By Andrew Kensley

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"My First Mortgage"

Ella reeeaaaallly wanted—no, needed—a new phone. 

"The one you have works fine," I said, bracing for impact.

"It locks up! It doesn't have enough storage space! Aaargghhh."

"And it's paid in full. I'm not paying $700 for a Seven when your Five will do." Breathe, Andrew. Breathe. "You're 14. You don't need a new phone every two years."

A long pause. "I'll buy it myself."

And that's when it hit me. My high school freshman is more of an adult than most adults.

What ensued over the next few days was a back and forth that taught me a lot about the kid I thought I knew so well. The discussion had all the elements of a mature tête-à-tête one might expect between two cogent, reasonable people: differing points of view, compelling arguments, hesitation, angst, frustration, and finally, compromise. Next thing I know, I'm at the AT&T shop fingering my awkward, looping John Hancock on on iPad. 

And Ella's texting mom on her new iPhone 7 Plus.

The one she paid for herself.

Like most teenagers, Ella doesn't have $700 sitting around burning a hole in her piggy bank. She knows she's not allowed to dip into her college account or the glacially growing investment account I started for her years ago, tossing in birthday money and other scraps every few months. That's for things like maybe a car, a backpacking trip during college, or maybe even a downpayment on a home at some point.

We decided she would transfer me the exact payment—$25.34—for exactly 30 months until the phone was paid off. She would work at babysitting or whatever odd jobs she could find to make the money. She was still required, as per our prior rules, to put half of whatever she makes into her savings account. The old "pay yourself first" thing. And if she missed an installment, Collections Agent Dad would take her phone until she came up with the money.

I tried to convince her to get the smaller iPhone 7 for about three bucks less a month, but she wasn't having it.

I tried to get her to spend a few more months putting away four or five months worth of payments for a little cushion.

But no dice. Ella had basically signed up for a mortgage, just like adults buying a home or an expensive car, fully aware of the terms and conditions. Only without the credit check or the pay stubs. Her phone is, predictably, stuck to her hand pretty much most of the day.

It sounds worrisome, until you accept that this was not an impetuous decision. Ella knew the pros and cons, the requirements, the possible consequences, all the "fine print." So far, she's two payments in, right on time, and has babysitting jobs lined up for the rest of this month. Maybe I can stop worrying.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back to School? Get That Head Checked!

The bell has rung: schools in Colorado and Wyoming are officially in session. Parents are hoping that head lice don’t become part of the curriculum.

School means daily contact with other kids for extended periods of time, much more than during the summer vacation months. This brings with it some, um, itching concerns. According to FDA statistics, 6 to 12 million children are infested with head lice every year, and 97% of cases are spread by head to head contact.

Before getting entrenched into those busy school routines, it’s wise to have your children checked by a trained professional, says Tanya Kensley, owner of Lice Clinics of America—Fort Collins, a full service lice treatment clinic. The initial screen takes only about 15 minutes but, Kensley says, it can save enormous costs—time, energy and money spent on ineffective over-the-counter treatments—down the road.

“If you are unsure how to do it yourself or what you’re looking for,” Kensley says, “have it done professionally. We recommend knowing for sure that your child is starting the school year lice-free.”

School also brings with it before- and after-school programs, extracurricular activities, and sports, all of which increase the chance of direct contact with another child who might have lice. And, the expert says, the best way to treat head lice is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“Our one-treatment-and-done solution is FDA approved, free of harsh chemicals, and only takes about an hour,” says Kensley, who adds that she offers preventative sprays, specialized combs, and a complete at-home treatment kit as well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lice Treatment Clinic Offers Medicaid Discount

New Resource for Low Income Coloradans

Lice Treatment Clinic Offers Medicaid Discount

FORT COLLINS, CO—Treating head lice successfully can be a costly proposition. Believe it or not, some lower income Coloradans affected by the itch-inducing bugs might even be forced to choose between helping their child stop scratching and buying groceries for their families.

Tanya Kensley, owner of Lice Clinics of America—Fort Collins, is doing everything she can to help make that decision less agonizing for those on a tight budget. Patrons with a valid Medicaid card can now receive nearly 50% off the standard price tag for the one-time, guaranteed lice removal treatment Kensley offers.

“I receive a lot of calls from people who tell me they’ve already spent upwards of $100 on over the counter products that just don’t work,” Kensley said. “A lot of families don’t have money to waste but they desperately need a solution, especially when multiple family members are battling lice.”

With as many as six to 12 million people worldwide contracting head lice every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kensley said that the stubborn little bugs have become resistant to most over the counter products. This has led many people to repeat potentially dangerous home chemical treatments upwards of four times per child.

The lice treatment expert is quick to point out, however, that lice do not discriminate based on income or socioeconomic status. Some people, she contends, just need a bit of extra help.

“No one suffering from lice should be priced out of an effective treatment, no matter what their income level,” Kensley said. “Community is important to me, and I want to help my entire community—not just those with higher disposable income—achieve peace of mind.”

Since initiating her discount, Kensley said she’s treated a total of 21 people who may not have been able to come in otherwise. One of whom, a mother of four named Catarina, was elated.

“I won’t spend one more dollar on products that don’t work,” said the Greeley, Colorado, resident. “I’d already spent over $50 at the drug store and it didn’t work. When I found out about the guaranteed treatment for $99 I was so happy.”

About 19 percent of Larimer County residents and 24 percent of those living in Weld County, which includes Greeley and Windsor, currently receive Medicaid benefits, according to the Colorado Health Institute. And in Wyoming, 39 percent of children are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, based on data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Such numbers are certainly cause for concern. But Kensley is doing her part to help reduce scratch levels for low-income families for years to come.

Tanya Kensley can be reached via email at, or by phone at 970-233-8787. Lice Clinics of America—Fort Collins is located at 1501 S. Lemay Ave, Suite 205, in Fort Collins, CO.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The French Riviera: at Half Speed

The French Riviera is more than just superstars boarding private jets and partying on yachts with the Kardashians. Toulon, our base for four gloriously calm days on the Western edge of the Côte d'Azur, is a perfect example of that.

Tanya and me in Saint Mandrier-sur-Mer

Between waking up to a serene curtain of bougainvilleas and palm trees, the shimmering Mediterranean outside our balcony, and the continued consumption of mouth-watering French foods, this would just figure to be an extension of our glorious holiday. But it ended up being so much more.

Our front door
In spite of the gale force gusts, we spent a day on Île de Porquerolles, a short ferry ride from Tour Fondue, located at the tip of the peninsula extending southward from the nearby town of Hyères. And with very little searching, we found exactly what we needed: a beach and gelato. While the wind introduced a modest amount of sand into our packed lunches, we managed to enjoy a few hours in the sun, and even dipped our bodies into the freezing water. The girls' first exposure to a topless beach was interesting to watch: Sophia squirmed and giggled her way through the day as boobs of all sizes populated our immediate vicinity.

Tanya at the beach in Porquerolles
Having our rental car was another convenient coup, and the rolling, meandering streets of Toulon's topography tested my driving skills. There's nothing quite like backing up a 20 degree incline in a stick-shift, four-door hatchback, or having to use every millimeter of lateral street space to allow another car to pass you in the other direction.

On one of our rainy days—ironic, as recently-flooded Paris was bone dry a week earlier—we maximized our time by heading into Toulon's surprisingly urban-looking downtown, shopping and indulging in more chocolate. The girls also used some well-positioned stealth to pick out a fondue restaurant for my birthday. As you might expect, it was phenomenal, leaving us breathless yet again the depth of culinary adventures that lurk at every turn in France, no matter where you might be.

Like in Avignon and Paris, I relished the ability to take morning strolls into town to explore the many local boulangeries, patisseries and charcuteries, and stock up on the basics for a day or two. While the taste was divine, I fully appreciate that part of the joy was factoring in where it was bought— local French shop owners, happy to meet a pleasant American that spoke French—and where it was eaten: on an open air balcony with a whiff of the sea gracing every bite.

My 42nd birthday was spent exploring glorious Saint Mandrier-sur-Mer, a fishing village on a sparsely populated outcropping southwest of Toulon. We waltzed through town past tall-masted fishing boats moored in the harbor, and enjoyed a splendid lunch of mussels, fries and, of course, more absurdly phenomenal bread. The kids and I scrambled up a precarious hiking trail etched into the side of a hill, giving us fabulous views of the gray navy ships sitting peacefully inside the bay.

Hiking in Saint Mandrier sur Mer

Adding to my Muss-culature
Saint Mandrier-sur-Mer
We danced in the rain (literally), napped, and drank foamy hot chocolate and coffee all day long. The breeze filled our sea side condo day and night, leaving us with the perfect coda to our 11-day French sojourn: a briny taste in our mouths, the Mediterranean air tickling our skin, and enduring French memories in our hearts forever.

After dancing in the rain
Downtown Toulon in the rain
Fishing boat at Ile de Porquerolles

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Day Tripping in Provence: The Search For Sausage

Released from the urban angst of London and Paris, our TGV chugs through Central France's endless array of crop rows, farm houses and a sparse populace. We somehow traverse six centuries to land in the ancient walled city of Avignon, our gateway to four eagerly awaited days in Provence.

The region's friendly climate and powerful Rhône river has produced fertile soil and resplendent landscapes, both of which make me immensely happy. The latter because I'm a sucker for spending hours outdoors in the summer; the former because Provence is a synonym for gastronomic triumph. This blog post is, basically, an ode to the joys of both.

At the Palais des Papes in Avignon
It must be said that even without the day trips, Avignon is a cool place in its own right, a destination to which I'd most definitely return. A couple of days simply isn't enough to explore the interior of the 30-foot high ramparts that circle the city for over two and half miles, its serpentine lanes adding archaic flair. From our spacious apartment, just steps from both the city's entrance and its coeur, we are well positioned to meander over the cobblestones as if we had lived there in the middle ages. I'll spare you the detailed history, but Avignon's origin dates back to about 600 BC. And for about 80 years in the 14th century, it was the seat of Roman Catholicism and the home of the Pope. Vatican Lite, if you will.

But again, Provence is a day tripper's paradise.

Over a couple of days time, and within an hour's drive in numerous directions through bucolic farm towns into the heart of the Vaucluse, we snake through roundabouts, mountainsides and nearly-purple lavender fields (alas, exactly one week too early) to visit wineries, chocolate factories and markets. No sausage or pastry shop is ignored, whisking my taste buds into a nonstop frenzy.

Sophia browsing at Carpentras
The olive bar at Carpentras
The market at Carpentras, about 45 minutes east of Avignon, is a perfect place to begin. Occupying a couple of city blocks and offering everything from wallets to soaps to shoes to all manner of culinary delicacies, this might be considered the "Walmart of Provence" (maybe minus the Trump followers and tube tops), an exquisite amalgam of anything one might ever need.

I may or may not leave puddles of saliva as I peruse longingly the tables offering olives, cured meats, nuts and bread. We stock up on snacks and produce, chat with the locals and return to our Airbnb palace sated on multiple fronts.

In Châteauneuf-du-Pape we pop into a couple of family-owned wineries and line up tastings on the fly. No lines, no pretense; just a few sips of delicious Rhône Valley varietals in a sparse yet elegant tasting room and a couple of bottles to go.

Clos St. Michel tasting

The "salted breakfast" in Gordes is precisely that (and, as expected, delicious), its shops pricey yet welcoming. As we return up the hill to our car, the Catholic church service lets out its well dressed attendees, and its bells echo with Sunday joy.
Café in Gordes
Gordes street signs

Overlooking the valley in Sault

Lavender shop in Sault
Sault's lavender shops make our noses hum. The community antique sale in its town center, calmly hawking technology, dolls and dinnerware thrust straight from the 70s gives us the idea that this sleepy town is unconcerned with appearances.

Both hillside hamlets are content to bask in the sensory ecstasy of their pastel storefronts and unpredictable alleyways, and the ease with which pedestrians, cyclists and compact cars alike negotiate the day with about as much stress as a field of blooming sunflowers.

And that, it seems, is Provence's essence. Ride in, browse, have a beverage and a bite in the sun, breathe.

Avignon apartment

An Avignon avenue

Clowning outside the Avignon walls

Veeling Vine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

On t'aime aussi, Provence

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Dream of a Lice Time

Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, especially when it comes to one's hard working wife. So in the interest of search engine optimization and helping spread the word further, here's the press release I wrote for Tanya's new business. If you click on the links it'll help us get more traffic. 

The Lice Removal Icon

Guaranteed Results for Treating Head Lice in One Hour

Every day thousands of Americans from all walks of life take strides to actualize a dream of running their own business. They begin with an idea for a useful product or service, invest a few bucks, and work hard.

For Tanya Kensley, that dream involved killing head lice.

On August 1, 2016, Kensley officially opened a lice treatment clinic in Fort Collins to serve the rapidly growing regional population from Longmont, CO, about 30 miles north of Denver, all the way up to southern Wyoming.

As the owner of Northern Colorado’s only branch of Salt Lake City-based Lice Clinics of America, Kensley hopes to provide her community with not just a one-time, science-based treatment for head lice, but something even more valuable: peace of mind.

“I saw that lice was a real problem for families with children in my community, and that the current products on the market were not working,” Kensley said. “People were losing work and school time trying to treat this, and I wanted to help.”

After guiding clients through a deep breath and a head check, Kensley and her fellow certified operators of the FDA-approved AirAllé ™ device provide a 30-minute treatment which kills 99.2 percent of live lice and nits, according to a research study published in the medical journal Pediatrics. The next steps are a thorough comb out and the application of a specially formulated rinse, allowing clients to leave bug—and stress—free.

“When my daughter had lice for the first time,” Kensley said, “I saw the effort it took to thoroughly get rid of it. I had to sit her down for 30 minutes every night for two weeks. It caused a lot of anxiety for both of us.”

In addition to the AirAllé, Kensley offers products like shampoo, preventative spray and specialized combs for clients to maintain a lice-free household. She cautions that lice do not discriminate, so prevention is crucial.

“Take a deep breath, and know that this is a head infestation, not a house infestation,” said Kensley, a physical therapist with 25 years of experience caring for patients and their families. “Hand over your worries and concerns to a professional. Then take steps so this doesn’t happen again.”

Lice Clinics of America—Fort Collins, located at 1501 South Lemay Ave., Suite 205, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is open from 9:00 am-8:00 pm seven days a week by appointment. Call 970-233-8787 for more information.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Paris: Not What it Used to Be

I'll see your romantic moonlit strolls, ambient accordion music, and charming street mimes and raise you...

...a bountiful, chaotic street market, dodging motorcycles and honking Renaults with our bikes (sans helmets) on busy city streets, and enough baguettes to build another tower.

From the moment we arrived at Gare du Nord (via Eurostar from London), Paris' essence smacked us in the face: the humidity, from a week of endless rains and the Seine eclipsing its banks; the intensity and urgency of the transit hub; the sour smell of urban life. Like any highly-populated cosmopolitan city, there were well-heeled professionals, transients, and a wonderfully multi-ethnic stew of humanity, each piece going about its business at considerable speed. Sophia immediately recognized that she had escaped her comfort zone.
Triomph-ant Parents
As I vigilantly scanned my surroundings inside and outside the train station ("See Something Say Something"...right?) it occurred to me that I couldn't ignore last November's coordinated terrorist attacks at six different locales across Paris and its suburbs. While I relished my Clark Griswold-ian role of We're gonna have so much fuckin' fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! I understood, too, that the Paris we would come to know was not the mythical city my kids had imagined it would be.

Our spacious 5th floor flat, with its narrow, winding stairwell, was located in an alleyway in a melting pot neighborhood, with storefront signage in many languages beside French and comprising mostly Middle Eastern and East Asian populations. This was far from Lilly-White Fort Collins. But if I've learned anything from all my years of travel, it's that discomfort is the greatest catalyst of personal growth—if you let it be.
Rue Denoyez, home
Day One led us via Metro and on foot to hilly, serpentine Montmartre and the iconic Sacré-Coeur church. With its ornate architecture and sweeping views overlooking the hazy cityscape, it was a perfect jumping-off point for our visit. We gawked at l'Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elysées. We dined on duck and beef tartare and pasta and ridiculously delicious bread at a wonderful (yet smoky) outdoor café. Our fear had begun to dissipate. We were going to be okay.

Louvre girls
By day two, we had shed even more of our unease, in spite of a 90-minute delay brought on by what we'll call "impaired key-lock association" and "the art of French detective work". (Ask me about the story later.) We finally made our way to that famous wrought iron tower in the 7e arrondissement, enduring silliness instigated by Tanya and Ella's Fitbit step competitions under sunny skies and inside Metro stations. The Eiffel Tower is everything it is supposed to be: the views, the feeling, the tourists. Very worth it.

Much of the remainder of our stay in Paris involved renting bikes, cruising past tourist sites and crossing the Seine's bridges, seeing Ms. Lisa at the Louvre, and a fantastically delicious picnic in a park in the shadow of Notre Dame cathedral on Ile de la Cité. It also included stops for souvenirs and gifts, and, naturally, meats and cheeses and sandwiches and beverages and macarons and that quintessentially Parisian delicacy, secondhand smoke.

Our awesome picnic supplies. Yum!!
On our second night, Sophia and I stopped by the bustling Tunisian bakery down the street for a pastry. I watched her thoughtful face as she tried to pick out just the right dessert from behind the glass, listening intently to the lively Arabic chatter, slightly concerned. We held hands and I reassured her that we were okay. These were all regular people like us. Most people, no matter where they live, I said, are NOT terrorists.

I found out while writing this post that our fantastic apartment was actually less than 1 kilometer from one of the bars targeted in the November attacks, and about 2 km from the Bataclan theatre. Tanya said: "I'm glad I didn't know that before." Honestly, so am I.

Yet we repeatedly walked the same streets alongside so many people who had surely been closer than we were to the terror, and made it; we purchased baguettes and patisseries and café-au-laits from the same peaceful vendors who feared for their own safety on that November night, yet would never think of perpetrating such an act themselves. We slept soundly for three nights in an urban, gritty and polyglot enclave without incident. If anything, we were buoyed by the fact that the vast majority of us strive for the same things: love, comfort, and peace.

Yes, terrorism is a real fear these days, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't uncomfortable sojourning in Europe knowing what I know. But as I reflect now on our life-changing holiday, I choose to cling to a different memory:

On our last night in Paris after a busy day of touring, walking back to our apartment in the early evening, the balding, gregarious proprietor of the quaint Turkish café 10 steps from our front door ran up to my 10-year-old, baying "Sophia! Sophia! Ma belle Sophia!" and eager to give her a hug. He had remembered her from our 30-minute sit down there for fries and cokes the previous afternoon. At that moment, it wasn't her lightning smile that made me happiest, it was that she reciprocated the man's heartfelt embrace, and happily let go of my hand to do it.