A Taste of Japan in Atlanta

11Sep2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Who is attending the coolest festival featuring all things Japan?

Yes, that would be me and my crew! And JapanFest sounds so awesome, y’all need to come, too!


Organized by JapanFest, Inc., The Japan-America Society of Georgia and The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, this year’s theme is “Cooler Japan.” This theme combines the best of modern Japanese innovation while honoring age-old traditions as the family-friendly festival celebrates its 30th year.

Children will be able to make paper puppets and enjoy Kamishibai, a form of Japanese theatrical storytelling that uses paper puppets. They can also learn Japanese calligraphy, try on traditional Japanese clothes, make kites, color in Japanese coloring books, fold origami figures, and play with traditional Japanese tops and paper sumo wrestlers. Children will get to play with Samurai Borgs (Japanese fighting robots), Beyblade, Hyper yoyos, and play a modern cup and ball game called Kendama.


Kids will also be given the opportunity to let their creativity shine by using a 3-D pen that will make their art literally stand off the page! They can use the tool to draw fish and watch their creatures come to life in a 3-D aquarium. There’s also a special app that allows you to design fireworks and then see them on the big screen at the event.

Oh, and who wouldn’t love to have a picture made with Domo!


For the second year, JapanFest is collaborating with anime convention, MomoCon. The Anime village is a section of the festival completely dedicated to anime products, anime viewings, and gaming, including an opportunity to meet Anime voice artist Kyle Hebert. Keep Momocon is also sponsoring a Pokémon Go! Meetup. Capture and boost a gym, claim resources from Poke Stops and build your team, all factions welcome!


Fans of traditional fighting methods will enjoy demonstrations of virtually every Japanese martial art in existence, including aikido, karate, kendo, kyudo, and sumo.

And of course, no festival is complete without music, shopping and food!


Musical performances include taiko drumming, J-Rock and J-Pop, classical music, Japanese dance performances, a kimono fashion show, and kabuki theater.

Shoppers will love Ginza-dori, organized by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and named after Tokyo’s famous shopping district. It will feature Japanese ceramics, traditional clothing and accessories, and fun items such as masks and toys. For those who want to try on a kimono, the Konnichiwa Club will dress them in the latest kimonos from Japan.


Come hungry, because the best of Japanese cuisine awaits. Fill up on everything from sushi, bento, ramen or rice bowls, then indulge your sweet tooth with bubble tea, shaved ice and traditional Asian pastries. For lighter appetites, a Konbini store and Japanese grocery store, Tomato, will sell tasty and unique Japanese snacks.

Now, the details!

Date: September 17-18, 2016

Location: Infinite Energy Center (located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, GA 30097)

Time: 10 am to 6 pm (Saturday) and 10 am to 5 pm (Sunday)

Admission: $10 (kids 6 and under are free!)

Although tickets are available at the door, attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets online to minimize waiting at the event entrance.

Individual tickets are available for sale until the day before the event through the Infinite Energy Center ticketing system, AXS.


A Most Unlikely Diagnosis

24Aug2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

If you’ve been around me in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed me wheezing.

If you’re really close to me, you’ve surely noticed that I’m not as active as I used to be. I don’t go for walks anymore. I’m now one of those annoying people who will drive around five minutes just to get a closer parking spot. Amusement parks are my worst nightmare, but sometimes I suck it up and do it for the kids anyway.

Even though I’ll spend most of my time on a bench because breathing is such a pain in the butt.

Heck, I struggle to breathe while carrying laundry from the bedroom to the kitchen. I huff and puff when making the bed. Forget vacuuming and mopping. If you come to my house, you’ll see…Maid Mama has clearly been slacking off for a long time now, and ain’t NObody been picking up the slack.

And elevators? Oh my word. The most embarrassing places on the planet. Locked up in a silent box with strangers while I sound like Darth Vader nursing a bad case of bronchitis. People either ask if I’m OK or they stare at me wide-eyed, clearly mortified at the thought of catching whatever I’ve got.

This has been going on FOR YEARS. Years. I first remember it alarming me when I was on a walk with my friend Lori C. I could still walk a whole mile without sitting down back then, but I sounded terrible. At her advice, I made an appointment with my GP, who diagnosed me with exercise-induced asthma.

I think it was a placebo effect that the inhaler seemed to help a little, for a little while. I kept refilling the prescription and thinking if I could just get in better shape, if I could just lose some weight, I’d feel better. That’s what the doctor said.

About two years ago, I finally went back to the GP and said, “Look…this isn’t working. What’s next?” And he’s like, well, you don’t sound like you have asthma after all. You should get a cardiac and pulmonolgist work-up.

So I did. Heart checked out fine. Got a major long lecture on how I would breathe easier if I just lost weight. Felt shamed into believing that I was a lazy sloth who was reaping what I’d sown.

Pulmonologist did a sleep study and said I have sleep apnea. I never followed through on getting a C-pap. I just hated the way it felt, like trying to exhale into a full-blowing hair dryer pressed into my mouth. Every night since has felt like a gamble, but I don’t know how I could sleep at all that way. I asked him why sleep apnea would make me so breathless during the day, when doing even the simplest tasks. He said it was obesity. Obesity does all of that. My body wasn’t designed to carry around all this extra weight. Like, duh. (OK, he didn’t say “duh”, but I think he might’ve if we’d known each other better.)

So, nevermind that I’ve been obese basically my entire life, except with one short stint of bulimia in high school, and up until a few years ago, could breathe just fine. But hey, being fat IS the root of all evil. So I believed that my huffin’-and-puffin’ was entirely my fault.

Well. I found out today that it’s not.

And I’m not going to lie–my eyes teared up when the doctor told me that I wasn’t to blame.

I have subglottic stenosis, possibly caused by the autoimmune problems I’ve had since 2003. A lot of times, they don’t know why people have it. It’s basically a narrowing of the trachea below the vocal cords that makes for noisy, difficult breathing. He ran a camera down my nose and I got to see the whole thing. Pretty interesting stuff.

He seemed surprised that I’ve had this for years without it being diagnosed. But he did say that it’s a relatively rare condition and after I have a CT scan next week to see how bad it is, I’ll probably be handed off to the specialists at Emory. From what I’ve read, it’s manageable through surgery and dilation. It can recur and require more extensive surgery, but hopefully it won’t get to that point.

Now…I know this is long. But bear with me. You have to hear what led me to go to the doctor now, to begin with. I had kinda resolved myself to just having to live with this until it landed me in the ER or something.

I would totally have not been at the ENT today if I hadn’t broken my own rules last week.

It’s my policy to stay out of the living room during the day. The computer is in the dining room, my two homeschooled kids do a lot of their work at the table, and I’m not into any daytime TV shows. So there’s really no reason to be in the living room. My recliner (AKA The Chair of Doom) must be avoided at all costs if I don’t want to nap the day away. I mean, if my butt settles down into those sweet, soft cushions, I’m OUT. It’s over. (Must be from all that obesity and apnea…)

But…one morning last week, I made breakfast and I just wanted to sit with my feet up and chill, maybe watch something on the DVR while the teenagers were still sleeping. I clicked through the guide and saw that The Doctors was on next.

Y’all, I never watch that show. Ever. No offense to those who do (like my Mom–she’s their biggest fan) but it’s just not my cup of tea.

But I felt this unmistakable urging to click on it. Which I immediately suppressed and kept scrolling to find something I liked better.

Now, I’m not one who is quick to say “God told me” to do something. If there’s anyone whose mouth I don’t want to put words into, it is His. But I couldn’t find anything to watch. And that still small voice was still nudging me: “Go watch The Doctors.”

So, because I’m far too often like this…


….I said, “Oh, alRIGHT!” and clicked back over.

And this is what I saw! (Check it out!)

And I was like, “Oh my gosh…that is ME!”

And I joined a Facebook group for those with ISS, and the more I read, the more I felt like I was reading my own experiences. But I didn’t really participate in any discussions because those “it’s all in your head…it’s your own fault” conversations kept creeping into my thoughts and I didn’t want to say that I had something that I might not actually have.

But I knew that I had to find out.

I’m so glad that I did! I’ve been needing to schedule an elective surgery for a scar-related hernia and the doctor told me today that I cannot be intubated until this is fixed. He just said, “That would…not be good.”

If Zach hadn’t had his accident, I would’ve had that operation this month. And I’d have been intubated and who knows what tracheal damage that would’ve entailed.

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for everything. For luring me to my Chair of Doom at 10:00 a.m., for pushing me to watch a show I never watch, for leading me to a kind and compassionate doctor. For letting me be alive and OK. For giving me answers.

For reminding me that You move in mysterious ways.

And for the soon-coming gift of breathing freely again!

OH. MY. Goodness! I. Cannot. WAIT!

See ya later, Darth Vader!


A Cup Of Aggravation

23Aug2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
Cup O Aggravation

You’ll never convince me that fast food employees deserve $15 an hour. Why? Because interactions like the following are not even remotely rare in my town.

Wendy’s is offering their small Frosty for 50 cents at the moment. Money is squeaky-tight, it’s hot as Hades out, and Tuesday is the one day that all three of the younger kids are away at school. So today felt like a good day to grab a cheap frozen snack on the way home.


When we pulled up to the drive-thru speaker, it was silent. I wasn’t sure if I should say “Hello?” or “Is anyone there?” because I’ve heard that if you’re pushy, they’ll spit in your food. So we waited.

In silent, hot, hungry anticipation, we waited.

Actually, I lie. The speaker was silent. My youngest was whining that this was “taaaaakinnggg toooooo lonnnnngg” and the other two were bickering over something that I can’t even remember.

“Are you ready to order?” The demanding voice smacked my eardrum. I could’ve understood her irritation had she already greeted me and I was just sitting there. But there had been no pleasantries exchanged at all.

“Yes, I’d like four small chocolate Frosties and two small vanilla Frosties.”

Silence. Another LONG silence.

“OK. So that’s….four small Frosties and three small fries.”


“No, I only ordered Frosties. Six small Frosties. Four chocolate, two vanilla.”

“NO, you SAID…” and then her attitude-drenched voice tapered off. And then I turned to my kids and whispered, incredulous, “Does this person really think she is going to TELL me what I said?!”

They laughed. Because they know their Mama and what happens to them if they try to tell me what I said when I KNOW what I said.

Silence. Another LONG silence.

“OK, that’ll be $7.42. Drive around.”

“Um…aren’t Frosties 50 cents each?”

“YES. I will take off the coupon at the window!”

I’ve done this before and there wasn’t any mysterious coupon to be configured, but hey, whatever.

So, we finally crept up to the window. AND…no one was there.

She finally sauntered over. “I took off the coupon. Your total is $3.75.”

Now, mind you, I’d been sitting there since 1962 holding three ones, a quarter and a penny in anticipation of a $3.21 total. Tax is 7%, so the total for six items at .50/each plus tax should be $3.21.

And I told her this. And I’m going to pat myself on the back because I smiled AND used my nice customer-service voice instead of the sarcasm-coated utterances which usually flow freely when teenagers irritate me at home.

She didn’t smile back. “Oh, hold on…” and she vanished again.


Is it just me, or should getting some discounted ice cream not be QUITE this difficult?

The crickets were chirping again before two girls appeared at the window.

The (manager?) glared at me and spoke slowly, seeming quite certain that I was too dumb to count, much less drive a car.

“This total is right,” tapping the screen. “You ordered seven Frosties.”

“No…I ordered six.”

She snapped around, told the girl, “You got seven on here!” Then the manager fixed the order and stomped off.

Defeated, she told me, “OK. That’s $3.21.”

I quietly handed her the cash and kept my mouth shut even though I wanted to shout, “I know that! I’ve ALWAYS KNOWN THAT! All 476 years that I’ve been sitting at this @#$% window I’ve known that I owed you three dollars and twenty-one cents!”

Then. THEN…

She just stared at my quarter and penny in her palm. She kinda poked them around with her long fingernail, looking utterly bewildered.

She keyed in the amount and when she got the change out of the drawer, it’s like a light bulb momentarily flashed as she realized that I wanted one nickel back instead of four pennies.

At least, I hope she realized that was the reason behind The Great Mystical Combination of Coins.

She thrust the nickel and the receipt at me, saying nothing. The girl at the next window silently passed me our Frosties.

I kinda wondered if someone might’ve spit in them.

So, yeah. Minimum wage for minimum skills. Which if pay were really based on skills, this girl should be making about $1.51 an hour.

Maybe round that up to $1.55 so she doesn’t get confused.



Get Yer Goat Soap Here!

12Aug2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Seriously, y’all. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re missing out!

I posted earlier this summer about my new affiliation with O My! Goat Milk Bath and Body products.

Because of Zach’s accident, it’s taken longer than I’d planned to get back to you with what I thought about the fragrances I’ve tried so far. With so many fantastic scents to choose from, here’s my take on the following, saving my favorite for last!


Summer Melon smells exactly like you imagine it would: like a sweet wedge of honeydew or watermelon, but more clean/green than cloyingly sweet. Refreshing. Summery. Nice.


Flip Flops (can you tell that I was in a seasonal mood?) got to go along with me to Florida last month. I thought it would be a great scent for vacation, and I was right. A little beachy, a little sun-screen-y, but with a surprising hit of what I think might be mint? I’m obviously not a beauty products expert when it comes to differentiating fragrances, but I liked it.


Clean Linen was a must on my list, because that type of fragrance is one of my favorites when I’m shopping for candles. I just adore that fresh laundry scent wafting through the house. The guys didn’t think this one was “too girly”, either. Just a nice, clean fragrance.


Luck of the Irish is described on the O My! site as a “spicy-sweet blend of French Verbena and lemon, a green Florentine and Myrose sandalwood.” I bought it because I thought it might remind me of Irish Spring (which I love to smell, but it’s irritating to our skin). It did! It was a really nice, more masculine fragrance and my husband loves it. Big bonus–no itching afterward!

And finally…my favorite, my signature O My! fragrance, the one that I will have to order now in lotion and any other form I can find it…

Lover’s Spell.


It’s just divine. Sweet, warm, floral and fruity all at the same time. It definitely cast its spell on me. Must. Have. MORE!

So, there you have it: some feedback that might help guide your initial purchases. Just be sure to click on my affiliate banner on the right side of this screen. And come back to let me know what you think!


The Road to Healing

8Aug2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

In the days following Zach’s motorcycle accident last month, there was a lot of driving between Orlando (where my parents and kids were) and Melbourne (where Zach was hospitalized).

The stretch of road we took was so pretty and peaceful. Lots of wide fields and grazing cows, white picket fences and stunning sunsets.

Beauty is particularly poignant when we’re in pain, isn’t it? It’s like, “How can everything still be so lovely when I’m so broken?”

My parents made the trek every single day. They brought the kids, who spent most of their time begging for vending machine snacks and playing Monopoly in the lounge. They were a welcome diversion.


Eli and Violet were allowed brief visits with Zach, and were quite somber after. Jonah was too young to visit the ICU, and he was NOT happy about it. He said he KNEW that Zach wanted to be with him, so we HAD to let him in. It sure was hard to keep telling the little guy no. He said things like, “I can’t feel Zach in my heart anymore” and then he wrote this note and asked us to read it to his big brother:


Talk about heartbreaking….

That whole second day is something of a blur now. Zach remained sedated and on the ventilator, to allow his brain to rest. Every time they tried backing off on the sedation, he shook violently and became combative, so they had his wrists tethered to the bed with black, seat-belt type straps to prevent him from pulling out any tubes.

The neurosurgeon said that agitation was normal with a frontal lobe injury and could resolve in one day, or in two years.

Or, never.

Can you imagine how crazy it felt to hear that? There was no way to know what we were up against. There was no way to know if our Zach would ever return to us, even if his body survived.


They said he could hear us speak, so to keep it positive, and we did. We took turns sitting beside him, talking gently but sparingly, with the board at the end of his bed reminding us that his brain needed as little stimulation as possible.


(I have to admit that the Activity Level cracked me up. I mean, he was fully sedated and on a vent. What else was he going to do?)

So it was a whole day of just being with him, something that parents of 18-year-olds don’t get to experience often. But since he couldn’t do anything about it, I tried to make the best of it. I prayed over him, mostly silently. I couldn’t hold his hand because of the straps, but I could lay my hand on top of his to warm it up. Mostly I just placed my palm on his upper chest, the part that I knew was uninjured, so that he would know we were there. I wanted to stroke his hair, or kiss his cheek, but his face was so battered, I couldn’t bear the thought that my kiss or touch might cause him more pain.

Man, it was hard to want to love and comfort him and be able to do almost nothing.

Donnie and I took turns sitting with him; other times we sat together. We took brief naps in the lounge because we weren’t allowed to fall asleep in the ICU, and during one break, met this awesome three-legged therapy dog, Sunshine.


I read a book they gave me about traumatic brain injury and had to stop because it was just too depressing.

We had the sweetest nurse, Alie. She encouraged us to leave the hospital to sleep and shower that night. My parents reserved a hotel a mile away, to make it convenient for us to take turns sleeping and staying with Zach. But when darkness came that second night, I froze at the thought of leaving him.

How could a mom just leave her injured child alone like that?

Alie assured us that nothing would change overnight, and if it did, she would call us immediately. But Zach was likely to remain unconscious all night and wouldn’t really know if we were there or not. She warned us that the next day could be tough if they decided to extubate and take him off the sedation. (Boy, was she right about that…) And that we would need some sleep to face it, since neither of us had slept the night before.

It all made sense, but my heart just wasn’t getting it.

Donnie told him bye, and went to get the car…or something…I don’t remember. I just know I was standing in the corner of in that darkened room, the streetlights glowing through the blinds, sobbing silently into my hands because the thought of leaving him alone in that sterile, cold room simply broke my heart.

I don’t remember how I finally peeled myself away, or how I held it together long enough to make it out to the car, where I sobbed again on that mile-long ride while Donnie told me it was all going to be OK.

He let me out at the front of the hotel and there I sat in this fancy lobby, feeling totally alone for the first time in days, and completely out of place with my red-rimmed eyes, messy ponytail and stained shirt.


A businessman strode by on his phone and I swear he glared at me like I was a vagrant or something. Yeah, I looked that rough.

We showered. Donnie immediately fell asleep. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been so wound-up-wiped-out for so long that I couldn’t shut off my thoughts.

Not when they kept wandering back to that chilly, white room and my black-and-blue boy, and the bleakness of a future that held no guarantees for any of us.