Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just in time for Halloween ...

a smashed pumpkin.

One week ago today, my mom went out to get the newspaper at 6:30 in the morning and fell. She leaned over and either lost her balance or slipped - either way she landed right on her head. Dad wasn't out there and she couldn't get up, so she crawled up to the garage on her hands and knees. She made it into the house and dad called 911. They took her to the emergency room with a huge gash in her head, all of the skin off her legs and knees, scraped up hands and a scraped shoulder. Dad called us and Kevin went to pick him up while I went on to the hospital.

The result was two broken vertebrae at the base of her skull which required surgery and 28 stitches on the gash in her head. She had surgery on Thursday and came through it just fine. The surgery consisted of inserting a screw through one of the vertebrae and putting it back into place; the other vertebrae did not require surgery but both with take quite some time to heal.

Currently, she is doing pretty well. The scrapes and gashes are beginning to heal, her facial swelling is mostly gone and she's a lovely shade of purply-yellow ;o) They've transferred her from the hospital to a rehab facility just across the street. We're thinking that she may be home by the weekend, but we're not certain at this point. She's getting physical therapy to build up her strength and help her walk (she's been off her feet for a week now and is fairly weak) and to help her adjust to the collar she will be required to wear for the next 10 weeks.

It's been a terribly frightening experience for everyone, but really, she was very lucky. The broken neck could very well have resulted in paralysis, so we're thanking God every day that that's not what happened. Mom said that when she fell, she could heard what sounded like a smashing pumpkin and realized that was her head. UGH.

I have no right to ask, but I'm going to anyway: If you're reading my blog, please keep my mother (and father who has not been feeling well, either) in your thoughts and prayers. I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'll Scratch Your Back, Don't Stab Mine

(Caveat Emptor - Be very, very wary if you ever decide to make a purchase from this website: Backscratcherworld.com)

As sort of a gag gift for my sister, I wanted to buy her a backscratcher (pretend you didn't see this, Deb). I found what appeared to be a nice website that carried several different types of backscratchers at a reasonable price. The website indicated that each order included a 'free' backscratcher.

I decided on what looked to be a sturdy, durable model - priced at $14.95 - and placed my order. They promised fast shipping and, true to that statement, the order that I placed on 10/11/11 arrived today in a timely manner.

When I opened the box, I was disappointed to find just the backscratcher I'd ordered - no freebie. I called the number on the invoice in my order, and spoke with someone who had a very surly tone of voice. I explained why I was calling and she said "Did you put the free item in your cart?" I told her that I hadn't, not realizing that this was required. I did say that their website states that a free backscratcher is included with each order, so I didn't understand why I had to add it to the cart. Clearly irritated, she put me on hold.

A minute or two later, another voice came on the line. I was very nice and polite and told her that I'd received my order and the item arrived in perfect condition. I again mentioned that the order didn't include the free backscratcher that had been indicated on their website. With a tone of voice bordering on rude, she asked if I'd added the 'free' item to the cart. I explained that I had not, that I didn't realize I had to, but that their website did indicate a free backscratcher with every order. She told me that if I didn't add it, I wouldn't be getting it. I was shocked by the tone of her voice and her attitude!

I continued the conversation by politely asking her name - which she gave - and I asked her if she was the owner of the company. She said she was and that as such, she would do business any way she chose to. I can't tell you how taken aback I was. I said that I didn't understand how they could stay in business this way to which she replied "And I don't understand how YOU function!" I told her that I would be reporting her to the Better Business Bureau and she told me to "Go right ahead".

Unreal!! I've made hundreds and hundreds of online purchases and I've NEVER had anything like this happen. There have been times where items have arrived damaged; I've returned them with no problem. There have been times where I've received the incorrect merchandise; when I've notified the company, they rectify the situation immediately and tell me to keep the incorrect item. Whatever the problem has been - and honestly, there have been very few - every company that I've ever dealt with has handled it quickly, professionally and to our mutual satisfaction. Not this one. Not this time.

I did report her to the BBB, and I'm letting everyone I know to use extreme caution should you ever decide to order from this company.

My advice: stick with the world's best backscratcher:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Great Race Place

Yesterday Kevin and I 'trotted' off to Santa Anita - the Great Race Place! Mom and dad received some free tickets in the mail and were unable to go, so they offered them to us. We had a great time!

It was a beautiful day - not too warm, not too cool and lots of hazy sunshine. Having been to Santa Anita over the past couple of years and seeing how the crowd has really dwindled, we were so happy to see that there was a very nice crowd! When I was younger, my parents and grandparents went to the races often. At that time, there were very few off-track betting sites (of which there are many now) so the track was nearly always packed during the season. Watching the crowd lessen over the past couple of years has made me kind of sad, so I was thrilled to see more people in attendance yesterday.

How did we do? Well, let's just say we'll be reporting to work on Monday ;o) But we had a really fun time. This is was just the fall Oak Tree meet; we're looking forward to going back when the regular season opens in late December!

...and, I'm off! (but you already knew that ;o)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do you remember these?

Apparently these have become like fine diamonds and gold ... rare and terribly expensive!

These little Halloween treat sacks used to be a dime a dozen - literally. Around the first of October when everyone started filling their shelves with candy corn and other Halloween goodies, you'd find these cute goodie bags right along with them. Of course, those were the days before plastic became king.

The other day, one of our teachers brought in a catalog that she'd received in the mail. The catalog had all sorts of nostalgic, hard to find items. Two pages had old fashioned candies, which made me start thinking. For Halloween, I thought it would be fun to have a 'Retro Candy Day'. I found a site that has lots of favorites I remember from when I was growing up, so I sent the site to the staff and asked what they thought of the idea. There were many enthusiastic responses! Since it looks like it's a go, I thought it would be fun to bring a bunch of the classic Halloween goodie bags so everyone would have something to hold their treats.

Silly me, I thought I'd just be able to pop into Walmart and find the bags without any problem. Um. No. You know what you can find? Lots and lots and lots of plastic and cellophane bags. It's not that they're not cute, and I'm sure that one day we'll consider them retro, but they're just not the same thing. So I came home thinking I'd be able to find them online --- and I was right, you can. ...if you don't mind spending and arm and a leg!

I found some plain paper treat sacks and Michael's and ended up buying those, but I am SO disappointed. Not just because I couldn't find them to buy, but because it seems like that's just one more piece of my childhood that's gone by the wayside.

If you find any, please let me know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Hull-uva Ship

I definitely know when it's getting close to Halloween around these parts. Not because of the falling leaves and chill in the air (uh, no chill here ... it was 100 degrees today!), but because the neighborhoods in our area begin decorating their houses to shiver the timbers of the young trick-or-treaters who will soon be making their way across the lawn and up to the front porches across city to fill their goodie bags with candy.

One of the neighbors whose house I pass every day on my way to work has decided to make a change this year. In past years, they've built a 'castle' in their driveway marking guidelines that all of the hob-gobblins follow along to reach their destination. This year, however, they've decided to build a ship. Or, rather, part of a ship. And let me just say, it's *amazing*! I'm not sure what these folks do for a living, but considering how elaborate their displays are, something tells me they might be in set building and/or design.

I was describing this ship to my friend Linda yesterday when she asked me how big the ship is. I told her that it probably stood about 12-15 feet. Then I decided that pictures speak louder than words, so I stopped this morning on my way to work and snapped a few photos. While they are still in the process of building it, what they have so far is pretty impressive! Check it out for yourself:
Pretty cool, no?!

I can't wait to see the finished product. I'll post more pictures when it's complete.

Having a Mary Tyler Moore Day

My sister Debbie left a voicemail message on my cell phone the day before yesterday. She said "I'm having a Mary Tyler Moore day!" Without even thinking about it, I knew exactly what she meant.

I called her back and when she picked up, I asked her one question: "How is your hair bump?"

She explained that, while it had been tamed by then, the day before every time she moved her head, she could feel it flopping from side to side.

I'm not sure if it's a sister thing that I knew exactly what she meant, or a generational thing. We grew up in the Mary Tyler Moore Show era and can remember a TON of things from the show by heart. Did you do this in your family, too? Our drama teacher came in to the office yesterday and I asked her what she would think of if someone said to her that they were having a MTM day. She immediately said: hair bump! Solidarity, sistah! She gets it. She said that she and her sister do exactly the same thing my sis and I do. She said that episode is also famous in their family for another reason. Every time she and her sister feel like they're not looking their best, they say to each other "I usually look soooo much better than this!" ...exactly the speech that Mary gave in that episode when she walked up to receive her TEDY award.

While I believe it is a 'sister thing', it's clearly also a generational thing. While having this conversation, another friend of mine asked our office aide if she knew who Mary Tyler Moore was. (Keep in mind, these are middle school students we're talking about.) She said "no". My boss asked her if she knew what M*A*S*H was. She said "no". I asked her if she knew who the Kardashians were; she said "Yes!".

I don't know about you, but I'm afraid of this generation. Very afraid.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Time!

Yesterday we went up to mom and dad's for dinner and to help with a few chores. One of the things on the list was picking all of the apples from the tree. This isn't exactly a 'chore', it's really more like FUN!

Mom and dad have only one apple tree in the yard, and in past years, it really hasn't produced a whole lot of fruit. And what fruit it did produce was generally eaten either by the squirrels, the birds, or both. Last year, however, dad discovered these little bags filled with dander that the squirrels don't like at all. You hang them in the spring and the squirrels pretty much leave the apples alone. Which is a good thing for us! Last year the tree yielded quite a bit of fruit, and this year, even more!

After we picked the apples, all I could think about was a warm, fresh apple crisp. Mmmmm. I couldn't resist - I just had to make one! Does anything say "Fall" more than fresh apples cooking in warm, spicy cinnamon? I think not! After dinner, we dished up bowls of apple crisp and topped them with a scoop of rich, decadent vanilla ice cream. Mercy. It was delicious!

Thanks mom and dad for all of the wonderful apples! We've shared some with our neighbor, Ted, will enjoy eating some out of hand, and freezing the rest for holiday pies. YUM!

The Good, the Not-so-Great, the Ugly, and the Completely Unaffordable

The Good: A friend of mine at work started selling cookware as a sideline. He has some health issues he's wrestling with an was told by his doctor that, to avoid going on a certain medication, he needed to lose some weight. Just about that time, he discovered a line of cookware that helps him cook more healthfully. As a result, he lost 25 pounds! He is so excited about it, he decided to start working for the company.

The Not-So-Great: This friend is a nice guy and is well liked at work, so everyone is really trying to support him in his efforts and everyone has been booking cookware demo parties right and left. (*Awkward*) Though invited to several of the parties, I'd managed to successfully avoid committing to any of the parties, until...

The Ugly: Until one of my friends said 'Remember that desk I moved for you?' I did remember, but it has been years and years ago. Not knowing where this was leading, in a puzzled voice, I said 'Sure, I remember.' To which he replies 'Will you and Kevin come to my cooking party?' UGH. There it was, right out there in the open: the spider and the fly. Sure, we'll come to the party.

The Completely Unaffordable: Though it was his party, because we had only three people (besides my friend who booked the party and my friend who was doing the demo), they asked if they could have the party at our house. Sure, that's fine. At least I get to come home, change into comfy clothes, and sit in our own kitchen for the demo. For the demo, they prepare a five course meal for you: salad, mixed vegetables, 'fried' chicken, lasagna and a cake for dessert. Throughout the demo, they talk about the benefits of the cookware, the company itself and how it started, how they found the company and how it's changed their life, etc. After the demo and the meal, you get down to brass tacks and find out the price of the cookware. HOLY MOLY I'd heard that it was expensive, but I had no idea that it would be THAT much. How much? Well, let's just say the top of the line set would be equivalent to buying a very good used car. And the monthly financing would, indeed, be just as much as a car payment.

Takeaway of the Story: It's great to help out your friends (keep your friends close), BUT be realistic and don't let the pressure get to you and buy something you know you neither need nor can afford (keep your checkbook closer).

We did have a fun time, though! Here are a few pics of the evening...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Grammy Museum

Gosh, time flies doesn't it? I can't believe I haven't posted this event yet since it's two weeks old! Well, almost...


For the Smithsonian Magazine Free Museum Day event, we chose the Grammy Museum at the LA Live complex by Staples Center. What an AMAZING place! I mentioned that I really think it's mis-named; though there is Grammy material and information there, it really encompasses music in general, not just specifically 'Grammy's'. A fine line maybe, but I think it's a distinction worth noting. Some people might not be inclined to go to such a specific museum, but if they knew that it was more broad spectrum, they might give it a try. And trust me, it's totally worth it!

The museum itself is 4 stories tall. The bottom floor really doesn't account for too much - it's basically just an entrance. It did, however, have one of Keith Moon's drum sets, so that was pretty cool! From the bottom floor, they direct you into the elevator that goes to the 4th floor and drops you off - that's really where the museum begins.

There were TONS of things on exhibit (Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar, Buddy Rich's drum sticks, Pavarotti's tuxedo...) and lots of interactive, hands-on opportunities. There were guitars that you could 'play'; you put on a set of headphones and pressed different buttons on the guitar to get different sounds and pressed different 'waaa-waaa' pedals to add different dimensions to the sound. SO COOL! They also had electronic drum sets that you, again, would listen through headphones to a piece of music (all different types from rock to symphonic) and play the drums for the track. Again, SO COOL! There were also mixing boards, tons of music history, exhibits currently dedicated to James Brown, Roy Orbison and Bob Marley - and so much more. There were fun, interesting, and different things to do and see on each level.

We had lunch at the Farm of Beverly Hills first (also at the LA Live complex) first, and then headed over to the museum. By the time we finished lunch, we didn't get to the museum until a bit after one, and because one of our friends had other plans for the evening, we only stayed until about 3:30. Next time I would definitely plan on spending more time there - there was just too much cool stuff that I wasn't able to explore as fully as I would have liked. No matter - we had a fantastic time! If you're ever in the area, I'd definitely recommend that you pop into the Grammy Museum for a visit; it's still a bargain - even NOT on free museum day - at just $12.95 for a ticket.

Here are a few pics...