Friday, May 30, 2014


I had what can be described only as a Twilight Zone kind of weekend last weekend.

It all began the Friday before last, just after midnight. I was stretched out on the sofa and watching TV when my phone rang. When I picked up the receiver, the phone continued to ring. It wasn’t a normal ring, it was one long ring that lasted about two minutes. I hung up the phone and picked it up again, just to see if anyone was on the line. There was no dial tone, just a rapid series of loud clicking sounds.

Twenty minutes later, the phone rang again and the same thing happened. But this time, the caller ID said my dead husband was calling me from my own phone number! Talk about an eerie feeling – I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And up until that point, I hadn’t even realized I had a hairy neck.

He turned out to be persistent. He called back at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Well, I like to think of myself as a pretty level-headed person, but by that fourth phone call, I was convinced I was losing my mind. I dug my cell phone out of my purse and called the repair service.

Actually, I should say I tried to call the repair service. My cell phone, because I live in the Outback, gets a signal only when the moon is in the third quarter and the wind is blowing in a Northeasterly direction. I ended up having to hang over the front-porch railing, outside in the dark, before I finally got a signal. By then, I was in full panic mode. I mean, the possibility existed (in my mind) that someone, like Jack the Ripper’s great-great grandson, was outside at that very moment and was messing with my phone lines just so he could lure me outside and turn me into sushi.

By the time the woman at the repair service answered, my overworked imagination had driven me into such a frenzy, I must have sounded like someone who’d been nipping the cooking sherry.

“My dead husband is calling me from my own phone!” I practically shouted at her. “How is that even possible?”

“Well…” she said, her voice calm. “Your phone is still listed in his name, so that’s why he is showing up on your caller ID. It could be either a problem with your line or something called spoofing.”

I had no clue what spoofing was, but I learned it’s actually a service (not associated with any phone company) offered to callers where they can pay a fee and have any name or phone number they choose show up on people’s caller ID systems. If for example, they want the caller ID to say they are President Obama calling from Washington, DC, they can do it. They even sell what’s called a “spoof” card people can use like a gift card for phone calls. When they enter the code on the card, they then can use any name and number they want – to conceal their identity.

The woman at the repair service then tried my phone number. “I can’t get through,” she said. “It must be a problem with the outside lines. I’ll have a service technician come check it on Monday.”

“Monday? You mean I have to deal with this all weekend?”

“You always can unplug your phones,” she said.

Easy for her to say. Unplugging my phones meant moving a two-ton bed and a four-ton sofa that has two recliners built into it. I opted not to risk having to wear a hernia truss and decided just to deal with the phone calls.

The next night, I received two more calls from my dead husband, and on Sunday, only one.  Monday afternoon, the repairman finally arrived. He checked the lines and determined nothing was wrong with them.

“So the only explanation is my husband’s ghost is making the calls?” I said. I was joking, but I actually found myself wondering if I’d done anything recently that might have upset my husband to such a degree, he’d decided to return and haunt me for it.

The calls finally stopped, so I figured whatever had caused them probably would forever remain a mystery. At that point, I didn’t care if they had been caused by a spoofer, crossed wires, or an ancient Egyptian curse. All I cared about was they were gone.

A couple nights later, my phone rang and the caller ID said it was a friend of mine who lives in New York. I answered the call and the phone kept ringing. Even worse, the phone in my office, which is on a separate line, started to play a tune that sounded like “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” Before that, I never even knew the phone in my office could play music.

I hung up the phone and still it continued to ring, while the other phone launched into a different tune.  After about five minutes of non-stop ringing and music, no matter what I did to try to stop it, I started to move furniture and unplug the phones.

And when my sacroiliac actually allowed me to bend again, I plugged the phones back in. The moment I did, they started ringing. I received over 100 calls in a six-hour period.  I answered the first 10, and each time, all I heard on the other end was something that sounded like a woodpecker trying to beat the world's record for the highest number of pecks in thirty seconds. And not one of the calls showed up on my caller ID. That meant no one actually was calling.

So once again I contacted the phone company..

"It's a holiday weekend," the woman who answered informed me. "But I will put you on top of the list and the service technician will be over the moment he gets the chance."

That was Friday. The "moment" the service technician finally got the chance to come over turned out to be Monday afternoon. By then, I was ready to take a sledgehammer to every phone in the house.

Twenty minutes after he arrived, my phones were back to normal. He didn't say what had been wrong, mainly because he spent his time outside and never came inside to talk to me.

The first time I received a call after he left, I nearly didn't answer it, fearing it might be the ghost of King Tut or someone just as weird, like my Rottweiler, calling. It turned out to be my uncle, worried because he hadn't been able to get in touch with me all weekend.

So now I have my fingers crossed that my phone lines will continue to behave themselves.

And if not, I'm going to be using two cans and a really long piece of string for my home phone from now on.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I noticed a few weeks ago that whenever I drove my car, it felt kind of bouncy. And the faster I went, the bouncier it got. It was kind of like a cross between riding a bull and driving over a field of tennis balls.  Even my dogs were beginning to look a little green whenever I took them for a ride.

I also noticed that whenever I stepped on the brakes, the car jerked. So before I ended up with a combination of whiplash and motion sickness, I decided I’d better get the car checked out.

The problem with taking my car to a mechanic, however, is I have to clean it out first, which is a major project. The main problem is that on any given day, there is enough dog fur in my car to easily stuff a mattress. Add to that a gazillion nose prints and dried-up dog drool on the windows, and I’m faced with at least two hours of cleaning.

And then there’s the doggie odor in the upholstery, which usually requires spraying it with enough air freshener to single handedly destroy the ozone layer.

I managed to get my car looking and smelling fairly decent, but the floors still were covered with dirt, gravel and fur. I didn’t feel like dragging my vacuum cleaner outside, so I left the floors the way they were. I figured I always could save the dirt and gravel for next winter and then sprinkle it on the ice in my driveway.

When I brought the car into the repair shop, a mechanic immediately started to fire questions at me about the bouncing.

“Is it more of a vibration or a bounce?” he asked.

“Definitely a bounce,” I said.

“Do your brakes pulsate when you step on them?”

I wasn’t even certain what pulsating brakes would feel like. “No, it’s more of a jerk than a pulse.”

“Does your car pull to either the left or the right?”

“Not that I’ve noticed.”

“Have you hit any pot holes or frost heaves?”

“Yes, about 100,000 of each.”

“I’ll take the car for a test drive,” he said.

I nearly laughed when he first carefully laid a paper mat on the floor of my car to keep it clean. He’d have been better off wrapping it around his feet to protect them from getting covered with dirt and gravel and enough fur to make him look as if he were wearing fuzzy slippers.

Five minutes later, he returned from the test drive. “It feels fine to me,” he said.

I stared at him as if he’d just grown a second head. “You honestly didn’t feel any bouncing or jerking?” I asked in disbelief.

He shook his head. “The car pulled to the right a little, but that was about it.”

“And the brakes?”

“They didn’t pulsate at all.”

I began to think the only explanation was I had developed some sort of neurological disorder that made me feel as if my body were jerking and bouncing.

“I’ll check your brakes and tires,” he said.

Both turned out to be fine. He ended up rotating the tires and doing an alignment. I was pretty sure my car really didn’t need either one, but he’d used them as a placebo just to shut me up.

To be honest, I thought my car felt even bouncier during the drive home. But seeing that everything had checked out just fine, I decided I’d just have to ignore it and learn to live with it.

And buy a new bra that doesn’t have stretch straps.


Friday, May 16, 2014


When I was young, my mother and I had a yearly tradition of going to the Miss New Hampshire pageant.

Back then, it was held at the Practical Arts Auditorium in Manchester. For some reason, we always ended up getting seats way up in the balcony, so far away from the stage, a contestant could have had three eyeballs and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Basically, we sat watching a bunch of specks dancing around onstage, and never knew exactly what the winner’s face looked like until we saw her photo in the newspaper the next day.

Still, Mom and I enjoyed our annual outing and looked forward to it every year.

After my mom passed away, I never attended the pageant again, not only because the experience just wouldn’t have been the same, but also because the pageant moved its location to Derry.

So a couple weeks ago, when I found out the Miss New Hampshire pageant was going to be aired live on the Internet and I could watch it on my computer, I got excited. For once I would be able to see the contestants up close and study their faces – an entirely new experience for me.

The night of the pageant, I was ready to be entertained for a couple hours. I put on my comfy sweatshirt and sweatpants, grabbed a cup of tea and a cookie, and then curled up on the sofa with a blanket and my laptop computer. The starting time was supposed to be 6:00.

I turned on my computer and clicked on the pageant link. The screen welcomed me to the pageant and said it would begin airing soon. So I waited. And then I waited some more. By 6:20, I figured I had waited long enough. I hit the “refresh” button on my computer.

To my delight, the pageant popped on. There was a contestant singing onstage. As the cameras zoomed in for a close-up, I noticed that my computer was a bit too slow to keep up. As a result, her mouth wasn’t going with the words, which was a bit distracting. But at least I could tell she didn’t have three eyeballs.

After she finished her song, the announcer said, “That was the third of our 10 semi-finalists in the talent competition.”

I just stared at the screen. I’d missed the introduction of the 28 contestants, the selection of the 10 semi-finalists, and the first two contestants in talent? That much had happened in just the 20 minutes I’d sat waiting for the pageant to start? Needless to say, I was upset.

Even more upsetting was my slow computer. When the contestants came out to do a group dance number, their images were jerky, as if they were being filmed in stop-motion. They looked as if they were wearing electric underwear that kept giving them shocks.

Still, I was able to see enough of each contestant to allow me to select my favorite to win.

Intermission arrived and the screen switched over to promotional ads. The announcer had said the intermission would be exactly 15 minutes, so I used the time to make another cup of tea and let the dogs out. Twenty-five minutes later, I realized the promotional ads on my screen had stopped moving and were frozen in place. Panicking, I hit the refresh button again.

“And these are our top five finalists!” the announcer was saying.

Once again, I had missed the selection of the finalists. Even worse, my favorite contestant wasn’t one of them.

“Oh, well,” I said, trying to look on the bright side. “At least I’ll still be able to see the actual crowning up close for the first time.”

Ten minutes before the end of the pageant, I shifted my position on the sofa. My laptop, which, appropriately, was on my lap, slid off and onto the sofa cushion. When I picked it up, the cable that connects my computer to my satellite dish and to the outside world, pulled out. Immediately, the computer screen went blank.

“Noooo!” I cried, frantically trying to shove the cable back into the computer.

I had to start all over again. I had to go into WMUR TV’s website, then I had to click on the Miss New Hampshire pageant link, select which device I was going to watch it on, sit through an advertisement, and then finally was connected to the live pageant…only to find out it was over. I had no clue who won.

It made me realize that modern technology wasn’t the answer to getting a close-up view of the pageant after all. The answer, which my mother and I should have realized back in our pageant-attending days, was simple.







Friday, May 9, 2014


The other day, one of my friends told me she wanted to celebrate her birthday this July by going to see Michael Buble in concert. She then asked me if I wanted to go with her.

I’d seen Michael Buble (pronounced “boo-blay” not “bubble”) on TV a few times and really enjoyed his singing, so I told her to order the tickets and I’d pay her back.

Well, the day the tickets went on sale, she emailed me to tell me she was lucky she had been able to get us two really good seats, because the tickets were selling like proverbial hotcakes.

“There’s only one little problem,” she said, “they were $113.50 each.”

I honestly nearly needed a defibrillator. Even if the Beatles were reincarnated and were giving one final concert, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t spend $113.50 to go see them.

Maybe that’s considered a good price for a concert nowadays. I haven’t been to one in years, so I have no clue. When I was a teenager, I went to concerts all the time, usually at the JFK Coliseum in Manchester. Ticket prices back then averaged only about $8. I saw everyone from the Beach Boys to Three Dog Night.

And waiting in long lines didn’t bother me. I was so excited about seeing whichever band was playing, I would have waited in line for hours. Now, however, if I have to wait any longer than 20 minutes, I’ll probably be ready to keel over…or need a restroom.

The last concert I went to was with my husband to see the Four Tops and the Temptations in Concord. I hate to say it, but my husband wasn’t exactly Mr. Sunshine that night.

First of all, he complained about the stairs going into the theater, and then about the additional stairs to get to our seats. You would think someone had forced him to run a marathon.

“My knees are killing me,” he moaned after he finally collapsed into his seat. “They should have elevators in this place.”

Then, during the concert, the people in the rows in front of us all stood up to dance in place and clap their hands. My husband and I remained seated.

“I paid for a seat so I could sit during the concert!” he muttered. “Why would I want to stand up all night? I wish everyone would just sit down!  I came here to see the performers, not a bunch of people’s butts!”

A few songs later, he complained again. “I can’t hear them! Why don’t they turn up the volume on their amplifiers? They sound like they’re singing with pillows over their faces!”

“Honey, they are really loud,” I said. “I’ve been telling you for months now, you need a hearing aid!”

“And it’s hot as Hades in here!” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because they have the heat turned up too high or because all of these people are working up a sweat dancing when they should be sitting!”

Let’s just say there was a good reason why that concert was the last one I ever went to with my husband.

So I really don’t know what to expect when I go see Michael Buble in July. For the price I’m paying, I’m expecting not only to see him sing, but to have him sit on my lap and personally serenade me.

And I’m hoping I can stay healthy because I’m not about to miss the show and lose my $113.50. However, I’ll probably be suffering from malnutrition by then because after I pay for my ticket, I’ll be forced to live only on Ramen noodles.

But even if I’m in the middle of having an appendectomy at the time of the concert, I’ll still go – and then hope the people in the seats behind me won’t mind looking at the rear exposure of my hospital gown.

After she bought our tickets, my friend also said in her email, “You might want to get Michael Buble's newest CD, ‘To be Loved,’ before we go to the concert, so you can become familiar with his latest songs.”

I would. But I can’t afford it.



Thursday, May 1, 2014


I swear that Kay, one of my neighbors (and by “neighbor” I mean she lives a half-mile away) could grow coconut trees in her yard, she has such a green thumb. But if a green thumb means someone is good at growing things, then I must have a brown one, because everything I try to grow eventually turns that color.

Last year, when I was walking my dog by Kay’s house, I noticed these huge, flowering bushes in her yard. They had so many flowers on them, I could see them two blocks away. When I asked Kay what they were, she said rhododendrons.

I knew I’d never be able to remember rhododendrons by the time I walked back home, so I did what I usually do when I want to remember something – I used word association. The first thing that popped into my mind was actress Valerie Harper. Why? Because she played a character named Rhoda on TV for years, and I figured if I could remember Rhoda, I could remember rhododendrons.

Although I have a long history of killing plants, sometimes just by looking at them, I became obsessed with having a rhododendron bush/shrub on my front lawn. As luck would have it, I was in the garden department at Walmart one day and there was a huge sale on bushes and shrubs.

“Do you have any of those Valerie Harper shrubs?” I asked the clerk.

He looked at me as if I’d just been beamed down from another planet.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” I said. “ I mean a rhoda, um, rhododendron.”

He led me to the selection. There were white ones and pink ones, which were nice, but then I spotted a bright red one. It was marked down to $12 and was already about three feet tall and in a big plastic tub.

“How big do these things grow?” I asked the clerk.

“Oh, they can get to be as wide as 25 feet across,” he said.

Excited, and picturing my front lawn overrun with beautiful red rhododendron flowers, I bought it.

The minute I got home with my precious shrub, however, I started to have a panic attack. I just knew I was going to kill it. No matter how kind I was to it or how much I babied it, experience had taught me its days were numbered. Soon, it would be brown and shriveled, gasping for its last breath, all because it had been unlucky enough to be purchased by me, the Lizzie Borden of plant caretakers. So I put it in the garage for the time being.

When I told Kay I’d bought a rhododendron, she said, “Great! When you’re ready to plant it, let me know and I’ll help you!”

I felt much better. I knew she could grow plants and flowers that looked as if they had jumped off the covers of landscaping magazines, while I couldn’t even grow mold on bread, so if my rhododendron received her magic touch, it just might receive a stay of execution and survive.

But just as I was trying to pick out the perfect spot on my front lawn for my new shrub, the guys arrived to install my new home-generator system.

“We’re going to have to run a gas line from your underground propane tank to the generator,” one of the guys said, “ so we’re going to have to dig a trench across your lawn.”

The next thing I knew, construction vehicles descended upon my property and my front lawn ended up resembling the Grand Canyon – if someone had filled it with mud. It was not a good time, I decided, to plant my precious shrub. I would have to wait until I actually had a front yard again instead of a giant sinkhole.

So the rhododendron remained in its plastic tub in my garage. I watered it, I talked to it, I begged it not to die.

And for a month, it grew, and I got excited. Every bud, every new green leaf felt like a personal victory to me. And as my yard finally began take shape again, after new loam and grass seed were put down, I was counting the days until I could call Kay and tell her the shrub was ready to be planted.

But then something unexpected happened. The temperature outside shot up to nearly 100 degrees. That meant the temperature inside my locked-up garage was hot enough to roast a Thanksgiving turkey.  Even worse, I’d forgotten to water the rhododendron for two days. I should have been arrested for plant abuse.

When I finally went out to the garage, there was my once lovely shrub, brown and dried up. There wasn’t one green leaf left on it. Panicking, I called Kay, but there was no answer. So I called another friend who’s also good at growing things.

“Dig a hole, fill it with water and plant the shrub right away,” she told me. “It might be able to revive, if the roots are still good.”

So I rushed out to the front yard and dug a hole, filled it with water and planted the shrub. Then I waited for it to show any signs of life.

That was a year ago. I’m still waiting. It’s so brown and dried-up looking, even the squirrels point at it and laugh.

Still, I’m seriously thinking about buying another rhododendron this year and having Kay plant it for me…in her yard.