Friday, December 31, 2010


If I removed all of the pages from all of the catalogs I receive each year, I could wallpaper the entire interior of the Empire State Building with them. The truth is, I really do enjoy catalogs and love to order unusual things from them – things I’d never find locally.

For example, about four years ago, something in one of the catalogs caught my eye. It was unusual, a real conversation piece, and it immediately made me think of my husband. It was a toilet seat.

This toilet seat had a lid that was made to look like a shield that a knight in armor would carry. It resembled real pewter with a big gold cross on it. And imbedded in the clear Lucite seat was a strip of actual chain mail, the kind a knight would wear in battle.

I thought of how my husband always said he was going to the “throne room” whenever he disappeared into the bathroom, so before I knew it, I was ordering the seat, mostly as a joke gift for him for Christmas.

When the seat arrived, I was surprised at how well made and heavy it was. It truly was a work of art. It looked as if it could be used in an actual jousting tournament (if the seat part weren’t attached to it, that is). I hid the package so my husband wouldn’t find it. The problem was, I hid it so well, I never found it again, either…not until we moved a year ago.

That’s when I decided to use the seat in one of the bathrooms in the new house and surprise my husband.

The seat looked so spiffy once I installed it, I came up with the brilliant idea of decorating the entire bathroom in a medieval décor. I bought a mirror that resembled a stained-glass castle window. I also bought a small scatter rug made of real stones, smooth and polished, glued together, which I put it in front of the tub.

My husband got a big kick out of the toilet seat when I finally showed it to him…but the stone scatter rug was a different story.

“Do you really think stepping out of the tub with wet feet onto slippery stones is a good idea?’ he asked me. “I have visions of myself breaking a hip.”

“Then just shower in the other bathroom,” I said, not wanting to disrupt my décor.

The toilet seat (a.k.a. the “throne”) soon became a tourist attraction in our house because no one had ever seen anything like it before. I must confess, I was pretty proud of that seat.

Two weeks ago, however, something happened to my prized possession. One of the little rubber things under the seat – the rubber things that the seat rests on to lift it off the toilet bowl – fell off and landed in the toilet. Before I realized it, it was on its merry way to the septic tank.

When I told my husband about it, he said I should go to the hardware store and see if they carried the rubber things that go under the seat.

“But what are they called?” I asked him. “What are their proper names?”

He shrugged. “Raisers? Bumpers? Anti-slipping devices? I have no clue.”

I searched on the computer for hours, checking toilet suppliers and hardware stores, and couldn’t find anything to replace the rubber thing. I was crushed. The throne, the conversation piece, now was lopsided.

But if that weren’t bad enough, the other night, disaster struck. My husband went into the bathroom and within seconds I heard a sound that was similar to that of a wooden baseball bat splintering when it hit a fast pitch, followed by, “Owwww!”

Visions of my husband slipping on the stone mat and landing head-first in the bathtub ran through my mind.

“What was that noise?” I shouted through the bathroom door.

My husband’s sheepish voice quietly came back with, “I sat on the toilet seat and it broke in half.”

“You broke the throne?!” I felt my heart momentarily stop. But then, remembering the “Owwww,” thought I should at least give him the courtesy of asking, “Are you OK?”

“Yeah,” came the answer from behind the door. “When the seat cracked, it well…pinched.”

Before I could comment, he quickly added, “The seat broke where the rubber thing was missing. There was no support in that area without it.”

When I finally saw the actual destruction, the crack didn’t look as severe as I’d expected. “If we don’t mention it, I don’t think anyone will even notice it’s broken,” I said.

I later ate those words when I sat on the seat and discovered the true meaning of the word, “pinch.”

“Why don’t we just put duct tape on the crack?” my husband suggested. “That’ll work.”

I glared at him. “Oh, sure, duct tape will look just stunning on a clear toilet seat!”

So back to the computer I went to see if the catalog where I’d originally bought the seat had a replacement in stock. My luck, the seat had been discontinued. Even worse, it apparently had been on clearance for 60-percent off before the company discontinued it. Panicking, I searched the entire Internet, including online auctions, for the seat. There wasn’t one to be found anywhere.

“I guess you’ll just have to settle for a plain wooden one,” my husband said.

“Plain wood?” I was appalled. “How can I put a plain wooden seat in there after having had something so special, so unique? And what about my medieval décor?”

“Well, if you truly want to be medieval,” he said, “you can always build an outhouse.”

During my online search, I did happen to see a medieval seat with a 3-D dragon’s head and a sword on it that I just might buy as a replacement. In the meantime, I’m finding that duct tape really can be quite comfy.

Monday, December 20, 2010


My husband had an appointment for his six-month physical last week. Getting to the doctor’s office, however, wasn’t an easy task.

For one thing, my husband is punctual and I’m not. I have a bad habit of always waiting until the very last minute to get ready, and then I have to rush. And rushing when I’m putting on makeup is never a good idea. I have stabbed my eyeballs with my mascara brush so many times, I’m surprised I haven’t permanently blinded myself.

But on this particular day, my husband was the one who was dragging. He woke up with a backache and barely could straighten up to walk. He struggled to get dressed, then sat on the edge of the bed and asked me if I could check his feet.

“What exactly would you like me to check for?” I hesitated to ask. Everything from blisters and bunions to some horrible fungus crossed my mind.

“Well, I showered before I went to bed,” he said, “but I want to make sure there’s no bed lint between my toes or anything. You know how the doctor loves to examine my feet!”

Maybe the doctor loved to examine them, but I sure didn’t.

“They look just fine to me,” I said, standing about five feet away. “Hurry up and put your socks on and let’s get out of here.”

“I can’t bend over,” he said. “Can you put them on for me?”

I shoved his socks onto his feet so quickly, the heels ended up on the tops of his feet. I didn’t care. “Come on now, let’s get going!”

We got halfway to the door when he suddenly stopped dead and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Before I could protest, he added, “When I was a kid, my mother always insisted we go to the bathroom before we went anywhere. It’s a habit I can’t break.”

I rolled my eyes. “We have only 15 minutes to get to the doctor’s.”

He disappeared into the bathroom.

We finally arrived at the doctor’s office at 2:19. My husband’s appointment was at 2:10.

“Well,” the receptionist said, frowning, when we checked in,“we already have you down as a no-show and the doctor is with his next patient, doing a procedure. But I’ll check to see if he can fit you in.”

There was no one else in the waiting room. We sat down and waited…and waited. I read a children’s book about a woman who adopted a bunch of animals but didn’t want to adopt an elephant because she was afraid it would eat all of her canned goods. I read another book by Dr. Seuss about some guy named Sam who had a bunch of green eggs.

Finally, 20 minutes later, the receptionist told us she would have to reschedule the appointment because the doctor was going to be tied up with the “procedure.” I began to wonder exactly what this “procedure” was. Delivering quintuplets?

She rescheduled the appointment for the first week of January.

Upset that we’d wasted a perfectly good afternoon, my husband and I muttered under our breaths as we headed back to the elevator. We stepped inside and watched the doors close.

After standing there for about 45 seconds, I said to my husband, “We’re not moving! Don’t tell me the dumb elevator is stuck!”

He glanced at the panel of buttons, shook his head and said, “Apparently we’re not moving because when we got on, we forgot to push the button.”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. And when I did, my husband started laughing, too. By the time we finally emerged into the lobby, we both were holding our stomachs, we were laughing so hard. People stared at us as if they thought we’d been popping some kind of happy pills on the elevator.

My husband figures we forgot to push the button because we’re getting old and forgetful. I think we forgot to push it because we were so upset about missing his appointment.

Either way, when we go back in January, maybe we should take the stairs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I was thinking the other day how differently I used to look at Christmas when I was a kid, compared to now, when I’m considered to be in my “golden” years. It’s amazing how time can change things.

For example, when I was five, I used to count the hours until Christmas. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit still. I was completely in the Santa zone. Nothing else mattered but him. Every hour seemed like 100 years.

But now, I look at the calendar and think, “Oh, no! Only 10 days until Christmas! I haven’t even started my shopping yet! I have to bake cookies! I have to dig out the Christmas decorations and untangle 9,000 lights! I have to lose 25 lbs.! I have to buy an outfit that’s dressier than my sweatpants with a hole in the seat and my sweatshirt with no armpits! There’s not enough time!”

When I was a kid, my Christmas stocking was one of my favorite things to dig into on Christmas morning because it was bursting with candy, candy and more candy. By 6 a.m. I was guaranteed to be biting off the head of a chocolate Santa or leaving a sticky candy cane lying somewhere on the furniture.

Now, chocolate makes my gallbladder flare up and peppermint gives me heartburn.

When I was young, I was up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. Last Christmas, I was so exhausted, I slept until 3 in the afternoon and then stayed in my pajamas all day. Unfortunately, I’d promised my husband a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. By the time I got around to cooking everything, it was time to go back to bed.

At least I was already in my pajamas.

Christmas shopping also was fun when I was a kid. My dad and I would head to downtown Manchester and buy gifts for my mom. Elm Street was strung with thousands of beautiful colored lights, and there were Santas on every corner. After we were done shopping, we’d always stop at Verani’s restaurant for hot chocolate (with extra whipped cream) and I’d play a few songs on the jukebox. I really looked forward to it every year.

Now, I sit in front of the computer and order gifts while staring at my half-dead poinsettia.

Wrapping all of the gifts my dad and I bought was fun, too. I would make gift tags out of construction paper and then paint them and put glitter on them. I’d carefully wrap every gift and make certain all of the corners were neat and flat. And I always had a big bag of bows handy so I could match the color of the bow to the color of the wrapping paper.

Now, I usually cut the paper too short or really crooked, but slap it on the gifts anyway, or I just forget about the paper and stuff the gifts into a gift bag with a wad of tissue paper on top. I haven’t bought a bow since Nixon was president.

One of my very favorite Christmas events when I was a kid was my family’s Christmas Eve tradition of taking a ride to look at all of the Christmas lights. We would ride all over town for hours, “oohing” and “aahing” at the colorful displays.

The last time I managed to convince my husband to take me out to see the lights, he drove about three miles and then said, “Seen enough yet? I’m missing my evening nap!”

And then there was the Christmas tree. My mom and I would go pick it out, then Dad would come home from work and set it up and we’d spend the night decorating it. I loved hanging all of the beautiful ornaments and tinsel. I also loved the smell of a freshly cut tree. It gave the house that true Christmassy scent.

Now, I think of a live Christmas tree as a needle-shedding fire hazard that costs way too much for something that’s going to be brown and bald in a week. And a couple years ago, I found my box of Christmas ornaments buried underneath 100 pounds of junk out in the storage shed, which had reduced them to a pile of glass rubble. I still haven’t gotten around to replacing any of them.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls, so my Christmas wish-list was always filled with Barbies and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

Now, 50 years later, my Christmas wish-list is filled with…Barbie dolls and all of the clothing and accessories for them.

It’s nice to know that at least some things never change.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I come from a long line of bullet biters. My mother and all of her siblings were taught not to give in to pain – to bite the bullet and keep going, no matter what. They were raised to believe that Mother Nature would take care of whatever was ailing them, so there was no need to rush off to a doctor. I had an uncle who once used duct tape on a gash that clearly needed about 150 stitches.

That’s probably why I’m a notorious procrastinator when it comes to seeing a doctor when I’m feeling pain. The past few weeks were a prime example.

I banged my right knee on several different occasions – playing with the dogs, lugging groceries into the house, looking through boxes of junk in the basement. The first time I banged it, I felt the knee move to the left. It was sore for a couple days, but then it seemed fine.

The second time, I felt the knee move again, this time accompanied by a sharp pain shooting up into my inner thigh. Again, I ignored it and continued to do everything as usual, including taking a daily walk.

But after the third time, I started to suspect I probably wouldn’t be spending an evening ballroom dancing any time soon.

Each day, the pain got worse, despite my efforts to get rid of it. I tried heat, ice, an Ace bandage and elevating the leg, but nothing worked. If I twisted my leg even slightly, I emitted a noise that sounded something like a coyote during mating season.

The final straw came one night about a week ago when I went to a store in downtown Concord. There was nowhere to park near the store, so I ended up parking about three blocks away. As I walked toward the store, I felt twinges in my knee, but I bit the bullet and ignored them. When I headed back to my car, however, the Queen Mother of all pains shot all the way up my leg. I plopped down on the nearest bench.

I sat there shivering in the cold until I got brave enough to try walking back to my car again. The pain was even worse. The coyote sound returned as I barely made it to the next bench.

I had visions of my stiff, frozen body being found seated on the bench the next morning, my blue hand extended toward my car, only 50 feet away, my face contorted into a hideous expression of pain for eternity.

When I finally made it home that night, I vowed to call a doctor in the morning. I made an appointment for two days later.

In the meantime, I made the mistake of checking out my symptoms on the Internet. I learned that my knee pain could be caused by anything from severe arthritis to a torn ligament, or even a tumor, all of which required surgery. I immediately panicked.

“I’m going to spend the holidays in the hospital and then at physical therapy!” I whined to my husband. “Maybe I should wait and reschedule my appointment until January.”

“If you do, you’ll be stuck paying the insurance deductible first, because it will be a new year,” he said.

I kept my appointment.

The doctor took x-rays of my knee, then put it through its paces. I immediately deduced that the man was a sadist as he twisted, pushed and shoved my leg around as if it were dough and he were making pretzels. Every time I cried out in pain, he nodded and smiled, as if he’d hit a jackpot.

“Your symptoms are practically textbook for an MCL – medial collateral ligament – tear,” he said. “It’s a ligament on the inner side of the knee that helps keep it stable. We grade the tears on a scale of 1-3, with 3 being the worst. Yours is about a 2.5.”

I rolled my eyes and wondered how I was ever going to make it through the holidays if I couldn’t even drive my car. Surgery on my right knee would all but guarantee I’d either be confined to the house or forced to venture out with my husband, the king of diuretics, who has to visit a restroom every 15 minutes.

“But there’s good news,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my moment of self-pity. “Of all the ligaments you could have torn, this one usually responds well without surgery. You’ll just have to wear a leg brace for six weeks and you should be all set after that, no problem!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. For the first time in years, I’d actually done something right – I’d torn a self-healing ligament. I made a mental note to buy a lottery ticket on the way home.

The doctor handed me some paperwork and then told me to go upstairs to some brace company to get fitted with the brace. He made an appointment for me to return in three weeks so he could check my progress.

I headed upstairs, eager to get the brace and begin the healing process.

“Well,” the woman at the desk said, “First we’ll have to get approval from your insurance, which can take up to 14 days. Then we’ll make an appointment for you to come in and be measured for the brace. After that, it will take about two weeks to make it. Then you’ll have an appointment to come in for the fitting.”

My eyebrows rose. “That’s a whole month! In the meantime, I’m supposed to limp around with a flopping ligament? Surely that can’t be good for it?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but that’s how long these things take.”

Upset, I rushed (well, hobbled) back downstairs to the doctor’s office and told him what was going on.

“Are they kidding?” he asked. “Let me see what I have here in the way of hinged braces.”

He dug up a big, black rubber torture device with metal rods on the sides. It was about as comfortable as tourniquet filled with rocks. The thought of having to wear it for six weeks made me want to throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy.

The brace and I have since become mortal enemies. It not only sticks to my skin and makes it sweaty, raw and itchy, there is an opening behind the knee that’s like a tight, rubberized cut-out circle, that pushes the fat behind my knee right out through it. The back of my knee looks like one of those cans of refrigerator biscuits after you bust it open and the dough pops out. It not only looks ugly, it really hurts.

When I complained and showed the popping-out fat to my husband, his expression clearly told me he wasn’t about to say, “Hey, baby, you really look sexy tonight!”

Instead, he said, “Isn’t there some way you can push it back in?”

I have tried everything, like wearing cotton pantyhose and even taping the back of my knee, but once I slide my leg back into the skin-tight brace, everything I put around my leg either bunches up or falls off, and the fat pops out again. Even worse, the brace doesn’t fit underneath any of my jeans or slacks, so I have to wear baggy sweatpants.

But once again, I will bite the bullet, and in five more weeks my leg should be just fine.

And then I’ll probably slam it in the car door.