Thank you Bioware

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

In my last post I talked about how playing the video game Fallout 4 by Bethesda Game Studios helped me maintain my sanity during the time that my elderly father’s health was declining. However, once daddy passed away and I was dealing with all of the grief associated with that, I needed something different, something familiar and comforting. Only one video game series meets that qualification – the Mass Effect trilogy created by Bioware.

I was already having Mass Effect flashbacks due to Bethesda’s use of voice actor Brandon Keener for many characters in Fallout 4. Brandon Keener also voices my favorite video game character ever – Garrus Vakarian. Garrus is a companion and eventually a potential romance partner in the Mass Effect games. So, when my heart was torn apart by grief, I returned to saving the galaxy with my virtual friends and lovers.

Garrus Vakarian Picture courtesy of

I will be the first to admit that I am partial to Bioware games – their storytelling is what makes their games shine and my heart sing. The writers at Bioware create believable worlds inhabited by believable, but flawed, characters. Jeff Moreau, known to all as Joker, is the pilot of the Normandy (a space-faring frigate) in all three games. Not only is Joker the best pilot in the Alliance (human military) and a total smart ass – he also has brittle-bone disease. Joker is a wonderful example of how our limitations don’t have to define who we are – we can shine in spite of them. At the other end of the spectrum is Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. In a time in which humans know they are no longer alone in the galaxy, Ashley doesn’t like aliens – a pretty big drawback for someone on a mission that includes as many alien crew members as it does humans. Ashley’s unfailing negative attitude toward non-humans is one of the main reasons that when forced to choose between saving Ashley or fellow crewmate Kaidan Alenko, I always choose Kaidan – even though once-sweet Kaidan turns into a complete dick in games 2 and 3.

My last year has included not one but TWO play-throughs of the Mass Effect trilogy. As with Fallout 4, the time spent working through virtual political machinations, fire fights, and brokering peace between warring races for the good of the galaxy helped me work through my feelings without getting lost in them. And the tears I shed over being forced to say goodbye to much loved characters such as Legion and David Anderson were not only for them but also for my daddy.

So, if any employees of Bioware see this post – thank you. Thank you for your games, your stories, and your characters – they mean more to me than I can ever explain in a simple blog post. Your stories gave me the push that I needed to finally start writing – none of my stories would exist without yours. And, thank you for helping me through one of the hardest times in my life.

And now, dear Bioware, we are entering a new phase together. Just as I started getting my emotional feet back under me, my mother passed away. So, now I am leaning on you again. I have big hopes for the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda on March 21, 2017 – one day after this post goes live. I am hoping that Andromeda will bring the best of both worlds to this new stage of grief – exploring new worlds with new virtual friends while bringing back the best of what I loved about the original games – wonderful stories and believably flawed characters, both human and alien. Here’s to more adventures – and more healing – together. *raises chai latte in toast*

Thank you Bethesda

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

If you’ve kept up with my rather sporadic posts over the last fifteen months you know that there has been a lot of “life” in my life – including a lot of strong emotions to work through. (You can read the highlights here and here.) All of the sadness was sometimes overwhelming and really impacted my creativity. I wrote very little – blog posts or stories. I just couldn’t. I’m sure plenty of authors would write through the pain but mine was just too raw. Even though my brain was still working on stories, I just couldn’t put them in writing.

However, stories are too big of a part of me to turn my back on completely. I found my salvation in the stories of others, but not in books – in video games. During my grief I continued reading but it was easy for my attention to wander away from the pages and find its way back to all of the things that were so overwhelming. That way lies anxiety and panic attacks.

During this time my husband was playing Fallout 4 from Bethesda Game Studios. I wasn’t planning to play because I’m not a huge fan of open world games. (Also known as sandbox games.) There are a couple of reasons for this: First, there is SO MUCH to do in these games and I always feel like I have to do ALL of it which kind of sucks the joy out of the experience after a while. Second, the quests in most open world games tend to become a bit repetitive after a while and it starts to feel like you are just doing the same thing over and over in different locations. In spite of my trepidation, after the fall that started my father’s decline, I created an avatar in Fallout 4 and begin playing.

Image from via Pinterest

Image from via Pinterest

Many thanks to you, Bethesda. Your game helped me retain my sanity during a very difficult time in my life. I spent at least a portion of virtually every night for the next three months wandering the wasteland, building settlements, and avoiding Preston Garvey and his inane quests. When my heart was aching and I was tired of crying I could enter a virtual world and work through those emotions while I rescued settlers, battled ghouls, and avoided super mutants. At the end of a couple of hours of playing my emotions would once again be under control and while I might not be ready to face whatever the next day held, I was able to do so.

However, dear Bethesda, it was your decision to use Brandon Keener as the voice actor for so many of your characters that ultimately drove me to leave your game. How could I stay in the wasteland when those dulcet tones had me picturing the face of Garrus Vakarian at every turn? Nevertheless, in spite of that decision, it is you to whom my first thanks for helping me through the past year must go. So, thank you again Bethesda. I am forever in your debt.

How do you deal with extreme stress?

Let the SELLER Beware

Scam AlertBrace yourselves for a lengthy post my friends! In my non-writing life in addition to a full-time job in IT customer support, I’m also an independent designer for Origami Owl, a direct sales custom jewelry company. (If you look for me on their site, you won’t find me; I’m listed under my real name, not my pen name.) I recently became aware of a scam targeting those in direct sales when the scammers set their sights on me. It took me several internet searches before I stumbled upon the right words to find others impacted so I thought I would summarize my experience here – along with the things that set my internal alarm system off – as a warning to others who might find themselves in the same situation.

My journey began when I received the following email notice via my Origami Owl website:

Hello i have a list of stuffs I will like to order for my daughters wedding. I will appreciate if u can email me back at ( ) so I can forward you the list. Thank you. Mr David.

The fact that the message has a couple of grammatical errors is not enough to make me think SCAM! Grammar Nazis aside, we all make typos and fall victim to autocorrect. Some might think it odd that the customer contacted me about placing an order rather than just placing it on my site, but once again, that isn’t enough to indicate a scam. There are still plenty of people – especially older people – that are somewhat comfortable surfing the web, but not necessarily with actually ordering.

So, I contacted “Mr. David” to find out what I could do to assist. I received the following reply:

Thanks for getting back to me, I hate to say this, I am hearing impaired and hope you treat me like any of your other customers. Sadly for me this is the last Christmas we will be celebrating together as a family unless she comes for holiday. 

I’m getting her these gift as a surprise wedding gift so anytime she puts them on, she would always remember that mom got it for her… Below is the list of products I want, She’s my only child and my world. I will order some more for my self in the future. So reply to this email with an invoice with the total price and cell # as I might need to text you.


 I would like to send payment upfront so you can commence with the order, So let me know how much the grand-total  for the order would cost me and payment will be made out to you via cashier/certified check, once the check clears i will give you the shipping address to send it to.. Kindly get back to me with the total amount, Name, phone # and contact address where payment should be mailed to you. You will have it shipped to this address : 6300 44th street Sacramento, CA 95824.


Mr David.

This is where the first mental alarms went off. First, the total of the items listed was roughly $650. For someone to contact me out of the blue with an order that large made me a little suspicious. It kind of felt like the old saying “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Second, the shipping address was Sacramento, CA – the other side of the country. “Mr. David” could have found hundreds of designers closer to his location. However, I do have a friend in the Sacramento area and I had given her an Origami Owl bracelet for Christmas so it was completely within reason that she had referred him to me.

When tallying up Mr. David’s order I noticed some discrepancies, such as not ordering a band for a bracelet. When I emailed him his total, I included my recommendations for resolving the discrepancies and included two totals – one for the order as submitted and a second including my recommended changes.

The next response is where the warning bells became claxons:

I need to inform you that the payment for the products has been mailed to you via USPS courier service, my personal assistant is yet to get back to me with the tracking number from USPS although she told me its been mailed out. please do proceed to your bank immediately and get the payment check deposited into your bank account, funds will be available and fully cleared into your account the following day.

Also, I will like to notify you that she mistakenly gave you the wedding planner amount and gave the planner $644.95 which is ment for you, all you have to do is to just deduct the money for the product from the fund and Extra $20 as a gift for time and get the rest send to the wedding planner who is to book her ticket and other things needed to be done as soon as the money clears. Because she will be coming down to the area to visit all the vendors that will be working for us perior to the wedding day. Do get back to me asap to know you understand what i mean then i will get back to you with her account information to make the deposit. 

There were several areas of concern in this response. First, there was absolutely NO acknowledgment of the discrepancies I pointed out. Second, you have a “personal assistant” that mailed me the check but she couldn’t help you place the order online? Right. Last, the remainder of the response is classic scam: I’m going to send you money which you need to deposit immediately and then do this for me because there was a mistake. Yeah, not going to happen.

So, by this time, I’m confident that this is a scam but let’s just see where it goes. Then, the mail gods stepped in on my behalf. I didn’t receive the promised payment. The tracking number provided showed it as “In Transit” but it never arrived. So, after several days, being the professional that I am, I notified “Mr. David” of the problem. By this point, Mr. David must have thought he had a sure thing because he immediately sent me another payment by FedEx – he ever went so far as to overnight it! My dear “customer’s” excitement was almost palpable – he began texting me to thank me for “my caring” and to find out if I had received the payment. Now, a real, non-scammer customer would have taken this turn of events as an opportunity to fix his mistake and send me a payment for the correct amount. Not my dear Mr. David, his second money order was also for the incorrect amount – $4900 to be exact.

The payment itself was chock full of oddities. The FedEx label showed that the shipment came from Obi Arah at the The Blackstone Group in New York. Now, the Blackstone Group is real but their website shows no record of anyone named Obi Arah. The money order itself was supposedly drawn on Credit Union 1 in Anchorage Alaska. Once again, there is a Credit Union1 in Anchorage but why would a prominent New York firm write their checks from a Credit Union in Alaska? Well, they wouldn’t. The money order itself has a line which states “Ref: FRANCES MAUGA” Who the heck is Frances? Nowhere in our communications is a Frances listed. I even did an internet search for Frances and – big surprise (not) – didn’t find anything. The rather amusing clincher was the poorly formatted “letter” included. The letter from Michael Lee instructed me to email him at (such an official address don’t you think?) and send him a copy of my deposit slip. Just how stupid do you think I am “Michael”? I don’t send anyone anything involving my account numbers and if you are reading this, neither should you.

In this particular ploy, the scammers are hoping that you will deposit their fake money order. Then, when the funds become available to you, that you will forward the “accidental” overage to the account that they provide. They then abscond with your money leaving you to face the consequences. You see, the financial institutions will discover in a few days that the money order is fake. And, while hell may hath no fury like a woman scorned, that doesn’t hold a candle to a financial institution in danger of losing money. And, have no fear, they will not go after the scammer – they will go after YOU. Not only will you be expected to pay back the full amount of the fake money order, but you will be hit with fees out the wazoo. Afraid yet? Good.

I noticed that a lot of the others approached by these scammers are, like me, relatively new to the world of direct sales. (I saw reports from consultants with Origami Owl, Avon, and Mary Kay. I’m sure there are others as well.) Yes, the idea of making such a huge sale is exciting, and that is what they are banking on. They are hoping that our excitement will overwhelm our common sense and sadly, I’m sure sometimes it does. They wouldn’t keep trying if they weren’t occasionally successful.

Oh, how does my story end? With one last text to Mr. David:

“Hi Mr David! Thank you for the phony cashier’s check. I have made a copy of all documentation received from you – including IP addresses – and forwarded it to local law enforcement agencies and the FBI. Better luck next time!”

I then blocked his phone number and email address. Now, I didn’t really send anything to the FBI but if my threat put some fear into some dishonest person’s heart for just a minute, it was worth the little white lie.

What about you? Do you have any tales of scammers to share?

Hair We Go Again

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

I love the funky hair colors that so many people carry off so well and carried a secret desire to become one of them for some time. I even scoured Pinterest and other sites for ideas. It quickly became apparent that I seem to have two strikes working against me.

Strike One: Most of the examples of colorful hair are on blonds or brunettes. I don’t think I have found a single example of a natural redhead rocking a multi-colored look. Galaxy hair? Brunettes. Oil slick hair? Brunettes. Peekaboo hair? Blonds. Where are the redheads? Surely I’m not the only one that loves the cool colors.

Strike Two: I have short hair. Most of the short hairstyles with fun colors are an all-over color and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that extreme.

Finally, in February 2015, I decided to take the plunge. I told my stylist to book an appointment – we were going to add some blue and purple to my strawberry blond locks. After assuring her that I wouldn’t get in trouble at work, we were a go. Then, my father passed away; the appointment that I had scheduled would be the day of his funeral. I knew that I wanted to proceed with my plans but also knew that the appointment needed to be rescheduled. What to do? Postpone the appointment that I had been looking forward to with great excitement or try to reschedule it to before the funeral? After a relatively short internal debate, I decided to try and get it done before the funeral. My stylist was able to move my appointment up a day and, without telling anyone but my husband what I was planning to do, I “disappeared” for a few hours to have my hair done. To be honest, it was a much needed respite. After being surrounded by people for several days, this introvert needed a chance to get away and recharge a bit. Of course, by the time I got home, my husband had squealed on me and one of my sisters was waiting for me when I arrived. So, I rocked the look in the picture below to my father’s funeral. It caused a few raised eyebrows, but not nearly as many as I had expected.


When I had the color added, I asked the hairdresser how long it would last. She estimated that it would last a month, maybe six weeks if I babied it. The “babying” stage only lasted a couple of days. However, it took a full three months for the color to fade completely. My day job is IT customer support so I deal with a lot of people face-to-face on a daily basis. A fair number of people asked me about my hair and why I had decided to add the color. I told them the same thing that I told everyone at the funeral – I needed something to make me smile. A few people had their own ideas as to why I had it done. My favorites were:

 Did you have that done for Mardi Gras?

I thought you must have done it for Easter.

I figured it was a Gay Pride thing.

Once the colors faded, people began asking when I planned to have something done again. I didn’t know. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know when. Then, in December 2016, the time was suddenly right. (That’s how I roll. I may delay a decision but, once it’s made, it’s made.) I booked the appointment to have some as yet determined color added to my hair and began scanning Pinterest for ideas again. I decided to go with an all over color. When I contacted my stylist she said “Are you sure? That means that we have to bleach all of your hair.” I told her that I understood and that I wanted to go with an all-over gray/silver with maroon accents. When the big day arrived, she decided to put some orange over the burgundy. While the silver was lighter than I expected, I really liked the overall look.


Sadly, my happiness didn’t last. Both the maroon and silver faded within the first couple of days, leaving me with an overall color that was just this side of platinum blond with bright orange bangs. It was not a combination that I was happy with. After the holidays, I went back to my hairdresser to get things repaired. I told the stylist that I didn’t want to re-add the red and requested that she just strip the orange so I’d just be blond. Well, while most of the orange cooperated, the brightest streak did not; not even bleaching removed it, much to my hairdressers surprise. She then had to put some toner on my hair to even out the colors between the parts that had been bleached first and the newly bleach section. Much to my delight, the toner gave me more of the grayish silver color that I had wanted in the first place. The remaining orange has now lightened significantly and even though the silver has lightened as well, I still really like it. I’m not sure how long I will keep it this way before I let my natural red grow back in. I’m guessing that I will be a ginger again within six months or so.

However, there is a downside to this gorgeous silver color – now people just think I have silver hair because I’m old, and not because I’m cool LOL. Oh well, I know the truth and now, so do you! ;-)


Since I’m terrible at selfies, I may as well make goofy faces!

What about you? Have you played with adding any unusual colors to your hair?

The Really Bad Idea

15338578 - young blonde woman gets a thoughtless gift

Yes guys, this is a bad idea.

There are all sorts of ideas in the world, ranging from life-changing to life-ending. The one that I am going to tell you about was not to either of those extremes but, it was on the “bad” side of the idea spectrum. I will go so far as to call it really bad. Perhaps I should tell you up front that this was not my idea, it was my husband’s. I was the one on the receiving end.

My husband owns a small lawn care business that he runs as a second job. When we get home from our day jobs, he changes clothes and heads out to mow lawns, trim bushes, etc., usually returning well after dark. One evening he came home, super excited about something—he practically bounced in the back door. “Have you got a minute? I want to show you something. I discovered the coolest thing tonight. Grab your headlamp and come outside.” What girl can resist an invitation like that? So, I donned my headlamp as requested and joined him outside.

My husband led me to the back yard with me peppering him with questions. The only response that I could get was “You’ll see. It’s so cool!” Once we got to the back yard he instructed me to shine my light on the ground, which I did. “Do you see anything shining?” I did not. From the frequency with which the question was directed at me, I knew it was important so I really tried to find , something, anything, shining. The best I could do was when the light would occasionally glint off of the mica in the sandy soil. That wasn’t what I was supposed to be seeing.

Once I had waded out into the middle of the yard, it hit me. I had a horrible, horrible thought. I stopped in my tracks and asked the question that I dreaded the answer to. “Does this have anything to do with spiders?” Just so you know, I DO NOT like spiders. A lot of people think of snakes, rats, and bats as scary but I’m fine with all of those. (Rats make awesome pets, by the way. Much better than hamsters. Just sayin’.) But spiders? No. Just no. Something about those eight legs and multiple eyes just completely creeps me out. I don’t even like to look at pictures of spiders.

My husband responded (far too cheerfully) “Yes! I found out tonight that when the light hits a spider’s eyes, they glow!” At this point there may or may not have been a few expletives issued on my part as I stomped back across the darkened yard, snarling “What were you thinking? You know I don’t like spiders! What made you think it was a good idea to bring me out into the dark to look for SPIDERS!” I was not a happy camper, to say the least.

42706902 - green cat eyes glowing in the dark spooky

Image courtesy of

I still have no idea why my dear, sweet husband thought I was going to be excited by this discovery but, he honestly did. He even told the guys in his office about it the next day. To give them credit, they were all on my side with the unanimous reaction of “Dude, what were you thinking?”

When I originally planned this post, this is pretty much where it ended. However, last week we went over to my son and almost-daughter-in-law’s house to meet her father. Our visit ended with a round of backyard archery – after dark. Once again, headlamps were called into action. As I shone my light around the yard, I saw it – the eerie green glow of spider eyes. They. Were. Everywhere! My skin still crawls, just thinking about it. *shudder* To my credit, I didn’t run inside and lock the door. I stayed outside with everyone else and shot a bow for the first time since my college PE days. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is, LOL!

My hubby is extremely disappointed that he can’t find anyone else who thinks that glowing spider eyes are cool so, if you do, please let me know in the comments and I’ll pass it on!

Dial V for Vampire

Dial V for Vampire by Isabella Norse Web (2)** The contest is now closed. Congratulations to winner Lynda Bailey! **

Someone pinch me! I must be dreaming.  At long last, it is release day for Dial V for Vampire, the first novel in my Kudzu Korners series. This story has been a part of my life – and my heart – for so long that I can’t belive that my little novel is all grown up and heading out into the world. *sniff*

Dial V for Vampire is the story for those who love vampires and werewolves but prefer their romances sweet. It takes place in the small (fictional) Southern town of Kudzu Korners, near Savannah, Georgia.

I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn of Fire Star Press – thank you for believing in me and my story! I’m so excited about introducing the world to Maggie, Noah, and Zombie that I will give away an ebook (Kindle) copy on Saturday, August 27th. Just comment on this post for a chance to win!

Want to know more? Here’s the blurb:

Maggie Robinson is a full-time server, part-time blogger, and 24/7 skeptic. Her love life? Non-existent. Why bother? Her parents’ divorce is proof that “happily ever after” is a fairy tale. To make matters worse, she has no idea that her tongue-in-cheek blog, Life with Zombie, has placed her at the top of the werewolves’ Most Wanted list.

Noah Townsend is a vampire with a broken heart. It has been two years since his wife’s death and he is still recovering. Instead of dealing with his grief, he has thrown himself into his duties as the head of a security firm that specializes in protecting paranormal beings and hiding their existence from humans.

Worlds collide when Noah saves Maggie from a werewolf attack. Can Maggie overcome her skepticism and Noah his grief in time to realize that they were made for each other? Or will the ripples started by Maggie’s blog grow into a tsunami that will tear them – and Kudzu Korners – apart?

Find it here:

New Look, New Designer

The original cover for The Purrfect Partner

The original cover for The Purrfect Partner

An important consideration when publishing a series is having a consistent, or “branded,” look to the covers so that readers can tell at a glance that the books go together. Love them or hate them, two series that have done this very well are Twilight and Fifty Shades. I’ve never read either series but my hat is off to the cover designers – in my opinion, neither series would have been the phenomenon it was without their creativity.

I first fell in love with the original cover for The Purrfect Partner, the first story in the Paws and Effect series, (shown at the left) because it illustrated the Valentine’s theme of the story perfectly. I liked the fact that you can’t see the couple’s faces, so it was easier to adapt them to my story. Also, the outfits the couple are wearing helped me work out some of the details of the story. The base cover was a pre-made and I paid a little extra to have a cat added since all of the stories in the Paws and Effect series involve animal rescue.

Now, all of that said, when I began working on It’s Meow or Never, the second story in the series, I had to consider how to brand the cover so that it would “match” the first one. This is where the drawbacks to the original cover became obvious. First, the cover is beautiful but busy. Secondly, the cat that I had added? Most people don’t even see it. (Yes, there really is a cat there. I’ll wait here while you look again.) The invisible feline is a big problem since the cat is integral to the story. What to do? I decided that the best option would be to have the cover redesigned with series branding in mind.

Once I made the decision to have the covers redesigned, then I had to agonize over which designer to use. (Well, I guess I didn’t actually have to “agonize,” but that’s how I roll.) There are so many amazing cover designers! In the end I decided to go with author and cover designer Victorine Lieske of Blue Valley Author Services. Victorine is a New York Times bestselling author – as such, she knows the importance of a good cover. Victorine asked a few simple questions and pretty much nailed the series design on her first attempt. As a matter of fact, I actually squealed with excitement when I saw the first mockup she provided. We had to make a few tweaks to the couple on the cover, but that was the only change.

So, with no further ado, (and much excitement) I present the new and improved cover for The Purrfect Partner!

Cover design by Victorine Lieske, Blue Valley Author Services

Cover design by Victorine Lieske, Blue Valley Author Services


So, what do you think? I hope you love it s much as I do! Want to know more? Read on for the blurb and the buy link:

Lorelei Stevens, newly certified veterinary technician, faces the future with a mix of excitement and dread. Freedom from the meddling of her well-intentioned friends is finally within reach. All she has to do is spend Valentine’s weekend dodging the unwanted attentions of strangers during the annual singles gathering at The Lodge. In return, her friends promise to never, ever set her up on another blind date.

Dalton Freeman, laid-back rancher, receives a getaway to The Lodge as a gift from his brothers. The catch? The gift is only good during Valentine’s weekend. So what if all of his attempts at online dating have failed miserably? There’s no reason for his brothers to play Cupid. Really.

When these two strangers pretend to be a couple for a weekend, will it be a disaster or will fate – and a half-frozen kitten – lead them to the purrfect partner?

Buy it HERE for only $0.99. (It’s free if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited.)

A Large Strawberry Milkshake with Whipped Cream and a Cherry

Picture courtesy of

Picture courtesy of

In my last post I mentioned that life has kept me away from blogging for a while. The specific life events involved were the failing health and death of my father. In spite of losing my father – which was hard – I still feel blessed. My father was ninety years old at the time of his death so I had him in my life much longer than many do. (My father-in-law was only in his late sixties when he died.) And, most importantly, my father’s decline was quick – he didn’t linger and he didn’t suffer.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I have tattoos. (See examples HERE and HERE.) When it became obvious that my daddy was not going to bounce back from his decline, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my parents. My first idea was to get their initials, in their writing, on my foot. However, the more I thought about it, the more I decided that that just wasn’t quite right. Instead, I decided that I wanted some sort of symbol that would represent my parents. Once that decision was made, the rest was easy.

The last several months of my father’s life, a large strawberry milkshake – with whipped cream and a cherry – was a staple of his diet. Perfect! My mother drinks coffee by the gallon, so a cup of coffee was the natural choice to represent her. The next step was to look for examples to give the tattoo artist. But, examples of tattoo milkshakes? Really? Well, Pinterest to the rescue! Believe it or not, when I searched Pinterest for milkshake tattoos, I found exactly what I was looking for.

My father, even at his advanced age, was my mother’s primary caregiver. After his death, my mom moved two states away to live with my oldest sister and her husband. My husband and I had to clean out my parents’ house. The process ripped my heart out. I told my husband more than once that I felt like I was wiping what little was left of my father off the face of the Earth. Most of my daily cleaning sessions ended with me in tears.

I told my husband that, for me, my tattoo was an important part of the healing process. He had the insight to point out that it is also a way for me to keep a part of my father around. He is absolutely right. So, without further ado, here is the finished product:


My memorial to my parents. This is about 4.5 hours of work.

My memorial to my parents. This is about 4.5 hours of work.


I gave the tattoo artist an idea of what I wanted and we worked together on the layout. My hubby tossed out some suggestions as well. (It was his recommendation that resulted in the artist adding the checkered table cloth to the design.) I also gave the artist the freedom to add his own touches. He decided to add the angel wings to the steam from the coffee since the tattoo is a memorial. At the last minute, he also added a very subtle halo to the area between the wings.

I’m not the superstitious type nor do I really believe in portents and signs but, occasionally, something happens and I feel like everything is happening as it should be. I had one of those moments when I went in to have my tattoo finished. The artist told me that the color he was using for the strawberry shake was called Pink Panther. My daddy was a huge fan of the old Pink Panther movies, a fact that the artist had no way of knowing. I think daddy would approve.

Every day, I see my tattoo and it makes me think of my parents and smile – which is a good thing. There have been enough tears for a while. When people ask me about my tattoo (which happens frequently) I get to tell them a story and, for those few minutes, my daddy is with me again.

I miss you, daddy. You are always in my heart, and now, I am wearing my heart on my “sleeve” even more than usual.

What I’ve Learned from Blue Apron

Image courtesy of

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I’ve been away from blogging for several months due to life. A lot of life. Did you miss me? For my first attempt at blogging again, I thought I’d write about something not likely to make me cry. After all, I’m all about keeping things on the humorous side, right? So, with no further ado…

One of the most important things to know about me at this point is that I am by no means a cook. I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but I have never enjoyed the process. I have always found meal planning and preparation to be very stressful. Several years ago, my husband took over most of the cooking in our house. It works for us; he doesn’t mind getting in the kitchen and throwing meals together and I don’t mind letting him, LOL! In spite of not being a kitchenista, when my son’s girlfriend offered me the opportunity to try Blue Apron free for one week, I jumped at the opportunity. In spite of being a reluctant cook, I am a huge fan of the Food Network and a bit of a closet foodie.

Blue Apron, and similar services, deliver pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to your home on a pre-determined basis. Once I registered with Blue Apron, I was able to select my meal plan (family or two-person), my delivery date (Saturday) and my dietary preferences (no shellfish, my husband is allergic). Once my free week ended, I decided to stick with the program. So here, from a non-cook perspective, is my experience with Blue Apron thus far:

  1. I have been very impressed with the packaging of the items received. All of the ingredients for three meals (each serving two people) come in one relatively small box. Each ingredient is packaged separately and there are even ice packs to keep everything cool for several hours if necessary. (Not sure I’d want to put this to the test in the heat here in the South though. That’s why I selected Saturday delivery!) Seriously, a couple of deliveries have included eggs and they have arrived intact, nary a crack in sight.
  2. As much as I enjoy the television show Chopped, I will not be a contestant any time soon! Even with all of the ingredients on hand and detailed instructions, I’m slooooow. Which leads me to the next item.
  3. However long the instructions say preparations will take, it will take me longer. First, I am double and triple-checking behind myself to make sure that I am not leaving anything out. Second, even though the directions are detailed, sometimes they aren’t detailed enough for me. For example, “separate the thyme leaves from the stems” is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve never cooked with fresh thyme before. If you haven’t either, thyme leaves are tiny and there are hundreds of them per stem. Those who cook with thyme regularly probably didn’t bat an eye at this step. I, however, did. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the best method to use. I was ridiculously proud of myself for doing so without even using Google!
  4. Apparently, all homes – except mine – have a ready supply of olive oil on hand. Every recipe that I have prepared so far has called for at least two teaspoons of olive oil. Before I made a trip to the store (for the sole purpose of buying olive oil) I had to make do with regular vegetable oil and even olive oil cooking spray. (Please don’t faint.)
  5. I have used ingredients that I have only seen on Chopped. Among the ingredients that come to mind are kale, capers, and Castelvetrano olives. (I really, really like capers!)
  6. My inner foodie is enjoying the chance to try things that I would have never tried otherwise. Seriously, one of my favorite recipes to date was for muffuletta-style grilled cheese sandwiches. This take on the grilled cheese had a filling made from celery, green olives, and piquante peppers. It was delicious! If I had seen a sandwich like this on a restaurant menu, I would have wrinkled my nose and stayed as far away from it as possible and by doing so, I would have missed something wonderful.
  7. Most importantly, this experience is teaching me to enjoy cooking. I find myself looking forward to getting in the kitchen and trying my hand at the different recipes. While you may never see me hosting my own cooking show, I am slowly becomig a more confident cook and that alone makes this experiment worthwhile.

Have you tried Blue Apron (or one its equivalents)? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

It’s Okay to Cry (and other tips about caregiving)

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I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but the words haven’t come together in my head. So, it’s time to put pixels to electronic paper and see what happens.

My husband and I have been part-time caregivers for several years. Caring for three elderly people while working full-time and trying to maintain a semi-normal life has become increasingly harder. In fact, the ultimate purpose of this post is to discuss some of the aspects of caregiving that tend to get swept under the carpet. Continue reading →