Saturday, October 23, 2010


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


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


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.