Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hi, Jack!

I love that scene in Airplane when the guy gets tackled in the airport. Too funny.

Sadly, that's not what this is about.

There've been a lot of issues with people's Twitter accounts getting hijacked with phishers of men (and women). I helped a friend out last night whose account sent a TON of DM's to her followers leading them to a bogus site, at which point they would be asked to enter their PW information for Twitter, resulting in  account hijacking.

Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for an account hijacking, but in this particular case, I think the number of "connections" she had on her profile are to blame. Places like "wefollow," "poll pigeon," and others are granted permission to access our account when we sign up for things like horoscopes or take a poll or survey on Twitter. Some of us may not realize that's what we're doing when we click "ok" when asked if we want to share the information with our followers, but ultimately, you're sharing your PW with these unknown people. Some of them play nice. Some of them don't.

The easiest way to avoid a phishing scam is to protect your account. Change your passwords often and make them complicated to remember. Write them down or store them in your phone, if you need to, but "lucky123" is much easier to guess than "tL3nE48." And if you decide to allow connections by filling out a petition or voting in a poll, go in immediately after having done so and revoke access to the connection.

This doesn't guarantee you won't get hijacked, but it does dwindle your chances considerably.

Hope I've helped in protecting your account (and by protecting your account, I mean "saved myself the hassle of explaining this all to you after you've been hijacked.)

G'day, lovies!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's no secret how I feel...

...about the weather.

I'm a summer baby, through and through. Then again, I hate the heat and humidity that Iowa summers bring. Hell, I dunno what I like anymore. All I know is that I'm sick to death of snow and cold. Our first snowfall was October 10th. Since then, we've had almost constant measurable snow: 57.5" total since it all began. The most alarming statistic, however is the 70 consecutive days with 5+ inches on the ground.

As I've said before, I'm no stranger to depression. My fight is a daily one to overcome the familiar (and oddly comfortable) feelings of depression and anxiety. I chose three years ago not to use medication. I didn't however swear off alcohol, hehe. Though, I do recognize that it doesn't help. Just helps distract me from the blah.

Today, the sun broke through the clouds that have plagued us for the last two months and I happily opened my blinds and let it pour in. The cats were happy, of course, as they basked in its gloriousness, quickly sprawling out across the living room floor. I was less enthusiastic, but nonetheless cheerful, despite my 4:30 AM wake-up.

I spent most of yesterday in bed. I was tired, but I think most of it was depression wrapping its nimble fingers around me and pulling me under. I gave in. I'm not proud of that, but it is what it is. I slept almost 15 hours (a small awake period during the Bachelor - hullo? VIENNA? Jesus, Jake, what are you THINKING?!) and while I didn't sleep well the last half of the night, I do feel better than I have in days. Could be the sleep, could be the sunshine. I don't care. I'll take it.

I even felt good enough to do my hair and make-up. Hubby asked me this morning "Got a hot date I don't know about?" Hardly. I just didn't feel like being a complete sloth for the 70th day in a row. I even took a few self-portraits. I'm smiling in some of them, but if you look closely, you can see those nimble fingers wrapped around me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's been twenty years, Mom...

I wrote this essay almost ten years ago, but the feelings and the pictures I painted with these words are still just as clear as the day I stood there next to her casket.

he•ro (hîr’o) n. 1.In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for bold exploits, and favored by the gods. 2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, esp. one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. 3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field: the heroes of medicine. 4. The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.

My mother never did anything to make herself famous, certainly wasn’t the main character in a book or movie, and she had no role in mythology, but she was my hero just the same.

The hurdles in my mother’s life were numerous. She was born during the Great Depression and struggled all her life to get ahead. When my mother was in her twenties, her father was killed suddenly in a train-automobile collision. Filling the shoes of “single mom,” she was married and divorced three times. But my mother’s biggest battle was one that took her life: her fight with cancer.

She was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer shortly before her forty-ninth birthday and my thirteenth. For two years, she endured surgery after surgery, which robbed her not only of her physical strength but also taxed her emotional strength. She also suffered through sickening chemotherapy and cell-destroying radiation treatments. My round, soft-skinned, sleek-haired mother became a bald, bloated, blotchy-skinned woman who faced every day knowing she was one day closer to her last. Her life was marked not with a calendar but with a timer that told her to empty the next compartment in the pill case that sat on her nightstand.
I remember once during one of her sickest bouts she looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry, honey. You’re so young…I know you’d rather be out with your friends. You shouldn’t have to be takin’ care of some sick old lady. I’m sorry to be such a pain.” She was apologizing to me as if she had some sort of control over her disease. Mom was always like that, though. No matter who was to blame for whatever happened, mom was always the one to feel bad.

The last few months of her life were difficult for both of us. Despite dozens of prescriptions, Mom was always in constant pain. The medicine she took only confused her and made her hallucinate. She never felt better; she just thought she did. When she “came out from under”, the pain would envelope her again in a darkness that I pray I never know. She would cry for hours on end. Not completely understanding it all, I asked her once why she was crying. Her response was a loud sob, “Because I hurt, goddammit!” It was my turn to feel bad now. Mom had always taken care of me when I was sick and now, when she needed me most, I couldn’t do the same for her. I’d never felt so helpless in my entire life.

I was at school when I found out my mother had died. The next few days were consumed with making final arrangements. Although I’d cried, the true weight of what had happened didn’t set in until the day of her funeral. Before the service, I stood at her side with my hand between her arm and ribs, the same place I’d held her when I helped her in and out of bed so many times before. I looked down at my mother’s face…her beautiful, loving, peaceful face. I’d never seen her more content. I started talking to her. I told her goodbye, first of all. Then I told her how much I was going to do with my life and how proud she’d be of me. I told her that I loved her, but for the first time, I didn’t hear, “I love you, too.” This hurt so badly. In her entire life, Mom never ended a conversation with anyone before saying “I love you.”

I began reminiscing about my childhood and how close my mother and I had always been. I remembered the silly jokes we’d shared, the crazy things we’d done and the songs she used to sing to me. I began singing to her:

You are my sunshine. I started to cry.

My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. A tear rolled off my cheek and splashed against her hand.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. I paused, drawing a deep breath.

Please don’t take my sunshine away. She was gone. I stood there for the better part of an hour just singing and crying.

It’s been almost eleven years since I stood next to my mother’s casket. I still hear her voice and chuckle when I see how alike we are. Mom fought an endless battle, but she kept smiling and looking for the silver lining in the clouds. Sometimes she was even lucky enough to find it. I know she must’ve felt like giving up, but something inside her urged her on. She saw the good in things and knew her fight had a purpose: to inspire me. She surrendered her life in order to teach me to appreciate mine. I guess now that I think about it, she is the textbook definition of “hero.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From my friend, Ann Marie

This was written by my friend, Ann Marie, @DonniesDancer
I'm reposting it here for those who can't read it.


Do not thank us for coming back…my loves, we never left.

Everyone has a story to tell, about how New Kids on the Block have affected them throughout their life. This is only a chapter in mine. Those who know me…get Kleenex. Mel that means you. ;) Stay with me kids, this is going be long and maybe too much for some to handle. I don’t share this story easily. But the guys need to know what they did for me.

In September of 1988 I was 14 years old. I had long thick naturally curly hair and Bert (Bert and Ernie) eyebrows. At the time I lived with my dad and my younger sister. I have an older sister but she’s 7 years my senior and was already out on her own by then. The guys were EVERYTHING to me. My parents had separated that summer and were well on their way to divorcing and my world was falling apart.

I loved to sing, dance and act and would spend HOURS in my room singing. If I wasn’t in school or dance class, that’s where I was listening to music in my room, singing and taping every single picture I could find of New Kids on the Block on my walls and ceiling. Popcorn ceilings sucked for that, by the way. I’m not sure how I got all of them to stay on there. LOL Anyway, listening and watching them was my way of escaping into a world where I felt safe and not so alone. There was something about seeing them, so young, doing what I wanted to be doing that made me think it could be possible. I went to every concert I could, and my father allowed it because he wanted to try and somehow make things better, easier for me and my sister. I, by nature, am a very shy and introverted person, but man get me on a stage…and I’m home. I would watch them and think one day, one day that will be me. One of them in particular, caught my heart (pretty easy since I wear it on my sleeve), and has had it ever since. We’ll get to him in a minute.

The days would continue to drone on and I would get shuffled back and forth between my dad who I lived with full time and my mom who I went to see every other weekend. Ahhh, Mom. My mom was a tiny little Filipino woman who was full of life and laughter and whom from I inherited my voice. It sure as heck wasn’t Dad. No offense Pops, but your singing ability kills cats. (Love you Pops lol). She had me singing and listening to Elvis Presley at the age of 3. Her favorite comedian was Whoopi Goldberg and I’d laugh every time she’d say her name because it came out “Goofy Goldberg” because of her broken English. I could rest my chin on her head when I hugged her. We’d dance around the apartment to NKOTB music. I would rock my black and white Adidas and my peace sign necklaces, and my Hardwear baseball caps and she’d always say, “Oh honey, That Donnie is a good looking boy. He’s so handsome.” And I’d giggle and say, “Glad you think so, cuz I’m gonna marry him.” Mom would say, “Okay honey, if you believe it, I believe it,” and so it would go… Mom believed in me, that’s all I needed.

In the summer of 1989 my Mom began dating a guy named Roger. He didn’t like us kids. If it was our weekend to be there he would find a way not to be, which was fine by me because the guy gave me the creeps. She would begin to give reasons why it wasn’t a good time for us to come over. It was hard to not be able to go to her when I was feeling down or convinced that I wasn’t talented enough. She was my drive, my reason for doing. She would come to every performance and sit in the front row. I looked for her. She gave me the strength to go on stage.

In September of 1990 I turned 16 and was very excited to get my license. I was a Junior in High School and well on my way to graduating early. I spent every waking moment in the music room. If I didn’t HAVE to be in class you would find me there, studying or working on choreography for our Swing Choir. I loved the little room with the piano. Picturing Jordan at the keys and hearing his voice in my head. I couldn’t play but I found just sitting at one messing with the keys was soothing. And so it would go…I was on my path to “stardom”. Singing “Fame, I’m gonna live forever…”

In December of 1990 Christmas was coming and there was debate as to where we were going to spend it. Mom said that Roger was going to be out of town visiting family. We were SO excited we could spend Christmas with Mom! It was going to be so sweet!

On December 19th I drove myself and my friend Amy, over to Mom’s - big shot that I was with my license and Dad’s car- to pick up a rosary I needed for Religion class the next day. (12 years of Catholic Schooling. OY! ) I had called before I left to make sure it was okay, and Mom said, “Sure, honey, anytime tonight.”
So I went after homework, It was 9:15p.m.when I got there (Yes, I most certainly remember the time). Singing NKOTB Christmas carols the whole way there. I think Amy stayed in the car while I ran in. That part is fuzzy. I knocked on the door and I heard Roger yell, “Come in!” I thought to myself, “Oh shit. I thought he wasn’t supposed to be here. Why isn’t he in Texas?”

I opened the door and there were beer bottles everywhere and he was sitting at the table in his tattered jeans and “wife beater.” He saw me and said, “Hey baby, you know how to play cards? Come over and sit on my lap and I’ll teach you how to play.” I will never forget the knot that formed in my stomach. I simply replied, “Where’s my Mom?” Roger hollered down the hall, “Maria! It’s your kid! The pretty one.” He proceeded to give me the nasty once over. I hadn’t seen my Mom in a while and she came around the corner, wearing a men’s long sleeved button down shirt, and that was it. Of course she was so tiny anyway it went to her knees and looked like a dress, and I remember thinking that she looked smaller than usual. Sick almost. She had her rosary in her hand. She had a very far away look in her eyes, and I said, “Mom, are you okay?” She just smiled sadly and gave me a hug and said, “ Everything’s fine honey, I love you.” She was so fragile, I thought she might break when she hugged me. I accepted her assurance as true and left. But something wasn’t right and I could feel it in my gut.

I kept telling Amy, I should go back and she’d reassure me continuously and we went home, singing NKOTB all the way home. I couldn’t sleep that night, that feeling just wouldn’t go away, and at 3a.m. my Dad knocked softly on the door, opened it to see if I was awake and, I sat up, looked right at him and said, “She’s dead isn’t she?” He just said, “Yes.” I got up walked past him and out into the living room where the Christmas tree was lit up and Christmas music was still playing. The Christmas song came on, and Jordan’s voice sent me into a tailspin of tears. I couldn’t stop crying. I just sat, in the chair, staring at the tree, crying. I vaguely remember my dad was on the phone and people were starting to come over and I just stayed there. As the sun came up “What a Wonderful World” played on the radio, and I had no more tears left. That moment…I lost everything that ever mattered to me.

On December 19th, 1990 I went to visit my Mother not knowing that was the last time I’d ever see her again. I was the last one to see her alive. After I’d left the apartment Roger and my Mother got in a fight over the fact that I was there at all. That night, Roger raped and beat my Mother to death and left her naked, bruised body on the floor and went for a drink at his ex girlfriends house, claiming that that’s where he was all night.

On December 22nd, 1990 3 days before Christmas…I buried my hero.

My life was never the same. I stopped dancing. I found no joy in singing anymore. I did it, but my heart was not in it. What was the point if the ONE person who I felt believed in me was no longer there.
I still listened to NKOTB because without them I probably would have stopped performing all together.
And so it would go…

Not long after my parents divorce and shortly before my mother’s death, I joined a support group called Y.A.B.E (shout out to my peeps!) Young Adult Beginning Experiences. It was a group that helped kids with loss of a loved one through either death or divorce. Well, cha-ching! Got a twofer right here! It was there that I met the second person who ever believed in me. She’s told me for years that I’m gifted and beautiful and strong and funny and smart, and if it weren’t for Melanie and our shared love of NKOTB, I don’t know where I would’ve been. She, to this day, is ever encouraging, believes in me and my talent and constantly helps me find my “inner bitch.” LOL I began singing again - performing and actually finding a bit of joy in it.

And like most things, life carries us away. The trial came and went; the bastard is serving a life sentence, thanks to evidence and my testimony that put him at the scene of the crime at the time of death. I graduated, Melanie got married, I got married. She had kids, I had kids. We lost track of each other. The details are not important as to why, although Melanie would insert here, “The hell they aren’t! It was because of the Ass Hat! fndfohfw’mfdFdf.” LOL And so it would go…ten years went by and every once in a while we’d talk but that was about it. Every so often I’d see Donnie on screen and think, “Yep, still gonna marry you.” Who cares if we were both married? I would always think, “I bet HE’D be more supportive of my career choice.” LMAO! What? I held onto whatever dreams I had. No matter how small. I was and forever will be a dreamer. I’ve waited 20 years, what’s 20 more? ;)

Fast forward to 2008, I’m separated from my husband for a second time and going through hell…again. I told Melanie I think that the guys are getting back together. She said, “Don’t tease me Cheese.” I said, “Seriously, go look on the website, there’s like a countdown or something.” She was ever vigilant, like she is about most things, and didn’t stop ‘til she confirmed it. I moved back home to Des Moines after living in Minneapolis for 11 years and the reunion of not only NKOTB, but also Melanie and I began and here we all are, 20 years later. Still friends bound together by our life experiences and our love for NKOTB.

We sat at her house this morning and watched “Coming Home,” and I watched as 5 bad brothers from the Beantown land took me back to when my dreams were new and anything was possible. I left her house crying like a baby.

My spirit is restored. I have come full circle. I will forever pursue my dreams. Hell, there’s always gonna be a need for a Grandma in some movie or show, and by the time I get to where I wanna be that will probably be me. My point is, it’s taken me a long time to get here and a lot of heartache, but I am in it for the long haul. With my heroes NKOTB and Melanie, I truly believe (Okay Mel, I MOSTLY believe LOL).

Jordan: You’re voice is such a gift to me and I will forever remember hearing you that morning. You are a source of peace (and laughter). You are what I aspire to be: A master of your instrument. ;) Mark my words, we will sing together. Oh yes, it’s gonna happen. 2 fist pumps baby boy!

Danny: You made me laugh SO hard watching you talking about vocal warm ups on the DVD. Melanie and I were in TEARS! Your smile and laugh are infectious. Every time I see and hear you I just want to hug you.

Jon: You and I are a lot alike. I am very shy and reserved and it usually takes a strong push to get me on that stage, but watching you do it again even though, it’s hard, It gives me courage to get my ass out there.

Joe: You can sing to me for hours. You have so much power and depth to your voice. You move me Joseph. Although you will always look like you’re 12 years old to me, I love you dearly and those amazing eyes. I think we need to tackle a Broadway show together. I’m thinking Chicago. ;)

And last but not least… the cheese in my cheesecake…

Donnie: You were the first man who ever captured my heart, and have it now, always and forever.

Ann Marie~