Saturday, December 31, 2011


Last weekend I had one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong. Unfortunately, those “I should have stayed in bed” days are way too common in my life.

First of all, there was the pizza incident.

“I want extra cheese, extra pepperoni and extra hamburger on it,” my husband had emphasized before I’d left to run errands the night before. “And be sure to check the pizza before you take it home. The last time, they completely forgot the hamburger, and we paid for extra!”

Well, by the time I ran all of my errands, fought traffic and waited in lines that rivaled the ones at Disney World, my only thought was to get home and get into my fuzzy slippers and sweat pants. So when the pizza box was handed to me, I just grabbed it and took off.

When I got home, I handed the pizza to my husband and headed straight for the bedroom and my well-worn, lint-balled, but oh-so-comfy sweat pants.

Suddenly his voice came from the kitchen. “You didn’t check the pizza before you left the restaurant, did you?”

I groaned. “Why? Did they forget your hamburger again?”

“No, they gave me an unidentified blob of dough with meatballs sticking out of it!”

I have to admit I was puzzled, so I headed out to the kitchen. The way my husband was staring at the pizza box, you’d think something was about to leap out of it and attack him.

“What is that thing?” he asked, pointing at the box as he backed away from it.

I nearly was afraid to peek inside. “It’s a calzone – a meatball calzone,” I said.

“What the heck is a calzone and what is it doing in my pizza box?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m not about to make a 30-mile trip tonight to find out. I’ll bring it back tomorrow in the daylight, OK?”

His expression told me it wasn’t OK, but I was too tired to care at that point. He ended up eating a peanut-butter sandwich.

The next day, I headed back to the pizza parlor with my receipt and the alien calzone in the car. On the way, I passed a department store that surprisingly had a half-empty parking lot, so I decided to pop in and see if I could pick up a few last-minute stocking stuffers.

As I passed the jewelry counter, a ring on sale caught my eye. I couldn’t resist, I stopped to try it on.

It was a pretty ring, but I didn’t think it was worth the price, even on sale, so I decided to take it off and put it back. I tugged on the ring and it didn’t budge.

I spent the next five minutes yanking, tugging, pulling and grunting, but all I succeeded in doing was making my finger swell...and the ring get tighter. I licked my finger, hoping the moisture would help the ring slide off. People stared at me, probably wondering why the heck I was “tasting” a ring, but still the dumb thing acted as if it had been dipped in super glue.

Humiliated, I finally decided to seek help. As it turned out, help came in the form of a male clerk who was stocking shelves.

“I have a slight problem,” I said to him, holding up my hand. “I can’t get this ring off.”

He smiled and said I wasn’t the first one he’d had to help out of the same situation. Not only did I feel less dumb, I felt relieved. I mean, after all, I’d obviously chosen a ring-removing expert.

“Follow me to cosmetics,” he said.

Obediently, I followed.

He searched up and down each aisle until he found a display of hand-lotion samples. Then he told me to squirt some lotion on my finger. I did, but still the ring wouldn’t move. I was praying he wouldn’t tell me to follow him to the power-tools department next.

“Well, maybe if you put your finger in the freezer in the snack bar,” he said, “the cool air will shrink the swelling and the ring will come off.”

I had visions of coming home with a frostbitten ring finger and trying to explain it to my husband.

Desperate, I tugged on the ring one more time and it popped off. Never in a million years would I ever have thought I’d be happy to get rid of a piece of jewelry.

By the time I arrived at the pizza restaurant to return the meatball calzone, I was, well...not exactly in a jovial mood. I thrust the pizza box at the poor guy behind the counter and snapped, “Does this look like a pizza to you?”

He opened the box and stared at the calzone, then shook his head. I handed the receipt to him. “This is what I ordered! Do you think I enjoy traveling 30 miles out of my way to return things you goofed up?”

His wide-eyed stare told me he probably thought I was going to leap across the counter and dunk his head in the vat of pizza sauce. I took a deep breath and counted to 10, then calmly said, “You owe me a pizza.”

Well, not only did I come out of there with a pizza (which I carefully inspected), I also had a complimentary $20 gift card and a bottle of juice. The guy probably would have given me the keys to his car, too, just to get rid of me.

So I guess the day ended pretty well after all. My husband finally got his pizza...and I got to keep my finger.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Sometimes I get what I think are brilliant ideas, and I put a lot of time and effort into executing them...only to have them fail. Such was the case last week.

The front of our house sits on level land, but out back, the land, which is all forest, steeply slopes down to Deerfield Road (also known as Bear Brook Road). Up until about a year ago, our house wasn’t visible from the road. But one day a convoy of heavy equipment rolled in and cut down acres of trees in what seemed like minutes. So now we are visible...and I can’t go outside in my pajamas to feed the birds any more.

A few nights ago, as I was heading home up Deerfield Road, I happened to notice that on my left, directly behind a pale-green house with a gate across the driveway, a solitary light was shining in the dark, way up on a hill, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It took me a couple seconds to realize it was our back-porch light.

That’s when the wheels started turning in my pointed little head. What if, I thought, I bought a giant lighted star and hung it on the back of our house, so when cars came up Deerfield Road and the passengers looked to their left, they would see a lone, bright star shining in the darkness? Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas decoration?

The minute I got home, I dashed to my computer and started searching for giant Christmas stars. A half-hour later, I turned off the computer, discouraged. Before I could afford to buy a giant star, I’d have to cash in my life insurance and probably sell one of my kidneys.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up on the star idea, so I checked Ebay. There, I found a wire-framed 52-inch star with 140 lights, at a really affordable price. So I ordered the star and then camped out on the front steps, waiting for it to arrive.

The box that was delivered a few days later was about the size of a briefcase. I had imagined it would be about the size of big-screen TV, so I was puzzled. My star, I soon learned, had to be assembled....from a stack of small V-shaped wire segments and another stack of plastic twist-ties.

It took me three hours to put the star together. Proud of my work, I lifted it by the hook on the top of it to admire it...and ended up with just the hook in my hand. So out came my trusty roll of duct tape. To heck with the plastic ties, I thought. I wanted my star to hold together through blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and hail. And I could think of nothing that would do the job better than duct tape.

The lights on the star were the tiny, blinking variety, definitely not bright enough to be seen from miles away. So I bought several strings of huge white lights and wrapped them around the wire frame of the star. Then out came the roll of duct tape again for added security.

Our garage, which is attached to the house, has two front overhead doors and one rear overhead door, so my plan was to hang the star on the rear door. The only problem was the door is white. I’m no Christmas-lights expert, but I was pretty sure white lights against a white door wouldn’t give me the desired “star in the darkness” effect I wanted.

So I came up with another plan...get a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood, paint it flat black and lean it against the garage door, then attach the star to it. I got on the phone to Uncle Lenny, seeing he has a truck, and asked him if he could pick up the plywood for me.

All I can say is when Uncle Lenny arrived with the plywood and got his first glimpse of my monstrosity of a duct-taped star, he gave me a look that clearly told me he thought I’d finally lost my last few remaining brain cells.

“You hang up that thing and you’ll have people climbing the hill out back here, looking for a manger!” he said.

“Do you think they’ll be able to see it from Deerfield Road?” I asked.

“I think they’ll be able to see it from Manchester!” he said.

I grabbed the black spray-paint and began to spray the plywood. When it dried, Uncle Lenny wedged it into the frame of the garage door, then put a screw into the top of the board to hold the star. We finally hung my masterpiece, but instead of being pleased, I was instantly traumatized.

“The plywood is only 4 feet high!” I said. “The star is 52 inches high! Look! Four inches of my star aren’t even against the black background!”

Uncle Lenny rolled his eyes. “No one will be able to tell the difference from that distance. You’re too much of a perfectionist!”

“But the tips of the star are very important!” I complained. “They have to be against the black background!”

“It will look just fine,” Uncle Lenny said.

“But -!”

“You know,” he interrupted me. “You can be a real pain in the neck sometimes!”

When I later went inside, my husband asked me how things were going.

“Uncle Lenny says I’m a pain in the neck!”

He started to laugh. “Thank him for me.”

That night, I finally lit my precious star, then drove down to Deerfield Road to gaze at the results of all my efforts.

When I reached the pale-green house with the gated driveway and looked up at the hill behind it, my smile of anticipation faded. Uncle Lenny had been right. Not only didn’t the four inches of the star that weren’t against the black background matter, the entire star ended up looking like nothing more than a car’s headlight. No shape, no star-like quality at all – just a bright white blob. The star was too small and too far away to look like much of anything. I figured I’d need at least a 10-foot star to produce the effect I wanted.

I was crushed.

So I bought some big colored bulbs and replaced the white ones on the star.

At least now, it looks like a multi-colored headlight.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I can’t believe it’s less than a month until Christmas. It seems as if just last week I was sweating in front of the air-conditioner. But then, with my hot flashes, I probably was.

I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet, mainly because I have no idea what to buy for anyone. You figure, most of my friends and relatives are my age or older, so there’s not much they don’t already have. That means I’ll have to search for gifts that are really unique.

I have to admit my mother, bless her soul, was the queen of unique when it came to buying gifts. She would spend weeks searching for things she was certain no one possibly could already own.

And I’m pretty sure there was a good reason why they didn’t.

Take, for example, the duck remote-control holder she bought for my husband one year. It was a fuzzy stuffed duck, mostly green in color, and had a pocket flap attached to each side of it, into which you could insert a TV Guide on one side, and a remote, canned beverage, and probably a side of beef on the other. The duck was filled with something that weighed it down, like the beans in beanbags, and was supposed to sit on the arm of a chair or sofa, with the flaps hanging down over each side.

When my husband opened the gift, I could tell by his strained expression that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Not wanting to hurt my mom’s feelings, however, he smiled and plunked the duck down on the arm of his recliner, then shoved two remote controls into the flaps. I had to admit the duck wasn’t exactly attractive as far as ducks went. Its misshapen head and beak made it look as if it had been involved in some terrible, disfiguring accident.

“Why a duck anyway?” my husband asked one night after he’d reclined in his recliner and accidentally hit the duck with his arm and knocked it onto the floor for the umpteenth time. He glared at it. “What does a duck have to do with holding a remote control? A kangaroo would have made more sense!”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you just make sure to keep that duck on the arm of your recliner! When my mom drops by, she’ll be looking to see it there!”

The next morning I got up to find a scene of sheer carnage in the living room. On the rug lay the duck, decapitated, with its innards strewn from one end of the living room to the other. My first thought was that my husband had committed duck-icide.

I rushed back into the bedroom to confront him. “What did you do to the duck? And how are we going to explain it to Mom?”

Half asleep, he opened one eye. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“The duck! It’s lying on the rug in 20 pieces! And I don’t even know where the head is!”

He sat up and smiled. “Really? The duck’s been mutilated? You wouldn’t kid me about something like that, would you?”

As if on cue, one of our dogs came trotting into the room...with the duck’s head in her teeth. I thought my husband was going to kiss her.

“You didn’t smear that duck with Alpo before you went to bed, did you?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

He laughed. “No, the dog is just smart, that’s all.”

My mother must have had a fondness for birds, because the next Christmas she bought me a stuffed parrot that had some kind of recording device inside that enabled it to repeat everything it heard.

Back when I was in grade school, there was an annoying kid named Gary who got a kick out of repeating everything I said, mocking me. Unfortunately, the parrot reminded me of Gary.

“Hello!” I said to the parrot.

“Hello!” its squawky voice came back at me. When it spoke, its beak opened and closed and its mechanical wings flapped.

“My name is Sally!” I said.

“My name is Sally!” it said.

The minute our dog back then, Sabre, heard the strange, nasally voice, she started barking at it.

“Aarrff! Aarrff! Grrrrr!”

The parrot immediately responded with, “Aarrff! Aarrff! Grrrrr!”

Sabre obviously didn’t appreciate being mocked. She shot her most threatening Cujo-style growls at the parrot. It shot the same growls right back. I figured that in dog talk, Sabre probably had been telling the parrot, “Shut up or die, bird brain!” So when the parrot repeated it, he was telling her the same thing.

The next thing we knew, the parrot had joined my husband’s duck in the decapitation club. Fake tail-feathers went flying everywhere.

So I think when I search for unique gifts to give this holiday season, I’ll probably be wise to stay away from anything bird related.

That is, unless I’m looking for gifts to entertain my dogs.

Friday, November 18, 2011


A couple weeks ago I was bragging that I haven’t had a cold in nearly six years.
In retrospect, I probably should have kept my mouth shut.

The problem began when I took part in a craft fair. First of all, the week before the fair, I’d slept a total of about 10 hours because I was so busy working on crafts, I didn’t look at the clock until I saw the sun rising. I also skipped a few meals because I didn’t want to set my crafts down during crucial gluing or painting stages.

So by the time the craft fair arrived, I already was feeling pretty zombie-ish.

Part of my crafts display included a tray of magnets on which I’d written witty sayings, so the customers tended to spend a lot of time at my table...reading. Unfortunately, many of these customers were making sounds similar to those of geese migrating. One man even honked all over my magnets while he was reading them. Right then, I knew I was in trouble.

Still, three days later, when I woke up with a sore throat, I attributed it to the dryness in the house. Orange juice, I figured, would quench my thirst and make the sore throat go away.

One sip of orange juice and I felt is if I’d just poured battery acid on an open wound in my throat.

But I wasn’t about to admit I was coming down with a cold, especially not to my husband. The minute his immune system hears the word “cold” or “flu,” it throws down the white flag and retreats and hides, leaving the germs to run rampant and hold a party in his body. In other words, the man catches everything.

That night when I went to bed, my body was so cold, I honestly thought I’d passed away and hadn’t realized it yet. Pretty soon, my teeth were chattering like castanets.

“Something wrong?” my husband, who, until I’d crawled into bed, had been snoring with such force, the bedroom curtains were flapping, asked me.

“I’m fine,” I said, gritting my chattering teeth. “I went out to put some sunflower seeds in the bird feeder before I came to bed and I’m just a little cold now.”

Within seconds he was snoring again, so I was free to shiver until the bed felt like one of those hotel beds where you insert a quarter into a slot on the headboard and the mattress vibrates.

That’s when another symptom decided to rear its ugly head. My neck and the entire right side of my face started to pound. I felt as if Ricky Ricardo and his bongo drums were performing a “Babalu” solo inside my skull.

The next morning, I awoke in a fetal position with only my nose sticking out from under the covers. During the night I’d apparently pulled all of the blankets up around my head, like a hood, and then wrapped them around the bottom half of my face. I flung them off and realized I was soaked with perspiration. Even worse, I ached all over.

There was no more denying it. I was sick.

Five hours and 257 tissues later, I no longer was able to conceal my illness from my husband. My Rudolph-like nose and cries of, “Shoot me now and put me out of my misery!” may have tipped him off.

“’re not going to give me your cold, are you?” he, alias Mr. Sympathetic, asked.

To be honest, I was surprised he wasn’t holding up a cross and vial of holy water and backing away from me.

“No, I don’t plan on giving it to you,” I said. “In fact, I really hope you don’t catch it. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re the world’s worst patient!”

To my surprise, he didn’t deny it. “Yeah, I know. I mean, if I were you, I’d be in bed right now, whining about updating my will.”

As I write this, I am wrapped in a blanket and curled up on the sofa. I have just downed my ninth cup of hot tea and have blown my nose so many times, it looks like a raw meatball. When I answered the phone a few minutes ago, the telemarketer said, “Hello, Sir, may I have a minute of your time?”

I’m craving about a gallon of hot chicken soup, but have no chicken to make it with. There’s not even a can of soup in the cupboard. I’d send my husband to get some groceries, but he hasn’t set foot in a supermarket (other than to use the restroom) in more than 30 years and can’t tell the difference between 2-percent milk and heavy cream, or lettuce and cabbage. In fact, if I sent my dogs to the store to shop for me, they’d probably come home with more correct items on my list than he would.

But I won’t complain. I figure I have at least two things to be grateful about: I’m losing a few pounds...and my husband (so far) hasn’t caught my cold.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I learned something about my husband and myself during last week’s massive power failure...we would make terrible pioneers. In fact, if it weren’t for a close family friend we call “Uncle” Lenny, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have survived.

No, I’m not talking about the elements being the death of us, I’m talking about the two of us strangling each other.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t prepare for the impending disaster. A few months before, just prior to Hurricane Irene, I’d bought a 3300-watt generator and it worked like a charm during Irene’s aftermath, running everything we needed and purring like a kitten.

So a few days before this latest storm, Uncle Lenny came over and changed the oil in our generator and filled it with gas. Then he taught me, step by step, how to start it, shut it off, fill it with gas, etc., so I could handle it myself. During the last outage, he’d done everything for us because we’d never owned a generator before and he probably was afraid we’d end up blowing the house to smithereens.

Usually, the minute I hear news of a possible power outage, I rush to fill the bathtubs with water because the pump that pumps the water from our well into our house is electric. So no electricity, no water. But this time, I didn’t have my usual makeshift reservoirs prepared.

“Do you honestly think we’re going to have heavy snow in October?” I said when my husband mentioned filling the tubs. “Do you ever remember trudging through snow to go trick-or-treating? At the most, we’ll probably get only a light dusting.”

By 8 o’clock the next night, we had a “light dusting” of about 13 inches of heavy, wet snow, and it was still falling...hard. That was enough to convince me I’d better fill the bathtubs. I dashed into the bathroom and had one hand on the faucet when the house went dark. I had to feel my way down the hallway and over to the kitchen drawer where I keep the flashlights.

“Thank goodness Uncle Lenny showed me how to run the generator!” I shouted to my husband because I had no idea which room he was in. “I’m going out there right now to start it. We’ll have lights again in no time!”

“Did he also teach you how to hook it up to the water pump?” His voice came from about two feet away. “I just took a diuretic!”

I grabbed my coat and headed out to the garage. Uncle Lenny had made a wheeled cart for the generator, so all I had to do was wheel it outside, start it and then plug stuff into it. It was simple.

I wheeled the generator over to the garage door and then pressed the button for the automatic door-opener. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. That’s when it dawned on my cobweb-filled brain that without power, I could stand there and push the button until I froze into a solid block of ice, and short of some sort of divine intervention, nothing would happen. I yanked on the overhead cord that released the door and then opened it manually.

It was so dark outside, I couldn’t tell what was out there. I aimed my flashlight at the driveway and saw big mounds of snow, which were in the process of being covered by more big mounds of snow. I groaned. I would have to shovel out an area for the generator.

I grabbed a shovel and stepped outside. The snow was coming down so hard and it was so black outside, I couldn’t see anything. I tried to hold the flashlight between my teeth so I could see where I was shoveling, but my lips froze to it. I finally had to face facts...we were going to be spending a long, cold, dark night.

I went back into the house and started dragging out lanterns and candles.

“What happened to the generator?” my husband asked.

“Its scheduled performance has temporarily been called off due to severe weather conditions. We’ll have to take a raincheck.”

“We sure do have a lot power failures up here,” he said. “This is what, number 10 in less than two years? I’m scared to sneeze around here because it will probably knock out the power!”

Actually, power outages never really affected him that much because he always just went to bed, cocooned himself in the blankets and slept through most of them.
But something happened during this particular outage that nearly caused him to have a complete meltdown.

We have two bathrooms, so when the power went out, we knew there would be only one flush left in each toilet. We vowed to save those two flushes until using them became absolutely necessary, and not a second beforehand. In other words, anything liquid didn’t warrant a flush.

The first night of the power outage, I was in the living room, trying to do some intricate craftwork by candlelight without much success, and praying that when I displayed my crafts at the Christmas craft fair the next weekend, only people with really poor eyesight would attend. Suddenly I heard my husband’s agonized cry come from the bathroom. I rushed down the hall and shouted through the door, “Are you OK?”

“Nooooo!” came a wail from the other side. “I accidentally flushed! I am stupid, stupid, stupid! I wasted a perfectly good flush! I could kick myself!”

The way he was carrying on, you’d think he’d accidentally flushed a $100 bill.

I must point out that prior to this, every time I went into the bathroom, he would call out like a trained parrot, “Remember! Don’t waste a flush!” until I was ready to stuff him into the toilet and use my one good flush to make him disappear.

So my first instinct in response to his agony over the fateful flush was to burst out laughing. “Don’t worry about it,” I finally said, “I’ll fill up a bucket with snow and melt it and we’ll have some water for flushing in no time.”

I soon discovered that a five-gallon bucket of snow melted down to a whopping half-inch of water. A person could die of constipation before I melted enough snow for a decent flush.

The next morning, we were awakened by the sound of someone pounding on our front door and shouting, “Are you there? Are you OK?”

It was Uncle Lenny. Our 400-foot driveway was buried under nearly 19 inches of snow with a huge banking blocking the entrance, so he’d parked out on the road and hiked through the snow to our house to check on us. He said he’d tried to call several times, but our phones were down, too. Did I mention that the man lives over 20 miles from us and is 80 years old?

I was so excited to see him, I nearly knocked him over. Within minutes, he had the generator running and hooked up to the fridge, furnace, TV, computer and a lamp. We were in heaven.

We still didn’t, however, have any water, so I had to spend the next two days listening to my husband whine about the precious flush he’d wasted.

From now on, I think I’m going to keep both bathtubs filled with water even when no storms are predicted, just for the sake of my sanity.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I received an e-mail from one of my close friends the other day and she was complaining that she’d gained weight, but the fat was different this time – flabbier and more in the midriff area.

It seemed like an odd coincidence because I’d just been calling my mirror a variety of nasty names for the very same reason.

In the past, whenever I’d lose a few pounds, my skin would snap back like a pair of new support-hose. Now when I lose weight, I look like the aftermath of a giant balloon that drifted into a thorn bush.

I think the worst part of trying to shed a few pounds now that I’m much older is I usually lose weight on my face. I can camouflage my other sagging body parts with clothes, but unless I get a job as a mascot for a football team, my face is pretty much out there for all to see – basset-hound jowls, turkey neck and all.

I saw a poster the other day that said, “Go braless! It will pull the wrinkles out of your face!” I had to chuckle because it reminded me of one of my past physical exams.

“How did you get that cut on your breast?” the doctor had asked as he examined me from head to toe.

“Shaving my legs,” I said.

To my surprise, he (alias “Old Stone Face”) burst out laughing.

The problem was, I was totally serious.

Years ago, the bulges on the sides of people’s waists were called “love handles,” which made them sound kind of cute, even cuddly. Now, they are called “muffin tops.” This, ironically, directly relates to what I ate to get them. If that’s the case, I guess I should start referring to my backside as “cinnamon buns.”

On second thought, “flapjacks” might be more appropriate.

I was in a pharmacy not long ago and saw these kits that said they help lift arm and thigh flab and make it tight. “Look great in sleeveless blouses and shorts again!” the package promised.

I grabbed it and eagerly read about this miracle product. Basically, it turned out to be nothing more than big pieces of tape that you stick to your flab, yank it up and then secure it under your clothing, out of sight. I pictured myself looking slim and trim, all taped up, and then sneezing and watching the tape go flying off as my flab came bursting out and flopping down like a cellulite avalanche.

Recently, however, I finally did manage to find a product that instantly gets rid of muffin tops. It’s a body shaper made by L’Eggs, and costs less than $10. When I first took it out of the package, it looked like a jumpsuit for a toddler.

“You really think you’re going to fit into that?” my husband asked as he stared wide-eyed at it. “Even if you jumped into a vat of axle grease first, there’s no way!”

“According to the chart on the back of the package,” I said, “This is exactly the right size for me.”

He shook his head. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

I didn’t want him to know it, but I also had my doubts about squeezing into the thing without causing serious damage to several of my vital organs. From the looks of it, I figured it was going to be about as easy as stuffing a whole watermelon into a garden hose.

As I suspected, getting into the body shaper proved to be a challenge. I yanked, tugged, danced, jumped up and down and grunted like an old sow, all the while expecting to hear “rrrriipppp!” at any second. But to my surprise, I finally managed to squeeze into it – and with all of the seams still intact. I thought for sure I’d never be able to take a deep breath again without suffering from lightheadedness, but the body shaper actually was pretty comfortable once I got used to it.

And when I put on my jeans and no longer saw any evidence whatsoever of my muffin tops or midriff bulge, I vowed never to remove the body shaper again – even at bedtime.

Now all I have to do is find one for my face.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


As Halloween and trick-or-treating approach, I find myself wondering how to attract trick-or-treaters to our house. Since we moved into our new place two years ago, the closest thing we’ve had to an actual trick-or-treater was a stray cat...either that, or it was a very tiny child in a very realistic costume.

Living here has caused me to suffer from an extreme case of trick-or-treat withdrawal. Where we used to live, Halloween always was a much-anticipated event for me. One of our neighbors would set up a haunted house in his yard, which attracted kids from miles around. Then after they toured his haunted house, they’d go trick-or-treating on our street. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hand out candy to 80 or more trick-or-treaters.

When we moved into our new house in November of 2009, I asked one of the women in the neighborhood how many trick-or-treaters she’d had on Halloween.

“Oh, about 40,” she said.

It was about half the number I’d been accustomed to, but it still was good enough for me. I looked forward to experiencing my next Halloween in a new neighborhood.

Wanting the event to be special, I stocked up on full-sized candy bars. Then on Halloween night, I turned on all of the outside lights and waited for the trick-or-treaters to arrive. Three hours later, I was still waiting.

“I don’t understand it!” I said to my husband. “The lady on the next street said she had 40 trick-or-treaters last Halloween! What happened to them? Did they have a mass migration and all head south for the winter?”

He made no effort to conceal the “what planet are you from anyway?” look he gave me.

“Have you ever noticed that we live in the middle of the woods and have a 400-foot unlit, unpaved driveway?” he asked. “Or that our house isn’t visible from the road even when we have all of the outside lights on? Have you forgotten how many hunters drove up here last November, thinking our driveway was an old logging road where they could park their pickups?”

“Yeah, but surely word must have spread around here by now that there’s a house here with people living in it!” I said.

“I hate to say it, but the only living things you’re going to see around here tonight are our dogs...and maybe a skunk...and hopefully, not at the same time.”

This Halloween, I want to make certain the trick-or-treaters know we’re here because I’ve once again bought candy bars in anticipation of their arrival.

“I hope you bought my favorites – nothing with nuts,” my husband said. “Because you know we’re going to end up stuck with all of the candy bars again.”

“Think positive!” I said. “Besides that, you’re diabetic, so I don’t want see you anywhere within sniffing distance of that candy. I don’t need you to keel over from a Hershey-induced coma!”

I paused before adding, “Maybe I should line the driveway with lit jack-o-lanterns, or maybe plastic ones with battery-operated lights in them. That way, it will look more visitor-friendly and less like the path to the children-eating witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel.”

“Do you know how long those decorations would last out there?” he asked. “Why don’t you just hang a sign that says, “Here! Steal or smash these! No one will see you do it!”

“Well, what if I put up a sign at the end of the driveway that says, “Hey, kids! Get your full-sized candy bars here!”

“Sounds like something the witch in Hansel and Gretel would do to lure them into her stew pot!” he said. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “Why don’t you take a lantern and a chair, sit at the end of the driveway, and give out the candy there?”

My mouth fell open. “All alone in the pitch dark? With my luck, I’d probably get mugged by a Kit-Kat addicted bear!”

So I honestly don’t know what to expect this Halloween. I’m hoping some brave soul actually will have the guts to hike up our dark, spooky driveway and dare to ring the doorbell.

In the meantime, I’m seriously considering renting a couple of those big 15-million candlepower searchlights, just to make sure the trick-or-treaters know we’re here.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Every year when fall comes around, I can’t help thinking about the time my husband and I decided to spend a week in October at a resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

For years, I had drooled over the magazine ads for the resorts in the Poconos, with their heart-shaped beds, heart-shaped bathtubs and fireplaces decorated with cherubs. So in 1975, I convinced my husband we should spend our vacation there.

The place where we stayed was run the way cruise ships were run back then. Meals were served at specific times, activities were scheduled at specific times, a photographer followed us around everywhere, and we had an activities director who gave us our itinerary every morning at breakfast. There even was a loudspeaker over each bed so he could make hourly announcements about what was going on so we wouldn’t miss anything.

One of the activities listed on the morning itinerary was a trip to “breathtaking Bushkill Falls.” It was such a beautiful fall day, we signed up for it. When we arrived at the designated meeting spot to leave for the trip, however, our activities director informed us that he would lead all of us to Bushkill Falls in his car, but we had to provide our own transportation.

“What kind of field trip is that?” I said to my husband. “You’d think a place like this would have a van or a bus or something!”

Luckily, we had driven to Pennsylvania, so we had our car with us, but judging from all of the muttering and complaining we heard, most of the other guests didn’t have even so much as a bicycle. That’s when Bill, a young guy with bushy red hair, asked if we had a car – and if we did, could he and his wife ride with us? He said they were newlyweds who’d flown in from New York and then had taken a special shuttle from the airport to the resort, so they didn’t have a vehicle.

The fact that Bill’s wife, Tina, looked as if she’d just stepped off the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition might have had something to with my husband’s quick response of, “Sure! Just follow us to the car! We’ll be glad to give you a ride!”

It seemed to take forever for our convoy of cars to arrive at Bushkill Falls. We thought we’d pull into the parking lot and the falls would be right there, facing us. But as it turned out, the falls were at the end of a trail through the woods – a long, hilly, winding trail.

Unfortunately, Tina had worn high-heeled shoes that were anything but hiker friendly. As we walked along, every time I turned around, she was down on the ground in the leaves.

Bill wasn’t much help. “What are you doing down there?” he asked her after about the sixth time she’d tripped and fallen.

“I’m looking at the foliage!” she snapped. “It’s all on the ground anyway!”

She was right. Our “breathtaking” foliage hike turned out to be nothing but acres of bare trees. When we finally came to one tree that still had a few bright orange leaves on it, we jokingly gathered around it and “oohed.”

Tina, however, wasn’t amused. She had leaves sticking out of her hair, mud on her jeans and dead grass all over her sweater. She looked like a scarecrow.

“I’m dying of thirst,” my husband said after we’d hiked for about a half-hour. A few steps later, we came to a narrow stream that flowed into a small pool.

“Water!” he said, making a dash for the pool.

“Don’t you dare drink that!” I shouted at him. “You’ll probably get some kind of creepy bacterial infection or dysentery, and I’m not about to spend our romantic vacation sitting around alone while you’re in the bathroom!”

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then knelt down at the edge of the pool, cupped his hands, thrust them into the water and drank it as if he were a camel storing up for a two-month caravan through the Sahara.

We finally came to a huge waterfall with a wooden footbridge in front of it.

“Walk out to the middle of the bridge, one couple at a time,” a male voice came from behind a tree, “then stop.”

The voice belonged to the resort’s photographer, who’d obviously been part of the convoy to the falls. He had an annoying habit of popping up when and where we least expected him. I was afraid to scratch any of my body parts or adjust my underwear, for fear he’d leap out of the bushes and immortalize me on film.

My husband and I walked out to the middle of the bridge, stopped, and posed for a photo. Tina and Bill then did the same.

“Now can we leave?” Tina asked, groaning. “My butt is killing me, I’ve fallen on it so much today!”

Bill cast her a distinctly fiendish smile. “I’ll give you a massage when we get back to our room.”

Tina, unfortunately, had to stop several times to rest her feet, which were killing her by then. When we finally made our way back out to the parking lot, our mouths collectively fell open. There was no one there. Thanks to Tina and her high heels causing us to fall (pun intended) way behind on the hike, we had been abandoned.

“Do any of you remember the way back to the hotel?” my husband asked as we climbed into the car.

We simultaneously shook our heads. Unfortunately, GPS systems in cars were still considered science fiction back then. And the map my husband and I had used during our initial drive to Pennsylvania was sitting on the desk back in our room.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find it,” Bill said. “We can always stop and ask for directions.”

Being lost in an area that was all woods, however, didn’t exactly give us an abundance of direction-providing souls to choose from. The only living things we saw were squirrels, and I was pretty sure they couldn’t tell us much. It took us over three hours to find our way back to the resort.

By then, we had missed dinner and a good portion of the “Back to the ‘50s” party, one of our scheduled activities in the hotel’s nightclub.

Not that it mattered anyway. My husband spent most of the night in the bathroom.

#   #   #

Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “Heed the Predictor,” "There's a Tick in My Underwear!" and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation."  Contact her at:

Friday, October 14, 2011


I decided to splurge a couple weeks ago and buy myself a battery-operated lawnmower. I probably should have been looking for a snowblower instead, especially this late in the mowing season, but the mower was sold out all summer, so this was my only chance to get one.

I already had a battery-operated mower, but it was so heavy, it was like pushing a cow on wheels. I found out why when my uncle took it home with him to overhaul it a few months ago.

“Did you know that your lawnmower has three batteries in it?” he asked when he brought it back. “They’re the kind they use in snowmobiles.”

That probably would explain why every time I used it, it left ruts in the lawn that looked like army trenches.

When the store called me last week to tell me my new mower had arrived and I could pick it up at any time, I flew over there. I envisioned it all nicely assembled with the battery charged and ready to go.

Boy, what a dreamer.

The mower came in a big box...and in pieces. I got home, opened up the hatchback of my car and tried to slide out the box. The only thing I felt slide was my sacroiliac. That’s when I noticed the shipping weight on the box said 110 pounds.

I ran into the house and asked my husband if he could help me get the box out of the car.

“Is it heavy?” he wanted to know.

I was afraid he’d ask me that. “Um, a little over 100 pounds.”

“A hundred pounds!” he let out a low whistle. “You know I’ve been having a lot of pain in my (insert any body part here). So I don’t know if I can be much help.”

Still, he tried, and together, grunting in harmony, we managed to get the huge box out of the car. Then he immediately went back into the house to lie down and moan in various octaves for the rest of the afternoon.

I, on the other hand, decided to assemble the mower. I’d never assembled a mower before, but as long as the directions had illustrations, which they did, I was pretty sure I could wing it.

I slid the handle into the appropriate slots on the mower and lined up the holes. I then was supposed to secure them in place with two orange plastic screw-in thingies that looked like butterflies. I screwed in the first one with no problem. I screwed in the second one and it was crooked, which made the handle lopsided. So I unscrewed it and tried it again. Still crooked. So I left it that way. My left hip has always been higher than my right one anyway, so I figured the lopsided handle probably would work in my favor.

Then I had to lift the battery, which looked like a car battery with a handle and a bunch of lights on it, and slide it into the special compartment on the mower. I grabbed the handle and tried to hoist the battery into its proper place. It felt as if someone had nailed it to the garage floor. That’s because, unbeknownst to me at the time, it weighed over 35 pounds. When I tried a second time to lift it, my back made noises that sounded like corn popping.

The battery had to be charged for 14 hours, according to the instructions. So I let it charge overnight. The next day, I was ready to try out my new mower.

Using it was a dream. It was easy to push and it cut through the grass (a.k.a. weeds and hay) like a hot knife through butter. I was moving right along until about square foot number 5,000 of the 8,000 square feet of lawn in our yard. That’s when the battery decided to cough and die.

That’s also when I understood what all of the lights on the battery meant. The little green ones had changed to yellow and then to red before the mower’s premature death.

I grabbed the instruction booklet. It said the battery was good for about an hour and 15 minutes before it had to be recharged. I’d been mowing for an hour and 12.

“I need at least a two-hour battery,” I whined to husband when I came back into the house. “The mower died when I still had 45 minutes of mowing left to go!”

“Maybe you should try running when you mow,” he said. “You might gain some extra time that way.”

I frowned at him. “Have you ever tried running while pushing a 110-pound mower? You don’t see me wearing a cape and a big ‘S’ on my chest, do you?”

“Then buy a second battery and have it charged and ready. When the first one poops out, just pop in the second one and you’ll be good to go!”

The man actually had come up with a brilliant idea for a change. I rushed to the phone, called the store and asked if they could get me another battery for the mower. The guy asked for the mower’s model number, then said he’d check.

“Yep! We can get it for you,” he said when he returned to the phone. He paused for moment, then said, mostly to himself, “Wow!”

Call me a pessimist, but I was pretty sure his next words were going to cause me to need a defibrillator.

“It’s $175,” he said.

“But the whole mower cost only $299!” I said.

“Well, then maybe you’d be better off just buying another mower. At least you’ll always have a backup handy.”

I told him I’d have to think about it. And I did.

I came to the conclusion it would be cheaper to hire an Olympic track runner to train me how to move really, really fast when I mow.

Monday, October 10, 2011


There is an old saying that says be careful what you wish for because it might come true. I always thought it was a pretty dumb saying because I figured I’d never wish for anything I didn’t want to come true.

Well, I don’t think the saying is dumb any more...especially since my husband got his hearing aids last week.

In the past, every time he’d say, “Huh?” when I asked him something, I’d wish he could hear me better. And every time I had to repeat something a dozen times, I’d once again wish he could hear me better.

Well, now that he finally is able to hear me better, all I can say is having my wish granted isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

The minute my husband put in his hearing aids for the first time last week, his eyes lit up and his mouth fell open. “Is this what everything is supposed to sound like?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What does it sound like?”

“Jeez! You don’t have to yell!” he said.

“I’m talking in my normal voice.”

“Your normal voice is that loud?”

“Yeah, it got that way from having to yell all the time so you could hear me!”

Things only got worse after that.

First of all, he used to keep the volume on the TV cranked up to over 30. Even the neighbors could hear which shows we were watching. Now, with his hearing aids, he’s turned the volume down to about 10. It’s so low, I have to read lips just to watch my favorite programs.

And he’s hearing noises and sounds he’s never heard before.

“When are you going to get the dogs’ toenails clipped?” he complained the other night. “All of the clicking when they walk across the floor is driving me crazy!”

Before this, the dogs could have worn tap shoes and danced the La Bamba across the floor and he wouldn’t have heard a thing.

He also complains when I’m cooking.

“Have you always done so much pot banging and clanging when you’re cooking? You sound like the drummer in a heavy-metal band! And do you have to keep slamming the refrigerator door?”

Unfortunately, now when I mutter something under my breath, he actually can hear me.

But the hearing aids also have brought some unexpected perks. For one thing, he used to spend all day singing...loudly. He would choose a song the minute he got up in the morning, and then sing that same darned song all day long. A couple weeks ago, he sang “White Christmas” all day. Then a few days later, he sang “Bringing in the Sheaves” – except his version was “Bringing in the Sheep.” I tried to correct him, but he couldn’t hear me anyway.

The morning after he got his hearing aids, he got up and started singing, “Sugar, Sugar,” then stopped abruptly. I wondered if all of my wishing that he’d get a prolonged case of laryngitis finally had come true.

“You know what?” he said to me. “I always thought I had a great singing voice, like the next Sinatra. But now that I can hear myself so loud and clear, my singing really irritates me!”

“Welcome to my world,” I said.

In the past, he also had the habit of tapping on things. When he sat in his recliner, he’d pick up the first thing he could reach on the end table – a coaster, his prescription bottle, the remote control – and without even realizing he was doing it, would start tapping it against the table. I began to feel as if I’d married Woody Woodpecker.

When I’d tell him to stop before he drove me completely insane, he’d look at me as if I were weird and say, “How can you possibly hear such light tapping? I’m sitting right here doing it and I can’t hear it.”

Well, the minute he started tapping when he was wearing his hearing aids for the first time, the look on his face was one of complete shock. “Does it always sound this loud?” he asked.

“No, sometimes it’s even louder,” I said. “Kind of like an automatic weapon.”

But the best part is he can’t snack the way he once did. Potato chips and Cheetos always were his snacks of choice. Now, he hears the crunching in stereo in his head, and it drowns out his TV shows. Even when he turns down the volume on his hearing aids, he still can hear the crunching. So he’s been eating a lot fewer snacks. His blood, which is so high in cholesterol, it could be used as axle grease, is thanking him for it.

I’m learning that getting used to living with a man who now can hear after 10 years of not hearing, is really a challenge. I have to constantly remind myself to speak softer, not slam any doors, walk quietly and not bang the pots or pans when I cook. The other night, he even accused me of brushing my teeth too loudly.

“It’s a wonder you still have any enamel left on your teeth!” he said. “You sound like you’re scraping them with sandpaper!”

I feel as if I should wrap myself in head-to-toe foam rubber to muffle any sounds.

When he got the hearing aids, the audiologist told him that when he takes them out at night to be sure to keep them where our dogs can’t reach them, because to dogs, they’re as alluring as smoked piggy ears.

So if I ever get fed up with my husband nagging me that I’m too noisy, his hearing aids just might mysteriously disappear for a while.

I can always blame the dogs.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I have the bad habit of thinking that if I ignore something it will go away. The trouble is, I can’t remember even one time when that theory has worked, especially when it comes to bills and any plumbing problem that causes water to spew anywhere.

The weekend before last, I woke up feeling as if someone had crept into my bedroom during the night and stabbed my bottom right molar with an ice pick. The minute I opened my mouth – and believe me, I open my mouth a lot – and the air hit that tooth, I made a sound that was so high-pitched, the dogs started howling.

“Something wrong?” my husband asked when I shoved my English muffin into the blender so I wouldn’t have to chew it.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, smiling through gritted teeth and winking at him. Actually, it wasn’t a real wink. I was just trying to ease the pain shooting up from my tooth into my right eyeball.

To be honest, the toothache really didn’t surprise me. It seems that whenever there is a special event coming up, I get an abscessed tooth. It’s as if my teeth have radar, and the minute I start planning for some big event, they say, “Aha! Let’s give her an infection she’ll never forget and completely ruin her good time!”

At my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary party, I was nursing a botched root canal that had me popping antibiotics and painkillers. My face was so puffy it could have been used as a mold for Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

And two nights before my husband and I were to leave for Las Vegas for our 25th wedding anniversary getaway, I cracked a top molar on a petrified almond and ended up having to slurp soup all week instead of partaking in all of the tempting buffets.

So last week, all I had to do was mention I was going shopping for something to wear to my uncle’s upcoming 80th birthday bash, and my tooth decided to start shooting electrical jolts up into my brain.

I was determined not to undergo another root canal, however. Last count, I’d had eleven of them, most of which were done without the benefit of my tooth being numb. One dentist told me the reason why Novocain has such little effect on me is because my nerves aren’t where they should be. That would explain why I usually end up with a numb nose or tongue, but a perfectly un-numb tooth. When I repeated the information about my misplaced nerves to my husband, he said it only further supported his longstanding theory that I came to Earth from another planet.

So when I woke up with a toothache last week, I decided I’d just put it out of my mind and it would go away. I didn’t want to attend my uncle’s party if I looked like a chipmunk smuggling a winter’s supply of nuts in its mouth, so I wasn’t about to tempt fate and stir up any trouble with a root canal.

By the third day, I had sucked all of the contents out of a tube of Anbesol toothache gel. Even eating only broth didn’t help ease the pain because broth that’s not hot tastes like sweat-sock water. But when I heated the broth and the hot liquid hit my tooth, I had to smother my face in a pillow so my husband wouldn’t hear me yelping.

“Go to the dentist!” he finally said when he caught me biting down on a stick so I wouldn’t cry out in pain.

“It’s too expensive!” I said. “And I don’t want to have to suffer through a root canal when it’s so close to the party.”

“You’re already suffering,” he just had to point out. “Why wait until it gets worse?”

“Because this suffering is free. The root canal suffering will cost over $1,000, so it’s a lot more painful. Besides that, the toothache will go away, I’m just giving it time.”

“Fine, it’s your mouth,” he said. He was silent for a moment, then smiled wickedly and said, “Hey, you want to go out for some ice cream? My treat!”

The man is a sadist.

I took the hint. The next day I called the dentist. When the receptionist answered, I chickened out and hung up. A jolt of pain shot up to my eyebrows. I picked up the phone and called back. An appointment was made for the next afternoon.

That night, I pretty much acted like a condemned prisoner about to face the electric chair. I’d have eaten the traditional last meal, but my choice would have been a thick steak followed by a hot-fudge sundae, both of which would have had me begging to have my head dunked in a vat of Anbesol afterwards.

So the next afternoon, I headed to the dentist’s office, fully prepared for a couple hours of un-numbed torture and a charge on my credit card that inevitably would drop my credit rating by a couple hundred points.

The dental assistant x-rayed the tooth from Hell just before the dentist entered the room. He studied the X-ray, then picked up one of his many evil-looking dental instruments and poked my tooth with it.

“Is this where it hurts?” he asked.

The fact that he nearly had to scrape me off the ceiling was a pretty good indication.

“Everything looks fine with the tooth,” he said, “but the gum is receding right there and part of the root is exposed. It’s very sensitive to heat, cold and air. I recommend using Sensodyne toothpaste twice a day. It should make it feel much better in a couple weeks.”

I sat there and just stared at him. No drilling down to my toes? No having to take nausea-inducing antibiotics? No dental procedure that would cost so much I’d have to fish the dumpsters for aluminum cans so I could cash them in for food?

The tube of Sensodyne toothpaste cost me about $5. Within two days of using it, the pain began to fade.

And I figure that as long as no one ever invites me to another special event or party again for as long as I live, I should be spared from having any more toothaches.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I’ve suspected for quite some time that my husband’s hearing might not be quite as sharp as it used to be.

The other night, for example, I was making a sandwich for him and asked, “Do you want pita bread?”

“Peter’s dead?” he answered. “Peter who?”

That did it. The week before, I’d received a card in the mail addressed to “resident” that offered a free hearing exam by a board-certified audiologist. I practically tore apart the house searching for it. When I found it, I dragged my husband, kicking and screaming, to the office for an exam.

“You’re crazy!” he protested. “I can hear just fine! You mumble!”

The audiologist, a pleasant, very personable sort of guy, nodded and smiled knowingly as I described my husband’s symptoms to him.

“And when you say you’re going to the store, does he think you’re going next door?” he asked.

My husband started to laugh.

“And when I ask him if he wants a diet Coke,” I added, “he thinks I’m going to dye a coat!”

The audiologist explained that he believed my husband couldn’t hear consonants, just vowels. He said when a person hears only vowel sounds, the brain compensates by making up the consonants it thinks should go with them. As a result, he said, the word “flake” may sound like “face.” Or “cheer” can sound like “ear” or “rear.”

That certainly would explain some of the crazy stuff my husband had been coming out with lately.

But my husband was convinced his hearing was perfect. “She doesn’t speak clearly!” he told the audiologist. “And usually when she talks to me, she’s at the stove, facing the wall and not facing me, so I can’t hear her.”

“Were you ever able to hear her years ago, when she was at the stove, facing the wall?” the audiologist asked him.

“Well...yeah, I guess so,” he answered.

The audiologist smiled with satisfaction. “I’m going to first try a simple test on you,” he said. “I’m going to give your wife a list of everyday words to read to you, one at a time. All you have to do is repeat each one after she says it.”

He sent me to stand near the wall a few feet behind my husband, then told me to read each word in my normal voice. “Raising your voice won’t help a person who can’t hear consonants anyway,” he said.

When my husband and I both gave him a puzzled look, he said, “OK, I’ll prove my point. I want you both to say ‘ssssssssssssss,’ like a snake.”

My husband and I both hissed out the “ssssssssssssssss” sound.

“Now try to do it louder,” he said. “Not higher or lower, just louder.”

We both tried...and failed. There was only one volume for “sssssssssssssss,” sounds, apparently.

“That’s why speaking louder to someone who can’t hear consonants doesn’t help,” the audiologist said.

I then read his list of words to my husband, one by one in a normal voice. He got nearly half of them wrong.

“You’re kidding, right?” he said when the audiologist told him the results. “I thought I did great!”

“You hesitated before repeating every word,” the audiologist said. “And even then, you got nearly half of them wrong. That’s because your brain was trying to think which consonants to use because you weren’t sending it the right signals. How do you think you can keep up with a normal conversation if you have to stop and think about every word you’re hearing? The answer is, you can’t.”

That would explain why so many times after I asked my husband a question, he’d wait a few seconds and then say, “Huh?”

The audiologist put my husband into a little booth, gave him some headphones and began the full-blown, ultra-thorough hearing test, complete with buzzes, beeps, background sounds and even total quiet.

I watched the audiologist cranking up the dials on the machine as he instructed my husband to hold up his hand when he heard a sound. By the time my husband finally held up his hand, the audiologist was covered in cobwebs. I got the distinct impression he wasn’t going to ace this test.

Sure enough, the end result was a 65-percent hearing loss in his right ear and a 75-percent loss in his left.

When the audiologist broke the news to him, my husband couldn’t have looked more shocked if I’d just told him I was expecting triplets.

So he was immediately measured for two hearing aids, which will take about two weeks to be tailor-made for him and his specific needs.

“I can’t wait until you get your hearing aids!” I said to him on the way home. “Then you’ll be able to clearly hear me nag stereo!”

For once, he actually heard what I was saying. “No, I won’t,” he said, giving me a sly smile. “I’ll just turn down the volume on them!”

At that point, I think it was a good thing he couldn’t hear some of the consonants I was muttering.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Lately, whenever I forget something, like where I put my car keys (eyeglasses, dog’s leash, car, husband), someone usually will comment that I’m having a “senior moment.” Well, if that’s the case, last week I had an entire “senior day.”

I was on my way to Concord when my car’s low-fuel light popped on and made a “ding-ding” sound. That was due to a previous senior moment when I’d left the house to go buy gas and instead ended up running so many errands, I completely forgot why I’d come into town in the first place, and came home gas-less.

So the moment the low-fuel light popped on, I headed straight for my favorite full-serve gas station. When I pulled in, there were three cars at each pump, so I got into one of the lines and prayed my car wouldn’t sputter and die before I reached the pump. I sat there for a while until the attendant approached and told me I was on the wrong side and would have to back up and go around. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I realized I’d pulled up to the pump with the driver’s side facing it...but my gas cap is on the passenger’s side.

As I’ve mentioned in past columns, backing up a car is not something I do very well...and believe me, everyone at the gas station who was waiting in line can attest to that fact. Five attempts later, after endangering the paint job of every vehicle within a quarter-mile radius, I finally managed to back up and make it to the correct pump. A couple of the people in line actually cheered. I wasn’t certain if it was because I’d successfully made it to the pump or because they were so relieved they’d come out of it with their fenders still intact.

After I finally got gas, I headed to Concord to pick up my new bifocals, which I’d ordered two weeks before. I’d swapped my trifocals for them because I was convinced the trifocals were implements of death. With every step I took while wearing them, I’d risked fracturing some essential body part, mainly because the lenses made the ground look as if it were up somewhere right beneath my nostrils. So the optician thought going from a “tri” down to a “bi” might be easier for me.

I took a seat in the optician’s office and he handed my new bifocals to me. He also handed me a card with various-sized printed paragraphs on it. “Tell me which paragraph is the smallest you can read,” he said.

I studied the card. Every paragraph ran into the next one in a giant blur. “I can’t see any of them,” I said.

“Are you looking through the bottom half of the glasses?” he asked.

I nodded. “I’m looking through the part that’s below the bifocal line.”

“Try again,” he said.

If anything, the card looked even blurrier.

“How about the top part, the distance part?” he asked. “Look at that poster on the wall over there. Can you read anything on it?”

I couldn’t even see the poster, never mind read it. Heck, I barely could see the wall. “I think maybe you got my prescription mixed up with someone else’s,”
I told him.

He shook his head. “I can’t imagine that happening. But I’ll go double check.”

He took my glasses and disappeared out back into the lab area. While I sat there waiting, I picked up the card with the different paragraphs on it. I could read all of them, all the way down to the bottom. Puzzled, I looked at the poster on the far wall. I could read that, too.

My face turned crimson and I groaned out loud as it suddenly dawned on me why I could see better without the glasses. I was wearing my contact lenses.

I didn’t know whether to wait for the optician to return and explain why I hadn’t been able to see anything through the bifocals...or just turn and bolt out the door to save my dignity. I decided to stay, but only because I’d paid for the glasses in advance.

The optician, scratching his head and staring at my glasses in his hand, came back and said, “I can’t understand it. Everything checks out fine with your original prescription.”

I forced a weak smile. “Um, I think part of the problem might be that I’m still wearing my contact lenses.”

All I can say is thank goodness the guy had a good sense of humor. He burst out laughing. Not surprisingly, the glasses worked much better when I tried them on again with naked eyes.

I didn’t get home until nearly 8:30.

“Good to see you!” my husband greeted me. “I’m starving! I’ve been waiting all night for those juicy cheeseburgers you promised me. I hope you bought a lot of ground beef because I might even have three burgers tonight!”

We ended up eating tuna-fish sandwiches.

I forgot to buy the ground beef.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here in my robe and slippers with cup of hot tea at my side. In a few minutes, my husband and I will watch a DVD movie we ordered from Netflix.

It’s only 6:30 p.m.

Just the other day, my husband and I were talking about how much we’ve changed over the years. For one thing, we’re now in for the night at an hour when in the past, we’d just be heading out. Back then, we wouldn’t get home until 2:00 in the morning. Now, by 9:30 p.m., my husband is snoring in his recliner and I keep dozing off on the sofa, waking up just in time to realize I’ve missed the end of the TV program I’ve been watching for the past 57 minutes.

When my husband and I were in our 20s, a typical Saturday would involve taking a ride to the mountains or the beach during the day, eating dinner in a nice restaurant in the evening, followed by either going to a movie, out dancing, or to a lounge to hear our friend, Tracy Stone, sing with her band.

Now, we drive to our favorite restaurant at 3:00 in the afternoon, order our meals “to go,” and eat them at home, usually in our pajamas.

There was a time when we didn’t mind waiting in line for a table at a restaurant. In fact, I can remember once waiting over two hours for a table at the Red Lobster. Now, I wouldn’t wait in line that long even if Wolfgang Puck himself promised to cook my meal and hand-feed it to me.

One of the late-night activities my husband and I used to enjoy when we were first married was to spontaneously take a ride to either Hampton or Salisbury Beach. We would be sitting at home watching the late news when suddenly my husband would say, “Let’s take a ride to the beach!”

It didn’t matter that it was almost midnight. We’d jump into the car and head toward the coast. Usually we’d find a pizza stand or hot-dog stand still open and grab a bite to eat, then we’d kick off our shoes and take a walk along the beach.

A few weeks ago, on a really hot night, I decided to try to revive the old spontaneity. “Let’s take a ride to the beach!” I said to my husband, who was stretched out in his recliner and watching some spy movie on TV.

The look he gave me clearly told me he thought I’d been sampling the cooking sherry.

“Why would you want to leave a nice air-conditioned house and ride to the beach?” he asked.

I shrugged. “We always used to take late-night drives when we were first married. I thought it might be fun to do it again.”

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then finally said, “OK, I guess we could take a ride. It’s probably nice and cool at the beach.”

He yawned, stretched and sat up in the recliner. “Are there any places with bathrooms along the way that are open at this time of night? You know I take diuertics and can’t last more than 20 minutes without having to go.”

“I don’t have a clue what’s open at this hour. But I’m sure there must be a 24-hour gas station somewhere between here and there.”

“Do you know where my favorite shorts are?” he asked. “The ones I’m wearing are full of holes.”

I went into the bedroom to search for the shorts. It turned out they were in the dirty-clothes hamper. I grabbed his second-favorite shorts, his green ones.

“Those are tight around the waist,” he said when I handed them to him. “I won’t be very comfortable if I have to wear those during the long drive. They might cut off my circulation.”

“Just put them on, and let’s get going!”

He put on the green shorts, a shirt and his moccasins. “Do we have any small bottles of water?” he asked. “I have to keep hydrated.”

I went over to the fridge and grabbed a couple bottles of water. We finally headed toward the door.

“Wait!” he said, just as I reached for the door handle. “I think I’d better go to the bathroom again before we leave, just to be safe.”

“It’s not good to keep your kidneys totally drained,” I said. “They’ll dry up!”

He rolled his eyes and headed to the bathroom. I stood and waited...and waited.

“This might take longer than I expected,” he finally called out from the bathroom.

Sighing, I plunked down on the sofa.

I woke up over an hour later. My husband, back in his holey shorts, was in his recliner, watching TV.

“You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you,” he said.

Yep. Times definitely have changed.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Maybe I’m too easily spooked, but a couple things happened last week that made me feel uneasy.

First of all, I was getting the lawnmower out of the garage when I happened to notice that on the back window, which faces the fenced-in yard, there was a big handprint on the glass. I rubbed it from the inside and nothing happened, so I went outside to see if it could be rubbed off from that side.

The land drops down beneath that window, so I barely could reach it. I finally managed to rub off a small part of the bottom of the print. I dashed back into the house.

“There’s a big handprint on the outside of the garage window!” I breathlessly told my husband.

“Well, don’t blame me,” he said. “I haven’t touched any windows!”

“I haven’t either!” I said. “So that must mean someone’s been trying to break into our garage!”

“Maybe one of the dogs did it,” he said, his tone unconcerned.

“The dogs even don’t have any fingers to leave fingerprints with! And they’d have to be six feet tall to reach that window!”

“That handprint probably has been there since the windows were put in,” he said. “Maybe you just never noticed it before.”

“But that was three years ago! I know my eyes aren’t great, but I’m pretty sure I’d have spotted a handprint on the window. Wouldn’t you have seen it, too?”

He shrugged. “I never look at the garage windows.”

So there I was, thinking we had a peeping Tom with big hands, while my husband figured it was either the dogs doing trampoline-like leaps at the window, or some fat-handed window installer who’d left his mark three years ago.

That night, when I finally managed to stop wondering about the mysterious handprint, something strange happened. Our two dogs really love a treat called bully sticks, so occasionally I will buy them one. Bully sticks are similar to rawhide chews, but they are made from the part of the bull that...well, um...looks like a stick.

I had been in a store earlier that day and spotted something I hadn’t seen before – braided bully sticks formed into figure-8 shapes. I bought a couple, thinking the dogs would be thrilled with them.

When I gave my special treats to the dogs that night, all I can say is their reaction wasn’t exactly the wags of appreciation I’d anticipated.

They took the treats from me, then almost simultaneously, spit them out, backed away from them and growled, the fur standing up on the backs of their necks.

My husband stared at them, then at me. “What the heck’s in those things anyway?”

I grabbed one of the wrappers and read it. It said the sticks were made of 100 percent free-range beef from Brazil.

At that point, both dogs slowly approached the bully sticks again, one cautious step at a time. When Willow reached hers, she grabbed it in her teeth and then flung it halfway down the hallway and barked at it. Raven picked up hers and shook it as if she were trying to kill it.

“Are you sure the wrapper doesn’t list one of the ingredients as cat?” my husband asked.

I’d never seen the dogs act that way toward any treat before. At one point, Willow crept up on the bully stick again, sniffed it, jumped straight up in the air then bolted down to the laundry room and hid. Raven stood growling at hers as she intermittently whacked it with her paw. I was beginning to think something was alive in the sticks, but knowing the part of the bull they came from, I sure hoped there wasn’t.

Raven, panting and growling, worked herself into such a frenzy trying to kill her treat, I finally decided I’d better pick up the bully sticks and get rid of them before she suffered cardiac arrest. I shoved the sticks into the trash and immediately tied up the bag. Then, feeling uneasy about what was in them that had made the dogs so frightened, I took the trash right out to the garage.

Maybe whatever was so scary in those bully sticks will protect the garage from the big-handed window-touching guy if he ever decides to come back.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I was watching a news program the other morning and the reporter was saying that the price of gold is so high right now, you could get rich selling anything that has even a tiny bit of gold in it.

To prove her point, she took a post-type pierced earring and removed the little slide-on backing that holds the earring in place. She said she was going to see how much she could get for just that one backing, not even the entire earring. She ended up with nearly $60…in instant cash.

That did it. I suddenly had a bad case of gold fever. I remembered having an entire box of those little earring backs that I’d saved from broken earrings over the years. I knew I also had a couple gold chains with no clasps. Just as I was about to begin my search, the reporter said something else that made my ears perk up.

“Even your old dental crowns have gold on them,” she said. “Don’t throw them out! Cash them in for the gold!”

I had at least two dental bridges and three crowns that had snapped off or fallen out over the years and had to be replaced. I’d paid so much for them, I hadn’t had the heart to toss them out, even though I knew I’d never use them again. Now, I thought, those crowns and bridges possibly could be my ticket to a small fortune. I had visions of myself lying on a tropical beach with two scantily clad bodybuilders fanning me with palm fronds.

“Honey! Where’s my medicated powder? I think I’m getting chafed from the heat!” My husband’s voice cut into my beach fantasy.

Grumbling, I dug out the powder. As I handed it to him, I said, “Remember that Irish Claddagh ring you had years ago that you wore so much, the pattern rubbed off? Do you know where it is?”

“It’s in a little black ring box,” he said.

“And that little black ring box would be where?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Beats me. I don’t know where anything is since we moved here. Why are you asking about that ring anyway?”

“Because if I cash it in for the gold, we can get a lot of money for it. I don’t think you’ll miss it, will you? I mean, the last time you wore it, Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet.”

Again, he shrugged. "If you can find it, sell it. But I want half of whatever you get for it.”

I smiled. I was going to give him all of the money I got for the ring because after all, it was his, but if he wanted only half, then I wasn’t about to argue. Those bodybuilders with palm fronds were getting closer to becoming a reality.

I spent the next four hours crawling around the house in search of anything gold. I found my dental crowns and bridges, a broken ankle-bracelet, a flat gold chain that had an assortment of kinks in it, and an old birthstone charm I’d paid only $3.98 for at Stuart’s. I also found two spiders, a half-eaten rawhide dog treat, my missing pink slipper and my diary from 1981.

“Did you find my ring?” my husband asked when I emerged from the closet looking as if I’d just lost a wrestling match with a killer gang of giant dust bunnies.

“No, but I will, if it’s the last thing I do,” I said.

I did find some items that were questionable. I mean, I couldn’t tell if they were real gold, gold-filled or gold-plated, even after I studied them with a magnifying glass under a bright light. I did find a couple that said 14K on them, but there were letters like HGE after the 14K, which could have stood for anything, like “Highest Gold Excellence” or...“Hybrid Golden Equivalent.” Still, I shoved them into a baggie.

The sun was rising when I finally found my husband’s Claddagh his toolbox in the back of the breezeway closet.

The next day, I took my baggie of gold scraps to a coin shop to cash them in. My husband’s Claddagh ring turned out to be only 9K gold, which is popular in the United Kingdom. And the HGE, I was told, stood for Heavy Gold Electroplate.

As for my dental crowns and bridges, the guy suggested I go home, take a hammer to them and bring back only the gold. I guess he wasn’t too keen on touching the actual tooth parts himself, maybe because he was afraid he’d find some petrified lasagna or something still stuck on them.

I walked out of there with cash...most of it in crisp $100 bills, which made my gold fever even worse.

I still haven’t found my little box of earring backs, which is somewhere in the house. And I think I also have a badly bent gold ring I used to wear when I was in grade school. So I’m not going to rest until I find them. Nothing gold will be safe from my greedy little paws...not even the neighbors’ golden retriever.

And if my husband sleeps as soundly as he usually does, I just might be able to add another dental crown to my baggie.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When I stopped for gas the other day, Elias, my mechanic, said to me, “Can I ask you a question and get an honest answer?”

I figured he was going to ask me something about my car, such as when I was going to drive it to the nearest salvage yard and leave it there. Before I could answer, he said, “Do you go out and purposely look for crazy things to do, just so you’ll have something to write about in your column?”

I laughed. “No, I don’t have to look for anything. Crazy things have been happening to me ever since the day I was born!”

And I was telling him the absolute truth. I can’t remember a single day in my life that could be classified as “normal.” The moment I open my eyes in the morning, crazy things start happening, as if I were a magnet for trouble.

Last Monday was a prime example of how everything that possibly could go wrong in one day…did.

Willow, the elder of my two rottweilers, had a vet’s appointment for her booster shots. I’m notorious for being late, so I decided to start getting ready nice and early for a change.

A few days before, I’d begun a trial period for contact lenses. I’d managed to master inserting them pretty easily, but taking them out was a different story. My best removal time up until then had been about two hours…or when my eyeballs began to resemble two meatballs in tomato sauce.

I popped the right contact into my eye and blinked a couple times. It felt as if it were made of broken glass. After a few minutes of struggling, I managed to get it out again so I could examine it. I was pretty proud of myself because I’d taken out the lens in record time. I soon discovered why…it had a big tear in it. I rushed to the phone and called my optometrist, who said she’d order another one for me.

I then brushed Willow until her fur glistened. I wanted her to look really spiffy for the vet, not like the frumpy tomboy she usually was. The minute I finished brushing her, she scratched at the door to go out. I hesitated, not wanting her to mess up her shiny fur. I finally decided I’d better let her out or with my luck, she’d have an accident on the vet’s foot. The first thing Willow did when she stepped outside was make a beeline for the biggest area of dirt in the yard…and roll in it.

When she was through, nothing on her was shiny but her eyes.

Despite the setbacks, we still were making pretty good time. I put Willow’s leash on her – her “special occasion” leash that was clean and fresh, unlike her other ratty old ones – then led her out to the car and opened the back door. Usually she jumps right in. Willow loves going for rides, even to the vet’s.

She didn’t budge.

“Quick! Get in the car!” I ordered. Still, she didn’t move. I checked my watch and felt panic setting in. Had I not feared getting a double hernia, I would have hoisted Willow into the car myself.

Finally, I actually looked at the back seat. The two trash barrels I’d picked up at the end of our driveway on trash day so I could bring them back into the garage, were still lying there. Even if Willow had been a Chihuahua, she couldn’t have fit back there.

I dashed to the back of the car, opened the hatchback and flung the barrels into the garage. Willow then jumped into the car and we were on our way.

I pulled into the vet’s parking lot only two minutes before our appointment. I grabbed my handbag, climbed out of the car and opened the back door to let out Willow. When I went to grab her leash, it came right off in my hand. All that was attached to her collar was the clasp and about six inches of chewed fabric. She somehow had managed to gnaw right through her special-occasion leash during the ride to the vet’s.

I groaned. There was no way I could control a 105-lb. dog without a leash.

I remembered seeing an old leash somewhere in the car, so I got back in and searched for it. I found it underneath the front seat. It had enough fur on it to make another dog. And by then, so did my pants.

I leaned over the front seat and clasped the leash onto Willow’s collar, then got out of the car and opened the back door to let her out.

With one mighty leap, she was out of the car. Unfortunately, during her leap, her front paws landed right on top of my handbag, and when she hit the ground, she ripped both straps right off the bag. It landed on its side in the parking lot, with half of the contents spilling all over the ground.

Clasping the leash in one hand, I knelt down and frantically tried to pick up everything with the other hand. That’s when Willow spotted a woman with a dachshund coming out of the vet’s office, and bolted toward them. Believe me, trying to hang on to a horse on a leash while also trying to grab a handbag that now had no handles required more coordination than any mere mortal possessed…especially this mere mortal. I nearly left my nose-print in the dirt.

We arrived 10 minutes late for Willow’s appointment.

On the way out, I spent ages searching for my car keys in my handleless handbag. I found them lying on the ground near my car, where my handbag had fallen.

By the time Willow and I got home, I felt as if I’d just run the Boston marathon.

“I swear that dog’s out to get me,” I said to my husband. “It was as if she purposely did everything within her power today to stress me out!”

“Well, just think,” he said, “Next Monday Raven has to have her booster shots, so you’ll get to do this all over again!”

If looks could kill, he’d have been in an urn on the mantel.

But I’m determined to be early for that appointment…even if I have to camp out in the parking lot the night before.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I’ve discovered over the years that the only drawback of writing a weekly column is one I never could have anticipated…people are afraid of me.

I’d be stretched out on a sunny beach in front of my 12-room villa on the Riviera right now if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

Because of people’s fears that I may quote them in my column, it’s sometimes difficult to carry on a normal conversation. For example, the other day one of my friends was telling me about her visit to a new hairdresser.

“My old stylist moved to Florida,” she said. “So in walked this new one, whose hair looked like she’d just wrestled with a wild mongoose! It didn’t exactly give me a lot of confidence in her!”

When I laughed, her eyes widened and the color rushed to her cheeks. “You’re not going to write that in your column, are you?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I haven’t been to a hair stylist since Nixon was president, so I don’t think I’ll be writing a column about them any time soon. So did you like the new stylist?”

She shook her head and frowned. “I came out of there looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and a Chia Pet!”

Again, when I laughed, she shot a panicky look in my direction. “You’re not going to quote me or name the salon, are you? I don’t want to end up getting a letter from their lawyer!”

Not long ago, when I was out for my daily walk around the neighborhood, I met a couple who said they were regular readers of my column. Every time the woman uttered something her husband apparently thought I might embarrass them by quoting, he discreetly (but obviously not discreetly enough) gave her an elbow in the ribs. The poor woman probably still has bruises.

The truth is, if someone does say something funny, I often can’t resist quoting him or her in my column…but I try not to reveal any true identities. The only exception is my husband, one of my favorite targets. I quote him all the time.

“So, what did you write about me this week?” he usually asks.

If I say I didn’t write anything about him, he looks hurt and says, “And why not? Don’t you think I’m funny any more?”

What’s funny about him is he comes out with great one-liners, just ripe for the picking, yet he doesn’t even realize it. That’s because most of the time he’s talking to himself when he says them.

Just the other night I was in my office and he was relaxing in his recliner. He suddenly burst out singing an old Elvis song…very loudly. When he came to a part of the song he didn’t know, he made up his own lyrics.

“Everybody in the old cell block, was dancing to the Jailhouse Rock!” he sang. “The warden threw a party at the county jail – and, um, he hung up his pants on a rusty nail – and his hairy legs were really pale!”

My first thought was that poor Elvis probably was rolling over in his grave. My second thought was I hoped the neighbors’ windows weren’t open.

Thankfully, my husband, unlike other people, isn’t afraid of what I might write about him – nor does he care. Otherwise, he’d probably have divorced me back in 1995…and I’m pretty certain any judge would have told him he had more than sufficient grounds.

Going to social gatherings also can be awkward for me. When I arrived at a party a few weeks ago, one of the guests greeted me with, “Look out everybody! She’s a newspaper columnist! Be careful what you say because she’ll write about you!”

The crowd grew silent and everyone turned to stare at me as if they’d just been told I had a bad case of the chicken pox. Even the people who’d been chugging beers abruptly set them down, as if they feared I might write a column entitled, “The 10 Biggest Boozers I’ve Ever Met.”

So I guess it’s true that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, as the old saying goes. But I’ve discovered there’s also a plus side to inciting fear in people. If I call customer service to complain about a product, for example, and the employee gives me a hard time, I’ll calmly say, “That’s OK, I’ll just write about this whole incident in my newspaper column and let my readers decide who’s right.”

Works like a charm.