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Rock this Town (a photo blog)

By M Davies   /     Dec 12, 2017  /     Hobby-ish, NEPA  /     4 Comments

On a particularly rough morning recently, I was walking out to my car for work and saw something out of place. It caught the corner of my eye because it was a bright orange blob. My immediate thought was that someone next door forgot something while packing their car for the day and that I should go try to find the owner of whatever it was. Here’s what I found:

 

As luck would have it, it turned out to be a specifically placed painted rock which I discovered after picking it up and turning it over. I say it was a rough morning because I was on the verge of tears as I sitting in my car. It was just a really bad week all around. Seeing the cutely painted rock made my day a little bit brighter and more interesting.

I placed the rock in my purse and took it to work with me to research further. Once I got to work, I realized there was an entire group on Facebook dedicated to decorating basic rocks and hiding them in public places as a sort of hide and seek game. I was a member of a similar group for Luzerne county, but I didn’t realize that every community had their own group. This particular rock was painted by a person in the “Steel Valley Rocks” group. I decided to take a photo of the rock with a statue at work. I think you’ll recognize this famous bird.

At the end of the day, I collected my photos and wrote a thoughtful post on the Steel Valley Rocks page. The rules of the group are pretty straight forward…

Practice RAoKs – Random Acts of Kindness!  Paint a rock and place it where someone will find it. Bring joy and smiles to the finder!  Painting and finding rocks is for EVERYONE, not just children.  

Please post pictures of your painted rocks before you hide and when you find, or you can participate anonymously if you prefer. If you find a rock, you can choose to keep and replace or re-hide for someone else to find.  If you choose to keep a rock, you are encouraged to hide a new rock in its place.   If you find a painted rock from another group, either post on their page or please let us know in your post so we can share the FIND with that group! 

I decided to take the rock back with me on my weekly commute to Northeast PA and hide it somewhere there. Seeing it travel across the state may bring the original painter (probably a child) some joy. But where to hide it….where?

Then it hit me. I saw a news article earlier in the week that cracked me up unintentionally: 11/20/17 “Signs installed in W-B to help visitors navigate city” via the Citizens’ Voice Newspaper. If you’ll look closely, one of the signs photographed in the article is misspelled. I don’t know why, but for some reason the sight of this image brought me laughing to tears. Mostly because of its glaring error and that no one noticed it until after it was already up on a pole. See for yourself:

(Image Courtesy of the original CV article linked above)

Federal Courthose? What the shit? How does this even happen? I mean, it would have had to pass through several editors before making it to print, right? By the way, I’m talking about the officials that drafted the sign text, the sign designers, printer, and the folks who hung the sign — not those at the newspaper. Your taxpayer dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to go and inspect this misspelled sign myself to make sure the CV wasn’t trolling us all with a photoshopped picture. This was going to be the place where I placed the rock. On Thanksgiving morning, my son and I ventured down to Wilkes-Barre in search of the sign. I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate as I used the Franz Kline historic marker for a point of reference via the ExplorePAHistory.com website. Of course, by finding this point of reference to the sign, I had to do a Google deep dive to find out more about Mr. Kline.

The gist of what I read was: Franz Kline a painter who was born in Wilkes-Barre. He was most famous for his black and white abstractions. His father committed suicide when he was just 7 years old. You can find most of his work by checking out Google images. However, if you’d like to read up more on Franz’s life, I recommend starting here: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kline-franz.htm. To me, this seemed like a perfect location to leave the rock. Franz Kline had done a lot of black and white paintings. I felt he needed some color and joy in his life, just like I did on the morning I found the painted rock.

The location of Franz’s sign was near River Commons on River St. between South and Northampton Streets, Wilkes-Barre. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads on Thanksgiving morning, my son and I circled the block where the sign was located and had no trouble finding a parking spot on nearby Northhampton Street. We moved quickly because it was FRIGID that morning. In no time at all, we re-hid the rock.

Also, I must note, that in the weeks time it took me to get out and check out the misspelled Luzerne county visitor sign, it had been fixed. I was kind of disappointed. I guess it’s for the best. We don’t want any visitors coming in and poking fun at us for spelling errors.

At any rate, it was a fun adventure. Laughing at signs and learning about historic figures. I posted the end result of my story in the “Steel Valley Rocks” as well as “Luzerne County Rocks” groups on Facebook. As of yet, I haven’t seen anyone post that it was found, but I’m continuing to monitor for further developments. I think the leaves and snow may work against it, but it is pretty obviously colored and hard to miss. A little while after I posted about where I hid the rock, a school teacher from Plum came forward and said that it was her daughter who painted the rock and she was happy to follow its journey online. The rock was painted and first hid back in June.

So now it’s my turn to pay it forward. I’m trying to paint a rock to re-hide somewhere in the Pittsburgh area, location TBD. I’m having mixed results on the painting situation. An artist, I am not. I tried to kind of recreate the rock I found with mixed results:

It’s not great and it takes the paint forever to dry with multiple coats needed. I have to finish it up (maybe tonight) wait for it to dry (AGAIN) and then it will be ready to hide. I probably won’t get an opportunity to place it somewhere until next week. This is a process for sure.

If it even makes one person smile, I think it will be worth it.

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The Knee Needle

By M Davies   /     Dec 08, 2017  /     Medical Issues  /     0 Comment

I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me.

Wait. Let me back up, because that’s an open ended question and the answer is always “a lot.”

My knee has been clicking since August. I don’t know why or what happened to produce the clicking, but here we are. Every time I walk up a flight of stairs it clicks after ever single step. You can hear me coming at least a mile in away and my career as a serial killer is now ruined.  Thanks Obama.

Anyway. After polling my friends, I decided to see a specialist. About 3-4 weeks ago I saw an Orthopaedic specialist. The actual spelling of “Orthopaedic” feels unnatural to me, just like my experience at this doctor’s office. I will preface this post and say that if you know me well enough, I’ve seen the same doctor in the past, around 2005 and he fixed up a broken ulna for me. He has an odd bedside manner and sense of humor, WHICH I TOTALLY APPRECIATE.

All signs point to a torn meniscus or some kind of awful knee thing that requires rehab or surgery, but he can’t prescribe any of that shit until he does “A PROCEDURE” first to satisfy my insurance’s needs. Fine, whatever. Except its actually not fine according to my body. (what I’m about to say is probably 1000000000% exaggeration because I hate medical procedures) He comes in with a 12 inch needle that he proceeds to jam into my knee cap without warning. Not only did it feel like an alien probe, but I didn’t mentally prepare myself for a needle that day. I circled the drain on the procedure table. I started hearing things and seeing spots. All color drained from my face. I saw angels hovering over my body calling me home. Oh the joy of having vasovagal syncope.

After the dagger was removed, and upon noticing my ghost like appearance, a nurse came into the room and asked if I wanted smelling salts. What are smelling salts? NO IDEA. I imagined it was something like bath salts (the kind you snort and not soak your feet in). I declined and asked to lay down and have cold water to drink. After about 10 minutes, I was able to get up and move around. I was alone – 30 minutes from my house – and was allowed to drive back home. I felt drained and limped around the rest of the afternoon.

Reflecting back on this experience weeks later, it made me remember my tolerance scale of medical procedures. Getting a knee needle, or whatever the fuck the official scientific medical term is, reminded me a lot of getting an epidural. It feels like an alien probing your body. Someone is jamming a long needle in your body and its the most weird uncomfortable feeling ever. I have a follow-up appointment next Thursday. I’m terrified of getting another one of the alien knee probes. My knee is still clicking ALL. OF. THE. TIME. It’s all that is occupying my thoughts all of the time. I wake up and think “Oh shit, only  6 days until they jam a huge ass needle into your leg today!” I think about it so much that I actually get nauseated because I’m a weirdo sadist.

In talking to a friend from High School, I decided that I will make a “Knee Needle” bucket in my life. Anything I hate gets a needle straight up in the knee. Taking out the garbage? KNEE NEEDLE. Winter months? I’m jamming a dagger into your leg. Playing Nickelback music much? Bitch please, I will Lieutenant Dan you.

 

I don’t know. I just need to get through next Thursday. This helps?

Maybe?

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The Telltailgate Turkey Fryer

By M Davies   /     Nov 24, 2017  /     Hilarity  /     0 Comment

I’ve been working in Pittsburgh for about 6 months now. Over the last few months, I’ve come to find that Pittsburgh is a very friendly city. I often find myself in conversations with complete and random strangers. Usually when people learn I was born, raised and live in Northeast PA they react in horror. “Oh god, you’re not a Philly sports fan are you?”

I’m not a Philly sports fan, but I’ve been to several events in Philly – baseball included. I thought since it’s Thanksgiving and everyone is telling cautionary tales about Turkey Fryers, I would tell mine. The Pittsburghers I’ve talked to love this story because they hate Philly.

It was 7/16/05. The Phillies were playing the Florida Marlins. I was attending a tailgate party with my friend Jeff Lamana who was larger than life in personality and size (may he Rest In Peace). 
Jeff ran a popular Philly sports community forum called PhilaPhans.

PhilaPhans was hosting the tailgate on this day to bring the online community together offline for a day of fun. I tagged along because it after 6 months with a colicky baby, I needed a day away with human adult interaction. We even made the Jumbotron (or whatever it is).

The website is still up and running to this day though Jeff died of cancer in 2006. I’ve talked about this in past posts.

Anyway…
I think it was a later game. I can’t remember for sure exactly what time it started. It had to be a 4pm or 7pm start. We started our day out at the Ikea in Conshohocken and ended up in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park. Jeff had known some of the people from the forums, but not everyone. People started to file in, setup and assemble a cookout near the trees in the front. One by one, we met people from the forums.

There was a grill, coolers and tables being setup. Then some guy arrived with a turkey fryer. Turkey fryers weren’t nearly as popular in the early 2000s as they are now, at least in my opinion.

The guy in the red Phillies shirt is standing in front of where the fryer was setup. If you look closely, you can see he’s opening up a bag of chicken wings. The plan was to deep fry the chicken wings and toss them in hot sauce. Sounds delicious, right? One minuscule problem and minor detail: the wings were still frozen.

I don’t know if this was this man’s first experience with a turkey fryer or if he was just drunk and didn’t care, but let me just tell you, in the 5-10 minutes after this photo was shot, disaster happened. I never got to shoot a picture of it because it was so sudden and shocking. It was one of those fight or flight situations you always hear about. I got the hell out of the vicinity. And quick.

Once red Phillies shirt guy determined the fryer was hot enough, he dropped the wings in. Let me preface this by saying that everyone was drinking and there were no thermometers being used. This wasn’t Alton Brown’s Good Eats by any stretch of the imagination.

A microsecond after the wings hit the hot oil, you can guess what happened next. A huge mushroom cloud fireball shot up out of the deep fryer. There were cars nearby. Cars filled with gasoline. Cars with decent paint jobs. By some miracle, none of them caught on fire or melted. Still a bigger problem: the tree above the fryer. The fireball shot up as high as the tree branches. Then the tree caught on fire. So to recap…here I am, at my first Phillies tailgate ever, and there’s a tree on fire in the parking lot. A security officer or a police officer saw what happened and made their way over. Details are a little sketchy, because this happened over 10 years ago, but I remember thinking “Oh Jesus. Here we go, we haven’t even gotten into the game yet and we’re already getting kicked out.” The fire went out as quickly as it started and the security guard/officer let us get away with a warning to be more careful. *Phew* It ended up drizzling on and off for a little while throughout the afternoon which helped the tree situation, but shut down the fryer situation. I think God was pissed that we burned his tree.

In case you’re wondering, the Phillies ended up winning 10-5 in 9 innings. All in all it was a good day.

…And that my friends is how I almost got ejected from a Phillies tailgate. As I said, the Pittsburghers I meet and talk to get a big kick out of this story because of their vehement hate of Philly sports. The people have spoken, so I have to retell the cautionary tale.

I hope yinz had a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t drink and fry.

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The Lee Park Honor Roll

By M Davies   /     May 29, 2017  /     Family, Hobby-ish, Into the Void  /     3 Comments

Some of my favorite memories from childhood go back to spending time with my Grandparents. Whether it was taking walks, shopping trips or simply spending time together, we always seemed to have a good time. At least early on in my childhood, my Grandparents would usually have us over for Memorial Day for a sleepover and somewhat of a cookout. This was probably about 20 years ago, so I don’t remember all of the details clearly, but I do remember very vividly that my Grandfather would walk us down to the end of their road to watch an annual ceremony that would take place each “Decoration Day” at the site of a memorial wall. After the ceremony ended, there was normally a short parade. Later in the morning, my cousins always found it a trip to look for the spent bullet shells in the gun salute that happened during the earlier ceremony.

To give you a little background, Memorial Day was initially called “Decoration Day” because it is customary to decorate a soldier’s grave with flowers – dating back to ancient times. I won’t get too preachy about the background of the holiday, but there is a lot of good information about it on the Wikipedia page with sources cited. One thing that seems to be a pet peeve among my media friends is the confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. To clear it up, Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. I think it’s always a good idea to honor the memories who served or died for our freedoms regardless of the day of the year, but especially on those two days. I’m going to write a bit about the memorial wall where we would observe the annual ceremony each year with my grandfather. His name, as well of a few of his brothers appear on the wall and I always wanted to know more about it. Thanks to newspapers.com, I found a WEALTH of information. I definitely recommend getting a subscription if you are trying to research any genealogy or history topics. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a look at the “wall” which is called The Lee Park Honor Roll on a bright day in 2012:

There are a few other memorials setup on the site.

The area where the memorial sits is in Hanover Township on Lee Park Avenue. It is directly next to the old Lee Park Hose Company #4 (which will eventually close, if it hasn’t already, when the fire stations consolidate into their new building on the Sans Souci Parkway), it is across the street from Grace Assembly International Church and the Lee Park Elementary building, and caddy corner in either direction from the Lee Park Towers (High Rise) and Regina Street. It overlooks a recreational park below. The land that the memorial and the park sit on used to be owned by the Glen Alden Coal Company and bordered land owned by the Jersey Central Railroad. Allegedly, this area was named “American Legion Park” after the Lee Park American Legion Post 609-320, according to old newspapers, but I cannot find any other source to back this up as Hanover Township removed the section of their website regarding the area parks. If you happen to know the details, shoot me an email or leave me a message in the comments and I will add it in.

The memorial movement was just starting to gain traction in early 1943 as a committee was formed and meetings were held to raise funds for the granite statue. Women were urged to take an active role in the fundraising and many of them went door to door collecting goods and monetary donations.

By April 1943, the funds raised by the community exceeded 1,000 dollars. 1k doesn’t seem like it would go far these days, but of course this prior to a buttload of inflation that happened over the years. A quick check of the US Inflation Calculator shows that 1k would equal roughly $14,000 now. If you consider that most of the people in this community were the working poor — housewives and general laborers (most coal miners) that is pretty impressive.

Lists were posted in local businesses to collect the names of men and women who served in the various ranks of the military. Initially, around 500 names of men and women who served were collected in the districts that represent “Lee Park Proper.” After later meetings of the committees, it was agreed that the Marion Terrace, Carey Terrace and Inman Park sections of Hanover Twp. would also be included. You could just guess that there was going to be some hurt feelings and controversy over people who may have been left off the memorial. The committee agreed to make it right, but not until 1944 as noted below.

Reverse the clock to 1943 for a moment. A ground breaking celebration was held in July followed by a 10 day Bazaar to raise funds for the sandblasting of names to go on the granite memorial.

As a comparison, here’s the same angle the above photo was taken, present day (albeit slightly further back from the original spot…I wanted to get the entire church and school in the shot)…

The plan was to have the wall unveiling ceremony/dedication in time for Labor Day, but the Lee Park Honor Roll Association ran into some snags with the vendors providing the granite. The initial company that the Association entered into a contract with – Summit Hill Marble and Granite Company – wasn’t the one that they ended up going with in the end (July 1943).  Summit Hill grossly under-estimated their price quote and withdrew the bid. Later in July, the Association took bids from another organizations and decided upon the Green Valley Marble Company located in Vermont.

While having a vendor back out was controversial enough, It turns out the the Green Valley Marble Company had some issues of their own. The dedication ceremony of the wall was pushed back yet again due to issues with cutting the granite to the specification provided by the Association. The article below was posted to a local paper in November of 1943.

 

FINALLY at long last, on December 12, 1943, the wall was dedicated at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon. There was a parade around Lee Park comprised of 5 divisions before heading back over to the park for the dedication service. The local school’s band and chorus played music and sang before the wall was dedicated. Initially 500 names were placed on the wall, but there were room for an additional 200 or so to be sandblasted on after the fact.

If you compare the above photo to the one I originally posted of the wall, you’ll notice that it is missing a few sections. They were added after the fact. My grandfather’s name appears in one of the add-on sections (spelled wrong, because of course)…”Russel Hrevnack.” The truth is that my Grandfather’s family came to America speaking no English, so whoever was taking their paper work at the port they came in on or the census workers probably had NO IDEA how to spell it properly, nor did my ancestors know how to communicate with them to spell it correctly.

My Grandfather’s two brothers appeared in the original sections of the wall – John and Peter.

As of 2001, there are now over 850 names on the wall. If you look closely at some of the names on the wall, you may notice a star or an O before their name. The O signifies that they were a prisoner of war, the star indicates that they were killed in the line of duty. Here are a few of the panels of the wall showing examples of each. Source

One particularly interesting story, is that of Margaret A. Nash. I specifically came to the wall this afternoon looking for her name because I believed she was the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war – I was right. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW that I was able to see. I’ve visited this wall probably a zillion times and I never knew or noticed the markers before the name. Of course when I found this little nugget, I was down another Google wormhole and researched all about Margaret A. Nash. Without getting too far off topic, Margaret was a Navy nurse. She was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II, she neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. This woman came from your backyard NEPA…how truly incredible.

Below is a quick article snippet from when she was well enough to come back home in 1945. Margaret has since passed away, but not before moving to California and teaching an entire new generation of nurses at the University of California in Berkley.

After the wall was built, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association continued to raise funds through community picnics, bingos, dances, and other events to build the park and pavilion that exists between the Hose Company and the Lee Park Towers. I know they eventually turned their attention to creating recreational parks in other areas of Hanover Township. It continued to remain a civic minded organization throughout the years.

So what now?

Well the last time I visited the wall, It wasn’t in the best of shape landscaping-wise, but to be fair, it was a fall day when most lawn care equipment has been packed up and stored for the season in preparation of the cold weather.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association still seems to exist and may be headed up by members of the Lee Park Hose Company or the American Legion. The caretakers are probably getting up there in age – and the younger folks will likely be moving away when the Fire Departments consolidate. Some of the things in the memorial park have been removed, such as a memorial bench. I am unable to find any reasons why this may have happened, but can only imagine that it was because of decay and age. I know that the wall has been hit by graffiti vandals at least once, but I’m sure it’s probably happened more than just that one occasion and that hurts my heart. Why would you destroy a piece of history?

The parades and memorial services that would be held at the site (the ones that I remembered from my childhood) no longer happen. I do know there are neighboring communities (such as Ashley for example) that observe the holiday. Still in all, I wish that even if for just one more time, the site could be honored in some kind of way because it is truly special and the history behind it is fascinating. Maybe I will send this blog post along to some local community leaders to see what can be done, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Just based on the Margaret Nash story, I believe it should be fair came for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.

At any rate, whatever your plans are today, take the time to remember the men and women that sacrificed so much for your freedoms.

Have a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend.

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PMS Pickles

By M Davies   /     Mar 19, 2017  /     Mommyhood  /     4 Comments

Parenting has been a challenge as of late with my daughter. It’s really hard coming to terms with having a pre-pubescent/pre-teen on my hands, and one with my attitude to boot. It’s like dealing with a shorter smarter-assed (is that a word?) version of myself. Allow me to lay these three short stories on you so that can see where I am coming from. And as you read, just imagine, from afar my mother is sitting back and smirking knowing that she’s finally gotten her revenge on me.

 

Story 1:

I had off from work on March 8th because I was managing an assembly at Owen’s school. My husband happened to travel to Allentown for work that day. Owen had stayed home sick from school because he was running a fever. I left the house for an hour to head to Ross. When I got back home, it was around dismissal time. Owen and I waited for Gabby, but she was late. We thought that maybe her bus had some trouble, but after a short while, I started to panic. I texted my husband and asked if he had signed any permission slips for her to go anywhere, or if he knew of any trips she may have been going on. He didn’t respond. I tried to call the school, but no one was answering. Then I called the transportation department at the school – no answer. At this point, I was ready to call out the FBI, National Guard, have helicopters swooping with search lights and an amber alert called. I tried to remain as calm as humanly possible which wasn’t going well. I flew over to the school and flagged down the first adult I could find in the building (which was essentially a ghost town except for some kind sports practice going on inside of the gym). I really don’t even remember what kind of sport was being practiced, that is how upset I was at the time. The coach somehow managed to determine that my daughter was one of the children who participated in the Science Olympiad which was being held at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. He then called the instructor that was over at the school with the kids and confirmed that Gabby was indeed there. My heart attack turned into rage. I drove over to PSU WB where I found my daughter sitting in the bleachers with the rest of her class.

I mean, what’s my angle here for this parenting disaster? Do I scream at her in front of her friends for making me have a damn near panic attack? Do I ground her for the rest of her life and turn her off from participating in any extra-curricular activities? Do I just hug her and be grateful she’s somewhere safe? How do I handle this?

And to make matters worse (for me, not her) she won a damn medal! I am proud of her, yet SEETHING with rage.

She came in 4th place for one of the activities they participated in – I believe it had something to do with a hoverboard or hovercraft.

And the little shit was on TV for a few seconds.

I had a discussion with her teacher after I managed to find her in the crowd. Gabby was supposed to bring home a paper giving us all of the details of what was happening the day of this event (what to wear, when to be picked up, how much money to bring for lunch, etc) but, she never brought it home to show us, so neither my husband or I had any idea it was going on. I was perfectly fine with her participating, it was just a shitty way of finding out. It would have been nice to actually see her at the awards ceremony! Fricking kid.

 

Story 2:

We were just recovering from the fallout of story number 1, when THIS happened: My daughter decided to crawl out of her window.  Let me set up the story for you first before I tell you WHY she decided to do this. The Friday after story number 1 happened, 3/10, we got 6″ of snow. School canceled classes and both kids were home for the day. I was off and my husband was working from home. Owen decided to hang out in the basement and play video games, Rich was also working in the basement, I was watching TV in the living room and Gabby was in her room most of the day drawing and playing on her tablet. At some point, she decided that she wanted to go outside and play in the snow….which is fine. Except, rather than going through the people sized hole in the house (otherwise known as a door), she decided she wanted to go through the cubby sized hole in the house (otherwise known as the window in her bedroom). I am not sure the logic of leading up to this decision. She told me that she didn’t think we’d allow her to go out and play, so she took it upon herself to crawl out of her window. Her cunning plan had one huge flaw. She underestimated the height of the window from the ground and couldn’t get back inside. Another flaw: Instead of walking up to the people sized hole in the house and knocking on the door to be let back in the house, she decides to carry a huge outdoor chair across the yard and places it up against the side of the house and uses it as a ladder to crawl back inside. Now mind you, this all happened while she was wearing no coat or shoes and in broad daylight. I can only imagine what my neighbors were thinking.

And to top it off, rather than tell your parent about what stupidity you just have gotten yourself into face-to-face, you send it via text message, because of course.

I used to call her Houdini because she would manage to find a way to take off her poopie diapers without taking off her footie pajamas in her crib. It seems she’s graduated into houdining out of houses.  Ugh. I could literally just kill her. Not to mention that we don’t have health insurance for two months because of Rich changing jobs. Now is not the time to start working on scaling the facades of houses, kid.

 

Story 3:

This one is more of a icky girl problem thing and I’m sorry in advance of the TMI nature of the topic. BUT ANYWAY, last year, Gabby got a visit from the monthly crimson fairy for the first time. Now even at my age – 36 – I still hate and have issues with my monthly visitor. You’d think that over the years, handling it would become easier or second nature. YEAH NOT SO MUCH. I am barely able to deal with my menses, now I have a mini me walking around that I have to deal with as well. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a fun year for me.

Ooooh and does she get ever so moody every month. Slamming doors, back talking, correcting grammar, and fighting her brother. Although I can’t tell if it’s the PMS, the teenagerhood onset or the fact that SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY SINCE SHE COULD TALK. But, I digress….

I noticed recently that we are going through jars of pickles like water. I usually buy the large jar of mini gherkins by Mt. Olive from the supermarket. Before kids, we could have that jar of pickles for weeks before finally killing it. Now, it’s like we could go through it in 3 days (maybe less). I know we all love the pickles, but really? As an experiment, I bought two of the large jars during a recent supermarket run. That lasted about a week. Finally at dinner one night I asked, where are all of these pickles going? I really wasn’t expecting to get an answer, but the sass queen volunteered that she was eating them all. Owen chimed in and said “YEAH SHE DOES EAT A LOT OF THEM WHEN SHE GETS HOME FROM SCHOOL!” After Rich yelled at her to stop eating so many of them because it would ruin her dinner, she informed us that her friends told her that eating pickles during your time of the month works better than chocolate because you won’t get zits. Who is perpetuating this rumor!? No chocolate!?! Whaaaaaat? I think I laughed so hard that I snorted. Is this something that they read in Seventeen or Cosmo?

Hence the title of this blog entry – PMS Pickles.

Period.


 

At this point, I think the warranty is up on this child and I lost the receipt to return her. I guess I’ll just have to float her up the river like Moses.

This parenting thing is for the birds.

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Cutting the Cord (Part 1)

By M Davies   /     Aug 13, 2016  /     Technology Hates Me  /     3 Comments

To quickly catch you up with what’s been going on in my life:  I have a child entering High School, I have another one entering 5th grade, I have a husband now working out of the house (he had been working from home since 2008) and I’m barely ever here.

 

That being the premise, I no longer have the need for a physical landline phone.  We held onto our Frontier phone service since moving from Lee Park (CLEC territory), although, we did not port our 570-270 number when we moved and opted for a new number entirely.  I’ve had the 570-477 number (ILEC territory) since 2008 and I don’t want to part with it.  Utility companies have it, the school has it, and many family members have it.  I would have started looking into VOIP solutions to port the number sooner, but we still needed the physical phone line for my husband to test dial-up modem shelves at his last job.  Yes, believe it or not, people in 2016 still have dial-up 56k v92 modem service.  Let’s all take a moment of silence to acknowledge their pain.

 

We good?  Ok.

 

Here’s a snapshot of my last phone bill (undoctored except to remove my personal information):

 

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54 dollars.  You read that right.  54 dollars for a phone that carries no features or long distance besides call forwarding to my cell phone and the unpublished number fee.  If you’ll notice, half of the cost of the actual service charges is paid to taxes and other miscellaneous service charges.  This line is connected to a telephone in the basement, that no one uses.  Once in a while, we move the RJ-11 cable to fax stuff.  That’s about the extent of our usage.

 

Every month, I may as well burn 54 dollars in my driveway.  I’m paying for something that I’m not using.  It’s actually the stupidest bill that I have.

 

I decided I would take a whack at Frontier’s customer service “churn buster” line to see if there was any promotions or credits I could earn for being a loyal customer.  I was told the only way to reduce the cost of this bill would be:  A) Bundle it with another service.  B) Drop the service level down to a “Lifeline.”  C) Sign a contract for 2 years.  Let’s explore these options…shall we?

 

A)  The bundling they are talking about would be including Internet or TV of some sort into my already outrageously sky-high telephone bill.  We already have Internet service through Blue Ridge Communications and are (for the most part) quite happy with it.  At the time when we moved in, it was the fastest and cheapest option available to us.  We tried the Frontier DSL, or I’m sorry, “HSI” for the allotted 30 days.  The speeds were appalling and similar to that of ISDN BRI.  It was unusable, so we had no choice, but to drop it.  The “TV” portion of the service that Frontier offered at the time was DISH network.  I previously had Directv.  I know it isn’t the same, but it kind of is….they always lock you in to a 2 year contract and its super expensive to get out of it should you choose to cut the cable.  We looked into Blue Ridge at that point and with the cable and fast Internet service bundled together, it was a no brainer.  Blue Ridge did offer us phone service, but after Irene happened and learning that their remote/head end did not have a DC battery back-up, it was not a feasible option for our needs.

B)  “Lifeline” is a telephone assistance program provided through the “Universal Service Fund” you pay in your monthly bill.  Families in need can receive a $10 stipend each month which is applied to their landline or cell phone bill.  There are income requirements, and you need proof of income to qualify for this program.  I am well without of the qualifications for this program.

C)  There is no way in hell I’m signing a contract for 2 years for a service I barely use now.  Period.  End of story.

 

The phone call ended with a courtesy credit of one month applied to my bill with a “thank you for not cancelling” line of bullshit.  I received my next bill with only a half month credit applied.  I don’t have the energy to wait on hold to argue with these people again, so I’ll just eat the other half of the credit, I guess.

 

I took to Facebook and talked with my network.  Most of my friends fell into one of these buckets:  ported the number to another service, got rid of the land line entirely, or bundled with another service.  I seriously considered trying to port the number to my already established Google Voice account, but it would require more work than I was willing to do.  Here’s the gist of it…Google Voice (which used to be called GrandCentral) won’t port landlines. Basically you would have to port the number to a burner phone and then once that is complete, port the phone number on the burner phone to Google Voice.  A lot of friends recommended magicJack.  I saw the commercials…I looks kinda chintzy.  Not that I’m opposed to cheap, but it seems like it needs a dedicated machine to always be plugged into to work…I am always carrying my laptop back and forth with me to places, so it’s just not a viable option.  There is Vonage, which we did try a long while ago while living in Lee Park, but it got expensive over the years.  They are now nickel and diming you to death like any other phone company would.

 

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After talking with a co-worker and reading for several hours, I discovered Ooma.  Ooma is another VOIP service similar to Vonage, but way cheaper.  My phone bill would end up being $4.99 (roughly) a month based on their savings calculator.  Basically you’re only paying the taxes on the number after some initial fees to purchase the equipment and port the number to the service.  Based on a cost analysis that I preformed on Frontier bill vs. Ooma, it would take 3 months for the service to “pay for itself.”  It was another no-brainer.

 

The equipment I ordered came with in 3-5 days of my phone order:

 

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Admittedly, I kinda dropped the ball getting everything installed at first because I was super busy with NEPA BlogCon stuff, but when I had a few minutes to actually sit and think, I was able to get it going with little to no effort.  The network device they had sent to us required a bit of IP address reconfiguring and NAPT to get it going.  It’s up and running as I write this blog post.  My request to move my 570-477 to this service is still pending, but should be complete shortly.  Once that happens, I can cancel Frontier completely out of my life for good.

 

So far, I’m happy with the service.  There’s nothing to complain about because as I said, I really don’t use my landline.  I rely on my cell phone for everything, but its a nice thing to have as peace of mind for my kids who may need to use it in an emergency situation.  That’s another thing to mention:  everyone freaks out about VOIP and 911 service and keeping your address on file up-to-date.  Ooma takes care of that for you.  If per chance, you move and forget to update your address, they forward your call to a centralized 911 center and then they can forward your call to the appropriate call center.  I’ll be honest with you though, there were a few times that I witnessed bad accidents and called our local 911 only to get a busy signal.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link in an emergency situation….this isn’t a dig, it just is what it is.  I understand 911 operators are overtaxed with overly asinine phone calls and make next to no money, so spare me the lecture.

 

Here’s a review of the service from CNET.

 

I think I’ll circle back around to this post in a few months to revisit whether or not I really think it is still worth it, but for now, it’s a great service and I’d recommend it as an option for anyone looking to cut the cord.  I could have really went more deeply with this post about the features that the service offers in the cost, but I have been up since about 2am, and I am exhausted.  That will have to wait for another time.

 

One final thought that came to my mind while writing this post and discussing cord cutting with friends:  It’s ironic that my husband had to go back and work for the company for me to realize we no longer need it’s services.  It just goes to show you how much the industry has changed in a measly 9 years.

 

The times.  They are a’changin’.

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