Facebook For Real

Facebook is a great place to catch up with old friends and stay in touch with new ones.  It’s always fun to see pictures, watch kids grow and share in adventures. 

But when a friend of mine recently posted “Facebook is so hard when you’re depressed” it made me stop and think.

If an outsider were to glance at my Facebook feed, they would be amazed at how happy all of my friends are.  We post pictures of all the happy and wonderful moments of our life, but we never mention real life.

What if we created a web-site called Facebook For Real.  Facebook will still be the place for all the blissful, happy moments, but For Real is where we will post about the rest of our lives.  In other words, most every day.

On Facebook, we’ll post pictures of ourselves at the airport, sitting in their plane awaiting a fun adventure!

On For Real, we’ll describe the multiple flight delays and the 4-year-old who was sitting behind us kicking our seat the entire flight.

On Instagram, we’ll post pictures of our amazing vacation to the beach with the sunshine and sandcastles!

On For Real, we’ll mention the second-degree sunburn, and two solid days of rain that had our family of six stuck in the hotel room.

On FB, we’ll post about how we jumped out of bed at 6:00 am that morning for an invigorating 3-mile run.

On FR, we’ll describe how we hit the snooze button 10 times until was too late to go for a run…and we’re not sorry.

On Instagram, you’ll see pictures of the delicious and healthy meal that we lovingly prepared for our family.

On Insta For Real, you’ll see the burned grilled cheese we made for our son because he hates healthy food.

On Facebook, we share photos of our beautiful new babies, and all their wonderful milestones!

On For Real, we’ll post a picture of our sleepy selves at the 3:00 am feeding, and the spit up that’s been dribbled down our back all day.

On Facebook, we post about our team’s great achievement at work, and tag our company and co-workers.

On For Real, we describe the day we called in sick because we were coughing up thick green mucus, and our kid had diarrhea.

Or the co-worker who stops into our office and talks for an hour straight about people we don’t know.

On Instagram, we’ll post all the great photos and flattering selfies or ourselves when we look our best!

On For Real, we’ll post the deleted shots with our eyes are closed, or our wrinkles showing, or that less than flattering bikini.

On Facebook, we’ll write about our fun shopping adventure to the mall, and all the great things we found.

On For Real, we’ll about our who threw a tantrum in the toy aisle, and how we had to drag him out under one arm as he kicked and screamed!

Or the credit card statement that arrives the next month with all the impulse buys you forgot you made!

It’s human nature to post the good times, the happy times and all that we are proud of.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

But it’s human to have regular days bad days, and I want to stay in bed days.

If you’re feeling down or depressed, I’d suggest you stay away from social media.  It will make you feel like you’re the only one who is struggling.  The rest of us are all on exotic vacations, attending fun concerts, or celebrating our kids perfect report card.

And keep your chin up!  Rest assured, we all have good days and bad; ups and down; joy and sorrow.  And chances are, at one point or another within the last month or so, we have all been just as miserable as you!


Tony and the Christmas Socks

Twenty something years ago, I was fresh out of college and working my first office job.  I had a co-worker and friend named Tony who made work much more fun. 

One day around Christmas, I sat down at the conference table with several co-workers, including Tony.   Someone noticed my festive red candy cane socks.  I told them how my mom bought me a pair of Christmas socks every year!  Even when I was away in college, she would mail me a new pair.  I laughed as I told them the gesture was very thoughtful, but how many pair of Christmas socks does one girl need?  I mean, you really only have a small window of time to wear them.  December is OK, but January is a little silly.  Christmas socks in May or June is downright odd. 

We had a fun conversation about ugly Christmas sweaters, Christmas socks Clark Griswold.   Then we all got back to work, and I never gave it another thought.

That is until that Christmas when Tony and I exchanged gifts.  I opened my gift bag to find, you guessed it, a new pair of Christmas socks!  Typical Tony - He always had a great sense of humor and a wonderful, hearty laugh!

In fact, one year we all went to a comedy club.  After several jokes, and Tony’s boisterous laugh, the comedian actually stopped the show to thank Tony.  He said that he wished Tony and his encouraging laugh could be at all his shows!

Anyway, as I opened the gift, Tony reminded me of the story I shared about my mom and her Christmas sock tradition.  We laughed knowing that the pressure was on.  Now I would have to rotate two new pairs of socks into my December wardrobe.

A year passed.  The following December 1st, I started to dig into my collection of Christmas socks and laughed when I found Tony’s pair among them. 

I think I may have even worn that pair on the day of our office Christmas party.  Again, Tony and I exchanged gifts.  I unwrapped my gift to find yet another pair of Christmas socks!  I realized that Tony was not letting this go. 

For the next five or six more holidays, that Tony and I worked together, I received a new pair of Christmas socks!  Each year, he found a new, unique pair to add to my collection!  Knee socks, crew socks, slippers even Christmas footies.

The next year, my first child was born, so I left my full-time job working with Tony.  We still kept in touch, but naturally drifted apart.  Like most people, we got caught up in our own lives and lost touch.

That is, until the next Christmas when I received a mysterious package in the mail.  The return address said S. Claus, The North Pole.  Hmmm?  I didn’t hear anything ticking or see any white powder residue, so I cautiously opened the package.

Inside the padded envelope I discovered another new pair of Christmas socks.  There was no note or gift tag, but I knew exactly who they were from!

And then every year that followed, I received the same package in the mail.  It was always addressed from the North Pole or Chrsitmastown – depending on the year.  Every package contained a new pair of Christmas socks.  They seemed to get sillier each year.  There were elf socks, Christmas trees, Mrs. Claus and Santa on the beach, and even a pair of T-Rex Santas.

A few years later, Tony left the company where we first met.  There was nothing left to connect us except, apparenty, the Christmas socks! 

This Christmas marks over 20 years since I shared the story of my mom and the Christmas socks.  It’s been a tough year for Tony.  His father passed away just a few months ago after a battle with cancer.

This is the year I figured Tony would finally forget, or decide to let the tradition go.   He had more important things to deal with, and he had certainly made his point!

But of course, the package arrived again just a few days ago.  Right on schedule was my padded envelope from S. Claus filled with a festive pair of Christmas socks.  This year’s pair feature a holiday Llama and say Falalala Llama!

Thank you, Tony, for a giant drawer full of Christmas socks.  But more importantly, thank you for making me laugh every December for over 20 years!  You are my very own Santa Claus.  Hmmm, maybe there is something about that jolly laugh of yours.

Merry Christmas my friend!  May you never lose your wonderful sense of humor!


Riley & Lucy Share Their Favorite Books

Riley and Lucy are west-highland terriers. Like most dogs, they love to take walks, chase squirrels, eat bones and, of course, read.  They especially enjoy picture books.

The #PB 10 for 10 challenge to teachers, librarians and book lovers everywhere to share a list of their 10 favorite picture books of the year.   When Riley and Lucy heard about the PB 10 for1 0 challenge, they couldn’t resist offering a list of their favorites.  After all, wouldn’t it be nice to hear a dog’s perspective? 

The deadline for this challenge was early August, so Riley and Lucy are a little late to the game.  They are dogs though, so what do you expect?  Not only did they have trouble agreeing upon all their selections, their dog paws make it difficult to use the keyboard.  For that reason, they asked me, their owner, to help with the typing. 

Now what you may not know about our dogs, is that they are the stars of a series of picture books.  Of course, these three books are their very favorites!  Riley and Lucy agree that a little bit of shameless self-promotion is OK, if it doesn’t harm anyone else.

Therefore, the top three books in their 10 for 10 list are:

  1. Doggy Drama by Andra Gillum

  2. Puppy Drama by Andra Gillum

  3. Old Doggy Drama by Andra Gillum

They quibbled for some time over the order of the top three, but finally decided to compromise.  Their list of favorites is in no particular order. 

All three books are based on the real-life adventures of Riley and Lucy.  They deal with real life issues like sibling rivalry, jealousy, coping with change and getting older.  The best part is that they deliver their message in a very silly way.  Kids will giggle at all three of these books!

Riley and Lucy love books about animals, and all forms of personification, so here are a few other favorites:

  1. Little Pea – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

  2. The Adventures of Knuffle Bunny – Mo Willems (The dogs got into a bit of a spat over how to pronounce Knuffle.  Is it K-nuffle or Nuffle?)

  3. Are You My Mother?  - PD Eastman (They love the snort!)

  4. Sheep On A Ship – Nancy Shaw

  5. The Family Book – Todd Parr

  6. My Mom – Anthony Brown (I may have strongly suggested this one.)

  7. DOG – Matthew VanFleet (obviously.)

In fairness, the dogs do like many books by Dr. Seuss.  However, they intentionally left him off their list in protest of the Cat In the Hat series.  Who ever heard of a six-foot cat anyway? 

We hope you have enjoyed Riley and Lucy’s top 10 list!  It you want to learn more about the dogs and their books, please visit www.doggydrama.com.  If you want to meet me, their owner, mom, storyteller and typist, please contact me at andra@doggydrama.  I love to make school visits!


In closing, Riley and Lucy want to encourage all kids, dogs, adults and even cats to read, read, read!  From picture books, to graphic novels, to biographies, to newspapers and magazines, to fiction and non-fiction, there is something for everyone.  The trick to loving to read is reading what you love!  #PB10for10  #ReadingRocks  #DoggyDrama


Who Stole Summer?

I woke up last night in the middle of a bad dream.  It was just August 14th, but school was back in session, and the pool was closed for the winter!

The first day of school is August 14h.  Seriously?  I double checked to make sure there was no mistake.  What happened to the good old days when we started after Labor Day?  Who decided that mid-August was the new September?

I asked around and got several different stories.  Someone suggested they want the school districts to follow the college schedule.  That makes no sense.  Who wants to be in Florida on Spring Break when the college students are there?  I have no desire to compete in a belly flop competition, or set sail on a fraternity booze cruise.

The school district said they took a survey, and the majority wanted an early start.  I know the kids and teachers don’t want this, and most parents I speak with don’t either.  At first I thought it must be the older generation who  wanted the pool to themselves.  Can’t blame them.  They just want to do a little water aerobics in peace…without the whistles blowing.  But now, the pools are closed too!  Foiled again!

The most likely reason I’ve heard blames the early start on the standardized testing in the spring.  Schools need to pack in as much curriculum as they can before the testing period. Thanks again, Common Core.

I’m glad school didn’t start this early when I was a kid.  I would have been awfully hot wearing the new Firenza sweater and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans that my mom bought me when we went school shopping.  My Member’s Only jacket would have been a little better, but still warm. 

My kids wear shorts for the first six weeks of school.  Actually, my son wears shorts for the entire year.  He’s a 9th grader now, and I gave up that battle years ago.

So many things about back to school have changed.  Now we buy school supplies through the PTO, and they’re delivered right to class.  That’s actually helpful.  No more running around searching for the box of crayons with the built in sharpener, the wide-ruled spiral notebook, or the newest Trapper Keeper.

What about textbooks?   We used to haul around an armful of them, all carefully covered with a brown grocery bag.  I could never figure out how to cut the bag right, but we managed.   Then, we added our best graffiti.  My older sister always had the Van Halen logo on her books.  I think mine had the MTV logo and probably something about Duran Duran.

Now kids get MacBooks and iPads instead of books.   Nobody is covering those in brown grocery bags.  First of all, grocery bags are plastic now.  Secondly, that paper wouldn’t provide much protection when kids drop their device on the ground.  I’m pretty sure the screen would still shatter.  The “optional” laptop insurance coverage is the new book cover.

How about the lockers?   They still use those same old combination locks.  Is it left, right left, or right, left right?  Shouldn’t there be something digital by now?  After all, they now sell entire lines of designer locker accessories and supplies.  Who wouldn’t want a locker chandelier?  Can’t we all agree that is a little over the top, especially if dad has to stop by school to run the electricity.

Of course, no matter when school begins, kids and parents will always dread the start of early mornings, driving here and there, traffic jams and especially homework!  This year will be my first attempt to drop off and pick up at the high school, so I’m looking forward to that.  Why don’t we have busing to the high school again?

Welcome back to school to all students, teachers and staff.  Ready or not, here it comes!

By the way, good news!  I read that the Ohio legislature is trying to pass a law that prohibits schools from staring before Labor Day.  Apparently, they are looking out for the tourism industry. 

While I like the idea of a late start, I get concerned when politicians get involved in something they know nothing about.  But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll fix this issue just like they do everything else.  Ugh!



Are Warning Labels Insulting?

Is it just me or do warning labels insult our intelligence?

I was pumping gas one day and noticed the warning sign above the pump.  It seemed reasonable at first.  Stop EngineNo Smoking.  But then I came to: Never Siphon by Mouth.  Does that really need to be stated?  Are we stupid?

On my Panera coffee cup, it warned me that The Beverage you are About to Enjoy may be Hot.  Wait, are you saying that coffee is hot?  Who knew?

Hot beverages warrant a stern warning, but what about cold food and drink?  I’ve never seen a warning printed on a Popsicle or a milkshake.  What would it read?  Beware of Brain Freeze.

The lawyers must be to blame.   I was using some hand sanitizer the other day.  Thank goodness I read the warning label that explained it was:  For external use only.  I was just about to take a drink.

Even our beach ball, a seemingly harmless object, carries a warning label:  This is not a Life Saving Device.  I guess that’s why I never see them hanging from the lifeguard chairs. 

Cigarettes are known for their warning labels.  Tobacco is one product that deserves a harsh warning, but its label says something blasé about how the Surgeon General thinks smoking is a bad idea.

In Europe, they don’t mess around.  Their cigarettes say: Smoking Kills

The best cigarette warning I have seen was on a bumper sticker. It read:  Warning I just quit smoking.

On the front of my kids’ toothpaste is SpongeBob.  On the back it says: Warning: Keep out of the Reach of Children.  Frankly, it’s harder to get my kids to brush their teeth when they can’t reach the toothpaste. 

As I was cleaning our windows, I noticed that even the screen carries a warning: Screen will not Stop Child from Falling out of Window.  Really?   That explains why there’s no screened in porch on top of the Sears Tower.

Perhaps my favorite warning label of all is the one I noticed when I was flying.  It was written on the barf bag that they keep in the front pocket of the seat in front of you.  The bag is labeled: For Motion Discomfort which I suppose is helpful for new flyers.  But then it goes a step further to caution: Do not place in seat back after use. 

 Does that mean someone actually placed their used vomit bag back into the seat pocket?  How else would they even come up with that?  Did another guy really try to siphon gasoline with his mouth?

I guess we aren’t quite as smart as I thought.  Maybe humans need a warning label: Caution. I might do something stupid.   My teenager could definitely use one.   

I don't really find warning labels to be insulting, but they are amusing.  In any case , let’s be careful out there.  The world is a dangerous place. 

Whose Chairs Are These?

By:  Andra Gillum

Upper Arlington (UA) is  a wonderful suburban community outside of Columbus, Ohio.

To those of us who have lived in Upper Arlington for more than a few years, the sudden appearance of lawn chairs along Northwest Boulevard in mid to late June doesn’t surprise us a bit.  We don’t even look twice.

Of course, these chairs have been placed along the parade route well in advance of the 4th of July parade.  There’s caution tape, roped off areas, benches, chairs even a few couches.  No big deal.

But for those who are new to UA, and don’t yet understand the enormity of this July 4th tradition, I wonder what goes through their head.  Do they think that the Pope is coming?  Or maybe the President?  I wonder if they would cause such a stir?

Every year, the chairs appear earlier and earlier.  People used to set out their chairs a day or two before the parade.  Then someone dared secure their spot on June 30th, and the whole game changed.  Mid-June now seems to be fair game.  It reminds me of Christmas displays in stores.  They used to go up before Thanksgiving, then it was right before Halloween.  Now, they’re looking at a Labor Day start to the holiday season.

But who has the right to secure a spot?  Is it the property owner?  Do they get entire section in front of their house?  Can they give permission to friends to use their space?  Maybe it’s an open seating platform. Anyone can use their property as long as they’re first to rope it off. 

People who live in Florida and California pay a high premium for beachfront property.  Here in UA, we pay a premium for parade front property.  Realtors tout that as a huge selling feature along with granite counter tops and hardwood floors.

So, if people are paying top dollar for this red-hot real estate, shouldn’t they have first dibs for parade seating?  At the least, they shouldn’t have other people leaving stuff in their yard for several weeks without paying a storage fee.  What happens when they need to mow the lawn?  Kind of a pain to move everything.  Are they obligated to put everything back exactly as they found it?  That’s a lot of pressure.

What about the area in front of banks and other businesses?  Is this their space to reserve for customers or is it fair game?  Is there some “Open a new CD and get 4 seats along the parade route” promotion that I don’t know about?  If you prefer McDonalds, can you sit in front of Wendy’s?

I really don’t know the answer to any these questions, but I fear they have led to some major arguments.  I know the UA police ask that residents wait until as close to the 4th as possible to set out their chairs, but we are obviously ignoring that advice.  I guess they’re given up.

They just hope that people remain civil and dignified with each other.  We are celebrating a wonderful holiday and a great country, so let’s try to embrace the spirit.

Personally, we’ve never set out chairs before the parade.  We usually just head for the end of the parade route and get as close as possible or try to score an invitation to celebrate at one of the  parade-front homes.  These elaborate parties are another story, so we’ll save that for the next blog.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the UA 4th of July parade and celebration.  What a wonderful and fun family tradition.  And I really have no opinion on what the proper pre-parade chair etiquette is.

I was just thinking to myself how utterly outrageous this all must seem to anyone new to UA.  They have a few rules to learn about Columbus and Upper Arlington, but I’m sure they’ll figure it all out quickly. 

Next month, they’ll face Buckeye Football mania which you truly must see to believe.  A few months after that, they’ll try to register their kids to visit Santa at Christmas in the Park, only to learn that they should have set their alarm for 5:00 a.m. 

We could publish a handbook, but it’s more fun to watch them figure it out themselves.  That’s the way it’s always been, and who are we to break tradition?

Happy Independence Day everyone!  Enjoy the parade from wherever you sit.


Jazzercise - Let's Get Physical!

When a friend invited me to try a Jazzercise class a few years ago, I pictured leotards and leg warmers.  The song Let’s Get Physical started playing in my head, and I wondered if we might run into Jane Fonda.

Most people remember Jazzercise from the 1980s when the fitness craze was just kicking in.  Jazzercise workout studios popped up across the country filled with life-sized mirrors and carpeted floors.

But my friend insisted that Jazzercise was different now.  It had stepped out of the 1980s and into the new millennium.  Since the first visit was free,  I agreed to give it a try.

When I arrived, Jane Fonda was nowhere to be found.  Neither was Richard Simmons for that matter.  People had traded in the leotards for yoga pants, and the music playing was all released within the last few years.

There was Bruno Mars, Usher, Taylor Swift, Niki Minaj and, for some reason, an unusually heavy rotation of Pit-bull.  Maybe he’s related to one of the company execs. 

Jazzercise has shed the disco ball, and evolved with the times.  They played current music.  The carpet had been replaced with a dance floor, and the only mirrors are in the restroom.

It’s now several years later, and I am hooked on Jazzercize .  In my opinion, the trick to sticking with exercise, is finding something that you really enjoy.  Whether you run or bike or lift or spin, figure out what you love (or hate the least) and go for it. 

For me, this place is Jazzercise UA.  It’s my version of Cheers Bar.  The place you want to go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came.

At Jazzercise UA, they don’t serve beer, but they do play music.  There’s no Coach, but there are instructors.  They won’t save you a chair, but they might save your favorite spot on the dance floor. 

At my Jazzercise location, they have classes throughout the day, with a variety of instructors.  Allegedly, there is an ultra-early class at 5:45, but I can’t comment since I have never been awake that early. 

The level of intensity and the volume of the music varies depending on the time of the class and the age of the instructor.  I’m pretty sure the spa next door prefers the earlier (quieter) classes.  It can’t be especially relaxing to get a facial with the sound of bass pounding through the walls.

All the instructors are great.  Some of them are strictly business sticking to the cues and the dance moves.  Others tell stories about their day, while some keep us up to date on the latest celebrity news. 

One particularly fun teacher is more of a performer than an exercise instructor.  On Halloween, she wears costumes to match the songs in her set.  At Christmas, she gives out free jingle bells for students to tie onto their shoes.

Another teacher is more of a drill sergeant, ordering us to kick higher, or move faster, or SQUEEZE.  Not sure what the clients think about this at the spa next door.

Customers (Jazzercisers) also range in age from late teens to late70s.  There’s a class and an instructor to fit everyone’s level and taste.  They encourage us all to workout at our own pace.  “It’s our hour”” they say.

My age falls somewhere in the middle of the range (fine, it’s on the older side), so my intensity is somewhere in the middle.  Occasionally, I challenge myself to keep up with the 20-somethings.  Other times, I accept reality. 

But, no matter what class I attend, there is never any judgement.  The younger girls aren’t glaring at the “mom” trying to kick it, nor would I ever look down upon an older lady trying to stay fit.  Quite the opposite.  Good for them!

We welcome new members.  There’s no “new member shaming” like I remember from a few gyms.  When I first started, it definitely took me a while to pick up the moves.  I went left when I should have gone right, and almost tripped over myself more than once.  But no one laughed at me (at least to my face).

My 13-year-old son asked me why I like Jazzercise.  “Are you any good?” he asked.  Of course, teenage boys make everything a competition.  “Huh?”  I told him that I’d never really thought about it that way.  “I’m fine,” I told him, but Jazzercise is not a competitive sport.

It’s about finding a workout that you will stick with, because it’s fun. It’s about being able to go to a club at 8:00 in the morning and dance to some fun music.  Jazzercise is about no judgement and no drama.

We are all far more likely to exercise if we find something or someplace that we’re comfortable with.  For me, that place is Jazzercise.  It’s a place where everybody knows your name (or at least your face), and they’re always glad you came.  It’s Cheersercise!

Here’s hoping that everyone can find their happy place.  Jazz hands!

Elf Anxiety

Every year after Thanksgiving, I look forward to unpacking our Christmas decorations.  I pull out the boxes, and the kids and I put everything in its proper place.  I must admit, however that there is one holiday decoration I wish I could leave in the bottom of the box.

The Elf on the Shelf triggers my anxiety.  I hate to admit it, but this little guy really knows how to push my buttons.

As I said, I love almost everything about Christmas.  From the decorations to the lights to the music and traditions, I l really do love it all.   It’s just that darned Elf!

It’s not that I dislike elves in general.  The movie Elf is a classic.  I love that Buddy the Elf and his Pop-tart pasta with syrup.  And how could you not root for the little misfits: Herbie the dentist and his friend Rudolph?

It’s just the Elf on the Shelf who makes me twitchy.  The holiday season is busy enough, and the stress he adds just pushes me over the top.

Every night, I’m expected to come up with some clever thing to do with the Elf, or some funny place to put him.  There are photos and ideas all over the web about it.

Somehow, I’ve gotten on an email list that sends me ideas an inspiration for my elf.  When they suggested that I soak the elf’s feet in a bath of marshmallows and call it a spa day, I decided that I’d rather leave the elf on his shelf and have my own spa day.

My kids show me You Tube videos of all the clever things that other elves do.  Someone’s naughty elf actually wrapped their entire Christmas tree in holiday paper.  I’m lucky to get all the gifts wrapped.  Never mind ribbons and bows.

Then there’s the Elf Shaming.  My daughter comes home from school with stories of all the silly and clever things that her friends’ elves did.  She tells me how bad she feels that she has nothing to share. Mom guilt.

Plus, the pressure goes on all month long!  That means 24 nights of anxiety.  24 days of trying to think of something new and different. 

There have been nights when I have finally climbed into my warm bed after an evening of wrapping gifts.  I’m half asleep when I am jolted awake by the realizations that I have forgotten to do anything with the elf.

I’m certain that I am not the only one with elf-anxiety.  A friend posted a funny picture on You Tube of an elf wearing a full leg cast.  He left a note for the children saying that he wouldn’t be able to move from the shelf for 2-3 weeks.  That’s one smart mom. 

I hate to come across as a Grinch because I really do love Christmas, and all the fun traditions for our kids.  Maybe we can just shorten the elf’s visit from the North Pole?  How about a nice, 3-day weekend?  Who’s with me?

I mean no offense to any Elf lovers out there.  I applaud your enthusiasm and perseverance.  We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

So, whether you love the Elf…or count down the days to his departure, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Riley Doesn't Brush Her Teeth

Riley is our 13 year old West Highland Terrier.  We’ve raised her since was a puppy. I’ve always considered myself to be a good dog owner.  Riley takes daily walks, gets plenty of attention, and eats some organic dog food that the clever salesgirl convinced us to buy.  It’s made of fois gras or something ridiculous like that.


Admittedly, Riley doesn’t get quite as much attention as she did before we had kids - especially around the holidays.  Her Christmas ornaments have been sent to the back of the tree, and she has had to wear the same hot dog costume the past three Halloweens in a row.


Even so, I still felt confident when I recently took Riley to the vet for her check-up.  Imagine my surprise when the vet asked:  How often do you brush her teeth?  Huh?!  I am supposed to brush the dog’s teeth?  I consider the day a success if I get my kids to brush their teeth.  If floss is involved, I’m up for mother of the year.


At least when I take the kids to the dentist, I have my answers prepared.  Do they floss daily?  Of course.  (Or at least anytime they get popcorn stuck in their teeth).  Do they brush after every meal?  Oh sure, I pack their toothbrushes in the lunch box.


It all dates back to the lies I told my orthodontist in my pre-teen years.  Of course I wear my retainer at all times.  And no, I certainly was not chewing a big chunk of Hubba Bubba when my bracket popped off.


I’ve taken an informal poll of my peers, and can’t find anyone who brushes their dog’s teeth.  But apparently, many people do.  Because we haven’t, poor Riley now has two impacted molars and desperately needs a cleaning.  To complete the procedure, the vet actually puts the dog to sleep.  No Novocain or happy gas…just lights out.  Apparently dogs hate the dentist even more than humans do.


We scheduled Riley for surgery and thankfully everything went well.  Several hundred dollars later, both Riley and I are feeling as confused as ever.  The vet sent us home with some pain killer and a complimentary doggie dental kit.  It included a toothbrush, toothpaste, gel for her gums to prevent plaque buildup and a dental rinse.  Do you suppose I can teach the dog to gargle and spit?  What about floss?  I’ll be sure to post it on You Tube, so keep an eye out.


Riley is now fully recovered (at least physically) from her procedure, but she still looks at me with an expression that seems to say was all of this really necessary?  Either she thinks I’ve lost my mind, or she’s thinking that if I would have been brushing her teeth regularly, she could have avoided all of this. 


The other possibility is that the resentment could go much deeper.  For all I know, Riley could still be angry that we never sprang for those braces during her younger years.


Color Catastrophe

Just because you can do something yourself, does not mean that you should.  For some people, that means home remodeling.  Plumbing and drywall come to mind.  For others, it applies to sewing or baking.  I’m thinking wedding cakes.  In my case, I’ve learned that I must never again try to color my own hair.

As I neared the age of 40, I noticed the roots of my hair turning gray.  At first, I tried to yank them out one by one.  Each time I saw a gray, I would pull out the trusty tweezers and give it a yank.  After a while, there were just too many for me to handle.  Once I started seeing scalp, I realized that I was losing that battle.  The one thing worse than a gray head is a bald head.

I decided that I would have to color over the gray.  How hard could it be?  Based on the enormous selection of hair color that I see at every CVS, Target and Kroger store, millions of women must do it.  The girls in the L’Oreal commercial never seem to have a problem.  

I went to my local Walgreens to find my perfect match.  I was certainly overwhelmed by the array of choices, but finally settled upon a medium brown shade. I then headed home to wash that gray right outta my hair.

My sister helped me apply to color and reach the tough spots in the back.   We followed the directions to the letter, set the timer, and waited for the magic to happen. 

Thirty minutes later, I rinsed out the color and all seemed fine.  It wasn’t until my hair dried that I realized we had a problem.  My medium brown was now a brassy shade of copper.  I was one shade darker than Ronald McDonald.

Maybe it will look better in the sunlight, I assured myself.  Nope.  The natural light only enhanced the brass.

I Googled brassy hair, and realized that I was not alone!  Plenty of women with brown hair also suffer from penny head.  Maybe I should have done this research before I applied the color.

The web recommended other shades that might cover the damage, but warned me to wait a few weeks before coloring again.  Of course, I ignored that advice.  By the end of the week, I had about four layers of bronze on my hair.  More shades of orange than a large box of crayons.

Desperate for help, I called on the experts!  My hairdresser said she could help, but we would have to wait a while!  What!?  No, please!  I tried to bribery, but she wouldn’t budge.  It must be some professional oath.  Or, maybe that just want to make sure we amateurs truly learn our lesson.

She would see me in a few weeks and try to cover the damage.  In the meantime, frequent washing might help the color to fade.  I shampooed morning, noon and night, but sure didn’t notice any dulling. I think it got brighter! 

Years later, my hair has been restored to a more natural brown, and I am committed to professional products and a skilled hair dresser.  I call that period my orange phase, and consider it a lesson learned.

But now, the gray gets worse with each passing year.  Like a lawn full of dandelions, it’s taking over the entire area.  Of course, that more frequent (and pricey) visits to the salon. 

Take my advice ladies.  Start saving while you’re still young.  After you’ve established a college savings account for your kids, and fully funded your 401k, you might want to set up a savings plan for all the coloring in your future. 

The retirement savings experts never mention this, but someday you’ll thank me.  Start saving now before the gray has taken over entirely!

If you’re naturally blonde or black, you may have an easier time coloring your own hair.  This will certainly save you some money. 

But, if you’re a brunette,  learn from my mistakes.  Do not try to color your own hair. Like plumbing, or auto repair, or juggling knives…hair color is not as simple as it seems. 

Kids Say Some Crazy Things!

My favorite part about being a children’s author is reading and sharing my stories with kids.  I am often invited to schools as a “visiting author”.  My audience can range from preschoolers to middle schoolers.

Each group is unique.  I love to watch their reactions, hear their laughter, listen to their connections and field their questions.

Their question are always genuine, often very insightful, and occasionally very funny.

I start writing down some of my favorite remarks. 

First of all, kids always ask me how old I am.  I always try to deflect the question, but they typically won’t take no for an answer.  A few boys have said they expected me to be older, so I guess that’s a good thing.

One day I was telling a class that it took me well over a year to write my book.  A boy exclaimed:  “Your hand must have been really tired!”  I started to explain that I wasn’t actually writing for that entire time, but then I just let it go.

One little girl wrote me a thank you note after my visit and asked if I was a teenager.  That letter has been framed and hung it on my wall.

During a classroom presentation, a preschooler raised his hand.  “Is your book available on Amazon?” he inquired.

“Yes,” I laughed.  “How do you know about Amazon?”  

“My Dad says that Mom has an addiction.” 

While reading to a kindergarten class, I asked the kids who has a dog.  Most of them raised their hands.  One little boy blurted out “My dog died.” 

“I’m so sorry,”  I responed.  “Was your dog sick?” 

“No.” he replied.  “He was hit by a comet.”

“That happens sometimes,”  I told him.

Kids like to blurt out random things. “Do you like Luke Bryant?” one boy asked.

 “Today is my birthday!” a little girl once proclaimed.

“That’s why I’m here”, I assured her.

I was asking one group about the difference between an author and an illustrator, when an impatient boy blurted out: “Did you draw the pictures?”

“No.” I responded.  “I wish I could have, but that isn’t my talent.”

He replied: “You could have just taken an art class.”  Why didn’t I think of that?

One day I was visiting a school to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Suess.  A boy asked me if I am friends with Dr. Suess.  “No,” I replied.  “Dr. Suess has been dead over 25 years.” 

He still thought we should be friends.

When I was explaining part of one book where the older sister is rather bossy, one 5 year old raised his hand.  He admitted:  “I’m pretty bossy.” 

I told him it’s good to be self-aware.

My Dad talks about a TV show he used to watch called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. 

I love how they freely speak whatever comes to their mind.  They never consider whether it might sound strange, or be embarrassing.

It seems to be around age 11 or 12 when we become more self-conscious of what we say.

 I suppose it’s good to filter our words to some extent, but I do love listening to little ones as their  thoughts flood out of their mouth like an open tap.

I wouldn’t want it any other way! 

Why Can't all the Leaves Fall Together?

Among my favorite things about Upper Arlington are the beautiful, mature trees.  Those majestic trees bloom with color in the spring and provide refreshing shade in the summer.  They even look beautiful for a few weeks of fall.  After that… it’s all downhill.   I’m talking about the endless piles of fallen leaves!  It gives new meaning to the expression buried alive.

In our yard, the leaves start to fall around Labor Day.  The problem is that they don’t stop until nearly Christmas.   We have to be careful to not get tangled in the Christmas lights as we are rake.   Couldn’t these trees come to some agreement about when they will fall?  Must they spread it out over 4 months?   The maples want to go early, the oak tree prefers to stay late…and so on.  Must be poor communication.   

At least the lawn companies benefit from the endless leaves.  It sounds like an angry swarm of bees when the lawn guys descend on our neighborhood.  It’s loud enough when they fire up the mowers and weed whackers in the summer.  Once you add the leaf blowers in the fall, it’s time to break out the ear protection for the entire family. 

In UA, the leaves are enormous!   I bet we have some of the biggest (and heaviest) leaves in Central Ohio.  Where’s the award for that?  We could have a contest.  Bexley, Clintonville, Grandview, Olde Town, Worthington, etc.  could all present their prize winning leaf.  Hopefully, no one would try to scrub the results. 

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful curb-side leaf service.  The leaf trucks are a welcome sight, but they always seem to collect the leaves on my street the day before we rake.  We get that giant pile of leaves amassed at the curb, but then wait days on end for the truck to return.  All week, I cringe as every gust of wind scatters the leaves back across our yard.  I do give lots of credit to the people who vacuum the leaves.  Are they called leaf suckers?  Anyway, they have a tough job and they do it well.  My nose starts to run just thinking about it.

My 12 year old son asked me why we can’t just wait to rake until all the leaves have fallen.  I begin to rant about dead grass, and too many leaves for the trucks to pick up at once, and being a good neighbor until I realize that he has a point. 

I decide to go with the standard mom response: “If you’d stop complaining, we’d almost be finished!”  We all know that’s not true.

Happy fall and happy raking to all my Columbus neighbors.  If you are like me, you might want to stop by the pharmacy and pick up some Claritin before you get started!