a week passes when I don’t hear from readers suggesting that I put my columns
into book form.
considering I’ve written nearly 1,000 columns and each one is a minimum of four
typewritten pages, just lifting such a book would all but guarantee a hernia,
and it probably would cost about $250 per copy. So a couple weeks ago, seeing
that the holiday season rapidly is approaching, I came up with the idea of
putting some of my previous holiday-themed columns into a book and calling it,
“Happy Holidays! Now Hand me my
I searched for the columns.
never been a very organized person, and my hunt for my past columns only served
to verify that fact. As I searched, I began to feel as if I were on a scavenger
hunt. I found columns stored on floppy disks and CDs. I found columns that had
been cut out of the newspaper and pasted into scrapbooks or just tossed into a
plastic bin. I even found columns that were so old, they still were in their original
form – typed on paper using an actual typewriter.
I soon learned there was no order to any of the columns. One box contained
columns only from 1998 and 2003. I had no idea where the other five years were.
And one of the scrapbooks skipped from 2004 to 2008.
the floppy disks gave me the most trouble. Either they wouldn’t play at all, or
they displayed an error in formatting. The computer kept asking me if I wanted
to re-format them. In the past, I learned the hard way that in computer talk,
re-formatting a disk means the computer, cackling with maniacal glee, attacks
the disk and erases everything on it, then spits it out.
after looking through so many columns, my eyeballs felt as if I’d popped them
out and rolled them in ground glass, I found about 20 with holiday themes. They
had titles like, “Gift Swap Flop,” “Out of Luck Potluck,” “Season’s Eatings,”
and “The Christmas Candle Scandal.” I
selected 17 of them for my book.
didn’t use the other three because they were just too outdated. I mean, one of
them described my frantic search for a robe for my mother-in-law, and how I’d
driven to 10 stores during a blizzard and nearly ran out of gas and died of
hypothermia in the process. I may as well have written I’d driven a covered
wagon to the mall. I mean, computers have dramatically changed shopping. If I
were looking for that same robe today, I’d grab a cup of tea, relax on my sofa,
and go online and search for it there.
finding the columns I wanted to use, I set to work designing the book’s cover.
I figured it was about time I put my art lessons to good use, so I dug out my
sketching pencils and colored markers. I had a pretty clear vision of what I
wanted on the cover – a tired-looking woman with her hair in curlers, slouching
in an easy chair, her feet surrounded by a pile of Christmas wrapping paper,
and maybe some ribbon dangling from her hand.
I can say is my vision was much easier to imagine than it was to draw. The
woman’s head ended up looking like a butternut squash. And when I tried to
slouch her body in the chair, I couldn’t get her feet in the right position.
She ended up looking as if she were a contortionist…or she’d been in some
horribly disfiguring accident. And her
feet weren’t the only ones that were lopsided. The chair’s feet I drew looked
as if they were part of a Picasso painting.
erased my sketch paper so many times, I finally wore a hole right through it.
By then, I was so tired, I figured all I had to do was pop some curlers in my
hair and take a photo of myself for the cover of the book and I’d be all set.
The only problem was I didn’t want to frighten away any potential book buyers.
a couple days later, I managed to come up with a drawing for the cover that I
thought looked passable. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was satisfied
with it. To be honest, I was so fed up with the darned cover by then, I would
have derived a lot of pleasure from hanging it on the wall and tossing darts at
the woman’s baggy-eyed face.
organized the columns for the book, typed them into my computer, wrote out a
table of contents and then proofread everything. Finally, I was ready. I
submitted the book and the cover to Amazon.com for publishing and then waited
for the editors’ approval or rejection.
next day, I received an email saying there was a problem. I was afraid to read
also need a back cover,” the email informed me.
pretty sure I groaned out loud. I’d had so much trouble designing the front
cover, I’d completely forgotten (perhaps intentionally) that the book needed a
the sake of my sanity, I decided to make the back cover as simple as possible.
I looked for a pattern in green to slap on it. I found one that resembled
indoor-outdoor carpeting and scanned that. Then I wrote a brief synopsis on the
cover and resubmitted the whole thing to Amazon.
pleased to say the book finally has been published and looks much better in
print than I’d anticipated. Even the front cover looks fairly professional (if
you don’t examine it too closely). And it’s a good stocking-stuffer size, too –
only 78 pages. So I’m happy.
I think I’ll start searching for my Valentine’s Day columns.
MY BOOKS & THE NH SPCA
the holiday season approaching, many readers who don’t have computers and
therefore, can’t order my books online, have been sending letters and postcards
asking if I still have copies of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear” available.
Yes, I do. Anyone who would like an autographed copy can send $10 (which includes
shipping) to me at: PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585. If you would like the
book personally autographed, be sure to include the person’s name, and please
if you would like an autographed copy of the “Happy Holidays” book I discussed in this column, you can order it online in either print form or
electronic form at Amazon.com or directly from me for $6 ($3.50 plus $2.50 for
shipping). If you order more than one book from me at the same time, the cost
is $3.50 per book and only $3.50 for shipping the entire order, not per book,
so you’ll save quite a bit on postage.
that I love animals so much, I am going to donate a percentage of my books’
proceeds to the NH chapter of the SPCA and hopefully help make this a happier
holiday season for some “kids” of the furry, four-legged variety.
you for all of your support!
feeling really excited this week because after six years, the Driveway from
Hell finally is going to be paved. My driveway has been a proverbial thorn in
my side ever since the first day it was created, back in 2007. I have never
liked it, and obviously, it’s never been too fond of me, either, because all
it’s ever done is cause me grief. I swear there is a family of evil trolls
living underneath it.
one thing, it never was supposed to exist. When I first checked out the land,
all 7.5 acres of it, as a prospective place to build a house, it had a dirt,
weed-covered driveway leading from a nice cul-de-sac with several houses
nearby. The driveway ended in an area of the land that already had been cleared
– a perfect spot for our future house.
wasn’t until after my husband and I bought the land that we learned we couldn’t
get a driveway permit for the existing driveway. The town informed us that the
only place we’d be permitted to put a driveway would be on the far side of the
property, in the middle of nowhere on a private road.
still can remember standing at the “permitted” spot and staring at nothing but
thick woods crammed with giant, towering trees, and wondering how on earth I
ever was going to put a driveway through there. Images of Tarzan, carrying a
machete and swinging through the trees, came to mind.
ended up hiring a contractor and a surveyor and they set to work. Four months
and nearly $20,000 later, I had a driveway – all 400 feet of it. The darned thing was so long, it looked as
if it should have had a tollbooth at the end of it.
The contractor then decided to line the new
driveway with truckloads of crushed rock. The rocks were pretty big and
sharp-edged. Walking on them was like walking over a landslide. And trying to
plow the driveway after a snowstorm also was a disaster, because most of the
rocks ended up on my front lawn. By the end of the year, I was so fed up, I
called in another contractor to get rid of the rocks and put down gravel.
gravel driveway was much smoother underfoot, but it still made a mess when it
was plowed. Instead of chunks of rock landing on my lawn, the plow spewed
gravel everywhere, including on my front porch. After the spring thaw, I raked
up over 40 buckets of gravel from the lawn. And even then, when I mowed the
grass, the mower kept kicking up gravel and pelting me with it.
also had a difficult time adjusting to such a long driveway. Where we used to
live, I could run out in my nightgown to get the mail. But with a 400-ft.
driveway, it was more like a hike. I had to put on my jogging outfit and
running shoes just to make it down to the mailbox. The same with taking out the
trash. By the time I wheeled the barrels to the end of the driveway, especially
through all of the gravel, I nearly needed CPR.
the cost of hiring someone to plow the driveway was astronomical. One month,
when we had four snowstorms, I nearly had to mortgage the house to pay the guy.
gravel finally irritated me to the point where I decided to replace it with
something else – some kind of mixture of dirt and recycled bits of asphalt. The
asphalt in the dirt was supposed to help pack it down and make it more solid.
looked good and seemed solid, but I soon learned it caused another problem I
hadn’t had with the chunks of rock or the gravel. Rain transformed the driveway
into a 400-ft. strip of mud. When I walked down to get the mail, the mud would
suck the shoes right off my feet. And every time a truck drove up the driveway,
it left huge tire-track ruts that never flattened out. The driveway ended up
looking like a topographical map of the Himalayas.
year before last, when we had a bad snowstorm in October, the ground wasn’t yet
frozen, so when the plow came to clear my driveway, I ended up with a mountain
of mud in the middle of my front lawn. I’m not exaggerating, the pile was
taller than I was, and a whole lot wider. While other people were shoveling
snow, I was shoveling mud. And the dogs and I tracked so much of it into the
house, I could have sprinkled seeds on the floors and grown a crop of corn.
only reason why I’d never had the driveway paved was because the guy who built
it told me it would cost over $20,000 because the driveway was so long. But over
time, I came to realize that with the money I’d already spent on the rocks,
gravel and dirt, I probably could have paid for enough asphalt to pave my
this year I finally got brave and called several paving companies for estimates,
even though I was pretty sure I’d need a defibrillator when I heard the cost. I
was shocked to learn it was about half of what I’d anticipated. I even blurted
out to one of the pavers when he quoted his price, “Is that all?”
I rarely hear that!” he said, shaking his head and chuckling. “I can charge you
more, if it will make you happy.”
week, the pavers I hired arrived to prepare my driveway for paving. They
smoothed it and packed it down, evened it out and leveled it. A good portion of
the job was done with some piece of heavy equipment that vibrated the ground.
It also vibrated the house. By the end of the day, every picture on my walls
was crooked, my kitchen drawers all had popped open, and I was reaching for the
any day now, I finally will have a nice, smooth asphalted driveway. I can’t
the evil trolls that live underneath it won’t poke up their ugly heads and
last time I went to a fair, attractions included the world’s largest steer,
which weighed over two tons; a house made from a hollowed-out giant redwood
tree, a caged animal referred to as the Missing Link, and a performance by the
falsetto singer, Tiny Tim (who passed away in 1996). And it rained so hard that night, even my bra ended up full of
when my friends Paul and Nancy invited me to go to the Deerfield Fair last
Thursday, I eagerly accepted the invitation. I figured it had been much too
long since I’d been.
my luck, however, I anticipated that the weather that day would include a
downpour so torrential, the animals at the fair would be lining up in pairs and
searching for Noah. Luckily, the weather cooperated and it was a bright, sunny,
slightly breezy day.
things struck me the minute we entered the fairgrounds – the area was huge,
much bigger than I’d remembered…and hillier, and everything smelled like fried
soon discovered why. The fair was overflowing with fried stuff for sale – fried
dough, French fries, fried onion rings and even chocolate-covered bacon. I felt
myself breaking out in zits just walking past the food booths.
and Nancy said one of their friends was supposed to have a booth featuring
lobsters, so we searched for it. We finally spotted a booth selling lobster
bisque, so Paul walked over and asked the guy if his friend might be in charge
man smiled at him. “If I say yes, will you buy some of my bisque?”
only laughed. The guy, however, was persistent. He filled a tiny cup with
bisque and told Paul to try it. “Once you sample it, you’ll be hooked,” he
brave soul that he was, handed the cup to Nancy. She stared at it for a moment
and then took a sip as everyone stared at her, watching her expression.
only way to describe her reaction would be…confused.
this have pumpkin in it?” she asked.
guy in the booth looked as if she’d just asked him if he’d dumped ground-up
ants into it. “No,” he said, frowning.
the three of us walked away without buying any bisque, they guy clearly looked
offended. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that even if I were stranded on a
tropical island and had nothing to eat but lobsters, I’d probably starve to
death because I dislike them so much. I mean, after all, their nickname is
“cockroach of the sea.”
act the three of us were eager to see was the world-famous Flying Wallendas. We
took our seats in the bleachers and stared up at the high wire, about 30 feet
overhead, with no net underneath. The thought kept running through my head that
just one wrong move and one of the Wallendas could end up doing a nosedive onto
the grass, but obviously that’s what they wanted the audience to think – to add
to the thrill of their performance.
Wallendas did not disappoint. Their act
was filled with thrills and daredevil stunts. I mean, how often do you see a
12-year-old girl dangling by just her toes, 30 feet above the ground?
I found myself repeatedly staring at Alex Wallenda. I swear the guy had a smile
that could melt a polar ice cap. It didn’t matter that he was young enough to
be my grandson, every time he smiled in the direction of our seats, I felt as
if I were suffering from a post-menopausal hot flash. Of course, it might have
been a post-menopausal hot flash, but that’s beside the point.
the performance, the Wallendas announced that they would be giving out free
postcards and autographs. I headed straight for Alex, as Paul and Nancy smiled
in amusement at me. The two people in line ahead of me shook hands with Alex
and told him how great his act was, and he smiled and chatted with them. I
stood there thinking I was going to do the same.
it was my turn to get an autograph, Alex, now only inches away, looked directly
at me, flashed that dazzling smile of his and said, “Hi!”
the first time in my life, I couldn’t utter a word. I just silently stood
there, my eyes fixed on that smile, and didn’t make a single sound. It was as
if someone had glued my lips together. The next thing I knew, I was walking
away, an autographed postcard in my hand, and wondering, “What the heck just
I can say is Alex Wallenda should patent his smile as a lethal weapon.
Nancy and I managed to visit just about every exhibit at the fair. I saw birds
that looked as if they were wearing fur coats; a baby chick hatching; a star
made out of license plates; a butternut squash the length of a baseball bat; and
a carrot that could have fed an army of rabbits. And I enjoyed every minute of
after six hours, my feet and back began to beg me for mercy. So I told Paul and
Nancy I was ready to go. I noticed as we were leaving, they had their hands
stamped so they could return.
enough, I received an email from them the next morning telling me they’d
returned to the fair that night and saw some other acts, including a Beatles
tribute band. I’m a huge fan of the Beatles, and would have loved to have seen
at the very moment they were performing, I was snoring on the sofa.
have the sneaking suspicion I just might be getting old.
weekend I rented a table space at a yard sale, in the hopes of getting rid of
some of my husband’s “collection.”
husband hoarded just about everything imaginable during his 64 years on this
planet – coins, trading cards, comic books, cigarette lighters, military
medals, stamps, Avon bottles, Budweiser Christmas steins, Star Wars and Star
Trek toys, model trains and even dollhouse furniture. At one point, the
collection took up three storage units, to the tune of nearly $400 per month.
Multiply that by 25 years, and the collection ended up owing us money.
managed to sell a lot of his treasures on eBay, but the big stuff, the stuff
that would cost more to mail it than its actual value, I decided to try to sell
at the yard sale. This, of course, meant I had to lug everything out to the car
and then somehow squish all of it into it.
carrying the first of the model-train sets out to the garage, I learned that my
back isn’t as flexible as it used to be, especially when it comes to lifting
boxes the size of card tables. I began to refer to my back as “Cereal,” because
it was making such a variety of “snap, crackle and pop” sounds every time I
train sets and six boxes of junk later, I was lying on the sofa and praying for
a traveling chiropractor (one without a cell phone or GPS system in his car) to
get lost on my road and appear on my doorstep, asking for help.
I arrived at the yard sale early the next morning, just about all of the other
sellers already had set up their tables. I figured they must have arrived in
total darkness and felt their way around, holding flashlights between their
thought I would be able to park my car right near my table space, but I had to
park about a block away and carry everything from there. By the time I was
halfway through, I was so exhausted, I was ready to leave the rest of the stuff
in the car and sell just what I’d already unloaded. Luckily, my sister-in-law,
who also was selling at the yard sale, spotted me and came to my rescue. If she
hadn’t, someone probably would have found my body, twisted into a pretzel shape
from a giant muscle spasm, lying on the ground next to my car.
finally got everything set up and then eagerly waited to make money. I was
determined to sell every item – mainly because I didn’t want to have to carry
any of it back to the car.
must confess I had a lot of fun watching and meeting people – some of whom were
more interesting than others. There was one man who really wanted one of my $5
items. He came back three times, picked it up and looked at it, then put it
back down. Finally, he asked me if I’d take $3 for it because that was all the
money he had. I gave in and said OK.
he reached into his pocket, pulled out a big roll of bills, peeled off three
one-dollar bills and handed them to me. He then thanked me and walked off. I was so dumbfounded, I just stood there
with my mouth open.
there was a little girl who fell in love with a craft item I painstakingly had
worked hours on for a craft fair the year before. At the craft fair, I’d priced
it at $20, but no one bought it. So at the yard sale, although it was torture,
I priced it at only $1.
little girl, who was with her father, picked up the item, “ooohed” over it and
said she really wanted it. She asked her dad for a dollar. He flatly refused. I
noticed, however, that he was carrying an armload of tools and video
games. He then whispered something to
her. The little girl looked up, smiled sweetly at me, fluttered her eyelashes
and said, “Can I have this for free?”
her father hadn’t given her the idea, I might have said yes, but his actions
really irritated me.
I said. “It’s a dollar, and a real steal at that price.”
I shouldn’t have used the word “steal” because the girl held the craft item
close to her chest and said defiantly, “Then I’ll just take it!” and began to
father turned and gave me a pleading look, but I didn’t give in. Finally, he
told the girl to put the item it back on the table. The look she gave me when
she did, told me she hoped I’d be attacked by swarm of killer bees. I ended up
not selling the item, but still, it was the principle of the thing.
the end of the day, not one big-box item had sold. Most of my small stuff,
however – the stuff that would have
been easy to carry back to the car – was gone. I frowned at the huge train sets
and swore I actually could hear my spine groaning in protest.
when my brother-in-law, like a knight in shining armor, suddenly appeared,
wheeling a dolly. “Need some help?” he asked.
felt like kissing his feet.
all of the items I brought home from the yard sale are still sitting in my car.
I just don’t have the energy or ambition to unload them.
if you’re in a parking lot at a mall or shopping center somewhere and a strange
woman happens to approach you and says, “Pssst! Want to buy some nice model-train stuff, cheap? Just follow me to