So you know what stinks?

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social-media
I keep a list of things I want to blog about when I get some time (ha, time!) and this one has been percolating for a while.

But the rush to ello the last few days brought it to the surface.

Remember how fun and amazing it was to play multi-player games on GEnie? But it was so expensive; $12 per hour during the day (less at night) and it added up quickly. The people who were knew how to navigate this system? (There was no graphic user interface!) They were awesome. Cool. Ahead of their time. FINE, you want to say geeky? Say it! But I say, these people were pioneers.

This would be a good time to tell you that I hung out on USENet, The Well, and more. Whatever. Say what you will. Aliza will back me up.

Things really started to change when Myspace popped up. We made profiles and connected with our friends. It was fun…it wasn’t bulletin boards and geeks. It was for everyone. And it was pretty cool. Until it became overrun with kids and loud music that popped up when you clicked on anything.

We (the geeky crowd) were well positioned and waiting for a better, cooler option. And the options kept coming. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram. And a ton of options in between.

And each of these was pretty darn interesting until other people started joining. Right?

I’m exaggerating but you have to admit that a lot of people complain about the newbies and the inane conversation. Because before they joined? Total intellectual stimulation and creative banter. Now? Annoying banter, marketers and people who don’t get the etiquette.

All the cool kids have been poised and ready for the newest excitement and an excuse to move out of the mainstream online spaces. So ELLO!

Today, I watched my friends sign up in droves. I’ve been there for a bit now, but not active because actually? I don’t know exactly what to do there. The folks that beat me there were so cool and so creative and posted such gorgeous images that I was speechlessly in awe. But now, my friends are there. So, I’m talking.

If this doesn’t remind you of the playground, you’re not paying attention.

I can’t wait to see what happens, but if history is a good indicator, someone is going to get suspended, someone is going to get beat up, and someone (me) is going to trip and fall.

And the cycle continues.

A penny for your thoughts.

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photo courtesy of sxc.hu jweston

photo courtesy of sxc.hu jweston


My grandmother (we called her Nana) came to our house every Saturday at 11am. We’d order 1/2 lb. corned beef, 1/2 lb. turkey, 1/4 lb. brisket, loaf of rye bread, cole slaw and potato salad from Caplan’s Deli.

Every week.

Sometimes, it was annoying that I couldn’t make other plans and had to be there. But most of the time, I loved it.

Let me tell you about the pennies.

We’d save our pennies for Nana. After lunch, we’d give them to her and tell her how many we had. She’d buy them from us and round up. So if we gave her 13 pennies, we’d get a quarter. Not too shabby.

Every week, this happened. And every week, she brought us Jelly Krimpets.

Nana had set up savings accounts for my brother, sister, and me. She deposited the pennies into our accounts. And she padded it a little. Or more than a little.

Because when I turned 18, there was over $1,000 in that account.

Do you save your pennies?

Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander

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table

Originally published July 15, 2014 at the fabulous TueNight.

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for.

I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word.

My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes.

My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal.

And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of links to gorgeous furniture he’s found online, as well as unusually beautiful ensembles and fabulous homes. Plus, my son knows his way around tools. The natural conclusion was that we make a sofa table together. I’d been looking for one for some time and could not seem to find what I wanted. And much to my joy, when I asked if he would help, he was all in.

So one Saturday not long after, when my fabulous sister-in-law Liz asked me if I wanted to go barn sale-ing, I jumped at the chance. And I brought my son along, too. We took measurements for the table and started the hunt.

We found an old door at our first stop, which was a cute vintage marketplace called Sweet Clover. The piece was leaning unobtrusively against the wall with a $50 price tag. It had lots of personality, in addition to lots and lots of splinters. But hey, we have a power sander.

Fifty bucks seemed a little steep, especially in light of the fact that we were simply planning to take it apart and use a third of it, but before we even had a chance to haggle, the vendor told us she was pulling all her merchandise out that day and “how does $30 sound?”

It sounded great. Sold.

The door fit easily in the minivan and the three of us talked about what kind of legs it might pair well with as we drove home. We decided to order midcentury iron pin-style legs from eBay that night. And the next day, my son and I started disassembling. We pulled nails. We struggled to get the rusty hardware off. It wasn’t easy, especially since we wanted it to stay intact so we could put it back together once the wood was finished.

We sweat. We cursed. We cut wood. Together.

My son and I thought about finishes and tested different ones. We strategized and struggled. We cursed more. But we sure did laugh. And it’s amazing where the conversation can go when you’re not trying to make a conversation.

And did I say we sanded? Oh yes. We sanded and sanded and sanded. Then came the polyurethane and even more sanding. And more poly.

Then we put it all together.

The result was the best five days of my summer. We didn’t just make a table; we made a memory.

How My Husband Won My Heart and My Kids’ Stomachs

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Andrew and our oldest, Davis (now 19) in 1999.

Originally published June 10, 2014 over at the fabulous TueNight.

On our third date, Andrew cooked me an incredible dinner: leg of lamb, roasted asparagus and crispy potatoes. It was truly impressive.

Years later, he told me that he learned to cook because it was a good dating move. I might have felt played, but I like eating well just a tad too much. So, I not only let him cook for me regularly, I married him.

Fast forward to when our first son was 3 ½ years old. He went to a preschool friend’s house for a play date and stayed for dinner. (If you’re thinking woo hoo, what a break for Wendy, think again. We had a 1 ½ year old and an infant at home.)

I picked Davis, my oldest son, up at about 7:00 pm and, as always, he was full of stories! What a great reporter he was. So, chat, chat, chat… and then, “Mom. Guess what? It was so weird at Daniel’s house.”

“Really, what was weird?” (You can only imagine where my thoughts were headed.)

“When we had dinner, it was weird. The mom cooked.”

It’s a true gift that my three sons have a father who has taught them some really important life lessons:

  • There’s no substitute for a good knife
  • It is loving to make good food with care
  • Fresh ingredients make better food
  • Do what you do, and do it well
  • Presentation counts
  • Doing it right takes time – don’t take short cuts on the stuff that matters (example: a good ragu!)

Andrew cooks almost every night. It’s true that I get the honor about twice a quarter (and gripe about it on Facebook), and I humbly submit that I’m improving. But I don’t enjoy cooking. And he does. I call that a good partnership. Don’t you?

But more than that, I’m grateful that our three sons have a dad who expresses pride and love through food.

Our sons are 15, 17 and 19 now. Last week, they cooked dinner for Andrew’s birthday. They read cookbooks. They searched online for hours and hours. They agonized over the ingredients. They shopped for the ingredients. They prepped and planned and strategized.

The menu? Hold onto your hat:

Andalusian green salad
Chorizo and shrimp paella
Citrus-olive oil cake with sorbet
It’s exciting to see the delicious life skills they’ll take into adulthood, thanks to Andrew. Bon appétit!

How Working in Fast Food Prepared Me for Life on a Slippery Floor

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ginos

Originally published May 27, 2014 over at the fabulous TueNight.

I have worked as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to pull dandelions for my mom at a penny a piece (I only realized as an adult that my parents were paying us to stay out of the house), and I swept the floors and stamped coin envelopes at my family’s magnet factory. It was awesome growing up around all those magnets, but the highlight was the huge piles of flattened packing boxes my brother, sister and I used to climb onto and lounge on. So, maybe we played a little more than we worked.

My first real job was in fast food. I worked at Gino’s and for those of you outside the mid-Atlantic region, Gino’s was a regional chain co-owned and named for Gino Marchetti of Baltimore Colts fame. They had the Kentucky Fried Chicken rights around here so (close your eyes and imagine this), KFC and burgers in one place. I know. Dreamy.

At 17 years old, when I retired from my Gino’s career, I had already acquired some important life lessons that prepared me for the future:

Do not define people by their outward appearance

I had an elegant brown polyester uniform. The good news was that it never actually looked dirty. From this, I learned that clothes do not define us. Because seriously — I was not the brown man-made fabric type. Did I mention the hairnet?

Just because it’s free (or cheap) doesn’t mean it’s a good decision

We had a meal allowance (see pay stub!) and I ordered a Gino Giant on every shift that cost just a couple cents. Gino Giant’s were just like Big Macs, but the special sauce was just a little more special. While I never tired of these yumtastic sandwiches, I came to realize that the elastic waist of those beautiful brown pants only stretched so far.

Choose the right shoes

Adding to the caché of our uniforms were the requisite white shoes. It was the ‘70s, after all. I had a pair of platform nursing shoes. In the world of nursing shoes, I thought they were the least awful. But with no tread, I was constantly sliding across the KFC oil-coated floor. This lesson has served me well while hiking (no flip flops), and shoveling snow (no sneakers).

Don’t tolerate bullies

One of the girls I worked with was the worst kind of mean. I was able to ignore her — until the day I saw her spit into a customer’s soda. I marched into the manager’s office and turned her in. She threatened to beat me up and actually waited by my car when I got off shift. Luckily, she only hissed at me. But, she never again spit in another person’s soda at Gino’s.

Trusting is good; gullible is not so good

Truth is, I haven’t found the perfect balance here. And when I first started this job and they sent me out to water the fake plants and then sent me outside to turn the light off on the huge bucket-of-chicken sign and laughed when I struggled to find the non-existent switch, I complied. You’d think the humiliation would have taught me to be more suspicious, but in fact, I’m still pretty darn trusting.

Respect your fellow workers and suck it up

When we were on duty, we were on duty until our relief showed up. Sometimes they were late and we couldn’t leave. Not cool. Respect your co-workers and do what you say you’re going to do. People count on you. And someone has to do the crap work. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned to do what it takes to get the job done – both the glamorous and the not so glamorous.

Most importantly, I learned how to be professional and courteous when faced with extreme rudeness. Can you be cordial when a grown man throws a crispy chicken thigh at you? I can. How valuable a skill is that?

If I asked you…

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Image credit from sxc: cieleke

Image credit from sxc: cieleke


I have a serious question for you.

Ladies: If I asked you to describe your best friend, what would you say?

She’s the best listener.
She is an incredible mother.
She’d do anything for me.
She’s brilliant.
She’s the kindest person I know.
She’s hysterical.
She always there for me.
She’s an incredible athlete.
She can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
She’s the most beautiful person I know.
I don’t know what I’d do without her.
She always knows the right thing to say.
She gives so much.
She’s kind and sensitive.
She’s incredible.

Now, what would you say if I asked you to describe yourself? Would you say any of those things?

Maybe you should.