Friday, April 29, 2016


 A friend of mine, who’s in his 80s, emailed me the other day to tell me he’d just passed a kidney stone.

“I don’t know if women get kidney stones, too,” he said, “but if they do, I would think it would be easier and less painful for them to pass them, especially considering the male anatomy.”

I had to disagree with him. I remembered when a former boss of mine, Marge, had a kidney stone and said that up until then, she’d thought labor pains were the worst agony she ever would be forced to endure.

My friend’s email also made me recall the time my husband suffered with kidney- stone pain…and tried to hide it from me.

It all began one day when I happened to notice he was walking slightly bent over.

“Backache,” he explained when I questioned him about it. “I must have pulled a muscle or something.”

As the days passed, however, his posture grew even worse. “Maybe you should see a doctor,” I suggested, even though I knew I might as well have been suggesting it to my dog.

“No, I’m fine,” he said, forcing a smile. “It’s nothing…really!”

The next night, I woke up to discover that my husband wasn’t in bed.  The house was completely dark and silent.  I was just about to climb out of bed to search for him when I suddenly heard moaning coming from the living room.

“Honey, is that you?” I called out. “Are you OK?”

“I’m fine!” my husband’s voice called back, almost too brightly. “I just couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb you with all of my tossing and turning.  You go back to sleep. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“But I thought I heard moaning,” I protested.

“Moaning?  Don’t be silly!” He forced a laugh. “It was probably just a burp or something!”

Sighing, I rolled over, closed my eyes and tried to get back to sleep.  Just as I was about to doze off, I heard a loud groan, followed by another.  I sat up. 

“Shhhh!” I could hear my husband’s hushed voice scolding himself out in the living room. “Stop groaning or Sally will hear you and make you go to the doctor’s!  Why are you groaning anyway, you idiot?  It’s not helping anything!”  No sooner had he finished saying the words, did a really loud groan slip out.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” I called out to him.  Not waiting for an answer, I got up and tiptoed out to the living room.  There, kneeling on the floor with his arms wrapped around the footrest of his recliner and his head resting on the seat, was my sweat-covered husband.

“I’m fine, honey!” he was shouting, still thinking I was in the bedroom. “You go back to sleep now!”

I cleared my throat.  “Having a secret affair with your recliner?” I asked.

His head snapped up, his eyes as wide as saucers. “Uh, this must look pretty weird, huh?” he said. He wiped his damp forehead with the back of his hand.

“That does it!  I’m calling the ambulance!” I headed for the phone.

“No!” he cried, struggling to his feet.  He tried to block my path, but took only one step and doubled over in pain.  He sank to his knees and hugged the recliner again. “This will go away,” he said, his voice muffled by the seat cushion. “I’ll be fine by tomorrow.  No need for a hospital.”

A half-hour later (only because I threatened to divorce him) he was in the emergency room.  A half-hour after that, he was admitted to the hospital.

A dozen or so tests and x-rays later, the doctor entered the room. “I have bad news and good news,” he said. “The bad news, Mr. Breslin, is you have a kidney stone that’s causing nearly a complete blockage.  The good news is I’m pretty sure we can go up and get it rather than have to make an incision.”

“Up? Up where?” my husband squeaked. “And with what?”

I wish I’d have had my camera with me to take a photo of his expression when the doctor answered him. 

My husband did just fine with the procedure and later was presented with the stone, which was smaller than a pea but had sharp, jagged edges. I was amazed that something so small could cause so much pain.

While my husband was recovering at home afterwards, I made the mistake of mentioning Marge’s comment about kidney-stone pain being worse than labor pains. Little did I know my words would create a monster.

For weeks after his stone was removed, my husband bragged about how he’d suffered for nearly two weeks with excruciating kidney pain before going to the hospital. And even then, he said, he wouldn’t have given in if I hadn’t forced him to.  According to him, his kidney pain, especially for two solid weeks, was much more severe than any pain a woman in labor ever would have to tolerate.

“Women are always saying that if men had to give birth, there wouldn’t be any kids, because men are such sissies about pain,” he said. “Well, I just single-handedly proved that theory wrong, didn’t I!”

By then, I’d had just about enough of “Super Kidney-Stone Man” and his endless bragging.

“You know that little stone they removed from you?” I asked him. “Well, imagine that it weighed about seven pounds and was 20 inches long when they dragged it out of you.  That’s what labor feels like!”

Funny, but after that, he never mentioned it again.

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Friday, April 22, 2016


It occurred to me the other day that I probably hold the world’s record for the greatest number of times a person has come close to having a big dream come true… and then failed miserably.

The first example that comes to mind happened back in the early 1990s when I, on about my 700th diet, became desperate to cheat because of an intense, unrelenting craving for chocolate. I didn’t, however, want my husband to find out how weak I was. So, thinking I was clever, I hid some Hershey bars in the VCR in the bedroom. Then, all I had to do was hit the “eject” button on the VCR, and up would pop my secret stash of chocolate bars.

“I have something I want you to see,” my husband said to me one night. He held up a video camera and proceeded to show me a video he’d secretly taped of me popping chocolate bars out of the VCR and stuffing them, nearly whole, into my mouth.

I was aghast. “How on earth did you tape me?”

“I suspected you were up to something when you started spending time in the bedroom every night right after supper, so I hid the camera in the closet facing the bed, opened the door just a crack and aimed it through there. Then I just let it record for an hour.” 

Before I could respond, he added, laughing, “And guess what? I sent it to ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos!’”

My first thought was to wrap my chocolate-covered fingers around his neck and strangle him. My second thought was maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to look like a complete fool on national TV…if it meant winning $10,000.

About a month later, a packet of paperwork and release forms arrived from “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” They loved the video, they said. They wanted to air it, they also said.

Excited, my husband and I quickly signed everything and sent it back. We then couldn’t wait to tell all of our friends, relatives, neighbors and anyone else who would listen, that I was going to be on TV.  We anxiously waited for the video to air. 

I’m still waiting.

Another big letdown happened the time I entered a weight-loss contest in “Star” magazine.  The prize was $500 and a photo spread in the publication. To enter, contestants had to send “before” and “after” photos along with their favorite diet and exercise tips. I had just spent months working very hard to drop 80 pounds, so I decided to enter the contest.

Months passed and I completely forgot about it…until the day before my husband and I were scheduled to leave on a long-planned vacation. That’s when I received a call from the “Star,” telling me I’d won the contest. 

Before I could catch my breath, the female caller said, “We’ll be over in the morning for your photo shoot."

Panicking, a million thoughts raced through my mind, such as how fast I could get my house completely redecorated.

“My husband and I are leaving on vacation to Las Vegas in the morning,” I explained to her. “We already have tickets for our flight and a couple of must-see shows there. Please, can we postpone the shoot for just a week?”

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, the woman said, “Well…OK,” in a tone that clearly told me it wasn’t. “We’ll get back to you.”

Once again, I’m still waiting…particularly for my $500.

Then, about 10 years ago, I wrote a humorous article about baking called, “Attack of the Giant Dough Ball.”  I sent a query letter to “Woman’s Day” magazine, asking if they might be interested in seeing it.  I also enclosed a few of my already-published columns as samples of my work. 

Weeks passed, and I didn’t think about the query letter again…until I received an email from an editor at “Woman’s Day.” She said the magazine preferred to stay away from humor about cooking, but she really was impressed with the sample columns I’d sent and was wondering if I had any other humorous pieces she could see.

I sat down and thought of a bunch of funny things (that didn’t involve cooking) I could write about that might appeal to her:  laundry mishaps, swimsuit shopping, bridesmaids’ gowns, backseat drivers, and a few more. I figured whichever topic she chose, I quickly could write an article about it and zip it right off to her.

“All of your ideas sound great,” she wrote back. “Send all of them!”

I panicked.  How on earth, I wondered, was I going to write eight articles and send them to her before she was old enough for retirement?  The answer was to spend about 10 hours a day at my computer, writing.

Just when my eyeballs were about to fall out of their sockets from staring endlessly at my computer screen, I finally finished the articles and emailed them to “Woman’s Day.”  Never had I felt so positive, so optimistic. This finally was going to be my big break, I told myself.  After all, why else would the editor ask for so many of my articles?  Did she want me to write and contribute humor columns on a regular basis, the way Erma Bombeck had done for “Good Housekeeping?”

I even checked one of my writers’ guides to see what “Woman’s Day” was paying per article back then.  When I learned it was $2,000 and up, I nearly suffered a coronary.

Each day that followed seemed like an eternity. Whenever the phone rang, my heartbeat quickened. Whenever I checked my email, I held my breath.

 “No news is good news,” my husband kept telling me every time I’d whine about the anticipation driving me crazy. 

Finally, when I barely could take the stress any longer, an email arrived from the editor.  She wrote:  “I'm very sorry for taking so long to get back to you about your essays. While they're funny and well- written, the tone is not quite right for our magazine. Thank you very much for taking the time to send them.  Please let me know if you have any more ideas for essays, and feel free to email me.”

I was totally confused.  My tone wasn’t right for her magazine, yet she still wanted me to send her more ideas? Why?

Anyway, I could list another dozen or so similar letdowns, but I think I’ve tortured myself enough for the time being.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my big break.

With my luck, it probably will be my hip.

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Friday, April 15, 2016



It has always intrigued me how some people are chronic worriers who fret about every little thing while others are so calm, if lightning struck their house and set fire to it, they would just shrug and say, “Oh well, we were planning to redecorate anyway.”

I hate to admit it, but worrying is one of my hobbies.  If I get a pimple, I’m certain it’s the beginning of smallpox or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If I see dark clouds overhead, I want to grab the dogs and rush down to the basement because I’m afraid I’m going to end up like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

I can’t figure out why I’m the way I am. I mean, my mother was the calmest person on earth, and my husband practically was her clone. I still wonder why their laid-back attitudes never rubbed off on me.

 My husband was the type who’d say, “Oh, it’s only a little nick,” if he accidentally hacked off his hand with a chainsaw.

And my mother, when she needed very major surgery, just shrugged and said to the doctor, “OK, let’s get it over with, then,” so calmly, you’d think she was talking about getting her hair trimmed.

When I, however, needed major surgery, I researched everything about it and unwittingly discovered everything that possibly could go wrong on the operating table.  I ended up terrifying myself to the point where I nearly had to be anesthetized at home just so my husband could get me to the hospital.  And then, for weeks after the surgery, I couldn’t relax because I was concerned the doctor might accidentally have lost something like his wristwatch in my stomach.

I guess I inherited my worrywart tendencies from my father because he definitely was the worrier of the family.  Unfortunately, the moment he got even the slightest bit upset, his stomach would rebel in protest.

I’m sure that having me for a daughter didn’t help my poor dad’s stomach any. He was a night owl, so when I reached dating age, he’d be the one who was up when I got home. I remember one night when I came home crying after a date. My poor dad, anticipating the worst, went straight to the cupboard, grabbed a big bottle of antacid and gulped down half of it.  Then he sat down, took a deep breath and said, “OK, I’m ready now. Tell me why you’re crying.”

I sobbed out, “I accidentally belched in the middle of dinner!  I’m so humiliated, I’ll never be able to face Kevin again!”

Poor Dad rolled his eyes and said, “You mean I just drank half a bottle of that disgusting chalk for that?”

I guess that’s why being married to a mellow guy like my husband was so difficult for me to get used to, even after we’d been married for years.  Whenever I was upset, he, in his own nonchalant way, usually would manage to say something to instantly diffuse my stress.   For example, I remember one night when he drove me to the mall so I could take advantage of a big, semi-annual lingerie sale.

I wanted to stock up on my favorite brand and style of bra, but after looking through about 40 different varieties without any luck, I approached the sales clerk and asked her if she had any in stock.

“Well, I really would need the specific style number,” she said. “Then I could look it up and see if we carry it.”  When I told her I didn’t know the number offhand, she asked, “Are you wearing that style of bra right now?”

I nodded, and to my shock, she came out from behind the counter and right there in the middle of the store, lifted up the back of my shirt, pulled down the band on my bra and read the tag! 

Embarrassed and upset, I returned to the car and ranted to my husband about how the sales clerk had just exposed my ratty old bra and my midriff bulge to half the population of Manchester. “And after putting me through all of that humiliation,” I added, “she didn’t even have the bra I wanted!”

Without changing his expression, he calmly said, “Just be thankful you weren’t shopping for panties.”

Needless to say, whenever I went somewhere with my mother and husband together, I nearly overdosed on “calm.”

“I’ve had a terrible stiff neck for a couple of days now,” I said to them as we were riding home from a restaurant one afternoon. “Do you think maybe I got stung by one of those disease-carrying mosquitoes (even though it was the middle of February) and I might have something like meningitis?  I read somewhere that one of the symptoms is a bad stiff neck!”

“It’s probably just a gas pain,” my mother said, yawning.

“Your neck hurts because you spend too much time looking down at the computer,” my husband added in a monotone.

Despite the fact I never was able to relate to their seemingly unnaturally calm attitudes, I must confess I really do wish my mother and husband (bless their souls) both still were around to help pacify me.

I mean, I just found these two little marks on my arm that look suspiciously like a black-widow spider’s bite.

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Friday, April 8, 2016


The other night, a longtime dream of mine finally came true – I saw a Beatles concert.

They weren’t the real Beatles, of course, considering that two of them are no longer with us, but they, Studio Two, a Beatles-tribute band from New England, were the closest to the real thing I’ll ever see.  Their onstage look, mannerisms and sound were an amazing recreation of the original Beatles.

As I sat there, reliving the songs I still knew every lyric to, even after more than 50 years, my thoughts drifted back to February of 1964 and the day that forever changed my life.

It was the day the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I remember it as if it were yesterday.  All that week, my friends Sue and Dee, and I had been counting the minutes in anticipation of the big event.  Finally, after what seemed like 20 years, there they were - John, Paul, George and Ringo in crisp black and white on my family’s 21-inch TV screen.

Wide-eyed with anticipation as we waited for the Beatles to sing their first note, Sue, Dee and I collectively held our breaths.

“My goodness, they’re ugly!” my mother said, breaking the spell. “And their hair!  Don’t they have barbers in England?”

My father was too busy laughing at them to comment.

However, to us, three impressionable young teenagers, it was love at first sight.

“Paul is gorgeous!” Sue sighed, clasping her hands over her heart.

“Ringo is cuter!” Dee argued.

“You can have both of them!” I said. “I’ll take George!”  Actually, I was going to choose John until, “Sorry girls, he’s married,” flashed across the screen during his close-up.

“How on earth can you tell who’s cute who isn’t?” My father, who had momentarily caught his breath after laughing, asked. “You can’t even see their faces under all that hair!  Ringo’s nose is the only thing that sticks out!”

The three of us turned to glare at him.

When we looked back at the television, the cameras were zooming in for such a close-up of Ringo, we actually could see his nose hairs.  Without warning, Dee let out such an ear-piercing scream, she nearly shattered the windows.

“God, I hope the neighbors don’t call the police because they think we’re murdering someone over here!” my father said. 

Beatlemania officially had arrived.

I spent the next two years hopelessly in love with George Harrison.  The guys I’d previously had starry-eyed crushes on at school suddenly became invisible to me.  I mean, they had short hair, didn’t speak with British accents, and wore penny loafers instead of Beatle boots.  They just weren’t “cool” any more.

Sue was as obsessed with Paul McCartney as I was with George.  We didn’t doubt for a minute that fate would bring the four of us together someday, and when it did, Paul and George would fall madly in love with us and beg us to marry them.  Yep, Sue and I had our futures all planned out.

We spent every penny of our babysitting money on Beatles records, posters, magazines and trading cards.  Every inch of my bedroom wall that faced my bed was covered with posters of George.  I’d lie in bed and look up at his pictures while listening to my favorite Beatles record, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” – one of the few on which he sang the lead.  Then I would drift off to sleep and have romantic dreams about becoming Mrs. George Harrison.

When Sue and I learned that the Beatles were going to be in concert at the Boston Garden that September, we nearly needed CPR. Just the thought of the two men of our dreams being only about 50 miles away from us made us hyperventilate.  But it might as well have been 5000 miles, because we knew there was no way we’d ever be able to attend that concert.

However, one very lucky girl named Diane, who went to our high school, did go, and she instantly became a hero. First of all, she told us she had an excellent seat. Then she said she desperately wanted to get the Beatles’ attention, so she flung her camera at the stage…and Paul actually looked directly at her! Sure, her parents were upset she’d smashed a perfectly good camera, but as far as all of us were concerned, a camera was a small price to pay for actual eye-to-eye contact with one of the Beatles.

I hate to admit it, but the thought of Diane being within actual sight of the Beatles was too much for me to bear. I was so envious, it made my stomach hurt, and I couldn’t even concentrate on my schoolwork for the next few days. It’s a good thing Diane didn’t actually touch one of the Beatles, because I probably would have flunked out of school.

I also was envious of Sue, who made a lot more money babysitting than I did.  She saved every penny until she was able to afford black leather slacks, matching Beatle boots and a leather Cockney cap.  She even surrendered her long hair to a Beatle-style cut.  When she wore that outfit and faked a British accent, you’d swear she was the fifth Beatle.

I, on the other hand, managed to buy only a woolen Cockney cap (in a bright blue and green plaid), which I wore even in 90-degree heat.

As I sat at the concert the other night, I closed my eyes for a few minutes and pretended I was a teenager again and that the Studio Two band members actually were the Beatles.  And for a moment, I felt a strong urge to scream.

But at my age, I was afraid I might rupture something.

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Friday, April 1, 2016


The minute I reached my “golden years,” I noticed there seemed to be more and more hair on my brush every day. In fact, at the end of each week, there was more hair in the wastebasket and the bathtub drain than there was on my head. I was even afraid to sneeze, because I thought hairs might go flying off my head, kind of like a dandelion gone to seed.

I bought a popular “volumizing” shampoo, hoping it would thicken my limp locks, but the only thing that got thicker was the manufacturer’s wallet. It got to the point where I was so frustrated, every time I saw a woman on TV complaining about her uncontrollable, thick hair, I felt like tossing my shoe at the screen.

Too soon, my thinning hair gave way to actual bald spots – shiny ones, especially when the sunlight hit them. Panicking, I searched for a product that would conceal them.

The first one I tried was some kind of spray-on “hair” I saw a bald guy using in an infomercial on TV.  With just a few spurts from the can, he suddenly had what looked like a full head of thick, luxurious hair. I was so intrigued, I ordered two cans of the stuff. But for some reason, I had trouble aiming the spray nozzle just right to hit my bald spots. So I ended up with more “deep brown” on the bathroom walls than on my head.  And when I did manage to spray it where it was supposed to go, the color didn’t match my hair and stood out as glaring dark spots.  I looked like a Dalmatian.

Then I tried a concealer that came in what looked like a salt shaker. All I had to do, according to the instructions, was shake it on my bald spots and it would completely cover them. The instructions also said it would last through rainstorms, hot showers, typhoons and swimming, and wouldn’t come off until I washed it out with shampoo.

The instructions were wrong. One night, I got caught in a downpour while walking across the parking lot at the supermarket. As I shopped, I noticed that people kept staring at me. I finally took a mirror out of my purse and checked my face. I had brown streaks on my temples and down both cheeks.

Also, it never dawned on me to cover my clothing with a cloth or towel while shaking the powder onto my head. I can remember going to the bank, unaware that my pink blouse was covered with brown powder. I looked as if I had a bad case of dirty dandruff.

Finally, when I was on the verge of splurging on an expensive hairpiece (or taking up knitting so I could knit a bunch of hats) I found a bald-cover product I loved. It was a solid block of color that came in what looked like a cosmetic compact, along with a sponge-brush applicator. All I had to do was wash my hair and while it still was damp, use the sponge to paint the coloring on my bald spots. It sounded simple enough, so I eagerly tried it.

I was completely amazed when the product dried because it looked exactly like hair. It kind of worked like puff paint, growing in volume as it dried. Even more amazing (and kind of frightening), I could comb and brush the new, fake hair without affecting it, just like real hair. And when it got wet, it didn’t run. I honestly couldn’t figure out how it scientifically worked, but I thought it truly was miraculous. I was hooked.

Although the product turned out to be my salvation, I soon learned it had one minor drawback – it had the tendency to rub off when something brushed against it. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough to make any difference in the appearance of it on my hair…but enough to cause a few embarrassing moments. I have to admit these easily could have been prevented if I’d just taken the time to seal my hair with a few spritzes of hairspray. But too often, I forgot all about the hairspray.

One of the aforementioned embarrassing moments occurred one windy afternoon when I was talking to a woman in the post-office parking lot. Throughout our conversation, I noticed she kept staring at my ears. I thought she might have been admiring my earrings, but when I got into my car and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, to my horror, I had two brown ears. They looked as if I hadn’t washed them in about a month – or I was mutating into a muskrat.

Then, there was the time I went to the dentist’s. He was wearing a white lab-type coat and kept reaching across the top of my head as he worked. At one point, I happened to catch a glimpse of his crisp, white sleeve…covered with brown splotches from my hair. Before I could stop myself, I gasped.

He immediately stopped working. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, concerned.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, forcing a tight smile as I silently prayed he wouldn’t notice his messed-up sleeve until much later, when it was time to take off the coat and go home. I hoped he’d think some grimy-haired kid had caused it.

And then there was my pillowcase after the first time I used the product. When I woke up that morning, there was a brown imprint of my head on it, kind of like the chalk outline of a body at a murder scene. I solved the problem by buying both a dark-brown pillowcase and a black one.

Unfortunately, to this day, the pillowcase incident still causes me to suffer from nightmares about being unconscious and having to be rushed to the hospital, where I’ll end up in a bed with crisp white sheets and pillowcases…and I’ll leave brown smudges all over them. I’m scared the staff will think my hair’s in urgent need of a good washing, so they’ll shampoo it.

And I’ll wake up looking like Benjamin Franklin.

But there is no way I’m going to give up my miracle hair-product. I am more than willing to put up with its minor flaws as long as I can continue to have my “magic hair.”

I just hope my dentist doesn’t read this.

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