Friday, April 22, 2016

The lobster bride

I was to be married in a strapless gown within a matter of weeks, and my skin was a pasty, uneven color. So I did what any bride before spray tans might have done: I booked a series of appointments at a tanning salon.

I bought into the hype that tanning beds "give you a nice base tan so you don't burn" and "it's no more harmful than the sun" in my youthful ignorance. My best friend in college had a tanning bed at her parents' house in Dayton, and when we visited, we sunned ourselves in it. Wrinkles, schminkles. We were 20.

The tanning sessions I had booked for my wedding were relaxing and comfortable; I had my hot pink googles and a bandeau bikini, and I settled into my clamshell. My brain registered mild panic just a little bit before I closed the coffin-like lid, but once I closed my eyes, I was fine.

On my last appointment before the wedding, with seven days to go, I felt good about my tan and all of the planning. The centerpieces were ready, my dress was perfect, flowers were ordered, and I was taking it all pretty well, all things considered. I relaxed into the tanning bed and settled in for my 15 minutes of what I thought, at the time, was innocent skin enhancement. I thought it was a good idea, at the time.

When I woke up, 30 minutes later, I sat up quickly and looked in the mirror. My skin was bright red. I jumped up, threw on my clothes, and ran into the reception area.

“My timer didn’t go off!” I said, breathlessly.

“Oh,” said the young woman at the front desk. “I guess the timer is broken.”

I stared at her through raccoon eyes.

The damage was done, and there wasn’t much I could do. My skin hurt to the touch, and my eye sockets were trimmed in a lovely shade of pale. A day later, I woke up and looked in the mirror through still-groggy vision, and saw something that would strike fear into the heart of any bride-to-be: my lips had blistered. MY. LIPS. HAD. BLISTERED.

Panic mode set in and I dialed a local dermatologist with scarlet fingers. I explained the situation and begged them to fit me in that day, and they took pity on me. When the doctor saw my predicament, he pursed his lips and refrained from comment until the end of the appointment, when he gave me a prescription for oral steroids and told me to stay away from tanning beds.

I gave him a look that said, if I ever get near one again, please put me in a straitjacket.

The blisters healed just in time for the wedding, and the rest of my skin had faded to a fresh pink. I was the epitome of the blushing bride. Or the bride in blush. Luckily, the pictures didn’t betray my embarrassment. The Great Tanning Bed Incident of 2000 was barely ahead of the Great Sun-In Orange Hair Embarrassment of 1986, but it definitely takes the trophy.

Maybe the Great Tanning Bed Incident was a harbinger of doom for the marriage - it failed after four years. I should have seen that as a sign; there is a fortune cookie somewhere that says, "Burn skin in tanning bed, don't get married."

These days, I can't even look at a tanning bed, and I wear a hat and sunscreen and often, a rash guard if I’m out in the sun. I can’t undo the years of baby oil, and the laughable SPF 4 (FOUR!) Coppertone suntan lotion, and the tanning beds, but I can be smarter these days. That’s what middle age does for you.

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This is part of a blog hop led by the illustrious Nancy Kho of Midlife Mixtape. If you love music and smart writing, she is your woman. Go and check out some of the posts on this topic at my friends' sites - they will be sure to have some fun stories about what seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Genie in a Blog

Monday, April 11, 2016

Best of 2015-2016


Best of 2015-2016!

I was named a Voice of the Year for the past two years, and in 2014 I had the honor of reading my piece on stage. I had practiced it so much that I stripped the emotion out of it - the pieces that made it real and human. I was so nervous about breaking down on stage in front of a thousand or more people that I whipped through it fast and straight. If I could do it again, I'd be me, the way I feel in my heart.




So it's that time again, and BlogHer is taking nominations for the 2016 VOTY awards, for pieces published between January 15 and today. Do you have a favorite piece of mine in the last year that you loved? If so, please nominate it at this link. (All could be considered for written work over 700 words, or Impact for the pieces that are about a particular cause): 

Here are my favorite pieces from the last year:

At Scribbles and Crumbs, the Scars that Remind Me  

At the Today Show Parenting site, The "Bad" Bedtime Habit I Love, and a letter to my son's best buddy on the eve of kindergarten. 

At Good Housekeeping, two essays - one about my experience with domestic violence and a reported piece on what it's like to be a mother of a daughter in an abusive relationship. 

At Woman's Day, one piece of parenting advice: listen to your instincts.  

At Cosmopolitan, my revelation about what caused my eating disorder

At Brain, Child, Faking Bravery (parenting with anxiety)

At The Washington Post, four essays. The first one about learning how to stop splurging on unncessary stuff for my son; the second about teaching our kids not to be bullies when they see bullying behavior in the news; the third about mothering a boy post-feminist upbringing; and the fourth on learning how to rebuild my life after divorce

At Scary Mommy, musings on what I think about when I see a pregnant woman. 

At BonBon Break, Dear Other Woman: Thank You, and an essay about sexual assault and harassment and the cost of silence

At VProud, my story of emerging from fire without the scars of the burn but with the force of a phoenix.

Thank you for your support!




Love, 
Kristin














Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kia Sportage 2017: a pleasant surprise with great value

I must admit that I have been, in the past, a car snob when it came to Hyundai and Kia. I believed the old thinking that Kia and Hyundai surely makes cheap cars that fall apart.

I’m standing here before you to tell you that I stand corrected. And I'm feeling pretty sheepish about it.



For the last week, I have been driving a 2017 Kia Sportage (a big thank you to DriveShop for the loaner!). My husband and son and I drove up to Dallas for the DFW Auto show, and I found that the Kia of today is not the Kia of ten years ago. Or, at least, perhaps the perception is changing. In fact, while I was at the auto show, my family toured around Dallas in it, and two people at two different venues asked my husband if the Kia was his and remarked that it was a sharp-looking vehicle.

Did you know that Kia offers a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the drivetrain? Hyundai, Kia’s sister company, promotes the same service for their cars, and I spoke with a Hyundai representative at the show in Dallas. He said to me, “If we thought the cars would break down before 100,000 miles, we could never offer this kind of warranty. It would cost us a fortune. We believe in our cars and they have proven themselves over time.”

Good point. He also reminded me that back in the 80s, Toyota was considered a cheap Japanese car and many people maligned it as a throwaway car. With a market share of 15%* (just behind Ford and GM) in the U.S. and luxury brand Lexus in its wheelhouse, Toyota is no longer considered to be the generic brand. Perhaps Hyundai and Kia are the Toyota of the 21st century.

The Sportage, considered a Crossover Utility Vehicle, or CUV, weighs more than 3700 pounds, giving it plenty of sticking power taking curvy roads. It's comfortable and the navigation stands up to just about anything on the market.



The lowdown on the stats, for gearheads like me:
MSRP: From $22,990
MPG: Up to 22 city / 29 highway
Horsepower: 181 to 240 hp
Towing capacity: 2,000 lbs
Engine: 2.0 L 4-cylinder, 2.4 L 4-cylinder



Here’s what I like about the Sportage: 
* Zippy acceleration and smooth braking.
* Paddle shifters - I haven’t really needed to use them, but they’re fun to play with. I can squint my eyes and pretend I’m in a Ferrari when I’m flipping the paddles.
* Plenty of head room and leg room in the front and the back.
* Simple, intuitive controls.
* Super easy to park in just about any space.
* Excellent camera views and collision warnings.
* Seat warmers AND coolers (perfect for Texas summers)
* Spectacular panoramic sunroof.


Here’s what I’d like for Kia to consider revising and/or improving:
* The driver can choose from three drive modes: Normal, Eco, and Turbo. They rotate through the cycle with the push of a button, and if you want to switch to Turbo, for instance, it could be two pushes of a button instead of one. That might seem minor, but when you need Turbo mode, I find you generally need it fast.

* The doors unlock as soon as the driver puts the car in park. As a cautious woman, I prefer to have full control over the locks, in case I am in a situation in which I feel uncomfortable and need for the locks to stay engaged.

* Conversely, I would like for the car to unlock the driver door when I approach the vehicle with the keys in proximity. The SUV I drive now does that, but the Sportage requires pushing the button on the driver-side handle to unlock. This may be a personal preference, or what I’m used to.

* I had to review the manual to figure out how to use the middle seat belt, and ended up putting the car seat on the driver’s side instead. The safest part of the car for a child – well, for anyone, I suppose – is in the middle of the car, and it’s a little more difficult to place the seat in the center.

Overall, I had a lot of fun driving this car. Certainly, much more fun than I expected, and in this price range, a very good value. I had a chance to drive Kia's luxury sedan, the K900 (made famous by the endorsement of Labron James, who bought one with his own money and then agreed to be a spokesperson for it), which starts at $50K+.  Now THAT car is sweet. More on that one later.

More details on the Kia Sportage at Car and Driver.

* All photos from Kia.com, because they are better photographers than I am.

* From TheTruthAboutCars.com

Saturday, March 12, 2016

DFW Auto Show next week!


This week, I am once again representing SheBuysCars for a media event at the DFW Auto Show in Dallas, Texas on March 15th and 16th. Follow along on Periscope (@austinkvs) as I drive to Dallas in a Kia with my family. You already know that I love cars, and I can't wait to see this one at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

I have never driven a Kia, so I'm looking forward to learning more about this automaker, one of the newest in the U.S. 


Kia is known as a “more for the money” brand; the company’s strategy is to give its customers a lot of value for the money. Last year they created James Bond-type ads for the new Sorento. The 2016 earned a 9.9/10 stars from Kelley Blue Book, so it's got to be good. SheBuysCars featured the new, redesigned minivan last year. More on Kia at their site, kia.com.

To follow along, just follow along as I share information via Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as we share our adventures using the hashtag #DFWAuto.

Which car manufacturers will be at this show? Well, there are quite a few. But let's talk about the ones I'm most excited about: Maserati. Rolls Royce. McLaren. Alfa Romeo. Bentley. Aston Martin. My mother always said I have champagne taste and a beer pocketbook... *clink* Truly, I really liked the Maserati team at the Houston show, and I'd like to spend more quality time with them. 

The Ride and Drive events are always a great time, too, so I'll Periscope at least one and tell you what I think of it. In Houston, I fell in love with the Lexus RX Hybrid, and, of course, the Porsche Cayenne hybrid. I'm looking forward to finding out what will surprise me this time. Kia is very excited about its Ride and Drive at the DFW Auto Show. The ride and drive is open to the public during the DFW Auto Show’s public days and Kia will have the full line of models available to for test drives; you can try out a new car with no sales pressure (I love this).



The show is open the following hours:
  • Wednesday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Thursday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Ticket prices for the show:
  • $12 for adults
  • $5 for senior citizens 65 and older
  • $5 for children 6 to 12 years old; children 5 and under admitted free

For those of you who are local, I am giving away a pair of Houston Auto Show tickets good any one day of the show (prizes will not be mailed; giveaway winner must pick up the prize at the Houston Auto Show). Enter here:

TICKET GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

WHEN: Saturday, March 12, 2016 through Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 12AM CST

WHO: @She Buys Cars @Austinkvs @DFWAutoShow

WHAT: Two (2) Tickets to the DFW Auto Show

HOW TO ENTER: Easy! Just comment on this post.
To be eligible to win you must enter a comment on this blog post.
Prizes will not be mailed; giveaway winner must pick up the prize at the DFW Auto Show. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekend Favorites, February 14

When I was a kid, my sister and I used to clamor for a heart-shaped pizza from Milano's pizza on Valentine's Day. We got such a kick out of that. As I grew up, I learned how to make heart-shaped pizzas for my loved ones myself. This week, I made the cookies for my son's Valentine's Day party and I used a recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies I have had for years. I chose an 80s mix on Spotify and danced and baked happily for a few hours, lost in the memories. 

I hope that whatever your status - married, dating, divorced, or happily single - that today was sweet for you. 

First of all, I want to tell you about a new series on Lexi's blog, Scribbes and Crumbs, called On Coming Alive. Lexi lost her little boy to congenital heart failure not even two years ago, and her bravery and heart in telling her story is humbling. I was honored to be asked to have the first guest post on her blog about overcoming hard times, and I hope that my story, called "The Scars that Remind Me I'm Still Alive" was worthy of her site.

I'm going to highlight this on my Two Cannoli Facebook page this week, but in the meantime I'll give you a sneak peek: my writing was featured at Cosmopolitan! It's a thrill to have a byline on the Cosmo site. It's a story that I only recently pieced together, about the secrets we keep inside that could be hurting us. It is still very scary to me to be this vulnerable and honest, but I believe that it if helps one person, it's worth it. 

My new company is launched and the site is live! The company is called Firewheel Communications (named after my favorite Texas wildflower) and I am now accepting requests for marketing content, press releases, social media consulting, technical writing, articles, web copy, you name it. 

And finally, Metro reporter Amanda Perez asked me for advice for other freelancers or corporate employees working from home. I have been out of the office environment since November 2008 and I haven't missed it at all. 

And now, onto some of the other work on the internet that I have loved this week. First, this graphic from Lindsey Mead:




* * * 
This essay at Brain, Child wormed its way into my head and is stuck there. It was a timely and appreciated reminder to slow down and make room for joy.

* * * 
I haven't made my way through all of these essays yet, but what a list! One site called these the "best longreads of 2015, all written by women."

* * * 
Christine is a breast cancer survivor, and these words about her relationship with her husband were simply gorgeous.

* * * 
Ready for a dose of pure beauty? This video of Misty Copeland took my breath away/

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Katrina Kenison is one of those writers who does a stunning job of telling the truth and revealing snippets of her life in a way that is compelling and thought-provoking. This is just one sample.

* * * 
I have told you about Amanda Magee before, and her work never fails to lift my spirits. Her vocabulary alone slays me.

* * * 
My Listen To Your Mother Austin co-producer Leigh Ann Torres and I have read all of the submissions for this year's show and we start auditions in two weeks. I can hardly wait to meet these women and men! It is an honor to read every story. Now I need to work on my reading for this year's show. 

* * * 
Things I love:

Need a gift idea? Check out WeMontage. I can't tell you how happy we have been with our collage in my son's room.

I have a new client, Smith Wealth Advisors - I write a feature on a family's financial challenges and triumphs every month. Check them out here.

Love, Kristin






Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Favorites, February 5, 2016

I have been writing like crazy lately, submitting in a flurry and getting ready for the launch of new projects. Stay tuned for next week, when I will be featured at Lexi Berndt’s site Scribbles and Crumbs for a brand-new campaign she is launching; I am deeply honored that Lexi invited me to write about overcoming obstacles for her site.

The picture to the right is the view from a friend's house in Spicewood, Texas, overlooking the Pedernales River. The tree looks as if it is gently cradling the sun in its branches, and it reminds me how thankful I am for this life.

* * *
This week, I am published at LiveMom with an interview with an Austin-based blogger and social media expert, Jennifer Borget, and at my own site with a roundup post on the Houston Auto show. Jennifer is a ray of sunshine; I love this post from Jennifer on seeing color and embracing our differences.

* * *
Harmony Hobbs nails it on this one at Scary Mommy: be kind, not perfect.

* * *
Just for fun, watch this. The footage from the very first Antarctic cruise is stunning.

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A cautionary tale – please be aware of these kind of IRS scams!

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Rachel’s words never, ever fail to inspire me. Her words propel me to a better life.

* * *
Cindy Reed’s honest and raw struggle to help her daughter handle the difficulties of racial understanding blew me away this week at Brain, Child magazine.

* * *
Jen Simon perfectly captures the fear and underwater feelings of postpartum depression in this post.

* * *
This essay from Julie is timeless and should be required reading for just about everyone on the planet. Compassion; she gets it.

* * *
Speaking of compassion, this video from Brene Brown perfectly illustrates the concept.

* * *
Lindsey’s revelations here are lovely: “Perhaps because of my Puritan roots – which are both deep and irrefutable – I have long believed in my marrow that only things that are hard are meaningful.  Or maybe not only, but certainly that something being difficult makes it more likely to be valuable.  A tough climb makes the view more beautiful and all of that.”

* * *
Do you follow me on Instagram? Here's the link! Find me at @firewheelcommunications.

Austin news:

I am now consulting for The Meditation Bar in Austin, and I have become a big fan of their practice. Yoga and meditation together is changing my life for the better. Come try a class with me if you're local!

The Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City will celebrate its first birthday with free admission on Saturday, February 13th from 10am-4pm.

Special guest, The University of Texas Physics Circus, will entertain with exploding bottles, flying balls, an electric pickle and other science demonstrations from 1-2pm. Throughout the day, smoke ring air cannons, an interactive Lissograph and Fruity Tunes, the Science Mill’s own large-scale interactive fruit piano, will also entertain partygoers. One of the Science Mill’s silos will be converted into a slow motion photo booth.

The event is a celebration of the community’s support during its first year of operation and free admission is a “thank you” for the support! Donations will be accepted. In addition to special birthday activities, the museum will be open from 10am-4pm and a 3D movie, Dinosaurs Alive, will also play throughout the day.

* * *

Love,
Kristin

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Houston Auto Show - Dream Gig for Car Fanatics


Alice Chase was the Thelma to my Louise on our road trip to the Houston Auto Show last week - or maybe I was Thelma and Alice was Louise? In any case, we didn’t have Brad Pitt in our car and that was disappointing. The brand-new GMC Acadia we were driving, however, was not disappointing. In fact, we enjoyed the plethora of power sources, the heated AND air conditioned seats, and the kolache/barbecue place it steered us to on the way to Houston. Although it’s possible that I saw the sign for kolaches and said “STOP THERE”.




If you don’t know Alice, go and check out all of her socialmedia channels. Not only does she have a whip-smart brain for social media, she is one of the sweetest people on the internet.

You already know how much I love cars. It’s my passion, and I owe that to my dad and all of the car shows we attended together since I was a kid. I had the best time at this show as a guest of SheBuysCars.com and GMC Houston, and I’m going to tell you a little more about what I learned.


I like to ask to see under the hood, I want to know about the horsepower, I want to know about the torque. I ask about maintenance, and tires, and what kind of fuel works best. On opening night, I beelined it for the exotic car corner: Lotus, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. I rode along with Jeep and Ram, which was impressive, but I’m a sports car and classic car girl.

No, I did not plan my dress to match this car. We dubbed it "Tron Car". 

The classic car display was jaw-dropping, with some gorgeous cars from the ‘40s and ‘50s that were right up my alley. Corvettes with the distinctive, elegant concave two-toned arc swept from the sides; custom Oldsmobiles with clear-panel hoods; Chevelle Super Sports with paint jobs that made them look even faster. I hosted a Periscope broadcast from this section as I drooled over them all.



On media day, I started with press conferences from several auto brands, beginning with the Chrysler Pacifica. I’m not a minivan person, but this one is pretty fantastic. They gave all of us a road game to play that included cards describing various features; a brilliant marketing tool. My favorite press conference, however, was the Alfa Romeo; the Italian carmakers had two gorgeous vehicles on display, one a fast yellow Spyder.

Alfa Romeo Spyder

The experts I spent the most time speaking with was the Maserati team. A friend of mine has a sleek black Quattroporte, and while I have longed for one of my own, I thought it was out of my price range. I was happily surprised to discover that the new Maserati Ghibli is closer to the price of a Lexus SUV or even a higher-range truck, and they are offering some very attractive lease options lately. Now, I have a photo of a Maserati on my bulletin board in my office for inspiration, but it’s a Granturismo, which starts at $130K+. It is a V8…  So much to love about that trident logo. Check out their site for more. I'm hoping for a full, comprehensive review later this year. 

I'm in love with a Maserati. Is that a song?


And then I got to drive.

Driving experience

The first car I tested was the Lexus RX Hybrid. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it, because I have not typically been attracted to the crossovers. The RX delivers 308 horsepower, pairing a V6 with the Lexus Hybrid Drive, and it’s everything you would expect from a Lexus: smooth, stylish, and elegant.



Next I took back-to-back rides in the new BMW i3 with Kim Orlando of Traveling Moms and Heidi Gollub of Free Fun in Austin driving. The carriage doors are fun, and certainly make it easier to get in and out of the small back seat. The BMW i3 has an all-electric engine, and the company claims it gets up to 81 miles per charge while the BMW i3 with Range Extender gets up to 150 miles in total range (depending on conditions, of course). Also attractive to the buyer may be the promise of up to $7,500 in tax credits; since the i3starts at $42,200, that credit could be much needed. I felt the i3 was zippy but small, and as a driver, getting used to the sudden braking when pulling my foot off the gas pedal would take some getting used to.



I waited eagerly for my turn to try out the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid. When I got behind the wheel, I was impressed by the soft leather and large, racecar-style paddle shifters. Sadly, the route was a few short city blocks and I didn’t get to test if it could really go from 1-60 in 5.4 seconds. Next time. This Cayenne starts at $77,200 and the two advantages it has over the Tesla are the aforementioned paddle shifters, which are fun, and the fuel engine for longer road trips.  



Lastly, the Honda CRX hybrid. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this car: it's a two-seater, and it reminds me of my high school years. To be honest, I didn't even know Honda still made the CRX. This one is a major improvement over the CRXs from the 80s: this one has an electric drivetrain. You could actually take this on a trip and go for 500 miles without refilling the tank, if you wanted to. Starting at a little over $22,000, this would be a perfect car for someone just starting their adult working life. 




Arrivederci, Houston
Overall, this was a fun show and I learned a great deal about the cars and the people behind them. Next year, I’m bringing the whole family – at $12 a ticket, that’s great entertainment.

Oh - and be sure to stop at a Buc-ees along the way. Endless entertainment. 

Photo taken by Alice Chase
Are you following me on Instagram? Find me at @Firewheelcommunications

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of GMC and She Buys Cars. I was compensated to attend and share my experiences with you; however, all opinions are mine.


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