Friday, January 30, 2009


Being that I was tied up quite a bit around the holidays with a freelance project that I needed to finish before the end of the year, I have had quite a few questions lately from friends and family as to what exactly I do when I say I am a technical illustrator of artifacts, so I thought that I would try and explain it.

I have a Fine Arts degree from Kent State University with a concentration in metal smithing, so you can imagine that such a degree didn’t exactly prepare me to jump out into the wide world with a great understanding of what I was suppose to do in order to make a living. I was warned by multiple family members that I would never be able to survive as an artist, but since my graduation I have always made either all or part of my salary working as an artist. So a great big “HA!” to all the naysayers. (Oh, that felt good! Thirty years of pent up ‘I’ll show you!’ released at last). It hasn’t always been very lucrative or easy, none the less I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. And it helped that the internet came along in the 1990s allowing floundering artists a chance to tout their talents as web designers, which I also do, but I want to talk here about my hand drawn illustration work.

Much to everyone’s surprise, as well as mine, my first position out of college was as an actual silversmith with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation which then led a year later to a career with the museum as a technical illustrator in the archaeology department. (And to those wondering, yes, I did wear a costume to do my silver smithing in – see photo as evidence. The lace on the sleeves of my dresses caught fire quite a lot).

It was famed archaeologist and author Ivor Noel Hume who gave me “my big break” as an illustrator. He is an extremely interesting and prolific writer, and for those unfamiliar with his books, I would highly recommend you give him a read if you have any interest in history or archaeology, you won’t be disappointed. He, together with his now departed wife Audrey, headed up the Department of Archaeological Interpretation at CWF and I was hired to illustrate the seventeenth century artifacts discovered at Martin’s Hundred on the James River. A subsidiary colony of the Virginia Company and neighbor to Jamestown, Martin's Hundred was effectively destroyed by an attack by the Powhatan tribe in March of 1622, leaving it a virtual time capsule as the result of having been abandoned not long after that. Its dead and much of their material culture lay forgotten beneath the fields of Carter’s Grove Plantation until 1976 when archaeologists discovered it once more. By the time I joined the department the digging at the site had been completed and the artifacts were waiting to be drawn; an entire room of them. I spent nearly three years at the task and learned so much from the Noel Humes of value that I count it among one of the greatest highlights of my career.

After finishing up the Martin’s Hundred artifacts, I spent a year working at NASA learning how to use the revolutionary new machine called the Personal Computer. There they sat in a room all by themselves with the only two guys willing to give them a try and me. It turns out that learning to use a computer was far easier than I would have imagined, even though it was during a time when Windows yet hadn’t been invented and each command was typed out in dos. (I am so ancient!) For a year I created schematic CADD drawings of the space shuttle. Cool, huh? Plus, I now had a skill set that few at the time possessed, computer literacy. Okay, all you young things probably cannot remember a world without computers, but I assure you, it existed and there was resistance in some quarters to the change brought about in the office environment, so anyone willing to learn was of great value at the time.

An opening for an illustrator in a different part of the archaeology department at Colonial Williamsburg opened up and back I gladly went from space shuttle to the 17th and 18th centuries again where I worked happily for nearly ten years illustrating artifacts and mapping dig sites. In the mid 90s budgets at the museum were cut and so was I, but I have worked for contract archaeologists and museums on a full-time or freelance basis ever since, the longest running being with The Corning Museum of Glass in New York. I have worked with the curatorial department there for about ten years and have completed the illustration of literally thousands of complete artifacts and fragments of artifacts, most dating from the first, second and third centuries. These illustrations have been published in books by David Whitehouse, curator of the Corning Museum of Glass. To those interested, links to these publications can be found here

So what does it take to illustrate an artifact? Well, first is the ability to be able to properly handle an irreplaceable and delicate object. As has been mentioned in several previous blog entries, I am a total klutz, BUT am still able to be trusted with a two thousand year old fragile, paper-thin, piece of glass. This is because, number one, I was taught by the best; Ivor Noel Hume and the curatorial staff at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and two, because when I am handling an object that is ALL I am concentrating on, I am fortunately not distracted by small children, beasties or what ever else usually causes me to miss a step. I remember when interviewing with David for the first time he asked me if I was comfortable handling the glass. I told him that “Yes, I am confident doing so and that though I am extremely careful in my handling of artifacts of any kind, it does not make me nervous to do so.” He later told me that if I had said that it did make me nervous that he would not have hired me.

By remembering a few simple rules one can, in most cases, keep precious objects safe. Tables where artifacts are handled are padded and sometimes have little walls along the edges to prevent things rolling off. When moving an object, it is kept as close to the table as possible so that should it fall, the distance would be short. Elongated bean bags are used to help prop up and cushion objects. In the case of metal artifacts, cottons gloves are worn so as not to deposit oils from the hands which can be corrosive to metal. Most importantly, objects should be handled as little as possible, the less you touch it, the less opportunity for accidents.

I live in Virginia, The Corning Museum of Glass is in central New York state, artifacts of course do not come to me, I must go to them. So, for the last ten years I have traveled to Corning to visit my friends at the museum and draw until my fingers are numb...literally.

Jill Thomas-Clark has been working with me for these many years and has become a good friend. Working with Jill is a true pleasure and I very much enjoy my trips to the north country. She gathers the objects to be drawn and pulls them from the collections. She assists me with interpretations of what I think I am seeing in a sometimes very worn or weathered object; she keeps track of the thousands upon thousands of objects, their numbers and where and when they were drawn. And generally coordinates all aspects of my trip, from the objects I will be drawing to my plane reservations. She is a wonder.

Once I arrive, I am shown to my little storage room where the glass awaits me in a very cold, climate controlled environment and I don my sweater and pair of magnifying glasses. Each object is divided into two halves in a drawing, on the left, in most cases will be a profile. This will show what the object’s thickness is as well as give clues as to how it was formed. The glass from this period is blown and to make a rim or foot it might have been folded back on itself several times, a profile will show this. It will show where the object is solid or whether there is space between its walls.

On the right side of the drawing will usually be the object as it appears on the outside. It will show its decoration should there be any. Some early Roman glass was decorated by molded, cut, scratched or applied means. The early Islamic glass that I am working on now is highly decorated, so in order to show a full view of an objects pattern a “rollout” is done. This is a three dimensional object’s decoration made flat (see drawing at right which shows the decoration on a large shallow bowl. Click on any drawing to see detail).

Each drawing is done to scale, which means, actual size. I have drawn large vessels that stand two foot high; they are drawn two foot high, as well as very small objects; at left is a wee bottle that stands only about an inch tall. (Is it not amazing how something so tiny and fragile has existed unbroken for two thousand years?). The finished drawing may be reduced for publication, but is shown with a scale so that those doing research can see what the objects actual size is. All measurements are as exact is as possible. If I can measure it, it is on the drawing. If, for instance, I have an intact bottle with a narrow neck and I can only really measure the top part where the bottle has its opening, then that is all that I can with confidence put on my drawing. I can make an educated guess, but I dash the line in to indicate that I am guessing.

I first make a detailed and measured pencil drawing with all the views that I plan on showing. This I do at the museum with the object in front of me. I also take several digital photos of each piece in case I need to reference it later, but I try to make my pencil “sketch” with as much information as I will need in order to complete a finished inked drawing. I will also have David Whitehouse’s excellent written description of each piece to reference as well.

I draw as many objects as I can in the time that I am at the museum, as well as talking with David and Jill if there are any questions about how something is formed and what needs to be conveyed visually. I then take my pencil drawings back home with me and do the final ink drawing on mylar film to be used in publication. The drawing technique I use for the final inked drawing is called “stippling”, which means that I use thousands upon thousands of tiny ink dots to simulate the varying degrees of shading in the object. Above you can see an example of a bottle with my pencil sketch on the left and the finished ink drawing of the same bottle on the right.

Many times there is only a small fragment of an object left in existence, this makes it no less valuable from a research point of view however, and these shards are also worth illustrating. At right is one example of a piece of decorated glass.

Oftentimes I am asked what the purpose of drawing these objects is when they can simply be photographed. Well, they are photographed, and beautifully so by Corning’s photographer. But a drawing can show parts of an object that cannot be seen in a photograph, such as its profile, insides, complete decoration, wear pattern or in some cases how it originally appeared. A good example of this is the bowl pictured at left. At some time in its history this glass bowl was in a fire hot enough to melt and change its form. The top drawing shows what the object currently looks like, the drawing below it shows an illustrated reconstruction of what the bowl looked like previous to the fire that altered it. And in the case of the rock artifacts below, the carving done by Native Americans can only be seen clearly in a drawing.

So that, in a nutshell, is what I do. I am so very grateful for the work I have had to date, it is always exciting and fascinating employment. I am thankful too for the many interesting and wonderful people I have gotten to work with and for the excellent experiences my chosen profession has allowed me. I have been privileged to learn from many of the finest minds in archaeology today and hope to continue for many years to come to do so. I have been honored to handle and draw such objects as first century depictions of saints Peter and Paul, possibly made during their lifetimes. Masterworks made by both famous and anonomous artisans. Personal objects used by both the wealthy politian and the humble slave. Bullets and weapons that have passed through living bodies and ended lives. I’ve drawn giant pieces of ancient machinery and tiny brass straight pins; animal bones and the bones of humans; pieces of history several millennium old as well as soda bottles from the twentieth century. I have even drawn Thomas Jefferson’s toothbrush! And though I have drawn many thousands of objects, I can still tell you, in most cases, where and when it was done and the objects purpose and place in history. It causes me pause quite often, to think when I am using an everyday item such as a cup to wonder: ‘Wow, in a thousand years will there be some archaeologist digging this thing up and trying to piece together the ways in which it was used?’ Or in the case of a particularly complex piece of equipment: ‘Man, I would hate to be the illustrator trying to figure out how to show this on paper.” I hope that this read hasn’t bored you and that you might look upon your humble belongings in a new light; every bit of material we live with and use is a piece of history and art in its own way, no matter how humble. Think of that the next time you brush your teeth!

©KKW 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


On this very special Inauguration Day, I find myself reflective like perhaps so many others. As I made my way around town doing errands at lunch, everywhere I went where there was a television there were large groups of people gather around them listening in attentive silence. I too listened to now President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech several times and read it through as well and wished that I could have watched the entire thing, unfortunately I had to work -- fortunately I still have a job to be working at.

My eldest daughter, eight years old, came home very excited to tell me about watching the inauguration on TV at school and did I know how very important this day was to our history? Her enthusiasm and zeal put me in a wistful mood and made me think about how this tiny individual, left on a busy city sidewalk in China with a hope that she’d be found and rescued, is now part of a family half a world away and a living testament to the optimism of both China and the USA. She is now a citizen of The United States; a tiny flame of joy, hope and determination. My daughter sees no hindrance to her dreams due to her sex, her heritage or place of birth. She is bright and creative, stubborn and kind, resolute and joyful. My family has been made through adoption and my daughters are the fulfillment of one of my greatest dreams: to become a mother. That I would choose to become a parent in this way I did not even imagine when I was a child, yet here we are. I and my children envision so much promise for ourselves and our future because we live in a country that encourages the formation of families through international adoption as well as by conventional means. A country not perfect, but with the freedom to say so. A nation made up of individuals of great worth, talent, generosity and grit, to which my two young daughters now belong and to which they add their own indomitable spirits.

Since her adoption, I have taken my eldest with me to vote and within a few short months of coming to this country, my youngest was brought to her first presidential election as well. Our wait on November 4, 2008 was relatively short compared with other parts of the country, which was a relief since attempting to wait in any line with two small children can be a challenge at the best of times.

The line that chilly morning snaked out the door and across the parking lot of the local fire department hall. So I put my youngest in her stroller and handed her a granola bar which kept her contented, but left a trail of crumbs throughout the line. My eldest was not contained, physically or mentally, she remained in constant movement and non-stop conversation the entire wait. That’s my girl alright. ‘I’m cold. I’m hungry. Hey, what’s that on that guy’s shirt? Sister, watch me do this. Sister, make a face like this. Sister, you are getting crumbs everywhere! Mom, sister is getting crumbs everywhere!” All at full volume of course.

I had reminded her about the voting “rules” before we ever left the house since we have done this many times before and have discussed that she must remain silent and just watch and not get in the way and NOT touch the screen. She assured me that she remembered the rules. So when we finally got our turn at the designated “booth” what’s the first thing she does? touch the screen of course. Fortunately, her fingers didn’t hit any critical spots.

‘Baby! Don’t touch! I’m the one voting.

‘Oh, sorry Mama.’

The choices for president come up…

‘Mom! Vote for Barack Obama! Vote for Barack Obama! (she pronounces this ‘A Rock Obama’). 100 sets of queued up eyes turn our way.

‘Lily, remember what I told you.’

‘Oh right, sorry Mom.’

I check the box of my choice.

‘Yeah! You voted for Barack Obama! Good job Mama! That’s who I wanted you to vote for!’ So much for the anonymity of the polling booth. But she came away with an appreciation for the civic responsibilities and rights that she had so recently been studying in school. In fact, her class took a field trip mere weeks before the election to Washington D. C. and she came home greatly impressed by what she had seen; the statues and memorials, the monuments and museums, but what seemed to impress her the most was the Vietnam Memorial and what it represented with all of its inscribed names; the polished black granite reflecting back her young, contemplative face. As she described to me what she had seen she paused in her dialogue suddenly, and then said, “I’m really lucky to live in the United States, huh Mama?” “Yes, dear one, I’m lucky too and blessed to have you here with me.”

So what does this inauguration mean to me? It means that my children, who have started life so precariously half a world away, can witness the fulfillment of a dream and know, with certainty, that theirs are within reach as well.

©KKW 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009


Dear Lily,

My Mom says I have to be nice to my little brother, but it is so hard! He is always bugging me! He takes my stuff, he copies everything I do and he follows me everywhere! What can I do?


Frustrated in Fredericksburg

Dear Freddy,

No, no, no, you are playing this all wrong! There are quite a lot of advantages to having little brothers and sisters, I know because I just got myself one a few months ago. Initially, when I got the news from my Mama that I was finally getting a little sister, and that she was two years old, I was a wee bit apprehensive. After all, it had just been my Mama and me for as long as I can remember, how would this change our relationship? How could I protect my property from being destroyed at the hands of this new, possibly ferocious little family member? Would my mom now give all of her attention to my baby sister and not have any more love left for me? These are all very important and legitimate questions to be asking, and believe me, I asked them. That is perhaps the most important thing you can do: communicate your fears with your parents. Don’t be afraid to do this, at the very least you usually get a good hugging out of expressing your concerns, always a fine thing in my opinion.

My own Mama reassured me every time I conveyed my fears (and I conveyed them a lot), that though there would assuredly be changes to our lives, that there would still be as much love from her as there had always been. She said that parents have an unlimited supply of love and not to worry. She challenged me to look at the situation differently than I had been, that instead of thinking that something was going to be taken away from me, that instead I would be gaining a whole other person to love and be loved by. And this indeed has been the case, I really DO love my new sister, much to my surprise, and she really does give me all the hugs and kisses I could possibly want in return.

Now you speak of your brother taking your toys, this is probably the most common problem that we as siblings encounter. I was warned that if I left anything within reach of my baby sister that she would take it, turns out this is true. So the simple solution to this difficulty is to hide your stuff. Bothersome, I know, but necessary because if you leave, say, a box of markers laying around for little ones to get a hold of, you will have more than just a messed up box of markers on your hands; your mom will likely have something very unpleasant to say about it too, and poof! no more markers for anyone! Best to just try and think one step ahead for everyone’s benefit.

Now to the mimicking dilemma; here is where you need to rethink your position the most. The fact that your brother wants to copy everything you do should make you feel good! He wants to be just like you, you should find this flattering. More importantly, you should be using this to your advantage, you could teach him all sorts of things that will drive your parents totally nuts and for which, if it is done right, you will receive no blame. Say for instance you continually make a noise that drives your mother crazy; why not teach it to your brother? Double the annoyance, double the fun watching your parent’s face change color in exasperation. Or when your mom’s back is turned, add a few more toys from your brother’s toy box to the mess on the floor. In comparison, your untidiness looks quite controlled and you appear to be an organizational genius.

Here are a few other advantages to having a younger sibling that you may not have thought of: *They can fetch things for you and are happy to do it, so no more getting up to ask for a snack, they can do the begging for you. *You get a lot more treats because your mom is trying to keep said sibling quiet, which usually means some delicacy is handed out and she can’t very well give it to them and not to you as well. *Same goes for presents; lots of kind people have brought a present for my new sister when they visited, and since I am a new big sister, they usually brought me a present too! This was an unforeseen bonus that I was happy to accommodate! In addition, you can teach your brother all of the annoying habits you possess and watch the delightful expressions on your parent’s face when they realize that they now have more than one set of infuriating habits to try and break. Remember, you have a partner in crime now; you must use it to your gain.

I realize that it isn’t always easy to be nice to your younger sibling, they really can be soooo annoying at times, but I think that the gains far outweigh any possible loses. I certainly don’t miss watching a television show alone while my mom does the dishes and laundry, I get to have company and introduce my sister to the likes of Dora the Explorer and we can sing along to High School Musical. And guess who my sister runs to when my mom gets out the vacuum cleaner? Me of course, she clings to me like a little monkey, but that’s okay, I like the feeling of being needed. I like that she thinks I can protect her from the noisy beast. I like that we get to share a room and I am no longer alone when I go to sleep. I like that someone is finally playing with the baby dolls that my mom had gotten me (I never cared much for dolls, but Meika loves them). I like having company in the back seat when we go somewhere. I like reading stories to her, helping to feed her, playing games with her (although she just cannot seem to get the rules of chess right, it’s maddening). I like that she gets so excited to see me again when the school day is over. I like that someone looks up to me and gives me the respect that I so richly deserve. Mama was right; having a sister really is quite wonderful if you change your perspective. So that would be my advice to you Freddy, just look at your problem from a different angle, I think you will find that you can work this system to your advantage if you try.

Good luck! Lily

KKW ©2008

Friday, January 02, 2009


othing like starting the new year with a *pop*, unfortunately, that popping sound was my ankle. Anyone who has read my blog entries before will know by now what a klutz I am, that's 'klutz' with a capital “K”. I had spent the day keeping a doctor's appointment and my friend Jennica again made my life so much easier by watching my two girls so that I didn't have to drag them along and attempt to keep them in check while I waited for an opening in my doctor's schedule. Not to mention keeping me from having to answer the billion and one questions that #1 would ask about every little thing. 'What's in those jars? What are you doing to my mom? Is she sick? Why is she that color? Can I see your heart listening thing? Why does she have to wear that sheet? Why does she have to pee in that cup? HOW does she pee in that cup?' get the picture. So after having a relatively peaceful day, all things considered, I picked up the kids, and planned to make spaghetti for dinner. I hadn't eaten all day and was craving carbs. But the new sleigh was running on empty so I had to stop for gas and while I sat there waiting for the tank to fill (we have a full service station in our little town!!), I spied our favorite Chinese restaurant. Okay, having someone serve me hot, delicious, sauce covered food did sound more appealing than cooking. Besides, isn't eating out a good new years tradition? Obviously, I'm grasping at excuses to be served.

So as we are walking into the restaurant, a man in the group in front of us kindly held the door as I was carrying daughter #2. Daughter #1 is prancing on ahead and as she slips through the door, in true Queen of the Klutzes style, my right heel goes off the curb and buckles under me, the last thing I remember before crashing gracelessly to the ground was 'Mmmmmm, something smells especially good tonight!'...and then I am kissing the pavement and daughter #2 is screaming. I hang on to her, but at the expense of my left knee, my head, my shoulder. Ugh! Excruciating pain immediately assails me, mostly from my ankle. I've done this before you see and I know exactly what I have done as the adrenaline floods my system and nausea floods my stomach; I have torn the ligaments in my ankle...again. The kind folks that were holding the door see what has happened and rush over, gathering my now screaming two year old. Daughter #1 runs back out yelling “Mom!! Mom!!” And as so often happens when we venture out into public, chaos ensues. The nice people who own the restaurant run out to help; they bring hot tea, a whole pot of it. Another man appears from no where and asks if he should call the rescue squad...I think, or rather I try to, I am in so much pain and it is not abating that I shake my head yes, mostly because I haven't been able to assess daughter #2 yet and I fear that she has been hurt. Once the nausea passes, I am able to sit up and ask for my screaming child who it turns out is just scared. Who can blame her, poor baby, here she is being carried securely (or so she thinks) by her own Mama and suddenly she is on the ground and Mama is gasping and moaning and not comforting her. Oh the drama! Oh life's uncertainty! Oh those stupid curbs that I just can't seem to master! Regrettably, I have done it all before.

The first month I was home with daughter #1 I was carrying her into the Kroger's in Charlottesville, I was talking to her and telling her how much I loved her, and bam, a curb, geez, how hard can it be to step up onto a curb?! Down we go, that time my knee saved us, but daughter hit the back of her head and because it was her that was hurt and not me I sat there bawling like a lunatic. By the time the rescue squad got there a few minutes later she was laughing and flirting with everyone and was totally fine. Now what the heck kind of unfair karma is that?! There I was telling my new daughter how much I loved her and wham bam, we're on the ground, I felt like the worst mother alive, ouch! love hurts! Although I didn't drop her, I guess that's something. It's good to know in these situations, that as parents we will apparently and unconsciously sacrifice all available body parts in order to not drop the baby.

And then there was the time five years ago in February when I went out to get the mail and was looking around instead of where I was going and rolled my right ankle off the driveway and went down head first ten feet from the road. This is how I knew today what I had done to that same ankle, because that time 5 years ago I tore all the ligaments in it. I laid there for at least fifteen minutes as cars sped by, I was unable to move or even get to my knees. Finally, two guys in a pick up stopped and shouted out the window “Hey, are you alright?” My inner self begins to mumble 'Duh! Do I look alright?! Do you think I am just taking a little rest here in the middle of the road dressed in my PJs?” But I manage to just scream “NO!” They kindly hopped out and got me to my feet. These two must never have been boy scouts, because they don't seem to know that cross-handed-seat that you make with your arms for injured persons and pretty much drag me up my long driveway. Once in the house they ask if they can do anything else, I thank them and tell them no, that I will call my next door neighbors, they always know what to do and Marion is on the rescue squad. Unfortunately, as my ankle swelled to three times its size and I attempt to call them, it is alas in vain, the line continues to bleat a busy signal at me for 30 minutes. I find out later that unbeknownst to the adults in the house, one of the kids had taken the phone off the hook. Daughter #1 was up in her crib, she was 2 at the time and I could hear from the baby monitor that she was awake and wondering why Mama was not coming to get her. I had no choice but to call 911. Forty-five minutes go by, so I call again and ask if they are coming and I am told that the squad is taking someone else to Charlottesville (40 minutes away) and that they will be there as soon as possible. All I can think is that it is a good thing my injury isn't serious, mercy, I'd be dead. Once they arrive I insist that the first thing they do is go and get my baby for the love o' pigs! One of them does and brings her down to me, she takes one look at me and declares “Mama hurt!” Oh my yes, my entire foot has swollen to an unbelievable size and is turning the color of a fine red wine. Having seen the flashing lights and ambulance in my driveway, my wonderful neighbors rush over and take Lily back to their house. I am taken to the hospital in Charlottesville, x-rayed, packed in ice, handed crutches and told to stay off my feet for 3 weeks....uh, right. So having done this before I know the routine this time. I am advised to go to the hospital, but I decline, it's already been a long day, I own my own crutches and brace and the ambulance guy has given me really cool instant ice packs, I think I'm set, and I can see that my ankle isn't the color of red wine this time; it is swelling and turning purple in spots, but doesn't look as bad as that first time.

While I have been laying with my foot up in the ambulance, my girls are being fussed over by the other ambulance attendant, the kind people that rushed to help and all the employees of The Panda Garden; bless them. They are brought back to me in the ambulance and daughter #2 who has stopped her crying, starts to cry again once she spots me, poor baby, this has really upset her. Of course daughter #1 starts looking all around and asking questions 'What's in those jars? What are you doing to my mom? Is she sick? Why is she that color? Can I see your heart listening thing? Does she have to pee in a cup?' We have not foregone the billion and one questions, only postpone them.

Eventually, after a bit of paperwork, for which one of the questions is my age, I give my birth date. The attendant looks up sharply and says, “But the guy on the phone said you were 35.” Really? I suppose he was guessing, nice to know that when I am in agony I look younger than my many years, there was the sunshine I'd been waiting for. I am helped from the vehicle and since we are already there, I see no sense in going back home with all of us hungry. I can put my foot up just as well here as anywhere, so we go on in and eat. I'm fussed over with concern by all present, but honestly, I feel like a dope, how clumsy can one women be? Should I just expect to take a tumble every few weeks and get used to it? Should I start wearing protective gear? On the bright side, the pain that I went to the doctor's for this morning is nothing in comparison to my ankle, and has been virtually forgotten. And the chef at The Panda Garden treated us to hot sugared donuts at the end of our meal especially for us. That's me, always looking for the silver lining. Gratefully, we live only a mile from the restaurant and so I drove the short distance slowly and carefully. It was a bit of a struggle getting daughter #1 to get the critters feed and the dogs in and settled. She then had to bring me my crutches, but I knew exactly where they were and I am now so glad that I had decided to keep them around and not give them to the thrift store, I know myself too well. At least I have a good excuse for sitting here eating my Chinese donuts and watching a movie, now THAT is a good start to the new year!

KKW ©2008


Having woken up several times in the night from the pain in my ankle and then trying to get up to use the bathroom and discovering that I couldn't bare weight on it at all without nearly passing out, I decided that I should take the advice of the ambulance attendant and get it x-rayed just in case, plus I couldn't find the brace from the last time and having it unprotected means any little thing that touches my ankle is agony. Again, my wonderful neighbors to the rescue, Theresa drove us all in the new sleigh to the “Quick Hospital” in Charlottesville. $100 co-pay?! Sheesh! X-rays were taken, I was given a brace, some pain meds and sent home to await the reading of the x-ray. They called a few hours later to say it was fractured, but they couldn't tell if it was from the last time or this time...huh? Regardless, the treatment was the same, so it didn't really matter; stay off of it for at least 3 weeks. Again I say, uh, right.

#1 says to me after observing me hobble around this morning, “But Mom, little sister falls all the time and she doesn't get hurt.” “Yes dear, but little sister is two, two year olds are made to bounce when they fall. Once you reach adulthood you are expected to have mastered walking, when an adult falls it is more like snap-crackle-pop. And indeed, my left knee, which took more of a bashing than I had originally thought, is the size of a softball, the color of grape jelly and makes a sound like crumpling plastic when ever I bend it – eeeeewwwwww. The scariest part is that being such a klutz, the use of crutches is especially dangerous, I have nearly fallen again several times...ironic. Trying to get to work should prove interesting.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


(for back story go to: This is My Mailbox? Seriously? )


Ah the holidays, when presents are given and received and mom has to get out her tool box on Christmas morn’ in order to free bound toys from impregnable packaging while impatient little ones bounce up and down, not understanding why mama is hacking away at their new toy with saws and hammers. I just love these holiday traditions; memories in the making indeed. Why oh why do manufactures find it necessary to bind up all of a doll’s limbs plus sew its hair to the box and then cover the entire thing in hard lethal plastic? Is this kind of toy torture really needed in order for it to arrive safely into my home only to then have its limbs pulled and stretched and possibly broken in order to free it from its anger provoking packaging? Somewhere there is an engineer who for some reason decided that each one-inch high-plastic Pet Shop critter must be bound and held down with no less than four plastic coated wire twist ties that are then fed through a heavy plastic washer which is then taped down, covered in hard plastic and boxed over. Seriously?

Each toy that my two daughters received last week required me to use all of the following from my toolbox: pliers, wire cutters, heavy duty scissors, both Phillips and regular screw drivers (because some items were actually screwed down with metal screws), saw, and work gloves to protect my hands from the inevitable razor sharp edges of the clam shell packaging. When one finally succeeds in freeing a toy, you are then surrounded by an amazingly large and lethal pile of debris. It is amazing the amount of packaging that is deemed required for each poor toy victim that you lay before your child. Santa apparently has not gone green in his workshop yet. And heaven forbid that a little one get a hold of a piece of that clam shell plastic, it could take a finger off, forget putting little Ralphie’s eye out with a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle, he could loose one just trying to get at the thing. In fact, a guy I used to work with last year, in his attempts to open something packaged this way ended up accidentally putting the knife he was using through the palm of his hand and not only did he receive a very impressive through and through knife wound, but also nicked an artery which required surgery and physical therapy. Every year in the USA there are an estimated 6,000 Americans sent to the emergency room with injuries caused by their attempts to free their purchases from clamshells according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There is even an industry term for the frustration felt among consumers at this; it’s called “wrap rage”. Plus, there is an award given by Consumer Reports each year for the product packaging most frustrating to open. Okay, when something becomes so prevalent that an entire industry has coined a term for it and is handing out awards, it is time to make some changes! In addition, there are also sustainability and recycling issues to address, many clamshell packages are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that is difficult to recycle and is certainly not bio-degradable.

But there is hope on the horizon, Microsoft, Sony and all have projects in the works to try and eliminate the clamshell from their products, but they predict that it will be many a year before we are successfully rid of the clamshell. At least someone in the industry has recognized the problem and is seeking a solution, that’s encouraging.

DVDs and CDs are another product that is way over packaged, what could be the sense in taping down all sides of the case the CD comes in, then shrink wrapping it. First you must cut through the wrapping, scratching the case in the process, and then each of those stupid little sticky tapes has to be peeled from three sides of the hinged case. Same goes for the cases that DVDs come in; scissors, knives and aggravation are all employed to open them. Do I really need this much frustration to get to my entertainment? I own an IPod and so most of the time I purchase my music via the internet, but it was kind of hard for Santa to wrap up a download, hence the store purchases, won’t be doing that again anytime soon if I can help it.

If it is a matter of trying to thwart thievery and protect the product in shipping, why not create a sturdy re-usable clear plastic container that can be removed easily at the store once purchased. Like those plastic security tags they put on clothing. Much more consumer friendly and also solves the recycling dilemma; they could be made collapsible so that they can be shipped back to the manufacture for re-use.

And in the case of toys, why can’t just one stretchy rubber band type thingy hold the toy in place, it really does not need to be pinned so viciously to its box…or like in the movie Toy Story do the toys come alive when we aren’t looking and these are just measures taken so that they don’t escape before being purchased? Hmmm, better not mention that one to my 8 year old; she has always been disturbed by toys that can move and talk on their own as it is. We were in Home Depot yesterday checking out the after holiday sales and I was pondering some of those little lit houses that were marked down practically to nothing. I was thinking about getting the gazebo and making just a tiny little winter display. I was checking out the little people that you can buy to surround your festive scene when Lily cries, “No, don’t get those, they give me creeps!” “Why, dear, would these ‘give you creeps?’” “I don’t know, they just do. They make noise, they turn in circles, and they make me not want to eat.” Okay, that’s weird. I got the gazebo anyway; it does not move or make noise, so I think it’s safe, although she still claims she won’t be able to eat if she has to look at those little people. Odd.

In addition to CDs and toys, just about everything is over wrapped, including food. Okay, I understand wanting to keep food tamper-proof; I don’t want anything in there that wasn’t suppose to be there any more than the next girl, but excessive packaging also makes my food edible-proof as well as tamper-proof. Take a simple bottle of ketchup for instance, first you must cut through the shrink wrap, then that band that goes around the neck of the bottle, THEN you have to break the seal on the cap, take it off and pull off that other seal that covers the bottle opening. Sometimes it has a little tab on the top that usually works pretty well to aid in pulling it off, but not if your hands are wet or greasy, and not if that seal lacks the tab to help you, you will then need pliers to get a good grip or resort to knives again. Even a bag of chips or a box of cereal requires a pair of scissors because whatever material is used to contain the goods cannot be ripped with bare hands. The only product that I have found that doesn’t seem to be overly packaged and is easy to get into is a box of band-aides…nice of them, they must have known we’d be in need.

And so, during this merry season, I arm myself against that plastic monster called the clamshell and his impenetrable friends and I attempt to remain calm while answering repeated questions from little ones about when they can actually play with their new toys. I live in hope for all our sakes that a better alternative is found soon. And to the makers of band-aids – thank you! Please, please, please, continue to keep your packaging simple, we're gonna need those bandages, it's a tradition!

KKW ©2008