Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Free Smells"

I don't know if you can see what I need you to see in the photo below.  I took it from a distance while stopped at a red light, and using my cell phone's camera.  When I tried to enlarge it ... let's just say the photo quality isn't too great.

This is a "Jimmy John's" restaurant in Tempe, Arizona.  Can you see the little red neon sign in the window?  The one that says "Free Smells"?

Can you tell what the sign is exactly next to?

It is directly next to the restrooms.

Mmmm, tempting.....   but let's just say I've never stopped in to enjoy those particular "Free Smells."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AB, rest in peace

On Sunday, three fire trucks and an ambulance pulled up to the house across the street.  Firemen and paramedics entered the house, and a few minutes later, carried our neighbor Angelo to the ambulance on a stretcher, still pumping at his chest.

It did not look promising.

I learned later that evening that Angelo had died, of a heart attack.

Angelo and his wife, Jean, bought their house when it was first built, in the 1950s.  They have been our neighbors since we moved in across the street from them, over 20 years ago.  They are old enough to be my, or my husband's, parents.

They are wonderful neighbors, kind, friendly, not nosy or intrusive, yet they keep an eye on the house when we are not here.  They share oranges from their trees with us each year and back when they used to go out to farmers markets more frequently, they would sometimes bring us peaches or apricots.  They wave when we walk by and they are sitting on their porch.  They smile when we are watering our lawn or getting into our car and they are bringing out the recycle bin.  They buy girl scout cookies and Scout-O-Rama tickets when the neighbor kids sell them.  They chat with us when we have time, and smile and wave when we don't.

They have many adult children.  The ones who live close by have, for years, come for Sunday dinner, often bringing the grandkids.

Angelo and Jean kept their yard looking beautiful for many years until they could no longer physically handle it. They loved the flowers they planted each spring.  They loved planting, watering, watching things grow.  They cried when their big beautiful old tree in the front yard died and had to be cut down.

Over the past couple of years, both Angelo and Jean have had some health issues.  Their wonderful grown kids have taken turns taking care of mom and dad.  It is obvious they love their parents very much.  They take care of the yard, although they do not plant as many flowers as their parents did.  They take their parents shopping, help them cook, hang out with them on the front porch.  They bring the grandkids to visit.  Some of the kids come from very far away.  One lives in Hawaii.  She comes and stays for weeks at a time.

The kids are good neighbors, too.  Friendly, but not nosy or intrusive.  They wave and smile, and chat with us when we have time, just like their parents.

Angelo was a good man.  He loved his wife and his many kids and grandkids.  He was smart and funny.  He was a good neighbor.  The world was a better place with him in it.

Goodbye, Angelo.  May your soul find peace and contentment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

RKT, 1972-2013, rest in peace

My friend killed himself. 

I just learned yesterday afternoon that he killed himself a few weeks ago.

I didn't see it coming, even though I was probably one of the last persons to talk to him.

His daughter is friends with my daughter.  We've known them 6 years.  He was divorced from his kids' mom.  She had been ... Away, for a while.  But she recently came back into the kids' lives.

He had sole custody and had been the kids' only parent for years.  But he worked a lot.  His boss demanded long hours and Saturdays.  And so at first he was happy to have her back in the kids' lives, giving them another adult to turn to.  But then after a while, she seemed to be working hard to turn the kids against him.  Even though she had been gone for years, she had the kids convinced that she was the better parent, the one who loved them more, the one they should stay with.  They spent less and less time with their dad.

She let the kids run wild.  He set limits.  You can guess which parent they preferred... And which parent they were increasingly angry with...

He talked to me one day, about his legal rights, obligations, options.  I can't say, here, specifically what we talked about. Client confidentiality and all that.  Looking back, he was more agitated than I'd ever seen him, but it was understandable, under the circumstances he described.

We also talked the next day, as friends.  He called to let me know how things were going.  He talked about how frustrated he was, to have sacrificed so much to be the good dad, always putting the kids' needs first, working overtime to buy them Christmas gifts, while the ex just disappeared for 10 years.  And then to have her reappear and have the kids preferring to be with her.  He was understandably hurt and angry.  He loved his kids, but felt like they were turning against him.  He felt rejected, hurt, angry, sad...  He wondered if he was handling things properly, if he was doing all that he could do.

I listened a long while, and commiserated with him, told him his feelings were completely understandable.  I told him that I was sure the kids would come to understand much more as they matured, that they are teenagers - notorious for being insensitive and self-centered and ungrateful - that the excitement of having a mom again would wear off as they started to see how often she "forgot" to buy groceries or pay the electric bill, that as they grew older they would realize what a great dad he is and that they never went without food or shelter or cool toys for Christmas, or love, when they were with him.  I also told him I thought he was handling things well, doing a good job of taking care of his kids, that he was a good dad...

When we hung up, he seemed.... determined ... and ok, if not happy.  Determined to do the best he could for the kids even if they seemed to resent him for it.  Less agitated, though still frustrated.

The next day, he killed himself.

I will never know whether there were other burdens he hadn't shared, whether something else happened during that day that sent him too far down the path of despair, or whether I just missed the signs of his total despair and desperation.  He certainly never said anything about feeling suicidal or about the kids being better off without him.  As far as I can remember, there was no sign or feeling that he was giving up...  but maybe I missed it....

Should I have tried harder, helped more?  Was there anything at all I could have said or done that might have helped things go differently...?  Should I have been giving him the number for a suicide hotline?  Were the signs there and I just didn't see?   I just don't know. 

A couple of times over the past couple of weeks, I'd thought about calling him, but it wasn't unusual to go weeks or sometimes months without talking to him - we were both busy, and our main connection was our kids, and my daughter was out of town the past couple of weeks.  It wouldn't have mattered, I guess.  By the time I was thinking about calling him, a few days later, "just to check in," he was already dead. 

Maybe if I'd been the kind of friend to call daily?  But that would have felt like interfering, prying, being nosy, in the context of our parent-to-parent friendship.  We were close enough to share our kid problems and dilmemmas, to ask each other for favors now and then, to hang out and share pizza occasionally while our kids hung out and played video games or went biking, but not the sort of buddies who call each other daily.  Maybe I should have tried harder to be that kind of friend for him.

He was a good man.  He worked hard.  He was honest and kind and handsome.  He was creative, inventive ... building things, photography, music...  He loved his kids more than anything.  He was kind to the people at his workplace; the customers loved him, thought of him as a friend or almost as family.  He was a good Dad.

His passing has left a hole in my heart.

I hope the kids will be ok.  I hope their mom will step up and be a good mom.  The kids are going to need her.


Goodbye, Robert.  May your soul find contentment, peace, and love.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Adventure Camp"

My son has been visiting my Dad in Virginia for a few weeks this summer. He attended a basketball camp the first week he was there. His report: "It was fun!"  He learned a bit about basketball, had a good time with his cousins who were also attending the camp, and yes, he'd like to do it again next year.

This past week, he attended the accurately-named "Adventure Camp." At this camp, the kids went caving, mud-pit jumping, hiking, swimming, zip-lining, and more. My son’s report: "It was so awesome!!! It was so fun!!! I loved it!!!  I want to do it again next week!!!"

I pressed for details. What made it so great?

Disclaimer: I may have some of the details not-quite-right. I got part of the story from my son, and part from my Dad, and my son was so excited and talking so fast that it was hard to understand half of what he said, but this is what I got out of what they both told me:

For starters, he learned that he is, as he put it, "slightly claustrophobic," meaning that when they went caving, he "freaked out" because the walls seemed like they were closing in, and he had to go back outside. But the camp counselors were awesome (and patient) and knew some shortcuts, so after a short while, he agreed to go back in, and they took a couple of the shortcuts and caught up to the rest of the group. He was so proud and happy that he overcame his fear and finished the caving expedition.

They also got to a place where there was a ledge and they had to jump down about three feet, but they made it, and it was "awesome!" (My son is 10. He is only about four feet tall, and he is generally scared of heights, so this was a huge big deal to him!)

And then ("the best part!"), coming out the other side, the kids unintentionally re-created a scene from Winnie the Pooh.

As in, a rather large child got literally stuck in the cave entrance (exit?).

Some kids were still inside the cave, behind him. Others had already emerged from the cave. So the kids outside pulled and the kids inside pushed and they pulled and pushed and pushed and pulled and ... nothing. Someone eventually called 911. The emergency crews came, and it took them 2 hours to remove the kid from the cave entrance. When he was successfully removed from the cave entrance, there was applause and cheering all ‘round.

This was, according to my son, "awesome!"

At first I was a little taken aback, but my son reassured me that the kid was laughing, not crying, and no one was teasing him or making fun of him. They all just thought it was a great adventure, and a great story to tell.


On a different day, they did some sort of zip-lining.

A child got stuck at one of the poles when the pulley jammed. He was dangling from the wire many feet above the ground while one of the camp counselors poked at the pulley with a stick. No luck. So another camp counselor had to climb the pole and work him loose. Again, the kid was stuck for about an hour, dangling from a wire, while they got it figured out.

My son’s report: "Awesome!!"

Again, the kid was laughing about it, and no one was traumatized, apparently...

Then on another day, they were swinging on a rope over a giant deep mud pit and doing cannonballs into the mud. My son apparently had a hard time getting out. It was thick and hard to move and.... well, the other kids had to all grab him and pull.

My son’s report: "Awesome!!"

As a parent in our "safety first" society, I feel like I should be cringing and swearing I’ll never send him to that camp again and/or trying to get it shut down. Too dangerous or something. But I don’t feel that way at all.

Instead, as a parent of a kid who is generally somewhat bookish a little timid, but came away from these scary events laughing and saying "Awesome!!" I feel like I ought to be writing the camp directors a big thank you letter.

Because in the end, no one was seriously injured, everyone came out of things ok, and what the kids learned (whether they realize it or not) was that there IS risk in great adventures. (As my husband would say, it’s that "air of danger" that makes it fun!) And if you’re going to have a great adventure, you need to be willing to accept the risk that something might go wrong. But also, when things do go wrong, you don’t panic, you stick together, you figure out a way to solve the problem, and you laugh about it afterwards because crying about it is just no fun at all.

So, he had fun, he overcame some fears, and he learned a bit about handling "sticky" situations.  Sounds like an "awesome" week to me!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Customer "Service"

Here is what I felt like saying to the idiot on the other end of the 1-800 number:

"I can't decide whether you are being intentionally obtuse because you don't want to tell me what is going on with the check I deposited, or whether you simply don't know and you think I am so stupid that if you just keep repeating over and over again that "we are processing it," I will say, 'oh, ok' and go away."

Here is what I said instead  (I thought it was much kinder.  Perhaps it was too kind...): 

"You have repeated the phrase 'we are processing it' four times now.  What, specifically, does that mean?  What specific actions are you taking to 'process' the check?"

Here is the response I got:

"Well, we are processing it.  The funds will be available on July 22."


Decision made.  Intentionally obtuse AND doesn't know jack shit.


Thank God for the wonderfully responsive, smart, and kind individuals working at my actual bank branch.   I will have the funds available by Monday, which is when I need them!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Should I Do?

Help!  Which sign should I obey?

I swear, driving in New Orleans can be so very confusing! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Have you ever had wasabe?  It's the green spicy stuff often served with sushi. 

I snapped a picture of this license plate a while back, using my cell phone.  It was dark out, so it was hard to get a good picture.

Indeed, the vehicle was the color of wasabe.

Suddenly, I felt the urge to find a good sushi bar...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Funnies (from Facebook)

A few punny puns for you, courtesy of Facebook.  Apologies to those who already read them there (or elsewhere... they are pretty old)!

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger.  Then it hit me.

Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whisky-maker, but he loved her still.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said:  "Keep off the Grass!"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Call for Common Sense and an Ability to See Shades of Gray

I am adamantly opposed to people sexually abusing children.  The idea of some creepy 45 year old having sex with my 10 or 14 year old kid just gives me the willies.

That said, there are varying degrees of sexual "abuse," different types of abusers, and some people convicted of sexual offenses who, in my opinion, should not have been convicted at all.

For example, a 45 year old woman who engages in sexual conduct with a 10 year old child obviously deserves a big punishment.  By contrast, a 20 year old woman who on one occasion kisses and fondles a 15 year old teen who is sexually promiscuous, appears to be older, told her he was 18, and was "coming on to her," deserves less punishment, if any at all.  In many states, both types of "offenders" would be punished.

As another example, if teens have sex with their teen boyfriends / girlfriends, it seems to me that neither one should be convicted of a sexual offense.  But in many states they can be, and are, convicted.

Granted we may not like the idea of our teens having sex, but in some cultures, teens routinely marry and become parents -- it's not exactly unnatural, and absent some evidence of coercion by one or the other, it seems really unfair to convict one and deem the other a "victim" (and based on what, exactly?  A year or two age difference between them?  Whichever one's parents called the cops first?)  when it is most likely that they both were happy to engage in the act!

And in other circumstances, the alleged "abuser" may be the victim of other abuse, such as when a child who is sexually abused by his parent then sexually abuses a younger sibling.  Perhaps treatment instead of incarceration might be a better idea.

The collateral consequences of a conviction follow a person for life, in many cases.  People are required to register on those "sex offender lists" for the rest of their lives. 

Registering causes all sorts of nightmares for the registrants.  They can't live within certain distances of schools, day care centers, and other places where kids congregate, which severely limits their options for where to live.  In many states, they are not even allowed to walk within a certain distance of these places, which severely limits their movements, affecting everything from how they get to work or the grocery store  -- is there even a public bus stop they are allowed to wait at?  Is there a route to that bus stop from their home that doesn't take them past the school?  Can they even take a job at that place if it is too close to a school? -- to whether they can even attend church (do kids attend?  Probably can't go, then).

Many landlords won't even rent to known sex offenders, again severely limiting their ability to find a place to live.

Many employers can't or won't hire known sex offenders, severely limiting their ability to find a job.

Moreover, the registries are public, which means anyone who wants to target a sex offender list registrant can easily find their photo and address online.  Registrants are often subjected to harassment, thefts, vandalism, assaults, or worse - up to and including murder.

All of this might -- I said MIGHT, not would -- be acceptable if this were their only punishment.  But it's not. This all occurs *after* the offender has been released from prison.  In other words, they have supposedly served their time, and should be allowed to get on with their lives, but they can't.

All of this also might -- I said might, not would -- be acceptable if the list were reserved only for the worst offenders -- those who had actual sexual intercourse with young children, those who forcibly raped their victims, or who were substantially older than their victims and should have known better, or some other way of determining the relative "evil" of their crime.

But is this lifetime of punishment really merited for a 20 year old who touches a 16 year old's breast, after she told him she was 18?  Or what about the 13 year old who is sexually abused by his mother or father and acts out by sexually abusing his 11 year old sister?  Should he really be subjected to a lifetime of punishment?  Or should we maybe, just maybe, try some sort of counseling and give him a second chance? 

And should someone who is now 70 and has been married to his wife for 30 years and hasn't so much as looked askance at a teenager still be suffering the consequences of a conviction for having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend when he was 20?  Isn't there some point at which we say, enough's enough, he's so totally not likely to reoffend, let's let him off the list?

In most states, though, once you're on the list, there is no way off the list.  And that seems fundamentally awful to me, especially for those whose offenses might be considered relatively "minor."  (Again, for the truly heinous offenses, I have no problem with the equivalent of a lifetime of punishment, and for really minor "non-offense" offenses, I think they shouldn't have to register at all...  but for the offenses in between, it seems to me that a lifetime on the sex offender registry is often out of proportion to the crime alleged and to the likelihood of recidivism, and that there ought to be a way off the list.)  Shades of gray, people.

Even worse, the lists are so overcrowded that they don't even help.  They are supposed to allow people to be aware of the sex offenders in their neighborhood, town, or city, so that they can make sure their kids avoid them.

As a parent, I have looked at these lists.  One problem with them is that the very limited description of the offense of conviction does not allow you to even determine whether the person was a 20 year old convicted of having sex with his 17 year old, very willing girlfriend (and thus probably not actually dangerous) or a 45 year old creep who forcibly raped a 12 year old.  Another problem is that the sheer number of registrants makes it impossible to actually protect your kids from them.  It would be impossible to memorize all of their names, photos, and addresses and would be ridiculous (and likely would cause more psychological harm than it would prevent) to try to make your kids memorize them all and avoid them...  Especially when so many of the registrants are, in fact, extremely unlikely to reoffend and/or were convicted of offenses that should not, in my opinion, have been labeled criminal acts.  If the lists were shorter, they MIGHT be more useful.

Here is an article that says it better than I could, because it comes from a first-hand perspective, rather than my more theoretical view as a lawyer. 

Check it out. Then let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

To all the great Dads, Step-Dads, in loco parentis individuals who act like Dads even though you're not biologically or by-marriage related to a particular child, and anyone else who is simply a fantastic male role model or otherwise a good male presence in a kid's life out there in blogger-land:

I hope you had a wonderful Father's Day!

And here, I want to give a shout-out to four bloggers who I think, from reading their blogs over the past several years, are shining examples of good fatherhood:

Johnny Yen
Kim Ayres (the Bearded One)

If you have time, check out their blogs!

And please forgive me if you're in the "great dad" category and I didn't mention you specifically.  This somewhat belated Happy Father's Day wish IS DEFINITELY for you, too.  :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


While driving my daughter to swim team practice last night, we stopped at a light behind a car with a license plate that said, simply:


I said to my daughter:  "Seems to me that license plate ought to be on a Mercedes or a Lexus, not a Honda Civic."

Said she:  "Well, it only says she's 'Making' money, not that she actually has any."

Good point, that.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

State Farm Is Awesome

Usually people complain about their insurance companies.  I love mine.

I have had State Farm auto insurance since at least 1988.  Possibly longer.  When we bought our home, I insured our home through State Farm as well.

Yes, I am a lawyer, and I have read the "bad faith" insurance cases with State Farm as the defendant.  But either they have learned their lesson, or they reserve their alleged "bad faith" for people other than me.  State Farm has always treated me well. They have never denied a claim, and I have had my fair share of claims -- windshields that needed replacing, fender benders, vandalism, theft, lost a part of our roof in a storm once...  State Farm always just pays the claim, quickly and generally without any hassle.

Recently I was in a fender-bender in my 1998 Lincoln Town Car, which I basically inherited when my grandmother died.  It is a beautiful car, silver gray, with only about 45,000 miles on it (35,000 when I got it last year).  It is truly a luxury vehicle, with all the "bells & whistles" including heated front seats and a sun roof; it is soooo comfortable with its smooth, cool, thick and soft leather seats; it is in near mint condition; and it handles very well, too.  I love it.

(I got rid of my beloved Chrysler - my first new car ever! - last year when I got the (practically antique) Lincoln, because even though I loved the Chrysler, it seemed foolish to keep making car payments when I could drive the even-more-luxurious-if-somewhat-older Lincoln for free).

The fender-bender caused an estimated $3500 worth of damage to my beautiful car (estimates at three shops that I went to ranged from $2700 to $4000, with an average of $3500).  It doesn't take much damage to total $3500.... a broken headlamp, dented hood, dented bumper, and dented front grille did the job....

The bluebook value on the car is somewhere around $4000.  State Farm initially said they intended to "total out" the car because the cost to repair it was higher than the book value would justify.  They explained that this meant they would give me the money for it and I could still keep the car (and repair it or not, my choice), but that I would then have a "salvage" title.  So I could continue to drive the car, but likely would have trouble selling it if I ever wanted to, and they would provide liability insurance if I wanted them to, but no more collision or comprehensive coverage.  Ick.  I did not want a "salvage" title.  I was starting to fear my first ever hassle and/or denied claim with State Farm.  (I looked it up later, though, and this is pretty standard operating procedure for insurance companies, so they weren't doing anything unusual.)

I explained the car's sentimental value and the fact that it had only 45,000 miles on it -- years of usability!  -- and the fact that it is a beautiful car with all the luxuries and I love it.

They said, "OK, take it to the repair shop of your choice, and let's see how much it actually takes to repair it.  If it goes over about $2800 (70% of the value), the presumption is that we are supposed to total it out, but before we make that decision, we'll look at it more closely to determine value, and if the cost to repair is only a few hundred over the value we determine, we will consider your desires and the sentimental value of the car, instead of just setting an arbitrary "kill" number."

Well, the $3500 estimate was pretty accurate.  It was $3600 to repair.  But State Farm paid it and did not "total out" my car.

But wait!  There's more!

While the car was being repaired, I was scheduled to go on vacation, so I took advantage of the rental car coverage I maintain on my policy, and took the rental car on vacation.

The car was ready on Monday.

I was not scheduled to return from vacation until late last night (Tuesday) / early this morning (Wednesday).  In fact, I arrived home around 2 a.m.

State Farm initially had covered the rental car through Monday, which meant I would have had to pay for yesterday and today.

I called and asked if they would cover the extra two days for the rental car since I had been in California and unable to pick it up on Monday, and they said yes.  Just like that. Not even a moment's hesitation.

I love State Farm.  If you do not have State Farm insurance, you should!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Best. Friend. Ever!

The other day, I posted about my "bestest friend in the whole world" who sent me the wonderful Contigo travel mugs for Christmas.  I have known her for over 40 years (yes, since preschool!), and she truly is an amazing woman.  She has raised / is raising three wonderful boys, while running a successful bankruptcy law practice in South Carolina.  She is smart and beautiful and kind and really just the BEST friend.

Today, I want to tell you that, in addition to my "bestest friend in the whole world," I also have a "best friend ever," whom I have known for over 30 years (since middle school) and who, on a whim and because we haven't seen each other for like 6 years, invited me to come visit her in Birmingham, Alabama, to see the band "Little House" (the musicians are friends of ours) play.

We are planning the trip to coincide with Do Dah Day, which is a fun annual music festival in Birmingham that has been around for 34 years (click the link above to check it out - it's awesome! - and click here for more information about the origins / history of this quirky and fun local event).  It has the usual festival things -- music, food, art, kid activities, a parade (I love a parade!), and lots of fun.  Little House is playing at the festival. 

My best friend ever used to be heavily involved in organizing and promoting Do Dah Day.  I think she has reduced her involvement in it more recently, but still attends every year.  It is a great festival and raises money every year for deserving local charities that benefit homeless animals.

My friend even offered me free plane tickets (using frequent flier miles) and a bedroom in her house so that I would have no excuse to say "no"! 

But here's the clincher, for me: The trip offers the opportunity for me to see my friend's older child, who was a newborn the last time I was there, and to meet her younger child, whose photos I have seen on Facebook but have never met, and who is totally adorable.

Needless to say, it is an offer that cannot be refused!  So I am going to Alabama for Do Dah Day!  I can't wait!


And I have to confess that I have at least four other "best friends" who I totally love for various reasons, not all of them having to do with receiving awesome travel mugs or free plane tickets to Do Dah Day in Birmingham.

I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends.  :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And The "Best Customer Service" Award Goes To....

...Wells Fargo Bank!

Friday afternoon, I was on my way to the bank.  I stopped at the intersection in the double-left-turn lane behind several other cars, waiting to turn left.

The light changed and the cars in the other left-turn lane got to go, but my lane did not move.  Ugh.  A broken down car was two cars ahead of me.  The turn arrow changed to red again.  Ugh.

Some people were waiting to cross the street.  They crossed to the middle of the intersection by the broken down car and began getting ready to push the broken down car through the intersection when the light changed.

And then I noticed who the people were: An elderly woman, who was getting into the car to steer it, and two younger gentlemen, probably mid-20's, wearing long-sleeve dress shirts, ties, and Wells Fargo name tags.

The Wells Fargo bank tellers had volunteered to help their customer move her car out of the busy intersection and into their parking lot.

I swear, this bank is soooo much nicer than Chase Bank!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Best. Gift. Ever!

A couple of years ago, I received from my very best friend what I thought (at the time) was sort of an odd Christmas gift: Two stainless steel travel mugs.  One blue, one green.  Here are photos of them:

 (As an aside, I have few technical skills and cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to get blogger to let me put these photos next to each other instead of way across the page or one on top of the other.  Ugh.)

They are nice-looking mugs - elegant, even - but I didn't understand why my best friend in the whole world would send travel mugs across the country for a Christmas gift.  It was nice of her to send them (and it's always nice to get a gift), but sort of an odd thing to bother mailing.  After all, travel mugs are a dime a dozen, right?

Then I used them and discovered how very wrong I was...

These mugs are A M A Z I N G!!!

They do NOT leak.  At all.  Ever.  You can hold them upside down, and not a drop escapes! 

You have to push the little button that you can see there, on the "front" of the mug in the photos, to get the valve to open so you can drink your beverage.  It's not difficult to push, but is firm enough that it doesn't accidentally open.

I can put these mugs sideways in my purse, filled with coffee, and not even worry that they will leak, so long as I put the button on the "up" side and don't put anything on top of it!!  Even then, it would have to be something hard and heavy to make the button move and open the valve.  Really, I hardly even worry about it.  I just toss them in and carry them around, filled with coffee.

They keep your beverage hot, or cold, as the case may be, for HOURS.

Once, in the summer (here in Arizona, it is often 110 to 118 degrees on a July or August summer day, and gets way hotter than that inside a locked car), I forgot my mug filled with iced coffee (with a bit of cream) in the car while I went inside a store and shopped for two hours.

If I had used any other mug that day, I would have returned to the car to find hot coffee with curdled cream, disgusting and undrinkable.  Not with these mugs!  I returned and, although the ice had mostly (not completely!!) melted, the coffee was still very cold and very drinkable.  Refreshing, even, on such a hot day.

When I put hot coffee in them, it stays hot for HOURS.  I have to make sure it is a drinkable temperature before sealing it up because otherwise it will be too hot to drink for a very long time.

I LOVE these mugs.

Now you can see why she is my bestest friend in the whole world.  She knows me better than I know myself!  She knew EXACTLY what I wanted for Christmas, even when I did not know I wanted it!

If you like to carry beverages with you in the car, you should go directly to the Contigo web site (click here) and buy one (or more) of these mugs.

Sadly, my green Contigo mug met an untimely death a couple of days ago.  It was destroyed by a softball while the pitcher and catcher were warming up before my daughter's softball game the other day.  The ball smashed right into the mug and broke the lid apart.  The stainless steel portion was unharmed, but the lid was FUBAR (as we used to say in the bus business...  F--d Up Beyond All Repair).  So I will have to buy a new one.  Just trying to decide whether to stick with the lovely green I had before, or try a new color, like red or silver.

Please note:  This is absolutely not a paid promotion.  Contigo probably doesn't even know I exist.  I just totally love these mugs and I know you will, too.  My motive?  I want to keep the Contigo company in business and producing these exact mugs so that when I need new ones I will be able to buy them.  They seem to last pretty much forever, absent tragic accidents like the one my green one encountered, so I am a little afraid that they will go out of business because they won't get enough repeat customers.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nothing Bad Happened

Lenore Skenazy, over at freerangekids.com, asked her readers to post in the comments on her blog about a time that nothing bad happened when they let their kids do something that others might have considered dangerous.  I wrote sort of a long story there in her comment section (although I confess I forgot to start with her suggested opener, "nothing bad happened when...").  I thought I might as well post it here, too.  If you'd like to read other stories about kids doing dangerous things that worked out ok, check out Lenore's blog post and comments here.  The upshot is, most kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for!  We should start giving them credit for being able to handle more things!

Here is my story about when nothing bad happened:


I am (or at least, I was) apparently the world's worst babysitter.

Before I had kids, when I was in my late 20's, I babysat for a friend who had two kids, a boy, age 4, and a girl, age 8.

I had babysat lots when I was a teen, for a few hours at a time, and never had any problems at all, and I had been around plenty of my friends' and relatives' kids since that time, so I felt well-qualified.

My friend asked me to keep her kids at her house for a weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

I showed up Friday evening and brought the kids Happy Meals.  First mistake -- I thought I should get a "boy toy" for the boy and a "girl toy" for the girl, or at least two different toys so that they would, together, have more cool toys to play with.  Turns out I was supposed to get two identical toys so no one would have to be jealous that the other kid got a "better" toy.

Despite this "disastrous" start, the parents left me in charge anyway and took off for their destination, reminding me not to feed the kids too much junk food, and telling me to "have fun."

Saturday morning, the boy had a pee-wee league tee-ball game at a local park / recreation center, so I took the kids to it.  The little boy had to go to the bathroom, so I walked him to the restrooms.  He assured me he could handle the bathroom by himself, so I waited outside the men's room door while he went in.  No one else was around.  After a while, I heard the toilet flush and then the sink running, then heard "scuffling" on the other side of the door.  I pushed it gently to help the little guy open it, and he came out, smiling / happy.

Saturday afternoon, I put the little guy's booster seat in my car and took the kids to the zoo, bringing healthy snacks in the form of carrots, grapes, and mixed nuts.  The kids loved the snacks and had a great time at the zoo.

Sunday afternoon, the kids asked if we could ride bikes to the neighborhood park near their house.  I asked if they knew how to get there and they said yes.  We set out with me walking, the girl riding her "big kid bike," and the boy riding his bike with training wheels.  The girl would ride ahead and then wait for us at each stop sign.  Sure enough, she knew the way perfectly.  They wanted me to go get the car and drive them home, but I refused to leave them alone at the park in order to walk home and get the car, and so I made them ride their bikes the whole way back home.  They complained that they were tired, but we made it.  It was probably half a mile each way.  The kids were pretty tired after that, and sat and drank water and watched TV while I fixed them some dinner.  But they were happy and said they wanted me to come visit them again some time.

When the parents returned that evening, I found out I had subjected both kids, but especially the four-year-old, to many incredible and unacceptable dangers:

*  pedophiles in the bathroom! ("he's NEVER been to the bathroom by himself before!!  What if someone else had been in there?!?  What if he got stuck in the stall?!?");

*  potential choking hazards! ("admittedly somewhat unlikely but you could have at least cut the grapes in half!");

*  potential deathly allergic reaction to peanuts! ("the kids have never had nuts before!!")  [as an aside, you'd think the parents might have warned me if they were worried about that one!];

* risk of getting impossibly and irreparably lost!  ("How did you even find the park?  How were you sure you'd know the way home?!?")  [As if their 8 year old were completely incompetent to find her way home, and as if there were no other persons in the entire neighborhood to ask, if we did get lost...]

*  risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion! ("But it's so far to the park!  They rode the WHOLE WAY there AND BACK?!?");

*  risk of dying by being run over by a car!  ("you had to cross three streets to get to the park!!") [note:  they were neighborhood streets, with one lane in each direction...].

Geez, I thought the kids and I had enjoyed a great fun weekend, one that would be the envy of any kid anywhere, but it turns out that, in fact, I am a horrible child endangerer!

They never asked me to babysit again...


Have you ever subjected your kids, or someone else's kids, to an activity or situation that others judged you a "bad parent" for?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Ask and Ye Shall Receive"... or, "Wake Up and Look Around, You Idiot!"

We had a big dust storm two days ago here in the Valley of the Sun.  The wind blew and blew, and the dust was so thick it looked like fog.  It wasn't quite a "Haboob" like the one I wrote about a couple of years ago, along with a cool video, here -- it did not have the rolling clouds of dust you get with those -- but it was very windy and dusty for most of the day.

Then in the evening, it rained for about 5 minutes.

Five minutes was just enough rain to clear the skies of all that dirt - yay! .... and deposit it all onto my poor car -- bummer!

So after the 5 minutes of rain, my car looked like I had gone off-roading for hours through the mud.  It was literally covered.  It was muddy brown instead of silver-gray.  I could hardly see out of the windshield when I got in the car to take the kids to school the next morning (yesterday).  So I drove straight to the gas station and washed the windshield.  Better for driving, yes, but my car still looked a mud cake.

It was cloudy and a little windy again yesterday so I didn't want to wash the car - figuring either it would rain and this time would rain long enough to clean my car or it would rain for 5 minutes again, just long enough to make the car dirty, and either way, washing it first was a waste of time.

It didn't rain again.  This morning, the skies were clear blue, with only a few little puffy white pretty clouds.  And my car still looked like I had taken it off-roading, which might be an OK look if it were an SUV, but it's not - it's a Lincoln Town Car - and so it just looked silly.  And crappy.  And sort of embarrassing.

So I drove over to the car wash near my house - the kind you drive through and it washes the car for you, because that's all I had time for before meeting my client before the court hearing.

Everyone else in the neighborhood apparently had the same idea, because the cars were lined up out the driveway of the car wash place and halfway up the street!  No way I had time to wait in that line.

I thought of another automatic car wash place, not too far out of the way, and drove there.  Same thing - line around the building and out into the street.  Ugh!  Passed another one on the way to the freeway -- same thing -- huge line!

I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to drive around with my car looking like a muddy mess, and I drove toward the Courthouse.  I stopped at the traffic light just before the parking lot for the Court building and I sat there berating myself, "Dang, I wish I could have washed my car.  I hate that all the car washes were so full this morning.  I should have done it yesterday evening...  I hope my client doesn't see this mess..."

And then I noticed it.  A car wash!  Right across the street from the Court building!  A drive-through one!  With only one car waiting to enter!

I pulled in, paid my $7, drove into the car wash with my ugly brown muddy mess of a car, and emerged from the other side in my beautiful gleaming silver Lincoln Town Car...  oh, happy day!  Suddenly everything felt brighter, lighter, and more wonderful!

I'm still not sure if all my wishing made the car wash magically appear, as if in a dream, or if it's been there all along and I just never noticed it.  Either way, it felt like a gift from heaven!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

PBC - Awesome!

My daughter and I went to see the Phoenix Boys' Choir last night. (Click on the link for photos and music snippets).  She had two free tickets from her teacher (who is on the board for the Choir) and a promise of extra credit in her class if she would go.  So, we went.

They were amazingly good!

They had basically three groups, identified by the different ties and suit jackets (or, for the second half, the choir robes) they wore.  The oldest group (late teens up to one fellow who looked to be about 40) wore tuxes. The middle group (pre-teens and teens, it looked like) wore red and yellow striped ties.  The youngest group (ages 6 - 10, I believe they said) wore blue striped ties.

I was amazed by the following:

*  All of the youngest and middle groups stood on the choir stands and sang from memory, for approximately two hours worth of music.  They did not have music in front of them.  I cannot imagine my kids at age 6 -10 standing still for two hours, much less remembering all of the words and notes for two hours worth of music.  Heck, I can still barely get my 9 year old son to remember the words to "Frosty the Snowman" for his cub scouts' annual Christmas Caroling on Sesame Street venture.

* I didn't quite understand why the oldest ones got to hold the music in front of them.  Seems like if those younger kids could memorize everything, so could they!  On the other hand, they had to hold those heavy choir books out in front of them for such a long time. I can see why the younger kids wouldn't want to have to hold them the whole time.

*  They seemed to hit every note perfectly, and held them for such long periods of time.

*  They had such genuine enthusiasm for the music, and their personalities really stood out.  One small child in particular really caught my eye.  He was adorable.  He was the smallest one, and stood in the front row.  He had brown hair in a bowl shaped cut, short, and such expressive eyes, and his ears stuck out a bit which made him look soooo adorable.  He sang with such expression and passion.  And he was soooo adorable!  If I were his mom, that kid would be so spoiled because I could never say no to that cute face! The taller kid, next to him, had a voice like an angel.  You could really hear each note he projected, not that it was louder or different than the others, but he just had such power to his voice.  Amazing and beautiful.  Another, slightly older kid in the third row, right side, also had an obvious passion for the music... so earnest!  A fourth kid, a teenager, in the second row, far left (for me), looked like a young Beatle -- a cross between Paul McCartney and George Harrison, with that Beatle haircut and dark brown eyes.  Even had some of the same mannerisms as Paul. Very cool!  It was neat that their individual personalities showed through, even as they all wore the same suits and ties and looked so "uniform."

All in all, it was a great show.  I am glad we went, even though it came at the end of what seemed like an impossibly long and stressful week (which shouldn't have seemed so long and stressful because it was only a four day week after the holiday on Monday, but it did).  We didn't want to leave the house to go, but both of us ended up being glad we went.

So, if you ever have a chance to see the Phoenix Boys' Choir, you should definitely take that opportunity!


A little comic relief:

As the chamber orchestra was getting ready to play before the second act, they did the usual orchestra note coordination where, after they've all tuned up they all play the same note and each instrument joins in to make sure everyone is tuned up properly (at least that's what I've always assumed they are doing; I've never been in an orchestra so I could be totally wrong...)

Legal Mist's Daughter:  Oh!  I know this song!

Me (thinking she is kidding, and thus playing along):  Me, too.  I've heard it a few times before! (Big smile).

Legal Mist's Daughter, a minute or so later, realizing they are just tuning their instruments and not actually playing anything...:   Oh, no.... that's not actually a song, is it?  (covers face with hands)

Me:  You mean you weren't just kidding?!?

And then we both had to stifle our laughter because by then the program was actually starting...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year - 2013

Happy New Year!

2012 was an OK year.  Could have been better. 

There were the obvious low points:  My beautiful young cousin died suddenly this past Friday, for no apparent reason, leaving my Aunt, her mother, to begin the new year by burying her youngest child.  We lost our dear doggy friend Sparky in October.  We had to pay a lot of federal taxes because of poor communication and planning about income tax withholding in 2011 -- we are still making payments on our payment plan.  Ugh. 

But even without the deaths and taxes (the only two things guaranteed in this life), I've felt a little "off" all year... too grumpy, too lazy, too tired, and/or too busy to be happy or productive this past year.

My cousin's death has me thinking that perhaps it is time to get my life in order, get my act together....  [insert your favorite cliche here].  I am lucky to be alive, really...  and I really ought to demonstrate through my actions exactly how much I appreciate that gift.

So, for 2013, I hope to be more productive, more cheerful, and kinder to everyone.  I hope this will make my small corner of the world a happier place to be.

Those are pretty grand (and vague) goals, though, and one thing I've learned is that, to accomplish big goals, we have to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps.

So, for January, my plan is as follows:

1.  Make "to do lists."  I used to do this all the time, but have fallen out of the habit.  I find myself forgetting things and not getting things done lately. Time to get out pen and paper and make lists again.

2.  Smile more.  Even when I don't feel like it.  Sometimes if I'm feeling down and I smile, I actually start to feel happier.  (Sometimes, the mind follows the body.)  Sometimes if others are feeling down and we smile at them, they actually start to feel happier.  So I will actively try to smile at least once a day when I *don't* feel like it.  It doesn't count if I'm spontaneously smiling already!  It will probably help if I remind myself of the many things I have to smile about.

3.  Do a good turn daily.  This is a scouting motto, and I think the world would be a happier place if we all followed it.  So, once a day (more if the mood strikes me), I will try to do something nice for someone - a family member, friend, or stranger.  Something unexpected and not already on my "to do" list or list of things I already do on a regular basis (holding doors for people carrying things doesn't count - I do that already).  Things like paying for a stranger's coffee at my favorite coffee shop, or giving a homeless person some food.  Emailing a friend just to tell her how wonderful she is.  Doing one of the chores my spouse ususally does.  Little things like that can go a long way toward making the world a better place.

Note:  these are not resolutions.  If I don't do them one day, I will not have "failed."  These are just things I plan to try to do, to make the year happier for myself and for others.

What are your plans for the new year?