Thursday, March 29, 2012

I AGED 15 YEARS OVERNIGHT

As much as it pained me, last night I finally posed for a new photo for my column. Not that I thought I should get rid of the old one – after all, it was only 15 years old and still had a lot of life left in it, in my opinion – but for some reason, I’ve been hearing too many comments lately about my photo needing to be updated.

“You’re the one who writes the column in the newspaper?” more than one person has asked me, not even trying to conceal his or her obvious look of surprise.

The comments have ranged from, “What photo is that in your column now – your high-school graduation?” to, “Are you trying to be like Dear Abby? She had the same photo in her column for about a hundred years!”

The photo I’ve been using with my column actually was taken by a member of the Villemure family, some very nice people who wanted to meet me after reading my column. I probably should have hired them years ago to come back and take another shot of me.

The problem is, it’s not easy for me to get a decent photo of myself. In every group shot, I’m always the one with her eyes closed, mouth hanging open, nose crinkled as if smelling something that died, or head turned, looking at something other than the camera. If the shot is a close-up, there’s usually a zit on my face the size of the planet Jupiter, or my hair looks as if it’s just been struck by lightning.

Another problem with getting a good photo of myself is I usually have to ask my husband to take it. And believe me, a photo session with him is a true test of patience...something I greatly lack.

For one thing, most people hold the camera up to their right eye when they snap a photo. My husband uses his left. The end result is a stack of off-center photos with people looking as if they’ve had body parts amputated on one entire side.

But now that I have a digital camera with a view screen on it, I thought it would be much easier for him to take photos. I mean, whatever is showing on the screen is what’s going to be in the photo. Simple.

So last night before dinner, when I asked my husband to snap a new photo of me for my column, I figured it would take only a few minutes. Once again, I figured wrong. By the time the photo session was over, our dinner looked as if it had been cremated.

Normally, when someone is holding a camera, his finger poised on the button, and he asks, “Ready?” it means he’s going to snap the shot.

Not my husband. To him, “Ready?” means at least another 30 seconds of trying to aim the camera and in the process, moving his hand and being unable to find the button again. This usually results in my getting frustrated and shouting, “Well, what the heck is taking you so long?” just as he finally snaps the photo – which explains why I’ve amassed a collection of photos with my mouth wide open and my expression looking as if I’m preparing to go wrestle a grizzly bear.

Last night, I specifically told my husband I needed a close-up head shot for my column. The first photo he snapped, which he deemed as “perfect,” had my entire body in it, along with the chair I was sitting on.

“You call that a head shot?” I asked him. “You can even see what color my shoes are!”

“Well, your head’s in it, isn’t it?” he answered. “Just cut out the rest!”

He also had a problem seeing the camera’s view screen.

“ I can’t see anything on it!” he complained. “Why can’t I see you?”

“Because you’re aiming the camera at the blank wall over my head,” I said, rolling my eyes...just as he lowered the camera and accidentally snapped the photo.

The shot made me look as if I had white eyeballs and was on the verge of having a seizure.

When I complained, he said, “Well, you write a humor column, don’t you? Maybe you should try for a funny photo – like making a face, or wearing a clown nose or something! Then people would know right away that the column is supposed to be humorous.”

The thought of being immortalized while sticking out my tongue or wearing a clown nose didn’t really didn’t appeal to me, even though by then, I was getting desperate enough to consider it.

“Just take a photo, will you?” I practically growled. “At this point, I don’t care if I look like a 100-year-old hag in it! I’m going to use it!”

Twenty photos later, I finally surrendered. There was no way, I concluded, I was going to get a shot that didn’t show my chipmunk cheeks, crooked bangs, double chin or crow’s feet...not unless I put a paper bag over my head.

So I finally picked the photo you now see in this column.

And mark my words, it’s going to stay here for at least another 15 years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MY CAR'S SCENT IS "ESSENCE OF DOG"

I dropped my lipstick while in my husband’s van the other day and when I searched for it underneath the seat, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were enough empty fast-food bags under there to wallpaper an airline hangar.

“Don’t you ever throw out any of your bags?” I asked him. “What are you saving them for – a paper shortage?”

“Oh, I’ll toss them when I get around to it,” he said. “They’re not hurting anything.”

“You could attract mice...or roaches!” I said.

“There’s no food in them. I never leave any scraps. It’s just paper.”

“Paper that smells like burgers and fries,” I pointed out. “Your van smells like a lunch wagon!”

“At least it smells like something good,” he said. “Your car smells like a dog!”

His words took the wind right out of my sails. He was fully aware of how sensitive I am about the doggy odor in my car, yet he mercilessly used that fact against me.

In my defense, my dogs love to go for rides, so I often take them with me on errands. The end result is happy dogs...and a car that smells like a kennel.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to get rid of the odor. I’ve purchased enough air fresheners to deodorize a locker room. There are pine-tree fresheners hanging on the radio knobs, solid fresheners under the seats, and even some fresheners that clip onto the vents so when the heat or air-conditioning is on, the scent gets blown throughout the car.

Still, the car smells like a combination of pine, cinnamon, Hawaiian flowers...and dog.

One day I got fed up and scrubbed every inch of the car, vacuumed it and sprayed it with half a can of Febreze. I thought it smelled wonderful afterwards, fresh and clean. I vowed to keep it that way for at least at week, so I declared the car off limits to the dogs.

Immediately afterwards, I went grocery shopping at Bi-Wise market, where the baggers still carry your bags out to the car for you. After I finished shopping, the bagger followed me out to my car. I opened the door and he shoved my bags into the back seat. “You must have dogs,” he said, wrinkling his nose.

Had he told me my car was on fire, I couldn’t have been more devastated.

Even more embarrassing is when I have to leave my car with my mechanic. He always rolls down all of the windows in it, even in the middle of winter. I have the sneaking suspicion he also keeps a face mask handy, solely for the purpose of working on my car.

One time, just before I took my car to the garage, I sprayed the interior with Lysol and hung up two brand new air fresheners.

My mechanic thanked me.

I can’t figure out how two dogs that smell just fine in person, can make my car smell so terrible. I suspect that something in my car causes dog odors to breed and multiply. All it takes is one small odor and by the time it’s through reproducing, it turns into a giant, nose-torturing stench.

The thought has crossed my mind that if I spend enough time in my car, especially during hot weather, I might smell like a dog, too.

With my luck, I’ll end up attracting fleas.

At least the roaches my husband’s fast-food bags attract will have company.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'M FINALLY JOINING THE MODERN AGE

I’ve been married for over 40 years now and I finally have two modern conveniences I’ve always wanted – a clothes dryer and an automatic dishwasher.

It’s funny how I never missed what I never had. But now that I have them, I can’t imagine how I ever lived without them. Still, I think I have a lot to learn about using both.

For years, my only clothes dryer was a “solar” one, which consisted of a line strung between two trees. The problem with hanging clothes near trees, however, was we usually ended up with pine pitch, bird droppings or assorted crawly things in our clothes. And in the winter, the laundry turned into clothes-sicles. I can remember, on more than one occasion, bringing my husband’s frozen jeans in from the clothesline and standing them in the corner.

Later, I graduated to one of those aluminum umbrella-style clotheslines. For some reason, every time a large branch or dead tree wanted to commit suicide, it hurled itself at the clothesline and flattened it. The third time it happened, I didn’t even bother to buy a new one. I just left the old one lying in a heap in the yard.

That’s when my husband installed a retractable clothesline in our shower stall. I’d hang stuff on that, and also fling underwear over the shower rod. The system worked pretty well until guests popped in unexpectedly and one of them inevitably would ask to use the bathroom. I had to sprint down the hall, yank all of my underwear off the shower rod and hide it.

One time, I forgot all about the still-damp underwear I’d hidden. When I found it over a week later, it was so green with mold, it looked as if someone had tie-dyed it.

So now I have a clothes dryer, and I must admit I’m a little intimidated by it. The more I use it, the more I learn about it...and the more confused I get.

For example, there is the lint trap. Never in my life have I seen anything collect so much lint. I can put only a few pairs of nylon panties in there with nothing else, and the lint trap will gather so much lint, you’d think I’d been drying an alpaca.

And then there is the static. The first time I yanked a pile of laundry out of the dryer, my hair stood up straight on end. And two weeks later I still was finding socks stuck to the backs of towels or inside pajama legs.

But the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn involves shrinkage. Tossing something that’s 100-percent cotton into the dryer and setting it on “hot” isn’t, I discovered, such a good idea – not unless you’re trying to create a wardrobe for Barbie.

Polyester fleece blankets don’t do well in hot dryers, either. One of mine melted into something that ended up looking as if it had plastic spikes sticking out of it.

Still, I love my dryer...and the peace of knowing I’ll never have to worry about finding wasps in my bras again.

The dishwasher also is taking a bit of getting used to. For one thing, I’m still not certain exactly where to put which dishes. I mean, I’ve been putting the cups on the top shelf and the pots and pans on the bottom, but with everything else, I just stuff it wherever it will fit.

My husband still can’t understand why I rinse off the dishes before I put them into the dishwasher. He thinks it’s counterproductive.

“Just stick them in there the way they are,” he always says. “The reason for a dishwasher is to keep you from getting dishpan hands. Haven’t you ever seen that commercial where the woman shoves a plate with an entire cake on it into her dishwasher and everything comes out spotless?”

“Yeah, but her dishwasher probably didn’t cost only $299 at a discount store,” I have to remind him.

One night, however, I was in a rush, so I shoved the dishes into the dishwasher without scraping or rinsing them. When I checked the dishes later, I was pleased to see that they were sparkling clean. But I wasn’t pleased to see a pile of food scraps lying on the bottom of the machine. I half expected to find a family of mice in there, enjoying the buffet.

I also never realized just how long a dishwashing cycle is. I don’t know if all dishwashers are like mine, but the cycle seems to go on forever. By the time it runs through all of its stages – heat, pre-soak, soak, wash, turbo-wash, rinse, re-rinse, dry, etc. – if I put the dishes in there right after dinner, I’m lucky if they’re done in time for breakfast. Even the “light wash” setting takes over two hours. I’m surprised the patterns on my dishes haven’t worn off.

But I wouldn’t give up my new, modern conveniences for anything.

In fact, I might even splurge and buy an electric mixer next.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY - PART TWO

Last week I started to tell you about my prolonged case of dizziness and my concerns that our house might have a build-up of carbon monoxide in it. So while my husband was taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon, I called the Allenstown fire station to discuss my concerns. The person who answered said someone would be right over.

In retrospect, I guess I probably should have awakened my sleeping husband and told him I’d phoned the fire department and they were on their way over. Instead, I took one look at the living room and its state of messiness, considering I’d done nothing but lie in bed for over a week, and decided to try to tidy it up before anyone arrived. I got distracted and completely forgot about my husband.

Trying to do housework while dizzy, I soon learned, was a nearly impossible task, especially since I had to rush. I held a broom in one hand while hanging onto the wall with the other. Whenever I bent over to pick up something, like a dog toy, I nearly landed face-first on the floor. And twice, I tried to hide stuff in my office but ended up walking right past the doorway because my feet refused to go where I aimed them.

I managed to get the living room looking presentable, but in the process, made myself so dizzy and queasy, I had to lie down on the sofa and put my arm across my forehead in an attempt to stop the room from spinning.

That’s when the fire department arrived and rang the doorbell. I tried to get up to answer the door, but when I sat up, I quickly changed my mind and flopped back down. They pounded on the door. I called out to them to come in, but not nearly loud enough, I soon realized.

The next thing I knew, the front door flew open and a firefighter was shouting, “Semi-conscious female on the sofa!”

I knew I looked and felt pretty bad, but I had hoped to at least look conscious when they arrived. Within seconds, I was surrounded by medical-rescue people, both from the fire department and Tri-Town Ambulance. In the background, I could hear one of the firefighters saying they should check the bedroom for my husband.

I cringed, thinking that my poor, unsuspecting, sleeping husband probably would divorce me after being awakened by firefighters bursting into the bedroom...if he didn’t die of shock first.

A few seconds later, he came walking out to the living room, his eyes squinting against the light, and asked me, “What’s going on?”

At the time, I was having my blood pressure taken and my finger pricked for a glucose test.

“Just checking for carbon monoxide leaks,” I said.

His puzzled expression told me he probably thought they were checking me for the leaks, not the house. But actually, at that very moment, the firefighters were making a thorough sweep of the place, including the basement and garage, testing everything. I felt safe for the first time in days.

“We didn’t find any problems with carbon monoxide,” one of the firefighters finally informed me, showing me the “zero” reading on his meter. He suggested we also get a carbon-monoxide detector for the upstairs, rather than have just the one in the basement.

“So, am I going to live?” I asked the guy who’d been checking my vital signs.

“You seem fine,” he said.

“I think you have a bad case of vertigo,” another said.

They also discussed some nasty stomach bug that was going around. “You have any stomach pains or cramps?” they asked me more than once. “Vomiting? Diarrhea?”

I shook my head. “No, thank goodness.”

I imagined myself trying to run to the bathroom while dizzy. I’d probably end up drowning in the toilet.

They then asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital, adding that they would be more than happy to take me if I felt the need. I considered it for a moment, then said I guessed I’d be all right. So they had me sign a statement saying I’d refused to be transported, and told me if I needed anything at all, not to hesitate to call them.

After they left, my husband said, “What a nice bunch of people – all of them...even though they nearly scared me to death!”

“That was all my fault,” I said. “I probably should have told you they were on their way over.”

“Ya think so?” he said, rolling his eyes.

A few days later, I finally was able to make it to the doctor’s and was surprised to learn I have a ruptured eardrum. Thinking back, I guess that might explain why I could hear air gushing out of my left ear every time I blew my nose. It also explains why my balance has been so bad. After all, the epicenter of balance is in the ears, so having an extra hole in one probably isn’t such a good thing.

The doctor said my eardrum might take a month or two to heal. During that time, I’m supposed to take anti-vertigo medication (which makes me sleep like a hibernating bear) as needed, not get any water in the ear and definitely not blow my nose.

“Does that mean if I catch a cold, I’ll have to hang a bucket under my nose?” I joked with the doctor, who just stared blankly at me.

The man has no sense of humor.

So if you happen to drive by a house in Allenstown and see a woman out front who has a really runny nose and is walking as if she just returned from happy hour at the local bar...it’s probably me.