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.