Thursday, May 25, 2017

Text & Emoticons


I'm probably not the best person to be doing this... using emoticons to inject 'feeling' into a factual story. I own and operate a discontinued Motorola RAZR V3 flip phone with text messaging disabled. Enough Said.

And while I know little about emoticons, I do know that the sideways smiley face :-) (colon-dash-parenthesis) was first used in an email sent on September 19, 1982 by Scott Fahlman, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science to indicate light-heartedness in a text joke that might be mistaken for being sarcastic or serious.

And so, these quirky little keyboard strokes not only function as cute symbolic shortcuts, but can also suggest intent in text when facial expressions and body language are not present.

Here... I present a series of events... with emoticons and their meanings.

In the words of Stravinsky to his orchestra... "Once more with feeling."

April 9, 2017... Sunday

Bruce died.
Our 20-year-old, metallic champagne-colored Chevy van, with 155,973 miles on its odometer, has died from massive engine failure.
:( (sad)

Michael, my husband, is both capable and confident that he can make the necessary repairs himself and bring Bruce back to life.
:) (happy)

The repairs will take weeks to complete.
:O (shocked)

It's now three weeks. Bruce is still in a coma. And I've been holed up at home with a loop playing in my head of Willie Nelson singing, "On the road again. Just can't wait to get on the road again."
:-[ (pouting)

May 5, 2017... Friday

We decide to rent a car for the weekend. We're told by the dealership that the only car they have left, isn't the compact we reserved, but a brand-new Infinity QX80 SUV (purchase price starting at $63,000 and renting for about $200 a day). They're giving it to us for the originally quoted price of a compact: $9.99 a day, for three days.
:@ (exclamation "What???")

Knowing we'll probably never be in such an elite vehicle again, we run errands, lots of errands: post office, library, three supermarkets (Acme, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods) three craft stores (Michael's, AC Moore, and Jo Ann Fabrics) Bed Bath & Beyond, Bob and Ron's World Wide Stereo, and Target... more errands than we should attempt in one day, but this vehicle, which we've named 'The Behemoth,' demands to be on the road, not sitting idly in a driveway at home.
:D (big grin)

Once home (7:30 PM) we realize we haven't eaten all day. Beyond starved and too tired to cook, or dine in a restaurant, we discuss take out.
>:( (grumpy)

Only we can't decide what to eat. Fifteen minutes pass. We narrow our choices to pizza or pasta. But which? I suggest flipping a coin. Michael tosses a quarter. It lands on tails. We're running on vapors and forget to assign heads or tails to each item.
%-/ (braindead)

We declare pizza, heads and pasta, tails. One flip and it's heads... pizza. Michael reaches for the phone to place an order, but an order where? Salerno's is out, too far away. Whole Foods? Pizza Box? Trios? The clock keeps ticking. We return to the coin. Heads, Whole Foods, tails, Trios. Heads again. Now it's heads, Whole Foods, tails, Pizza Box. And what about toppings???
:l (indecision)

Instantly, Michael and I have the same thought... that this could go on all night into the wee hours of the morning. And by morning, someone might find us: splayed out, laying side by side, on the kitchen floor, with a shiny silver coin between us and the day's headline.. "Couple Found X_X (dead) From Hunger."
:'D (crying with laughter)

Two more weeks pass...

May 18, 2017... Thursday

Truck repairs are complete: the engine has been restored, front shock absorbers, spark plugs. and wires have been replaced. Bruce is resuscitated and lives to run another day... hopefully years, not days.
:)) (very happy)

May 19, 2017... Friday

With today the last of the promotional weekend deals until after Labor Day, we decide to rent one last car, another compact, this time to do more tootling around and less running of errands. We're given a new Fiat 500X... and for just a second, I think I hear the voice of a young boy (from the Mazda television commercial) whisper in my ear... "ZOOM ZOOM."
:<> (surprised) and :) (happy)

Safe and :) (happy) travels to you!

XOX... Dyan

P.S. Watch ZOOM ZOOM here. And if you're still wondering... we eventually ordered that pizza... a pie topped with: mushrooms, olives, roasted garlic and sausage... from Whole Foods.

More tales next month
"Here and Next"

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Toys, Stuff, & Kids

"What about the prizes?"... Four words that often slip from my lips to my husband's ears, when I'm bored, stressed, or need to smile.

The exact translation: "Time to buy my next toy."

Not a grown-up toy like a giant screen TV, luxury car, or digital gadget, but a toy-toy, a kid's toy, something small, made of plastic, cheap and often found in places like: vending machines, dollar stores, Five Below, and Toys "R" Us. Objects that can easily be held and displayed, provide levity to gravity, and are capable of waking the child within who has long been asleep.

Unfortunately, today I woke up early, 4 AM early, due to 'mind chatter': the constant bombardment of thoughts and the inability to turn them off. Thoughts about our government: the deception, nepotism, fabrications, leaks, ties with Russia, power for personal gain, the eroding of our Democracy and human decency, and sheer incompetence, to name a few, compounded by...

Thoughts of having to relocate, after learning that our lease which expires next year will not be renewed. Instead, the house we've rented for 10 years will be sold, forcing us to find another transitional home, who knows where, until we eventually move into the building we bought years ago... a building that's still being gutted and sure to be angst for some other morning.

But for now, I'm in Target, ambling the toy aisles... as a distraction, to feel kid-like unburdened and carefree, to smile, and buy my next toy!

I pick up these Li'l Woodzeez... small bobblehead animals nestled in cute plastic-shaped acorns. And... they're on sale! But the containers appeal to me more than the fuzzy composite critters inside.

So, I pass on the Woodzeez, and gravitate toward these...

12 little, hard plastic characters pressed into one package! Not cheap, but HEY!... I've had a difficult morning AND... it's almost MY BIRTHDAY!... SOLD!


Once home, I give my new friends time to settle into their new temporary digs, while I.... 

settle down in front of the computer and track this story...



APPARENTLY... Jamie, a clever 3-year-old boy who loves toys, managed to get inside a giant claw machine and retrieve the prizes of his choice, but wasn't quite clever enough to find his way out! Ya gotta love this kid!

Here's a better look at the "Great Toy Machine Caper" with 5-year-old brother Shane checking out the situation.

And here's Jamie, safe and happy at home with his nabbed toys... 2 green dragons: one for him and one for his brother. Sweet!

I'm not sure the last time I belly-laughed so hard, but between my new Peppa Pig toys and this story, I'm in a much happier place.

Watch a snippet of the arcade video here. And read the complete story, much of it told by Jamie's dad here.

And just when I couldn't imagine my day getting any lighter and brighter, I discover this odd little video by 'Disney Car Toys'. To some it might seem as interesting as watching paint peel off a ceiling, but to those like me, who love little plastic toys and vending machine prizes, it might just put a smile on your face, too. Watch Sandra & Spidey make a roll of quarters disappear here.

Here's hoping our next and hopefully last transitional dwelling
My wish when I blow out my candles.

XOX... Dyan

Update: The day after publishing this post, I came across this short video: "Chen Zhitong Wins 15,000 Stuffed Animals from Claw Machines." It's worth a look here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Politics, Six Words, & Advice

Photo: Win McNamee

"A White House built on fabrication"... six words (my words) used to describe the political situation in our country today.

A country, that in the span of just four days, bid farewell to one president, witnessed the swearing in of another, while millions of women in pink hats from the United States and around the world marched in opposition to our newly formed government...

A government that apparently lies and calls their falsehoods, "alternative facts."

The fact is... this new President and his staff of advisors are beyond belief.

Gone are the principles of Superman: "Truth, Justice and the American Way."

And like so many Americans, I am way unhinged... so much so that I contacted: CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and several fact-checking organizations with this question and my own reply.

"What are the people of this country to do with a government that lies?"

"Rely on the Press!"

Then I offered these six words of advice, encouragement, and a cry for help.


Quote by Mahatma Gandhi / Source:

The power of words and the 'constraint of 'six' often speaks volumes.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged in a bar to write a story in just six words. On a napkin, he wrote, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I first became intrigued with the power of 'Six' in 2008 when I joined Smith Magazine: Home of the Six-Word Memoir. To best explain things, I'll share this copy of a letter I sent to President Obama in December 2016 expressing my gratitude for his eight years of service.

Photo: Jewel Samad

Dear Barack,

Just prior to your inauguration in 2009, Larry Smith of Smith Magazine's "Six-Word Memoirs" ran a contest asking the nation to provide six words of advice to you, our soon to be 44th President of the United States.

I never imagined that my six words would be among the winning entries or that my six words: "These are testing times, study hard" would ring so true.

Never in our history has any President had to face such unjust adversity from party opposition; yet throughout, you managed to persevere, endure, and lead this nation with great integrity. You supported this country when it was down and almost out, you provided health care, jobs, and increased wages. You boosted the economy and fostered equality for women, LGBT partners, and people of all nationalities. And above all, you kept us safe.

Historically, I've admired leaders who exhibited intelligence and compassion... people like John F. Kennedy, known for his passionate speeches, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. known for his incredible dream. I believe history will prove that you not only possess these same traits and more, but that you will be known for your impeccable character.

These are testing times Mr. President, and you've scored an "A+ Outstanding!"

I thank you! Millions of others all over the world... thank you too!

And for my last set of "SIX"...

"Be Proud! We're proud of you!"



Advice isn't something I give often. Born into a family of non-communicators, advice wasn't something imparted, but rather picked up through osmosis. But even a few words mentioned often enough over an extended period of time will eventually stick.

Here are a few that stuck with me...

"Breathe Deeply"... My grandma Fanny led by example. So often I'd watch her take a deep breath, hold it, and then exhale forcibly. She was a bit of a health nut in her day despite cooking with lard. Aside from conscious breathing, she attended a few wellness spas and exercised daily in her living room with Jack LaLanne (fitness guru) on television.

"Money is Round"... The idea that if you spend it, it will come back to you... another saying by grandma Fanny who rarely spent money on herself but gave to many others and whose heart was as good as gold.

"This Too Shall Pass"... Consoling words from my grandpa Mickey (Fanny's husband) who lived through the depression and experienced difficult times that were never mentioned.

"Don't Get Pregnant"... Mouthed by my mother, Edna, though I don't think she meant it as in never ever. "Sorry mom"... both my brother and his wife and my husband and I chose not to have children.

"Use a Tissue Just Once"... What an odd thing for my dad, Jerry, to say. So odd, that I still hear his words every time I blow my nose.

And for a poignant bit of advice... from our dear friend Mrs. Weinstock, who passed away two months before her 98th birthday...

"Write Everything Down. One Day You Will Forget."

Well, I've written down everything. And if there's one thing I would like to forget... it's the entire 2016 Presidential Election!

As my cousin Carl would say... "Good Luck With That."

And as I would say in

"Good Luck To All Of Us!" 

If interested...

For an article written in 2009 by our local paper regarding my Six-Word win go here.

To visit Smith Magazine go here and to learn about their latest book, The Best Advice in Six Words, which includes a new set of my six go here.

And for a little rant, if you haven't already seen and heard enough, read Dick Polman's article from Newsworks here.

After reading Polman's piece, 
you might want to take grandma Fanny's advice and take a... 

"Deep Breath"

XOX... Dyan

Friday, December 23, 2016

Bridges, Idioms, & Anxiety

Bridges... have you ever burned one? Figuratively?

I recall three... all burned over thankless jobs when in the heat of the moment I had had enough and justifiably walked out and vowed never to return.

There was the high school summer job working the 3 to 11 PM shift printing banners for a small company with a "No Sitting" "No Talking" "No Breathing" policy. I quit after being reamed out by the owner for wearing a small Band-Aid on my finger while working. Immediately afterwards the foreman pleaded with me to stay, "Sit, drink coffee, read magazines the rest of the night, but don't go," as I walked out the door.

Then there was the job straight out of college for another printing firm that offered a decent wage and position, which were slow to materialize. After a few months, I quit. Management said they thought I was overqualified and were waiting to see if I'd take a better offer elsewhere, or enroll in graduate school before they made good on their promises. I promised never to return.

And then the dream job which turned into a nightmare after discovering that the Philadelphia elementary school that hired me to teach Art had zero supplies and zero chances of ever getting any. So instead of teaching "Conceptual" Art or forever paying for my own materials, after a week, I resigned.

"Water Under The Bridge" as they say, an idiom meaning something that happened and can't be changed.

There are quite a few idioms involving bridges:

Besides... "Burning One's Bridges," making decisions that can't be changed, or cutting off the path from where you came.

There's... "A Bridge Too Far," a plan whose ambition overreaches its capacity leading to difficulty or failure.

"Bridge The Gap," to make a connection where there is a great difference or to create something that will only serve temporarily.


"Cross That Bridge When You Come To It," to avoid needless worry about a difficult situation  until it happens. Something I've been retelling myself ever since the start of the 2016 Presidential Election and honestly it's not working... the idiom, the election, and my anxiety, an anxiety never felt to this degree in my entire adult life over a President-elect.

Anxiety, bridges, and how people do and don't cope are the subjects of an interesting and at times amusing piece printed in "Philadelphia Stories," a quarterly publication, and written by R.G. Evans called "Crossing Bridges".

It begins...

"I don't remember when the panic attacks began, but I do remember where.

The first one hit as I ascended the deck of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the twin span across the Delaware River connecting Delaware to southern New Jersey, a bridge I'd driven across hundreds of times over the past twenty years. My mouth began to fill with saliva and my throat felt swollen, on the verge of closing altogether. My tongue seemed to swell and I felt my heart pound as both my hands sprang off the wheel and clasped tightly over my mouth. Somehow, I managed to keep control of the car till it reached the summit of the bridge and immediately, I felt normal again, not dying at all, just casually driving down the western side of a bridge that moments before had tried to kill me."

... continue reading the complete story here.

And if "Burning Bridges" and "Crossing Bridges When You Come To Them" fail to lessen your anxiety, try Yoko Ono's method... a primal scream here.

For now...


... crossing all other bridges only when you have to!

XOX... Dyan

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Rhymes & Rodents


These stories are factual. The pictures have been changed to protect the innocent... me, and those like me, who terrify easily.


Hickory Dickory Dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down.
Dragging his trap behind him.

Truth is... there are no clocks in our basement.
And for the exact time I can't say for sure.
But a mouse trap was set... 4 of them to be precise, each smeared with peanut butter and strategically placed inside our cellar.

I know this because my husband told me after seeing small droppings (poop presents) where previously there had been none.

But now I'm told there are 3... three traps, three dead mice, and one trap missing, as in gone, vanished, nowhere to be found.

I freaked!... soon after hearing the words house and mouse mouthed together. "Eek!" no, 'Double Eek!' for somewhere in this house there's a mouse, big and powerful enough to pick up a wooden trap... and carry it with him!

Obviously, I don't like mice, and many other creatures I haven't mentioned; but right now the only thing keeping me from jumping out of my skin is that I haven't actually seen anything. Not a single sharp-clawed, twitchy-nosed, naked-tailed, furried-critter has yet to ascend the basement steps and enter my personal space.


And to keep things that way, we drove to Lowes Home Improvement Center where we met an employee offering advice on anti-rodent invasion supplies.

"Mice will chew right through that spray foam you're holding," she said. "You're better off using steel wool to fill in large gaps. Mice won't go near the stuff." This woman knew her "stuff" apparently from first-hand experience.

Her son raised mice for a local pet store. And her neighbor raised chickens, which attracted large colonies of mice. So between her son's few escapees and those from next door, soon HUNDREDS of mice were running amuck in her house!


After closing my dropped jaw, I asked, "How did you cope?"

"I'm not afraid of mice," she said. "I just picked them up by the tail and got rid of them. And I used poison. The poison worked great, but isn't sold anymore because dealers used it to cut their drugs.

Which was way more information than I could assimilate; I clearly stopped listening after hearing... 'hundreds of mice running amuck'.

And here I thought my 'Triple Eek' moment was scary, when years back, in the middle of the night, while living in Jenkintown in our loft space above a candy store, I heard, then saw, my bedside trash can move!

Right there, just inches from my head, was... a GIANT RAT!

"Eek! Eek! Eek!" I screamed, though it may have been just one long "EeeeeeeeeeeK!" that woke my husband.

"It's just a dream," he groggily muttered.

"It's a GIANT RAT" I sputtered.

And like lightening we bolted from our comfy king-sized bed, and ran into my studio, where we both laid, squished and immobile on a daybed, perfectly sized for one person.

Neither of us slept. Even if we had dozed off it wouldn't have lasted because with daylight came audible cries from the far end of Michael's studio.

Bravely, my weary husband, my hero, headed out to investigate.

There he found, stuck inside a five-gallon plastic bucket, not an oversized mutant rat, but a baby-sized OPOSSUM! The first of many!

Source: Elisa Shine

Unlike rodents who scurry and jump when threatened, opossums play dead.

Over the next few days, six opossums, or a passel (a group of opossum) were captured in habitat traps and set free.

As simple as it may sound, capturing these marsupials wasn't easy or convenient.

Often it was between 2 and 3 in the morning when their cries, like blaring alarm clocks would alert us to Quickly Get Up!, Quickly Get Dressed!, and Quickly Drive! to the nearest park where they would be released... ever so... s-l-o-w-l-y. Slowly, because the opossums refused to move; they all played dead!

Michael handled and transported all the creatures; I was just a passenger along for the nerve-wracking ride.

And once her children were gone, Mama Opossum, who had been living beneath the floorboards, chose to exit the building and never return.

Source: Mevv San

Which is my exact wish for the field mice now inhabiting our place in Glenside, that they leave of their own volition and never return! Better still... that their love of the outdoors keeps them from ever venturing indoors!

And that missing trap? Fortunately for us it was found with its catch intact inside a hollow concrete block. Not so fortunate for the mouse, who was once believed to have super-natural ability.

Several more mice have since been caught, but none lately.

Reminiscent of more joyous times when...

'Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse!


I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Speedy! now, Stuart! now Mighty! and Mickey!
On, Templeton! on, Jerry! on, Chuck E! and Minnie!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

~The End~

XOX... Dyan