Thursday, January 29, 2015

Household Hazards

Buffalo Ammonia to cleanse your karma is available at

In this day and age, it's important to know what household hazards are in your home.  And in your kids' friends homes.  And after our kids got into one of our hazards, I thought maybe full disclosure is the way to rectify this situation.  What could your kids possibly get into at my house?   It's definitely not mixing bleach with ammonia, cause I don't have either in my home.

1.  The Stripper Pole

I do, as most of you already know, have a stripper pole, which we refer to as a "fitness pole", in my bedroom.  Now, it's super secure, so your kid is not going to fall over while on it as videos on youtube would lead you to believe.  But, they could hurt themselves swinging around on it.  Or get kicked in the teeth standing too close to another kid who's swinging on it.   (And fyi, I don't practice on it in front of my own kids, I won't in front of yours.  Mostly because my 10 year old is a quick study and could show me up.  Or sever her spinal cord trying.)

2.  Handcuffs

My son bought a set of handcuffs to play cops with a couple of years ago.  We thought this would prolong his BB gun/airsoft fascination.  While it is safer than the alternative, he has lost the key on more than one occasion.  But like Houdini we've always managed to get kids out of them without calling the fire department and without much psychological damage.  I hope.

3.  Airsoft Guns

Of course we could only prolong the gun thing so long, so as of a year ago,  we do have airsoft guns in our home.  But, we do make the boys wear eye protection.  Not that they play with them anymore, because the lust for something is always greater than the love of playing with something you actually own.  (We do not have any real guns in our home fyi.  But, I do have a sword.  But it's for belly dancing and it's not even sharp.  Shoot, I just broke the belly dancer code by telling you that!)

4.  A-hem....Adult Toys

We do have some hidden away.  Which would be more perplexing and mortifying than harmful if discovered.  However, my husband forgot how potentially damaging putting the bag from the sex shop in with the other plastic bags would be.   And my middle schooler attempted to bring a bag declaring "Fascinations:  Love is a Journey" to school.  (We don't have any porn in our home fyi.  Unless we're talking food porn.  Cause I do have tons of sexy photos of food I have eaten.)

5.  Wine

We love wine.  And we have found the perfect child theft deterrent system, kinda by accident.  We have a thick layer of dust in our wine rack that reveals if any bottles have been tampered with and/or removed from the shelf.  Even if they do move a bottle, what kid could uncork it?  Especially without getting cork in the wine?  And they probably wouldn't know to use a coffee filter to seperate the cork from the wine.  Thus, making it completely undrinkable.  Duh.

6.  Pot Candy

Remember how I did that investigative report for Jummp travel magazine on pot tourism and bought those pot laced watermelon candies?  It was really stupid to buy candy with pot in them when you have 4 kids who love candy.  I know you've wondered about the fate of those candies.  Did she?  Or didn't she?  All 10 candies remain intact in a sealed package and locked up in our safe.  Which is where we also keep our batteries, fyi.

7.  Cards Against Humanity

You know Apples to Apples?  This is the adult version of that.  Completely politically incorrect and unsuitable for children. So we don't play it when our kids are around and had it hidden in our private things.   Except, we have absolutely no privacy in our house.  So, of course, it was found and played.  Briefly,  before we confiscated and re-hid them.  Because the only hypocrites allowed in our house, are adults.

Truth be told, the two most accessible hazards in most homes are the leftovers in your fridge from god knows when.  And the enormous elephant in the room,  the internet.  And who doesn't have either in their home?

Monday, January 26, 2015

10 Reasons I Stopped Marketing My Book

I knew when I self published my book a little over a year ago, I was also committing to marketing it.  I also knew that this would be, by far, the hardest part of the entire process for me.  And it is.  Well, it was, until I gave up on it.  Why would I do such a stupid thing?  Read on.

1.   It's More Than a Full-Time Job

I read marketing books, I even did some of the things it said to do.  I got my book in the local library and local independent bookstores, I did giveaways, I joined Goodreads, I even joined a large on-line author group for 4 days that made me a neurotic, insecure mess in less than a week before I quit.  The truth is the book market is extremely flooded and with the internet, you could market all day and all night.  Which doesn't interest me, but preserving my sanity does.

2.  Pompous Self-Centered Asshole

First of all, marketing my book makes me feel like a pompous self-centered asshole.  After all, the book is a memoir.  Which makes everything much more personal.   So marketing it feels like I'm saying...."Hey, read my book, all about me, because I'm so incredibly awesome."  Though I don't think this about other memoirs, like Wild, which I loved, by the way.  Of course, she had a publisher and didn't have to shoulder all the marketing herself.  And even if she did, she's already got strong shoulders from that heavy pack she was carrying.

3.  Passive-Aggressive

I'm not an aggressive personality.  I never have been, even when I played roller derby.  I'm the poster girl for nice, non-confrontational, peaceful acceptance of everyone else but me. So I'm not gonna get in your face.  I have tried to be my own cheerleader and chant be aggressive, be, be aggressive.  But, as it turns out, I'm no cheerleader either.  I'm a pacifist.

4.  Rejection

Rejection and I are old friends. After all,  I was rejected by every agent and publisher I queried, which is how I became an indie author.  And you know what?  I'm pretty damn proud of the fact that I did the entire book my way, on my own from start to finish.  So what was my first thought when a small local Moroccan store refused to carry my book because the owner thought it was too edgy?  I've been rejected by  better.  Cause I really succeed at rejection.  Does that make me sound like a pompous, self-centered asshole?

5.  Disingenuous Bullshit

If there is one thing I hate, it's disingenuous bullshit.  Guess what marketing is?  It's wading through huge, steaming, putrid piles of disingenuous bullshit!  So, schmoozing with people I don't like or whose work I don't think is substantive and/or buying followers on social media to appear more successful?  I CALL BULLSHIT!   And I won't do it. I don't care what it costs me because you can't put a price on my integrity.  You get the authentic me or you don't get me at all.  I make no apologies for that.

6.  Popularity Contests are Stupid

There are terrible books that make it big.  There are fantastic books that don't.  And I'm not convinced it's all in the marketing.  Sometimes it's just the popularity of the genre and the timing of when it comes out.   You can call it luck if you want.  It's seems kinda like a popularity contest though.  And popularity doesn't necessarily equate to quality. Sometimes things are popular for good reasons, but sometimes it's because of a bad reputation. Which reminds me of high school.  And I hated high school the first time around.

7.  It's Not About the Money, Money...

I didn't publish a book for the money. In fact, I hate numbers.  And for the numerous people who've asked me, I don't know the exact number of how many books I've sold. I started to figure it out once but I got bored and frankly really depressed.  Because I'm nowhere near breaking even on it.  Maybe it will happen in my lifetime.  But, statistically that's not likely.  Because self publishing is more expensive than you might imagine.  And a whopping 80% of indie books won't break even.  Which is one of the reasons I hate numbers.

8.  I Believe

While I lack faith in marketing, I do believe in my book.  That it's both entertaining and substantive at the same time.  But most of all, I believe I've already gotten what I needed from writing it.  Having others read it, is just a bonus.  Which makes it easier to let it stand on its own two feet.  Or bookshelf,  rather.

9.  Word of Mouth

What sells books isn't marketing, it's word of mouth.  It's readers talking about them, writing reviews and sharing them with their friends.

10.  Write On

And the number one best way to market your book?   It's your next book.  So screw marketing and write on!

Curious about what readers have said about my book Rock the Kasbah? Read the good, the bad and the ugly here on

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photo Approval

I've traveled with toddlers and I've traveled with teenagers.  I always just assumed it would get easier as they got older.  It's the parenting myth we delude ourselves with in order to survive this parenting gig.  But guess what?  It's a lie.  A BIG FAT LIE.  Bigger kids equate to bigger problems.  And their clothes are also bigger, requiring more luggage we require they carry because they're big enough, but small minded enough to whine about it.  Oh, and when they were little?  They loved to get their picture taken.  Now, every shot requires their photo approval.  And that's if you can even get a picture of them to begin with.

I mean, you'd think they'd want photos of themselves on vacation for bragging rights or whatever.   Apparently not.  Because I had to beg for every single solitary photo opportunity.  And after making them walk all over sweltering Bangkok listening to them fight and beg for food every 5 minutes, begging them for photos got extremely exhausting, extremely fast. 

1.  Begging.

If you zoom in on the photo, you'll see the resentment and coercion all over their faces.  And this was just the beginning of the trip.

2.  Artistic Back Shots.

If they won't let me take a photo of them, I'll take a photo of their ungrateful little asses when they're not looking.  Which I also have in the photo, cause back shot.  Who knows?   Maybe this is their best angle.

3.  CIA Operative.

So they turned around and caught me taking back shots.  Forcing me to go all CIA operative on them.   In this covert maneuver, they're wheeling and dealing for some sweet souvenirs in the marketplace.  Together.  All team-like.  How come they can deal so well with strangers, but not their own siblings?

4.  Candid Camera.

No worries honey, I'm just taking a picture of the mountains out the window.  Oops,  I guess I missed the mountains entirely.

5.  Ants in Legoland.

All four of them are in this photo.  Somewhere.  You just might need a magnifying glass to see them.

6.  Making Stupid Faces.

Ok, I reverted to begging.  Again.  And even though I mustered up the energy to do it, at least one kid ruins it by making a really stupid face every time.   (Conversely, this is probably the most realistic representation of our family in photos.)

 7.  Selfies

While I can't take a photo of my kids with my camera, if I give the kids my camera they will selfie until they run out of memory and/or battery, whichever comes first.  Look closely, they are in fact riding an elephant.  I hope they have the zoomed out image stored away in their memories somewhere.
8.  The Approved Shot

It was near the end of the trip, when I got one photo approved picture of all the kids together.  It was a very precious minute and a half out of the entire two week trip where they all got along. 

 In other words,  it's not an accurate depiction of our vacation at all!  

And the kicker?  On the long journey home from vacation, one of my kids got on instagram and saw a family friend's photos.  "She takes such amazing photos of her kids!" Whhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttt did you just say?  Thanks Hillary.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thai'd Not

I like to think I take you to the real, gritty side of travel.  Because it's not all gorgeous beaches, palm trees and coconut drinks.  Even if it seems like it is from the photos.  Not even in Thailand.  But, every destination is an anomaly unto itself.  And that's what intrigues me most about every destination.  What you're not expecting when you travel there.

Like when the entire city of Bangkok is wired like this.  How has it not burned down?  HOW I ASK?

I read somewhere right before we left on our trip that Subway is the top fast franchise in the world.  (McDonald's is number 4).  Shocking right?  Who would have thought?  I mean it's just a sandwich, what's so special?  The number one convenience store in the world?  Yup, 7 Eleven.  And it's everywhere in Thailand.  And I know what you're thinking, and yes,  they DO have Slurpee's!

They also have hot dogs.  This one's name is Nudi and he's one extremely lucky dog.  Cause there are stray dogs and cats all over Thailand and gets to live in the 7 Eleven.   And he looks like getting free frozen burritos anytime he wants is one of the perks.

The cheap efficient form of transportation is the tuk tuk, which unfortunately my large American family doesn't fit in it.    In fact, finding transportation for all of us in one vehicle was exceptionally challenging.  We even rented a car for part of the trip,  a sedan for lack of any other choice,  requiring a kid to sit on the floor.  Which is what we were driving back to the train station when we all had food poisoning.  And there was a sharting incident, further complicating the seating arrangement and causing the kids to cluster on one side of the backseat.

Funny, that there are lots of vw buses around that would fit our family, and thus solve our transportation dilemma, but they weren't for hire. 

So this seemed like a great solution to get to the bus stop.  Maybe not so much when we got on the highway.  (Oh and the other 4 of us and a driver are on a motorbike in front.)  When traveling, you do what you have to do to get where you're going.  So safety goes out the window.  Unless there aren't even any windows to begin with.

This is something you don't see everyday, unless you're in Thailand.  Pay phones.  Oh and monks.  

We walked for hours to find a "monk chat",  yes, it's a thing.  This is Siddhartha, one of a minority of Buddhists from India.  It was too damn loud to have a conversation over the New Year's Eve festivities going on around us at the temple, also called a "wat".  Oddly our conversation consisted mostly of "wwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttt did you say?"

After a crash course in elephant riding commands, I wrote a cheat sheet on my hand.  Cause who wants to be riding an elephant bareback and not know how to say "STTTOOOOOOOPPPPP" in Thai?

I'm pretty sure it wore off during the elephant trunk war we had, but by that time it didn't matter.  And I won!  And I also "won" a bacterial infection from a cut I got sliding off an elephant into an elephant poop filled river.  I mean who would've guessed?  And yes, totally worth it!

We wound up in an ice cream cafe where the server was deaf.  And knew American Sign Language.  And guess who takes American Sign Language and could communicate with her?  Sky.  And she told him only a couple people in her town can sign to her.

When the condo I booked in Krabi (pronounced "crabby") 15 minutes away from the beach was occupied, I was skeptical of the "free upgrade" to the beach house.  But this was late in the trip when we were driving a cramped rental car and the kids were extremely crabby after we hiked to and tried to make them appreciate every temple in Bangkok in the sweltering heat of winter.  (Sidenote:  This is where we were  when we got horrible food poisoning and clogged up the toilets and barfed in the yard.  Proving, you can upgrade us, but not our behavior.) 

Ok, this driftwood lying on the beach looks like an elephant right?

And this karst formation looks, um...well.....phallic, right?  

Then there's the free roaming beach goats.   When they drink the pool water with the chlorine in it it means their milk is already pasteurized. right?

And perhaps the most odd visual, Thai bulls do not seem to enjoy mandatory romantic walks on the beach. Who knew?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pad Thai & Toilets

There is a delicate balance between what you eat and *ahem* regularity that gets all wonky when you travel.    It's a deliciously uncomfortable peril of travel that never ceases to stimulate my sense of wonder and my intestines.  As you may have guessed, this post consists of  potty talk.  But since the scene is set in Thailand, it sets it apart from my other potty posts and makes it exotic.  

DISCLAIMER:  If you have a weak stomach for bodily functions stop reading now.
Or at least stop eating.  And maybe go get a barf bag, just in case. 

It started off delicious in Bangkok, with a spicy beef salad at lunch.  At least that's what I thought at first taste.  Until our whole table was overcome with the smell off a full portapotty on a scorching August day.  We were dining riverside, it must be polluted with sewage.  That's what we thought.  Until I took my second bite.  And realized my salad was stench ground zero.   Welcome to authentic Thai cuisine, which includes the native durian.  Otherwise known as the world's stinkiest fruit.

It was a temporary culinary setback.  Because it takes more than a putrid malodor to dissuade my adventurous and gluttonous gut.  So street food?  On a stick even?  Filled with all kinds of exotic Thai bacterias?  Bring it on!

Since many days I was wearing a bikini and eating pad thai with reckless abandon,  I couldn't help but notice my new pad thighs. Not to mention, my white rice consumption was through the roof.  Pre-trip I worried my irritable bowel syndrome, combined with my love of spicy red curry and lack of public toilets would result in me shitting my pants.  Again.  Instead,  the opposite happened and I had  constipation for the first time in my life.  Although uncomfortable, the bonus was that there was more time for sightseeing and less spent anxious, frantically in search of a public toilet.  Again.

Oddly, it was constipation that gave me the confidence to up the ante.  And go even spicier than I ever had before.  Because constipation was my safety net.  Until I realized once again my Americanism deceived me.  American "hot"  is nowhere near what Thai "hot" is.  Not in the weather, where we considered making sweat angels on the pavement in Bangkok, and definitely not in the esophagus burning cuisine.

A little coconut water is the remedy.   Because my other remedy, wine, is really hard to get in Thailand.  And if you do find it,  it's both crappy and expensive.  And coconut water is cheap and supposed to make you crap.  Although I didn't find the latter to be true.

And here we are back at crap.  Again.
Because it's an intricate, intertwined cycle.  
Which necessitates using the toilet at some point.  
Even if you're constipated.

Thailand, like Costa Rica and a lot of the rest of the world,  is plagued with poor plumbing.  So, while the waste gets flushed down, the paper does not. You are expected to throw the paper that wiped your privates in the trash.  Do you know how hard it is NOT to flush the paper down the toilet cause you're on automatic pilot?  Because every ounce of your being and forty years plus of potty experience say it's the right thing to do.  And cause poop.

Of course it's easier not to flush the paper down if you don't even have toilet paper.  And you're squatting over a hole in the floor with  only a bucket, some water and your left hand to do the job. While gross, it's really great for the environment.  (And a not so delicate reminder to always travel with your own personal stash of wet wipes.)

If you don't find the squat potty challenging enough, just try to pee on a moving train and not dribble any on your pants.

It was in the small town of Hang Dong (no joke, that's the name of the town) where I saw the cleanest, most deluxe squat potty I'd ever encountered in all my travels.  But, that's probably because it's so remote that no one uses it.

It was near the end of the trip when we came across a food boat.  You know, like food trucks here in the states, but floatier.  And as I sat on the beach stuffing my face in a bikini with my pad thighs wondering when I would ever poop again, I raved.  "Oh my god, this is so good!"  I must've said it six times.

Until dinner came around.  And the first kid puked right there next to the table in the restaurant.  And then as the evening wore on, one by one, all six of us were puking and shitting.  Sometimes at the exact same time.  When we clogged the toilet where we were staying, we went outside and spewed on the grass.  Oh my god, this is so bad.  But, at least I wasn't constipated anymore.  Life has a funny way of balancing everything out.  Even in Thailand.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flying the Perfectly Coiffed Skies

The thing that sucks about travel, is actually getting to your destination.   Especially when your destination is 27 hours plus of travel clear across the other side of the world.  There's no way around it.  One simply must endure much too early departures, stuffy, cramped quarters, bad airline food eaten out of contempt and boredom, and inhospitable flight attendants.  Except if you're flying Korean Air, where the flight attendants actually seem to enjoy their job.  And people.  It must be a cultural thing.

Because what American could pull off working in a sleek, form fitting white leather uniform, heels, perfectly coiffed hair and make-up fit for the runway (think Milan, not the airport) for 12 hours straight? With a smile no less.  It's extremely Stepford wife-ish.  And inhumane.  We have unions fighting for the rights of flight attendants to wear flats and breathable fabrics.  But, at the risk of pissing off the AFL-CIO, it does make the flight a tad more humane for the passengers.     

It's not just the flight attendants' discomfort that makes the passengers more comfortable.  It's the free wine and beer served with dinner.  They even serve it up with a napkin that proclaims that they care about me.  And I'm starting to believe it.

Caution:  Reading about how automated flight has become and the fact that pilots only handle the controls for an average of 3 minutes per flight, may not make for good in flight reading if flying makes you anxious.
Otherwise, it was a fantastic read.  
After finishing the last  book I packed early in the flight and watching all the cool documentaries they had on the in-flight entertainment, I was bored.  And had to pee really bad.  So I finally headed for that dreaded trip to the lavatory.  Which is where I found hydrating lavender mist for my face and mouthwash. It was like a flying porta-potty spa.  Which is when I went to go get the camera and went to check out a different bathroom.  Cause I can't go back to the same one, I don't want the flight attendants to think I've got some weird bathroom fetish. (Which I do.)  And then, there was a different lotion and toothbrushes with toothpaste.

Evidence of the spaishness.
 It's like they want you to spend an hour in there trying to achieve Korean Air flight attendant perfection.  Which is really just a setup for failure.  Because no one can achieve this level of perfection.  I know because I tried for a whole entire minute in the bathroom.  What can I say?  I'm American.  I want the express lane to perfectly coiffed.  And to wear flats with breathable fabrics.

So I take selfies of how comfortable and relaxed I look over the middle of the Pacific Ocean 
 in the airplane bathroom.  It's simply the American way!
(And I think it might be Korean Air's covert instagram marketing strategy.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...