Friday, December 31, 2010

THE FALL OF THE THRONE

If I removed all of the pages from all of the catalogs I receive each year, I could wallpaper the entire interior of the Empire State Building with them. The truth is, I really do enjoy catalogs and love to order unusual things from them – things I’d never find locally.

For example, about four years ago, something in one of the catalogs caught my eye. It was unusual, a real conversation piece, and it immediately made me think of my husband. It was a toilet seat.

This toilet seat had a lid that was made to look like a shield that a knight in armor would carry. It resembled real pewter with a big gold cross on it. And imbedded in the clear Lucite seat was a strip of actual chain mail, the kind a knight would wear in battle.

I thought of how my husband always said he was going to the “throne room” whenever he disappeared into the bathroom, so before I knew it, I was ordering the seat, mostly as a joke gift for him for Christmas.

When the seat arrived, I was surprised at how well made and heavy it was. It truly was a work of art. It looked as if it could be used in an actual jousting tournament (if the seat part weren’t attached to it, that is). I hid the package so my husband wouldn’t find it. The problem was, I hid it so well, I never found it again, either…not until we moved a year ago.

That’s when I decided to use the seat in one of the bathrooms in the new house and surprise my husband.

The seat looked so spiffy once I installed it, I came up with the brilliant idea of decorating the entire bathroom in a medieval décor. I bought a mirror that resembled a stained-glass castle window. I also bought a small scatter rug made of real stones, smooth and polished, glued together, which I put it in front of the tub.

My husband got a big kick out of the toilet seat when I finally showed it to him…but the stone scatter rug was a different story.

“Do you really think stepping out of the tub with wet feet onto slippery stones is a good idea?’ he asked me. “I have visions of myself breaking a hip.”

“Then just shower in the other bathroom,” I said, not wanting to disrupt my décor.

The toilet seat (a.k.a. the “throne”) soon became a tourist attraction in our house because no one had ever seen anything like it before. I must confess, I was pretty proud of that seat.

Two weeks ago, however, something happened to my prized possession. One of the little rubber things under the seat – the rubber things that the seat rests on to lift it off the toilet bowl – fell off and landed in the toilet. Before I realized it, it was on its merry way to the septic tank.

When I told my husband about it, he said I should go to the hardware store and see if they carried the rubber things that go under the seat.

“But what are they called?” I asked him. “What are their proper names?”

He shrugged. “Raisers? Bumpers? Anti-slipping devices? I have no clue.”

I searched on the computer for hours, checking toilet suppliers and hardware stores, and couldn’t find anything to replace the rubber thing. I was crushed. The throne, the conversation piece, now was lopsided.

But if that weren’t bad enough, the other night, disaster struck. My husband went into the bathroom and within seconds I heard a sound that was similar to that of a wooden baseball bat splintering when it hit a fast pitch, followed by, “Owwww!”

Visions of my husband slipping on the stone mat and landing head-first in the bathtub ran through my mind.

“What was that noise?” I shouted through the bathroom door.

My husband’s sheepish voice quietly came back with, “I sat on the toilet seat and it broke in half.”

“You broke the throne?!” I felt my heart momentarily stop. But then, remembering the “Owwww,” thought I should at least give him the courtesy of asking, “Are you OK?”

“Yeah,” came the answer from behind the door. “When the seat cracked, it well…pinched.”

Before I could comment, he quickly added, “The seat broke where the rubber thing was missing. There was no support in that area without it.”

When I finally saw the actual destruction, the crack didn’t look as severe as I’d expected. “If we don’t mention it, I don’t think anyone will even notice it’s broken,” I said.

I later ate those words when I sat on the seat and discovered the true meaning of the word, “pinch.”

“Why don’t we just put duct tape on the crack?” my husband suggested. “That’ll work.”

I glared at him. “Oh, sure, duct tape will look just stunning on a clear toilet seat!”

So back to the computer I went to see if the catalog where I’d originally bought the seat had a replacement in stock. My luck, the seat had been discontinued. Even worse, it apparently had been on clearance for 60-percent off before the company discontinued it. Panicking, I searched the entire Internet, including online auctions, for the seat. There wasn’t one to be found anywhere.

“I guess you’ll just have to settle for a plain wooden one,” my husband said.

“Plain wood?” I was appalled. “How can I put a plain wooden seat in there after having had something so special, so unique? And what about my medieval décor?”

“Well, if you truly want to be medieval,” he said, “you can always build an outhouse.”

During my online search, I did happen to see a medieval seat with a 3-D dragon’s head and a sword on it that I just might buy as a replacement. In the meantime, I’m finding that duct tape really can be quite comfy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

PUNISHED FOR BEING LATE

My husband had an appointment for his six-month physical last week. Getting to the doctor’s office, however, wasn’t an easy task.

For one thing, my husband is punctual and I’m not. I have a bad habit of always waiting until the very last minute to get ready, and then I have to rush. And rushing when I’m putting on makeup is never a good idea. I have stabbed my eyeballs with my mascara brush so many times, I’m surprised I haven’t permanently blinded myself.

But on this particular day, my husband was the one who was dragging. He woke up with a backache and barely could straighten up to walk. He struggled to get dressed, then sat on the edge of the bed and asked me if I could check his feet.

“What exactly would you like me to check for?” I hesitated to ask. Everything from blisters and bunions to some horrible fungus crossed my mind.

“Well, I showered before I went to bed,” he said, “but I want to make sure there’s no bed lint between my toes or anything. You know how the doctor loves to examine my feet!”

Maybe the doctor loved to examine them, but I sure didn’t.

“They look just fine to me,” I said, standing about five feet away. “Hurry up and put your socks on and let’s get out of here.”

“I can’t bend over,” he said. “Can you put them on for me?”

I shoved his socks onto his feet so quickly, the heels ended up on the tops of his feet. I didn’t care. “Come on now, let’s get going!”

We got halfway to the door when he suddenly stopped dead and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Before I could protest, he added, “When I was a kid, my mother always insisted we go to the bathroom before we went anywhere. It’s a habit I can’t break.”

I rolled my eyes. “We have only 15 minutes to get to the doctor’s.”

He disappeared into the bathroom.

We finally arrived at the doctor’s office at 2:19. My husband’s appointment was at 2:10.

“Well,” the receptionist said, frowning, when we checked in,“we already have you down as a no-show and the doctor is with his next patient, doing a procedure. But I’ll check to see if he can fit you in.”

There was no one else in the waiting room. We sat down and waited…and waited. I read a children’s book about a woman who adopted a bunch of animals but didn’t want to adopt an elephant because she was afraid it would eat all of her canned goods. I read another book by Dr. Seuss about some guy named Sam who had a bunch of green eggs.

Finally, 20 minutes later, the receptionist told us she would have to reschedule the appointment because the doctor was going to be tied up with the “procedure.” I began to wonder exactly what this “procedure” was. Delivering quintuplets?

She rescheduled the appointment for the first week of January.

Upset that we’d wasted a perfectly good afternoon, my husband and I muttered under our breaths as we headed back to the elevator. We stepped inside and watched the doors close.

After standing there for about 45 seconds, I said to my husband, “We’re not moving! Don’t tell me the dumb elevator is stuck!”

He glanced at the panel of buttons, shook his head and said, “Apparently we’re not moving because when we got on, we forgot to push the button.”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. And when I did, my husband started laughing, too. By the time we finally emerged into the lobby, we both were holding our stomachs, we were laughing so hard. People stared at us as if they thought we’d been popping some kind of happy pills on the elevator.

My husband figures we forgot to push the button because we’re getting old and forgetful. I think we forgot to push it because we were so upset about missing his appointment.

Either way, when we go back in January, maybe we should take the stairs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TIME SURE CHANGES THINGS

I was thinking the other day how differently I used to look at Christmas when I was a kid, compared to now, when I’m considered to be in my “golden” years. It’s amazing how time can change things.

For example, when I was five, I used to count the hours until Christmas. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit still. I was completely in the Santa zone. Nothing else mattered but him. Every hour seemed like 100 years.

But now, I look at the calendar and think, “Oh, no! Only 10 days until Christmas! I haven’t even started my shopping yet! I have to bake cookies! I have to dig out the Christmas decorations and untangle 9,000 lights! I have to lose 25 lbs.! I have to buy an outfit that’s dressier than my sweatpants with a hole in the seat and my sweatshirt with no armpits! There’s not enough time!”

When I was a kid, my Christmas stocking was one of my favorite things to dig into on Christmas morning because it was bursting with candy, candy and more candy. By 6 a.m. I was guaranteed to be biting off the head of a chocolate Santa or leaving a sticky candy cane lying somewhere on the furniture.

Now, chocolate makes my gallbladder flare up and peppermint gives me heartburn.

When I was young, I was up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. Last Christmas, I was so exhausted, I slept until 3 in the afternoon and then stayed in my pajamas all day. Unfortunately, I’d promised my husband a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. By the time I got around to cooking everything, it was time to go back to bed.

At least I was already in my pajamas.

Christmas shopping also was fun when I was a kid. My dad and I would head to downtown Manchester and buy gifts for my mom. Elm Street was strung with thousands of beautiful colored lights, and there were Santas on every corner. After we were done shopping, we’d always stop at Verani’s restaurant for hot chocolate (with extra whipped cream) and I’d play a few songs on the jukebox. I really looked forward to it every year.

Now, I sit in front of the computer and order gifts while staring at my half-dead poinsettia.

Wrapping all of the gifts my dad and I bought was fun, too. I would make gift tags out of construction paper and then paint them and put glitter on them. I’d carefully wrap every gift and make certain all of the corners were neat and flat. And I always had a big bag of bows handy so I could match the color of the bow to the color of the wrapping paper.

Now, I usually cut the paper too short or really crooked, but slap it on the gifts anyway, or I just forget about the paper and stuff the gifts into a gift bag with a wad of tissue paper on top. I haven’t bought a bow since Nixon was president.

One of my very favorite Christmas events when I was a kid was my family’s Christmas Eve tradition of taking a ride to look at all of the Christmas lights. We would ride all over town for hours, “oohing” and “aahing” at the colorful displays.

The last time I managed to convince my husband to take me out to see the lights, he drove about three miles and then said, “Seen enough yet? I’m missing my evening nap!”

And then there was the Christmas tree. My mom and I would go pick it out, then Dad would come home from work and set it up and we’d spend the night decorating it. I loved hanging all of the beautiful ornaments and tinsel. I also loved the smell of a freshly cut tree. It gave the house that true Christmassy scent.

Now, I think of a live Christmas tree as a needle-shedding fire hazard that costs way too much for something that’s going to be brown and bald in a week. And a couple years ago, I found my box of Christmas ornaments buried underneath 100 pounds of junk out in the storage shed, which had reduced them to a pile of glass rubble. I still haven’t gotten around to replacing any of them.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls, so my Christmas wish-list was always filled with Barbies and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

Now, 50 years later, my Christmas wish-list is filled with…Barbie dolls and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

It’s nice to know that at least some things never change.

Monday, December 6, 2010

MY TEETH HURT FROM BITING THE BULLET

I come from a long line of bullet biters. My mother and all of her siblings were taught not to give in to pain – to bite the bullet and keep going, no matter what. They were raised to believe that Mother Nature would take care of whatever was ailing them, so there was no need to rush off to a doctor. I had an uncle who once used duct tape on a gash that clearly needed about 150 stitches.

That’s probably why I’m a notorious procrastinator when it comes to seeing a doctor when I’m feeling pain. The past few weeks were a prime example.

I banged my right knee on several different occasions – playing with the dogs, lugging groceries into the house, looking through boxes of junk in the basement. The first time I banged it, I felt the knee move to the left. It was sore for a couple days, but then it seemed fine.

The second time, I felt the knee move again, this time accompanied by a sharp pain shooting up into my inner thigh. Again, I ignored it and continued to do everything as usual, including taking a daily walk.

But after the third time, I started to suspect I probably wouldn’t be spending an evening ballroom dancing any time soon.

Each day, the pain got worse, despite my efforts to get rid of it. I tried heat, ice, an Ace bandage and elevating the leg, but nothing worked. If I twisted my leg even slightly, I emitted a noise that sounded something like a coyote during mating season.

The final straw came one night about a week ago when I went to a store in downtown Concord. There was nowhere to park near the store, so I ended up parking about three blocks away. As I walked toward the store, I felt twinges in my knee, but I bit the bullet and ignored them. When I headed back to my car, however, the Queen Mother of all pains shot all the way up my leg. I plopped down on the nearest bench.

I sat there shivering in the cold until I got brave enough to try walking back to my car again. The pain was even worse. The coyote sound returned as I barely made it to the next bench.

I had visions of my stiff, frozen body being found seated on the bench the next morning, my blue hand extended toward my car, only 50 feet away, my face contorted into a hideous expression of pain for eternity.

When I finally made it home that night, I vowed to call a doctor in the morning. I made an appointment for two days later.

In the meantime, I made the mistake of checking out my symptoms on the Internet. I learned that my knee pain could be caused by anything from severe arthritis to a torn ligament, or even a tumor, all of which required surgery. I immediately panicked.

“I’m going to spend the holidays in the hospital and then at physical therapy!” I whined to my husband. “Maybe I should wait and reschedule my appointment until January.”

“If you do, you’ll be stuck paying the insurance deductible first, because it will be a new year,” he said.

I kept my appointment.

The doctor took x-rays of my knee, then put it through its paces. I immediately deduced that the man was a sadist as he twisted, pushed and shoved my leg around as if it were dough and he were making pretzels. Every time I cried out in pain, he nodded and smiled, as if he’d hit a jackpot.

“Your symptoms are practically textbook for an MCL – medial collateral ligament – tear,” he said. “It’s a ligament on the inner side of the knee that helps keep it stable. We grade the tears on a scale of 1-3, with 3 being the worst. Yours is about a 2.5.”

I rolled my eyes and wondered how I was ever going to make it through the holidays if I couldn’t even drive my car. Surgery on my right knee would all but guarantee I’d either be confined to the house or forced to venture out with my husband, the king of diuretics, who has to visit a restroom every 15 minutes.

“But there’s good news,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my moment of self-pity. “Of all the ligaments you could have torn, this one usually responds well without surgery. You’ll just have to wear a leg brace for six weeks and you should be all set after that, no problem!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. For the first time in years, I’d actually done something right – I’d torn a self-healing ligament. I made a mental note to buy a lottery ticket on the way home.

The doctor handed me some paperwork and then told me to go upstairs to some brace company to get fitted with the brace. He made an appointment for me to return in three weeks so he could check my progress.

I headed upstairs, eager to get the brace and begin the healing process.

“Well,” the woman at the desk said, “First we’ll have to get approval from your insurance, which can take up to 14 days. Then we’ll make an appointment for you to come in and be measured for the brace. After that, it will take about two weeks to make it. Then you’ll have an appointment to come in for the fitting.”

My eyebrows rose. “That’s a whole month! In the meantime, I’m supposed to limp around with a flopping ligament? Surely that can’t be good for it?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but that’s how long these things take.”

Upset, I rushed (well, hobbled) back downstairs to the doctor’s office and told him what was going on.

“Are they kidding?” he asked. “Let me see what I have here in the way of hinged braces.”

He dug up a big, black rubber torture device with metal rods on the sides. It was about as comfortable as tourniquet filled with rocks. The thought of having to wear it for six weeks made me want to throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy.

The brace and I have since become mortal enemies. It not only sticks to my skin and makes it sweaty, raw and itchy, there is an opening behind the knee that’s like a tight, rubberized cut-out circle, that pushes the fat behind my knee right out through it. The back of my knee looks like one of those cans of refrigerator biscuits after you bust it open and the dough pops out. It not only looks ugly, it really hurts.

When I complained and showed the popping-out fat to my husband, his expression clearly told me he wasn’t about to say, “Hey, baby, you really look sexy tonight!”

Instead, he said, “Isn’t there some way you can push it back in?”

I have tried everything, like wearing cotton pantyhose and even taping the back of my knee, but once I slide my leg back into the skin-tight brace, everything I put around my leg either bunches up or falls off, and the fat pops out again. Even worse, the brace doesn’t fit underneath any of my jeans or slacks, so I have to wear baggy sweatpants.

But once again, I will bite the bullet, and in five more weeks my leg should be just fine.

And then I’ll probably slam it in the car door.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

WASTING MY TIME WAITING

If there’s one thing that really irritates me it’s sitting around waiting for people to show up…and then they don’t.

Such was the case last week when I wasted countless hours waiting for an Internet satellite company to come install a satellite dish so my computer finally could run faster than its usual speed of a snail in a tar pit.

The dispatcher told me the installer would arrive on Monday between noon and 4, so I spent all day Sunday cleaning behind furniture I hadn’t crawled behind in over a year. I knew that in order to install the cable to my computer, the guy was going to have to drill holes in my floor. And those holes were going to be drilled in places that were notorious breeding grounds for dust bunnies.

By noon on Monday, the house was sparkling and I was sitting on the sofa, waiting. That’s when my husband asked me where the fresh bread was.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I want to make a sandwich for lunch.”

If he’d asked me where the fire extinguisher was, I couldn’t have been more horrified. “And get crumbs all over the counter and the floor? No way! You can wait until after the satellite guy is gone!”

“But I’m hungry now!” he protested.

I was unsympathetic…even though his stomach was making so much noise, you’d think he’d swallowed the Lion King.

So we sat around waiting like two stiff robots, not wanting to move and risk messing up anything. At 2 p.m. the dispatcher called and told me the installer would arrive in an hour.

I was getting antsy by then. I wanted to go shopping. I wanted to go for a walk. I wanted to bake some chocolate chip cookies and mess up the whole kitchen. Instead, I continued to sit.

At 4 p.m., the dispatcher called and said the installer wouldn’t be coming because he’d had a family emergency and he was the only installer who serviced my area. She said he’d be over between noon and 4 the next day.

My first thought was the guy’s family emergency couldn’t be very severe if he already knew he’d be able to work the next day. My second thought was, “Oh, great, I have to suffer through all of this sitting and waiting again tomorrow?”

The next day turned out to be a repeat of the day before – I sat around doing nothing and the dispatcher called every hour to tell me the installer would be there in an hour.

By 4 p.m., I was ready to tell the dispatcher exactly what she could do with her satellite dish. That’s when the installer himself called.

“I’m heading to your house now,” he said. “I’m in Laconia, so I should be there by 5.”

“We live out in the middle of the woods,” I told him. “It will be pitch dark out when you get here. How can you install a satellite dish on our roof in the dark?”

“See you in about 45 minutes,” he said, not answering my question.

He arrived at nearly 5, when it was so dark outside, the only thing that could have lit up our roof enough so he actually could see it would have been a passing meteorite plummeting to earth.

“I have good news and bad news,” the guy said when he finally came into the house. “The good news is you have a nice clear line of sight for your dish if I put it on the left corner of your garage roof. The bad news is the rules require me to have a spotter with me or I can’t climb up there.”

“So you came here alone?” I asked, thinking no one could be that dumb.

He nodded. “But we can be here at 8 in the morning, our first job of the day, to set things up for you.”

At that moment, all I wanted to do was put my hands around his puny little throat and choke him. But then I remembered his family emergency and I mellowed a bit. “Has your family emergency been taken care of?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Yeah, my kid was sick but he’s OK now.”

I went back to wanting to strangle him.

So the next morning I arose with the birds and figured I’d spend the next 12 hours sitting like a statue on the sofa. My husband, however, chose to remain snoring in bed.

I nearly needed a whiff of smelling salts when the doorbell rang at 7:50.

“So, where do you want this?” the installer, carrying a huge roll of cable, asked.

“I have a laptop computer and use it in both the living room and my office,” I said. “So I want hookups in both places.”

He shook his head. “You have to choose only one.”

I was crushed. Reluctantly I chose the living room.

“I’m going down to the basement,” he said. “When I get back, have the sofa moved so I can get behind it.”

I stared at the sofa – the sofa that contained two built-in recliners. Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t have moved it.

When the guy came back up from the basement, he glared at the sofa and moved it himself. Then he proceeded to drill a hole in the floor. After that, he and his spotter went out to the garage to install the satellite dish on the roof…on the windiest day of the month. A huge tree actually fell across our road while they were up there. I had visions of the guys going airborne and landing somewhere where they would be greeted by Munchkins.

Finally, after a mere 44 hours longer than anticipated, everything was installed, and I now have a computer that is so speedy, I practically have to run to keep up with it.

And Wednesday night, I finally let my husband make his sandwich.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CLIMBING UP TO THE MATINEE

It took a lot of arm twisting, but I actually convinced my husband to take me to a matinee of the movie “Unstoppable” last week.

I’m not sure why he wasn’t crazy about going. I mean, it’s not that the movie was a soppy tearjerker with a lot of female stuff in it that he’d probably snore through. “Unstoppable,” according to the previews, was a true story about a runaway train barreling unattended at speeds of over 70 mph through heavily populated towns in Pennsylvania – something I thought he wouldn’t mind seeing.

Not only that, we had a gift certificate to the theater, so the matinee wouldn’t cost us a thing.

Still, my husband complained so much, you’d think I was dragging him to see a matinee performance of Swan Lake.

“My knees really hurt today,” he said as we headed toward the theater. “I hope the place doesn’t have a lot of steps. We’ll have to sit right down front if it does.”

The thought of having to lie on my back to see the screen didn’t really appeal to me. Whenever the train appeared on the screen, I’d probably feel as if it were about to run over me.

The minute we entered theater number one, where our particular movie was showing, I knew we were in trouble. The place had stadium seating, just like in a big football stadium, with stairs as high as the eye could see. I climbed about halfway up and then walked across the row and plunked down in a seat in the middle. I looked to my left, waiting for my husband to take the seat next to mine. He wasn’t there.

I stood up and peered down at the stairs. He was still standing on the third one.

“Why’d you go way up there?” he asked, groaning. “Can’t we stay down here?”

I made my way back down the stairs and gazed up at the screen from where he was standing. There was some kind of advertising photo on the screen. All I could see was a giant nostril.

“The movie doesn’t start for another 10 minutes,” I said. “Just take one step at a time and you can make it up to a better level.”

The stairs weren’t steep, but there were plenty of them. I waited as my husband climbed them…slowly.

“That’s 14!” he finally said, breathless. “That’s as far as I’m going!”

The row wasn’t exactly halfway up, but at least I could see the entire screen. Once again, I sat in one of the middle seats. There were only two other people in the entire theater and they were a couple rows in front of us, so I had my choice of just about any seat in the place. I could have stood up in the seat or stretched out across three of them and no one would have noticed.

My husband chose an aisle seat to the far left of the screen.

When I looked over at him, he motioned for me to move next to him. I shook my head and motioned for him to come sit near me. He shook his head. I didn’t want to see the movie from one side or the other, I wanted to see it from a point that was an equal distance from both sides.

So neither of us budged. Talk about a romantic movie date.

Finally, when the theater darkened and the previews began, my husband made his way over to the seat next to mine.

“My back is killing me,” he said. “If I sit here for two hours, I won’t be able to get up again! And I forgot to get popcorn!”

“If you eat popcorn, you’ll get thirsty and then need something to drink,” I said. “And if you have something to drink, you’ll end up having to go to the restroom during the middle of the movie.”

“No, I won’t,” he said.

So I flew down the stairs and got him some popcorn and a bottle of water. For what they cost, I could have ordered prime rib at a fancy restaurant.

The movie turned out to be a real nail-biter…a very loud one. The speakers were cranked up so high, the roaring of the trains actually made my head vibrate.

During one especially exciting part, where a helicopter was attempting to lower a guy onto the speeding train, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “I have to go to the men’s room.”

“Then go,” I said, my eyes riveted on the screen.

“But it’s 14 steps down and 14 steps back up,” he said. “I don’t know if I can make it!”

“I don’t think you have much choice,” I whispered back. “Unless you want to sit here and use your water bottle!”

He got up and headed to the bathroom…and missed one of the best parts of the movie.

I still haven’t heard the end of it. You would think he’d missed seeing the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

“We’re going to have to rent the movie now when it comes out on DVD!” he said just yesterday. “I want to see the part I missed!”

I haven’t mentioned to him that our cinema gift-certificate still has $16 left on it. I figure I can use it to see a couple more matinees…alone.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE BACKSIDE

Every time I see the TV commercial for a new product called “Booty Pop,” I burst out laughing.

I’m not certain exactly how it works, but Booty Pop is a special panty that gives women an uplifted butt that sticks out so far, it could support a vase of flowers and a glass of wine.

The commercial shows a bunch of emaciated women with flat butts, suddenly having huge rear ends that look as if someone pumped air into them.

As I said, the commercial always cracks me up. I mean, not only does it show these women growing large bottoms, it makes a popping sound every time it shows one.

The other night, however, something my husband said during the commercial made me abruptly stop laughing.

“I think you should get one of those,” he said.

My head snapped in his direction and I looked at his face. He wasn’t joking.

I’ve spent so many years trying to camouflage my Titanic hips, it never crossed my mind that I might ever need falsies in that area. I got up from the sofa and went to look at my backside in the mirror. I was appalled to discover that it had fallen somewhere down around the backs of my knees.

I rushed back out to the living room. “How long has my butt been gone?”

“Well, your jeans have looked as if you have a board tucked in the back of them for a long time,” my husband said. “Every time you bend over, I can see half your underwear. That’s because there’s nothing left to keep your jeans in place.”

“And you never mentioned it?” I asked, aghast. “I’ve been showing my underwear to the world for ages now, and you never told me?”

“I didn’t want to embarrass you,” he said.

I think there was a product similar to Booty Pop years ago, mainly because my mom and I saw a waitress we were convinced was wearing a butt enhancer.

Mom and I were sitting in a restaurant and our waitress, who had a shapely figure, bent over to put something on the table next to ours. I saw my mother eyeing her critically as she did.

“Did you see that?” my mom asked after the waitress had walked away. “When she bent over, her rear end moved up towards her waist!”

I thought my mother’s coffee might accidentally have been spiked with a shot of something about 90 proof and she was hallucinating, but sure enough, when the waitress bent over again, the cheeks of her rear end acted as if they had a life of their own.

“I think she’s wearing fanny pads!” my mom whispered, giggling. “Why else would her cheeks be moving up and down – and not at the same time?”

“I wonder if they ever move around to the front?” I added. “Imagine having a butt cheek on your belly?”

“Or all the way up to her shoulders so she looks like a football player!” Mom giggled even louder.

So maybe this new-fangled Booty Pop is better because the pads are actually sewn into the panties, unlike way back when they were just shoved loosely into existing panties, free to migrate to body parts unknown. Or perhaps the Booty Pop acts like a giant version of a pushup bra and just lifts everything that’s sagging.

Whichever, I’m pretty sure I’ll find out this Christmas. I think I saw my husband reaching for the phone right after the commercial the other night.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A DAY OF MAGNETIC ATTRACTION


I spent the past three weeks feverishly making crafts in preparation for a craft fair in Manchester on Nov. 6.

Most of my time was spent making name magnets. I used small ceramic tiles and wrote people’s names on them in permanent marker, then drew a little design on each one and glued a magnet on the back. I decided to sell them for 50 cents each.

The problem was that whenever I thought I finally was finished writing names, I’d hear a name on TV and run to make another magnet. I hate to say it, but I became name obsessed.

“Dakota!” I’d shout and make a beeline for my magnets. “I forgot Dakota! And I think I just heard someone on TV call someone Whippy! I’d better write that one down, too!”

“They were calling their dog!” my husband said.

“Well, you never know. Someone might like to buy a magnet for the family dog!” I said, grabbing my indelible marking pen.

Then, after I was certain I’d finally finished making all of the magnets, an area newspaper came out with a list of the most common names for newborns in New Hampshire. I read the list and discovered I didn’t have even half of the names on it. There were a few, like Joseph and Charlotte, I had, but then there were the Logans, Hunters, Briannas and Taylors I didn’t have.

By the time I was done, I’d made over 1,200 magnets. I was confident, however, that I’d come up with just about every possible name anyone could ever want. I even spelled Megan four different ways (Megan, Meagan, Meghan, Meaghan) just to be safe. I also made extras of the names I thought would be the most popular.

I included a lot of state-of-the-art names too, like Mackenzie, McKenna and Sierra. And I even tossed in a few really unusual ones like Rasputina and Norberta. Yes, I definitely was ready.

“You don’t have Zorro,” my husband said as he studied the names on my magnets.

I gave him a look that clearly told him I thought he was losing his mind.

“No,” he said, “I’m totally serious. You need a Zorro magnet. I’ll bet you $5 someone will buy it.”

“You’re on!” I said.

The morning of the craft fair, I woke up with a sore knee. I barely could put any weight on it and had trouble straightening my leg. The fact that 110 pounds of rottweiler had come crashing head-on into it a few days before, just might have had something to do with it.

The problem with having over 1,200 ceramic-tile magnets was their weight. I’d arranged them in alphabetical order on 10 cookie sheets, and each cookie sheet ended up weighing about 5 pounds. I also had several large boxes of other craft items I’d made, like plaques and decorated trinket boxes, so I had to make quite a few trips to the car before I finally got everything loaded. The entire time, my knee was crying out in protest.

When I arrived at the craft fair, I discovered it was being held in the church basement – a basement with a really steep flight of stairs. I couldn’t get over how deep, how subterranean that basement was. I mean, my own basement has 13 stairs. This one had nearly twice that many.

By the time I unloaded all of my crafts from the car and climbed up and down the incredibly steep stairs a gazillion times, I felt as if I’d just run the Boston marathon. It was bad enough I’d had a bad knee to begin with, but afterwards I was pretty sure I had heart trouble, too.

The fair turned out to be even better than I could have imagined. There was a constant flow of people, most of whom seemed eager to part with their money. My magnets sold steadily all day long.

There were a few names, however, people asked for that I didn’t have – Jaymz, Kryss, Dyanna, Cyndie and Karroll, to name a few. It made me wonder if their parents had lost sleep before they were born, lying awake every night, trying to come up with the most creative ways to spell their names.

And what was the most requested name that day? Courtney? Connor? Melissa?

Believe it or not, it was Henry.

And did I end up selling my husband’s Zorro magnet?

Well, just between you and me…I owe him $5.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

UP ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED


I spent a couple Sundays ago feeling like a little kid – mainly because people kept scolding me. At any moment, I thought I’d be given a time-out or be put on punishment.

The day began when I went to a Native-American powwow in Allenstown. Just as I arrived, the Aztec fire dancers were about to perform. Their costumes were so ornate and beautiful, I just had to get a photo of them. The trouble was, I couldn’t get close enough to take a good shot because the dancers were standing inside a big circular fenced-in area.

Finally, I just stepped inside the fence and snapped a photo.

One of the dancers turned to glare at me. “No cameras inside the circle!” she snapped, causing several people in the crowd to turn and stare at me. I felt the color rush to my cheeks as I backed away.

A few minutes later, another guy made the same mistake of stepping inside the circle to take a photo. At the time, one of the dancers was making an announcement over a microphone. Without thinking, she shouted at the guy not to take photos within the circle, and her voice blasted through all of the speakers.

All I can say is my own feelings of embarrassment paled in comparison to this poor guy’s humiliation. He look so flustered, the woman actually walked over to him later and apologized for embarrassing him.

After the powwow, I ran a few errands, one of which involved going to a drive-up ATM I hadn’t used before. This ATM wasn’t anything like the one I was accustomed to using at my own bank, which takes your card and doesn’t spit it out until the transaction is complete.

I drove up to the ATM and shoved my card into the slot. Nothing happened. So I waited. Nothing came up on the screen. So I waited some more. Meanwhile, a car pulled up behind me. I removed my card from the machine and inserted it again.

As I sat there waiting, the guy behind me tooted his horn. I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do, so I ignored him. He tooted again and made some kind of pulling and pushing motion with his hand. I had no idea what he wanted…and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to find out.

Finally, he got out of his car, walked up to my car and said in a voice that didn’t hide his obvious irritation, “You have to insert your card and then take it right out again!”

I just stared at him.

“Take the card out of the machine, put it in again, leave it there a second, and then take it out,” he said.

Not wanting to further upset him, I did as he said. The screen finally asked for my PIN.

“Oops! Sorry about that!” I said, smiling sheepishly. “I’ve never used this machine before!” The man frowned at me and slammed back into his car.

I was beginning to think that everyone within a 10-mile radius had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.

Finally, I wanted some of this really great glass cleaner I can find only at R&R in Hooksett, so I decided to stop there before heading home. As I pulled into the parking lot, I looked at both my watch and the clock in my car. One said 4:51 and the other said 4:52. The store was closing at 5.

I dashed inside. The minute I set foot in the store, the clerk at the front counter shouted at me, “We’re closed!” The expression on her face made me feel as if I’d just committed a felony.

I looked at the clock on the wall behind her. It was at least five minutes fast. There also were customers still shopping. Seeing that I knew where the glass cleaner was, I ignored her and made a beeline for the aisle, half expecting her to come running after me and tackle me.

There were three customers ahead of me at the checkout when I headed up there about 10 seconds later with my glass cleaner. The whole time the clerk was ringing up their purchases, she kept muttering that she was tired, fed up and wanted to go home.

Somehow, the “have a nice day,” she mumbled at the close of each transaction sounded as if it could have used just a tad more sincerity.

I expected to get a real tongue lashing when I finally handed my glass cleaner to her, but she remained silent. Still, if looks could have killed, my husband probably would have been scattering my ashes before he went to bed that night.

“So, how did your day go?” my husband asked when I finally got home.

“An Aztec woman yelled at me, a guy at the ATM yelled at me, and the clerk in R&R yelled at me,” I said. “I’m really starting to get a complex!”

“That’s nice, dear. What’s for dinner?”


Friday, October 8, 2010

I WAS REALLY KEYED UP

Last Tuesday I decided to take my pen pal, Colleen, who was visiting from Oregon, to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro. I truly believe the view from the castle is one of the most spectacular in the state.

The sky was overcast when we left, but the farther we went, the clearer it became. By the time we arrived at the castle, the sun was shining. Yes, I thought, it was going to be a perfect day.

If there’s one thing I should have learned by now, living in my body for as many years as I have, it’s that the word ‘perfect’ does not exist in my vocabulary.

The man at the entrance to the castle drive greeted us cheerfully and gave us brochures. He emphasized that we should be sure to stop at the Falls of Song and the scenic overhang on our drive up to the castle.

The road was very narrow and winding as we drove up the trail. We came to a small waterfall that seemed pretty average to me. “Ooooh!” I joked, making Colleen laugh. “It’s even better than Niagara Falls!”

Shortly after that, however, was a parking lot with a sign that pointed toward a footpath to the Falls of Song. I parked the car and grabbed my purse and camera.

I was just about to close and lock the car door when I hesitated. “I don’t think we’ll need our purses, do you?” I said to Colleen. “Maybe we should just take our cameras, seeing we’ll have to hike to the waterfall.”

She agreed. We hid our purses in the car, locked the doors and began our hike.

The falls turned out to be worth the walk. They were tall, surrounded by colorful foliage, and tumbled down into a postcard-perfect babbling brook. We snapped photos for a few minutes, then decided to head up to the castle. By then, it was already after noon.

I searched my jacket pockets for my car keys as we approached the car. The pockets contained nothing but an old, wadded-up tissue. My heart flew up to my throat. Every time I take the keys out of the ignition, I immediately shove them into the front compartment of my purse.

“Oh, great!” I practically shouted. “My car keys are in my purse in the car…and so is my cell phone!”

Colleen stopped walking and stared wide-eyed at me. “My phone is in the car, too!”

“And my AAA card!”

The two of us stood there, wondering what to do next. Walking back down the narrow, winding road to the entrance booth all but guaranteed we’d be flattened by a truck.

A car from Connecticut, filled with tourists, suddenly approached. The minute the people stepped out of the car, I practically charged at them and asked if they might have a cell phone I could borrow. One of the women checked her phone and said she couldn’t get a signal. Another man checked his and had one. He handed the phone to me.

“Um…do any of you have AAA?” I asked, knowing I probably was pushing my luck. “My card is in my purse – in the locked car, so I don’t know the phone number.” One woman said she had a card. She dug it out of her purse and handed it to me.

As I dialed AAA, I had visions of poor Colleen spending her first full day of touring in New Hampshire standing by my car and waiting for AAA to arrive. On our drive over, we hadn’t seen a gas station for what seemed like 25 miles. I was pretty sure it would be dark out by the time help arrived, so we’d end up having paid $15 each to see just the waterfalls.

The woman who answered at AAA was very sympathetic and understanding. She took down all of my information and then asked for the make and model of my car. When I told her, she said, “Isn’t that a hatchback?” When I said it was, she added, “Is the hatchback locked?”

I walked over to the hatchback and tried it. It popped right open. I felt like the world’s biggest idiot. “Okay – never mind,” I said to the AAA woman. My car is unlocked.”

She started to laugh. The man whose phone minutes I’d just wasted, however, didn’t look quite as amused. I thanked him profusely. He grabbed his phone and walked off.

Colleen and I got back into the car and cracked up laughing. I grabbed my purse and reached into the front compartment for my keys so we finally could head up to the castle. They weren’t in there. Frantically, I took everything out of my purse until nothing was in there but the lining. Still, there was no sign of my keys.

“This can’t be happening,” I groaned.

“Yes, it can,” Colleen said. “Anything can happen to you!”

I sat there, wondering what to do next. That’s when I realized I wasn’t comfortable in my seat. There was some kind of hard lump right underneath my butt. I reached into the back pocket of my jeans. There were my car keys.

When I pulled them out of my pocket and just stared at them, Colleen dissolved into fits of laughter. I have never felt so dumb in my life. Pretty soon, I was laughing, too, until tears rolled down my cheeks.

I spent the rest of the day trying to avoid the group of tourists from Connecticut. I was much too embarrassed to face them.

“It’s bad enough the car was unlocked,” Colleen giggled, “but imagine if they found out your keys were in your back pocket the whole time!”

The spectacular views from the castle were worth all of the trouble we’d gone through to get there, however. I think Colleen and I broke a world’s record for “oohing” and “aahing.”

That night, she and I told my husband about our day. I knew he’d never let me live down the key incident…and I was right. He had a real field day razzing me about it.

“I wish I’d have pushed the mileage-counter button in my car so I could tell how many miles we went today,” I said, desperately trying to change the subject.

“Oh, I pushed it when we picked up Colleen at the airport,” he said, “and that’s only about 20 miles, so you should still have a good idea of how far you went.”

The reading was 612 miles. Even if we’d gone to the castle by way of Canada, there was no way we could have racked up that many miles.

That’s when I realized that when we’d picked up Colleen at the airport, we were in my husband’s van, not my car, so he’d pushed his own mileage button, not mine. My mileage had been accumulating since the last time I’d pushed the button about two months before.

And I couldn’t wait to razz him about it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TRYING TO GET READY FOR MY GUEST

As I am writing this, I am one day away from picking up Colleen, my pen pal of 35 years, at the airport in Manchester.

I have spent the past two weeks trying to make everything perfect for her visit – mainly the house, my husband and myself. It’s definitely been an uphill battle.

First of all, the dogs are shedding enough fur to stuff a mattress. I have swept and vacuumed so many times, I’m surprised there’s still a pattern left on the flooring. And the minute I get all of the fur picked up, the dogs start wrestling and sending clumps of fur flying everywhere again.

And their wrestling isn’t confined to just the house. It continues out in the sandpit known as the back yard. The other day, when I called the dogs inside, they were covered in so much mud I couldn’t see anything but their eyeballs. Naturally, there was a drought all summer, but the minute Mother Nature found out that Colleen was coming, the skies opened up and turned the yard into a mud-wrestling arena.

But the house is a lot easier to make presentable than my husband is. While I was out shopping the other day, I bought him some new slippers. I thought they were pretty spiffy looking – navy blue with a red New England Patriots logo on them. They also had memory foam insoles for added comfort. When I got home and handed them to him, he couldn’t have looked more repulsed if they had been woven from poison-ivy leaves.

“Why’d you buy me slippers?” he asked. “The ones I have are perfectly fine…and really comfortable.”

I glared at the suede and sheepskin slippers on his feet. Not only did they have so many rips and tears on them, they looked as if they’d been attacked by sharks, the side of one slipper was so caved in, he was walking with his foot hanging completely out of it.

“You will wear your new Patriots slippers while Colleen is here,” I told him. “And you’ll also wear your new shorts, not the ones you’re wearing right now that look as if you took them for a dip in battery acid!”

He frowned, clearly not pleased. “You mean I can’t even be comfortable while she’s here?”

“Not if ‘comfortable’ means you’re going to walk around looking as if you found all of your clothes in the Allenstown landfill!”

“Well,” he said smiling smugly, “Then I guess that means you’re going to have to sit around wearing your bra all the time!”

My eyes widened. He had a point. The first thing I usually do when I get home from somewhere is get comfortable by taking off my bra, which feels like an ancient torture device, and putting on a baggy sweatshirt. Somehow I couldn’t picture myself sitting around braless in front of Colleen, especially since the words “firm” and “perky” haven’t been in my vocabulary for about 30 years.

For the past few weeks I’ve actually been trying to improve my appearance for Colleen’s visit. I managed to drop a couple pounds and I also used a semi-permanent light-brown hair coloring in my hair.

My hair came out a dark brunette…and frizzy. All I could think of when I looked in the mirror afterwards was a cavewoman. If I were wearing an outfit made of animal pelts and carrying a club, my hair would have looked perfect. The hair-coloring box, however, said the stuff would wash out in about 20 shampoos. Last night I washed my hair 15 times. It’s still dark…and even frizzier.

Then the crown on my front tooth came loose. My dentist said that even though it’s loose, it’s still attached to the tooth, so he doesn’t want to tempt fate and try to remove the crown, which might break off the tooth. He said I should wait until the crown falls off on its own and dies a natural death.

“But what if it falls off and I lose it?” I asked. “Or even worse, what if I swallow it?”

“Then hopefully we’ll be able to make you another one,” he said.

When I talk, the crown flaps in the breeze, it’s so loose. I have visions of myself greeting Colleen with a hug and having my crown fall off down the back of her neck.

And then there are the tomatoes. I love fresh, native tomatoes, and wait impatiently for tomato season each year. Then I go wild eating as many as I can before the season ends. The only problem is the acidity in tomatoes usually causes me to break out.

The other day I ate two tomato sandwiches and enjoyed every bite of them. Two days afterwards, a zit the size of Mount St. Helens popped out on my cheek. I’ve tried every homegrown remedy to get rid of it – applying toothpaste, baking-soda paste, steam, ice packs – but nothing has worked. In fact, the zit is getting bigger. Pretty soon it will need its own zip code.

I received an e-mail from Colleen last night, asking me how she will recognize me at the airport, seeing this will be the first time we meet.

That’s easy. I’ll be the cavewoman with the jack-o-lantern smile and a zit that makes me look as if I’ve grown a second head.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'LL TAKE THE PYTHON

I was reading an article in the paper the other day about this year’s Spooky World attractions in Litchfield, and one of them is a house in which each room features a common phobia. One room, for example, has a snake theme, while another has spiders.

I love amusement parks and haunted houses, but when I read the part about the spiders, all I can say is you wouldn’t catch me near that place even if it were the only shelter from a hurricane.

The funny thing is, my mother always was terrified of snakes, but spiders didn’t bother her at all. I, on the other hand, if given the choice between spiders and snakes, would prefer to see a python sitting in my living room.

I think my fear began when I was young and stayed overnight at my aunt’s house during summer vacation. She lived out in the country in a brick house that had ivy growing up the sides of it. The night was really hot and I was having trouble sleeping, so she opened my bedroom window. The window had no screen, and the ivy climbed right up into it.

When I woke up the next morning, the room was filled with bugs that had decided to visit during the night – most noticeably spiders crawling across the ceiling directly over the bed. I think the people in the next town heard me screaming.

I’ve come a long way since then, however. When I was a kid, even a spider the size of the head of a pin would send me running for shelter. Now I can tolerate one the size of a nail head without hyperventilating.

During our first year of marriage, my husband was my big, brave spider-killer – my knight in shining armor…my Sir Smacks-A-Lot. It didn’t matter if the spider was the size of a tarantula, he would either smack it with his bare hand or use nothing more than a tissue to catch it with, as I watched in awe. That’s because I wouldn’t have touched a spider even if I were wearing hockey gloves.

But over the years, my husband grew wimpier and wimpier when it came to protecting me from the 8-legged invaders. The worst part was he blamed me for his increasing wimpiness. He said my arachnophobia had rubbed off on him and made him fear spiders, too.

So whenever there is a spider in the house nowadays, we are like two frightened children, cowering in the corner and praying one of the dogs will spot the hideous creature and pounce on it.

The other night, I went out to the kitchen and sitting right there on the wall like some kind of decoration, was a big spider – a spider on steroids. If there were a dating service for spiders, this one would end up getting his money refunded, because no female spider in her right mind would be attracted to anything so creepy looking. He was the ugliest spider I’d ever seen – a dark tan color with long, thick legs and a fat head. I bolted back into the living room.

“You didn’t kill it?” my husband asked.

“I’m not going anywhere near that thing!” I said, climbing onto the sofa and tucking my legs underneath me to protect them.

“Well, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight now, knowing that it could be crawling into bed with us,” he said as he shuddered for effect.

His ploy worked. He knew I’d rather do battle with the spider while it was still in the kitchen than wake up and find it lying next to me on my pillow. I approached the kitchen so cautiously, you’d think it had been sprinkled with anthrax powder.

I made my way to the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink and took out my trusty can of Raid.

“Don’t get any of that on the walls!” my husband called out to me from the safety of his recliner. “It might stain the paint!”

“Well, what do you want me to do? Just spray it in the general vicinity? Will ‘essence of Raid’ kill him or just really tick him off?”

As I inched my way toward the spider, he started to move…fast. I sprayed the can directly at him. He fell off the wall and onto the floor and continued to run. Brave soul that I am, I ran in the opposite direction.

I haven’t seen any sign of the spider since, but I have a strong, gut feeling he’s still alive. That’s because I checked every inch of the kitchen and found no curled-up spider corpse lying anywhere about.

So if I’m awakened some morning by the sound of a tiny Raid-induced cough right next to my head on the pillow, I’m not going to open my eyes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

BURGLARS BEWARE!

When I was taking a walk around the neighborhood at dusk the other night, a man who lives on the next street over greeted me and then added, “Not to scare you or anything, but we were burglarized the other night.”

Scare me? Why on earth would he think that telling me about a burglar lurking somewhere in the neighborhood when it was nearly dark out and I still had to walk past a quarter-mile of nothing but thick woods to get back home would scare me?

I’m pretty sure I actually broke a few Olympic speed records getting back home.

A couple years ago, the house right next to our property (our house hadn’t been built yet) also was burglarized…and that house had an alarm system. The thieves took everything but the wallpaper.

Actually, I’m not that concerned about having our stuff stolen because we really don’t have anything thieves would be interested in. My three jewelry boxes contain about $100 worth of jewelry, most of which is tarnished. I bought our TV on sale for only $499. My computer is so old, the company doesn’t even make parts for it any more. And the loose-change jar into which my husband used to empty his pockets every night, contains nothing but cobwebs since he retired.

I must confess, however, that I’ve always been terrified of discovering some criminal roaming through my house. This fear caused me to get some pretty strange looks last year when I went shopping for a new bedroom set.

“Here we have a lovely solid maple four-poster bed,” the sales clerk said, smiling proudly.

Had he offered me a bed made entirely of poison-tipped arrows, I couldn’t have looked more appalled. “No!” I practically shouted. “Nothing with posts or slats…or anything else I can be tied to!”

The expression on his face told me he thought I needed a long vacation somewhere far away from civilization.

“It’s just that in every horror movie I’ve seen where some maniac breaks into a house,” I explained, “the people who live there always end up getting tied to the bed. So I want a bed I can’t be tied to.”

The clerk led me to a sleigh bed. The headboard was one solid slab of curved wood with no posts. I wasn’t particularly fond of the style…or the price, but I bought it. Since then, I’ve been able to sleep a little less fearfully.

But thanks to a movie I saw years ago, I may never be able to sleep in total peace.

In the movie, a woman awakened at about 3 in the morning and had to go to the bathroom. When she came back to bed and climbed in, in total darkness, little did she know that while she was in the bathroom, a killer had broken into her bedroom, slipped underneath the covers and was waiting for her.

Ever since I saw that movie, I turn on just about every light in the house when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Then when I come back to bed, I make absolutely certain that the body lying there belongs to my husband and not some fiendish killer clone.

I do feel some measure of safety, however, knowing that anyone who breaks into our house will have to face two very large rottweilers. Granted, one of the dogs would shower the thug with sloppy wet kisses. But the other would de-pants him and then shred everything all the way up to his eyebrows. Any potential burglar will have to find out the hard way which dog is which.

And speaking of the dogs, our insurance company strongly recommended that we hang “Caution, Guard Dog on Duty” signs on our property rather than just the standard “Beware of the Dog,” because the guard-dog signs are supposed to be much more effective at keeping undesirables at bay.

I really didn’t want to hang any signs, but I figured if I didn’t and the dogs ended up de-pantsing someone, I could be sued, and then the insurance company would say, “Sorry! We told you to post those signs and you didn’t! Now we’re not paying!”

So I bought the guard-dog signs and hung them, even though I was pretty sure they not only would discourage burglars from paying a visit, they also would discourage just about everyone else from coming within 100 yards of our place.

A few days after I hung the signs, I received a call from a woman who said she was a tax assessor for the town.

“Now that your house is 100-percent completed,” she said, “we need to assess it at its full value. We went over there the other day and were going to take some outside measurements, but we noticed the sign about the guard dog and decided not to chance it.”

Bless my insurance company.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

When my husband proposed to me 39 years ago, he didn't even have a ring for me. I guess he figured he wouldn't risk spending any money until he was absolutely certain I'd say yes.

After I agreed to marry him, we headed straight to a jewelry store in the Bedford Mall. As I was excitedly looking at all of the diamonds, I couldn’t help but notice that my husband-to-be was staring at something in a nearby jewelry case. When I held up my hand, sporting a diamond the size of a doorknob and asked him what he thought of it, he didn't even glance at it. He just mumbled, "Yeah, that's nice" and continued to stare into the other case.

Finally, I asked him what was so interesting.

"Those wedding bands right there," he said, pointing at two really wide, really thick gold bands. They looked as if they’d been hacked off a piece of brass pipe. "Aren't they fantastic?"

"Fantastic" wasn't exactly the word I'd have used to describe the rings. I critically eyed the two chunks of gold and wanted to tell him I preferred dainty rings, not something that looked as if it should be holding a dinner napkin, but I held my tongue. "They're really nice," I said, though not at all convincingly.

"Well, I love them!" he practically gushed. "They're so different, so solid looking, not some wimpy little bands like most of them are. I think we should get them."

Reluctantly, I tried on the band. It came all the way up to my knuckle. I could barely bend my finger. Even worse, it was so thick, I couldn't close my fingers. "Where would I fit the engagement ring?" I asked. "The band is so wide, it takes up my whole finger! "

My husband smiled. "If we get these rings, you won't need an engagement ring. This will be all the ring you'll ever need!"

That was an understatement. It was all the ring about 10 people would ever need. If it were melted down, I figured it could make rings for an entire neighborhood. Not only that, when I wore it, there certainly would be no doubt in anyone's mind that I was married. The ring probably could be spotted by passengers in planes flying overhead.

Before I could utter an opinion, my husband, grinning with satisfaction, bought the wedding bands…and no engagement ring.

Within a year after getting married and having the pleasure of wearing my chunky wedding band 24 hours a day, my ring finger was peeling so much, I felt like an iguana. The problem was that no air was able to get underneath the thick gold, so my skin constantly was damp and raw. Before my finger rotted off, I decided I’d better have a heart-to-heart talk with my husband.

"I was wondering if maybe I could trade in this band for a more dainty wedding-ring set?" I dared to ask. "I honestly can't wear it any more. It's really uncomfortable and my finger is always raw."

Had I told him I was running off to the Bahamas with the plumber, he couldn't have looked more shocked. "But if you buy another wedding band," he said, "it won't be official!"

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"We put these rings on each other's hands at the altar," he explained. "That made them official wedding bands. Before that, they were just plain bands. Any rings we buy now won't be official!"

"I don't care about being official!" I said. "I care about comfort. I haven't been able to close my fingers since our wedding day! Admit it – you're not comfortable wearing yours, either."

He hesitated for a few moments then said, "Well, no, I'm not comfortable, but I'm willing to suffer because of what the ring stands for!"

Just what I needed – a ring martyr. "Even if it gives you a bad case of athlete's finger?" I asked.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head, so I decided to drop the subject.

A few months later, I was in Montgomery Ward and just happened to pass through their fine jewelry department. There, I spotted a beautiful diamond solitaire ring with a matching band that had a row of tiny diamonds across the front. I instantly was in love.

Coincidentally, about that same time there was an ad in the paper about some company in search of gold and silver that was coming to one of the local hotels and was willing to pay big cash for unwanted jewelry. I rushed right over there.

I walked out with three times the money my husband originally had paid for the band…and then I headed straight to Montgomery Ward.

Funny, but my husband never mentioned the new rings when I started wearing them, and he continued to wear his band until his finger nearly developed gangrene. Finally, for his birthday one year, I decided to be brave and bought him a much thinner band with the Irish Claddagh symbol (his favorite symbol) on it. He actually looked relieved when he opened it.

"Well, it's really nice…so I'll wear it," he said, "even though it’s not an 'official' wedding band. But unlike you, I’m never going to part with my original ring because it has a lot of sentimental value."

He put the original band into a box in his drawer and never wore it again. With all of the gold it contained, I was surprised he didn’t store it at Fort Knox.

Last week, I brought some old, worn-out silver coins from the 1960s to Concord Coin and came home with $685. The owner of the shop told me he also was paying the highest prices around for gold.

When my husband saw my wad of cash, he went to his dresser drawer and took out his precious original wedding band. "Maybe we should find out how much we can get for this," he said.

So much for sentiment.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

10 DAYS OF LIVING IN TERROR

Our newly adopted dog, Raven, has been undergoing heartworm treatment, a long and painful process that is similar to chemotherapy. Luckily, she has seemed to breeze through it with no ill effects, remaining cheerful and energetic through it all.

Two weeks ago, however, things changed. Raven started to growl…a lot.

It seemed as if everything bothered her. She growled at our other dog. She growled at the wind. She growled at my husband when he entered the room. She beat up her teddy bear and then growled at that, too. And when she saw her own reflection in the curio cabinet, she attacked it. For some reason, I was spared. Whenever I came near her, the growling stopped.

“I think she may be in pain,” I said to my husband. “She’s really grouchy. I’m going to take her to the vet’s, just to be safe. I mean, she could have a heartworm carcass lodged in her brain or something.”

Raven’s regular vet wasn’t available that day, so another vet examined her.

“Raven’s been really grouchy,” I told her. “She’s suddenly growling and lunging at everything that moves.”

The vet’s eyes widened. “She was a stray, you say?” The minute I nodded, she backed up a few inches and started to put on rubber gloves. “You know, it’s possible she might have rabies!”

Rabies! Stephen King’s frothing killer dog, “Cujo,” whose hobby was dismembering people, immediately came to mind. I was afraid to move. “But she’s fine with me,” I said. “She doesn’t growl at me.”

“Not yet!” the vet said, comforting soul that she was. “When she was a stray, she could have been attacked by a rabid animal, and even though you’ve had her vaccinated, it may have been too late. She’ll keep getting worse and then be dead within 10 days. Then, you and your husband will have to undergo a series of really painful rabies shots.”

Before I could even open my mouth, which actually was already hanging open, she added, “If she gets worse, we’ll want to test her for rabies.”

“Can’t you do it now?” I asked.

“We’d have to remove her brain to do it,” she answered.

And I’d thought human tests were bad? I promised myself I’d never complain about a colonoscopy again.

“But she has no signs of hydrophobia,” I said, remembering that hydrophobia was another name for rabies because dogs with rabies get swollen throats that make them shy away from drinking water.

“Hydrophobia?” the vet repeated. “I don’t know – I’ll have to look that up.”

She decided to draw some blood to test Raven for anything other than rabies. Trying to jab an already grouchy dog, however, proved to be a big mistake. Cujo seemed like a pet hamster compared to Raven. Within seconds, the vet and the technician were backing out the door.

The next thing I knew, a muzzle was being tossed at me. “Please put this on her,” the technician said.

I held up the muzzle, took one look at the growling dog and wondered how many fingers I’d lose in process. Not only that, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get near any mouth that contained potentially infectious rabies saliva. But I finally gathered the courage to give it a try. To my relief, Raven didn’t protest when I muzzled her.

After the blood was drawn, the vet gave her a shot of rimadyl and an antibiotic, just in case she was having pain or inflammation somewhere, then told me to take her home, watch her every move, and wash my hands frequently. She also told me that if Raven did have rabies, death would come pretty rapidly.

“To her or to us?” I had to ask.

As I drove home with Raven in the back seat, I kept wondering if at any minute she was going to latch onto the back of my neck and tear off a chunk. The 10-minute drive seemed to take an hour.

The minute I got home, I put Raven in the laundry room and used a baby gate to block the doorway. Then I told my husband what the vet had said. He cast me a look of sheer disbelief.

“And they sent you home with her?” he asked, “Aren’t they supposed to quarantine her or hold her for observation or something? What if she gets loose?”

“I don’t know, I’m new at this rabies thing!” I said. “We’ll just have to make sure she doesn’t get loose!”

Later that day, I knew I had to take Raven out of the laundry room and bring her outside to do her duty. When I told my husband I was going out to the yard with her, he gasped, “You’re actually going to release the Kraken?”

I couldn’t help it, I laughed. He was referring to a movie we’d recently seen, “Clash of the Titans,” where Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, had created a hideous, drooling, vicious beast called the Kraken. Whenever someone in the movie got the gods ticked off, they’d shout, “Release the Kraken!” and it would tear off someone’s head.

For the rest of the week, my husband and I walked around on tiptoes. We also studied every move Raven made. If she yawned, we thought it was because her mouth was swelling. If she drooled, we thought she was foaming at the mouth. We were so paranoid, whenever she slept, we kept checking her breathing to make sure she still was among the living. We also washed our hands about 950,000 times.

But Raven didn’t get worse, she got better. In fact, by the end of 10 days, she was romping and playing with her ball and not growling any more. And when the regular vet came back, she contacted me and said she thought Raven’s problem might be that she was hormonal, mainly because she’d been in heat twice in the past three months, which wasn’t normal. So Raven is now scheduled to be spayed on Sept. 16. I would have had the surgery done back in May when we first adopted her, but the heartworm treatment had to be completed first.

So basically, Raven just had a really bad case of PMS.

My husband said he completely understands how that could be confused with rabies.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

SPYING ON THE TREE CUTTERS

For the past couple weeks, the sound of trees being cut down in the woods that border our property has been getting closer and closer. So the other morning, when I stood out on the back deck and could see the tops of trees toppling over like matchsticks in an area that seemed only a few feet from our property line, I decided it was time to investigate.

At first, I tried to take the most direct route, which was straight through the woods to the area being cleared. Unfortunately, a crop of poison ivy the size of a football field, interspersed with giant thorn bushes stopped me in my tracks. Even though my curiosity was killing me, picturing myself covered with holes and itchy red blisters made me rethink my approach.

“The logging trucks have to be getting in and out of there somehow,” my husband, wise soul that he is, said. “So all you have to do is find the road they’re using.”

I thought that finding the trucks’ access road would be easy. Anything as big as a logging truck was guaranteed to need something as wide as Route 93.

Common sense sent me searching up and down our own road first. The only thing I found was a snowmobile trail with so many low-hanging branches, anything taller than five feet would have been beheaded trying to go down it.

A couple days later, I took my dogs for a ride. On the way back up Deerfield Road, I happened to spot a new-looking dirt road on the left with telltale truck-tire tracks on it. On an impulse, I swung the car onto the road.

The road, although dirt, seemed firmly packed, and my car easily made its way along it. As we headed forward, I could see a big clearing up ahead. I was so interested in finding out what was there, I stopped looking down at the dirt road.

CLUNK!

The dogs’ heads nearly hit the roof of the car. Then the car stopped moving. I stepped harder on the gas. The car still didn’t budge.

Gathering my courage, I got out of the car to check out the situation. My car’s tires were sitting in two deep ruts – one on each side of a long strip of sharp, broken rocks. They were big truck-tire ruts…logging truck ruts.

Suddenly the poison ivy and thorn bushes didn’t seem so bad.

So there the dogs and I sat as I wondered what I should do. I didn’t have my cell phone with me, but even if I had brought it and was able to call AAA for a tow truck, what would I tell the guy?

“Hi, I’m stuck in these really deep ruts on a logging road somewhere off Deerfield Road and I have my two rottweilers with me. Can you help?”

He’d probably hang up on me so fast, my ear would get whiplash.

I got down on the ground and looked underneath my car. It looked as if its belly was resting on the rocks. It also looked as if the wheels weren’t touching the ground. I grabbed some nearby dirt and rocks and shoved them under the front wheels for traction. Then I got back into the car and floored it.

The car lunged forward and went flying along the ruts toward the open area. As we bumped along, the variety of scraping and scratching sounds coming from underneath the car convinced me that I’d find my entire exhaust system and maybe even my gas tank lying on the road when I finally came to a stop.

The thought of having to hand my tailpipe to my husband nearly made me decide to spend the night out in the clearing. I figured I’d be pretty safe out there, protected by poison ivy and thorns on one side, and ruts the size Queechee Gorge on the other.

When the car finally reached the clearing, all I could see were huge clouds of smoke surrounding the car. I flung open the door and jumped out, then panicking, opened the back door and screamed at the dogs to get out. The three of us then ran as far from the car as we could and braced for the explosion.

When the “smoke” finally settled, I realized that it had been just a big cloud of dust from the dirt road. My car was so thick with it, I couldn’t even tell it was red.

It took me another 20 minutes to round up the two dogs, who decided to run, romp and play, seeing they weren’t on leashes. They acted like two escaped convicts.

I turned the car around in the clearing and then sat there staring at the deeply rutted and rocky road and wondered how on earth I was going to get back out to Deerfield Road. My solution was to put the driver’s side’s wheels on the rocks in the middle and then the passenger’s side’s wheels on the edge of the woods that lined the road. The car tilted to the right, straddling the rut as we crept along.

When we finally reached Deerfield Road, I was so relieved, I was tempted to kneel down and kiss it.

The rest of the ride home, I kept looking in the rearview mirror, expecting to see a trail of gas or car parts lying on the road.

The next day, just to be safe, I had my mechanic put my car on the lift and check it out. There were big scrapes on everything, a dented fuel line and some wires hanging, but otherwise I was pretty lucky. The mechanic spent a few minutes straightening and reattaching stuff, then said I should be all set.

My husband wasn’t pleased at all to learn of my spying adventure, and gave me a lecture about paying better attention to my driving so I won’t puncture any gas tanks or blow up any cars...or myself. I’m really not sure what else he said…because I wasn’t paying attention.

The worst part of all was I never did find out what was going on in the woods behind our house, other than a lot of tree chopping. I just may wake up some morning and find a brand new Wal-Mart out there.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

HIGH BID, LOW BID, NO BID

There’s a big auction held in Allenstown twice a month all during the summer months, so a few weeks ago I decided to contact the auctioneer and put some of my things up for auction.

Art, the auctioneer, had been telling me about the crowds of bidders his auctions had been drawing, and the big bucks they’d been spending, so I was convinced I could make a small fortune.

It took me a whole week to gather the items I wanted to sell. I spent so much time searching through boxes in the basement, by the time I was through, I was on a first-name basis with every spider down there.

I finally selected 75 items for the auction. Among my treasures were trading cards, Barbie dolls, jewelry, Star Wars collectibles, comic books, coins, porcelain thimbles and Beatles collectibles. If they all sold for even close to what they were worth, I was sure I would make well over a thousand dollars.

The afternoon of the auction turned out to be about 150 degrees in the shade. I arrived early, picked a good seat and then anxiously waited for the throngs of bidders to arrive. A few people, looking hot, tired and as if they’d rather be at the beach, filtered in. By the time the auction began, there were only about 25 people on the bidding floor.

I told myself it didn’t matter how many people were there. What mattered was that the ones who were in attendance had come with rolls of $100 bills in their pockets.

As the evening progressed, it became pretty clear to me that all of the high bidders probably had gone to the beach.

“Who’ll give me $10 for this Working Woman Barbie doll, still new in the box?” the auctioneer asked, holding up my prized Barbie. When there was no response, he added, “How about $5?” Still no response. “Then what if I add this Ken doll to go with her? Now who’ll give me $5?”

By the time he was through, he’d added a tea set, Hallmark Barbie Christmas ornaments, some new videos, a couple candleholders and a game. Finally, before all of my items ended up selling in just one lot, someone took pity on me and bid the $5.

I cringed…visibly. I cringed even more when my husband’s crossbow, which he never used, along with his vintage electronic TV game in perfect working order, and his collection of old board games, such as Sorry and Monopoly, sold for a grand total of $10. I was afraid to go home and tell him…beause I really hate to see grown men cry.

Items other than mine didn’t do very well, either. When one beautiful piece of vintage furniture couldn’t get even a $2.50 bid, the auctioneer joked, “How much can I pay one of you to take it away?”

At the end of the evening, I’d earned a grand total of $264.50. After the auctioneer took his percentage, I was left with exactly $171.92.

The minute I got home, my husband eagerly asked how much I’d made. When I told him $172, he said, “That’s just for my stuff, right?”

“No, that’s for everything.”

He spent the next two days muttering about how he’d never be able to buy the new model-train set he’d had his eye on.

When the next auction rolled around, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant money-making idea. Seeing that most of the items at the last auction practically had been given away, I figured I’d go to this auction for the sole purpose of bidding. Then, after I won a bunch of items for only $2.50 or $5, I’d make a good profit reselling them on eBay.

I looked online at the items that were going to be auctioned off. There were hundreds of them, all highly collectible – old postcards, dolls, Hoodsie Cup lids with famous people’s photos on them, vintage coloring books, Lionel trains, office furniture, sterling flatware and more. My eyes widened as I imagined all of the collectibles I could get for just a few dollars.

The night of the auction, I didn’t even take my checkbook with me because I figured the cash I had in my wallet would be enough to bring home a trunk full of goodies.

I was in for a surprise when I arrived at the auction house. The place was packed, standing room only.

As soon as the auction began, it became clear to me that the high bidders, the ones with the rolls of $100 bills in their pockets, had returned from their vacations. I sat there for nearly four hours, watching thousands of dollars being bid. A walking stick sold for $450. A chandelier for $500. A small baggie of doll clothes for $100. Some old wooden sap buckets for $160. A punch bowl for $150.

Every time I even so much as thought about raising my hand to bid, someone outbid me.

I came home with absolutely nothing.

“Need help unloading the stuff from the trunk?” my husband asked the minute I got home.

The look I gave him plainly told him he never should have asked me that question, especially since I’d just spent four hours sitting on a rock-hard metal chair for no good reason.

But I think I’ve figured out how to constantly be the high bidder at future auctions and also get the items dirt cheap…bid on my own stuff.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK

Like so many houses do, our house has drainpipes that come down from the rain gutters on the roof. Most houses’ drainpipes drain right where they drip, but not ours. They continue underground along the edge of the driveway and drain out into a ditch on the other side of the front lawn.

Ever since we had the drainpipes installed underground – and by underground, I mean only about an inch below the surface – people have been driving over them. Delivery trucks have parked on them. Snowplows have plowed over them. Rottweilers have wrestled on them.

So last week I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I decided to put a row of nicely shaped rocks along the edge of the driveway – not only for a decorative touch, but to make a barrier to protect the drainpipes from being flattened by a propane delivery truck.

Three years ago, when the lot was being cleared for the construction of our house, the excavators dug up enough rocks to build another Alcatraz Island, so I thought it would be easy to find plenty of perfectly shaped ones to use in the construction of my rock border.

Building the border turned out to be a slow and exhausting process. For one thing, a jungle had grown over most of the rocks on the property, so I practically had to use a machete to find most of them. Then when I finally did locate a few, I was afraid to lift them because I didn’t know what might be lurking underneath them. Spiders? Worms? Swarms of locusts? Giant killer snakes?

Not wanting to find out, I’d pick up a rock and fling it in the general direction of the driveway. I figured that anything still alive or crawling on the rock would be squished when it landed…and therefore, not crawl up my arm.

After 20 minutes of flinging heavy rocks, I was all flung out. It was time, I decided, to begin to piece the rock border together.

By the time I rejected the rocks that were too big, too small, too pointed, too round and too ugly, I had only about five rocks left for my border. But those five were works of art. The problem was, I was going to have to find about another 150 similar works of art to finish my project.

I finally took a breather and sat on the porch steps. As I admired my five rocks in their neatly straight line, I couldn’t help but think back to the time my father asked my uncle to build a fieldstone barbecue for us at our summer camp in Chester, NH.

My uncle was a perfectionist, and his penchant for perfection became obvious during the construction of the barbecue. He made my dad spend endless hours searching for perfectly shaped rocks for the perfectly shaped barbecue.

“Too round! Too flat! Too bumpy! Not enough mica on it!” my uncle would say as he examined each rock my poor dad, dirt-covered and dripping with perspiration from dawn-till-dusk rock hunting, handed to him. If my uncle accepted one rock out of 50, my dad considered it a successful day. Therefore, it was no surprise when four months later, my uncle still was building the barbecue.

Then came the day my uncle rejected a rock because the moss wasn’t evenly distributed on it. My dad finally lost his temper.

“The darned thing is going to be burning in a fire!” he shouted. “Why the heck does it need moss on it?”

When my uncle went home that night, my father hastily mixed up a bucket of cement, grabbed a bunch of rocks and slapped them onto the barbecue. A half-hour later, he tossed down the trowel and said, “There! It’s finally finished!”

And that was how we ended up with a half-straight, half-lopsided barbecue. But crooked or not, it still produced some really great burgers and hot-dogs.

I’ve managed to get about half of my rock border finished so far, but it hasn’t been easy. Out of every 25 rocks I lug over to the driveway, I end up rejecting 23 of them. I think I’m finally beginning to understand exactly how my uncle felt when my dad brought misshapen, ugly rocks to him for the barbecue.

I’ve also discovered that flinging the rocks doesn’t kill all of the crawly things on them…especially big black crickets, which seem to grow to the size of small rats around here. Believe me, Walt Disney’s Jiminy Cricket never looked like any of these guys (I’ve always thought Jiminy looked more like a grasshopper anyway).

But I won’t give up. Somewhere out there, the perfect rocks are waiting to become part of my border. The trouble is, by the time I manage to find all of them, I’ll probably be too old and feeble to lift them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

CRAFT WORK IS HARD WORK

While searching through the boxes of junk in my basement the other day during my hunt for some old Archie comic books, I came across a big storage chest full of craft supplies.

Years ago, my mother and I spent countless hours making crafts and selling them at craft fairs. We were always trying to come up with new and innovative ways to turn everyday items into craft masterpieces.

“I’m going to make a turkey out of pine cones!” Mom would call me and say. “It will look great on someone’s Thanksgiving table!”

“And I’m going to make hobnail vases by gluing split peas onto empty jars and then painting them with white glossy paint!” I’d answer.

If I learned anything while making and selling crafts, it was that if I had to charge for all of the hours I spent making them, my clothespin reindeer and acorn lapel pins would have sold for about $750 each instead of only $1.

And I hate to admit it, but nothing was safe during my craft-making period. I’d gasp in horror if my husband tossed out trash of any kind. I was certain I could transform an empty milk carton or Sears catalog into something so awe-inspiring, people at the craft fairs would be crowding around my table and tossing money at me.

After I found my container of craft supplies, I got the urge to make crafts again. My box of goodies contained materials for plaques, magnets, clothespin dolls, Christmas decorations and much more. I was eager to dig into them and allow my creativity to flow.

But before I began, I contacted my sister-in-law, who travels all over the state doing craft fairs, and asked her if I might be able to do one with her. I figured there was no sense spending countless hours making pipe-cleaner candy canes if I had no place to sell them. From her list of upcoming fairs, I chose the one at Pembroke Congregational Church on October 16.

I soon discovered that things had changed since my last craft fair about 10 years ago. For one thing, my fingers are a lot stiffer now than they used to be. I sat down to make my formerly popular cat magnets the other night and it took me over three hours to complete just one.

“So, how many magnets did you make?” my husband asked when I finally emerged from my office. “I haven’t seen you all night!”

“One,” I answered, showing him the finished product. The poor cat looked as if it had been involved in some horribly disfiguring accident.

“Um, that’s…not too bad,” he said, forcing a weak smile. “How much are you going to charge for each one?”

“A dollar,” I said.

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “So that means if you make 10 of these at three hours each, you’ll be working 30 hours for only 10 bucks?”

“Well, when you put it that way, you make it sound terrible. Making crafts is fun and relaxing!”

Believe me, making that cat magnet had been anything but fun and relaxing. I’d had to repaint every part of him at least a dozen times, mainly because I couldn’t even paint a straight line. One of his eyes was up somewhere near his ear, and the other was down around his chin. His whiskers came out so shaky, they looked as if there’d been an earthquake while I was painting them. And then there were the numerous fingerprints of previous paint colors I’d used, constantly appearing on the parts I’d freshly painted. By the time I was done concealing all of my mistakes, the magnet about 25 layers of paint on it.

I called that darned cat so many names while working on him, it’s a wonder his pointed little gray ears didn’t fall off. Actually, they were about the only things that didn’t fall off. That’s because, as I discovered while searching for its tail under my desk for the third time, 10-year-old Elmer’s glue doesn’t stick all that well.

So the way I have it figured, by the time the craft fair on October 16 rolls around, I’ll have spent about 265 hours making crafts.

And if I’m lucky enough to sell all of them, I’ll earn about $85.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

THE CAUSE OF MY HUSBAND'S INSOMNIA

For the last six months, my husband has spent countless hours drawing up plans and lists of materials he’ll need to finally build tables for his model-train layout.

“I was awake half the night last night,” he said to me the other morning. He looked as if he’d spent the night being tortured – hair standing straight up on his head, dark circles under his eyes, pillow crease-marks on his face.

“Problems?” I asked him.

“I’ll say,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know whether to put my campground next to my circus or my zoo. Which do you think would look better?”

I just stared at him.

“I’m talking about my model-train layout,” he said. “And what about my park with the gazebo? Should it be a city park or a country park? This is really stressful, you know!”

“Gee, I can just imagine,” I said. “I was awake the other night worrying about how much our property taxes are going to set us back, but that’s nothing compared to whether or not you should set up your glue factory next to your horse farm.”

“Well, you can joke about it if you want,” he said, “but it’s not easy to plan a whole miniature city. Everything has to fit together perfectly…it has to flow.”

When he found out that the lumber he’d need to build the tables he’d designed for his city was going to cost him about $300, he nearly needed a whiff of smelling salts.

“There’s no way I’m going to spend that much on lumber,” he said. “I’m going to look for some tables that are already built. And I don’t care if they’re old and used.”

When a computer search failed to turn up anything suitable, I asked Art, a local auctioneer, if he’d seen any 4’x8’ tables during his travels.

“I’ve got an old ping-pong table that might work,” he said. “I think it’s about 5’x10’, though.”

My husband’s interest was piqued, especially when Art said he could have the table for only $10. I was ready to snap up the offer right away, no matter what the table looked like. Heck, if it meant saving $290, I didn’t care if it had convicts’ names carved into it.

So last Friday afternoon, Art delivered the table to our house. When my husband saw it in the back of his truck, his eyes widened. For the price, he’d expected a flimsy, folding ping-pong table with aluminum legs. This table weighed about 150 pounds and had heavy metal legs…eight of them. The Incredible Hulk could have tap danced on it and not damaged it.

“I’ll need some help getting the table into the house,”Art said. “It weighs a ton!”

My husband, whose back sounds like bubble wrap popping when he lifts anything heavier than a cup of coffee, stared pleadingly at me.

Had I not been so eager for him to finally have a hobby other than singing and non-stop talking, I wouldn’t even have attempted to lift the monstrous table. But I figured a double hernia was a small price to pay for a few hours of blissful silence every day.

As Art and I struggled to lift the table up the front steps and onto the front porch, Art’s wife and my husband sat in the rocking chairs on the porch and watched us. They seemed so entertained, I was surprised they weren’t eating popcorn and drinking sodas.

“Got a rug we can put under the table?” Art asked me when we finally reached the doorway. “Then we can just slide the table on the rug down the hall to the train room.”

I dashed into the house and grabbed the hallway runner, then slid it underneath the table. Art just stood there staring at me.

Finally he said, “Um…you’ve got the rubber side down, which won’t slide anywhere. You’ll have to flip the rug over.”

I felt like an idiot. The rug, once I turned it over, worked great. We easily slid the table all the way down to the train room.

That night, my husband once again lost sleep, thinking about where he should set up the table.

“Should I put it in front of the windows, or against the wall on the right…or left?” he asked me. “Or should I put it right in the middle of the room so I can walk all the way around it? And do you think the height of it is OK, or should I put blocks under it to make it taller?”

So if you happen to see me walking all hunched over and wearing a hernia truss, you’ll know it’s because I’ve spent the past week constantly moving an Incredible-Hulk-sized table from one side of the room to the other.