Throwback Thursday: The Cheese Lamp

I grew up in the house my grandfather built in the mid 1950’s.  The decor ranged from mid century modern to 70’s funk. We had some interesting stuff, to say the least.

In my bedroom, which had a multi-colored animal-print shag rug (it had been the t.v. room before I came along), there hung a lamp.  A hideous, orange, ceramic pendant lamp with various sized holes punched through it.  My parents called it  the cheese lamp.


This is not OUR cheese lamp, but the closest I could find via Google search!

I remember this lamp clearly because it scared me.  At night, bathed in the glow of my Winnie-the-Pooh night light, this lamp was pure evil.  The holes were like dark eyes watching me from across the room.

One night I dreamed that my parents were zombies, and my mom had this lamp stuck on her head, the heavy metal chain wrapping around her body.

Not long after that, the lamp came down.  It lived in the utility room for a while, sitting up on a shelf between jars of nails and curls of sand paper.  At some point it disappeared, hopefully to the dump, because otherwise it will haunt some other young child.

Seriously, who’s idea was it to make a lampshade out of ceramic? It must have been insanely heavy, not to mention opaque, so it would only let light shine out of the holes and the bottom. Dumb.

Another thing that I found creepy in that house were the light switches that lit up when turned off. At night, when the house was dark and I looked down the stairs into the living room, I could see these amber-lit switches glowing like the eyes of a menacing beast.

I suppose I can be thankful that the scariest things in my childhood were lamps and light switches, and that I had to imagine monsters, rather than actually face them.

Was there anything that scared you in your childhood home?

September 25th

Today’s date is a significant one for me – it is Gram’s birthday, first and foremost. She would have been 95 today. If she was still alive, the McKelvie clan would have gathered together to celebrate with a nice dinner, and, more importantly, a nice dessert. I suppose we could have gotten together anyway, and had a celebration in her honor… but it’s not the same without her.


Gram’s 85th Celebration… nothing like a little sprinkling of heavy metals on your cake…

9.02 All McKelvies

Gram’s 80th Bash – We were all looking young and spry here.

In other news, four years ago today, I started this blog!

Today was a good day for me – perhaps Gram was somehow guiding my hand, but I actually did everything on my to-do list! I made an appointment with a career coach, and an appointment with a nutritionist, AND I took care of my dad’s big birthday gift which we will present to him in a few weeks.  I think I’ll take the rest of the week off.

Out of curiosity, I googled today’s date and came across a page which lists everything that has happened on September 25th… here it is, if you want to look for yourself:

Some highlights include:

  • 1492 Crewman on Pinta sights “land”-a few weeks early (look out Native Americans…)
  • 1780 Benedict Arnold joins the British  (traitor!)
  • 1836 HMS Beagle anchors at St Michael (aww, Darwin)
  • 1878 British physician Dr. Charles Drysdale warns against the use of tobacco in a letter to The Times newspaper in one of the earliest public health announcements on the dangers of smoking (damn! and people STILL smoke.)
  • 1919 US president Woodrow Wilson suffers a breakdown in Colorado, his health never recovers (I didn’t even know this happened!)
  • 1926 Henry Ford announces 8 hour, 5-day work week (Dammit Henry… couldn’t you have gone with 5 hours per day, or perhaps a 3-day work week? I have hobbies!)
  • 1965 Children find trunk with corpse in Amsterdam canal (WTF.)
  • 1974 US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
  • 1974 Scientists first report that freon gases from aerosol sprays are destroying the ozone layer (1974 was a bad year…)
  • 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor sworn in as 1st female supreme court justice (woot!)
  • 1993 Action TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris debuts on CBS
  • 1997 “ER” is performed live on TV (I remember that!)

There’s a ton more events on the actual page… a lot of it is related to sports and politics, so bleh.

Before I sign off, I’ll mention that I have been working on a post entitled “Losing my Religion” where I get into all the things that happened on my way out of Christadelphia. It’s been interesting for me to look back at everything that happened, and now that it’s been more than a decade, I can actually see everything so much more clearly. I almost wish I could travel back in time and rescue myself much earlier… but I suppose that I needed to go through all that ish in order to become the person I am now. It is also draining to rehash all those feelings and emotions I went through. It will probably end up being a series of posts, otherwise it will be so long and unbearable that no one will read the whole thing.

Alright – it’s off to bed for me… I promise to share more about the career coaching thing too, once I have more to share. 🙂

Namaste, friends.


Throwback Thursday – Papers from the Past

Lately I’ve been on a roll going through old papers and either taking pics of them or scanning them and then CHUCKING THEM!

It feels so good to be rid of the excess stuff, and since I’m preserving it digitally, I don’t feel so torn about throwing it out. Of course, there is still the arduous task of organizing all the digital files, but I think I can handle it.

I’ve found quite a few gems which I look forward to sharing and expounding upon further in this blog.  I just wrote a post for my Daily Art Challenge page, sharing a nursery rhyme I illustrated in college.

Maybe it’s simply nostalgia, but I feel a strong connection to this goofy girl I once was. Check out some of my drawings from 2nd grade (age 7)


I think the deer on the right is actually quite well executed for a 7-year old.

I don’t know why I was always writing “See” next to stuff. How demanding! Also, not to psychoanalyze my past self, but what’s going on with my hand in the drawing? And my teeth?


I’m pretty sure there was some tracing involved in this one.

I wrote “Look!” at the top of this page and then must have decided against it. I was cracking up when I took a closer look at the audience. We have an exuberant vocalizer on the left, then a guy with T-Rex arms in the middle, and what appears to be a completely armless girl in a bikini on the end.


Throwback Thursday – Little House on the Prairie

If I’ve ever loved anything in my life it has been the Little House books. Last year, my mom gave me a new book, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, and I was once again able to connect with a kindred spirit from so long ago.

The book contains some early drafts of Little House in the Big Woods, and reading them just melts my heart. I intensely relate to the feeling of being a tiny girl in a big, vast world and being so eager to learn about it all. I just want to transport myself to that little cabin, even though in real life it probably smelled weird, had fleas and was dead boring during those long winter days.


Notice the taped-on covers of Little House on the Prairie and The Long Winter… those books got a lot of love!

I don’t even know how many times I read Little House on the Prairie. I remember my mom giving it to me one evening and telling me that it was a story she thought I would like about a little girl during the pioneer days. Right away, I fell in love with Laura and Pa’s adventurous spirits, and the thought of being able to explore the wild, undeveloped woods and prairies of early America.

As I grew up, we would often look back and laugh at some of the situations described which would now be considered highly inappropriate for a children’s book – Ma describing Indians as savages, Laura demanding that she wanted to have the Indian baby with the beady black eyes, the scene with Pa in blackface… (I had NO idea what that was about and didn’t even comprehend that it was a racial thing until like, 20 years later.) Not to mention the fact that they built their “little house” in Indian Territory.  Of course, I wouldn’t understand any of these things until much later.


This illustration baffled me as a kid.

Those things never took away from my love of the stories or of the people in them. Times change, and people learn from past mistakes. I will always hold Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of my favorite storytellers and hope to follow in her footsteps with some books of my own someday.

What do you think? Average-Sized Ranch in the Suburbs doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Remembering Gram

I wrote this post last spring, and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. I’m not sure what held me back from posting it then, but reading it now makes me smile. Everything I wrote here still holds true. I take comfort in these memories.

Yesterday as I knelt in the garden to clear away the winter rubble,  I thought of you. Of your scarf tied down over the curlers in your hair as you showed me how to pull up a whole weed – roots and all – so it couldn’t grow back.

I think of you when I stand at the sink and scrub potatoes. Your fingers could so nimbly skin a whole pile of them, with a knife, no less, in the time it took me to fumble the peeler over just one lousy potato.

Sometimes just the smell of soap as I walk into my bathroom will remind me of the tiny bathroom at your house, and I’ll think about how you kept three toothbrushes at once so that you would never brush your teeth with a wet toothbrush.

When I’m driving with my windows down and the breeze through my hair – too fast, of course – I smile and remember how they called you “Leadfoot Lois.” You were brazen when you wanted to be, but mostly you were calm and level-headed and I always felt safe when I was in your presence. Okay, except for a few times when you were driving too fast.

On the weekends, when I prepare coffee in the afternoon, I smile to think of how you and Uncle Rob would have your late afternoon coffee and chat.

I often think of the joy I felt in my heart  upon seeing you for the first time when you’d come to our house to visit, or arrive at meeting on Sunday mornings. You always dressed so smartly and wore your trademark lipstick, so you didn’t “look dead.”

Sandwiches always tasted better at your house. To this day I can’t pass a loaf of marble rye without my mouth watering at the thought.

It’s been more than two years since you’ve been gone. I hope you’ll forgive me for being sentimental. I was so fortunate to have a Gram like you, and I really do miss you every day. I know there will always be a part of you in me – you have touched my life so deeply.

Gram and Me 2

My sweet Gram

Writing off the Past

Lately I have been working on getting rid of stuff that I no longer love, use, or need. Sometimes, the process is exciting and fun. I love getting rid of clothes. I find it easy to pull uncomfortable or ill-fitting clothes off hangers and toss them in a pile for donation. I take pleasure in pushing old bills and bank statements through the shredder. My kitchen cabinets have been cleared of spare glasses, plates and serving platters that hardly ever saw the light of day.

When it comes to sentimental items, however, the drawstring on my proverbial trash bag cinches right up. I can’t get rid of the letters from my 5th grade best friend! What if I want to re-read them some day? If I get rid of something someone gave me, does it mean I didn’t appreciate it?

There’s a lyric I lived by for a long time; Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. I found it romantic to picture myself as an old woman, reading through my box of love letters and reminiscing on my youth. Yet I kept that box of friendship and love letters for nearly 20 years without reading a single one of them, or even thinking about them.

It’s true. I had a shoebox full of old letters, starting with my 5th grade pen pal and ending with my first and last long-distance boyfriend. Last week, I finally sat down to sort through the box and determine if any of these letters were worth keeping.

The discard pile.

As it turns out, what my friends and I wrote about when I was in 5th grade, middle school, and even high school, was pretty lame to look back on. To be honest, I didn’t even read all the letters after the first few. I considered how my 5th grade pen pal and I lost touch after a few years, and how many of the people whose letters I’d kept are no longer part of my life, and I actually don’t miss them. That sounds kind of mean, but I don’t intend it to be. The truth is, people move on.

Of course I did not throw away ALL the letters. I did keep a handful – those from my very best friends, which, just by looking at the envelope, I can recall the excitement of getting a fresh letter in the mail and tearing it open to see what it said. I also kept the love letters, though it was a little weird to read them now, so many years after having parted ways with the writer.

So that’s one less box of “stuff” on the shelf. Now to get sorting through the boxes of get-well cards and birthday cards that I’ve kept since 1986. I plan to scan anything that had truly significant meaning to me and discard the rest.

At one point in life I thought it meant something to hold on to all these items, but the reality is, all this stuff just weighs you down! I just keep telling myself how much better I will feel once I’ve gotten rid of the detritus in my life!

Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

When I was a kid, I had a hard time understanding why I got to have summers off from school but my dad had to keep on going to work every day. I couldn’t get it in my head that grown-ups didn’t get the summer off. It didn’t seem fair.

To this day, it upsets me that I can’t have the whole summer off. There’s so much I want to do! It doesn’t help that I work for a German company, and our German counterparts take off entire months at a time. I don’t know how much vacation time they actually get, but it seems to be way more generous than our US system. Unfair. Maybe I should move to Germany.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to write about! I wanted to bang out a quick update, as I am soon to be off for one of my two weeks of vacation this summer. We are going to be camping in Maine and I intend to fully unplug. I’m bringing primitive writing tools – pens and paper – in the hopes that I will be inspired to write something deep and inspiring. Or perhaps churn out some interesting zentangle-inspired art. I haven’t drawn a thing in months!

Last weekend we celebrated the 4th of July at my youngest brother’s home in the Boston area. The weather was unbelievably perfect. We spent most of the time lounging by the pool, and of course eating tons of food. On Monday, we got to check out the school where my brother works (he had the right idea being a teacher – he gets summers off!). Then we went up to Newburyport, which was a cute little town on the coast. It was only a two-day visit, but it was like a mini-vacation for us.

Dave and I in Newburyport, MA

Enjoying a jaunt around Newburyport.

Speaking of vacations, Dave and I are finally going to go on a big trip together! We’ve started planning a trip to Costa Rica. We’re reading guidebooks and maps and we’ve been scouring the internet. We don’t have a date set yet, but Dave wants to go before the end of the year. I realize that’s like 5 months away, but the way things go at my job, you just have to blink and the time goes by like nothing.


The trip will be worth it if we see a baby sloth doing pull-ups.

In other news, my minimalism journey kind of hit a wall in the last few months, because I’ve been spending less time inside the house. The piles of crap in the back room are still there. I did take one evening to go through more of my clothes and get rid of some of the things I never wear. I even attempted to fold my shirts in the Konmari way.

Konmari shirt drawer

Folding the shirts this way is supposed to let you see them all in one glance, so you can easily find what you need. It beats my former technique of shoving them in and struggling to shut the drawer.

The Konmari method comes from this book called The life-changing magic of tidying up. You’ve probably heard of it, because everyone makes fun of it. It’s the one where you’re supposed to hold each one of your possessions and ask yourself if it brings you joy. I didn’t even finish reading the book, but since I had already been going through my stuff and clearing things out, I went ahead with the clothes. My parameters were pretty simple: do I actually like this shirt and actively wear it? Then I kept it. If not, out it went.

Morningtime flower

In other news, my garden is looking fabulous these days.

In conclusion, I am very much enjoying the summer so far and I hope you are too. I’m especially looking forward to being unplugged next week, and returning with renewed energy to work on this blog!

Thank you for reading this far. 🙂




Late Spring Inspired Memories

Hi there!

I’m sitting outside on this lovely evening and I’ve been itching to blog for days now. There is a lot on my mind and I want to write about these things, but they are too hard right now. So instead, I will write about something that makes me happy.


Awkward garden selfie. Disregard the towering bags of mulch behind me!


This time of year always awakens excitement in me. Perhaps this is a remnant of my schoolgirl days, when the arrival of warm weather, insects chirping outside the open windows, and being able to wear shorts again were signals that school was almost over for the year.

It’s no secret that I was not a big fan of school. Just like it’s no secret that I am not a big fan of work. Hah! Of course I always enjoyed learning and doing interesting things, but school, like work, wasn’t always fun and games.

From Memorial Day onward, school got fun. It was like we could all see the light at the end of the tunnel. Countdowns of remaining school days were chalked out on the board. Teachers would conduct classes with the lights off, to keep the room cooler (did it though?) Rules could be bent a little. The excitement was palpable.

Summer was hands down my favorite time of year as a kid. Waking up in the full light of day to the scent of freshly cut grass and moseying on down to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal was soon followed by asking Mom if I could go in the pool. Usually pool activities were reserved for after lunch, when it was hotter and after Mom had been able to get some things done around the house, but it never hurt to ask. I loved that pool so much. While on land I often felt clunky and awkward, once I was in the water I felt as graceful as a dolphin. Mind you, I may have looked awkward to anyone watching, but I was having fun.


Freedom, oh free-dom!

Sometimes we would take trips down to the shore. My great-grandparents had a trailer down in Somers Point, and we would stay there for a couple of days at a time through the summer. Days would be spent alternately choking down seawater as I attempted to play in the waves and getting burnt to a crisp on the beach, while evenings were spent chowing down steak sandwiches or pizza and then going on rides along the boardwalk in Ocean City. As a kid, I thought Ocean City was the most magical place ever.

As you can see, a couple of day of warm weather and I’m easily transported back to the enthusiasm I had for summer as a young kid. I only wish I could have the amount of time off that I did back then! Maybe it’s time to reconsider my career path…

Speaking of which, tomorrow I’m off to Chicago, but I will be leaving exactly 24 hours later. Talk about a whirlwind trip!


Throwback Thursday – Scarface

It’s long been a joke in my family that if I am in an area where objects are airborne, I am going to get hit in the face. I’ve been hit with basketballs, volleyballs, Frisbees… you name it.

Most people get injured at least a few times on this rocky road of life. And nobody makes it out alive. But when you’re born with pre-existing “injuries,” it can seem even more offensive to hurt yourself in some additional way. I’ve had a couple of doozies over the years. Luckily none of them have been life-threatening, but just kind of stupid, and at the end of the day I’d ask myself, “Why me?”

The first time was when I was about 5 years old. It was a sunny summer morning and Kris and I were running around the house. We lived in a contemporary split-level house with an open floor plan that allowed us to run wild from the front door through the foyer and into the living room without obstacle. That day we were running back and forth, leaping onto the couch at one end and then back to the front door. Since it was a warm day, the wooden door was open, leaving only the plate glass storm door between us and the great outdoors. After hurtling off the couch, I ran full-tilt towards the storm door, hands outstretched and ready to bounce off the door.

Except I didn’t bounce. As my hands made contact with the glass, it shattered, and my little body shot through head first. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t even comprehend what was happening, just that one moment I was running and the next I was lying on the slate patio out front, looking up at the eaves of the house. Mom was soon by my side in a panic, lifting up my shirt to check for cuts.

Somehow, the only part of me that had major cuts was my cheek and my lower lip. My arms were scratched but not enough to require stitches. We went to the emergency room and they stitched up the cuts on my face. The doctor said I was lucky I hadn’t severed my head.

The next insult to my face happened at school, when I was in 7th grade. I was one of the herd trampling through the hall on the way to my next class, which was Chemistry, where I was looking forward to doodling in my notebook and gazing out the window for 45 minutes. Just as I strode into the stairwell, a boy ran in front of me, his long legs flying. Somehow my own legs got caught up in his and I fell forward. My arms were full of my books, so I could hardly catch myself as I fell. My forehead hit the first step. A concrete step with a metal edge.

I was so embarrassed to have fallen in front of everyone, so I quickly pushed myself into a sitting position and tried to gather my books. When I reached up to adjust my glasses, I realized that my forehead was burning. I was bleeding. Someone ran to get the nurse and moments later I was being whisked away in a wheelchair, holding a wad of gauze to my head.

Once again, I was lucky. If I had fallen a few inches further forward, it’s likely I would have broken my nose, or worse yet, fractured bones in my face. Instead, I obtained a lovely inch-long scar on my upper forehead.

In the years since then I have also hosted countless poison ivy rashes on my face, two separate incidences of scratched cornea requiring the use of an eye bandage, a weird phase in my teen years where I kept getting sores in my nostrils (which I lovingly called nostrilitis whenever it showed up) and of course the jaw surgery which was probably the worst planned assault on my face ever, but the results were totally worth it.

In conclusion… be careful with your face, as it’s the only one you’ve got. I’ve certainly learned to be careful with mine, after those tumultuous early years. If you’re ever around me and you see me wince and duck in the presence of flying objects, or wonder why I refuse to try certain risky activities involving speed and/or force, perhaps you’ll remember my tales of blood and stitches and you’ll understand.

What about you? Is there a particular body part you’ve repeatedly injured?

Edit: here’s a pic of the above mentioned scars, plus sun damage from my years of lounging in the pool all summer. 

Purple= born this way (well, ok, there was some surgery involved.) Dark blue= plate glass window. Green= school steps incident. Yellow= cornea scratches, and the last one, which I forgot to mention in the blog post: Light blue= sun damage. Luckily this pic is not detailed enough that you can see all my wrinkles too. 😅

A Life in the Dentist’s Chair

On a regular day, the history of my mouth isn’t something I even think about, but the moment I walk into a dental office, that familiar smell nearly knocks me to my knees with dread. Memories of countless times before, sitting anxiously in the waiting room, flipping through magazines, wishing I was a model with naturally perfect teeth, wishing I was anywhere but there.

To say I’ve had a lot of dental work is a bit of an understatement. I’ve already written about some of it, and the anxiety I developed over the years in my post Oral Fixations. You would think that having been in the dental chair literally hundreds of times in my life would mean that I would approach the chair like an old friend. Not so. Not so at all.

Tomorrow I am having a consultation with my new dentist to talk about updating my bridgework and fixing my bite alignment. I really do want to do this. My jaw clicks when I chew and it’s uncomfortable. My bridgework is nearing 20 years old, and could use some refreshing. I want to be able to chew my food comfortably again, and, if possible, do it more gracefully.

In preparation for tomorrow’s visit, I was looking through some of my old dental records. I came across some x-rays and other weird things so I thought it would be fun to share. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, though looking at some of my earlier x-rays makes me kind of sad. I wonder if I was going through all this now, if they could have done more to save my natural teeth, and perhaps eliminated the need for 10 implants. I’m told that they would never do so many implants so close together now. But I’m also told that my doctors did a great job on my mouth, so that is good to hear, and I suppose it means it was all worth it.

Walk with me now, through some of my mouth’s greatest adventures.


My first dental appliance – at least the first that I still have in my possession. This was the obturator that Mom and Gram had to wrestle and hold me down every morning to put in. It fit across the roof of my mouth and closed the hole in my palate so that I could drink my baby formula. (I have no conscious memory of this happening.)



A snippet of the new patient form my mom filled out when I started with Dr. Prusak. Thank goodness for him. He was so kind and gentle and he really knew how to handle a scared little girl like me.


Pano of my 5-year old mouth. Look at that beautiful bilateral cleft! My eye sockets look misaligned because I moved my head during the x-ray. I actually had a lot of teeth for someone with ectodermal dysplasia. Notice the creepy orbs with adult teeth buds in them in my lower jaw. I was probably scared out of my mind getting this x-ray, but I have no memory of it now.


Dr. Bond created this to push my front teeth forward and my canines outward. It worked. It was attached to my upper arch with brackets on my back molars. I couldn’t take it out. I spent a lot of time working food out of it with my tongue after meals.


Heres that contraption at work. My two front teeth started out twisted and pointing inward. Dr. Bond devised the metal sculpture to push those teeth forward. Every time I saw him he would adjust the wires just a tad until my teeth were finally in position, which it looks like they are here. This was before the bone graft to close my clefts, obviously.


Another pano at age 12. Post bone graft. I was already sporting a mouthful of metal. You can see that some of my molars were still baby teeth with no adult teeth behind them.

Fast forward about 20 years – post LeForte Osteotomy and post implants…


This is about how my mouth looks now, give or take a root canal and a crown or two. Talk about a metal mouth. I still have 9 real teeth, though they have been enhanced by crowns and root canals…


This is a plaster model of my recent mouth situation. (They look like horse teeth.) The bottom ten teeth are part of a bridge that is screwed in to my jaw on 6 implants, and the top six teeth are a bridge that is cemented onto the top 4 implants. Only my molars in the very back are what remain of my natural teeth.

I expect I will be getting another pano x-ray tomorrow. If I can get a copy of it, I will definitely post it. Of course I will post about whatever ends up happening with my future dental work too.

You may be wondering, after seeing my current model, what I could possible still need to have done. Well, the top bridge has a terrible habit of coming lose and falling off. And you can’t tell from the model but there is a slight gap between the top of my bridge and my gums, which means whenever I eat, food squeezes through and nestles in the cracks between my teeth. Since they are fake, I can’t feel it, though I have learned to constantly be checking my teeth for bits of food, it’s really not ideal, and makes for some awkward social moments.

Also, as I mentioned – my jaw alignment has somehow fallen out of whack. And I’ve broken two teeth off the bottom bridge… because it takes three licks to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop… I can’t resist biting things I shouldn’t! 🙂

Stay tuned for whatever’s next in my dental adventure… xx