#rememberingneenee

Elizabeth Ann Devine Kinney

August 3rd, 1937 – October 23rd, 2016

She was my comedic rival. She was my bright light in a tunnel of darkness. She was my NeeNee.

I was privileged to grow up for the first 24 years of my life with all four of my grandparents. As they watched me grow up and grow older, I did the same. I went from seeing my NeeNee out in the backyard, kicking the soccer ball around with us to her watching us from their porch while we played in the yard.

One thing that never changed with her age was her humor. She loved to laugh, and we loved it when she laughed. Her laugh was infectious; it never mattered if you understood the joke. If NeeNee understood it, she would get everyone else laughing.

Above all, she was the easiest person to shop for gifts. Anything frog; I mean anything! You could make her a foam craft frog, and she would still have it on her frog bookshelf decades later. Everyone knew that frogs were NeeNee’s “thing.” She never went overboard with the frogabilia, but she cherished everyone she got. My favorite frog piece of hers was the stained glassed lamp that sat in the front room of their house for years and years. It was beautiful and colorful and perfect. When I went up to New Jersey in 2016 for her funeral and Poppop told everyone to take their favorite piece of NeeNee’s frogabilia home with us, I wanted to have the lamp. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in my bag, it was old, and I didn’t trust the postal workers to transport it down to Texas safely. That’s when I knew I wanted a tattoo based on the lamp. I took photos of it from all different angles to capture its beauty.

You may think, ‘It’s 2018, and you just got it tattooed. Obviously, you didn’t care that much.’ That’s where you are wrong. I cared deeply about it. I researched various tattoo techniques, compared black and white work to colorwork, thought long and hard about placement and size. After a year of research, I still hadn’t found the perfect artist, but I knew how I wanted it. The tough part was telling my parents who were none too happy to know that their precious princess is going to be marked for life (disregarding the countless scars she has on her body). I found the courage and told my parents separately, and it went better than I thought it would, they accepted it and were content on the amount of effort I put in into finding the perfect tattoo. The only thing missing was the tattoo artist. It was coming down to crunch time. I had contacted a couple of artists that had flaked on me already had August 3rd booked up. Then I found Daniel O’Driscoll. His geometric linework is phenomenal, and the way he can inlay the color into is work to add to the geometric work instead of covering it up; I knew he was the man to create the masterpiece of my first tattoo.

He was patient, kind, and saw my vision better than I ever did. He is a dedicated artist, is passionate about his craft, and is ever growing. Check out his work.

You may even see a piece that you recognize. If you are in Austin, Texas and need a tattoo…go to him.

Turning 26

My 26th year alive was one of those years that you look back on and say “I survived.”
It was a massive roller coaster that I grew exponentially from, but I would never want to do again.

It started off with me in massive debt that my roommates were terrific at supporting me through and understanding even when I pushed them away. A month into my 26th year, I was “involuntarily separated” from a job where I loved working with my clients, and they enjoyed working with me. Where I had a supervisor that saw my energy and client commitment as a hindrance to my work performance and instead of working with me, she got rid of me. I was devastated, if you had asked any of my clients about my work with them, they would sing my praises. Many parents of my clients attempted to reach out to me after my departure, but due to my social work licensing and ethical boundaries of my profession I could not communicate with them. No being able to say goodbye to people I had spent the last year and a half in their life attempting to improve it no matter what it costs, was heart-wrenching.

After that, I took a leap. I looked into an amazing non-profit organization in Austin that was well known for their continual innovations in their social services. Less than a month after being “involuntarily separated” I was hired as a part-time employee at this amazing non-profit at their youth homeless shelter. Granted I was apprehensive; I have worked direct care with teenagers before and that turned into a hot mess. This place was different! I left my work at work and my home at home. This place was perfect for my personality. They let me use my energy to improve the workplace not just for the clients, but for the staff. Less than 3 months into employment I was awarded the company-wide “Gratitude Award” something that very few part-time employees ever see. I felt at “home” at the company. When they saw my flaws in the workplace they worked with me to improve myself, they didn’t throw me aside, they made me feel like a part of a team and a part of a family all in one.

While applying for this job I also applied for graduate school. I got accepted into SUNY-Cortland’s online Recreation Therapy Certificate program. It won’t end in a masters, but it will end in me being a qualified Recreation Therapist to be able to work in Texas. Classes started in January, and I instantly fell in love with the field.

The ending of my 26th year of life isn’t so happy. Just days before I went on vacation for my birthday, I hit a pothole with my car. I popped one tire and got a bubble in one. Both tires were replaced. My driver side seat belt also locked up and would not expand or retract; the dealership told me that I was in an accident so they would not replace the seat belt for free. I wasn’t in an accident; my car fell off the jack while I was changing my tire. They didn’t care; I took the car to the mechanic by the house and had it completely replaced. My roommates went above and beyond again. For me, my vacation started on the day my car was taken to the local mechanic. I ended up being hundreds of miles away when my roommate took my car from the mechanic to the tire shop to get my tires aligned. That’s where he found that 3 of my rims were no longer circular, but ovals. He took it upon himself to go back to the place where I had gotten my tires and reamed them for their shoddy workmanship. When I returned from my 4-day vacation, I found a new driver side seat belt and four new matte black rims on my car.

In conclusion, my past year was only survivable by the sheer love and patience that my roommates showed me. They will forever be my favorite roommates.

Zombies and Vampires and Werewolves Oh My!

 

I don’t want to write too much and give away the story, but this was such a good book.

Horror, Suspense, and Thriller are my three least favorite genres of anything, but I have to give it to Michael, he made me enjoy this book from start to finish.

It took only 1 paragraph for me to be hooked. Michael Okon used phenomenal imagery to suck me into the story. I read the back of the book first where it talks about Wyatt Baldwin and his life, but you don’t indeed meet him until Chapter 4. That’s not an issue at all because Michael uses those Chapters to set the scene and to provide a deep insight into the various perspectives of that world. He draws from a lot of current real-world issues to set the stage for “monsters” to live.

It may just be June, but I felt like Halloween had started reading this book. It encompassed anything and everything you could ask for in a YA book.

I would not be surprised if one day this theme park opened up in the real world. Michael wrote with such skill and detail that made me believes that this was realistic (minus the monsters).

Click Here to Get the Book!

Could I Have Been a Firefighter?

 

Every little girl will love this book. I just wish this was around when I was growing up.
For the longest time, I wanted to be an astronaut. While there were sheroes such as Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, and Mae Jemison; I could only learn about them through chapter books and encyclopedias (I grew up during the dial-up and Ask Jeeves era). There was nothing for young girls to read about that told them that it was okay to be different.
If this book would have been around in my younger years, I feel that I would have been more confident in my tomboy ways. I always but on the façade of nothing could hurt me, but it still hurt getting teased and bullied throughout my childhood. I was always opposite of the average girls of my age. I spent my recess time playing basketball, football, or kickball with the boys while the girls were on the playground playing house.
This book takes girls at a young age and teaches them that they don’t have to stay at home if they don’t want to. There are many different jobs highlighted in the book that are seen as the “typical” male job, that can easily be performed by females. This is perfect to teach little girls that being different or not fitting into society’s norm is “okay.” I don’t like saying that it is okay to be different, but there is no easy way to say that it is normal to be different than the ordinary person. Nowadays I feel that there is no standard for males or females to be following. This world we live in is ever changing for the better, and this book is a fantastic tool to help the new generation to improve with it.

Carole P. Roman Returns Me to My Childhood

If You Were Me and Lived in…Israel
About 2 and a half years ago I visited Israel. I traveled from Tel Aviv to up north, then down into the desert finishing up in Jerusalem. The trip was a week long, and it was a whirlwind adventure. Reading this book reminded me of that week-long adventure I had and the people I met along the way. While the illustrations leave much to be desired the story in the book adequately outlines the culture of Israel and the people you will find when you visit there. Since English is not considered one of the main languages of Israel, the pronunciations next to the Hebrew words in the book were a big help while reading. Having the Pronunciation Guide in the back of the book was a great way to remind readers of the words they have just learned, how to pronounce the word and the definition of the word. I’m saving this book to read to my children (when I have them) to teach them about their heritage.

If You Were Me and Lived on…Mars
While I like to think at my age I know everything, this book is an excellent reminder that I don’t. This children’s book taught me more about Mars then I have ever known. It is unfortunate to learn that to live on Mars would be a 3-year journey, but it is probably worth it since the explorer inside of me loves the idea of going where few have gone before. If I were younger and needed to do a school project on Mars, this would be the first and only book I would need to complete the project. It is chocked full of information and researched facts. Sign me up for the next mission to Mars!

If You Were Me and Lived in…the Middle Ages
This book is disguised as a young children’s book, but when you open up to the first page, you realize that older kids in 5th and 6th grade can read this too. There are so much detail and information on the pages that I felt like I knew what it was like to live through the Middle Ages. Throw me into a time machine and send me back to the Middle Ages because this book taught me everything I would need to know to not just survive but to thrive in those years.

The Crew Goes Coconuts: A Captain No Beard Story
Every good children’s story should have a moral that teaches readers and helps them grow. Captain No Beard and his crew can definitely help any child through social interactions and assist them in learning to look past others’ differences. It was a cute read that any child can follow and learn from. My inner child found a new crew to be a part of, that also has a smart captain at the helm.

Mexican Stuffed Shells

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24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells

1 lb. lean ground turkey

2 cups salsa

1 can (8oz.) tomato sauce

1 cup frozen corn

½ cup canned black beans, rinsed & drained

1 cup (4oz.) shredded Mexican cheese blend

TOPPINGS:

8 T sour cream

8 T salsa

¼ cup sliced black olives

¼ cup chopped chives

  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions; drain.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, cook turkey over medium heat until no longer pink; drain
  3. Stir in the salsa, tomato sauce, corn and beans
  4. Spoon into pasta shells
  5. Place in a 13in x 9in x 2in baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray
  6. Sprinkle with cheese
  7. Cover and bake at 350o for 25-30 minutes or until heated through
  8. Top with sour cream, salsa, black olives, and chives

Yield: 8 servings or 4 hungry people

** before taking this photo my phone had slipped out of my hand and landed in the food, and I had to clean my phone and the food up and redo the toppings on the shells before I could take the photo above. Needless to say, it entertained my roommates very well**

Second Knee Scar

I made the photo smaller because of…gross. As of today, I now have two beautiful big scars on both of my knees, neither of which came from surgeries. The first one came from the sea and the second from land.
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Aw yes, the sea, how does one get a lifelong scar from the sea you ask? Going into second grade, my family and I took a trip down to Galveston Bay to a family’s friend’s beach house. For those of you that know the Texas Gulf area, when I say beach I mean rock formation that separates land from the sea. The rocks by the sea get covered by the water with the rising tides, and so the stones are slippery throughout the day and covered in barnacles. We young children; being my brother, myself and 5 other kids similarly aged; thought it was a fun idea to climb onto the rocks. About 5 minutes into playing around one girl slips on the rocks, and the parents warn us to be careful while we play, but what does Shelbie do less than 2 minutes later. You guessed it! Shelbie slips forward onto the rock and her knee lands square on a colossal barnacle slicing it open, but Shelbie being the tomboy that she is at that age stands up and starts to wipe herself off like nothing happens but glances over to see the faces of the other children in horror staring at her legs. Shelbie looks down her leg to see red pouring out of her knee. This is when Shelbie starts feeling pain and screaming for her mommy. Long story short Shelbie gets stitches in her knee and doesn’t listen to the doctor when he says to not move it. She ends up separating the wound and leaving her with a massive scar on her right knee.

16 years later at the young age of 25 years old, Shelbie takes her family dog, Sparky, out for a run on the greenbelt behind the family home. Shelbie and Sparky have run the trails before, and every time Sparky falls behind to smell something new, however recently Sparky had healed from a spine injury, so Shelbie did not want to overexert him. About 10 minutes into the run Sparky slows down for the first time, and as Shelbie runs past him, she glances back to check to make sure he didn’t stop because he was in pain. Once Shelbie realizes Sparky feels okay she starts turning her head back around to see where she is going, then she elegantly trips over the dirt, and her left kneecap lands square on a rock and again red starts pouring out of her knee. Needless to say the run/walk back up the trail and hill to the family house and yelling for my dad’s help was the longest ¼ mile I have ever gone. The best part is coming to the backyard and seeing my dad run upstairs when hears me calling from outside because he thinks I am upstairs. Gotta love that man. That is the tale of the first and second knee scar.

Is this the rest of my life?

 

 

Before 2016 I had no idea what a Recreation Therapist was or even that I could have a future in it. Now after over a year working with Recreation Therapists I knew that becoming a Recreation Therapist is what I wanted to do. I hate being stuck behind a desk and filling out paperwork after paperwork. I like being out in the world with people and helping them where they are at. When I worked as a case manager I got more out of walking the trails with a kid then I did sitting in an empty room with him staring at each other trying to get a conversation started. The more I worked with Recreation Therapists as a Case Manager, the more I wanted to be one.

Now, a year and a half after learning about the career I have been accepted into the State University of New York at Cortland’s Recreation Therapist Certificate program. While I will be taking all the required graduate courses to collect a Masters in Recreation Therapy, because I am taking the course online I am not able to complete the mandatory internship and meet the supervisory requirement for the graduate degree. For some reason, I am content with that. I have always hated school with a passion. I struggle to learn sitting down in a hard chair and being talked at. I got through my early school years because I had my parents on my back pushing me, and college I made it through by the skin on my teeth.

Online grad school is something that has scared me for the longest time, until January 2017. Early this year I got diagnosed with ADHD, and I was placed on medication to assist me in focusing on my daily life. It has done wonders for my mood and procrastination. I hate to say that drugs will get me through college, but they will. These are legally prescribed medication that I take the required dosage for, and I am monitored every 3 months by a licensed professional to ensure that I am not abusing the prescription. I was one of those kids that bought Adderall off of her friend to finish a paper in college. The medication worked for me, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for you. There are many dangerous side effects to self-medicating with stimulants. I am very fortunate that none of those side effects happened to me, and now that I am prescribed the medication I make sure that I stick to the medication schedule.

Drug addictions are a serious illness and if you are unable to live without taking substances to numb, dull or get through your life then reach out for help at Americanaddictioncenters.org or Call 877-443-2801.

 

 

Growing up sister

As you may have gathered, I am a little sister. I grew up with an older brother. Many people say we are 3 years apart, but I suppose we are 2 years and 365 days apart. The year I was born was a leap year, so there was an extra day in there. We were almost born on the same day. My brother was born on July 28th at 1:32am, and 2 years and 365 days later I was born on July 27th at 3:31pm. I was the best birthday present a 3-year-old could ask for.
For those of you who know my brother nowadays, he wanted me when he was 3. He loved me so much that when I was growing up and supposed to be hitting my growth milestones, my speech growth was delayed. Why you ask? Because when I was younger I would point and grunt at things I wanted and my loving older brother would run and get it for me. Why would I need to learn to talk if I could communicate with grunts and pointing? Needless to say, my parents stopped my brother from being my lackey, and I learned to speak which is when my brother began falling out of love with me.thumbnail (1)

There is one thing and will always be one thing that my brother will love more than anything in the world. Animals. My brother has entirely laid out plans for a zoo and an aquarium. It includes which animals would be at each enclosure, what the sex of the animals would be, feeding schedule, feeding needs, habitat needs, and where he would be able to locate the animals. Every family vacation included at least one zoo or aquarium or nature preserve of where ever we were. While granted I have seen some pretty amazing zoos and aquariums, there are only so many times I can look at the same kind of fish and fain my enthusiasm. My brother definitely took my family on many adventures that looked the same, and to an outsider that wasn’t my brother they were, but to my brother, they were new every time and got better and better with each visit.