Tuesday, January 17, 2017

**RANDOM** Seeing Blind

This is actually a post from my other blog. I haven't put a lot of work into MillChron so the readership is low. I hope to update more when the story collections that I have been working on are done.

Too many of us today only imitate love without knowing  (or caring) what real love is. We know what it is to post a heart emoticon. We know what it is to send a hug and a kiss via our social network pages. We know how to "love". Until real love is required.

We have forgotten - or maybe never knew - what it means to be wise. We know how to find the memes and gifs and eCards that illustrate wisdom. We know how to appear wise but we don't bother learning to live wisely.

We substitute cute smiles and the sound of laughter for true joy.

There is no shame in posting about the beauty of faces and bodies, but it takes real courage to bare the pain in one's soul.

We collect a quantity of 'friends' while ignoring the quality of friendship.

Online, we talk, talk, talk and keep talking. Like lost prophets, we speak in the tongues of the internet. We chitter and we chatter, texting, tweeting, Skype-ing, Facebooking and never turning away from our phones and computers. We talk without making sense and we listen without hearing.

We live in a world so full of things that are of so little value. We can't spend our money fast enough on the latest thing we don't need.

We are so over-stimulated by the excesses that we are insensitive to simple blessings and pleasures.

Remember tasting and savoring? Breathing in the scent of a memory? Feeling the sun or rain or wind on your face. Do you remember the last time you had a thought or memory of something to amazing that it took your breath away? Do you remember the last time you looked at someone you loved and noticed their hurt or joy or discontent? Or their need of your time in real life?

We run fast with no destination, wasting our time and energy just to kill the hours. We prefer to see through the blurred lens of a distracted reality. We wrap ourselves in the gauze of disillusion and delusion so that we don't have to deal with growing pains.

We are living on empty. Walking dead and lifeless. Seeing blind.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Devil Is a Liar (Part 2)

Old folks used to be wise folks. These days, old folks are those silly young folk I grew up with. In today's world, we have too much political correctness and not enough wisdom. That makes it easier for the Devil to tell his lies. I'm about to tell the truth about some of those lies. Let's look at some of the serious lies:

  • Not everyone who disagrees with you is a racist. They have their opinion and you have yours. The Devil would like to keep the two of you from having a civil conversation because you just might end up respecting one another.
  • Being free and over 21 does not give you permission to be an idiot, despite what the Devil says. Being free and over 21 gives you the responsibility to act your age and be an example to your children.
  • Black lives do matter. White lives matter and no one in their right mind ever said differently. Red lives matter, Yel- Wait. Maybe our biggest problem is that we have to talk about the color of the lives that matter. The Devil likes to keep some facts out of the conversation. For instance, why aren't we working toward a day when we only have to worry about life and not the color?
  • Don't let the Devil tell you that you can dress like a punk and act like a punk, then be mad when you are treated like a punk. If someone sees you wearing a Klan hood,, they'll think you're part of the Klan. If you walk around trying hard to look "hard", then people will think you are trouble to be avoided. The Devil never makes you think about any of this. Trust me, though, if the Devil tells you to walk into a bank dressed like a robber, make sure he agrees to pay your bail when you get arrested.
  • Being good-looking does not give you the right to be rude. Being rich doesn't give you that right. Being old or disabled doesn't give you that right. The only right you should care about is the right to be a decent human being. 
  • Being a bully - online and in real life - doesn't hide your own problems. The Devil is the biggest bully there is. You might not want to take his advice about how to treat people who are weaker, kinder, different or just more civilized than you are. 
The Devil doesn't just get into our heads about the serious stuff. He loves to help us make asses of ourselves.
  • Dear Walmart shoppers: Do not dress as if you have membership in the place. You are not the only ones out there when it comes to public displays of "I don't give a damn", but you are becoming the poster people of that syndrome. The Devil who told you not to be worried about what other people think of you? Well, he's got a point, but you should still care what you think of yourselves.
  • Dear Broke people: You are impressing anyone with your Fucci purses and Folex watches. We see you in the layaway line just in front of us. The Devil is trying to make you think that you can fantasize your way out of poverty. You can't. You can work your way out, you can dream and motivate your way out. You can even save your way out of poverty, but not as long as you're spending money on designer bags that you keep in the closet of your rental home.
  • Dear good looking guy (or gal): Yes, you were really hot-looking when I first saw you. Then I smelled your nasty ego. I got a second glance at your low self-esteem when you were looking down your nose at everyone around you. The Devil gave you good looks, but he didn't teach you that the world will see you through their own eyes, You're not looking good enough to cover up the ugly of your ways.
  • Dear Selfie Nation: Posting photos of your loving relationships with friends and family is not a substitute for actually showing love to your friends and family. The Devil may have told you how cute you and your mate look in all those couple selfies. He may have told you that taking cute photos with your kids can substitute actually spending time with them. Or that posting hearts and flowers in honor of the dead substitutes honoring their memory with your actions. Don't know if he told you that you aren't fooling those of us who know you in real life
The Devil wants us to imagine him as a little red imp with horns and a pitchfork. He doesn't want us to see him reflected in our own behavior. The Devil is hidden in our own cruelty, arrogance, selfishness, and willingness to always put ourselves ahead of someone else.

I think one of the biggest lies the Devil tells good people is that we are not good people and that we are not of value to anyone else. To the people living in fear and ignorance of decency, the Devil probably tries to convince them that they are more valuable than others.

The bottom line is, the Devil doesn't want you to be happy unless it's at the expense of someone else's happiness. The Devil is a liar and we all have to be smart enough not to fall for his deceit. 

The Devil is a liar, but he sometimes to use our tongues to speak. Silence him every chance you get.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Pennies Make Dollars, Dollars Make Sense

Remember that I gave up on making New Year resolutions a while back. I stand by that, but I have started making some New Year changes. The biggest one is to do with money.

When I think of saving money, I normally think of a regular account with my bank. That's not savvy enough. Plus, no matter how much I save in the bank account, I always find reasons to dip into those funds. Always. That money is too freaking accessible for someone as impulsive as I sometimes am.

I'd heard about ways to save with small investing apps. There are a lot of them that sound interesting:

Image result for i see broke peopleWhat sounded great about most of them is the small amount required to start an account. What I balked about at first were the monthly fees. Also, I was nervous about the idea of ~gulp~ investing. The only time I've ever been involved with investments is through employer offerings of IRAs and 401ks. Thinking of handling any kind of investments on my own sounded a little scary. Plus, my budget is so tight I actually call it a "budg". 

Still, I knew that I wanted to do something so I had to work on my doubts and concerns.

First, paying a buck-a-month fees to invest in a couple of plans is not that scary. I could give up chewing gum and never feel the loss of that.

Second, yes, my budget is tight, but only because I can be less than smart about my spending. 

My first step was to trim the "luxuries" from my budget. Here is what I cut:
Image result for broke people memes
  • Netflix was the first to go. I don't own a TV so streaming is my one way for that kind of entertainment. It's a $7.99/month charge I can easily give up. I have Amazon Prime which gives me access to TV shows and movies. Also, I get all the other Amazon Prime benefits that I do use a lot. (I have no idea why I didn't cut Netflix sooner.)
  • Planet Fitness was a $20.06 monthly fee that was a little frivolous. I could have had the $10/mo option if I used the gym enough to warrant a membership in the first place. My nephew has a couple of pieces of gym equipment that I can use anyway. 
  • I used to give myself a $40/mo allowance for makeup and other girlie goodies. I cut that down to $10. I don't need to spend so much money on hair and makeup until I am getting paid for my appearance.
  • I canceled my $15/mo Audible account. That hurt the most. Sort of. I listen to and read books the way some people watch TV. It's my addiction. I rarely am without a book in my hands or ears! The only way I am surviving this cut is by depending on my local library and Overdrive accounts for my fix. (By the way, I highly recommend these for anyone who loves books.)
Image result for champagne budget beer tasteI am making some other minor cutbacks too. When I grocery shop, I only get what I know for a fact that I'm going to use what I buy. I realized that this was a cut I could make when I looked in the freezer and saw meats that I'd bought a couple of months ago. 

Basically, I've cut over $70 a month from my spending. That might not be a lot to some people, but that's a huge amount to someone in my position. What the heck was my broke, champagne-tastes behind thinking all this time?!                         

I can now invest those amounts. Any type of investing involves risk, but I'm only risking the money that I was previously just giving away. This is a classic win-win for me.

For anyone who thinks that small-change investing is not worth it, take a glance at this:

That there is a screenshot of my Google Rewards history. All those tiny amounts in the middle column have added up over the last few years to the $120 amount you see at the top of the right-hand column. That's how a pennies make dollars. Seriously. 

So, yes, investing small amounts of money can make a lot of sense for people who can't afford to deal with big investment firms. As for myself, I'm really not that high-maintenance. If a ton of money suddenly rained down on me, the first thing I'd do is lock myself inside a nicely stocked cabin with book-lined walls!

I decided to start with Stash. It was a pretty painless set-up process. Now, I am looking at a couple of the other app choices. I can't recommend this for anyone else, but I can tell you that this is one New Year change of habit that I feel really good about.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

**REVIEW** Jewelry by Passage 7

This review post will be a little different from my usual type. This time I am doing a review for a set of items from a brand.

Some months ago, I became acquainted with the Passage 7 brand. They carry various types of goods (as you can see from their Seller page on Amazon), but I was able to try several pieces of their jewelry.

 Nice, yes? I think so. I actually gave each of the items away as birthday and Christmas gifts recently. When I got the first item, I was intending to keep it for myself, but it was so nice that I thought it would make a really nice gift. The jewelry is so well-made and impressive-looking that I decided that I would give the other pieces away as Christmas gifts. I'd have kept cheaper-looking stuff for myself!

The reason I thought the items might not end up looking as nice as the product page photos was because of the prices. There are some places locally that sell plated jewelry for about the same price and... well, they are not so great. It's from the "get what you pay for" school of reasoning.

One of the other things I like about the pieces I have is that they feel like nice jewelry. What I mean is that they aren't flimsy. The thickest chain (that I gave to a nephew) was weighty and solid in my palm.

Another thing that gives adds to the appeal of gifting this jewelry are the pretty velveteen bags they come inside of. The gold lettering is nice, but on one of the bags I got, I could see the square outline of the whatever was used to make the impression. That was a minor thing and I was able to use a dry cloth to rub away the outline.

By the way, each piece comes in a thick and protective plastic sealed bag. The plastic bag is inside a pretty blue pouch. When I gifted the jewelry, I just put a name tag on the pouch string and hung the bag from a branch of the Christmas tree. (Tell me I'm not creative! LOL)

I'm over at the Seller page looking at some of the other items that are offered. Some of their leather goods are much pricier than the jewelry but they look amazing. When I mention that the leather goods are pricey, I don't mean that they are out of the normal range for good quality items. The attaches look really nice and I'm thinking they would make great gifts for the college grad or a spouse. There's a gorgeous expandable leather backpack. These are the kinds of things that you would gift a person with when they are more responsible or have accomplished something. Beautiful looking goods.

Now that I am being more savings-minded than ever, I'm glad I found a spot to pick up some nice and affordable gifts for special occasions throughout the year.

I will review other Passage 7 products as I purchase or receive them. For now, I can tell you that the jewelry pieces are great quality items as a really good value.


Friday, December 30, 2016

**REVIEW** Metal Earth 3D Model Kit by Fascinations Inc

You're only as old as you feel, goes the cliche. Well, I must feel about fifteen because I got this for myself while I was Christmas shopping:

At least, that's what I will (or should) have once I put it together.

That's the 3D metal model of a praying mantis It's from a collection of kits from Fascinations, Inc's Metal Earth kits. I got mine from a local store (they are available on Amazon and from Barnes & Noble stores, etc).

My niece and I saw the praying mantis, different military machines, and some iconic buildings. My niece got one planes (I think the F-22 Raptor) and another machine for her brother. The praying mantis was my favorite because it was just so pretty. Thankfully, it was one of the cheapest models which ranged at that store from $12-15. 

They show the end product on the label
just to lure me in!

 At least, it will be (maybe) once I get it assembled.

Assembly might be tricky for someone with my motor skills and other brain (mis)functions.

My soul shivered with some regret the minute I opened the instructions. Those pieces are not as clearly numbered as the diagram indicates. And that is only a small portion of the instructions.

I don't see numbers on some of the piece...

 Still, this is such a cool concept. Most people, I imagine, will be able to put these kits together without too much hassle. I love the gleam and precision of the metal. (Warning here: be VERY careful handling the metal sheets and pieces.)

I was able to view some fully assembled items in the store and I'm impressed. One of the pieces we looked at had quite a few moving pieces. That one was pretty elaborate.

These make great gifts for certain people. My nephew, for example, likes tinkering and he has the patience to work on something like this. I am nervous about starting mine. I took it out of the wrapper and spent half and hour with a magnifying glass just inspecting the sheet of pieces. I will work on it with my nephew when he is assembling his plane.

I gave the warning about the sharp edges of the metal, but I think that once these are fully assembled (by an adult), they would be great to put on display in a child's room. DJ is really into dinosaurs right now.I'd love to have those kits put together for his room. How cool are these?

Check out their site and Amazon for the different ones. When I get my mantis done, I will update this post. Or not. Depends on how decent it looks!


**REVIEW** Smithsonian Interactive Library

Here's what I am learning about my gift-buying talents: I pick wonderful gifts but I pair them to the wrong people...

This is something I picked up a few months back (for a great price) at Costco:

That's the Smithsonian Interactive Library.  There was no clear marking of suggested age levels when I bought it, but I checked out the Amazon product page and see that it's "perfect for children aged 6-10". What I want to know is who are these brilliant six-year-olds? Where are they? DJ is only 5, but I don't think that he will be ready to really get into this gift until he's about 7 or 8.

Let me back up and tell you more about this product. Here's what you get for the price ($40 at Costco and $100 on Amazon)

  1. A really cool SD-X Reader pen to hear audio and interact with pages of the books.
  2. 6 interactive books.
Yeah. Glad that I got the Costco price.

Actually, the set is worth the $100 if you have a more diligent (or precocious) kid. I think that DJ would love this is the voices of the narrators were a little more animated. When I heard the voices, I was reminded of those museum tours with the slightly bored guide who is thinking of changing careers. That's fine for an older person who really wants to dig into the information. For a child like DJ who can't sit still long enough to sing the preschool class song, it's a little big of a challenge. (We are working with the little mister on his attention span, by the way.)

The books are interesting - as is the interactive information provided. The pen is very cool and is the one thing that might hold DJ's attention. It's a tiny bit like the Livescribe smartpen I use for writing and recording. Except the SD-X is limited to interaction with the books. I found that adjusting the volume (with interactive book buttons) was tricky. Either the included batteries are weak or the volume doesn't go very high.

The included books in this set are:
  • Natural History (DJ will love the dinosaurs)
  • Great Americans
  • American Experience 
  • Animals
  • Space
  • Air
I was pleased to see the range of topics covered. In the American Experience volume, slavery, the Vietnam War and, oddly, "Disability in America" are included.

When I picked this up at Costco, I did see similar sets. On Amazon, I see that Brittanica has sets covering various areas and there are probably other sets at local bookstores. Shop around for the best price. Like I said, I scored by getting this one at Coscto.

Other choices from different Sellers
I'm not sorry that I got this, but I do wish I had looked around for something more currently age-appropriate for DJ. I will work with him to take an interest in this set, but it is going to be a little bit of work. This would have been the perfect gift for the 13-year old daughter of a friend. 

This year, I congratulated myself for shopping early and more frugally. Next year, I want to top myself by doing better at matching gifts to people.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

**REVIEW** Telly the Teaching Time Clock

This year, I was determined to get DJ educational items for Christmas and his 5th birthday. I think I did well. Okay, I did get a couple of purely fun toys - like the robot - but I focused mostly on things to help in DJ's learning journey.

This cute thing is Telly the Teaching Time Clock:

It should be called the Teaching and Talking Time Clock. Because Telly does speak.

The dang thing was also great for teaching me a little bit of patience. I lost the box in the middle of our gift-opening mess and had to figure things out on the fly when DJ wanted to see the clock work. (By the way, there is a video on the Amazon product page for those of you who lose the box and need help. I, unfortunately, had no computer in the room where DJ wanted to start experimenting with Telly.)


I want to come right out and admit that either DJ is riding the slow train or other kids are quicker in learning. This toy is labelled as being for 3+ years. Do most 3 year olds know how to tell time? I'm old as hot sauce and I still have to think about whether midnight is AM or PM! LOL

What I am trying to say is, DJ is pretty smart and has been counting to 20 since he was three, but he doesn't have a clear grasp on telling time. Poor child. I think he absorbed some of his auntie's learning problems, (I just now tried spelling absorbed with an "O" at the beginning. Thank goodness for Grammarly. And writing is my strong suit.)

Telly is really colorful which helps keep a kid focused on him. DJ spent at least five minutes critiquing Telly's shoes before he even noticed the face and numbers. ("He can't tie those shoelaces!")

I should mention that, even if your kid isn't at time-telling age, Telly is still great for teaching younger children numbers and colors. DJ just started getting interested in telling time this past year, but he was into numbers and letters as soon as he could talk. If I'd known about Telly, I'd have gotten him for DJ as soon as he turned 3.

There are a few different ways to use Telly to help kids learn about telling time:

  • There are two quiz modes to help with learning analog and digital time.
  • The clock works as a real clock. Even when you aren't working with the kid, you can just check the time with him throughout the day (or let him check the time for you.)
  • I've started asking DJ what time it is when he first wakes up (so he can check Telly for me). He gets the big and little hands confused, but he'll get better.
  • You can have the kid watch for special times. I am going to point out to DJ the times for certain things, like his dad due home or time for us to go to the store, etc.
Telly is set up to teach in different ways, of course, but there are a lot of ways parents and other family members can use the clock to help kids with learning about time.

My favorite part of this clock is that it functions as a night light. That's useful and it might keep DJ's attention once he's gotten used to the clock. I don't want him to get tired of it and I don't want to make learning boring. That the clock actually keeps time and also serves another purpose makes it a good value.

Telly was $22 when I ordered him before Christmas and I think the clock is worth every penny. It even comes with batteries. That was great because I always forget to get enough of the right kind of batteries for the kids' Christmas toys.

DJ's Telly came in that vivid blue/yellow scheme, but there is a pink/purple Telly for the gals. (And, yes, I still do the boy blue/girl pink thing. Hate me if you want.)

When I mentioned to someone what I paid for this item, they asked if I thought it was good enough to rate the 22 bucks. Uh, yeah I think so. It's better than paying triple that for some mindless video game or toy. Learning is pricelessly important. I'd have paid more for this clock if I had to. By the way, for some reason the pink/purple Telly is a teensy bit pricier. Like a lot of products on Amazon, there are options for buying Telly "used".

Anyway. That's my take on Telly the Teaching Time Clock.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

**REVIEW** Toysery Electronic Walking Dancing Robot

Of all the Christmas gifts DJ got, I am going to start with my favorite! LOL

That up there is the Toysery Electronic Walking Dancing Robot. This photo does not do justice to just how cool this thing is!

It lights up and glides around the floor like a Michael Jackson clone.


Cute and mindless entertainment for kids and adults.
Looks really cool in the dark. So, even more entertaining.
Not badly priced.
Our dogs kind of like it & the baby is amused by it.
Doesn't need a lot of room.
Is not really loud

Not educational at all.
Does need a space clear of obstructions. It falls over if it bumps over anything.
While it's not real loud, it can get annoying after about 15 minutes.

It's so very cool. My niece's boyfriend told her that he wants one.I know the feeling. I've been spending more time with the robot than DJ has!

I got it at Amazon for around $25. Takes 3 batteries (that are included). It's not educational, but I'm not sorry that I got this one, The baby is fascinated with it and the dogs look at it like it's a UFO.

Keep in mind that it's a little bit loud - just a bit - it's not annoyingly loud, though.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Happy 65th Birthday, Sister

You would have been 65 years old today. Ten years my elder, but always my twin of the heart.

When I think of you, I imagine you "this day in paradise" with Jesus. I like to think of you with your body restored. If there are trees in Heaven, you are climbing them like the tomboy you were as a child.

You were so much a part of me that I felt abandoned when you left. You were so beautiful of a big sister that I knew I had to let you go.

While I am devastated by the loss of you (I cling to the word "annihilated"), I am also motivated to live a better life than I have been these past two years. I want to live life fuller and more content. I want to live it for myself and not for anyone else. I want to embrace better people and energy and let go of anything that is negative for me.

So, even though you are gone, you are still encouraging me.

Happy birthday, sister. I miss you so.

Image result for sister quotes

Image result for sister quotes


Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas and Reviews and Love

Once the fam opens their gifts that I got them, I will be doing tons of reviews. I can't wait to see what I get for a gift from my niece. She drew my name and I think she's really trying to blow me away this year. Bring it on, niecy, bring it on!

My little man, DJ (Boo-Boo) is who I went all out on this year. I haven't ever really reviewed lots of kids' stuff, so I can't wait to get to that. Since he is now five years old, I tried to go for more educational items this year. (I did get some totally toy stuff, but those are mostly stocking stuffer type things.)

As you know, I had a little ordeal with my Ulta order, but I'm hoping that I will be able to review those items at some point. Even though I was almost run crazy by the stress of dealing with Ulta, I am committed to being completely fair when I review the products.

Since I've done so many reviews of oils and hair care products, I'll be moving in a different direction this year. I'll be reviewing a variety of products and services (including those for writers, homemakers, and kids).

For now, I'm going to take a couple days off from the blog. It's family time! We generally open gifts with the kids on Christmas Eve so that we can rest up and start cooking the Christmas meal. I will be back here on the blog by the day after.

Here is wishing that everyone has a beautiful Christmas Day. For those of you with lots of family and friends, know how blessed you are and take the time to say a lot of I love yous. For those of you who might be feeling lonely or down, don't give up and please know that you are in my prayers.

This will be my second Christmas without my big sister. I'd like to think that she is having a better celebration than I can imagine.


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