Like Flying the Space Shuttle, Only Harder

I’m going to change my name to “Anyone”, on account of that age-old adage “It could happen to anyone.”  Yeah?  Then how come I’M ALWAYS THAT ANYONE?

It’s not a rhetorical question, I expect an answer by noon tomorrow.

Happen to me it did, my car broke down.  I know why…not three weeks ago I was bragging to some friends about how my car broke down and left me stranded for the first time ever since time began ever and it is a ten year old car with well over 100,000 miles on it and look how cool I am, all driving a car that doesn’t break down and everything. I ROCK.  Only that totally jinxed me because in a matter of six hours, not only did my car completely break down, my husband’s did too.  And is that a funny story…

He had a late meeting for work and had just called me to say he was almost home.  At that exact time, I had been reaching for the phone to call him to tell him that there was a strange pickup truck turning into our driveway and OMG, now a man is getting out of the car!  He’s heading toward’s the house!  He looks just like you!!  Do you have a twin I don’t know about, because if so I have some friends that I really do need to set up…

Of course it was him.  His car had died too, leaving us on the phone with Enterprise (“Hello, Enterprise? I need to rent a car…”) begging for whatever they could get to us as quickly as they could get it.  Do you know what they gave me?  It starts with ‘mini’ and ends with ‘van’.

Gag me with a fork.

Because I know you’ve read my Empty Bucket List, you know that #7 precludes me from owning such a beast.  It does not, however, preclude me from driving one in the extreme circumstances in which I happen to have found myself.

I don’t understand new technology, obviously.  This idiot Dodge Grand Caravan does.not.shut.up.  It beeps at you and clicks and honks and waves and somewhere lurking below the racing-style steering wheel (hello?  in a minivan??) is a button that I’m sure would cause my laundry to pop out of the trunk, all folded and sorted.  In short?

NIGHTMARE TO DRIVE, HENCE THE TITLE.

It took me ten minutes to find the stupid PRNDL, which is up on the dashboard instead of down on the floorboard between the two front seats where it belongs.  It looked like a joystick from 1983.  I decided after another ten minutes that I would just drive with the windshield wipers on, in utter humiliation on a beautifully sunny day, rather than waste any more time trying to figure out how to turn them off.  I’m sure I turned them on accidentally trying to contort my way into the thing…I am an SUV woman all the way, baby.  If you’ve got less than 18″ vertical clearance I don’t even want to talk to you, much less ride in you.  This thing rides so low I checked my butt for flames of friction every time I got out.

And woe unto you if you don’t put on your seat belt the very instant said flaming buttocks hit the seat, for you will be beeped at incessantly until you comply.  Big Brother, anyone?  I am 41 years old, I don’t need my car policing my seatbelt wearing habits, thankyouverylittle.

The boys, of course, loved it.  Michael was all over the growl of the engine.  So let’s stop there…a minivan engine needs to growl?  Who do they think is driving these things, Mario Andretti?  I’ll tell you who drives them…suburban women.  They don’t need their car to growl, they need it to warn them when the light is green so they can get off their phone/put the mascara down/stop reading and hit the gas.  Growling engine?  Not so much.

I have never been so happy in my life to have my 2002 Nissan XTerra back.  I love that car.  I love that it has tic-tac-toe etched in the back left quarter panel, courtesy of a younger John and Michael.  I love that the bumpers are faded as a result of a problem with the plastic that year, and I can tell instantly when there’s another of my model year around because of that.  I love that it sits really high so I can see over the other cars and figure out what the delay in traffic is.  I {heart} my car.

Thanks to Cinco Car Care, I have it back.  They fixed Patrick’s too, so we are finally back in business.  I’ve been an errand running fool all day long, and even picked up the first Christmas present of the season.

Giddyup!

Cheers,

Steph


Cooking Disasters with Steph: How Bad Will This Be?

{reposted verbatim from my parenting board}

*sigh*

THIS IS WHY I DON’T COOK, MOTHER.

I am responsible for the green bean casserole this year. My Mom calls me yesterday and says to double the recipe, more people are coming. No big whoop. Except, I have but one can of cream of mushroom soup.

Hello, Kroger. Didn’t we just leave this party?

I buy another can, plus more french fried onions and canned green beans. This is making stuff from scratch for me, people. Only I buy the cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic. With Roasted Garlic, of course, being the key phrase.

So I have two batches in the same dish mixed together, one with the right soup and one with the garlic soup. How bad will it be? I hate green beans no matter what you do to them so I will not be partaking, but for those who will…is garlic a bad thing in this situation?

Keep in mind, what I’m looking for (since it’s already in the oven) is “SURE, it’ll be great!”

Help me.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Cheers,

Steph


The Empty Bucket List

Everyone has been talking for a while now about their Bucket List and what they want to do before they die.  A movie with the same title evidently spurred this little bout of self-reflection?

Never one to follow trends, mostly because I would look completely ridiculous in skinny jeans since the only part of me that could be classified as skinny is my fingers and you can’t wear jeans on your hands, I have decided to create The Empty Bucket List:  Things I Have No Intention of Doing in This Lifetime.

To wit:

  1. Climb Mt. Everest.  I have the utmost respect for hard-core climbers and sherpas and yaks who can carry triple their weight using 1/3 the oxygen that I require just to move from my iMac to the refrigerator, but it’s totally not for me.
  2. Swim with dolphins.  You know why?  Being underwater is very disconcerting for me.  I am a good swimmer and can hold my own, but being out in the ocean where stuff can come at you from any angle freaks me out.  On land, I know that pretty much if something’s after me it will be in front of me, behind me, beside me, or above me.  Stuff doesn’t come at you from below.   IN THE OCEAN IT CAN, and that right there  is my tipping point.  So, no deep sea diving and consorting with finned animals for me.
  3. Try sushi.  Why?  Raw fish wrapped in seaweed.  There is nothing appealing to me about either of those things.
  4. Get a law degree.  I’ve been told I can argue with the best of them but having worked with lawyers for ten years, I have to say nothankyouverymuch to that one.  It would be awesome to be able to say, a la Harvey Levin, “I’m a law-yuh!” but it’s not in the cards for me.
  5. Go to Mardi Gras.  I have no religious affiliation with the celebration (read: I am not Catholic) and also?  I like drunks to be way far away from me if I’m out walking on a street late at night.  Beads don’t do it for me either.  Strike three, that’s out.
  6. Refuse to let my children eat sugared cereal.  My house, my rules.  Mother.
  7. Own a minivan.  You can talk to me all day long about how convenient those sliding doors are, how much room there is, how comfortable all the kids will be, how they can be reconfigured to seat the entire marching band comfortably, but you will be wasting your time.  I can sum up what is wrong with those vehicles in one word:  Minivan.
  8. Skydive.  Not for the reason you think…it’s more to do with the “stuff coming at you from any angle” issue I have.  Cannot hang with that feeling, I need for my feet to be on the ground.
  9. Spend more than $200 on a purse.  The bag I carry now is the one my younger son bought for me two Christmases ago, because my husband talked him out of the doorknob he’d picked out.  It’s black and the inside is bright pink and it came from Target and I love it.
  10. Lose the last ten pounds.  Obviously.

So there you have it, The Empty Bucket List.  I can’t wait to not get started on it!!

Cheers,

Steph


The Douche Bagette and What Season Are We In Again?

This morning was an anomaly.  I needed to get Michael to school by 7:30 so that I could go back the other direction and get John to the orthodontist by 8:15, and stop back by the house in between for John to brush his teeth first.  I hear you, he should have brushed before we left the house but if you have an almost 11-yr old boy you realize why that didn’t happen.  Because it would have made sense.

So we are at an intersection having sat through a couple of red lights which was not unexpected.  But what WAS unexpected was the car in front of me that stopped at a green light.  GREEN.  As in, the color that means “Go!”  I’d just refereed the millionth skirmish of the day, trying to decide between Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”.  You know what?  When I was little you got the radio or silence.  That was it.  Thanks to Apple we have the iPod and now kids have 2900 and counting different songs they can ask to listen to any time (read: every.single.time) we are in the car.  We could be driving from the garage to the community mailbox and I will hear “CAN WE LISTEN TO MUSIC??” Presumably because they will all die from a 10 second lack of entertainment.

I lost my point…oh wait, here it is:

I was all “…quick to the point to the point no fakin'” when I hit the  brakes to avoid crashing into the car that was stopped at the green light.  Not a terribly patient person when confronted with obvious stupidity, I honked my horn.  Two Four times.  And the guy is still sitting there and I’m like “It’s the peddle on the right!  Push it and you’ll go!” and “You waiting on an engraved invitation, pal?” and by the time I was halfway through “Did you get your driver’s license at Sears?” I saw it.  The police car coming from the left trying to go through the intersection and the reason the car in front of me was stopped.

Ergo: me = douche bagette

Changing gears, I walked outside this weekend and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but this:

Stephanie Kennedy, Candid Canon, hibiscus, photography

Silly hibiscus, blooms are for Summer

I keep hearing about a cool front on its way, but I don’t think I believe it.  From where I sit, it might as well be July!  =)

Cheers,

Steph


Semper Paratus

For the non-Coasties out there, and for those who don’t speak Latin (Dan Quayle, this means you), that’s “Always Ready”.  US Coast Guard motto, at your service.  Military service has always been important to me, mostly because my family is rife with it.  My Mom’s father was a navigator on Navy flights over Dresden in WWII.  My Great Uncle was on Iwo Jima…he was missing part of his left ring finger and it was always the subject of controversy growing up.  How did he lose it?

The line he always fed us was this: “I will tell you, but you can only ask me one question about it, and you have to promise never to ask me again.”

We all agreed, and his answer was always the same (clearly we didn’t keep our promise): “It was bitten off.”

That left SO much to the imagination…by whom?  When?  Did they chew it up and swallow it, or spit it out? TELL US MORE.  Yet he refused.  The likeliest story is that it was shot off in the war that he never talked about.  Back then, men didn’t discuss what they saw.  They did their job and came home.

Later, a different generation did the same thing…my Great Uncle’s son flew supply planes for the first Gulf War in the early 1990’s.  I can remember that his wife would sleep at his parent’s house when he was deployed, she just felt safer there than home alone with her two little girls.

My own father was in the Army ROTC and went on to serve five years of active duty, 18 months of it in Seoul, South Korea.  He came back and was a weekend warrior on reserve duty for the entirety of my childhood.  He finally retired a Lt. Colonel in I think it was the late 1990’s.  I still have vivid memories of checking the calendar to see if this was the third weekend of the month, because if it was we were left with just ourselves and Mother so that meant lots of Uno and Scrabble and her telling us to quit trying to kill one another.  Some things never change.

My husband is a veteran of the US Coast Guard.  He was front and center when the original Drug Wars began with Mexico.  He was injured in the line of duty and is a Disabled Veteran now.  It’s funny…before we met, I didn’t think much about what the Coast Guard did.  You think they go out and rescue people who fall off of boats in a drunken stupor, or rescue coeds off of South Padre when they cram too many Spring Breakers onto a party barge.  But the truth is, they have elite forces like all the other branches of the military and those who serve there are placed in danger daily.

The interesting thing is, they don’t see it that way.  There’s a call to duty, a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves that lies behind every veteran I have ever met.  It’s something I can understand, but not fully because I’ve never done anything like that before.  I would probably be all “Look, you MORON, that’s why the sign says ‘MAXIMUM LOAD: 15’ on it.  What?  You thought your group of 25 drunken friends could challenge the laws that govern what makes a boat float?  Then begone with ye…swim to shore on your own!”  Strangely, the Coast Guard frowns upon that sort of response which is why my husband was much better suited to serve than I would have been.

So anyway, to he and all the other veterans out there who have served in any capacity, in any branch, I would like to offer you a few words:

Thank you.

Cheers,

Steph


How Not To Be a Hoarder

{side note:  what exactly is the rule again on capitalization in a title?  Is it that any word less than three letters is not capitalized?  I never can remember…}

I’m usually more of a Shark Tank or Celebrity (or non-celebrity) Apprentice type, but I went against the grain one night last week and watched Hoarders.  It’s not unlike a train wreck…you just can’t look away and before you know it you’re emotionally invested in these people’s lives and wanting to call and donate to a psychological care fund for that poor, poor Chicago-area woman who had to climb over her own crap just to get in her back door, and then you want to call up her two daughters and invite them over for a hug and tell them it will all be OK and that they don’t have to follow in her footsteps and you will be sure they don’t.

No, that’s not my usual cup of tea.  But I watched it and re-committed to my mantra:  Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  Having watched that show, I decided that not every single watercolor butterfly or eggshell caterpillar the boys made in their combined six years of preschool was, in fact, beautiful enough to be kept.  I dragged every one of the plastic tubs I’d stuffed full of memories out into the game room and went through it, piece by loving piece.  And here’s what that looks like:

Hoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly Lady

My goal was to reduce it one container per child so that I could keep only the very most important things.  The last thing I need is one of them showing up on some talk show in 2015, blaming their life’s tragedies on the fact that Mom didn’t value their childhood enough to keep at least one box of their junk.  And that is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to me.  But any more than one container would put me in the category of people who can’t let go of stuff.  You know, the category called “Hoarders.”

By the time it was all said and done, the room looked like this:

Hoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly LadyHoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly Lady

That’s five empty plastic containers that I can use in the garage to corral the various balls and bats and rackets, and two lawn and leaf bags, ready to be taken out to the trash.  Giddyup. It took me roughly four hours, but it was time well spent.

Photography tip:  You know how it was all the rage a while back to “fill the frame with your subject”?  That’s cool and all and certainly has it’s place depending on how you intend to use the image, but if you do that all the time you miss out on the little background gems.  In these shots, things like the globe, the games and books on the  bookshelf, the turtle Pillow Pal on the rocking chair, the rocking chair itself, etc.  Sometimes, the background tells a better story than the actual subject itself.  Something to keep in mind.

I think I’m going to make a monthly date with that show going forward to ensure that I will never have to worry about being attacked by my own stuff when I open random doors in my home.  Who’s with me??

Cheers,

Steph, the non-hoarder


Taking Stock: Why Doesn’t iStockPhoto Like My Shrooms?

I’ve taken and sold stock photos for about six years now, and it’s a great way to build passive income.  Plus, it’s a super cool thing to talk about in job interviews because a surprisingly large number of people have no idea where magazines, book covers, TV shows, frame people and billboards get their photos and I get to be all “Well, let me enlighten you…”  Plus, I don’t know a lot about the financial industry so I can’t talk about sophisticated stuff like stock derivatives or margin calls or otherwise use Wall Street words accurately in a conversation but it makes me sound like I can when I talk about “passive income” and how selling pictures of my kids helps me build it. See?  Win/win.

About a year or two ago, I went exclusive with one agency, iStockPhoto.  Say what you will about how they’ve helped commoditize photography (I think they totally did and I think that’s totally OK), they are the most recognizable brand out there right now.  Their purchase by Getty Images how many ever years ago that was helped legitimize them.  Now, I can tell people I sell photos for a subsidiary of Getty Images.  SUPER COOL and completely accurate.  I had sold at a few other agencies but didn’t see nearly the traffic that I did at iStock.  Plus, going exclusive allowed me a larger percentage of each sale, as well as free Moo cards.  AWESOME!

So anyway, having sold there for so long and having gone exclusive doesn’t exempt one from the rigorous approval process when you submit a new photo for inclusion in your portfolio.  I have tried to have these two photos accepted twice now, and twice now I’ve gotten REJECTED:

mushrooms, shrooms, iStock Photo, rejection, stock photographymushrooms, shrooms, iStock Photo, rejection, stock photography

The first time, it was because the image had artifacting.  Translation:  one too many a pass with Unsharp Mask.  Lesson learned.  Second time?  Too dark.  Huh?  Can’t the designer just lighten it post-purchase?  Ugh.

For a while there I was in quite a state because part of being exclusive is that your acceptance to rejection ratio has to stay above a certain number.  I have no clue what that number is because for a long time, nothing I sent got rejected.  Having been stuffed twice in two tries, I got all paranoid.  Am I still good enough?  Do I really know how to take pictures?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??

But then I calmed down and was all “I know what it is…iStockPhoto hates mushrooms.”

Yeah, that’s totally it.

Cheers,

Steph