Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'M STILL HOOKED ON WITTY T-SHIRTS



Over the years, I have collected some pretty crazy T-shirts. Even worse, I’ve worn most of them.

I can remember when I was a teen, and I bought a T-shirt that said, “Just Visiting this Planet” on the front. My mother used to roll her eyes whenever I wore it and say, “Why on earth do you want to draw attention to your chest? Doesn’t it bother you that perfect strangers are stopping to read your boobs?”

“Well, actually I’d never thought about it until you just mentioned it!” I answered.

So to please her, I bought a T-shirt that said, “If You Can Read This, You’re Too Close,” in small letters on the front.  She wasn’t amused.

As the years passed, my love of unusual T-shirts never died. When I gained weight, I bought one that said, “In Training to be Tall and Blonde,” and another that said, “I Love Long, Romantic Walks…to the Fridge.”

Of course, every Christmas and birthday, my friends would buy me T-shirts to add to my collection. Most of them had places on the front, like states or countries they had visited. But some were more…um…adventurous.

In fact, there were times when my husband drew the line and threatened to divorce me if I wore certain shirts that people had given me. One of them, for example, had two teddy bears on the front – one on each breast – and said, “Stop Staring at My Teddies!”  Another one he disliked was, “Don’t Flatter Yourself – It’s Just Chilly in Here.”

There were a couple T-shirts I bought that actually turned out to be beneficial. I remember when the Pembroke Police were selling T-shirts with their department’s logo on it at Old Home Day one year. I bought one, and every time I wore it after that, strangers seemed to respect me more, and I even received free cups of coffee in restaurants. I also bought one that said, “WMUR TV 9,” on it that made people think I was a TV newscaster. Whenever I wore it and something newsworthy was happening, everyone assumed I was a member of the press corps covering the event.

I remember when my mother-in-law used to complain that I wore too much black all the time.

“Can’t you buy something turquoise or purple for a change?” she’d constantly ask me. “I’m so tired of seeing you in black!”

As luck would have it, I just so happened to see a T-shirt that said, “I’ll Keep Wearing Black Until They Invent a Darker Color.” Naturally, I just HAD to buy it. After that, my mother-in-law never nagged me about it again.

There was a show on TV a couple years ago called, “The Sons of Anarchy,” about a motorcycle club of that same name, and they wore shirts, jackets and vests with their club’s logo on it.

Well, a few months ago, I happened to see a T-shirt that was a humorous take-off on the show. It had the club’s logo on it, but instead of Sons of Anarachy, it said, “Sons of Arthritis – Ibuprofen Chapter.” I happened to mention how funny I thought it was to my online friend in Connecticut, Charlie, a Harley rider I’d never met.

Not long thereafter, a package from Charlie arrived. It contained a gift for me – the Sons of Arthritis T-shirt! I really loved it. It had long sleeves and was black (my favorite color!) with white lettering.

Unfortunately, it was so small, I barely could get it over my head. And when I finally did, I couldn’t even pull it down over my chest.

When Charlie wrote to ask me how I liked the T-shirt and requested a photo of me wearing it, I had to be honest. I told him it was much too small.

A week later, another package from him arrived. It was another Sons of Arthritis T-shirt. This one was bright neon yellow and was so big, it looked like a dress on me. And I was pretty sure the sleeves had been made for an orangutan. I found myself wondering how I was going to break the news to poor Charlie that this shirt didn’t fit, either. 

As it turned out, I didn’t have to.  Charlie passed away right after I received that second shirt.

So now, my desire to wear the “Sons of Arthritis” shirts he sent to me is stronger than ever, for sentimental reasons. All I have to do is either lose a lot of weight so I can fit into the small one, or grow a lot so I can fill out the large one.


Rest in peace, Charlie.




















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CLICK HERE ====> https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

BUT CAN I REALLY HANDLE THE TRUTH?




I’ve noticed that nowadays, probably because most of them don’t work on commission any longer, department-store clerks have become much more honest…and blunt. This, depending on the situation, can be either a good thing or a bad thing.

For example, I was about to purchase a beige sweater one day when a clerk said to me, “Beige is too pale for your skin tone. It will wash you out. The mint green would look much better on you, especially with your green eyes.”

I grabbed the green sweater and held it up against me. The clerk was right. The color really brought out my eyes. Pleased, I bought it.

Another time, however, I was trying on a fitted dress and stepped out of the dressing room to look at myself in the three-way mirror. A salesclerk approached and stood silently staring at me, her hand on her chin.

“It looks good on you,” she finally said.

I smiled, ready to whip out my credit card.

“But may I suggest something to go with it?”

“Sure,” I said, wondering what it might be. A belt? A silk scarf? Pearls?

“Control-top pantyhose,” she said.

I put the dress back on the rack.

For some reason, when I’m trying on clothes, the one thing clerks always say to me that really irritates me is, “That outfit looks so slimming on you!” as if they believe they actually are giving me a compliment.

All I’m hearing is, “Hey, Chubs! You need to look slimmer!  So buy something that creates the illusion that your Titanic hips are much smaller than their actual hugeness!”

I’ll never forget the day I was Christmas shopping at a mall and I wandered into a store that sold only petite clothing in sizes nine and smaller. The minute I set eyes on the diminutive clerks, I felt as if I were Gulliver entering the land of the Lilliputians.

“May I help you?” one of the clerks, a petite young thing in a mini skirt asked as her eyes made a critical sweep over me. I could read her mind just by looking at her expression…“Lady, nothing on you is a size nine or smaller, not even your shoes.”

“Thanks, just looking,” I said, heading toward a rack of jackets.

“You DO realize that we sell only petite sizes, don’t you?” she persisted, following me.

“Yes,” I answered, smiling sweetly. “I’m actually shopping for clothes for my Barbie doll.”

Still, honesty can be a good thing, I guess. I was shopping for a bra one day, and after looking at about 30 different styles, I finally found one I really liked. As I stood there, studying it on its hanger, a friendly looking, gray-haired clerk, who was standing nearby, said to me, “That one doesn’t have enough support for you…and it’s too pointy.”

She recommended another bra she thought would be perfect for my shape and size, and I tried it on. I also tried on the one I’d selected. The clerk was right. The one I’d chosen made me look as if I were smuggling two road-construction cones under my blouse. The one she’d recommended fit perfectly.

So I guess I really should prefer the brutally honest clerks, otherwise I’d be walking around in a beige sweater that makes my complexion look as if I’m embalmed, a dress that shows off my saddlebags, and a bra that could poke out someone’s eye.

Just don’t ever tell me that something looks “slimming” on me.


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CLICK HERE ====>  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (NOT!)



I was in a hardware store the other day, looking at solar lights, when the clerk and I started talking about how the brightness of the lights solely depends on just how much sunlight they're exposed to. He then told me a funny solar-light story that had me cracking up laughing. 

He said he owns a house, a duplex, and has those solar lights on stakes lining the walkways on each side.

The only problem with them, he said, is the sun always hits the left side of his house, so the solar lights are nice and bright on that side. But on the right side, it’s mostly all shade, so the solar lights don’t absorb much sunlight and are much dimmer.

He said the other night, he happened to notice the tenant who lives on the right side of the duplex sneaking over to his side and swapping her dim solar lights for his brighter ones!

He laughed as he told me that the first night, the lights she’d swapped were brighter because they had been in the direct sunlight all day, but the next night, after being in the shade on her side, they were really dim, and the poor woman couldn’t figure out why.

I feel her pain.

I’ve never had good luck with lights that depend on nature to operate. For one thing, the entire front of my house is in constant shade. When the house was first built, I installed sensors on the outside garage lights so they would pop on automatically at dusk and turn off when the sun rose.

Unfortunately, because that side of the house never saw the sun, the lights stayed on 24 hours a day because the sensors thought it was always dusk.

Then there were the strings of solar Christmas lights I was so thrilled to discover a few years ago. The thought of being able to decorate my front porch with lights and not have to worry about tangled electrical cords or quadrupling my electric bill, made me fork over a couple hundred dollars for the lights. I figured just the money I would be saving on my electric bill would pay for them.

Forgetting that my front porch never saw sunlight, I carefully wound the lights around each post, railing and spindle. Then I eagerly waited for the next night, so I could see how the lights would look when they popped on.

To my delight, they glowed beautifully in all of their multi-colored glory right at dusk and looked fantastic. Five minutes later, they shut off, already out of power because they had seen the sun maybe 20 minutes all day.

So that Christmas, I told people if they wanted to come see my Christmas lights, they would have to zoom by my house at a specific hour and minute or they would miss them. My decorations came to be known as the world’s briefest Christmas-lights display.

The next year, I decided to hang the lights where they would get the most direct sunlight during the day, so they would stay lit at night. That spot turned out to be on the back deck, which faces nothing but acres of woods. The squirrels and the deer really enjoyed them.

Years ago, my husband had a wristwatch that ran on solar power. The problem was, it was pretty difficult to keep it charged, so every time he drove, he would hang his arm out of the car window so his watch could catch the sunlight and recharge. He ended up with a one really brown arm…and a watch that ran maybe three hours per day. 

He then learned that if he kept the watch under a bright 100-watt bulb, it could charge without the sun, so that’s where he put his watch every night as he slept. The problem was, keeping a 100-watt lightbulb turned on all night, every night, for the sole purpose of charging his watch, ended up being so expensive, he could have hired someone to follow him around all day and announce the time to him.

I’ve noticed when I’m out walking the dogs after dark, that most of my neighbors have those solar stake-lights lining their walkways or driveways. But most of the lights' brightness is uneven, depending on which ones get the most direct sunlight and which ones are nearer to the tallest grass or trees. So the rows of lights kind of look like a piano keyboard.

I’d never dare line my driveway with lights – or anything else. This past winter, I bought a bunch of those reflective driveway markers that show the plow drivers where to plow. Well, I guess my plow driver thought they were targets because he ran over all 16 of them, leaving nothing but piles of fiberglass splinters in their wake. And then he plowed right across my front lawn.

So unless I chop down all of the trees on my land, solar-powered anything probably isn’t a good option for me. Still, this coming Christmas, because I paid so much for those solar Christmas lights, I just might try decorating the front porch with them again.

And if you happen to drive by between 4:14 and 4:30 p.m. during the month of December, you just might be able to catch them while they’re lit.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

WHY I'LL NEVER MOVE TO FLORIDA


I realize that most people look forward to summer with eager anticipation.

I’m not one of them.

Aside from the fact that summer brings an assortment of flesh-eating, blood-sucking, carnivorous insects with it, it also brings something I dislike even more.

Humidity.

Humidity is one of the reasons why whenever any of my 43 friends who have moved to Florida during the past two years invite me to come down for a visit, I react as if they’ve just invited me to bathe in chum (shark bait) and then go skinny-dipping with a Great White.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve disliked humidity. Why? Loads of reasons. It’s sticky. It makes the air so heavy, it’s difficult to breathe. And it causes skin to become so constantly damp, I have to keep checking my armpits for mushrooms.  It’s nothing short of torture, I tell you.

Still, I have friends on the West Coast who find it hard to believe that New Hampshire actually even has humid weather.

“But you live in New Hampshire!” one of them said when I complained about the tropical weather. “Georgia and Florida have humidity.  New Hampshire is cold and dry…like Canada!”

I invited her to come here for a week of “cold and dry” in mid-July, so she can see for herself.

Although I have plenty of valid reasons why I don’t like humidity, first and foremost is my hair. Humidity either can make it look as limp as wet spaghetti or as frizzy as Albert Einstein’s. I can freshly wash and blow-dry my hair, and even manage to get a little curl into it, but the minute I step one foot outside during the months of June through August, the humidity attacks any semblance of a hairstyle and beats it to within an inch of its life.

On particularly humid days, my late husband used to tease me and tell me I looked just like Rat Child…which was our nickname for our dog back then, a Shih-Tzu.

And forget about makeup staying on during humid weather.  My eye shadow migrates into the creases on my eyelids (and believe me, I have plenty of creases) and ends up looking as if I painted stripes on them.  Lipstick slides right off my lips.

Another problem with humidity is bread.  I don’t like keeping bread in the fridge because it makes it too hard, so I keep it in the breadbox. 

I still can remember the day my husband didn’t look too pleased when he came home from work. “I ate half of the sandwich you gave me for lunch today before I noticed that part of the bread was green!” he’d complained, clasping his stomach.  “I think I may wake up dead in the morning.”

“You’ll live,” I told him. “Mold is like penicillin.”

On one TV newscast, some doctor was saying that when the air is humid, perspiration can’t evaporate, so it stays on the skin. 

I didn’t need an expert to tell me that.   My clothes usually stick to me with so much suction during the summer months, I practically need the Jaws of Life to get out of them.  I even had to stop wearing colored patterns because the dye was coming off on my skin and making me look as if I were covered in tattoos.

And every summer, we always ended up with a white bathroom – not because it was painted that color, but because of my husband’s fear of getting a fungal foot-infection, like athlete’s foot. One night, I saw a mysterious white cloud moving up the hallway.  I tracked it into the bathroom, where I found my husband vigorously shaking powder onto his feet.

“You have to be sure to keep your feet really dry in this weather,” he explained between coughs from all of the powder dust. “Humidity can give you such a bad case of athlete’s foot, your toes can rot right off!”

I frowned as I pictured myself toeless. “Hand me the powder.”

Even with the air-conditioner running non-stop, the house still is never free of humidity.  The minute I boil even one potato for dinner, the kitchen turns into a sauna and the windows steam up.  Then the air-conditioner struggles to run even harder.  Every time I hear it crank up a notch, I can hear my electric meter spinning like the cherries on a slot machine and making “cha-ching” noises.

 But one of the most aggravating problems in the summer is the sweaty toilet.  Whenever the weather is really humid, the toilet tank builds up so much condensation on it, it drips down and forms the mighty Mississippi on the bathroom floor.

“Buy one of those fuzzy toilet-tank covers to absorb the moisture,” one plumber’s website suggested as a remedy.

Easy for him to say. The last time I saw a fuzzy tank-cover anywhere, Sonny and Cher were still newlyweds.

So I guess I have no choice other than to be patient, endure the humidity, and count the days until September, when the air once again will turn crisper and cooler.

But for now, with summer looming only a few weeks away, I will just have to resign myself to the fact I’ll be spending the upcoming months looking like a colorfully tattooed Shih-Tzu, eating green bread and watching my toes rot off…probably because they will be submerged in water whenever I have to use the toilet.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

I CAN WATCH ALL OF MY FAVORITE TV PROGRAMS



The other day, one of my friends was complaining about how, since she got married, she has had to sacrifice watching a lot of her favorite TV programs.

"Last night, I wanted to watch a nice love story,” she said, “but my husband complained and whined so much about it, we ended up watching his choice - something about flesh-eating zombies getting their heads blown off. I nearly lost my lunch!” 

I definitely could empathize. My husband, rest his soul, wouldn’t watch anything unless it contained bloodshed, space aliens carrying weapons of mass destruction, motorcycles, scantily clad women, or car chases that involved crashing into no fewer than a dozen fruit stands or sidewalk cafes.

I remember when I asked him to take me to see the movie, Titanic. He acted as if I’d just asked him to drink a glass of battery acid.

“You couldn’t pay me enough to sit through that snooze-fest,” he said.

I shrugged. “Oh well, have it your way. Then I guess you’ll just have to miss the convention of strippers who are passengers on the ship, the giant sea monster they encounter, or the fact the ship gets attacked by a gang of bloodthirsty pirates.”

Suddenly he couldn’t wait to see the movie.

And then he didn’t speak to me for two days afterwards.

Now that I have the TV all to myself, I am watching programs my husband wouldn’t have watched even if he were being tortured. In fact, I have watched so many happily-ever-after love stories on the Hallmark Channel, I am honestly beginning to believe that a man and woman actually can meet, fall in love and get engaged before even sharing their first kiss.

Anyway, a week ago, on Friday night, I settled down with my cup of hot tea and prepared for a night of marathon love-story watching. About 15 minutes into the first movie, the TV picture froze.  Up popped a notice from DIRECTV, saying it was searching for my satellite connection.

Usually when I lose my satellite connection, it’s because there is a raging blizzard outside, or torrential rains that interfere with the transmission of the signal. But that night was clear. I shut off the TV, unplugged the receiver box, and then plugged it in again, which usually reboots it.

It worked. And for the next 20 minutes I was able to watch TV…until the picture froze once again. This went on all night, until I grew so frustrated, I wanted to use both the TV and the receiver box for target practice. I finally gave up and went to bed.

A couple hours later, I was awakened by the sound of two men carrying on a conversation in my living room. I sat upright, my eyes wide.

“I’ll do whatever you want,” one deep-voiced man was saying. “Just name it.”

Panic flooded through me. Who was in my living room? And what sinister plot were they discussing? But most of all, where were my dogs? Had the two men given them a snack of knockout meatballs?

Suddenly, a TV commercial for Geico Insurance blared through the living room.

I figured that unless my intruders had arrived with their own advertisers in tow, my TV was on.

Sure enough, the TV I had shut off before going to bed had somehow turned itself back on, all by itself. I unplugged it.

“If it turns back on now,” I muttered as I headed back to bed, “I’m calling an exorcist.”

The next morning, I contacted DIRECTV. The technician asked me several questions, remotely checked the receiver box from his end, and came to the conclusion the box needed to be replaced.

“How soon can you get here?” I asked. “I can’t go all weekend without any TV.”

“We’ll mail you a new one,” he said. “It should be there in 3-5 days.”

The thought of not being able to watch TV for that long instantly threw me into love-story withdrawal. But the worst news was yet to come.

“Do you record a lot of programs?” the tech asked me.

“Yeah, I have a lot of things I’ve recorded that I haven’t even watched yet – movies, local programming, TV episodes I missed from my favorite series.”

“Well, when you connect the new receiver box, you’ll lose everything you’ve recorded.”

I didn’t know which to be more upset about – the fact I’d be losing my nine precious episodes of “Outlander”…or the fact he’d said, “When you connect the box.”

“I have to connect the new box myself?” I asked, my voice sounding a few octaves higher than usual. “You’re not going to send someone – someone professional – over to do it?”

“It’s really simple,” he said. “Just call us and we’ll walk you through it.”

After our conversation ended, I dared to look behind my TV. Just as I’d feared, there were enough wires back there to hang myself with. I had visions of trying to install the new box, getting myself completely entangled and ending up lying helpless in a cocoon-like state on the floor until someone actually missed me enough to come check on me…that is, if all of the dust behind the TV didn’t choke me to death first.

The new receiver box arrived early Monday morning, after the longest weekend of my life. I removed it from the carton and stared at it as if it were contaminated with the Ebola virus. An instruction sheet was enclosed. Hesitantly, I picked it up and read it.

It actually didn’t sound too difficult, even for someone as technologically clueless as I am.

“You can do this!” I told myself, taking a deep breath. “Just put on your big-girl panties and give it your best shot!”

Carefully, step-by-step, I followed the instructions. I hooked up the new box to the TV. I programmed the new remote control. I then reprogrammed my other two TVs with the code number provided – because all three were controlled by the same receiver. I also called the toll-free phone number to have the new box activated.

Then I held my breath and tested my handiwork.  To my relief (and total amazement), all three TVs worked flawlessly. I was so proud of myself, I wanted to nominate myself for an award.

I still was smiling with satisfaction when I went to bed that night.

The next morning, my bank contacted me, saying they had put a hold on my debit card because of a suspicious “recharging fee” of $10.99 charged to my account.

“Oh, that must be my activation fee from DIRECTV,” I said, unconcerned. “I had to activate a new receiver box yesterday. So it’s fine. You can lift the hold on my account.”

“I don’t think it’s from DIRECTV,” the bank representative said. “It’s from a telecommunications company. I think you should double check with DIRECTV, just to be safe, before I lift the hold.”

I figured DIRECTV was a telecommunications company, so I still wasn’t concerned. But solely for the sake of pacifying the bank employee, I called them.

“I don’t think we charge for activating a box,” the employee said. “But I’ll check.”

About five minutes later, she returned. “I’m still not sure. But if you’d like, I’ll credit your account for $10.99.”

“No,” I said, “I’ll gladly pay the fee, if there is one. I just need to know if you’re the ones who charged it to my account. My bank seems to think I’ve been hacked.”

“I’m really not sure,” she said. “But I’ll be happy to credit your account the $10.99.”

I gave up and called the bank again.

“DIRECTV isn’t sure if they charged me the $10.99,” I told the representative. “But seeing that the charge popped up right after I activated my new receiver, I’d say it’s a legitimate charge. So you can release the hold on my account, okay?”

“I wouldn’t advise it,” she said. “I seriously would suggest canceling this card and getting a new one.”

The thought of having to notify all of the places that deduct monthly bill payments from my debit account made me want to go drink a tall glass of iced tea laced with hemlock.

“No, I’ll take my chances,” I said.

“If it’s a hack, it will require a lot of paperwork and time before you get your money back,” the bank representative said, stubbornly not giving up. “This $10.99 charge could be just a test to see if your card number is valid.”

I groaned. So even though I was certain the suspicious charge in question was nothing more than a DIRECTV fee, I told her to cancel my card. Then I headed to the local branch of my bank to get a new one.

“Wow! They have been busy!” the employee who handled the transaction said as he eyed his computer screen.

“They?” I repeated.

“The hackers – from Denmark,” he said, turning the screen toward me so I could see it. There were attempted charges on my card for everything from a trip to the Bahamas to Domino’s Pizza. All of them, thanks to the bank representative I’d spoken with on the phone, had been denied. She had been right about the $10.99 not coming from DIRECTV. If she hadn’t stood her ground and convinced me to cancel my card, I probably would have been forced to live in a tent within a few months.

So now I have a brand new TV receiver and a brand new debit card.

If my husband still were here, he’d be pleased – not because I actually hooked up a new receiver box all by myself, but because the debit-card fiasco and having to change all of my online accounts to the new card number is taking up so much of my time, he’d be able to watch the entire marathon of “The Walking Dead” undisturbed.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

PICNICS JUST AREN'T AS ROMANTIC ANY MORE


Some of my Facebook friends and I were having a discussion about ticks the other day. For one thing, we were saying how we used to play in fields or in the woods when we were kids and never once even saw a tick. Nowadays if we tried that, we’d probably end up covered with so many ticks, we’d be plucking them out of our skin for the next 10 years.

“I don’t know where they all suddenly came from,” one of my friends wrote, “but I sure as heck wish they’d go back to wherever it was!”

“Global warming,” another one said. “That’s what brought them here.”

“No, they hitched a ride here from Connecticut, where they were plentiful, and then they started breeding like wildfire,” yet another said.

As the conversation progressed, I found myself wishing I could return to a time when I was able to go for a walk in the woods and not have to come home and immediately strip down and search for ticks hiding out in my body folds…especially since my body has more folds than an accordion.

Anyway, the Facebook conversation reminded me of another conversation I’d had not long ago with one of my friends. She’d called on a hot summer day to excitedly tell me about Keith, the new man in her life.

“We’re going on a romantic picnic this weekend,” she said. “He knows a spot way off the beaten path where there is a beautiful meadow with a pond in the middle of it, and a big shade tree near the shore.”

“Sounds nice,” I said. “Hey, you can do what we used to do when we were kids that was so much fun. Lie back on the blanket and look up at the clouds and make pictures of out of them! You can learn a lot about your new boyfriend that way. I mean, if a cloud looks like the shape of two balloons to you, but it looks like a bra to him, well, he could be a pervert!”

“Blanket?” she repeated, ignoring the rest of my words of wisdom. “Are you kidding? Ticks would be crawling all over it within minutes. I’m bringing lawn chairs. And I’m going to wear long pants tucked into my socks, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat, just to be doubly safe. I’ve heard that ticks can climb up trees, sense when a warm body is nearby and then drop onto your head as you pass by.”

That was a new one to me. Still, as I envisioned hundreds of little paratrooper ticks skydiving out of the big shade tree and landing on her hat, I found myself thinking that her picnic was beginning to sound somewhat less than romantic.

“So what are you going to bring to eat?” I asked. “A picnic basket stuffed with fried chicken and potato salad?”

“Fried chicken and potato salad!” Her habit of repeating my words was beginning to make me feel as if I were talking to a parrot. “All that cholesterol? I want to win Keith’s heart, not clog it! Besides that, poultry and mayonnaise don’t travel all that well in hot weather, and I sure as heck don’t want to give him food poisoning.”

I giggled. “Yeah, imagine how you’d feel if the two of you started kissing and he suddenly pulled away, grasped his stomach and threw up! You’d wonder if it was due to your bad food or bad kissing!”

My friend didn’t laugh. “Actually,” she said, “I was thinking of bringing something like rye crackers, hard cheese and fresh fruit. Oh, and a nice red wine. That should be safe enough.”

“That sounds fine for appetizers,” I said. “But what’s your main course?”

“You have no concept of what a romantic picnic is all about, do you?” she asked.

The last picnic I’d been on was back in 1970, and it was with my parents, so it was pretty safe to say it wasn’t romantic. Still, I’d never pictured a romantic picnic to involve sitting in lawn chairs while wearing three layers of clothes and nibbling on dry crackers. I mean, picnics never were depicted that way in romance novels or movies.

I decided to tease her. “So, are you going to go skinny dipping in the pond?”

Again, her tone was serious. “No, there are supposed to be ducks in it, so if we swam in there, we’d probably end up with a bad rash.”

“A duck rash?” I asked, thinking she was joking. “From what? An allergy to feathers?”

“No, it’s from this parasite they carry. It’s called shizzy-something. It burrows into your skin when you swim. Haven’t you ever heard of swimmer’s itch?”

“Yeah, but I thought that was from sitting around too long in a wet bathing suit.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “I can hardly wait for this picnic. I mean, Keith was the one who suggested it. Isn’t that just the utmost in romance?”

“Uh, run it by me again…exactly what’s going to be so romantic about this picnic?”

“Boy, you really are clueless, aren’t you! What can be more romantic than just the two of us, alone in a meadow, sitting next to a duck-filled pond and feeding cheese, crackers and fruit to each other?” She paused for a moment. “Do you think the fruit will attract bees? I’m pretty sure Keith said he’s allergic to them.”

Visions of her boyfriend, puffed up like a balloon and scratching duck pimples as he whispered sweet nothings into her ear, immediately popped into my head. I stifled a laugh.

“Well, have a great time,” I said. “Call me and let me know how it went. And don’t go getting any mosquito bites in painful places now!”

“Mosquito bites!” Parrot Woman once again repeated my words. “Thanks for reminding me! I almost forgot to buy repellent! I don’t want to end up with the West Nile virus.”


Listening to my friend rattle off diseases as if she were a medical encyclopedia made me realize two things: (1). she probably was a hypochondriac and (2). picnics obviously weren’t what they used to be.

Personally, I think she would have been a lot happier if she’d have had her picnic under a big beach umbrella on a slab of concrete next to a swimming pool loaded with chlorine…with a guy who was a doctor.



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Thursday, April 6, 2017

WINTER MEANS VASELINE NOSTRILS



One of the hazards of the long New Hampshire winters that I have to suffer through every year is something I refer to as Vaseline nostrils.

For some reason, the minute the furnace pops on for the first time each year, the interior of my nose dries out worse than the Sahara and starts to sprout these sadistic little cracks that decide to bleed whenever the mood strikes them.

“Buy a humidifier,” my family doctor advised. “Your house obviously it too dry. Get some moisture in there – and into your nose.”

If I wanted moisture, all I’d have to do is go sit downstairs in my basement – a place so damp and dark, after only an hour down there your skin starts to grow moss. So the thought of adding dampness to the rest of my house really didn’t appeal to me.

“Or…” my doctor added, “you can keep the inside of your nose moist by using a saline spray or coating it with a thin layer of Vaseline.”

Of the three options, the Vaseline sounded the easiest…and the cheapest. So about 10 years ago, I started coating the insides of my nostrils with Vaseline every winter.

To my relief, it worked. No more cracking. No more nosebleeds.

And no more sense of smell.

I soon learned it was pretty difficult to smell anything when my nostrils were stuffed with Vaseline. Granted, it probably was because I was a bit overzealous when applying it and the “thin layer” was more like a big blob, but I didn’t want to give my nostrils even the slightest opportunity to dry out like raisins again.

As a result of my Vaseline nostrils, I’ve eaten spoiled food because I couldn’t smell it. I’ve stepped in “surprises” my dogs left for me, and I’ve set off the smoke detectors more than once because I couldn’t smell dinner burning.

But the worst complication of Vaseline nostrils occurred a few weeks ago, when I decided to use a gift card I’d received for Christmas.

“I’m looking for a nice light scent,” I told the sales clerk in the fragrance section of the store’s cosmetics department when she asked if she could help me find anything specific. “Something lemony or citrus-scented would be nice.”

“I have several choices you might like,” she said.

She then proceeded to spray several colognes onto these little blotter-like cards and handed them to me one at a time.

“What do you think of this one?” she asked, smiling.

I sniffed the little card. I couldn’t detect even the slightest scent of any cologne. It could have smelled like skunk pee for all I knew.

“Mmmm, that’s lovely,” I lied, embarrassed to let her know I essentially was wasting her time because all I could smell was “Eau de Vaseline,” which was kind of like a faint scent of motor oil.

She handed me the next card. “This one is a little stronger.”

I felt my spirits rise, thinking I might be able to smell that one.

But once again, I couldn’t smell anything that even remotely resembled cologne.

Five samples later, I finally managed to get a slight whiff of something that smelled vaguely like lemons.

“I’ll take this one!” I told the clerk, quickly handing my gift card to her. I was so relieved to finally have been able to smell something, I wasn’t about to pass it up.

Two days later, I went grocery shopping. Before I left the house, I decided to use some of my new cologne. I sprayed it on my wrists and then sniffed them. I couldn’t smell anything, so I sprayed a little more cologne on them…and then a little more.

As I walked through the supermarket, I noticed that people kept turning to stare at me - and when they did, their expressions sort of resembled those of someone whose septic tank had just backed up into the house.

After a few minutes of constantly being stared at, I began to develop a complex. Was my eye makeup smudged? Was my hair sticking up? Did I have a hole in the seat of my pants? I decided to detour into the restroom to check things out.

I was alone in there, in one of the stalls, when I heard someone walk in.

“Whew!” a woman’s voice gasped. “The last person in here must have taken a bath in cheap perfume!  Talk about stinky! It's making my eyes water!”

“Yeah,” came another female voice. “Anyone who wears that much perfume is probably trying to hide the fact she has body odor or something!”

I sniffed the air. I didn’t smell anything. I thought maybe it was a good thing my Vaseline nostrils were protecting me from the obviously stinky restroom, because the way the two women were talking, I wouldn’t have wanted to be subjected to the choking scent of cheap perfume.

I emerged from the stall and both women stared at me as if they just had seen the Ghost of Christmas Past, ready to whisk them away.

I smiled at them, washed my hands and left. But just before the restroom door closed behind me, I heard one of them say, “Oh, Lord, I’m so embarrassed!  I didn’t know she was still in here!”

It took a moment before her words sank into my thick head. I was the stinky woman wearing the cheap perfume! I was the one making people’s eyes water!

Luckily, I had only two items in my cart. I quickly put them back, then ran out of the store, all the while wondering if the place would soon have to be evacuated because the lingering stench I left behind was causing the customers to suffer respiratory problems.

The minute I got home, I leapt into the shower and scrubbed the cologne off my skin. Then I blew my nose about six times and wiped out all of the Vaseline until I actually could smell again.

Taking a deep, calming breath, I hesitantly picked up the bottle of cologne, sprayed it into the air and sniffed it.

It smelled like a combination of overly ripe bananas and armpits. I was so embarrassed, I vowed never to show my face in that supermarket again.

Fortunately, winter finally is over, so I can quit using the Vaseline. But next year, I think I might be wise to seriously consider investing in a humidifier.

Either that, or I can move down into my damp basement. Heck, a little moss never hurt anyone.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

IN MY EASTER OUTFIT...



The other day, a store clerk and I got into a discussion about Easter back when we were kids.

“My mother always bought me a new hat for Easter,” she said. “How about you?”

“Definitely!” I answered. “And the more flowers on it, the better. I walked around looking as if I had a get-well bouquet growing out of my head!”

She giggled. “And let’s not forget the brand new, patent-leather Mary Jane shoes.”

I nodded. “They were so shiny, there were rumors that the boys could see the reflection of our panties in them!”

Our conversation made me think about Easter outfits as I drove home from the store that day. Back when I was young, going shopping with my mom for my annual Easter outfit actually was pretty exciting. I loved trying on all of the frilly little dresses with fluffy petticoats underneath, and then choosing the matching accessories - a hat, white gloves, a purse and shoes.

Even more fun was going to church and seeing everyone else’s new outfits. It wasn’t very often that you’d see shoes so shiny and clothes so crisp on an entire congregation. I swear you could smell the new-clothes scent when you walked into the church…kind of like a new-car scent, only clothes-ier.

Of course, after Easter, those same outfits got pretty boring because everyone wore them nearly every Sunday, so they could get their money’s worth out of them. After all, it wasn’t as if we kids could wear party dresses to school.

On Easter Sunday, I always enjoyed seeing my friends’ new Easter finery, too. I remember one year when my friend Sue, who lived next-door and was about nine at the time, came over to show me her outfit. It was a pale yellow dress with lots of ruffles, topped with a matching flowered yellow hat. As Sue and I were standing out in the yard, her older sister, Diane, dressed in a lacy white Easter outfit, suddenly came rushing over.

“That’s MY petticoat you’re wearing!” she shouted at Sue. “You take it off right now!”

“Will not!” Sue shot back. “Mom said I could wear it for Easter.”

Diane, her expression furious, stomped over to Sue, reached up underneath her dress and yanked down the petticoat. It fell into a heap on the ground.

Instead of pulling it back up, Sue stepped out of the slip and threatened to yank out her sister’s hair by the roots. Diane started running and Sue took off after her. By the time they returned for the slip, Sue’s hat was hanging down over one eye and the flowers on it were all flattened. Diane’s formerly shiny shoes had scuffs all over them.

Sue grabbed the petticoat at the same time Diane did, and a tug-of-war ensued. Diane finally tore the slip out of Sue’s hands and ran off with it, letting loose a stream of evil cackles as she did.

That was a great Easter.


When I was young, my biggest problem was keeping my Easter outfit clean until I got to church. But I swear, it was the Easter Bunny’s fault, not mine. I mean, I’d get up at the crack of dawn on Easter Sunday, grab my empty Easter basket and go eagerly searching for all of the toothache-inducing goodies that Mr. Bunny had hidden for me.

Drool would seep out of the corners of my mouth as I uncovered one chocolate egg, jelly bean, marshmallow chick and chocolate bunny after another. And then there always was the biggest treasure of all; a giant fruit, nut and cream-filled chocolate egg about the size of a bowling ball. It was enough to give a kid a bad case of worms.

And every Easter, Mom would remind me, “Now don’t eat any of that candy until we get back from church!”

But what normal, red-blooded kid actually could hold a basket heaped with candy and not sample a piece? When it came to chocolate, I didn’t have an ounce of willpower back then…and all these years later, I still don’t.

So several of my frilly Easter dresses somehow mysteriously ended up with smears of chocolate all over them. And so did my face. And my (formerly) white gloves.

That probably explains why many of the children of today never will experience the thrill of wearing frilly lace dresses and shiny patent-leather shoes, or sprouting flower gardens on their heads on Easter Sunday.

And they have the messy little hair-pulling, shoe-scuffing, chocolate-chomping kids from my generation to blame for it.


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

THIS YEAR, I WON'T BE AN APRIL FOOL (I HOPE!)



April Fools' Day is just around the corner, and if I were smart, I’d stay in bed all day with the covers pulled over my head. You see, even though I consider myself to have decent sense of humor, I’m rarely amused when someone pulls a prank on me.

I guess I’m not the only who’s not crazy about pranks. I watched this couple on TV the other night who, as an April Fools' joke, thought it would be funny to hold a fake wedding, complete with a band, caterer and decorations. Gift-bearing relatives, unaware that the wedding was a sham, flew in from all over the country, and even from as far away as Australia, to attend.

When, at the reception, the bride and groom picked up the wedding cake, which turned out to be nothing but ornately decorated Styrofoam, and flung it into the air, then confessed that the entire wedding had been nothing but an elaborate April Fools' joke, the guests looked as if they were ready to form a lynch mob.

All I can say is that if the fake newlyweds had been MY friends and I’d forked over my hard-earned money for a flight all the way from Australia, I probably would have made them eat their Styrofoam cake.

Back when I was in grade school, I dreaded April Fools' Day because I knew I’d inevitably end up being the victim of some dumb prank. One of the boys’ favorite pranks was to stick a paper with some dumb message on it on the girls’ backs. There was the ever-popular “Kick Me!” and more creative ones such as, “My Bra is Stuffed with Socks.”

I still remember this one boy who gave me a piece of gum that turned my teeth completely black. Then every time I smiled afterwards, everyone would burst out laughing. I couldn’t figure out why until I finally looked into a mirror and saw my stained, toothless-looking mouth. I was horrified.

But that wasn’t as torturous as the red-hot gum a girl gave me the year after. One chew and I felt as if my mouth had been stuffed with an entire crop of jalapeno peppers. Even my eyeballs were sweating.

I thought that once I was out of school, I wouldn’t have to worry about corny April Fools' Day jokes any more, but I soon learned that chewing-gum pranks weren’t limited only to grade-school kids.

When I was 20 and working in an office, one of my co-workers, Sue, passed around some gum on April Fools' Day. Not until all of us began to stampede toward the ladies’ room did she laughingly confess that she’d given us something called Feen-a-Mint laxative gum!

But alas, revenge can be sweet. As the other office girls and I (when we weren’t fighting for the bathroom) secretly gathered to plot devious pranks like putting Super Glue on Sue’s chair or spiking her shampoo with Nair, fate stepped in and punished her for us.

It just so happened that when the gum was being passed around, our boss unexpectedly came into the office and grabbed a couple pieces for herself. Afterwards, when the poor woman finally was able to pry herself away from the bathroom, she fired Sue.

“Am I really fired or is this just an April Fools' joke, too?” Sue asked her.

“Tell you what,” the boss said, “if you chew a few of pieces of that delicious gum of yours right now, you can keep your job.”

We never saw Sue again.

I’ve noticed that pranks have become even more devious over the years. For example, a few years ago, some company came up with very realistic looking but very fake lottery scratch-tickets. Give one to some poor sap, he scratches it and automatically wins something like $100,000.

Then, as the guy is jumping up and down, shouting, “Whoopee!” and “Yahoo! I’m rich!” and hugging everyone in the room, including the cat, you burst out laughing and shout, “April Fool! The ticket is fake!”

I suspect that a high percentage of people who are listed as missing persons are people who once gave fake lottery scratch-tickets to their friends.

So this year on April Fools' Day, I am not going to chew any gum, scratch any lottery tickets, or answer either my phone or the door.

And with my luck, Publisher’s Clearing House will show up on my doorstep with a check for a million dollars.


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