Friday, December 25, 2015

I'VE BEEN A STAR WARS FANATIC FOR NEARLY 40 YEARS


With all of the hoopla lately about the new Star Wars movie, the seventh in the series, I can’t help but think back to when the first movie came out, way back in 1977.

My husband and I really had been looking forward to seeing it, mainly because of its enticing description: “A technologically advanced science-fiction movie with never-before-seen special effects!”  So on a Tuesday night during the first week it was playing in Concord, we headed to the theater…and found a line of people stretched all the way across the parking lot.

“I hate waiting in lines,” my husband groaned, ready to turn the car around and head back home. “I had enough of it when I was in the military.”

“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We might as well go see the movie.”

So we joined the line. When we finally got to the point where only five people were ahead of us, an employee informed us that all of the tickets had been sold out and the next showing would be in three hours. 

The look on my husband’s face told me the only movie we’d be seeing in three hours would be at home and on TV.

Unfortunately, back then, no one had home computers or fancy phones, so tickets couldn’t be purchased in advance. We had to keep returning to the theater and waiting in line. And every time we did, we failed to get a ticket. My husband became less and less enthusiastic about seeing the movie.

“Want to go see Star Wars tonight?” I asked him one Thursday night, a few days after attempt number three had been yet another dismal failure.

His expression told me he’d probably prefer to have an appendectomy… performed with a potato peeler.

“I promise this will be the last time,” I said. “If we don’t get in tonight, we won’t try again until at least a month from now, when we’ll be sure to get a seat.”

He rolled his eyes. Finally, he said, “OK, but this is it. I’m not standing in any more lines. I don’t care if the cast promises to show up in person and reenact the entire movie live, onstage. This is the last time I’m going to waste a night standing in the movie theater’s parking lot. I think I’ve memorized every bump, crack and pot hole in it.”

So back to the theater we went, and took our places at the end of yet another very long line.

“Time to spend another hour looking at the backs of people’s heads,” my husband muttered.

When the line dwindled until there was only one person left in front of us, we started to get nervous.

“Do you think we’ll actually make it this time?”  I whispered to my husband, reaching for his hand and clasping it in a death grip.

“Don’t be silly,” he answered. “You know what kind of luck we have. Prepare to have the ticket window slammed shut in our faces.”

But to our shock, we finally got our tickets. I didn’t know whether to use them to get into the theater…or have them bronzed.

After the movie, my husband and I, wide-eyed with awe, both agreed it had been worth all of the time and trouble we’d gone through to see it.

And on that night, two Star Wars fanatics were born.

The next day, we went shopping for Star Wars toys and collectibles. We bought small action figures and large ones. We bought plastic lightsabers and a huge model of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship. We even bought Star Wars sheets for the bed.

And over the next few years, our Star Wars buying frenzy continued.  We accumulated so much stuff, we had to rent a storage unit to keep it in. And much too often, we’d spend so much money shopping for additions to our Star Wars collection, we’d end up having to eat peanut-butter sandwiches for a week.

Finally, my mother sat me down one day and said, “Look, this Star Wars habit of yours has got to stop. You’re throwing your money away on this junk!  Be smart and put it into a CD or a money-market account instead of wasting it on dumb toys.”

But my husband and I were too hooked on collecting to stop. Our Saturday nights no longer were spent going to dinner and a movie. Instead they were spent roaming through the aisles in Toys R Us and tossing Star Wars items into our cart, and then heading over to Bradlees or K-Mart to do the same thing.

By the time we finally decided to take a breather from our collecting addiction, we’d spent over $2,000. Considering the fact that the average price of a new car back then was about $4,000, our Star Wars spending spree was no small matter.

And once again, my mother was more than eager to remind us of that.

“You’re both supposed to be adults!” she said when she came to visit and noticed bags of Star Wars toys on the kitchen table, before we’d had the chance to take them to the storage unit and hide them. “Mark my words, the day will come when you’ll regret not depositing your money in the bank and having a nice nest egg instead of just a bunch of worthless Dark Vader dolls!”

“It’s Darth Vader, not Dark Vader, Mom” I said, impressed she even knew that much about the movie.

“I don’t care what his name is!” she said. “I just hope he’ll pay for your rent when you end up broke and homeless!”

Years later, in 1998, I bought a collectors’ price guide to Star Wars toys and painstakingly looked up the value of each item in our collection. Many of the little 3.5-inch action figures, which we’d paid $1.99 each for, were listed as worth between $100 and $300 each. The 12-inch action figures, which we’d paid  $11.95 each for at K-Mart, were worth up to $500 each, depending on the character.  The grand total for our original $2,000 collection, according the guide, was about $70,000.

With a smug sense of victory, I couldn’t wait to show the guide and my calculations to my mother. Her expression couldn’t have looked more shocked if I had shown her a photo of a naked man.

“Are you serious?” she asked. “All of that junk you bought is actually worth good money?”

I nodded. “Much more than any money-market account would have been.”

So after that, whenever our birthdays or Christmas rolled around, my mom would gift us with Star War toys. We were happy we finally had won her over from the Dark Side.

When I was wandering through Wal-Mart the other day, I happened to see an entire aisle of new Star Wars toys.  I felt myself being drawn to it, just like back in 1977, and I had to resist the sudden urge to run down the aisle and wildly fling action figures into my cart.

But what stopped me was the realization that for $2,000 nowadays, I’d probably be able to buy only about 20 toys.

OK, so maybe I did give in and buy just a couple action figures – Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren – even though I have no clue yet who they are.


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Friday, December 18, 2015

I WAS THE ONE WHO NEEDED TRAINING, NOT MY DOG

  

I think it’s finally safe to say my newest addition to the family, Eden, a two-year-old boxer and Rhodesian ridgeback mix, just might work out after all.

Her antics after I adopted her forced me to put her on probation for a while. But as it turned out, I discovered she wasn’t the one who needed training…I was. I had to learn to think like a dog. And believe me, it wasn’t easy.  I have enough trouble trying to think like a human.

I adopted Eden from a shelter after I fell in love with her photo online. Her history in the description also drew me to her. It said that in the course of only a few weeks, she had been taken from her previous home to a high-kill shelter in Tennessee, was rescued and brought to a shelter up here in New Hampshire, and then was placed in a foster home.

During my first meeting with Eden, her foster mother told me Eden wasn’t housebroken, was shy and was just learning to walk on a leash. Still, I decided I wanted her.  The first thing I did after making that decision was stock up on Nature’s Miracle, the best stuff on earth, in my opinion, for cleaning up anything and everything that might come out of a dog.

When Eden first entered my house, everything seemed fine. She and Willow, my rottweiler, instantly began to play together. I kept my eyes glued on her though, mainly because I expected her to run around the house and mark her territory. But she was fine.

In fact, everything continued to be fine for the first couple of days. Eden smoothly adapted to her new environment and even better, contrary to what I’d been told, she turned out to be fully housebroken.

“This is working out perfectly!” I thought. “Eden is fitting right in, no problems whatseover. We’re a match made in heaven!”

How naïve I was.

The first negative thing I noticed about her was she was a little too possessive and clingy.  She didn’t like it when I paid attention to Willow, and she constantly clung to me – so much so, I contemplated changing her name to Saran Wrap.

About four days after I first adopted Eden, I got up one morning to find my hallway runner in shreds. This was a rug that had taken me six months to get by special order because I’d wanted it to exactly match the pattern on my living-room rug. So it broke my heart to see the entire border unraveled and lying in a heap that resembled rug spaghetti. My $19 accent rug from Wal-Mart, however, was untouched. Although I didn’t have any concrete proof which dog had done the damage, I was positive it had to be Eden. And later, when I discovered a piece of yarn stuck between her teeth, my suspicions were confirmed.  

The next rug to become the victim of  “The Shredder” was the one under the dining table. She chewed off all four of its corners – which at least made it symmetrical. That’s when I really began to grow concerned about what her next victim would be. I prayed it wouldn’t be the living room rug, beige with a brown and burgundy Native-American pattern on it. Not only was it what I had based all of the décor in my living room on – it was irreplaceable. I tried not to envision it being turned into a 5’x7’ jigsaw puzzle.

Several of my friends suggested I crate Eden at bedtime or whenever I was going to be out of the house for a while. But a visit to the vet for Eden’s wellness check pretty much nixed that idea. She was fine at the vet’s…until they took her out back to weigh her. The minute she saw the cages back there, she freaked out, and there was no calming her down. The vet said the cages probably reminded her of the ones in the shelters, and she was terrified of being abandoned again. The vet also said crating her probably wouldn’t be a good idea, seeing she already had anxiety issues, because she might end up injuring herself.

A few days later, I went to a concert. When I returned home, I immediately noticed that my biggest fear had been realized – the living-room rug was rolled back, and the separate non-skid liner I’d put underneath it had been turned into confetti. I flew over to the rug to check it out. The very tip of one corner had been chewed off, but the rest of the rug still was intact, to my relief. I was grateful the concert hadn’t lasted 20 minutes longer.

But chewing rugs wasn’t Eden’s only problem. Whenever I went to pet Willow, Eden would rush over and either nip at my hand or whack it with her paw, so I would stop. I’d scold her and tell her to go lie down, but the jealousy continued. She seemed determined to prevent me from touching Willow.

The shelter contacted me a few weeks after the adoption and asked me how everything was going with Eden.

“To be honest, I don’t think this is going to work out,” I told the woman. “I’m beginning to think I’m just too old to deal with all of her issues.”

The woman asked me to elaborate, so I did – in great detail. She then suggested I work with an animal behaviorist, and even offered to send one over, free of charge. Eden, she told me, needed a “forever” home and deserved happiness. She asked me to please not give up on her yet.

I remember thinking there wouldn’t be a “forever” home left for Eden to live in if she continued to destroy it.

So I ended up talking to a behaviorist on the phone. The first thing she asked me was, “When you’re about to leave the house, describe exactly what you do.”

“Well,” I said, “I grab my purse, my car keys, and usually the packages I have to mail at the post office. I sell a lot of stuff on eBay, so I always seem to have packages to mail.”

“Ahhhh,” she said. “That’s part of the problem!  Eden knows when you are leaving, and it makes her anxious. When she sees you pick up your purse and your car keys, you’re giving her a signal. From now on, just before you’re going to leave, let her out into the yard. Then while she’s out, bring all of your things out to the car. Then let her back inside, give her a treat, and while she’s busy eating the treat, sneak out. And, if you have time, come back after a few minutes, and then leave again. It will confuse her. And whatever you do, don’t say goodbye or anything else to her. Just casually leave.”

So I took her advice and tried everything she said – including a few of my own ideas, just for extra insurance. I scattered dog toys and long-lasting chew treats all over the floor to keep Eden distracted. I even went out to the woods and found four heavy flat rocks – and put one on each corner of the living-room rug, so she couldn’t roll it back again…or chew off the corners.

The strategy worked. I came home to find my house intact and the dogs asleep.

I then told the behaviorist about Eden’s jealousy and how she always tried to get my hand away from Willow whenever I petted her.

“And how do you react when Eden does that?” she asked.

“I scold her and tell her to go lie down.”

“Noooo!  That’s wrong!” she said. “Eden wants to distract you, to take your attention away from Willow. She doesn’t care if you’re being nice to her or you’re scolding her. All she cares about is you’re paying attention to her instead of Willow. You have to ignore her, to let her know she can’t distract you.”

So once again, I followed her advice.  By the end of the day, Eden no longer bothered me when I petted Willow.

Now, I’m relieved to say I actually can leave the house for a few hours at a time and not have to constantly worry about coming home to a house that looks like an explosion in a yarn mill.

But just to be safe, I haven’t removed the heavy rocks from the corners of the living-room rug. You might say they’ve become my newest fashion statement.

Now all I have to do is buy some steel-toed slippers…because stubbing my toes on those darned rocks is becoming pretty painful.
 
 
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Friday, December 11, 2015

MY CHRISTMAS TREE HAS BEEN DOWNSIZED


I finally put up my Christmas tree the other night. It’s artificial, only two feet tall and sits on top of my curio cabinet. Times certainly have changed.

Just a few years ago, I was adamant about having a real tree. For one thing, I wanted the house to smell like Christmas, like evergreen. An artificial tree doesn’t smell like much of anything – except, in my case, maybe a little like mildew.

When I was a kid, the only artificial trees in existence looked nothing like real trees. They were made out of shiny silver aluminum, with an even shinier silver trunk. And I guess because putting electrical lights on metal branches probably would have caused something other than the tree to light up, the tree was illuminated with an electric wheel of rotating colors, which were projected onto it. My mother always thought those trees were an insult to both nature and Christmas. Every time she spotted one, she would cast it a look of such intense dislike, you would think a skunk had just sprayed it.

My mother was a perfectionist when it came to buying and decorating our Christmas tree each year. Going to a sales lot to pick out a tree always was a lengthy process. Back then, unlike now, there weren’t many perfectly shaped trees to choose from. And they were a lot scrawnier than the nice, full ones of today. So my mother would have the tree-lot attendant show her one tree after another. One was too short. Another was too tall. Another had too many bare spots. What she’d finally end up doing was asking the guy to drill holes into the trunk and stick branches into it to make the tree fuller. This, of course, resulted in those branches getting dry and turning brown much faster than the tree’s original branches. But at least Mom was happy.

 I always enjoyed decorating the tree – with one exception. My mother loved using something called angel hair around the lights. Believe me, the stuff was like a lethal weapon. It kind of resembled cotton, but was made from actual glass fibers, so when I touched it, it felt like a million little pins sticking into me – and then it made my skin all itchy. Every time my mom asked if I wanted to help her put the angel hair on the tree, I’d make up some excuse not to – like I was going to go lie down because I thought my appendix might be on the verge of bursting.

The angel hair wasn’t the only pain-inducing decoration, however. There also were the tree lights. They got hot back then…really hot. There were no such things as “cool touch” or “energy saver” lights.  No, if you touched a Christmas bulb that had been lit for a while, it could blister your skin. But those lights were much better, according to my mom, than the lights that were popular when she was a kid. Back then, they consisted of candleholders that clipped onto the branches and held lit candles!  I can’t imagine people being brave (or foolish) enough to put live flames on tree branches.  I’ll bet a lot of houses became piles of ashes during the holiday season in those days.

My mother also was a big fan of silver tinsel. She would hang the strands one by one, strategically placing them so they all would be the exact length on each branch.  I enjoyed hanging tinsel my own way, which involved putting it into my mouth and then blowing it onto the tree. Wherever it landed was fine with me. My mother, however, nearly needed CPR every time I used my method, because the tinsel would land helter-skelter in clumps everywhere.

After I got married, my husband and I decided it might be fun to go to a place where we could chop our own Christmas tree. We trudged through knee-deep snow in sub-freezing weather and looked at so many trees, they all began to blur together after a while. Still, we couldn’t find one we both liked – not even the one that still had a bird’s nest in the branches.  My husband thought it would be cool to fill the nest with Christmas bulbs. I didn’t share his enthusiasm.

When we finally were so cold we couldn’t feel our faces any more, we decided to just chop down the next tree we saw. It wasn’t until it was lying on the ground that we noticed it didn’t have any branches on the backside. So we brought it home and stood it in a corner of the living room.

While my husband was at work, I decided to surprise him and decorate the tree before he came home.  As I was stringing the lights on it, something flew out of the tree. I didn’t see what it was, but I spotted its shadow in the sunlight on the wall, and I could have sworn it was a bat. I rushed to the phone to call my husband.

“There’s a bat in the Christmas tree!” I cried, the minute he answered. “I’m scared!”

He rushed right home…to find me hiding in the bathroom. I told him I wasn’t coming out until the bat was gone.

I could hear my husband going from room to room, and finally, I heard a loud “smack!” He then shouted that it was safe for me to come out of the bathroom.

I did, and he was standing there, smiling and shaking his head. In his hand was a rolled-up magazine.

“Here’s your bat,” he said, showing me the carcass of some squished flying insect.  I figured it must have been frozen in the tree and then thawed out in the warm room and was resurrected. It looked like a big horsefly.

“But it made a huge shadow on the wall!” I quickly explained, embarrassed I’d made him leave work to come kill a bug. “I could have sworn it was a bat!”

My husband grabbed a marking pen and wrote “bat killer” on the cover of the magazine…and then teased me about it for years. We never chopped down our own tree again.

But now, I have a small artificial tree – not by choice, but out of necessity.

You see, my new dog, Eden, believes that everything on the floor is her property.  In the past two months, she has completely unraveled two area rugs and eaten the corners off another one. And then I bought her a thick, fleecy dog bed to curl up in. I came home one afternoon to find only the zipper left. The rest of the bed was scattered throughout three different rooms. I’m still finding the stuffing in unusual places, like in the furnace grates.

I can only imagine what would happen if I set up a full-sized live tree and put gifts underneath it. I’m pretty sure I would come home to a pile of shredded wrapping paper and chewed-up branches – and probably a dog that would look as if she’d been hog-tied with strings of lights.

So I’ll stick with my small Christmas tree, safely perched on top of my curio cabinet. But I have to warn everyone I buy gifts for…don’t expect anything this year that won’t fit into a box smaller than the size of a deck of cards.

Otherwise, it won’t fit underneath my tree.
 
 
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Friday, December 4, 2015

DRESSES DON'T SEEM TO BE AS POPULAR AS THEY ONCE WERE


It occurred to me the other day that the last time I wore a dress, Ronald Reagan was president.

I’m not sure exactly when or why I lost my interest in skirts and dresses. Back when I was in my 20s, I wore dresses all the time – if you could call them dresses. The ones I wore looked more like long blouses because the style back then was the mini-dress. And believe me, I embraced that style whole-heartedly, even though I never had what one might call shapely legs.  In fact, they’ve always kind of resembled two tree trunks with varicose veins.

Still, I owned a closet full of mini-dresses…the minier the better. I still wonder how I ever managed to sit down in them without unintentionally flashing everyone in the room. And forget about bending over or squatting. If I dropped something on the floor, it stayed there. If I saw a coin on the sidewalk, I walked right over it. There was no easy way to pick up something on the ground or floor while wearing a mini-dress, not without getting arrested for indecent exposure.

The other day, when I was looking through the clothes in my closet, I happened to notice the last four outfits I’d bought to wear to major events – a wedding, two anniversary parties and a Christmas cocktail party – and all four were pants outfits. It made me realize that over the years, I’d somehow gone from being chic and hip, to looking like a fashion clone of Hillary Clinton.

But I’m not the only non-dress wearer around. From what I’ve seen, the majority of women don’t bother to get all dressed up nowadays the way they used to. I can remember when going to church involved wearing a dress, high heels, a hat, white gloves and a purse. Now, a lot of women go to church looking as if the minute the service is over, they’re going surfing.

I also remember how “gussied up” (I’m showing my age here) everyone would get for the annual Christmas parties where I used to work. Every year, the company always held a huge bash at the Chateau restaurant in Manchester. This, of course, meant I would have to spend weeks of shopping in advance, searching for just the right dress to wear.

Linda, a co-worker of mine back then, and I usually went shopping together. Our favorite store for party attire was Pariseau’s on Elm Street in Manchester. One year, the hottest new style was something called a pant gown. It resembled an evening gown, but the skirt portion consisted of these voluminous pants, kind of like culottes on steroids. Linda and I were eager to be the first to wear them and make a grand entrance at the annual party.

I’ll never forget the first pant gown Linda tried on. It was made of sparkly copper, gold and silver brocade, with a bodice heavily decorated with crystals, pearls, shiny gold balls and glass beads. She looked like a walking Christmas tree. All she needed was a light-up star on top of her head.

“Hmmm,” was all she said as she admired the gown in the store’s 3-way mirror. One thing about Linda was she had a perfect 36-24-36 figure, so she could have tried on a burlap sack with armholes cut out of it and still looked stunning.

“Well, do you like it?” I finally asked her.

She shook her head. “It’s not fancy enough” She turned to the sales clerk. “Do you have anything flashier?”

The pant gown she ended up buying was so bright, it could have qualified as its own float in the Disney World electrical parade.  I settled for a pant gown that had a white lace bodice with silver threads through it, a pink satin waistband, and a black pants-gown skirt made up of dozens of tiny accordion pleats.

I can’t help but wonder what everyone would wear to those same parties at the Chateau nowadays. I’m guessing yoga pants and T-shirts.

I think one of the reasons why dresses aren’t as popular as they once were is because there just aren’t as many of them around. I can remember going into just about any department store years ago and seeing racks of dresses everywhere. Now, if stores have even one rack, it’s surprising. And the dresses on those racks usually aren’t very party worthy. They’re more like dresses you’d wear while running barefooted along a beach – or cleaning out the lint trap in your clothes dryer.

It seems as if the older I get and the more varicose veins and sagging skin I acquire, the less enthused I am about wearing dresses. But if I ever do decide to wear one again, it definitely will have to be during the winter. That way, I can wear black opaque stockings or, even better, knee-high boots, to conceal my legs. I don’t know what I would do during the hot summer months, though. Somehow, I don’t think a cotton sundress and knee-high boots would make a very cohesive fashion statement. I mean, it would look as if my body couldn’t decide whether it wanted to go to the beach…or a ski lodge.

And speaking of leg attire, I’m a little disturbed that the bare-leg look currently is all the rage.  Woman are opting not to wear any stockings at all, rather than suffer with the discomfort of pantyhose that either stop the circulation from the waist to the knees, or end up sliding down until the crotch is somewhere at mid-thigh. But I’ve always considered pantyhose to be my dear friends, despite the discomfort and chafing they cause. What I like about them is they hide flaws, suck in fat, and they add some color to my legs, which normally are about the same shade as milk.

So now, with Christmas parties looming in the near future, I’m wondering what kind of stylish new holiday outfit I should buy. Maybe a classy black dress and some high-heeled boots?

Nah. I’m leaning more toward sweatpants and a hoodie.

 

 

MY BOOK SALES TO BENEFIT ANIMAL SHELTER

 
A short time still remains to order copies of my humor book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” or my suspense novel, “Heed the Predictor” and its sequel, “Conceal the Predictor,” directly from me for $10 each, which includes shipping. Also, I will personally autograph each book to anyone you’d like – just make certain to print the name or names clearly when ordering. Autographed copies of my books also will be available at Bobby Dee’s Records and Audio Repair at 132 Main St. in Pembroke Village. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Manchester Animal Shelter, to help the animals have a merrier Christmas. Send orders to: Sally Breslin, PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585.

NOTE: For those of you with electronic reading devices, my book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” currently can be downloaded free of charge at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Smashwords.com.