Thursday, July 28, 2011


I have spent the past few days suffering from a bad case of seasickness…and I haven't even been anywhere near water.

My problem began when my optometrist decided the time had come for me to get trifocals. Up until then, I’d worn distance glasses when I wanted to see far, and reading glasses when I wanted to read. I also wore the reading glasses whenever I worked on my computer, and I saw the screen just fine.

“Would you like progressive lenses?” the optical technician asked me when I went to select my new glasses. “They don’t have any visible lines on them.”

The only visible lines I’d ever worried about were panty lines, so I figured glasses without lines also had to be a good thing as far as fashion was concerned.

“You’ll need a good two weeks to get used to them, though,” she continued. “I think the hardest thing to adjust to is the fact you’ll have to move your entire head when you look at something now, not just your eyes. Everything your parents taught you about sitting up straight and having good posture will be put to good use now.”

“You mean when I read a page in a book, I’ll have to turn my head toward every word?” I asked.

She nodded. “And when you walk down the stairs, you’ll have to look directly down at the steps through the top portion of the glasses. Otherwise, the stairs will look like they’re coming up to meet you and you might fall.”

So far, the trifocals were sounding like a lot of work. I mean, not only was I going to get whiplash from moving my head around so much, I was going to have stairs, and probably curbstones, coming up to meet me. I could just picture myself lifting my leg up to my chest whenever I tried to climb a step.

“Sounds as if my depth perception and peripheral vision are going to be messed up,” I said, with a nervous laugh.

“For a while,” she said. “But once you get used to the glasses you’ll love them! I have them and I have no problem with them at all. You’ll not only be able to see near and far with them, you’ll also be able to read labels on the products on the shelves at supermarkets without having to lift them and bring them closer to your eyes.”

That sounded like a pretty good selling point to me. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to risk dropping any more jars of pickles.

“I also recommend the anti-glare feature on the lenses,” she said. “Night driving and the light from your computer screen all cause glare. Eliminate the glare and you’ll be surprised at how much clearer your vision will be.”

“Fine with me,” I said. I wanted my glasses to give me the vision of Superman…or an eagle. I wanted to be able to read a “sale” sign from three blocks away.

The technician said it would take a couple weeks to get the glasses, so in the meantime, the optician would make up a temporary pair for me. She said the temporary glasses would help me get adjusted to the trifocals, so when the permanent glasses came in, I’d be all set to wear them.

I walked out of there wearing the temporary trifocals, and nearly fell off the sidewalk in the parking lot. At first, I felt as if I were looking at everything through a funnel. The sides were blurred and slanted inward, and the center was clear. But if I turned my head just slightly, the center started to swirl in a clockwise direction. It was kind of like staring into a toilet bowl during a flush.

By dinnertime, I was so queasy from wearing my toilet-swirling glasses, just the thought of food made me want to run to the real toilet. And then there was my computer screen. I did everything but stand on my head and I still couldn’t find any section of the glasses that made the screen readable. I went from seeing swirling toilet water to seeing ocean waves.

All the while, my husband sat silently staring at me. Finally, he said, “You look like you have a bad twitch. You keep jerking your head all over the place.”

“Well, the woman told me to move my head, not my eyes,” I said. “But no matter where I move, I still can’t see my computer. I’m beginning to think these glasses are torture devices created by some evil scientist who wanted to nauseate people!”

“Then maybe you should stop wearing them,” he said. “Unless you actually enjoy feeling seasick, that is.”

“She told me to hang in there for a couple weeks and I’d get used to them. So I’m not giving up yet!”

Two hours later, the trifocals were lying on the coffee table and I was wearing my old reading glasses – the ones with glue all over them because a few weeks earlier I’d squeezed a tube of glue while doing craftwork and it shot out all over the lenses and immediately stuck to them like…well, glue. But even having to look through blobs of stuck-on glue was better than trying to see anything through the trifocals, unless I wanted to experience how the passengers on the Titanic felt.

I contacted the technician to tell her I couldn’t see my computer screen with the glasses, but I could see plenty of swirling water and ocean waves.

“Well, the temporary lenses in your glasses are not the quality of the permanent ones, so you really can’t judge anything by them,” she said. “Wait until your actual lenses come in and try those for a while. I’m sure you’ll notice a big difference.”

I can only hope she’s right. In the meantime, if there are a lot of errors in what I’ve just written, it’s because I’m looking at my computer screen either through blobs of glue or a tidal wave.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


When I look out my kitchen window every morning, it’s like watching the TV show, Wild Kingdom. In fact, I half expect the ghost of Marlin Perkins to pop out of the bushes with his camera crew and film our property.

The “zoo” began innocently enough. I was washing dishes one morning and was so bored, I nearly dozed off and landed face first in the suds. Of course, the fact I usually don’t do the previous night’s dinner dishes until 5 o’clock in the morning, might have had something to do with it.

Anyway, there is a window directly above the kitchen sink, so I thought it might prevent me from lapsing into a dishwashing-induced coma if I hung a bird feeder in a tree directly facing the window so I’d have something to look at.

We have a fenced-in yard, but the tree I chose for the feeder was located just outside the fence, for a couple good reasons. For one, my dogs love to eat birdseed and sunflower seeds. For another, they love to eat birds. So having the feeder on the other side of the fence seemed like a better idea.

The small feeder I hung in the tree attracted small birds, mostly chickadees and sparrows. So I started tossing some of the birdseed, along with bread, peanuts, popcorn, and whatever else I had around the house, on the ground near the feeder.

Soon, crows showed up. And squirrels. And dozens of blue jays. I was pleased with the growing popularity of my “restaurant.” So I went to the grain store and bought big bags of cracked corn, sunflower hearts and chopped peanuts.

More squirrels, both gray and red, showed up, along with more noisy blue jays. And more crows, along with three huge, big-headed black birds that made the crows look like sparrows in comparison. I thought they might be ravens, so I named them Edgar, Allan and Poe.

And then came the morning the turkeys showed up – two really big males and three hens. I was fascinated, mainly because the only turkeys I’d ever seen up close were in freezers and had “Butterball” printed on them.

One of the male turkeys had a prominent limp. My husband started calling him Chester, in honor of one of his favorite characters on the old TV show, Gunsmoke (for those of you who are too young to remember Gunsmoke, Deputy Chester Goode was a character who had a bad leg and hobbled all around Dodge City).

I particularly enjoyed watching Chester the turkey, especially in his efforts to attract one of the hens. Every time she’d walk by, he’d fan out his tail, puff out his chest and strut around with his wings dragging on the ground. And every time he did, she completely ignored him.

“I feel bad for poor Chester,” I said to my husband. “He tries every single morning to get the attention of one of the hens and she just snubs him. Do you think it’s because he has a limp?”

“Nah,” my husband said, “she’s probably just playing hard to get.”

A few days later, Chester showed up looking as if he’d been attacked by a gang of thugs. His tail feathers were sticking out at odd angles, one wing was drooping, and his limp seemed even worse. I figured either the hen got tired of him constantly strutting in front of her and she beat him up, or the other male decided he wanted the same hen and tried to do away with his competition.

Still, even in his less than attractive state, Chester continued to show off in front of the hen…and she still acted as if he were invisible. The minute she’d walk off, leaving him standing there, he’d deflate like a punctured balloon. His chest would go flat, his fanned-out tail would droop and his head would hang. It was a pretty pathetic sight.

But a couple months ago, something strange happened. Chester, as usual, was trying to capture his beloved hen’s attention, when she suddenly walked over to him and stretched out on the ground right in front of him. I had no idea what her actions meant, so I rushed to my computer and looked up information on turkeys.

“When a hen is ready to breed with a gobbler,” it said, “she often will lie down in front of him as a signal.”

I was so excited, I woke up my husband. “Chester’s finally going to get lucky!” I shouted as I burst into the bedroom. “His persistence paid off!”

My husband apparently didn’t share my excitement. “I hope you’re not planning to videotape the event,” he said, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

I didn’t see the hen for quite a while after that. I started to worry that maybe Chester had accidentally killed her in a fit of pent-up passion, or maybe she had died during childbirth (egg birth?).

But a couple weeks ago, while I was washing yet another batch of dishes (I really need to buy some paper plates), out of the woods strutted Chester, the hen and eight little chicks (or “poults”). Once again, I woke up my husband.

“I’m a grandmother! Chester’s girlfriend had babies!”

This time, he actually climbed out of bed to go look out the window. Just as he did, Chester lowered his head and charged at the hen when she tried to get too close to him while he was eating.

“Hmph! Look at that!” I said. “Now that she’s had his kids, he’s chasing her away!”

“Typical male,” my husband joked. “You know, Chester sure does have a lot of meat on his bones, doesn’t he? I’ll bet he weighs at least 25 pounds.”

“You’re picturing him smothered in gravy, aren’t you?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

He laughed and went back to bed.

Just to be safe, I’m going to take a thorough head count of the turkeys every morning from now until Thanksgiving.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


There was a woman on TV the other day who was reading her bucket list – a list of everything she wanted to do and goals she wanted to achieve before she kicked the bucket. She made me stop and think about what the top priority would be on my bucket list…if I had one.

I guess I’d have to say it’s always been the same thing, ever since I was about 10 and wasn’t nearly as close to meeting the bucket as I am now. My goal has been to write a book and get it published. I don’t want to self-publish a book because that’s not challenging enough. No, I want a publisher to offer to publish it for me…and give me money for it. If nothing else, I’m a big dreamer.

During the past 40-plus years, I’ve probably started to write at least a dozen books, but finished only one of them. It was one of those formula-type romance novels, the kind that contains a virgin with heaving bosoms and a long-haired, muscle-bound, testosterone-fueled hero. I wasn’t comfortable writing the book, but at the time, I felt it was the “in” thing to do. So when I sent the manuscript off to a few publishers and one actually wrote back and told me she’d like me to resubmit it after I made a few changes, which she described in detail, I never even bothered.

Back in 2000, I was cleaning the storage shed and happened to come across a box that contained some of my old diaries. I grabbed a pink-covered one that was dated 1962 and sat down to read it. Immediately I was transported back to the summer when I was 12 – the summer when my friend Janet and I, two city-slickers, spent two weeks with my parents in a two-room camp along the Exeter River. The camp had no plumbing or electricity. It did, however, have an abundance of snakes and mosquitoes.

As I read about the camp as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old, I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the things I’d written. One page, for example, described the time Janet and I put on our bathing suits so we could go swimming in the river.

I wrote: “Janet is so thin, her goal in life is to weigh 100 pounds someday. My goal is to be able to wear something that doesn’t say “Chubette” on the label. When we stand next to each other in our bathing suits, we look like the number 10!”

The more I read the diary about our crazy antics at the camp, including my growing dread of the constipation-inducing outhouse, the more I laughed. I decided right then that I was going to turn the diary into a book. Within a week, I’d written six chapters.

My enthusiasm turned out to be short-lived. I don’t know what happened, but I put the book aside and forgot about it. I didn’t find it again until I was packing to move to our new house back in 2009. I read the six chapters I’d written, had a good laugh, and once again set the book aside.

I didn’t think about the book again until I saw the bucket-list woman on TV. I searched through (well, tore apart) my office until I finally found the computer disk with my six chapters on it. I’ve faithfully been writing on the book every day since.

Last night, I reread the chapter I’d written about a walk Janet and I had taken down a busy country road near the camp, and I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of it.

I wrote:
Janet and I walked silently in a single file along the side of the road. I was in the lead and she was behind me. We were hoping to find some kids our age to hang around with, but all of the houses we passed showed no signs of life.

Finally, as we rounded a curve, I spotted something moving on the lawn at a Colonial-looking white house on the other side of the road. It was a big black dog. In fact, it was so big, it resembled a bear. The dog was running loose in the yard, and the moment it spotted us, it launched into a series of barks and growls so vicious, it sounded just like Lon Chaney, Jr. when he’d transformed into a werewolf.

“Look straight ahead and keep walking,” I said over my shoulder to Janet. “Don’t make eye contact with him. He probably won’t run across the road anyway. There’s too much traffic.”

The second I uttered the words, every vehicle on the road vanished. Janet seized the traffic-free opportunity to move up next to me and together, shoulder to shoulder, we walked quickly and stiffly. I heard the dog’s barking become louder and more frenzied. It also got closer. Soon, the barking was directly behind us.

“Walk a little faster,” I said to Janet out of the corner of my mouth.

“I-I can’t.” Her voice barely was a whisper.

“Why not?”

“Because the dog is attached to the seat of my shorts.”

I stopped to look. Sure enough, the dog’s teeth were sunk into the back of Janet’s shorts, which, luckily, were so baggy (because she was too thin to even come close to filling them), the dog wasn’t able to grab any of her skin.

I prayed the dog wouldn’t decide Janet was such slim pickings, he’d switch over to my shorts. Mine were so tight, the beast would be all but guaranteed to taste a big chunk of butt meat.

I’m hoping to keep writing at least 10 pages a day on the book and finally finish it, then try to fulfill my bucket-list goal and get it published. Of course, I realize I have one chance in a gazillion of that ever happening, but I have to give it my best shot before the bucket gets any closer…or my brain cells dry up.

Now if only I can remember where I put my diary…

Friday, July 1, 2011


It amazes me sometimes how in the blink of an eye, a perfectly calm day can turn into a really stressful one.

It happened a couple weekends ago. I was coming back from taking my dog, Willow, for a nice long walk. She was wearing one of those retractable leashes that can pull out to about 20 feet. We were heading up the driveway when suddenly, two squirrels darted across right in front of us.

Willow took one look at those squirrels and the chase was on. Unfortunately, I’d loosened my grip on the leash’s handle at that precise moment and Willow snapped it right out of my hand. Before I even realized what had happened, she’d disappeared into the woods.

I called her. No response. I offered to take her for a ride. Still no response. I promised her a whole box of her favorite dog cookies. Nothing. Finally, I heard her whining. I peered through a gap in the bushes and spotted her. She had managed to tangle all 20 feet of the retractable leash around a bunch of trees and herself, and looked as if someone had lassoed and hog-tied her.

I was just about to head into the woods to rescue her when I spotted something that made me gasp and stop dead…she was completely surrounded by a huge patch of poison ivy.

I bolted into the house. “Willow ran off and got herself tangled around a bunch of trees in the woods surrounded by poison ivy!” I cried to my husband. “She can’t budge! How are we going to get her out of there?”

“Don’t look at me!” he said. “You know I’m allergic to poison ivy!”

“Well, so am I!”

The truth was, both of us had seen our share of emergency rooms because of our severe reactions to poison ivy, and neither of us wanted to volunteer for a repeat performance.

Frantic, I tried to think of someone I could call to rescue Willow. The fire department? A helicopter? Someone who was immune to poison ivy? A Hazmat team?

“And there must be a zillion ticks in those woods, too,” my husband just had to add. “Anyone who goes in there probably will come out drained of all his blood!”

“So what are we going to do?” I whined.

“I guess we’ll have to leave her out there until winter when the poison ivy and ticks are under a foot of snow,” he said, teasing.

I was in no mood for teasing. I was desperate to rescue my 110-pound baby.

I knew that regular clothes wouldn’t protect me. The oil from poison ivy soaks right into anything made of cloth and then if you touch your clothes, you’re doomed. And ticks love to cling to cloth, digging their sticky little feet into it and hitching a ride into the house.

I paced back and forth, still trying to think of some way to safely get to Willow. Visions of Tarzan swinging on a rope vine right over the poison ivy and picking her up filled my mind.

Finally, an idea struck me. I grabbed a roll of duct tape and a box of large plastic trash bags. Then I wrapped myself in the bags and taped them onto my body with duct tape. I dug out my rubber knee-high boots and shoved them on. Then I found an old vinyl rain-poncho and a pair of gloves and put on those, too. A wide-brimmed rain hat, which I put on over the poncho’s hood that I’d already pulled over my hair, and a pair of sunglasses completed my outfit. I actually felt poison-ivy and tick proof.

When I walked out to the living room, my husband took one look at me and laughed so hard, he nearly fell out of his chair. “Please don’t let any neighbors see you in that get-up!” he said. “They already think we’re weird enough.”

With all of the plastic and rubber I was wearing, the neighbors were the least of my worries. I already could feel the sweat pooling up in my underwear. I was more afraid of passing out face-first in the poison ivy than of looking like a weirdo.

“Don’t fall down in the woods or get tangled up with the dog,” my husband called out to me as I headed toward the door. “Because then I’ll have to leave both of you out there until winter.”

I carefully made my way over stumps, rocks, roots, knee-high ferns and through the dreaded barrier of poison ivy. Finally, I reached Willow, who looked at me as if she thought I were some sort of space alien. It wasn’t until I spoke to her that she started wagging.

If she purposely had tried to break the world’s record for the most tangles in a single leash, she couldn’t have done a more thorough job. I would have just unhooked her from the leash and left it there, tangled around the trees, but the darned thing had cost $29 and I’d had it for only two weeks.

I finally freed Willow and led her out to the driveway. But before I allowed her back into the house, I brushed her with a fine wire brush, hoping to detach any ticks or other vermin that might have hitched a ride on her. Then I washed her, to get rid of any poison ivy residue. After that, I stripped off my layers of plastic and vinyl and left them in the garage.

For the next two days, I waited to start itching. I was certain I’d left an unprotected spot on my body and the poison ivy had found some way to penetrate it to turn me into a giant blister.

But when still no sign of itchy blisters popped up anywhere on my body after three days, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d emerged victorious from the battle of the demon plants.

I didn’t use Willow’s retractable leash for a couple weeks because I wanted it to have time to decontaminate itself from the poison ivy. Yesterday, however, without thinking, I grabbed it and put it on Willow.

When I came home from my walk, my husband said, “I was just watching the news and they were talking about poison ivy and said the residue from it can last for months on things like clothes and tools and still give you a bad rash. You haven’t been using that leash, have you? It must be loaded with poison ivy.”

So here I sit, once again waiting to break out in blisters.