Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Words With Friends (With A Side Of Nausea)

When I was in kindergarten, there was a book fair at my school. I, being the huge dork that I am, begged my mom to buy me a dictionary. A dictionary. Just what every 5 year old asks for, right? Well, my mom said no at the time and I accepted that. She was proud because I didn't throw a fit in front of my teacher and my classmates upon hearing her "no" so she later went back and bought the dictionary for me. I remember being so surprised when I opened it for my birthday! While other kids wanted pet rocks, Weebles, or Stretch Armstrong dolls (What can I say? It was 1975,) I was happy with my book filled with all of those words and meanings. All those words!

Fast forward to December of 2009 when I discovered Words With Friends, a phone app that lets you play a Scrabble-like game with friends or random opponents. How awesome is that, right? Scrabble at my fingertips anytime, anywhere, and other people willing to play with me!

When I first started playing, next to my name, there was a little yellow tile with an M on it. M for mom2my6pack which was  my username. I played against 3 or 4 people and it usually took me about a week to finish a game because both my opponent and I would play pretty slowly, taking only a couple turns a day. 

This summer, however, I realized I could upload an actual picture for the little icon next to my name. I used this one. In changing my picture, I inadvertently did a social experiment. 

If you aren't familiar, at the top of the app there's a row of pictures that denote opponents you can challenge to a game. Every day since I changed that picture about a month ago, I have received a couple game requests to the point that I now have 35 games going! I went for EIGHT YEARS with maybe 3 or 4 games going with the same couple opponents at any given time to 35 different games overnight. Would you like to know how many of those 35 games were started by guys? THIRTY-THREE! 

The game also has a chat option so you can talk to your opponent as you play. In the past my conversations have included phrases like these:

Nice move.

Good job.
Thank you!
Ugh, I have all vowels!
Good game!
Want to play again?

Occasionally, the conversations got more in depth like this:

How's it going?
What's the weather like there?
Having a nice weekend?
I'm fine.

But since changing my picture, the conversations have run along different lines. Now don't get me wrong, there are a couple guys (both married and single) who have completely normal, respectable, platonic chats when we play. But the overwhelming majority of these guys are under the impression that Words With Friends is a free dating site. Their conversations are about as wonderful as the messages I get on dating sites. If you want to read about how wonderful those are, check out THIS POST

Exhibit A (Names have been blocked out to protect the stupid, clueless, and generally disgusting because I'm too nice.)

Surprisingly, he resigned when I didn't engage with him.
Exhibit B (He had just gotten through telling me that he's 28, and married with a 9 month old.)

 Shockingly this guy also resigned when I didn't continue the conversation.
 Exhibit C  (It started off okay with him saying hello and asking me where I live to which he replied . . .)

And we're done here.

Exhibit D (He started by saying that judging by my profile, he anticipated a good game, but didn't . . .


Exhibit E

"Doll???" Why? Why why WHY??? Why do you people say things that will inevitably give me an eye rolling injury?

Exhibit F

I don't even know how to respond to something like this. Thankfully he resigned, sparing me the need to file a restraining order.

"Principessa, just let me see your feet! I need to draw your feet!"

What I want to know is - what on earth are these guys trying to get out of this? Do they realize how rare it is to even find someone who lives in the same state, let alone anywhere near their city? I play with opponents as far away as Australia! Are they just looking for someone with whom to trade pictures? Why do they have to bring this ridiculousness to my beloved word game? Couldn't they just find sites like FootFetishes.com or CreepyGuys.com or IHaveNothingBetterToDoThanRuinPerfectlyGoodWordGames.com?

And yes, I could change my picture back to an M. I could change it to a picture of a piece of toast. Would that avoid most of the unwanted attention? The previous 8 years of no attention would suggest the answer is yes. But why can't a person just make words, score points, and go about their day without some guy hitting on them? The anonymity of the internet makes otherwise normal people go stupid, I think. Seemingly normal adults who probably wouldn't approach a woman in public and say, Hey doll, you're hot. Want a picture of my junk? have no qualms about doing it online. It really makes me wonder about the future of society (not to mention pushes me one step closer to instituting my Cat Plan.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back In My Day . . .

Codi (Austin's girlfriend of 5 years who is expecting in October) texted me today, asking if I'd like to go with her to a baby store. Heck yeah! So I picked her up and we hit Babies R Us. I haven't been in a Babies R Us in years, but believe me, I put in many, many hours shopping there back in the day.

You know how I've been saying that I'm thrilled to have a grandbaby to cuddle, but I'm not quite on board with the concept of being a grandmother? I mean, when I hear the word grandma, I think of a woman with her white hair in a bun, a shawl draped around her frail shoulders, sitting in a rocking chair. And then I think - Oh great, now I'll have to wear an apron when I bake and learn how to knit, and start all my stories with "Back in my day . . ." And I'll have to start adopting cats and then accidentally put the cat food into my lime Jello molds . . . (Sometimes my thinking gets away from me.)


It's actually already started. As we walked around the store and Codi scanned items to add to her registry, I found myself saying, "Back in my day, they didn't have Babies R Us when I was pregnant with Austin. I had to register at Toys R Us. And they didn't have handy little scanners either. Noooo, I had to write down the SKU # for every product. On real paper. With a pen. And relatives couldn't look up my registry online. Because there was no online!" As I was talking, my brain was screaming at me to shut up.

So we walked around and gushed over the assortment of adorable pink, ruffly baby girl clothes. Codi marveled at the sheer size of the store, and I scoffed at those darn newfangled baby products because back in my day we didn't need diaper wipe warmers and my kids' butts fared just fine. I tried to bite my tongue and not say too much because things change, people move with the times, and, not knowing what Codi likes or wants on her registry, I didn't want to insult or alienate her. When she asked for my opinion, I gave it to her, and other times I tried not to roll my eyes too much.

Now, don't get me wrong, some modifications in baby products are improvements. Car seats, for example, have come a long way in a relatively short time, and are much safer now than they were a generation ago. Some items out there are beneficial and I kind of wish I'd had them back when my kids were babies. But others . . . Well, others are just ridiculous wastes of money, in my opinion.

I took a couple pictures of products I can't believe are out there. If Codi's back hadn't started hurting, I'm sure I could've found a dozen more before leaving. Now don't go get insulted if you have these things. You do what you gotta do to take care of your baby. But I'm an old (almost) grandma so I can say what I want and you can't talk back to your elders. I'm pretty sure those are the rules.

Here we have a whirlpool, bubbling spa, and shower tub. For about $60, your baby can bathe in ultimate luxury. I ask you, what 2 month old doesn't need her own whirlpool bath? 

It's the Ritzy Wrap! Okay, I admit when I first looked at this, I thought it went around mom's arm so she wouldn't get sore carrying an infant car seat. Crazy, right? But as I started writing this, I realized that it actually goes around the handle of the baby car seat and it can be easily removed to double as a changing mat. The fact that it's multi-functional makes me think it's a little less ridiculous than when I first saw it. Still, I wore those arm bruises and indentations as a badge of honor. Honor, I tell ya! Kids these days have it so easy.

Here's a battery operated formula mixer for those who find simply shaking a bottle for a couple seconds too much work. Perfect for people who like to buy lots of batteries!

Here we have an invaluable tool for potty training. A potty seat that looks like a full size toilet, takes up a bunch of room, and will only be useful for a few months!

image: Walmart.com

Oh good grief! A training urinal? What the??? Clearly, a parent of a boy did not invent this little gem because why would you invite the opportunity for your toddler to pee even more places in your house?

It's the Keurig for babies. Mixes formula with the right temperature water for baby's bottle. Because doing it the old fashioned way is just, well, old fashioned. But be careful, in your sleep deprived haze that you don't accidentally give baby a bottle of coffee while you sit down to a nice cup of Similac.

There are others out there too. The potty seat that comes with a holder for your iPad, the baby knee pads for crawlers, the bottle holder. What head-shaking things have you seen on the market?

Friday, July 7, 2017

How To Talk To Teens (It CAN Be Done!)

I think communication is essential especially when it comes to your tweens and teens. It's ever so important to keep those lines of communication open.  I want to know what's going on in my kids' lives.  I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with their problems, joys, concerns, and questions.  But, let's face it, parents and teens/tweens are not always on the same page.  Sometimes we're not even in the same galaxy when it comes to communicating.  So, I've comprised a list of 10 things you can do to improve communication between you and your teens.

1.  Don't ask them stupid questions.  According to my kids, this includes asking them, "How was school?" the minute they walk in the door.  I know we've been programmed to do this (much like preparing a variety of vegetables even though we know darn well our kids are never going to eat Brussels Sprouts.)  It's in the parenting manual so we do it, but it's pointless and we'll never get an answer beyond, "okay", "boring", or just a plain ole grunt. Ask open-ended questions to get them talking more in depth.

2.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  A few weeks ago, I got a text from my daughter asking me if she could go to her friend's house.  Not unusual, right?  However, my daughter was sitting 5 feet away from me when she texted her request.  You could burst into a speech about how you didn't even have cell phones when you were a teen.  Only important people like the president had a mobile phone and it was the size of a microwave oven.  And maybe doctors had pagers and when their pager buzzed, they had to find a PAY PHONE to return a call.  But I've tried this technique and it's surprisingly ineffective.  I was met with blank stares from my teens who are now certain I grew up when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Instead, text your daughter back with something like "LOL!  That's pretty funny.  Now go clean your room." In fact, here's a handy guide to important texting lingo.
DYH - Do your homework
SBYS - Stop bugging your sister
CYR - Clean your room
GHN! - Get home now
GHNOEYGUTSC! - Get home now or else you're grounded until the second coming!
It's okay to communicate via text with your teens/tweens, but save the texting for the unimportant stuff. When it really matters, talk in person.

3.  Don't minimize what your teen/tween is talking about.  If you make light of a situation that is genuinely stressing your teen, you're not showing consideration and your teen is not likely to come to you with future problems.  So when your tween is completely distraught because both she and her best friend wore the same shirt to school ON THE SAME DAY, avoid telling her that she's being ridiculous.  Instead, listen with compassion (and maybe return those cute matching outfits you just got for her and her sister.)

4.  Don't try to act all cool and use your kids' lingo. Your kids don't think you're cool. There's nothing you can do to change this. They will never think you're cool. Accept it. Speak to them like you're their parent, not like the kid who sits next to them in geometry. 

5.  If you want them to actually listen to you, tell them that you heard it from a YouTuber. For example, let's say you want your teen to clean his room before Hazmat has to come in and quarantine your domain. Just tell him, "Olan Rogers just did a story about the importance of cleaning your rooms. It was hil-ar-i-ous!" When they doubt your sincerity, and they will, just make up something like, "Yeah, bummer you missed it. He had to take the video down because all of the traffic and comments. He couldn't keep up with it. All these teens writing to thank him for inspiring them to clean their rooms before families of ocelots started hibernating under their rancid gym shorts, and parents thanking him because after their kids cleaned their rooms, they acquired an entire restaurant's worth of dishes, cups, and utensils they thought had been lost. Seriously, kids love YouTube stars.

6.  Use humor. I'm not saying to act like a stand-up and tell a bunch of jokes that your teen will undoubtedly think are lame. But use humor as an ice breaker to get your teen to relax and open up. This is especially effective if it's self-deprecating humor. Admitting to something stupid you did as a teen, and being open with your shortcomings makes you more relatable and approachable.  

7.  Don't be a know-it-all. Much like in #6, admitting to shortcomings is a good way to open doors of communication. Remember that, despite the fact that you have years of experience and wisdom on your teens, you don't know everything. I mean, really, who fixed your computer, set up your TV, and showed you how to use Snapchat? Yeah. Teens aren't stupid, and shouldn't be looked down upon and treated as such. (Although you do have permission to laugh when one of them does something worthy of AFV.)

8. Stop talking. Remember, talking is only a small part of communicating. You also have to listen. If you need to put duct tape over your mouth, do it. Take time to listen. And then take some more time to think about your answer. Put yourself in your teen's shoes for a moment and remember how much it sucked to be a teenager (acne, math homework, your crush who likes someone else, curfews, demanding teachers, clueless parents.) Then you can respond. And don't talk too much. Think Twitter - put your answer in 140 characters or less. Or well, maybe not quite 140 characters, but brevity is your friend. Or your kids will tune out.


9.  Make sure there are no distractions when you need to have a serious talk. Speaking with your teen about sex, drugs, and peer pressure doesn't work as well when you're fielding phone calls, your teen is texting, or their younger siblings are running in and out of the room wearing Batman costumes, fighting with lightsabers, and arguing about Legos. Trust me on this one. If you need to have a serious talk, bring your teen along on an errand. When you're in the car, you have a captive audience. Mwaaa haaa haaa.

10.  Talk early, talk often! Don't wait until your kids are teens to start having conversations. Talk to your kids! Have light conversations regularly. If your kids are used to talking to you about the mundane stuff that goes on every day, it'll be much easier to bring up the more serious topics later. So, all those hours you've feigned interest in those endless Minecraft and Pokemon stories - they had a purpose after all! If your kids know you're interested in Creepers, Endermen, and Bulbasaurs, they'll know they can come to you with more important subjects.

If you have a hard time thinking of things to talk about, you're in luck. Click THIS LINK to be entered in a drawing for Family Table Topics. When I was at BlogHer last month, I received Table Topics and thought I'd pass it along to a reader. 

See why Table Topics is the recipient of Creative Child Magazine's 2012 Preferred Choice Award. This set contains 135 conversation-starting questions for the whole family. 

Click here to enter for your chance to win! A winner will be randomly generated on Thursday, July 13! Good luck!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The One Where I Throw Up at CVS

I awoke in the middle of the night with what I thought was horrible heartburn/indigestion. In a sleepy haze, I grabbed a couple Tums, turned over and promptly went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I still felt crappy and now had pain in my lower abdomen. Well crap, this can't be good, I thought. It feels like diverticulitis. 


I employed my M.O. which is to ignore it until it goes away. It didn't go away. In fact It got worse.

So I headed to the hospital. I was going to go to the only one I've found down here that doesn't suck in Dr. Phillips, but my friend suggested I try this hospital that is much closer to me in Clermont. Knowing I'd have to sit in tourist traffic on I-4 to get to the decent hospital, and knowing that traffic would be especially awful now that Universal has built an enormous volcano in Orlando and everyone has to slow down and gawk at it, I agreed to try the closer one. (NOTE: Savannah works at Volcano Bay and loves it and I've only heard good things about the park, but seriously, no one can drive by without slamming on their brakes because, oh look, it's a water park. In Florida. How unusual.)


But I digress. So after being in pain all day, I gave up and drove to the close hospital, and hobbled to the door, doubled over in pain. Once inside the ER entrance, a security guard had me walk through a metal detector while she went through my purse. Now, living here in Orlando, capital of theme parks, I've had my bag gone through a thousand times. Usually, the procedure works like this - the guard, bored out of his skull and wishing he was literally anywhere but there, takes his little bag-searching-stick and apathetically pokes it in the general vicinity of your purse. Ta da! All searched and secure. This security guard, however, went to The Intrusive School of Security because she unzipped every compartment, looked in every pocket, opened my little makeup bag, inadvertently (so she claimed) dumped out my container of coupons and business cards (because you never know when someone might be hiding a firearm among the business cards) and took a good 3-4 minutes scrutinizing the contents of my purse.

After passing inspection, I walked to the registration desk, filled out the paperwork, then took a seat amongst thirty or so people waiting to be seen. Half of them were wearing cowboy boots. One old man was having a loud conversation on his phone, in the middle of the waiting room, with his buddy about their next gun club meeting. I overheard one young man say at least 7 times how he was just beginning to make a fish salad (sounds gross even when you're not having intestinal pain) when he got the call that his mom was in the hospital so he drove 150 miles an hour (is that even possible?) to get there. One man wearing steel-toed boots, shorts, and a tank top proudly stretched his phone charger across the waiting room and announced to (someone, everyone, no one in particular, himself?) that he had a 20 foot long cord and he'll never need to buy another one again. I'm pretty sure I saw this guy there:


I sat folded in half, concentrating on not passing out from the pain while listening to people I thought only existed on TV. At some point, I was taken back to triage where one nurse sat, texting on her phone and the other nurse asked me the usual questions - when did the pain start, on a scale of 1-10 how bad is the pain, blah blah blah. Then she asked if there was a chance I was pregnant. I told her no. She responded with, "How do you know? Did your husband have a vasectomy?" I blinked a couple times while I tried to process what she'd said. When I was certain she'd really said what I thought she'd said, I finally responded. "First off, I'm not married, you presumptuous bleep. And I'm telling you there is no way on earth I could possibly be pregnant." I was exceptionally proud of myself for not throat-punching her and instead just giving the slightest hint of an eye roll because seriously??!

After waiting for TWO hours, I was finally led back to a room. As I walked, I started crying because the pain had gotten out of control. A nice nurse saw me, came in right away, helped me change into a gown, got me set up with an IV, and got a doctor to order nausea and pain meds. Unfortunately it was time for the shift change and she left soon after she got me settled. The next few hours are blurry because they drugged me up with morphine and I do not do well with narcotics. 

A PA came in and asked me a few questions. "Where is your pain?"
"Lower abdomen."
"On the left side?
"Nope, all across my lower abdomen."

"Diverticulitis pain is typically on the left."
"So I've heard. Every single time I've had it. When the pain was across my entire abdomen."

"Do you have your appendix?"
I mean, I understand that the medical team has to rule out other possibilities, but if it looks like a duck . . . and the patient tells you it's a stinkin' duck, maybe that's where you should start. So I had a CT of my abdomen. When the technician tried to inject the contrast, she had a hard time and my IV got all wonky. Finally, the PA came in and seemingly grudgingly admitted that I was right and I do indeed have diverticulitis again. 

They tried to give me some antibiotics through my IV line, but since it had gotten all wonky (technical medical term for not working), a nurse who looked like Rashida Jones from The Office had to start another one. 

I never saw a doctor, I didn't really get any discharge instructions on what I should (or really shouldn't) be eating, what medications I was being prescribed and how to take them, or when to follow up. Honestly, after SEVEN hours, I just wanted to leave. I didn't even care at that point. It wasn't until I stopped at CVS on the way home that I realized I was only prescribed a pain medication and one antibiotic, and not the 2 different antibiotics I've been prescribed every other time. I hadn't been prescribed any anti-nausea medicine either, but I thankfully have some left from my last bout. As I made my way toward the door of CVS, a wave of nausea hit me. Before I got to the door, I began gagging, completely creeping out the other customers (and who could blame them?) When I hit the parking lot, my lunch (of hot tea) hit the pavement. I made it to my car where I continued retching. And then I started crying because 1. You guys know how much I hate vomit! And 2. I was feeling sorry for myself because it sucks not having someone to take care of you.

What I learned:
1. It is worth the drive to Dr. Phillips.
2. A lot of rednecks apparently live in Clermont.
3. Some nurses are nicer than others.
4. There a thing called fish salad. I really don't need to learn more about this.
5. Never break down and have popcorn, even if it IS Garrett's.
6. The empty-your-bowels and consume nothing more than clear liquids for days is a great weight-loss tool. Or well, it's not really great, but it does garner a great loss.
7. If I never call the gastroenterologist to follow up, I won't need another colonoscopy or surgery.
8. I still HATE throwing up.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The One With The Wax

I have made it to the ripe ole age of 47 without ever having a massage, a facial, hair blow-out, waxing, eye brow shaping, basically anything spa-related. Except pedicures. I've had a few of those. I love them! In fact, when I become rich and famous, I shall get one every day. But I digress. I've never been to any sort of spa. Mainly because I just haven't had the disposable income to do so, but also because I'm completely intimidated by the idea. In fact, a couple years ago, I got a spa gift certificate for Christmas from an agency for whom I'd done some writing, and I gave it away. I was too scared to go to a spa. I know, I know, I have issues.

A couple months ago, I got a certificate, from a rep who came to my school, to use on a package at a place called Enlighten Med Spa. The certificate was good for a hydrafacial, a fat reduction ultrasound treatment, a body wrap, and either 5 units of Botox, a skin tightening session, or a Swedish massage. Another coworker and I finally made appointments to go.

I had an appointment with my hematologist in the morning, but my facial appointment was for an hour and a half after my doctor's appointment, and the spa was only 5 miles away. No problem. Especially since I was just going in to get my finger pricked to check my INR (the joys of being on blood thinners for life.) However, because doctor's offices don't understand the concept of an appointment (You know how to take the reservation appointment, but you don't know how to keep the reservation appointment, and really the keeping of the reservation appointment is the most important part of the reservation appointment.) they didn't call me back to a room until an hour after my scheduled time. The nurse, who I've never seen before, fiddled around with the machine for a good 5 minutes while I stood there, trying really hard not to roll my eyes. Then he stabbed my finger so far to the side, he practically hit my nail. Shockingly, it didn't bleed enough to get a drop on the test strip. You know, because nails don't bleed. So he tried again with another finger and once again, he poked the side of my finger. (I think he learned you should prick the finger off to the side a little to reduce pain, but he took it to the extreme.) I resisted the urge to shout, "Oh for crying out loud, give it to me! I'll do it!" and instead offered a blank face (truly the best I could do) as he attempted to squeeze a drop of blood on the tester.

After my appointment, I rushed to the spa and arrived a good 20 minutes late. Yay me. Thankfully, the staff was really nice and understanding. After filling out paperwork, I was shown to a little waiting room, complete with ambient lighting, a tranquil water fountain, soothing music, and chaise lounges with pillows. The receptionist showed me a coffee maker, a pitcher of lemon water and a container of paraffin wax. She told me to help myself and relax until it was my turn. My friend had shown up on time and was already in the process of getting her facial so I poured myself a glass of water and walked around the little room admiring the lights and the water element. I eyed the container of wax. Curious, I walked over and removed the lid. The container held several inches of melted paraffin. I glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then I gingerly dipped a finger in to test how hot it was. It was warm and gooey. Niiiice. Thinking ahead, I removed my rings and dropped them into my purse before plunging my hand in, up to my wrist. I sunk my other hand into the warm, melted wax, then removed them. You know how I was smart and removed my rings before submersing my hands in wax? Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to also removed my bracelets and hair tie. They're still encased in wax, preserved forever. Or until I pick it all off.

I turned from the wax container and looked around the room, my hands held up as if I'd just scrubbed in for surgery. Now what? What am I supposed to do? In front of the basin of wax were several clear plastic bags. Am I supposed to put these on my hands? Maybe they're for something else entirely. I searched the walls for a poster of step-by-step wax instructions for dummies. Nothing. Maybe the bags were used to dispose of the wax after you picked it off? I desperately looked around again, hunting for some answer as to what I was supposed to do now. I kept having flashbacks of Joey dipping his fingers in the hot wax when he got his eyebrow (singular) done.

Finally, I gave up and started rubbing my hands together, paraffin peeling off into a giant ball of wax. I picked stray chunks off my nails and squished them into the growing orb in my hand. Great, now I have this great glob of wax and I still don't know what to do with it. As I searched for a garbage can, my eyes fell on the little plastic bags again. Like Indiana Jones stealing the idol, I quickly snatched a bag lest anyone catch me which would startle me, causing me to drop the ball of wax, making it roll down the hallway. I deposited the glob of wax in the bag, shoved it in my purse, sat down with my little cup of lemon water, legs crossed, a mask of innocence plastered to my face just as my friend and the technician, beautician, facialist, whatever they're called, came out. Who me? Fine, fine. Just sitting here, patiently waiting. Not touching anything I shouldn't. Ahem.

Shortly, I was lead back to a little room also with dim lighting, a comfy bed-like table with pillows and blankets. I removed my shoes, lay back, and let the nice young girl go to work. She massaged a series of concoctions on my face, cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing. Then she used some sort of vacuum-like machine that sucked my face off. Okay, it didn't really. It was very gentle suction and felt kind of good as she moved the instrument over my face, sucking junk out of my pores.

As she was doing this, she commented, "You have really good skin. It's nice and smooth."

"What is your skin care regimen?" she inquired.

"Um, I fall asleep with my makeup on 9 times out of 10 and then I wash it off in the shower in the morning and reapply."

Apparently this is not the typical answer she receives. I suppose women who can afford to go to this spa probably use actual cleanser and moisturizer on their faces every day. She instructed my friend to make me go get some makeup removing wipes at least. When she'd finished with the sucky thing, she waved a light saber of some sort over my face. I really don't remember what it was for, but I didn't really care. I was lying down relaxing and no kids were fighting in the background. She could've been rubbing salsa on my face and shining a flashlight over it for all I cared.

When I finished, the receptionist brought us mimosas which we enjoyed while scheduling our next appointment for the fat reduction and wellness wrap. I just can't wait for that one. :/

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Healthline's Best Single Mom Blogs

Check it out, guys! I made Healthline's list of the year's top single mom blogs!

See the whole list HERE!

The Best Single Mom Blogs of 2016

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Week As An Uber Driver

A couple months ago when I was trying to decide where to work for the summer, I came up with the brilliant plan of driving for Uber. I hate driving, I have no patience for traffic, and I'm directionally impaired so naturally it's a perfect fit for me. When I told my family and friends, they all said the same thing.

"Dawn! You can't find your way out of a paper bag! You get lost backing down the driveway!"

To which I replied, "I have my GPS."

"You get lost going around the block WITH your GPS! Mom, you think the roads change like the staircases in Harry Potter!"

"I'm still pretty certain that happens. How else can you explain roads suddenly disappearing and reappearing nowhere near where they should be, hmmm? It's witchcraft."

And then there were the people (Mom) who were concerned for my safety because of course, you only hear about the bad stuff on the news. It's true that only about 14% of Uber drivers are women, and I have to think that's in large part because husbands and boyfriends don't want their wives and girlfriends driving for this very reason. I, on the other hand, have no one to tell me what to do. I also have an ex-husband who isn't so great with the child support. Sooo . . .

Aside from my directional "issues", I thought this might be a good fit simply because I can work when I want to; I'm not at the mercy of someone else's schedule. I can take an afternoon off to take my kids to the pool or a doctor's appointment, or I can take a whole day off to do something fun with them. I mean, as a single mom, you do what you gotta do, but I cringed at the idea of leaving them home alone every day this summer. Not they're not old enough to stay by themselves and entertain themselves, and help out around the apartment, but you know what I mean. It's the mom guilt thing, and the fact that I really like spending time with my kiddos. Plus, I'd heard from some people who drive and they'd asserted that they made some decent money doing it.

So I signed up. And started driving. And this is what my first week looked like:

TUESDAY:  I was crazy nervous about starting so I put it off for a couple weeks. Then, one day, I realized I wasn't going to make any money by having the app on my phone and never turning it on so I sucked it up and slid the little switch from offline to online. I wasn't sure how it worked. Would there be a bunch of blinking lights representing people needing rides? Could I choose who I wanted to drive and to where I was willing to drive them? Maybe I should've read up a little beforehand, I thought while admonishing myself for automatically deleting all the emails Uber had sent me since I'd signed up. Within a few minutes, my phone pinged. Someone was waiting for a ride. Their location was 6 minutes away from me. All I could see was a name. It didn't give me any information about where this passenger was going. I took a deep breath and tapped my phone to confirm the pickup and followed the directions to the location.

When I arrived, I realized the location was in a gated community. I didn't have the gate code. Crap. I searched the Uber app, found a little telephone icon, and clicked it. Yes! It connected with the passenger who provided me with the gate code. Unfortunately, the code didn't work. I tried several times, but the gates wouldn't open. Great, the passenger will think I'm an idiot. She may be right. Over the phone, she said it was no big deal and she'd walk to the front of the neighborhood. (In my defense, there was a guy working on the gates. I think that's why they weren't cooperating.) (Another side note - Uber uses technology that hides your phone number when you need to call passengers so you don't have to worry about your phone number being out there if that concerns you.)

A young girl covered in tattoos hopped in the back of my van. She was nice, smelled like Victoria's Secret perfume, and we chatted as I drove her to a local restaurant where she's a waitress. I dropped her off, told her to have a good night and make lots of tips, and pulled out of the parking lot. I started driving home when my phone pinged again. I tapped to confirm the pick-up, then made a u-turn and headed toward the location where I picked up a man from his place of employment and drove him home. Feeling successful that I'd managed two trips, I turned off the app and headed home. That was all I could handle my first day - these 2 short trips.

WEDNESDAY:  I had plans with my kids so I didn't Uber at all. (Yes, I'm using Uber as a verb. I've declared it a word. Go with it.)

THURSDAY:  I turned on the Uber app, got pinged right away to pick up a passenger down the street from me. When I pulled up to the house, a teacher I recognized from Brooklyn's school hopped in the car with a suitcase. That was kind of fun - driving someone I knew. We chatted and she left me a tip. I don't mind airport runs at all. I freaked out a little about picking someone up near the airport because I don't know the area so I turned off the app as I headed back toward home. When I got closer to my apartment, I flipped it back on and got pinged to pick up a woman in the next town over. She had been in a hit-and-run accident earlier that week and her car was undriveable. She was taking Ubers to her job and to a local college where she was also taking classes. It took me an hour to get her to school which was in the Winter Park area because of the rain and rush hour traffic, but we had a nice conversation during the ride. After I dropped her off, I was afraid of getting another request that would take me an hour further away from home, so I configured the settings on the app, asking for rides in the direction of home. I got one for a very big girl wearing a crop top and tight short-shorts. She just let it all hang out. She spent the whole time on her phone and I only had to drop her about 10 minutes away. After that, I didn't get any more requests between there and my home.

FRIDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone down the street wanting a ride. I picked up a young Brazilian girl who is here on vacation visiting her brother, and took her to a shopping center. After I dropped her off, I got pinged to pick up a woman in a nice, gated neighborhood down the street a little ways from me. She hadn't texted me the gate code, but as I pulled up, I was able to sneak in behind the car in front of me. I pulled up to a gorgeous house and waited. A minute passed with no sight of the passenger so I gave her a call to let her know I was there. The call didn't go through, but a woman walked out of the garage, a phone to her ear and motioned that she saw me and would be out in a second. Minutes passed. I ranted in my head. Privileged woman, rant rant, what does she care that she's making me wait, rant rant, she's probably on the phone with her manicurist demanding to be fit in this afternoon, rant rant. She continued to pace around her garage, still on the phone, seemingly oblivious to the waiting Uber in her driveway. Finally, she closed the garage door and got in my car. In tears. I mean, she was bawling. "I'm so sorry to make you wait. I have breast cancer. I was supposed to go to my first appointment to learn about chemotherapy and the port they're putting in, but my car wouldn't start this morning. I just took it to the shop and had them check over it and do some maintenance this week! I also drive for Uber so that car is my business. I'm sorry."

Okay kids, here is where we learn a lesson about judging others. You do not know another person's story just from looking at them. You do NOT know another person's story. Instead of ranting (even in your head) like an immature, judgmental fool (raising my hand sheepishly), take a breath, shake off the insignificant aggravation you're feeling, and be patient. Listen. You just never know what another person is going through. Remind yourself of this every day because sometimes we forget.

So, I listened to this woman and we talked a little bit, but she had phone calls to make and I could tell she just needed some time to pull herself together. It took a good half an hour to get to the hospital so she had time to do just that. When we got there, I asked her how she was doing, we talked a little bit, I told her that things were going to be okay, and I prayed for her. She left me a nice tip, and more importantly, reminded me to stop making snap judgments about people.

From the cancer center, I drove around the corner to the children's hospital, picked up a Brazilian family and took them home to Kissimmee. I wish I spoke Portuguese because it sounded to me like the mom spent the half hour trip berating her husband. But maybe that's just the nature of the language. After dropping them off, I got a request for a British couple who needed a ride from the shopping center to their hotel because although they had walked to the shopping area, the afternoon rains had come, making it an uncomfortable walk back to the hotel. They were from Bristol, she wanted to swim with manatees, he was very quiet, but she asked a lot of questions and said things like brilliant. After that, I headed home.

SATURDAY:  I picked up a man from my apartment complex who was wearing sagging pants and a dago tee. Yep, I did it again and made a little judgment in my head. I drove him to the shopping center and on the ride we chatted. He was pleasant and articulate and talked about an article he'd recently read on bee propolis as a cancer cure.

From there, I picked up a girl and took her to work at Best Buy, I picked up a family of 3 and took them to a grocery store, I picked up a woman from McDonald's and took her to her apartment. After that, I picked up a Spanish-speaking woman and her daughter from a store and took them home to Apopka. I picked up a woman in Apopka and took her to work at Taco Bell.

SUNDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone needing to be picked up from a church a little ways from my place. I got the passenger and took him to visit with some of his family friends. I had a nice conversation with the young man who shared some of his faith journey with me. Although he looked very young (I may have insulted him when I asked if he was still in high school. He was 24), he seemed mature and wise for his age.

From there, I picked up a woman from Turkey who told me her siblings had all passed on and her two sons lived out of state, and took her to a nursing home/rehab place so she could visit her husband. 

So, my verdict about driving for Uber?

*  You can make your own hours and work as much or as little as you want.
*  It's so easy a caveman can do it.
*  If you like adventure, every trip is a surprise - you don't know who you'll get or where you'll go.
*  If you like meeting people, and you're socially adept enough to know when a passenger doesn't want to talk and when they do, you have the chance to chat with different people every day. That's probably the best part.
*  You can make a little more money by referring other people to drive.

*  You don't know the final destination until you pick up your passenger. If you don't like that lack of control, you may not like this job.
*  You don't make much money. I made 18 trips and was online for a total of 12.5 hours. I made $152.77 (including tips.) (Most people around here don't tip.) Which works out to $12.22/hour. But that does not take into account the cost of gas and other maintenance/supplies. So all in all, I didn't make much. Although I admittedly wasn't online much, was just learning how it works, and didn't fully work the system with back-to-back trips. There was a lot of down time just driving back toward home for me. 
*  You need to fill up with gas, get your car washed, and have more frequent maintenance (ie oil changes) as the mileage adds up.
*  The app may use up a lot of your data which could get pricey depending on your cellular plan.

If you want to give it a try, go for it. It doesn't hurt to try, right? And if you do, let me know; I'll give you a code because for every person you refer, you get a little kick back.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How NOT to Visit Key West

I've been living in Florida for 6 years now. I feel like you can't live in a state for that long without doing a little exploring. We've checked out several beaches, we've traveled to Saint Augustine, visited a plethora of amusement parks, spent time in Tampa, and hung out in Tarpon Springs to name a few. We've never ventured further south than Clearwater Beach, however. Back in 2002, my ex husband and I took a cruise that stopped in Key West where we disembarked to go snorkeling. We were in port a very short time so we didn't get the chance to look around the island at all, but I remember thinking I'd like to come back and visit some time.

So my 3 youngest kiddos and I took a little trip to Key West last week. I booked it far in advance and got a good deal on airfare. I had this idea that if we flew there in the morning and flew home a couple days later in the evening, we'd maximize our Wally World fun without booking a hotel for several nights. I was wrong. Our flight on Silver Airways was delayed for 6 hours on the way there. And, of course, we arrived at the airport 2 hours prior to all the delays. Had we driven, we would've gotten to Key West a couple hours before we disembarked the plane. On the way home, we were delayed 5 1/2 hours, which brings me to my first point.

If you live within 6-8 hours, consider driving instead of flying. Road trips can be fun! It will give you the chance to see other parts of the state if you haven't. I hear driving over the 7 Mile Bridge is an experience you don't want to miss. Plus, you won't have to worry about stuffing all your liquids into tiny bottles, you won't have to arrange a ride to the airport or pay for parking, and you won't have to waste 2 hours of time going through security and waiting to board. Also, you'll be able to bring snacks and a cooler of food so you can eat some meals in your hotel room thus saving you money. Finally, you'll have a car to get around the island because although it's small, I wouldn't say that everything was within walking distance. Key West doesn't have Uber and its cabs are really pricey.

Key West is a very touristy place. If you like that sort of thing, you'll be in paradise! If you'd prefer to experience The Conch Republic off the beaten path, talk to the locals. From cab drivers to cashiers to waitresses, they're more than happy to share their favorite haunts and native secrets with you. If you want to avoid the Margaritavilles, Hard Rocks, and Sloppy Joe's of Key West, ask the locals where they hang out.

Key West offers tours via a train, or a bus. These are a little pricey, but they run about every 30 minutes throughout the day and you can get on and off as you please with unlimited access for the entire day. This is a great way to experience the island, hopping off when you want to explore, then getting back on to head to the next destination. The drivers also act as tour guides, narrating the ride with a little history lesson and interesting facts about Key West.

I booked everything as "nonrefundable" to bring our total cost down. My son ended up on crutches with a broken knee cap for this trip. Although you can certainly walk to many destinations in Key West, doing so on crutches is another story. Also, it hadn't rained here for months, but as Murphy's Law would have it, it poured most of the time we were there. Had my reservations been refundable, we could have rescheduled for a time when Clay was off crutches, and the weather forecast looked a little brighter. Sometimes, "nonrefundable" is not worth the little extra you save in the long run.

Maybe one day we'll head back there and I'll be able to write a comprehensive post on all the awesome things to do in Key West. Until then, take heed of my (self proclaimed) expert tips on what not to do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

15 Reasons to Date Me

I'm thinking of rewriting my dating profile. Maybe something like this would work.
Why should you date me?

1. I drive a cool minivan. Hmmm, I guess that’s really an oxymoron.

2. I know what an oxymoron is.

3. If we ever go to Chicago, you’ll love being seen with me because I have awesome hair there. Here, in the Florida humidity, I look like a cross between Hagrid and Roseanne Roseannadanna. (Oh wait, I’m supposed to be thinking of reasons TO date me!)

4. I’ll most likely blog about you at some point. (I guess that could go either way.)

5.  I laugh at my own jokes so you don’t have to. But you probably will because I'm hilarious.

6.  I have tens of fans who think I'm hilarious too.

7.  I know the difference between there, their, and they're.

8.  I promise to never make you go clothes shopping with me as long as you don't ask me why I've been banned from Ace Hardware. (There is a perfectly good explanation for throwing that weed wacker! IF I threw a weed wacker, that is. I'm not admitting that I did.)

9.  I've never been on Jerry Springer. (See? The weed wacker incident wasn't that bad.)

10.  I smell good.

11.  I have never been arrested. Wait, let me think a minute . . . Nope, I'm almost positive, like 99% sure, I've never been arrested.

12.  I speak fluent Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office quotes.

13.  You could do worse. I'm not sure who, but there's probably someone out there who's worse.

14.  Please.

15.  Yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. Still, I don’t kick puppies, or chew with my mouth open, and I’m not a White Sox fan so there’s that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

21 Tips For Your Online Dating Profile

Working in a middle school, I don't have the opportunity to meet people who aren't 35 years younger than me so I've used online dating as a way to discover new people. I really don't like online dating, but the alternative of trolling for men in bars is even less appealing. (Although I still hold out hope that one day I'll bump into the man of my dreams while selecting avocados in the produce section of Publix.) 

As an educator, reading profiles on dating sites makes me sad for the future of this country. As a blogger, it gives me plenty of fodder. As a single woman, it makes me want to give up and adopt cats. I don't know what makes me cringe more: the abominable grammar, or the awful photos. It's really a toss-up. I haven't had any great dates, but I wouldn't say that I haven't gotten anything out of online dating. I've gotten the idea to create a business fixing horrible dating profiles. 

Here's the deal with the online dating culture - you have a few lines of text and a couple pictures to make an impression. Are you much more than a couple lines of text and a few pictures? Of course you are! Is it fair that people will make snap judgments based solely on that? Nope. Is that the way it works anyway? You betcha! I don't think the majority of people fully understand this. Faced with an entire website full of potential dates, if you don't make a positive first impression, people will skip right over you and move on to the next profile. Period. You could be losing out on the guy/girl of your dreams simply because you're not smiling in your picture.

I'm a sucker for a happy ending and want you to be successful in your online dating endeavors so here's a little free advice for creating a dating profile that attracts attention (the good kind of attention; not the what the heck? kind.)


1.  Usernames matter!  Choose a name that stands out. Don't just go with your name and a bunch of numbers. Bill12345 is boring. The same goes for random letters and numbers - tn76Xgh4u. That's not a username; it's a password. Maybe you like to visit the shooting range, but Likesguns makes you sound like a serial killer. Think about possible negative connotations; don't be like Michael Scott and create a username like LittleKidLover.

2.  Show; don't tell!  This is the first rule of writing. Don't say, "I like to travel;" describe a trip you went on. 
Don't say, "I like to help people;" tell about the organization for which you volunteer. Don't say, "I'm funny;" tell a joke. I can't tell you how many guys have described themselves as funny yet their profiles read like a piece of dry toast.

3.  Be interesting!  Do you have any idea how many profiles I have seen that read - I like long walks on the beach? Do you know how many feature this little gem - I can dress in a tux or jeans and a t-shirt? By my calculations, there should be absolute traffic jams of people walking on every beach at any given time if this were true. And yes, although it is impressive that a grown person is capable of dressing oneself, it's not really necessary to include in your bio. Be creative! Stand out! Stop writing the same boring stuff that is in 97% of the profiles. Make a potential date want to learn more about you!

4.  Use proper grammar!  Although I believe what you have to say is more important than how you say it, I admit that I'm likely to move on to the next profile without finishing yours if you don't seem to know the difference between your and you're. Granted, not everyone is gifted with perfect grammar, but again, we're talking about first impressions here. You get one chance! One. Make it count. Ask someone to proofread and edit your profile before posting it.

5.  Use proper punctuation!  I've read many a profile that consisted of a single 300 word run-on sentence. Punctuation counts. It's important. It's the difference between I enjoy cooking my pets and my family AND I enjoy cooking, my pets, and my family. Don't be a psycho. Use punctuation.

6.  Use proper spelling!  I know, I know, we've already covered grammar and punctuation, but each topic gets its own bullet point because they are that important. Again, you get one chance to make that first impression. If you can't spell, get help. Seriously, get help. If you're old enough to date, you're old enough to know how to spell the word date. Have someone look over your bio before posting it. The winner this week for the most commonly misspelled word used on dating profiles is pique. As in - If I have piqued your interest, please send me a message. It's not peek. Or peak. Or peke (which isn't actually a word.) It's pique!

7.  Don't detail a long list of must-haves!  Sure, you're entitled to be selective about potential dates. You can have a mile-long list of must-haves and deal-breakers, but don't include all of them in your profile. It makes you look like a jerk. You might choose to only date thin girls who are Catholic, who don't have children, who are under 5'8", and who have blonde hair. That's your prerogative. But listing all of that in your profile makes you come off sounding like an egotistical donkey. People shy away from profiles that list such specifics.


8.  Smile! I think this applies to men more than women. So many men out there want to look tough in their pictures. Newsflash: you don't look tough; you look like a serial killer. If you're smiling, you appear friendly and approachable. So smile!


9.  Skip the filters! This one applies to women more than men. Yes, we all love those Snapchat filters, but save them for goofing off with your kids and friends. Guys don't want to see the airbrushed, flower headband version of you; they want to see you. The same goes for barfing rainbows, bunny noses, and any other creation Snapchat comes up with.

10.  Use good photos!  I think this is a problem for men more often than women. Guys just don't ask their buddies, "Hey, take a picture of me standing over here!" so they end  up using selfies that are dark or blurry. Use a couple good, well-lit photographs that are in focus. Use photo editing software like Picmonkey.com (It's free and awesome!) to crop or otherwise fix your pictures. But don't airbrush your wrinkles away, erase that double-chin, or obliterate 20 pounds. Be honest. After all, you're planning on meeting people one day, right? You want to look like your photos.

12/2017 with friends in Chicago (I'm in the middle)
11.  Use photos that feature you! It's fine to have a couple pictures of you with friends or family, but if every photo shows a bunch of people, it's hard to pick you out of the crowd. If you use pictures of multiple people in it, clarify which one is you in the caption.

12.  Use current photos! Yes, I'm sure you did look better 10 years ago, but guess what! When you actually meet someone in person, they will notice that you look much older than your pictures. If you really want to use an older picture to highlight your trip to Italy or the marathon you ran a few years ago, you can get away with one or two older ones, but make a note of the year in the caption so people will know that they are older photos.

13.  Feature your passions!  Include photographs of you doing things you like. If you like to cook, include a picture of you in the kitchen. If you're a runner, post a photo of you crossing the finish line. If you like traveling, incorporate pictures of you standing in front of the Acropolis, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign.

14.  Take off the sunglasses!  I'm sure women do this too, but in more than 50% of the photographs I've seen in men's profiles, the man's eyes are hidden behind shades. People want to see your eyes (windows to the soul and all that) and they wonder what you're hiding when you're skulking behind those Ray-Bans. Take off the sunglasses!

image: Morguefile
15.  Skip the photos with fish!  Yes, your cavemen instincts motivate you to show everyone what a good provider you are by holding up your "catch-of-the-day." I get it. But that would kind of be like me holding up a shopping bag to show off the amazing deals I got at the mall. You guys don't care about that. And we don't care about your fish. The exception is if you're a guy trying to attract another guy, or you're on FarmersOnly.

16.  Skip the selfies in the car!  I'm not sure why this is, but almost every man's profile includes a selfie of himself in the driver's seat of his vehicle. The unfortunate thing about this picture is that it's always taken at this low angle that shows right up the subject's nose. Unless they're holding an otoscope, no one wants to see up your nose. Trust me. It isn't flattering.

17.  Skip the bathroom selfie!  Honestly, it's probably a good rule to skip selfies altogether. Too many selfies makes you look like you have no friends and all you do is sit around all day taking pictures of your face. If you must take one, don't shoot it in your bathroom mirror. With a flash. And water spots on the mirror. And dirty towels on the sink. And clothes on the floor. And hemorrhoid cream on the counter. Don't laugh. I've seen these photos more than once.

18.  Skip the photos of your truck/motorcycle/boat!  Yes, I imagine there are women out there who are all about what you drive (but do you really want to be with someone so shallow?) And I guess it isn't inherently bad to show a picture of your toys. If, for example, riding a motorcycle is a big part of your life and you want to showcase that, it's fine to include a picture of your bike. But be in the picture with that motorcycle because potential dates want to see you! 

19.  Skip the photos of random stuff!  I can't count how many profiles I've seen that have pictures of food, sunsets, scenery, pools, pets, etc. Again, we want to see you! If you want everyone to see your dog, be in the picture with the dog. The Grand Canyon - lovely, but be in the picture with that beautiful scenery.

20.  Include both close-ups and full-length photos!  I've found that most people are pretty wrapped up in looks and want to know what they're getting into before initiating any communication. Include close-up (yet still in focus and flattering) pictures of your face and also full-length photos.

21.  Include more than one or two photos!  People want to get a sense of who you are and what you look like. If you've browsed profiles online then you know that the same person can look vastly different from photo to photo. Include a variety of pictures of you having fun with family and friends, doing things you enjoy, close-up and full-length photographs. 

Follow my advice and see if that doesn't help you bring more attention to your dating profile. And as always, may the odds be ever in your favor!

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