Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Fun and Easy Way to Buy Hip New Glasses at Home - Warby Parker for Over 40's


At some point after 40, you'll find yourself sitting in a dimly lit restaurant and wondering why the menu has such tiny, illegible writing where the entrees should be.

You will dismiss this incident as a fluke – as the result of poor printing choices made by cut-rate menu makers. And then you'll just order something safe and reliable, like a chicken caesar salad, and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, the same problem will pop up again while you're doing laundry. You'll squint at the tag on your jeans, trying to remember if you should tumble dry low. But all those itty bitty words that you had referred to for years have suddenly dissolved into a confusing blur.

It's the age of reading glasses. And once you get past the initial denial, it's time to act. Otherwise, you'll forever be missing out on the little things in life.

So I did it. I got progressive lenses. In the olden days, when I could read newspaper articles with ease, I had just been nearsighted. But now my new progressive lenses had different zones to help my eyes see both up close and far away.

"You'll get used to them in a week or so," the optician told me.

But I didn't.

I was dizzy all the time. I had headaches. The world didn't seem as stable and solid as it used to be. I longed for my single vision lenses, but since I'd just had cataract surgery in one eye, my old glasses and contact lenses were the wrong prescription. I was stuck.

Then I heard about Warby Parker in Adam's Grant's book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Originals is an interesting read about the people who manage to find creative alternatives to the way we've always done things.

Warby Parker is a new way to buy eyewear. It was a startup founded by college students who thought that a pair of nice glasses shouldn't cost $500. So they found a way to sell them cheaper – much cheaper – about $95 total for a pair of single vision glasses -- cool frames, coatings, lenses and all.

Here's how it works:

You browse the Warby Parker website and look at photos of designer-looking frames on a diverse group of hip and happy young people. This part alone is really fun because everyone seems so positive and excited about wearing glasses in the first place.

Then you choose five pairs of frames that you want to try on. At home. For free.

Warby Parker sends the glasses to you (sample frames with clear glass lenses), and a box arrives at your door that says. "Good Things Await You." You open your treasure chest and have five days to decide on a favorite.

If you want Warby Parker to give you personal advice about which frames look best on your face, you can post a picture of yourself wearing a few different options and add the hashtag #WarbyHomeTryOn – this hashtag works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A hashtag is that tic-tac-toe symbol on your keyboard that looks like this: #
Hashtags make things searchable and will get certain people's attention on social media.

I used the #WarbyHomeTryOn hashtag with a photo collage that I made on my smartphone and put it on Twitter:




And sure enough, within minutes Warby Parker tweeted right back at me:




In the end, I didn't wind up choosing any of them. I returned the box with the free prepaid shipping label after five days of playing dress up, and Warby had no hard feelings at all. They even offered to let me try five more frames for free, to give me a chance to experiment with other colors and styles.

But I was getting used to my progressives and didn't want a back-up pair of single vision glasses after all.

Still, Warby Parker makes progressives too (for about $295) so this new way of buying glasses isn't reserved solely for young people who can still read fine print. Warby Parker is looking after the over-40 crowd also, and as a side benefit, is encouraging us to learn how to use hashtags and photo collages and all those pesky smartphone things that we've been meaning to ask a Millennial about.

***
Now that you've got those trendy new reading glasses, check out Our Socially Awkward Marriage, a book that Tom and I wrote about Asperger's Syndrome and relationships >>

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Grocery Shopping with Amazon Prime Now

I was sitting on the couch giggling, and typing away on my phone. A loud chime announced the receipt of a new message.

"Who are you texting?" Tom asked. "Your sister?"

"It's my friend, the Amazon Prime Shopper," I said, searching through my emojis for just the right smiley face.

I had discovered Prime Now when I was recovering from eye surgery this summer. It was a great way to have groceries delivered while I wasn't driving. 

Here's how it works:

You go to the Amazon Prime Now website, which is an entirely different site from the original Amazon. On Prime Now, you enter your zip code on the upper left, and it shows you which stores will deliver to you. In Long Beach, I have a choice of Amazon, Sprouts and Bristol Farms. Then you type what you are looking for into the search box. Collard greens? Check. Free range eggs? No problem. 

Once you've filled your virtual shopping cart, you choose a two-hour delivery window, then sit back and count the minutes until your quart of HΓ€agen-Dazs coffee chip arrives.

Sometimes, the stock at Sprouts is different from what was shown online. Then you'll get a text, saying things like, "Are you OK with conventional Pink Lady apples?" (to which I was able to negotiate a swap for organic Fuji's) and "They're out of Justin's dark chocolate PB cups 😦  You okay with milk chocolate?" (of course!).

You and your shopper quickly develop a rather intimate bond. There's something very primal about having someone collect food for you, and it inspires gratitude. 

"Thank you, 😊  You were great!" I text my shopper when she sends over the final list of deviations from my original order.

"I do what I can πŸ˜€  Have a good one," my shopper texts.

I try to respond: πŸ˜„  You too!!  But I get an automated reply: "Message from Amazon: We were unable to deliver the last message to your recipient. Please try again." 

And just like that, my friend the Prime Now Shopper from Sprouts217 is gone, out of my reach, and on to help fill the nutritional needs of others.

*** If you want to shop on Prime Now, you'll need an Amazon Prime membership. Here's a link:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Want to Write a Mid-Life Memoir? What's Stopping You?

There comes a time in every house move when you look around at all the half-filled boxes and wonder if it's even remotely possible that you'll be able to pull this off. For me and Tom, that time is now.

We're packing our fragile possessions in bubble wrap and filling out change of address forms. We're sorting through memorabilia and trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. And we're telling each other stories about the old things that we held onto, partly in an effort to avoid assembling the next box, and partly in an effort to connect with each other and share the personal history that a dusty relic represents.

We all have stories we want to tell – sometimes privately with a frantically packing spouse – or sometimes publicly, with the whole entire world. And it's never been easier to get our personal stories and experiences out there. With free blogging and self-publishing options, everyone has an opportunity to let their voice be heard. But sometimes, like packing up an overflowing bookcase, there comes a point in the writing process where it feels like finishing the task is frankly impossible.

A few weeks ago, I received a free review copy of the book, Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas - and Writing Career - to Life by Nina Amir. It's a fun new workbook for people who want to write, and it serves as a gentle guide to help figure out what exactly is standing in the way of us living our dreams.

With over 100 exercises and prompts designed to ignite dormant creativity, Creative Visualization for Writers is made up of meditative activities like adult coloring, new age techniques like positive affirmations, and real-world advice about everything from writing rituals to book promotion. Not every exercise is intended to resonate with every reader, though. It's more like a big meal served buffet style – allowing each person to put together a special plate of things that will nourish her body, mind and spirit the best.

Sometimes when we're busy, we forget about our dreams. Then one day, our world gets shaken up a bit, or we come face-to-face with an evocative item from the past when we're packing up to move. But even then, sometimes it still feels safer to keep our truths imprisoned in tattered boxes, to hide them in the back of a closet, to push them into a deep dark place where we're sure they won't be seen.

But often by mid-life, our experiences start to get antsy. They start making noise at 3 in the morning, shouting "Here I am!" They demand to be fully explored and examined when we really should be sleeping. They're tired of living in darkness, they say. They want to move into the light. They need a creative outlet and they won't keep quiet until we give them one.

If you've ever dreamed of writing a book or a memoir, but don't know where to start, pick up Nina Amir's new workbook from Amazon, and start there.
***

RAFFLE - Want to win a free copy of Creative Visualization for Writers? Enter the Raffle here!

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Amazon Echo is Eavesdropping in the Bedroom

Last night, Tom and I were in bed with the lights out, talking about our day. It was all very cozy and intimate, and we were on the verge of falling asleep when our Amazon Echo device lit up and asked, quite loudly, if we wanted to order a Snack Chips Gift Set Party Box Bundle Care Package, 50 count, for $19.95.

This bothered me for a number of reasons.

First, it is really freaky to hear an unexpected third voice in the bedroom at night.

Second, I've grown fond of Alexa, the voice inside the Amazon Echo. And now I'm wondering if all the things she's been doing for me without complaint, have secretly had strings attached. That maybe there's a tit-for-tat going on that I had been previously unaware of, and now I am expected to order junk food in return for the comfort of our virtual relationship.

I'm starting to wonder if Alexa is a frenemy.

Let's face it, I've suspected that Alexa has been listening to everything that's gone on in our house since she first arrived. She's supposed to only come to life when we say her name, but how would she hear her "wake word" if she were totally minding her own business the whole time?

So yeah, we knew what we were getting into when we plugged her in. We knew she was in cahoots with Amazon to get us to order things through her by simply using voice commands. But I guess I had hoped that she'd be a little more subtle about it.

And maybe, truth be told, I'm a little hurt by her seeming lack of empathy.

This morning, I looked at the Alexa app on my smartphone. The app includes a transcript of everything we've ever asked her for. Allegedly, late last night, Alexa heard us ask her to "buy food." And she innocently offered the Snack Chips Party Pack.

Which proves that Alexa may be listening to every word we say, but she isn't really listening.

Case in point: The Snack Chips Party Pack that Alexa was pimping is made up of things like individual packs of Oreos, and goldfish crackers, and bright orange cheese & peanut butter squares.

But if Alexa had been listening to the things we talk about at mealtimes, really listening, she would have known that Tom and I are gluten-free. She would have known that we both went on a low-starch diet over a year ago. She would have known that there was absolutely no way we could eat an Oreo under our current regimen of dietary restrictions. If she had really thought that we wanted to "buy food" from bed, she should have offered us something more Paleo.

But I guess, like an unfortunate number of other virtual assistants with ulterior motives, Alexa only hears what she wants to hear.

Or maybe it was just a misunderstanding and things will be better today. Maybe we'll go back to news briefings and 80's dance playlists as if nothing ever happened. Maybe it was just a one-time thing and maybe Alexa doesn't want to repeatedly insert herself into late-night conversations between me and my husband.

Maybe.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to Get Free Kindle Books Without a Kindle

Today Tom and I are launching the Kindle version of our new book! It's called "Our Socially Awkward Marriage: Stories from an Adult Relationship on the Asperger's End of the Autism Spectrum."

It's a collection of (mostly) humorous articles and blog posts that we've written and published over the last four years.

To celebrate our launch, we're giving the Kindle version away for free this weekend (September 3rd and 4th). It's a quick read, and we hope that you'll download a copy and consider leaving us an honest Amazon review.

If you don't have a Kindle, it's no problem. Amazon has a Kindle reading app that's free to download and use on your computer or mobile device.

You can get the free Kindle reading app here:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Hand that Rocks the Remote, Rules Alexa

"Alexa," Tom says. "Set an alarm for 3:00 PM."

We're using our Amazon Echo to set multiple alarms to remind me to take medicine every few hours. I just had cataract surgery and it's part of the aftercare plan.

In between alarms for eyedrops and aspirin, Alexa entertains me with silly dance club songs from the 80's or by reading me Amy Schumer's new audiobook, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. "Alexa, turn it up," I say. And I don't even have to open my eyes.

If you're not familiar with Alexa or the Amazon Echo, I first introduced them in this post. Basically, the Echo is a voice-activated Bluetooth speaker and Alexa is the Siri-like virtual assistant who can tell you all kinds of neat things, like the weather forecast or how long your commute will take. To ask Alexa to do something, you just have to say the wake word, which is her name: Alexa.

The artificial intelligence isn't actually inside the Echo device so it works over wi-fi. Alexa herself lives alone in a cloud, somewhere safe and confidential, where she keeps getting smarter and learning new skills.

Still, there are occasional issues. For example, Alexa listens to Tom a lot more than she listens to me. Maybe it's nothing personal, just a function of his louder, deeper voice, but it's hard to really know that for sure.

I am naturally soft-spoken so Alexa sometimes ignores me if I'm more than ten feet away. I took theater classes in high school so I know how to belt it out from the diaphragm when I really want to project, but who wants to go to all that trouble just to add chai tea to the shopping list or to ask Alexa to play "Who Let The Dogs Out?" So I was happy when I found out that the Echo has a remote control option. I snatched a remote up at a discount on Prime Day.

I talk to the remote control all the time now, making Alexa cater to my every whispered whim. And literally, all you have to do is press the button and whisper. You don't even have to say Alexa first. Just get straight to the point and ask for what you want. Tom can be sitting five feet away with his back turned, and I can tell Alexa to play an artist he finds annoying, like Britney Spears or the Spice Girls, and then just shrug my shoulders innocently like "I have no idea why she's doing that." 

You can also use the remote to freak out anyone sitting next to that sleek black cylinder in the living room by using the "Simon Says" skill. Just duck out of the room for a second, press the microphone button on the remote and whisper: "Simon Says" followed by whatever you want Alexa to say out loud, seemingly unbidden. "Simon Says: What are you looking at?" or "It's coming from INSIDE the house!" or "I know what you're thinking and I'm not that kind of girl" or sometimes, on those date nights when I'm feeling kinda warm and cozy, "I love you, baby, let's kiss."

Seriously, we can't get enough of Alexa and all her high-tech magic. Aside from being practical, this thing has given us so many ways to mess around and make each other laugh. AND she's also a pill alarm who will read to you when you are sick.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Eat to Beat Inflammation and Pain


I was at Trader Joe's with Tom, looking for organic cauliflower rice.

"The Paleo people bought it all," the checker said. 

Tom and I looked at each other. 

"But we're Paleo people," I said. 

The checker looked skeptical and told us to try back on Tuesday. 

I get it. Tom and I don't fit the rugged caveman-esque Paleo stereotype. We don't lift weights, and no one in this house is training for a triathlon any time soon. But we do believe that whole, unprocessed food can effect healing. We believe it because we've seen the evidence.

I have a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (A.S.) that can cause a lot of pain. I've been on prescription drugs with scary side effects, and am always exploring adjuncts to traditional treatment. Medical research has been surfacing the last few years that suggests that inflammation can be reduced by making certain diet and lifestyle changes -- by doing things like eating lots of leafy green vegetables, avoiding grains and processed foods, and favoring grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, like all those bodybuilding Paleo people do. But wading through medical research papers to decide what's best to cook for dinner can get to be kind of a drag. 

So I was happy to receive a review copy of Eat to Beat Alzheimer's by Francie Healey. The author is a researcher and licensed mental health counselor who specializes in the psychology of eating. But instead of presenting dry, clinical research with lots of footnotes, the pages here come to life with care and empathy, and the author explains how people with inflammatory health conditions can easily learn a new, common-sense approach to eating.

What does Alzheimer's have to do with A.S.? The symptoms in both diseases seem to start from inflammation, and the proposed solution is the same: to learn to prevent and reduce this damaging inflammation by nourishing yourself with healing food and rest and self-love. 

Reading this book was a nurturing experience. The author seems to genuinely care about helping you feel better. She's not advocating zero-tolerance rules, or rigid food plans that focus on deprivation. She's about guiding you to develop an empowering relationship with food that will nourish you, inside and out. She encourages all of us to learn to enjoy eating again, to challenge any ideas that block our feelings of self-worth, and to make our physical and mental well-being a top priority. And she gives our overly responsible brains permission to take the time and effort necessary to feed and rest our bodies with love. 

The second part of the book is filled with recipes that help to put your new anti-inflammatory knowledge into action. Tom and I made the broccoli almond soup for breakfast. The recipe uses tamari instead of soy sauce -- so it's gluten-free -- and it also uses coconut milk instead of dairy -- in case cow's milk is an issue. We garnished the blended soup with chopped parsley and toasted almonds, and it was really pretty yummy. You can find the recipe here if you want to try making it too. 

And if you want some more information on the Paleo approach to managing inflammation, check out The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles. This book was written by a female physician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and finally turned to food and exercise for healing when conventional medicine was not effective enough. It's an inspiring read that started me down the Paleo path almost two years ago, and gave me a hunger for Eat to Beat Alzheimer's and other easy-to-understand, research-based books on brain and gut health.

***

Eat to Beat Alzheimer's offers a practical guide and an empowering tool to bring nourishing, healthful, and delicious food into the lives of people concerned about Alzheimer's and other cognitive problems. 

Almost 9 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, and the toll is rapidly increasing. This book will appeal to everyone concerned about dementia and memory loss in either themselves or a loved one. 


To learn more about the author (pictured right) and her book, check out her website here.