Friday, August 29, 2014

Gaining Your Smarts Back From Your Smartphone.

Tonight, it happened. Out of the blue, unexpectedly. I was taking the trash to the curb. To my complete horror, my iPhone slipped out of my hand and, like a scene out of a horror film, crashed face first on the driveway beneath me. I made a slow-mo recovery move, screaming "Noooooooooooooooooooo" as I fumbled to catch it to no avail.

There it was. Naked with no cover, face down. I was scared to look. But I looked anyway.

Shattered, broken; my heart AND my iPhone.

And then panic began to set in.

I immediately put myself in check over my reaction. I was, frankly, appalled that I was so distraught over a device. My Common Sense Angel began the great debate with the Convenience Devil, each perched on a shoulder whispering in my ear:

Ruh Roh.
Angel: "It's just a stupid phone. What is WRONG with you?" 

Devil: "You are going out of the country in less than 3 days. You can't even see your screen. All of your contacts, texting your kids, your Currency Exchange App, your map of the city! You complete dumbass. Now what???"

Angel: Seriously? Get a grip. It's a phone. You survived 20 years without one. You'll be ok.

Devil: It's a SMARTphone. And you're stupid, because all of your intelligence is in that device. You can't live without it. 

And then it hit me. They were both right. It was just a phone. Yet all of my intelligence was stuck behind a shattered screen I could barely see. Thankfully, I had the sense to acknowledge this, because I once lived a life without cell phones...An awesome life.

When I was young I knew ALL of my friend’s phone numbers by heart. I could walk deep in the woods and never worry about not finding my way out. Math was my favorite subject because I loved problem solving in my head. Sometimes I would go for days without talking to my friends outside of school. And it was no big deal. Phone communication was by house phone and sometimes it may be a day before I would get a return call. And it was OK.

"Smart" phones are crippling our world by making us all idiots. Idiot #1 is typing this blog. I know very few phone numbers by heart anymore. Why? Because they are all in my contacts. I don't need to have a sense of direction. Why? Because I have Google Maps. I don't need to solve complicated math problems nor do currency exchange in my head. Why? Because there's an App for that. And I don't call my friends on their house phones. Why? Well, most people don't have them anymore and if I'm calling or texting you on your mobile, I expect a reasonable response time. Immediately is preferred. Isn’t that what these phones are for? Instant gratification?

We no longer have the patience to wait for anything or think about anything, because we don't have to. It's all there at our fingertips. I am so mad at myself because I have fallen for it. “Convenience is best”, because, well… it’s so damn convenient. 

But at what cost?

At 41, I am fully entangled in this web of technology. My job revolves around the advancement and evolution of technology. There is no going backward, because this is the way in which our world is heading. This is the only way our children have ever lived. The rest of us who once lived without it are fully on board until one night we are taking out the trash, and BAM, our intelligence hits the driveway face first. It’s eye opening, but not the end of the world.

For us.

However, it is, quite possibly, the end of the world for those who have never had to use their sense of direction, do challenging math problems in their head, or memorize things such as phone numbers. When you think about it, it’s scary. Smart phones are making humans stupid. And we are happily (ignorantly?) letting them. We live in world where you ask a friend a question and their answer:

"Google it".

In less than 24 hours I leave to go out of the country. My iPhone screen is still shattered and it’s ok. I am going on my trip with no intention of depending on a device for things that I should be able to handle with my own common sense. I will get a paper map of the metro and surrounding areas, I will figure out the currency exchange in my head, and I will pay attention to a city in which I’ve never been and enjoy it for all its beauty without staring at 4.8” screen. Yes, the phone will travel with me and will be used for the “convenience” of touching base with my family while I am away, but things that I can do on my own, I will do…on my own. Will it be less convenient? You bet, but I plan to come back a few IQ points higher.

The irony; the entire reason for my trip is to attend work meetings in which we will discuss technology, how it’s advancing and how we, as a company, can stay ahead of the curve. How can our company use the technologies to produce better quality, faster schedules, and stand out among others…… Be better, be faster, be SMARTER?

2 days post incident, I am still distraught. Not because I have a shattered screen, but because I have lived a shattered sense of reality justifying the convenience, not just for myself but also for my teenage boys. I, ignorantly, handed them these devices so I could get in touch with them whenever I needed. All the while, I handed them the device that strips them of what our brains are intended to do; THINK. I feel like I have done something I cannot undo. Or can I? I guess I have 2 very long plane rides to figure that out.

Funny…. Seems to me the smartest thing I ever did was drop my smartphone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's Your Story?

Last night I had the luxury of doing something after work that I rarely get a chance to do, have dinner out by myself. When I was young (and stupid) I used to think “Only losers go out to eat alone”. The older I have gotten, the more I realize “Only winners go out to eat alone.” The hubs and kids were gone for the evening and I didn’t have a sporting event to rush to, so I had the whole evening to myself. While I seriously fought the urge to make a beeline home to get in my PJs, fold laundry, and catch up on DVR, I decided I wanted to feel like a winner instead. I was even considering going a bit buck wild and catching a movie solo.

“One, please” to the hostess, who looked around me to make sure I wasn’t kidding and there was not someone else with me. “Would you like to sit at the bar?” she asked. I thought to myself “Does a bear sh*t in the woods?” but instead said out loud, “Yes, thank you.”I scoped out possible seating options. There was a group of ladies having a drink after work who seemed to be having a great time. And there were other random people sitting solo, grabbing a bite after a hard day of whatever it is they do from 8 to 5. I found my spot just on the corner, close enough to the ladies so I could eavesdrop and laugh too, far enough away from the single men who were probably harmless, but I was there for Kung Pao Chicken, not a man.

The bartender politely asked me if I wanted a water or sweet tea. I smiled and gently declined countering with a vodka tonic, extra lime. “Wellllll, it’s been one of those days, huh?” he said, jokingly. Unbeknownst to him, if I had an after work cocktail after every stressful day, I probably wouldn’t be gainfully employed and I’d be in rehab somewhere. I smiled with no response as it wasn’t even worth the breath to explain my situation which was nothing more than just “I felt like a having drink”. I placed my dinner order and found myself immediately enthralled in a rerun of Monday Night Football on the bar television. A gentleman came up and grabbed a seat next to me, there to pick up his take out order. “I’ll have a Mai Tai, too please”. His order was ready, yet he sat sipping his drink diligently, his food getting cold in the bag, staring at his iPhone like it was about to reveal the answer to end world peace. I was curious.

The hubby and I have this game we play when we travel together. It’s called “What’s their story?” Basically we people watch, mostly in airports, and come up with stories about the travelers around us. It’s actually pretty entertaining as we’re probably making their lives so much more exciting than they really are or we’re not giving them enough credit and they are international spies. Either way, it’s always fun to wonder “What’s their story?” I mean, I could’ve simply asked the gentleman sitting beside me, but he was intent on his phone, kind of like that person at the gym who puts in their earbuds as you jump on the treadmill right next to them. That’s the international sign for “Don’t bother me”. So I didn’t bug the guy. Instead I just started working on his story in my mind. Then it hit me, wonder what people think when they see me? I am sitting at a bar solo in capris, a blouse, and flats with my hair in a ponytail. I am fairly certain, by my attire, they would never guess I work in construction.  I am equally as certain that most would guess I am a mom due to the fact that a sucked down my cocktail in less than a minute. That, plus if they were stalking me in the parking lot, I pulled up in a minivan.

The gentleman next to me finished his Mai Tai, grabbed his cold take out, and hit the road. The group of ladies next to me disassembled, each going their own way except for one who decided to order dinner to go at the bar. She was chatty with the bartenders, dressed to the nines, not a hair out of place, manicured nails, and heels that made my feet hurt just looking at them. She was very put together, in her late 40’s/early 50’s, friendly and well spoken. I conjured up the story that she was in marketing, frequented this restaurant often (as they knew her by name), and has grown children. I had no grounds for the “children” assumption. I was merely hoping she was a mom and there was hope for me that I could be that put together and well-spoken in another decade. Let’s face it, I’m not even that put together and well-spoken at 41, but whatever. I came to a few conclusions after playing “What’s their story?” Bartenders have the best vantage point for this game. It is more fun paying attention to your surroundings than your smartphone. And people are amazing, in a good way. We all need to pay more attention.

I sat at the bar for an hour, taking it all in. I had nothing but all the time in the world to sit back and forget about my own piddly life, chatting it up with the bartenders, exchanging friendly banter with the patrons sitting nearby. It was nice not to have to be anywhere. It was nice having a night out by myself. Without urgency (a rarity), I paid my bill and headed home to an empty and quiet house, opting out of the movie, because I wasn’t quite in the mood for taking my wild night to the next level.

In the hour and a half I was away from home, I could’ve easily finished my laundry, emptied the dishwasher, or paid some bills in peace and quiet. I could have been so productive at home, but, for once, I chose not to. And I chose wisely. I can’t say that anything spectacular happened last night while I sat at the bar. No one handed me a winning lottery ticket. I didn’t run into a long lost childhood best friend, nor did I meet a huge celebrity. What did happen was I took a much-needed night for me. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I began to decompress and take a look around. We all rush through life so caught up in ourselves we forget to stop and appreciate the simplicity of life’s perspectives. Many people may still think eating alone is for losers. I consider it a mini-vacation; an hour long hiatus from chaos, from demands, from work, from stress, from kids, from spouses, from reality. It isn’t something I would ever care to do on a regular basis because I much prefer the company of my family and friends. Not to mention, I would lose the appreciation I have for it being such a rare treat. Once in a blue moon is refreshing and a reminder that people are amazing with their own stories, real and make believe. As boring as mine is to type out loud, I cherish it, because it’s mine. And for those strangers who happened to see me out last night, I really hope you did me proud in your own game of “What’s her story?” Because what a serious let down if you knew I was just a tired working mama, who wanted a drink and some Kung Pao Chicken.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's That Time of Year.... Give Me Strength!

Well, it's that glorious time of year again when parents prepare themselves for the wrath exitement of back to school. There are many preemptive steps that must be taken to prepare for such a glorious event.

The boys and I did the whole dreaded back to school clothes shopping thing a few weeks ago. I do believe God gave me boys because they hate shopping equally as much as I do. We spent a sum total of 2 hours out and about; 45 minutes of efficient, this shirt doesn't suck selection method, get in/get out shopping and an hour and 15 minutes eating lunch.

I decided to pick up school supplies on my own. I hit the Dollar Tree on my lunch hour one day and one would think I actually liked shopping as I believe I spent over $60. Yes, 60 one dollar items.... plus tax. The office in our house is now littered with notebooks of all sizes, college ruled and wide ruled paper, (because I can never remember which one they're supposed to have), blue pens, black pens, highlighters, erasers, mechanical pencils, glue sticks and a partridge in a pear tree. And they probably won't need most of it. But it was all a dollar! I'd be LOSING MONEY if I didn't buy out the school supply section.

Like an idiot, I found myself at Walmart one afternoon pondering lunch box choices for my new middle schooler. I assume Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is out because it's too "babyish"? Does it count as "middle-school-cool" if Megan Fox is in the movie? However, she wasn't on the actual lunch box, which knowing what I know about middle school boys, that's probably best. The decision was completely stressing me out, so I decided to play the safe card and go with a basic solid color.


Just last night, I made the most popular annoucement that we (aka "they") will be resuming normal school bed time hours starting this week to prepare their bodies for the massive shock of seeing the world before 11am. The annoucement was followed by 5 enormous SIGHs that nearly blew me over from a standing position. I'm sure there was an eye roll in there too, but I was too busy celebrating internally how I'd finally get the TV at 9pm.

While it has been AWESOME not having to wake super grouchy kids in the morning and deal with the typical morning chaos, I will be glad when they are no longer tearing up the house and being sucked in by the Xbox cult back in a structured learning environment.

Last year I wrote this blog which was my "Back to School Letter" to my kids' teachers. I pondered writing one this year, but it really didn't vary much. Sadly. So I shall just simply send each teacher a Post It with "Sorry" on it. They can interpret it however they desire.

And lastly, my least favorite "let's get the show on the road" task is figuring out logistics of who needs to be where when... and how. It helps to have a driver now that can take everyone in the mornings. But the afternoons are a different story. I will, seriously, just need to take this daunting task a day at a time. And it's certain, at least once this year, one of them will accidentally get left at school or on a field somewhere. In a storm.

Overall, I think we are gearing up for what will be the biggest cluster *$&# best year ever!

T-minus one week until the fun begins! Happy Back to School, kids! Mama's hittin' the bar.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

40-Something or Bust!

On the eve of my 41st, instead of planning a birthday celebration, I had a hot date with Loreal. Always faithful and within budget, she helped me rid myself of pesky gray; an aging occurrence that I am still fighting, but one of the very few things I refuse to accept…just yet. 

This week I jumped the 40 year old hurdle to “40-something”. Many people freak over the thought of 40, much less 40-something. I have to say, I love where I am at this point in my life. I am finally able to appreciate imperfections rather than linger on striving for a perfection that doesn’t exist. 40-something is the age of awareness and acceptance.

- 40-something means finally seeing life’s challenges for what they are worth. As difficult and painful as they may be, they continue to define me…in a good way.

- 40-something means knowing my self-worth and finally having the courage to put a value on my feelings and less value on those who are toxic.

- 40-something means biting my tongue for the sake of others, choosing battles and going to blows as a last resort only.

- 40-something means recognizing that terrible decision making, bad character judgment, mistakes in life, and family dysfunction exist in everyone’s lives at some level. 

- 40-something means a heightened awareness of those who are the first to judge and the last to look in the mirror.

- 40-something means understanding the impact of forgiveness of others and the life-change that occurs by forgiving oneself. 

- 40-something means no longer being a victim of circumstance, but rather a survivor with accountability. 

- 40-something means letting go of the past and the "what ifs" of life and embracing the now.

- 40-something means holding my phone further from my face so I can actually make out words in a text. Those same words force a squint, and, most often, a smile from ear to ear in the middle of a very stressful day.

- 40-something means accepting I can't make everyone happy. I only have control over one person's happiness. My own.

- 40-something means looking at life on a lighter note and loving the view.
- 40-something means that my outfit choice is now weighed more on a scale of comfort, less on a scale of “hip”. It doesn’t mean I’m letting myself go. It means I’m giving myself a break from heels that hurt my feet, unnecessarily showing of thy cleavage, and continuously yanking on a skirt that is just long enough to pass company dress code, but just short enough to be inappropriate for a 40 something. I still look professional AND I don’t have to soak my achy feet at night. Bonus.

- 40-something means waking up to more crow’s feet, and laugh lines. I don’t do needles, therefore I will, happily, do wrinkles. I embrace my flaws and celebrate my strengths.

- 40 something means the transitioning of perspective: from cutting your bangs too short being the end of the world/never leaving the house again to cutting your bangs too short as just being one sucky thing of many that happened to you on that particular day.

- 40-something means finding myself watching my kids and their friends with envy...but more so relief. "Ahh, to be that young and carefree again." -  "Thank the good lord above I don't have to go through that again"

40-something means telling the same story twice to the same friend without realizing it, but hoping it was just as funny the second time around.

- 40-something means gauging my decision making on how many glasses of wine I will allow myself on a random weeknight due to the fact that I have to be a functioning, employed human being the next morning.

- 40-something means walking upstairs to grab something, only to completely forget what that something was and laughing at myself through the frustration. Multiple times a week.

- 40-something means that if you read this and relate, you have reached acceptance status in life. If you read this and fear the 4th decade, greet the inevitable with open arms. If you read this and think I’ve completely lost my marbles, then you’re probably right.

And I’m good with that.

After all, 40-something is the new 20-something….

But better.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Letting Go of Anger and Holding On To Hope

Today, I am angry.

Today, I am angry for the moms who sit bed-side with their son/daughter who fight an undeserving battle.

Today, I am angry for the moms whose least concern is back to school because their biggest concern is "let my baby heal".

Years ago I volunteered on the pediatric bone marrow unit at Duke. I witnessed as parents rode the roller coaster of unknowns...of fear...of faith...of joy...of devastation. Moms of all walks had nothing in common, yet everything. As support, I felt helpless and, many times, hopeless. But never once, with any family I worked with, did I ever see a Mom give up hope. That kind of strength comes from a place the rest of us do not comprehend, because in everyday life, we give up hope that traffic will ease and we'll make it to work on time. In everyday life, we give up hope that our schedules will become less stressful. We give up hope everyday. Until we are faced with hope as our only option. 

Today, I am mostly angry because it just seems so unfair.

And so I release myself.....

Today, I will hope without failure. I hope for healing. I hope for strength. I hope for peace. I hope for courage. I hope for happy moments gathered and etched in memories. I hope for compassion and love. 

I hope.

~ Kristen

*Dedicated to Bradley Joyner, his amazing mom, Aimee, and their family.

*In honor of the families of Elizabeth Keene, Mckenzie Schoenleb and the others on 5200.

Life's true heroes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I shop at CVS fairly frequently. It is my pharmacy of choice because it is, literally, right outside of my neighborhood. However, they are about on my last nerve and this is why:

Today I went through the pharmacy drive thru to pick up a prescription and this was the receipt. 

Really, CVS? It was ONE item. 


The receipt, however, was as long as my leg. The coupons are useless to me. I don't have allergies. I am currently not suffering from heartburn, and I buy my vitamins elsewhere... where it's cheap without a coupon.

I seriously have an issue with the ridiculous receipts generated by this store. Look, I'm all about some savings, but I'm also about saving some trees. Isn't there a happy medium somewhere? CVS, haven't you heard the WORLD is going paperless? Apparently not.

So I decided it was best to recycle this long a$$ mostrosity in some form. I looked around my house for feasible options.

Barbie needed new evening wear with her hot date, Ken.

The receipt was just long enough to gift wrap a DVD.

Pedicures are made easy with this new found toe separator!

If you have pets, it is perfect for making them look like Aunt Jemima.
Or for a more formal men's look, the bowtie.

It also doubles when you're trying to paper train your pup.

If you are a lady on the go who needs to blot her lipstick, this receipt is what you need...
Good for that Mom on the go!


If an emergency arises, it could really come in handy....

And anyone who knows my household of 6 men, knows that "emergency" happens on a regular basis.

While I continue to be annoyed at CVS, I do appreciate the opportunity to channel my creative side in figuring out how we can recycle the waste. Barbie seems to love her new warddrobe, although Oreo, the pup, is not completely sold on the hair bow. 

And I'm a few prescriptions away from being able to wallpaper my half bath.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Virtual Letter in a Bottle

A while back, a post circulated on my Facebook newsfeed with the idea of setting up email addresses for your kids to have access to when they are older for the primary purpose that you, the parent, can send them messages for them to receive at a later date. 

I thought the idea was a great one. Some commented with concern that email may be obsolete when you decide to share it years down the road. I've had an AOL email address since 1996, so I am of the mindset that if AOL isn't obsolete by now, Yahoo should be good to go in another 20 years.
Because I feel so scattered brained at times, I decided this email to my kids was the way to go for me. There are things that happen throughout our lives that make me laugh out loud and things that touch me to the core, that they may not appreciate now, but will one day. And there are family stories to be shared that, let's face it, I'm going to forget unless I write that shit down. Not to overlook the bigger factor; that of losing my father when I was just 20 years old. I feel like he was a vault of information, family stories, life's lessons, and random slap stick humor. I feel gypped as I was too young and immature to absorb a lot of his wisdom. I was still of the "I already know it all" stage of life and I regret not asking more questions, paying more attention, and taking more interest in my family background. It goes without saying that I miss his presence and his wisdom every single day.

So, thanks to some random thing in my Facebook newsfeed months ago, I created email addresses for each of my boys and I began writing them. Some emails are to all 4 of them. Some are individual. Some emails have old digital pictures attached that I worry they may not have access to down the road; baby pictures of them, school pics, and pictures of me when I was skinny. You know, important stuff. I have an external harddrive with those saved just in case. When I get really ambitious, I'm going to scan in pictures from their grandparents families with who is who. While you're all now thinking "BORING!", they may appreciate that information one day if nothing more than when they're debating on cool baby names with their wives. Praying they don't name a girl after their great grandmother though. Ida Mann would not bode well in middle school. 

My messages to them are random. They can be practical, informative, funny or emotional depending on my mood that day. (scary) Just recently I sent a picture of us taken at Disney in an email with a recap of our trip in the hopes that years down the road, the boys will open the email and belly laugh reminiscing about the memories we made on our trip. I've never been a scrapbooking mom. To me, this is the second best thing minus access to the cool scissors. I have shared my own life's lessons, and advice in general, a lot of which I have already told them, but remember they are ages 11 to 20. They still "know it all". The advice my daddy gave me as an 18 year old, I wish I had received again at 30 when I had my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.

Email addresses and passwords will remain in an envelope in a place that they will never look; my feminine product drawer. OR behind the cleaning supplies. OR the crisper drawer of the fridge. I can't remember the last time they made themselves a salad. Actually I'm not telling, but those are great ideas for hiding places (from boys) if you so need them. 

You're welcome.

Let's be clear, I STILL plan to be around when they're 30, 40, 50....60 may be pushing it. While I am still of sound mind with many stories to tell, I wanted to do this. I plan to be sharp and witty decades from now, but my plan may vary from God's. In that event, I have something in place to ensure my kids have a piece of me long after I have moved on to hang with the Big Blogger in the Sky. And my presence, although virtual, will be with my kids in some form.

Until they hit Delete which is of high probability.

*Note: with Yahoo mail, the account goes inactive within 90 days unless logged in. So once a month, I log in their accounts to filter out any SPAM mail if needed and to keep it active.