with dark patches here and there. I didn’t care, though. At least it stuck this time. And for once, I wasn’t so white that I’d be invisible in a snow storm.

Now, if only I could remember where I got it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Technology - Why do I try?

Try My Product!

Matt and I take daily medications for thyroid and high blood pressure. Unfortunately for Matt, he never had high blood pressure until he met me, but that's another story. Since we don't have prescription insurance, I thought it would be a good idea to go online and see if I could purchase them cheaper.

After two days of surfing the net, I found a site where the prices were unbelievably low. I was thrilled that my tenacity seemed to be paying off. I plugged in the names of the medicine and the dosage, and began the ordering process, complete with credit card information. Then the re-cap came up. I hadn't ordered anything but a year-long “membership” to a Mexican pharmacy.

I'm fairly sure that the pharmacy has my photo up on their wall, complete with a large inscription, “Mujer tonta, el Internet es para ninos” ("Silly woman, the Internet's for kids").

Swell, now I'm an international idiot. I had to call Matt in on this one.

Matt's normally an easygoing guy. Not much bothers him. But I don't think I've ever seen the veins on his forehead bulge like that in our 26 years of marriage. On a purely educational bright side, should you ever hyperventilate around me, I'm fairly equipped to handle the situation. Still, it took him more than a month to un-do what I'd done in less than five minutes. He wasn't amused when I said that every boy needs a hobby.

Still, I'm trying to learn; it's not fun being the butt of familial jokes. Whether or not the learning sticks is a whole other story.

You can imagine my happy surprise when shopping at a second-hand store. I came upon a stack of DVDs from the “Video Professor” (most famous for his TV infomercial in which he says “try my product”). On the covers of the discs was his smiling face, and he promised that he could take me from a novice to a professional on just about anything computer related. I bought them all.

When I got them home, Matt actually complimented me. Both he and the kids thought it was encouraging that I had taken the initiative to learn at least a modicum of computer technology.

I was anxious to soak up as many morsels of the Video Professor's wisdom as I could. I even got up early the next morning to begin my enlightenment process. I grabbed the first DVD and eagerly approached the television. I just knew I was going to be programming computers in a week.

A few hours later, I still hadn't managed to see the Video Professor's wise, smiling face from my very own television. Problem was, with four different remotes, I couldn't figure out which one turned the DVD player on. After trying unsuccessfully to find the correct remote for the DVD, I called Boy. He took the DVD, looked it over and walked from the television set to my laptop and popped a button. Out came what looked like a miniature CD player. He inserted the disk.

I had no idea my computer had that. I was learning already! Turns out, the disks weren't meant for television viewing, as the next thing I knew, the Professor was smiling at me from my computer.

Boy looked at me and said, “Good luck, mom. You're going to need it.” In my mind, all I could think of was how proud I was going to be when I was designing websites and zipping around the Internet like a pro.

It's a good thing I'm an optimist.

I decided that my first lesson was going to be, “Learn the Internet.” After the prescription debacle, I figured that would probably be a good place to start.

About five minutes into the presentation, I started getting bored. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was almost 4pm. I should be thinking about getting dinner ready.

At about 4:03, I began to wonder if I'd taken anything out of the freezer. A few minutes later, I thought I'd better check to be sure there was something to cook. While I was in the kitchen, I figured I'd better put some baked potatoes in. Then I remembered that I didn't have any fresh vegetables, so I took another dive into the freezer.

When I got back, the Professor was saying “so now you know the danger signs.” Wait, what? What are the danger signs? Oh, no! I'd missed something vitally important. I may not be technologically inclined, but my ears perk right up when the word "danger" is thrown around.

Desperately, I tried to rewind. Of course, I couldn't figure out how. When you think about it, if I had no idea I had a CD disky thingy in my computer, I pretty much had zero chance of knowing how to rewind it.

I hung my head and headed back to the kitchen to fix dinner, and quickly forgot all about Internet danger signs.

The next day, the Professor was going to teach me to navigate my computer's file system. I can't remember why he said it was important, but he seemed to think that it was. I got a pen and a piece of paper to take notes.

As he droned on, I began to doodle. Then, while I had the paper and pen, I thought I should take a moment and jot down my “to do” and grocery list. Before I knew it, the Professor was complimenting me on keeping up with him and asking boy, wasn't I glad I can navigate my file system? I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I just nodded in agreement. Since I'd taken the time to write my grocery list, I figured it would be a good time to go out and get the items on it.

The next day, I was going to learn about databases. As I watched, though, I noticed that there was a little bit of dust on the desk and there was a smear on my monitor. How could I become a computer master when I could barely see the screen? I spent the next half hour dusting, and then realized that I should probably do some other chores.

The next morning, at the stroke of 11:30am, I toddled out to find out what nugget of wisdom the Professor was going to bestow upon me. Today's lesson was learning how to write HTML.

He started saying things like, “All lines of code must be put in tags. You have to be sure to open the tag, insert the command, and then close the tag.” But what he was calling tags were greater than and less than signs that don't resemble tags at all. I've been shopping for a long time, and I know tags. Those weren't them.

As I tried to soak up the wisdom that was coming from my computer screen, I caught movement from the corner of my eye. There was a pretty red bird on the deck, looking in. I had to go get my camera and take a picture. I mean, how many times does one have a bird on their windowsill trying to watch your computer? Maybe he was interested in learning how to surf the net.

He'd probably be better at it.

Finally, I realized that no matter how good the Professor was, I was better--at getting distracted. In fairness to him, he really did break things down and make them easy to understand. But he'd never come up against someone with such a short attention span; or general lack of interest.

On the bright side, my mind isn't cluttered with technological information that I'll never understand or use. I've got room for more important things like writing my book, learning a new beading pattern (*), planning a get together with my friends, or . . . . . .

Ooh, look, a rainbow!

(*) When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told I would undergo the maximum amount of chemotherapy that they give at one time. Since I’m a magpie and love all things sparkly, I wanted to have a way to count down the rounds until I was finished. I decided to make chemo countdown bracelets, which were nothing more than pretty beads on a stretch cord. I had never beaded a thing before, so stringing them on a cord was pretty easy. I made one for each round, and wore the bracelets until I was done, removing one as each round was over. Women at the chemo ward noticed them, and soon, my friends & I were busy making tons of chemo countdown bracelets. We left them in a basket with a note explaining what they were, and inviting patients to take them for their own countdown – free of charge. My friends are pretty awesome that way.

One day, an elderly woman (who was battling cancer for the third time) told me that she would be turning 79 soon. Knowing that she enjoyed the bracelets, I looked online to find an easy pattern to make a necklace for her. I found one, made it, and when I presented it to her, she cried. It touched me that something so small would bring a smile to a woman who was in a fight for her life. And that was the beginning of my love affair with making, and giving away, beaded jewelry. I’d make a necklace or bracelet, wear it to either radiation of doctor visits, and gave them to whichever patient noticed it. I only made them – they found their owners by themselves.

I’m now opening an Etsy site, where I can actually sell my jewelry so I can buy more beads to make more jewelry to give away. I’m calling it “Funny Girl Lucy”, but the site isn’t live yet. Of course I’ll tell you all about it as soon as it is! In the meantime, here’s some of my work.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

You Might Need Spring Cleaning if . . . .

You come across a full sized lamp that you were sure you lost years ago, and "Hoarders" and "American Pickers" are vying for the right to film you.

Okay, okay, it's not really that bad at my house. Still, we've stopped using spring cleaning to describe our yearly ritual. We call it winter purging. After this long, long winter, we have so much stuff to get rid of we may even need to get a special permit from the township.

You see, I, sadly, am a pack rat. Well, I prefer "collector of rarities." My husband, Matt, is the exact opposite. I call him a neat freak, but he prefers the term, "minimalist." If not for Matt, I'd probably still have the burned out nub of a candle from our first candlelit dinner.

I'm sentimental that way...and it smelled good.

I have a tendency to start projects, get bored and stash them away. I still have a ceramic coyote that I began working on almost 20 years ago, wrapped in a bunch of netting that was going to be a canopy for our bed and nestled in a box that also housed old fabric paint left over from a Christmas project. Actually, I don't think they can be called fabric paints at this point, since they're so dried out that they resemble brightly colored concrete. Projectile objects might be a better description.

One time, I decided to pick up knitting. I went to the craft store and purchased skeins and skeins of yarn. They were on sale. Well, that's what I told Matt, anyway.

I actually made a scarf, which encouraged me to continue. To this date, I have only the one scarf to show for my efforts. I also have two half-knitted blankets, three halfway done scarves, one almost finished doily, and a box full of yarn in a rainbow of colors and a cornucopia of textures.

In a surprising turn of events, my daughter, Aubrie, took to knitting like a magpie to a mirror. She's knitted mittens and scarves for her brother and sister, always completing her projects. She even knitted a hat that looked like a fox, which she has since sold world wide. I tease her that she has her own empire; and I'm not far from wrong. She definitely gets that "finishing the job" stuff from her dad.

I admire that gene. If I ever had it, I ignored it and it died from indifference.

I'm also a collector of pots, pans and knives. Every year we go to the Poconos on vacation and I have to visit the Crossings Factory Outlets. There are three or four "gourmet" places that I have to visit or my vacation isn't complete. Matt loves to hold my hand as we peruse the stores - he's afraid if he lets go I'll buy everything.

I've amassed quite the collection of chef's knives, skillets and pots, and a variety of glass cups. I also purchased tiny porcelain bowls, the type that restaurants use to put salad dressing, expensive olive oil for dipping and other assorted condiments in. I think I used them once--as Easter egg holders.

And thanks to the children, I've added animals to my "collection." At any given time, the menagerie has included dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, mice and chinchillas.

Currently, we have two large labs, two cats and a ferret. As such, gathering animal hair is a daily cleaning nightmare. It's amazing what these beasts leave in their wake. I could knit sweaters from the amount of fur collected on a daily basis. Then again, I'd probably get bored and stash the project away.

As any owner of a pet can tell you, keeping the fur from flying whenever you walk into a room requires constant vigil. Getting it out from under couches and other pieces of furniture, however, is an ordeal most often saved for the vernal equinox.

One day last spring, I was in my bedroom when I heard the leaf blower. I thought it was awfully loud and presumed that Matt was blowing leaves outside our window.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the sun room to find my husband wearing safety goggles, sporting a tool belt to which he'd attached Windex, paper towels, a squeegee, a sponge and other cleaning supplies, wielding a leaf blower and grunting like Tim the Tool Man Taylor.

He'd been outside mowing the lawn, cleaning exterior windows and blowing leaves when the thought had occurred to him--the leaf blower would make getting all the fur out from under our couches possible in record time. I thought he was crazy until he demonstrated his invention.

I have to point out, though, that if you have a powerful leaf blower, check under the couch before turning it on. Ferrets don't weigh much so you can imagine his shock at being blown clear across the room.

The problem was, after Ferret Bueller recovered, he thought it was a game, and began dancing around Matt, wanting another ride. We ended up locking him in a room until the job was done, both for his safety and because we'd blown half the fur off of him.

Having a ferret, we didn't only find pounds and pounds of fur. We found hidden stashes of old Christmas candy, bottle tops, bobby pins, ribbons, scraps of yarn and a myriad of beads.

If I'm being honest, I kind of knew he was stealing the beads. I was in the middle of making an intricate necklace and it was driving me crazy. I figured if he stole enough of the beads so that I couldn't finish it, I could stop without having to admit the truth. I'd completely lost interest.

Spring cleaning is a way to welcome the sun and wake up from a seemingly endless winter. You open windows, wash drapes, get rid of things you haven't used in years, and occasionally find things you thought you'd lost. But sometimes, spring cleaning turns into a spring 'replace everything'.

For example, you've washed the windows, when you notice the room needs to be painted. You paint the room, only to realize that the curtains look shabby in comparison, so you have to buy new ones. You sanded and polished hardwood floors, but then the throw rugs look dingy and need to be replaced.

It's kind of like shoveling the walk in the middle of a blizzard.

But, everything smells nice, clutter is removed and things have their place. And if all else fails, I'll let "Hoarders" have at it.

I smell an Emmy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Upper Perkiomen Relay for Life

Tomorrow, I'll be speaking at the Upper Perkiomen Relay for Life; I'm scheduled to begin my story at 6:00 pm. Posted below are links to part of the series I wrote for AOL about breast cancer. However, I wrote a condensed version on my blog telling the difference between pink ribbons & pinkwashing. If you want to read just one, that would be the one I'd recommend.

ANYWAYS, feel free to come out & see me!

Pink Ribbons/Pinkwashing - There's a Difference  (This sums up Pinktober)

Pink Ribbons = Big Profits;

Pink Ribbons = Profit for Charities, Too;

Two awesome websites to look into are:

Think Before You Pink

Breast Cancer Action

And finally, I made this photo collage to go along with my story on Patch as well as on my cancer blog. I think it sums things up pretty well, don't you think?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Very G.I. Joe Christmas

I know it's after Christmas! But I'd promised to run this story that ran after the Barbie story. This is the little boy version.


Having two daughters born less than two years apart, our household was a cornucopia of all things Barbie.  I'm convinced that for years there was a pink haze emanating from our home that could be seen all the way to California.  My poor husband, Matt, was surrounded by girls; heck, even our dog, Ginger, was a girl.  But that all changed when our son, Dakota, known as "Boy", was born.  And life as I knew it changed forever.

Boy didn't have a pink bone in his body and he had little tolerance for his sisters' Barbie obsession.  He would just as soon use the Pink Princess' house as target practice for his GI Joes and their flame throwers. 

He didn't start out with the army tanks that he fell so in love with.  Nope, he coaxed me into a false sense of security that all toys would abide peacefully with each other under the same roof; kind of like a toy version of the Brady Bunch.  I had no idea what was coming.

It started innocently with "Land Before Time", where a longneck dinosaur named "Littlefoot" and his friends went in search of the Great Valley.  Of course, there were perils along the way; it wouldn't have been a watchable series of movies if not.  But Littlefoot and his friends were peaceful, noble plant (or, "green food") eaters, and grateful mothers watched as their children willingly tried to eat vegetables like their hero, Littlefoot.

There were even catchy songs and plush, snuggly stuffed dinosaurs.  Little did I know that action figures were looming large in my very near future.  The first wave came in the form of "Power Rangers".

For those of you who don't possess a boy type, Power Rangers were a group of teenagers who morphed into kung fu fighting super heroes.  They went around battling the myriad of Ninja-like villains and their horde of monsters that apparently run rampant in our cities and towns.  They were determined to take over Earth, if not the entire universe.  Their harbingers of evil had names like "Lord Zedd" and "Rita Repulsa".  And, no; I'm not kidding. 

However, that was tame compared to what was to come.  GI Joe.  And for as many friends as Barbie needed, GI Joe needed armies!

Now, armies for little boys can come in all shapes and sizes.  Like Barbie, GI Joe is also an eleven-and-a-half inch "action figure" (you can NOT use the word doll when referring to boys' toys).   But Joe's army doesn't discriminate when it comes to the size, race or even species of his recruits.  Or tanks, flame throwers, cannons, gas masks, sniper rifles, pistols, tear gas canisters, and every war toy imaginable.  Like Barbie, they come in miniature form and are also most likely to be stepped upon in the middle of the night. 

Then, Boy added Star Wars action figures to his growing army.  Luke Skywalker was a Four Star General, Han Solo was of course the Top Gun, and a hairy Wookie named Chewbacca was a field marshal.  Like I said, good old Joe doesn't discriminate even a little bit; all species welcome.

Legos were added to the mix soon, and as any parent of a child addicted to Legos can tell you, we're torn.  First, thank you to whomever invented them; they've helped our kids with their motor skills and imaginations. 

On the other hand, all too many of us have had the pleasure of hearing the grating sound shrieking from your vacuum cleaner as it sucks up one of the small little bricks, turns into a ball of smoke, sets off the fire alarm, sends screaming kids running out the door while you try to find your way through the plumes of smoky air to open a window.

Once things had calmed down, it was time to toss said vacuum into the car for its sad monthly visit to the appliance repair shop.  Usually, Lego owners are on a first name basis with those folks, and there's no longer a need to say a word when handing over the humiliated Hoover.  I'd venture a guess that most appliance repair stores are still in existence due to Legos alone.  So, yeah; thanks there, Lego.

Shortly after Legos, but still in the middle of the army stage, robotics was introduced to Boy in the form of a room monitoring robot. I guess he was concerned about those crazy Ninjas!  It came equipped with motion sensors, flashing lights and a voice loud enough to rival a sonic boom.  Once, when putting clean clothes in his room, I set off the alarm that had been silent, until I arrived.  This sent the two foot robot charging from his hiding place, strapping himself to my ankle, screeching "intruder alert, intruder alert".  As this was going on, buzzers and whistles were going off and there were enough flashing lights to rival a discothèque.  You never know true humiliation until you've surrendered to a two foot toy robot.

On the bright side, the violence of toy armies and weaponry weren't based in any type of reality for Boy.  They allowed for his imagination to take root and fly.  Stepping into his room, the average person might have seen the floor covered with army men, pillows scattered everywhere, Lego towers in corners of the room, and army men hanging from string.

But in the imagination of a Boy, a fierce battle was raging.  The men dangling from string were repelling down cliffs; the pillows that were covered by groups of men were foot hills, with soldiers strategically placed on them.  Screeching robots roamed the battle field, shooting lasers at the opposition's tanks.  Lego obelisks served as camouflage for flame throwers as well as communication towers.  And the skies overhead were patrolled not only by army jets, but X-wing fighters, the Millennium Falcon and a large Wookie.

I know that there are those who feel army toys are detrimental to children.  However, in Boy's world, good always triumphed over evil and saving the world happened every day.  It made him aspire to be the good guy in his real, every life.  A goal that his mommy thinks he achieved.

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy
She was pretty dumb.