Wednesday, December 26, 2012

HE'S NOT ANONYMOUS ANY MORE


 
 When I first started writing this column back in 1994, Jeff, my editor at the time, advised me not to use my husband’s name. He said by keeping him anonymous, more women would be able to relate to him as if he were their own husband or boyfriend.

For years, I picked on “my husband” in my columns, joking about his habits and antics, and many women wrote to tell me how much he reminded them of the men in their own lives. So I guess my editor’s way of thinking was right.

My husband, however, always was pitied by men, who often addressed him as “you poor guy.”  Many also said they would file for divorce if they were in his shoes, because it seemed as if nothing he did was sacred…or private.

Little did they know that my husband always enjoyed being written about in my columns. When I would write about the dogs or someone else and not mention him for a week or two, he’d say, “Don’t you love me any more?”  And then, more often than not, he’d remind me of something  embarrassing he’d done so I would write about it.

Take, for example, the night he woke up and thought he heard a prowler out in the yard. Still half-asleep and wearing only his underwear, he grabbed the ornamental sword he kept by the bed (especially for burglars) and ran outside, where the neighbors’ motion-detector floodlight popped on and bathed him in enough light to enable the entire neighborhood and passengers in low-flying aircraft to see him…standing there in his BVDs and holding a sword over his head.

I laughed about it for days. When he saw how funny I though the incident was, he insisted that I write about it. Thank goodness I married a man with a great sense of humor.

Last week, on December 13, I came home from Christmas shopping and told my husband I was going to take the dog for a short walk. He said, “OK, but hurry back and feed me. I’m hungry.”

I returned 15 minutes later and found him slumped over in his chair. He passed away two days later from a massive stroke.

His name was Joe.

There have been several times during the 18 years I have been writing my column when I’ve thought I’d never be able to write anything humorous because something sad or stressful had happened that week. But Joe would always encourage me by saying, “You can do it. People are counting on you to make them smile and laugh every week. And if you can make even just one person smile, then you’ve succeeded and can feel really proud of yourself.”

After hearing his words, no matter how depressed I was feeling at the time, I’d manage to write something that actually did make people smile. And as an added benefit, I discovered that writing humor turned out to be cathartic in many ways. So I’d usually feel much better afterwards.

But this is one situation when I know that no matter how much of a pep talk I give myself about laughter being the best medicine, I just can’t write humor at the present time.  Therefore, I have decided to take a leave of absence from writing this column until I can smile and feel like my zany old self again…and then I promise I’ll be back.

Joe would want it that way.



 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DR. WHO? WHAT? WHERE?


 
I was in the town hall the other day and saw the Christmas Wish tree, which was decorated with paper ornaments listing area children’s Christmas wish lists.  I selected one, a four-year-old girl’s.

Last year, I selected a 10-year-old girl to shop for. She wanted craft items, and I had a lot of fun buying everything from paint sets to jewelry-making kits. So I figured I’d have fun this year, too.

I left the town hall and headed directly to a department store in Concord. I didn’t look at the wish list until I was inside.  It said, “Doc McStuffins items.”

I just stood there, having no clue whatsoever who or what Doc McStuffins was.  My first thought was pajamas – like the Doctor Dentons from my childhood days. I headed to the kids’ sleepwear department.  There, I approached a female clerk about my age.

“Do you have Doc McStuffins?” I asked her.

She stared blankly at me.

“I think they’re pajamas,” I added. “For little girls.”

The clerk helped me look through the pajamas.  We found every type imaginable, with pictures on them of every children’s character ever created, but there was nothing about Doc McStuffins.

“Well, if Doc McStuffins isn’t pajamas,” I said to the clerk, “what could it be?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe it’s a stuffed animal! It might be a teddy bear or something dressed up in doctor’s clothes.”

That sounded logical. I rushed to the toy department and searched through a virtual zoo of stuffed animals but didn’t see anything that resembled a doctor…although a couple of them did remind me of my own doctor, especially when he doesn’t comb his hair.

I found a young male clerk in the toy department and asked him about Doc McStuffins.  Again, I received a blank look. I was beginning to think that this doctor character was only a figment of the four-year-old’s imagination. Either that, or the little girl had just moved here from some obscure country where Doc McStuffins was some kind of local cult hero.

“I haven’t heard of it,” the clerk said. “Is it a game?”

I shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. It could be a brand of mattress for all I know!”

He told me to wait a minute and he’d see what he could find out. He disappeared for a short while, then returned and said, “It’s a doll from Disney… and we’re all sold out. From what they tell me, it’s sold out everywhere and going for big bucks on eBay.”

I groaned. Leave it to me, I thought, to pick a child who wanted a gift that would require me to get into a hair-pulling match with a bunch of other women who were determined to buy the doll for their kids…that is, if I ever came across the doll. The problem was, I wouldn’t know it if I did because I had no clue what Doc McStuffins looked like. Was it male? Female?  Knowing Disney, it even could be something like a talking wart hog.

I was about ready to admit defeat when I decided to stop at Toys R Us, just for the heck of it.  Once inside, I headed straight for the doll aisle.  I checked out so many dolls, I began to forget what a human face looked like.  Finally, I tracked down a clerk…who appeared to be human.

I was so tired by then, I mistakenly blurted out, “Do you, by some miracle, have any Doctor McMuffin dolls?”

He smiled in amusement. “You mean Doc McStuffins?”

I burst out laughing. “God, I sound like I’m at McDonald’s!”

“I think I saw one in the preschool department,” he said. “Over this way.”

The entire time I was following him, I silently prayed he was leading me to what probably would be the last Doc McStuffins doll in the state.  We finally arrived at an aisle that had a lot of empty spaces on the shelves. My heart sank. If Doc McStuffins had been there, I was pretty sure he or she now was one of those empty spaces.

The clerk stood there, rubbing his chin and staring at the shelves for a moment, then he moved aside a couple large Playskool toys and pulled out a small plastic package with some tiny figures in it.

“Here you go,” he said, smiling, and walked off.

I clasped the package to my chest and frantically looked around, making certain no one was going to jump out and grab it away from me.  When I was certain the coast was clear, I finally looked at what I was holding. In the package was a small African American doll wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope. A glittery pink and purple doctor’s bag was in her hand. She looked no older than five or six.  Next to her were several tiny stuffed animals sitting on an examination table.  I figured she must be a veterinarian…for toy animals.

Clutching my newly found treasure, I rushed to the register to pay for it. The minute I got home, I looked up Doc McStuffins on eBay. The clerk at the department store had been right. The doll I’d just bought was selling for three times what I’d just paid for it. A variety of other Doc McStuffins toys were selling for even more.

Now I’m wondering if I should include a note with the gift, telling the little four-year-old, “Merry Christmas! But do not play with this! Wait a few years and sell it – it just might fund your college education.”

 

 

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A LESSON IN FATE, FAITH AND LOVE



I know my column usually involves humor and zaniness, but I’m going to step totally out of character this week and be serious for a change. That’s because I want to share an incident that happened last week…and give credit where credit is due.

I enjoy shopping at the Ocean State Job Lot stores in both Hooksett and Concord because I never know what bargains I might find there.  The stores also have an entire aisle of inexpensive dog treats, and believe me, with my two “horses,” I go through a lot of treats.

At the store in Concord, there is a young clerk who really stands out. His name is Kalan, and he is always cheerful and sociable. Whenever I buy dog treats, he and I end up discussing our pets and joking about them while he rings up my items. His warm personality seems a hundred-percent genuine.

The other day, I learned just how special Kalan and the other Ocean State Job Lot employees in Concord are.

Two days before Thanksgiving, I headed to the store to pick up some birdseed for my feeder and of course, to stock up on dog treats.  To my dismay, the minute I set foot in the store, I had a sudden need to use the restroom. I thought it was very strange because first of all, I pride myself on my bladder of steel, and secondly, I hadn’t had anything to drink all day (a bad habit of mine), and had gone to the bathroom just before I left the house only 20 minutes earlier.

Unlike the Hooksett Job Lot, where the restrooms are located right near the front doors, the Concord store’s restrooms are in the farthest corner at the rear, concealed behind display shelves. Usually I won’t use a public restroom unless I’m on the verge of exploding, so I tried to talk myself out of using this one…but my bladder had other ideas. So I embarked on the 10-mile hike to the back of the store.

I finally made it to the ladies’ room and opened the door. There, on the floor, was an elderly woman. A walker, on wheels, was near her, but not within her reach.

“Thank God!” she said and burst into tears. “I have been sitting here, helpless, for nearly 20 minutes! I just finished saying a prayer and begging God to give any woman in the store a full bladder, so she’d come in here and find me – and here you are! My angel!”

Her words actually left me momentarily speechless. “Are you hurt?” I finally asked her. “Do you need an ambulance?”

She shook her head and sniffled. “I was shopping with my husband and we were about to leave, when I felt sick…stomach cramps. I came back here to use the restroom – but I didn’t quite make it. When I tried to clean up my mess, I fell!  I’m so embarrassed! Just look at this bathroom!”

“Bathrooms can be cleaned with soap and water,” I told her. “All that matters is that you’re all right.”

“Please, get my husband,” she said. “He’s waiting for me at the front of the store. And you’ll have to find another strong man to help him lift me. As you can see, I’m no small woman.”

I rushed out of the restroom and ran toward the front of the store. On the way, I passed a female employee who was arranging items on a counter.

“There is a woman who fell in the ladies’ room!” I shouted at her as I ran past. “I’m going to go find her husband!”

Without a word, the employee dropped everything and darted toward the back of the store. 

At the front, I saw a tall, elderly man and explained to him that I believed it was his wife who’d fallen in the restroom. He said he’d been getting worried because she’d been gone for so long, especially since she’d just had both knees replaced and was having trouble getting around.  He said he didn’t know exactly where the restroom was, so I told him to follow me. First, however, I asked the employee at the courtesy counter if he could find another man to help lift the woman.

When the husband and I arrived in the restroom, the female employee was there, kneeling next to the woman on the floor and rubbing her arm, trying to comfort her.  The woman started crying the minute she saw her husband. “And to think we had to come here all the way from Indiana for me to do this!” she sobbed.

The door opened, and Kalan appeared, rushing to the woman’s side.

“Can you help me get her to her feet?” her husband asked him.

“Are you hurt anywhere?” Kalan first asked her.

She showed him a skinned right elbow. “This is all, just a scrape. I’m so embarrassed about what I’ve done to your restroom!”

“The fact that you’re OK is all that matters,” Kalan said. He gave her a comforting smile. “Now, give me your hand and let’s see if we can get you back up on your feet.”

Instead of extending her hand, the woman hid it behind her back. “I-I messed on my hands, too,” she said. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks. “Don’t touch them, they’re disgusting!”

Kalan, without any hesitation said, smiling, “Ma’am, I have a two-year-old at home.  Stuff like that doesn’t bother me.”

And with that, he took her hand and, along with her husband’s help, got her to her feet.

I just stood there in awe, watching.

“We’ve been married 53 years,” the husband said, looking lovingly at his wife as he got paper towels and soap and started to clean her up.  As he did, the female employee immediately set to work scrubbing and disinfecting the bathroom and making it sparkling clean. The cleaner the bathroom became, the more relaxed and less embarrassed the woman who had fallen seemed to appear.

The woman’s walker had a seat on it, so her husband helped her sit on it and then, collecting all of her belongings, wheeled her toward the restroom door. Both of them thanked the three of us over and over again before they left.  The woman then turned to me, gave me a big smile and said, “And bless you for your full bladder!”

I laughed and said, “Speaking of which, there may very soon be another accident to clean up if I don’t use the bathroom!”

“Get out of here, Kalan!” the female employee jokingly said to him.

Kalan, chuckling, finished washing up and left the restroom.

While I was shopping afterwards, the female employee came over and thanked me for helping the woman.

“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “You guys did it all…and I’m very impressed.”

I have to admit, the incident really made an impact on me. I learned a lesson in fate, faith and love that day…and it was because, of all things, I finally used a public restroom.

Life certainly is unpredictable.

 

Friday, November 30, 2012

MOURNING THE LOSS OF A DEAR FRIEND


 

My husband has been in mourning for a few days now.  He has lost his best friend, one who has been by his side since childhood and has comforted him during rough times, always managing to bring a smile to his face whenever he was feeling down.

I am talking about the Hostess Twinkie.

It’s difficult to believe that after all these years, Twinkies may cease to exist. Hostess, the company that manufactures (or should I say manufactured?) the cream-filled sponge cake, said people are eating healthier nowadays, which is part of the reason for the company’s untimely demise.

My husband says he doesn’t care if the Twinkie is nothing more than a lard-filled torpedo aimed directly at his heart, it still beats a “healthy” salad any day.

I can remember eating Twinkies as part of my daily food group when I was a kid. They were bigger than the Twinkies of today, and came two in a package for only a dime. I convinced myself that because Twinkies were made of lightweight, airy sponge cake, they probably contained only half the calories of something like a slab of chocolate cake…so I could eat twice as many of them.

On the news the other night, they showed bare shelves in the supermarkets where the Hostess products had been, mainly because people were rushing to stockpile as many as they could find.

It reminded me of 12 years ago when, thanks to a Teamsters’ strike, Twinkies no longer were being delivered to supermarkets, so they suddenly became a hot commodity.  Boxes of them were up for grabs for as much as $100 each on the online auctions, and people suffering from acute Twinkie withdrawal were refinancing their houses to pay for them. 

One guy even sold a single Twinkie for $10.  I can see it all now…there he was, sitting at the dinner table one night, getting ready to eat the last Twinkie in the box, when suddenly he heard a newscast on TV about the strike and how Twinkies were worth their weight in gold. Immediately he stopped trying to tear open the wrapper with his teeth, then turned to his wife and said, “I’m going to put this Twinkie on eBay and make a bundle!”

To which she probably replied, “Yeah, and if you hadn’t been such a glutton and eaten six of them last night, maybe we could have paid our rent this month!  I want a divorce!”

I wonder if the people who bid their life’s savings on Twinkies even considered the fact that by the time the five-day auction ended and their package finally was mailed to them, the dainty little sponge cakes probably were about as moist as wall insulation.

One TV show’s host back then even tried to demonstrate to desperate, Twinkie-deprived people, how to bake their own Twinkies.  His creations ended up looking like large yellow shotgun shells that had been in the direct path of stampeding cattle. Hopefully, they tasted better than they looked.

Twelve years ago, the shortage was only temporary, so the people who stocked their freezers with hundreds of Twinkies probably are still eating them to this day…which, I guess is a good thing because I just checked on eBay and Twinkies currently are selling for about the same price as a compact car.

What kills me is just three weeks ago I bought my husband a box of some limited-edition Twinkies that were filled with chocolate cream. He ate one, didn’t like it and shoved the box way in the back of the cupboard. I found it a few days ago, and seeing that the Twinkies were past their expiration date, fed them to the birds and squirrels.

Those birds and squirrels didn’t know it then, but the Twinkies they gulped down were true gourmet fare, worth even more than filet mignon.

But even though my husband is severely depressed over the impending demise of Hostess and the legendary Twinkie, I can think of someone who probably is dancing a jig over the news…

Little Debbie.

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

TOO NICE TO THE MICE


 
A friend of ours called the other night and said he was watching TV when he suddenly saw four mice scurry across the living-room floor. He said he went right out and bought a bunch of baited traps and put them all over the house, but thus far, the traps have remained untouched.  The food in his pantry, however, hasn’t been quite so lucky.

Hearing about his mouse problem made me think back to when we had one, at our old place. It was about this time of year when I spotted the first sign of them, probably because they were looking for a nice warm place to spend the winter – kind of like people who head to Florida.

There were subtle signs at first. A few mouse droppings here and there – followed by more obvious signs, like piles of dog-biscuit crumbs lying next to piles of shredded paper and cloth. The final straw came when I pulled my velvet bathrobe out of the spare-room closet and noticed that the hem had been chewed off. That’s when I officially declared war.

The guy at the local hardware store showed me a variety of mouse-killing devices, all obviously invented by the Marquis de Sade.  They maimed, flattened, decapitated and crushed. I was surprised the clerk didn’t drag out a hungry cat in a cage and offer that to me, too.

In my opinion, the worst trap of all was the one that stuck the mice to a glue board.

“What do you do with the mouse once it’s stuck to the board?” I asked the clerk.

“Just toss it in the trash,” he said.

“But isn’t the mouse still alive?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, so what? He’ll die eventually.”

I’m no big fan of mice, but the thought some poor little mouse slowly dying while stuck to a board sounded downright barbaric. So I bought some traps that consisted of clear plastic tubes with a little trap door on one end. Put some bait into the trap, the clerk told me, and then the mice will go in and can’t get back out. And best of all, they remain unharmed.

“But there isn’t any air in these traps once they’re inside,” the clerk said, “so you have to let them loose within a couple hours.”

I brought the traps home, shoved a clump of peanut butter into each one and set them under the kitchen sink and in the spare-bedroom closet, where my chewed-up robe had been.

Within two hours, I caught five mice.

“Look how cute they are!” I said, showing one of the tubes to my husband. The mouse inside had huge black eyes and was still nibbling on the peanut butter, oblivious to the fact he was trapped and facing impending doom.

“Yeah, he’s just adorable,” my husband said, rolling his eyes. “Where are you going to let him loose?”

“I’ll drive a few miles from here and let him go in the woods.”

He looked relieved. “I would have bet you were going to let him loose right out back in the yard…or keep him as a pet.”

I must have driven 20 miles that day on the same back road through the woods, to let the mice loose.  I even caught a couple late at night, and because the clerk had said to set them free within two hours, I, in my pajamas, dutifully drove the rodents out to the woods. I could only imagine what a police officer would have thought if he’d have driven by and seen a woman in her pajamas bending over in the bushes in the middle of the night.

One mouse, a really teeny, young-looking one, didn’t want to leave the tube. When I finally managed to get him out, he sat on my foot and refused to budge. I came very close to bringing him back home with me…and naming him Mickey.

The only thing that prevented me from doing so was I figured Mickey probably would end up being Exhibit-A at my divorce trial.

When the traps finally remained empty for few days and no new evidence of mice showed up anywhere, I declared victory.

But a week later, we had a new problem…big black ants. They suddenly were everywhere, crawling all over the house, as if they’d arrived by the busload for a vacation.  When an ant fell off the ceiling one night and landed in my husband’s mashed potatoes while we were eating dinner, I once again declared war.

But this time, I wasn’t about to be Mrs. Nice Guy (not that I’d drive a bunch of ants out to the woods anyway). No, I went back to the hardware store and bought the aforementioned torturous glue boards.

Just call me Sally de Sade.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

SOFT KITTY, WARM KITTY


 
For the past week, I have been enduring the worst torture that any woman can be forced to endure.

My husband has been sick with a cold.

Unlike most colds, this one went directly to his chest. No sniffling, no sneezing, just a hacking cough that sounds as if his head is stuck in an empty oil barrel. This is the kind of cough that seems to come up from the bowels of the earth, enters his feet and then shoots up through his lungs.  Even the dogs have been growling at him whenever he coughs, probably because he sounds like something that has rabies.

Trying to sleep with a man who coughs all night is nearly impossible. But it’s not the sound of it that bothers me…it’s the bouncing. When my husband coughs, his entire body rocks, so it feels as if I am trying to sleep in a hammock on the Titanic. I had to get out of bed three times the other night because I was nauseated from motion sickness.

“I think I’m going to sleep in the guest room,” I said on the third night.

“Noooo!” he protested. “Don’t leave me!  What if I stop breathing or something?”

I popped a Dramamine.

As is always the case when my husband is sick, I have to listen to hours of his whining about how he hasn’t got long for this world and how he should update his will. I also have to sit through his list of specific instructions about sprinkling his ashes over a herd of buffalo in Wyoming.  I have heard this stuff so often, I tend to just tune him out and do a lot of nodding, pretending I’m listening.

The problem with someone who has heart trouble and high blood pressure is that he is not allowed to take 99 percent of the cough and cold medications on the market.  The pharmacist finally did suggest a cough medicine he could take, so I was tempted to buy a case of it and make my husband bathe in it.  Instead, I brought home only one bottle to test it.

Unfortunately, had I given him a glass of water with red food coloring in it, it would have had the same effect.  The coughing continued.

Seeing that my husband pretty much follows the same behavioral pattern whenever he has a cold or the flu, I thought I was well prepared for what this cold was going to bring. But to my surprise, something new came with it – something that caught me completely off guard.

One of my husband’s favorite TV shows is called “The Big Bang Theory.” On this show, there is a character named Sheldon. Whenever Sheldon is ill, he asks Penny, the girl next door, to sing a special song that his mother used to sing to him whenever he was sick as a child.  It’s called “Soft Kitty” and goes like this: “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.”

My husband always gets a big kick out of hearing that song whenever poor Sheldon is sick on the show.

The other night, exhausted from a full day of hacking, my husband went to bed early. I brought him some water, a dose of his cough medicine and a second pillow, thinking he might feel better if he propped himself up instead of lying flat.

“There!” I said. “Anything else you need?”

“Yes,” he said, giving me a pleading look. “Sing ‘Soft Kitty’ to me.”

I laughed, thinking he was kidding.

“No, I’m serious,” he said. “I really think it would help me.”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “A dumb song isn’t going to help your cough!”

“You never know until you try,” he insisted.

I took his temperature, thinking he might be delirious from a fever. It was 98.4.

Still, I wasn’t about to sing “Soft Kitty.”  For one thing, I can’t carry a tune. If I were standing in front of a firing squad and my last wish was to sing a song, they’d shoot me full of holes the minute I opened my mouth, just to shut me up.

Last night, I asked my husband how he was feeling.

“Worse,” he said, groaning. “Are you sure you won’t sing the ‘Soft Kitty’ song to me?”

“Positive,” I said.

“Well, then I guess we’ll just have to sit here and talk some more about my will, where to spread my ashes, and exactly what I want you to write in my eulogy.”

“Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

THE CONSTITUTION WAS SIGNED IN...BOSTON?


 

My friend Colleen from Oregon was here visiting me all last week, and I had a lot of fun playing tour guide, even though it meant getting up at the crack dawn instead of going to bed at that time, as I usually do.

Colleen wanted to see Boston, so I was determined to show it to her. The only problem is, to me, driving in Boston is kind of like being the ball in a giant pinball machine…only worse.

When I happened to mention my fear of driving in Boston to Rob, a friend of ours who lives in the Boston area and has had years of experience driving in the city, he offered to drive Colleen and me around all day…once we arrived in Boston. It was the “arriving” part that bothered me.

“What’s the farthest distance you’ll travel to come pick us up?” I asked him, hoping he would say somewhere in New Hampshire – like Manchester.

“Oh, maybe Watertown or that general area,” he said.

As far as I was concerned, that still was about 40 miles too far.

So I headed to my computer and searched for information about buses to Boston. I was excited to discover that Concord Coach had an express bus leaving every hour for only $28 round-trip.  I immediately bought two tickets.

The last time I’d taken a bus to Boston, I was a senior in high school and my friend Maureen and I wanted to buy some “cool” clothes like the ones sold on Carnaby Street in London.  That, however, was so long ago, the bus we’d taken probably had been pulled by a horse.

But this bus to Boston turned out to be modern and spacious, with comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, and even hook-ups for computers. The only thing it lacked was heat. The temperature that morning was about 35 degrees, and I could swear the bus had its air-conditioning on.

We arrived at South Station in Boston an hour and 20 minutes later.  It was a huge station, with people and buses everywhere. We immediately called Rob, our private chauffeur, and told him we’d arrived.  He said he was on his way.

All I can say is cell phones are a real blessing because a half-hour later, we still were trying to find Rob.

“Are you near McDonald’s?” Rob asked me over the phone. “Can you see any street signs? Go to the food court in the bus station and stay there!”

Finally, we connected, and were off on a whirlwind tour of Boston.  Rob took us to all of the main attractions: Boston Common, Fenway Park, Cheers, the Prudential Building, Faneuil Hall, the theater district and much more.  He also gave us a running history of each site, and when he didn’t know the exact details, he’d make them up.

“There’s Faneuil Hall, where…Samuel somebody signed the Constitution…or something…back in the old days.”

“Wasn’t that in Philadelphia?” Colleen asked.

“Let me show you where the ships dock,” he answered, changing the subject.

Colleen and I went to the top of the Prudential Building and “oohed” over the breathtaking views of Boston from up there – although the glass, with all of its fingerprints, nose prints and heaven only knows what other kind of prints, could have used a good cleaning.

Then, we headed over to Quincy Market to grab something to eat. Never have I seen so much food in one place.  It was like a mile-long buffet, all under one roof.  I think just about every nationality was represented – and I drooled my way through every country. 

As Colleen and I were trying to decide which of the 100,000 food items we wanted to try, a guy came up to us and said, “We’re filming a show called TV Diner with Billy Costa, and we need some ‘bodies’ to stand behind him and applaud. Want to join us?”

It had been a long time since anyone had wanted my body for anything, so Colleen and I said, “Sure!” and were led over to Billy and his co-host, who were surrounded by cameras and lights. We stood behind them and were instructed to applaud and cheer when Billy mentioned some restaurant, the name of which escapes me now. Anyway, we cheered enthusiastically for a restaurant we’d never even heard of.

The worst part is I probably never will see our 15 minutes of fame because Direct TV, which is what we have, doesn’t carry the station on which the show, TV Diner, appears.

Still, considering the fact that it was one of the windiest days of the year in Boston that day, and my hair was standing straight up on my head by the time we hit Quincy Market, it’s probably a good thing I’ll never see myself on TV.

The bus back home was neither as modern nor as spacious as the bus we’d taken on the way down.  But at least it was heated.  Unfortunately, and there usually is one in every crowd, Typhoid Mary sat on the other side of Colleen.

Throughout the ride back to Concord, the woman coughed, sneezed, blew her nose and nearly hacked up a lung.  I could just envision millions of cold germs swarming around us and cackling maniacally, “There’s no way out!  You are trapped on this bus with us for the next hour and 20 minutes!”

Sure enough, two days later, poor Colleen was coughing, sniffling, sneezing and practically buying stock in the Kleenex Company.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what she’d meant she said she wanted a souvenir of New Hampshire to take home with her.

 

 

 

Monday, October 15, 2012

BLAME IT ON THE BUNGEE CORD


It was bad enough when my husband’s van wouldn’t start a couple weeks ago when he had a doctor’s appointment, but this past weekend, the darned van’s timing was even worse.

First, let me backtrack a bit.  Thanks to my uncle, the van finally was jump-started on the Monday after the doctor’s visit. My husband drove it around the block a couple times, parked it back in the garage, and didn’t bother with it again until the following weekend. I probably also should mention that when the hood was first opened so my uncle could charge the battery, he found a mouse’s nest under there. That tells you how often my husband drives his van.

Last weekend, while I was still lying in bed, my husband announced at 9 a.m. that he was going to go get gas. “Then we’ll be all set to go pick up Colleen at the airport,” he said.

Colleen, my friend from Oregon, was arriving at 10 p.m. to spend the week with us. 

I fell back to sleep and was awakened by my husband about a half-hour later. Before I even was able to open my eyes, he said, “We’ve got trouble.”

“Define ‘trouble’,” I said.

“My van won’t start.  I tried jump-starting it again, but nothing happened. You think maybe the mice chewed the wires?”

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head.  “It’s a holiday weekend,” I said, my voice muffled underneath the blanket. “There’s not even anyone around to fix the van.”

“Well, then,” he said, “As much as I hate driving your car, I guess we’ll have to use it to go pick up Colleen. But there’s a problem with your car, too.”

I sat up and stared at him.

“You don’t have any seats in the back,” he said.

He was right. I had completely forgotten that I’d removed the seats and put them out in the garage, so my dogs would have a nice big, flat area on which to stretch out whenever they rode in my car.  So now, if I didn’t put the seats back in, poor Colleen would end up having to sit on the floor.

I went out to the garage and tried to lift one of the seats, which was covered with dust and cobwebs.  I couldn’t even budge it, it was so heavy. And even if I had been able to lift it, I had no clue how to reinstall it. I had visions of my husband stepping on the gas on the way home from the airport, and Colleen falling backwards with her feet up in the air in the back seat, when the seat came loose.

I rushed back into the house and asked my husband for help.

“You know I can’t lift anything,” he said. “I’ll end up in the emergency room.”

He finally suggested that I call AAA and have someone come check out his van’s battery.

“And what if it’s something other than the battery?” I asked him. “Something much worse?”

“Then get the guy to help you put the seats back into your car. You’re a woman, you can charm him into it!”

I rolled my eyes. At my age, I figured the only guy who’d give me a second look would be a cosmetic surgeon scouting for business.

I called AAA and they said they would send over their special battery-service truck right away. I was still in my pajamas at the time, so I rushed to get dressed.

“Put on something low-cut,” my husband said, teasing me. “We want the AAA guy to be putty in your hands!”

I glared at the back of his head.

The AAA truck arrived within an hour.  When I first set eyes on the driver, I nearly started laughing. The “guy” I was supposed to charm turned out to be a woman. 

She jump-started the battery, then tested it. It wouldn’t hold the charge. That’s when she told me it probably would be a good idea to invest in a new one. At that point, I was willing to buy a whole new car if it meant getting to the airport in time to pick up Colleen. I bought the battery and the technician installed it.

“You know,” she said, “it’s a good idea to drive the van at least a couple times a week, otherwise this battery will die, too, and it will void your warranty.”

When I told my husband the news, he was both pleased and upset. He was pleased that the mice hadn’t destroyed anything under the hood and that his van was running again, but he was upset he’d actually have to drive the vehicle twice a week.

“You know how much I hate to leave the house now that I’m retired,” he complained.

“Yes, I know.  I practically have to put dynamite under your recliner just to get you out of it.”

“And I always hibernate all winter,” he added.

“Don’t worry, then,” I said. “I’ll take your van for a spin a couple times a week. But you know how bad I am at backing it out of the garage. I use the ‘step on the gas, aim for the doorway and pray’ method.”
 
Well, that was one way, I discovered, to get him out of the house.

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DO I KNOW YOU?


 

One of the things that really drives me crazy is when someone says hi to me and starts talking as if we’re long-lost pals, and throughout the entire conversation I’m thinking to myself…“Who the heck are you?”

Two such incidents happened last week. The first one, I was shopping in a discount store when an attractive, well-dressed woman came up to me, smiled from ear to ear and said, “Helloooo!  How are you?”

I stared at her for a moment, having no clue whatsoever who she was, and said, “I’m fine! And you?”

I don’t know whether it was my voice or my lack of instant recognition, but the woman’s smile faded. “I DO know you, don’t I?” she asked.

I wasn’t certain how to answer that question. She may have known me, but I was pretty positive I didn’t know her. “Um…you look familiar,” I lied.

“You do, too,” she said. “But I don’t know from where.”

I made a mental list of everywhere I’d been in the past few months where I might have run into an attractive, blond, businesswoman type.  Everything from my accountant to my gynecologist’s office came to mind.  I drew a blank.

“Well, my photo is in the paper every week with my column,” I said. “Maybe that’s why I look familiar.”

She eyed me thoughtfully. “No…that’s not it.”

“What’s your name?” I asked her.  She said it was Lorrie.  It didn’t ring a bell. “I’m Sally,” I said.

I could tell by her expression that “Sally” rang no bells for her, either.

“Well, Sally, she finally said. “It’s been nice talking to you.”

“Nice talking to you, too, Lorrie,” I said.

And that ended that.

A few days later, I was in another store, when I had the opposite problem.  I was the one who thought someone looked familiar.

As the cashier rang up my purchases, I kept staring at him. He looked like someone I knew, yet I couldn’t place him. For one thing, he had a beard and was wearing glasses. I had the feeling that the last time I’d seen him, wherever that might have been, he was clean-shaven and bare-eyed.

I discreetly glanced at his nametag, hoping to find some clue. The tag was flipped over, so only the back of it was visible, which was no help…unless I wanted to know the name of the company that had printed the tag. So I struck up a conversation with him, thinking maybe his voice would jar my memory.

“I’m buying dog treats for my two rottweilers!” I said.

He smiled.

“And the sunflower seeds are for my bird feeder,” I added.

Again, he smiled.

I was beginning to think the guy had laryngitis.

Finally, as I was leaving the store, another employee called out to him, “Brian! When are you taking your break?”

When I got home, I said to my husband, “I think I saw Brian today – you know, the guy who used to live across the street from us before we moved. But I’m not sure.”

He frowned at me. “We lived across the street from him for years, and we moved away only three years ago – and you’re not sure? Why? Did he gain 100 pounds?”

I shook my head. “He has a beard…and glasses. And he didn’t say hi to me or show any signs of recognizing me…and I know for a fact that I haven’t changed at all.”

My husband looked as if he wanted to laugh, but wisely didn’t. “Well, maybe it was just some bearded guy who looks like Brian,” he said. “And his name also just happens to be Brian.”

I rolled my eyes. “What are the odds of that happening? I don’t know, it seem as if the older I get, the more people’s names and faces I forget.  It’s frustrating…and embarrassing.”

“Well, you can always use my surefire method for avoiding situations like that,” he said. “It works great for me.”

“And what’s that?” I asked, hoping for some useful information.

He smiled smugly. “Just stay home and don’t go anywhere.”

I’m not sure why, but I had the sudden urge to forget where I knew him from, too.

 

 

 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT THE HAT


My uncle has been doing some cleaning lately and has been giving me boxes of stuff he doesn’t want, telling me to sell it on eBay and get whatever I can for it. I never know what kind of treasures will be in the boxes, so I look forward to digging into them.

The last box he brought over contained everything from an old Civil Defense helmet to a clamping device that holds ice-skate blades solidly in place for sharpening. It must weigh close to 20 pounds.

And then there was the ladies’ hat from the 1920s.  It was made of straw and had satin flowers and silk leaves in clumps on it. It was shaped like an upside-down bowl and looked as if someone had sat on it. The leaves were riddled with tiny holes, and the brim, which had been sewn to flip up around the entire edge, had come unstitched, so it was up on one side and hanging down on the other.

“I think this should be tossed out,” I said to my husband. “The only person who would wear it would be someone in one of those zombie videos, where they wear these old flowered hats and dresses covered with dirt when they rise up out of the ground.”

“I think I’ve seen a hat something like it before…on a horse,” my husband said.

I don’t know why, but I decided to put the hat on eBay. I figured even if I got a dollar for it, it would be a dollar more than I previously had. I shoved the hat on a Styrofoam head and took some photos of it. It came out looking great in the photos…almost like brand new.

“Look at these pictures of the hat,” I said to my husband. “They look ten times better than the actual thing, for some reason.”

“Then you’d better be really honest when you write the description,” he said. “Be sure to mention the hat is so full of holes, it looks like someone used it for target practice.”

I wasn’t quite that blunt when I wrote the description for eBay. I said the hat was old and not in very good condition, and it might make a good hat for trick-or-treat. Throwing caution to the wind, I listed the opening bid at $2.

Two days later, the hat had been bid up to $21.

“Check for a label in it,” my husband said when I told him. “Maybe it’s by some famous Paris designer and we don’t know it!”I checked every inch of the hat and didn’t see any labels or markings on it at all….except for a couple mildew spots on the lining.

One potential bidder e-mailed me to ask, “ What size head will this beautiful hat fit?”

Beautiful hat?  Was she, I wondered, looking at the right auction?

It was impossible to get an accurate measurement because the hat was so lopsided, and the straw had become so stiff, it sounded as if would crack into pieces if I tried to manipulate it too much. So I measured my own head, then plunked the hat on top of it. It came down only as far as my hairline.

I wrote back and told the woman my head measured 23 inches and the hat came to only my hairline. She answered with, “Oh, that’s a shame. I also have a big head, so I guess the hat won’t fit me.”

“Some woman on eBay just told me I have a fat head” I huffed at my husband.

I received no sympathy whatsoever.

The hat finally sold for $76 to a man named Christofe in Paris, France.  I was pretty sure the guy hadn’t had an eye exam in a long, long time.

“I can’t do it,” I said to my husband. “I can’t take the man’s money. Maybe my description of the hat gained something in the translation from English to French, and he mistakenly thinks it’s wonderful.  Or maybe he didn’t even read the description because he can’t read English, and just looked at the photo, which makes the hat look a lot better than it really is!”

My husband shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. After all, when it comes to auctions, it’s ‘buyer beware.’ It’s not your fault if he can’t read English.”

“But remember the last time I sold something to a guy in France? He ended up giving me bad feedback on eBay.”

I finally decided to stop worrying and just wrap the hat and mail it.  I crumpled some tissue paper and shoved it inside the hat so it would keep its shape in the shipping box. Then I picked up the hat so I could wrap the outside of it with tissue paper. When I did, half of the flowers fell off. 

That did it.  The only thing I could do at that point, I concluded, was to write to the Frenchman, confess what had happened to the hat and offer him a refund.

“No, no!  I want!  I want!” he wrote back.

So the hat currently is on its way to France. By the time it arrives, I imagine it will have disintegrated into nothing but a pile of straw with some moth-eaten leaves sticking out of it.

If I’m smart, I’ll change my e-mail address before then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'M TRYING TO REMEMBER "STEAMY"


 

A few weeks ago, I was looking through a box of paperwork in the basement and came across a romance novel I’d written over 20 years ago.  Back then, I didn’t have a computer or even a word processor, so it had been typed on a regular typewriter…all 500 pages of it.

I lugged the manuscript upstairs and started to read it. Some of it was good. Some of it was hysterically funny…but not intentionally.

“I’m going to type this into my computer and then edit it,” I told my husband. “I’ve heard that steamy romances are selling like hotcakes right now, so I’m going to heat up this one.”

He rolled his eyes. “Maybe you should hire a ghostwriter…one who’s about 30.”

I glared at him. “I can handle it – I’m not so old I can’t remember what ‘steamy’ is…at least I don’t think I am.”

My high-school English teacher used to tell me that whenever I wrote fiction, to write it as if I were describing everything to a blind person. “Paint a picture with words!” he’d say.

Easier said than done, I soon discovered. When I’m writing something, I can see it clearly in my own mind, but the only way I can tell if the reader will be able to see it just as clearly is to actually test it on someone.   So I have been using my husband as my guinea pig.

For example, the other night, when I was working on the book, I said to him, “If I write, ‘He assumed an authoritative stance, his arms folded across his chest, his feet braced apart,’ what do you picture?”

My husband stood and assumed the exact position I had envisioned when I wrote it.

“How about, ‘His hand cupped the side of her face’?” I continued.

My husband put his hand against the side of his face…and then fluttered his eyelashes.  I really didn’t need the added effects.

“Great!” I said. “So far, so good.”

“You’re not going to write anything about doing cartwheels in the nude or anything like that, are you?” my husband asked. “That’s where I draw the line!”

The main character in my book is a handsome Native-American warrior, so I started to think about how eye-catching the cover would be with him pictured on it.

When Rosalind, the heroine in my book, which is set back in the 1600s, first sets eyes on the warrior, he is described as follows: “Rosalind’s gaze instantly was drawn to the younger of the two.  He wore snug leather breeches, nothing more. His muscular chest and taut, flat stomach glistened with a light film of perspiration. His chest was hairless and smooth, something she was not accustomed to seeing.  Her eyes rose.  His hair, well past his shoulders in length, was glossy and so black, it shone blue in the sunlight, and was held back with a strip of leather. Rosalind decided that his face, with its high cheekbones, strong chin and jaw, and large, dark eyes with their thick fringe of lashes, was one of the most handsome she had ever seen.”

Where, I wondered, would I ever find someone to match that description for my cover?  I mentioned it to one of my friends, a fellow writer, and he told me about a website that sells royalty-free stock photos on any subject imaginable.  He said they had thousands of photos on the site, so there was bound to be something I could use.  I looked up the website and under “search” entered: “Handsome, young Native-American males.”

The sample photos I received bore no resemblance whatsoever to the warrior in my book.  Most of the men had pot bellies, double chins, dozens of tattoos and looked as if they were at least in their mid-40s.

“Heck,” my husband said when I showed him the photos, “Even I look more like the guy in your book than these guys do!  Maybe you should just buy me a loincloth and have me pose for the cover!”

I frowned at him. “You’re Irish!  Our dog is more Native-American than you are!”

That same weekend, there just so happened to be a Native-American inter-tribal pow-wow being held right in my town. So I grabbed my camera and decided to go check it out.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to try to find some hunk over there and have him pose for your book!” my husband said. “The poor guy will think you’re one of those old ladies who chases young guys – what do they call them?  Bobcats?”

“You mean cougars?” I shook my head and sighed. “I don’t care what the guy thinks I am. If he looks like the Native-American in my book, I’m not going to leave until I get a photo of him!”

As it turned out, when I arrived at the pow-wow, hardly anyone was there.  There were two older men, who were dressed in Native-American garb and dancing, but that was about all.

So I’m beginning to think that by the time I figure out how to write this book, using my former English teacher’s rules, and then find a hunk who’s perfect for my cover, I will be too old to remember how to write a steamy love scene.

But that’s OK.  I still will have plenty of fun making my husband act out more of my descriptions. In fact, I already have some real doozies planned for him.