Friday, April 24, 2015


I was confused the other day (what else is new?) because someone told me I’d had good luck when I was pretty certain I’d had bad luck.  But let me start at the beginning.

Two years ago, I finally invested in something I felt was a necessity where I currently live – an automatic built-in generator system.  I made the decision after suffering through seemingly endless power failures and spending the price of a new car on candles, flashlights, battery-operated lanterns and oil lamps. I also bought so many batteries, I owned stock in the Energizer Bunny.

The most difficult part about setting up the generator was choosing which 12 things in my house I wanted to hook up to it. The first few were pretty easy: the refrigerator, furnace, well pump, stove, TV, water heater and a couple overhead lights. The remaining choices were more difficult. Did I want to hook up the automatic garage-door openers or the porch light?  Was the washing machine more important than the dishwasher? Would I rather have clean underwear than sparkling clean dishes? Should I connect a light in the basement so in case I had to go down there, I wouldn’t trip on the stairs and land on my head on the concrete? I spent days deliberating until I finally was satisfied with my choices.

The first year I had the generator, there were at least four power failures. If someone walked by the power lines and coughed, the power went out. If a bird flapped its wings too hard near the lines, the power went out. And every time it did, my generator kicked right on and kept everything running smoothly. I was thrilled.

Less than a year later, however, I received a call from an electrical service in Manchester telling me the manufacturer of my generator had issued a recall on the transfer switch and it had to be replaced. They said it wouldn’t cost me anything and they even would extend the warranty on my generator for an additional year.

So I had the part replaced and continued to enjoy the generator…until two weeks ago.

The wind was so bad that day, when I walked my dog, I had to hold her leash with both hands or risk having her turn into a kite and go airborne.  When I came home from my walk and was heading up the driveway, I could hear the generator running, so I knew I’d lost power.  But it didn’t concern me, not with my trusty system taking care of everything. The moment I entered the house, however, I immediately sensed something wasn’t right.

For some reason, the generator was powering only a fraction of what it was supposed to. Even worse, it was powering things that were the lowest on my priority list – the basement light, the bathroom light and the laundry room. No refrigerator, no stove, no well pump, no TV.  Just as I was trying to remember where I’d stored the extension cords so I at least could run one from a room that did have power and plug in the refrigerator, the power came back on.

The next day, I contacted an electrician. He came right over and spent a few minutes testing the generator.  He then told me the transfer switch had to be replaced.  He explained that 240 volts were coming out of the generator, but the contactor mechanism in the transfer switch was outputting only 120, which was too weak to run everything.

“You mean the part that was recalled last year and replaced with a new one has to be replaced?” I asked, shocked. “They removed a supposedly defective part and gave me one that was even worse? I sure hope it’s still under warranty!”

The electrician decided to check, and then spent the next hour on the phone, making calls about my warranty.

“Yep, the part is covered,” he finally said. “But I’ll have to order it from the manufacturer.  I’ll let you know when it comes in.”

He left and went out to truck, but he didn’t drive away. A few minutes later, he came back inside and handed me a bill. “So for today, that will be $187 for labor,” he said.

I just stared at the bill. Labor?  If he considered talking on the phone to be labor, then I figured I’d spent most of my life working as hard as a lumberjack.

After he left, I decided to call the generator manufacturer to double check on the warranty.

“We won’t honor the warranty unless one of our authorized technicians determines that a part is defective,” the woman who answered explained.

When I told her what the electrician had said, she asked for the name of his company.

“Well, he’s not one of our authorized technicians,” she said. “So it doesn’t matter what he said. One of our technicians will have to check your system. It won’t cost you anything, and if he does determine that a part is defective, you’re covered for both the replacement and labor.”

The next day, the manufacturer’s authorized technician arrived to examine my generator.

“Everything looks fine to me,” he said after he did a thorough check. “I didn’t find anything wrong with it.”

To prove his point, he shut off the power. The generator sprang into action and ran everything it was supposed to run. I felt like giving it a kick. It reminded me of all the times my car had made terrible noises, but the minute my husband took it for a drive to listen to what I was complaining about, it purred like a kitten and he’d accuse me of hallucinating.

“Can you try the generator just one more time?” I asked the technician. “I swear, it hasn’t been working right.”

“Well, maybe the electrician who checked it over managed to fix it by jiggling something, and he didn’t even realize it,” he said.

“I doubt it,” I said, frowning. “Not unless he did it by phone.”

So the technician shut off the power once again. The generator popped on and this time, powered only a portion of the house. 

“Hmmm, that’s weird,” he said, checking out the electrical panel once again with some kind of testing device. Looking surprised, he finally said, “He was right – it’s the transfer switch. It’s burned out. I have one out in the truck. I’ll go get it.”

I wasn’t about to argue with him, even though I found myself wondering how I was going to gently break the news to the electrician who’d already ordered the same part for me.

Once the repairs were finished, the technician looked at me and said, “You know, during the recall last year, we replaced about a thousand of these switches and yours is the only one that’s had a problem. I think you should go buy a lottery ticket.”

I frowned at him. “Why? Doesn’t this prove I’m really unlucky?”

“No, it proves you beat the odds.”

I shook my head, not understanding his perception of good luck. “No,” I said. “All it proves is that if only 500 tickets were being sold at a raffle and I bought 499 tickets, the guy who bought the other ticket would win!”

He laughed. “I still think you should go buy a lottery ticket.”

Well, I didn’t buy one, mainly because I was too broke after paying $187 to the first electrician for his labor.

Now I’ll just have to wait until the next power failure to find out if my generator truly is working at 100-percent capacity again.

I shouldn’t have to wait too long. I think I saw a chickadee flying around near the power lines yesterday.
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Friday, April 17, 2015


I’ve just finished reading a book that contained so much stomach-churning violence, cruelty, greed and lust, I had to reach for the bottle of Pepto-Bismol after every chapter.

The title of this book?  Grimm’s Fairy Tales.                               

It took me all these years to finally learn the shocking truth: all of the sweet, happily-ever-after stories my parents used to read to me when I was a kid were nothing more than candy-coated versions of the original sordid tales, written back in the 1800s by Jacob (sometimes spelled Jakob) and Wilhelm Grimm, two really sadistic German guys.

It’s pretty obvious the Grimms hated their parents.  I mean, every parent in their stories is depicted as a cruel, selfish, kid-hating monster.  The tales of “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” are prime examples.

In “Rapunzel,” a woman has a terrible craving for rampion, which is some kind of European salad root.  Her husband, wanting to please her, climbs over a huge stone wall and steals some rampion from a witch’s garden.  He does this repeatedly until the witch finally catches him.

“Have mercy on me!” he begs the witch. “If I don’t keep my wife supplied with rampion, she’ll make my life a living hell!”

“You can have all you want,” the witch tells him, cackling wickedly, “in exchange for your firstborn child.”

“It’s a deal,” the man says, relieved he won’t have to scale any more walls.  Besides that, in those days a child was a small price to pay for a decent salad.

Alas, according to the bargain, when the couple’s first child is born, the witch promptly arrives to claim her.  She names the baby “Campanula Rapunculus” (Rapunzel for short), which is the scientific name for rampion.  The witch then imprisons the child in a tower and subjects the poor girl to years of verbal abuse and cruel and unusual hair yanking.

Well, in my parents’ Disney version of this story, one day a handsome prince happens to come trotting by on his horse, hears Rapunzel’s cries for help, climbs up the tower (using her mile-long braid as a rope), then rescues her and whisks her off to his palace, where they live happily ever after.

Not so.  According to the Grimms, the poor guy climbs the tower, falls off into a patch of dagger-like thorns and accidentally gouges out both of his eyes (pardon me while I take another swig of Pepto).

And then there were Hansel and Gretel’s parents who, by no stretch of the imagination, ever could be confused with the German equivalent of Ozzie and Harriet.  When they were down to their last crust of bread and no longer could feed their little family of four, they decided to lighten the grocery bill by getting rid of their two kids. 

“Take them for a nice long walk in the Forest of No Return,” their mother, cackling wickedly (women apparently did a lot of wicked cackling back then), ordered their father.

The father had a few misgivings about his wife’s plan, especially since he had to enter the Forest of No Return himself, and the name of the place didn’t sound all that inviting to him. But because he was so henpecked, he gave in to his spouse's demands...just to shut her up.

Anyway, I’m sure you know what happened to Hansel and Gretel, what with the cannibalistic child-eating witch in the gingerbread house and all, but what you might not know is that when the two kids finally managed to escape from the witch’s house and were making a beeline for home, they came upon a huge pond not far from their house and crossed it by riding on the backs of oversized ducks.

Just a thought here, but if there was a pond full of giant ducks near their house, why didn’t Hansel and Gretel’s dad just nab a couple of them and whip up a big batch of duck fricassee for his starving family instead of ditching his kids?

All I can say is that after reading the real versions of my favorite fairy tales, I’m more than slightly disillusioned.  It wouldn’t even surprise me to find out that “Beauty and the Beast” originally was called “The Two Beasts”…until one of them underwent extensive cosmetic surgery.
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Friday, April 10, 2015


Back in my teen years, I became addicted to something that had my mother threatening to take me to a therapist. And now, about 100 years later, I still have the same addiction – and probably still could use a good therapist.

I’m talking about roller coasters.  I’m hooked on them. I love the feeling of anticipation and the chinka-chinka sound they make when they climb that first big hill. I love the way my stomach ends up somewhere around my eyeballs by the end of the ride. I love screaming non-stop while my white-knuckled hands clench the safety bar.

But my addiction is solely for the old-fashioned wooden coasters – the ones that do nothing but go up and down hills.  I don’t like the ones that have corkscrew tracks or big loops that have you hanging upside down so often, you end up feeling like a vampire bat. No, I’m strictly a lover of the old-fashioned coasters.
Back when I was young, there were three great wooden coasters in the area: Salisbury Beach, Canobie Lake Park and Pine Island Park.  The one at Pine Island Park was the first one I ever rode on…with my grandmother, who also was a coaster fanatic. So I blame her for my addiction.

My favorite roller coaster during my teen years was the one at Salisbury Beach. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I headed to Salisbury every Sunday for the sole purpose of riding that coaster as many times as my budget and stomach would allow. 

To this day, I still don’t know what kept that coaster standing. It was old and rickety with weathered wood that constantly was exposed to the damp, salty ocean air. It made creaking and popping sounds during the entire ride, which always made me fear it was going to collapse into a pile of rubble while I was on it. But I loved the element of danger – the adrenaline rush.

An added bonus was the breathtaking view of the ocean from the top of the first hill. Of course, I could take only a brief glance at it, right before I plunged downhill to my impending death. The Salisbury coaster was so rough, it tossed its riders around like rag dolls in a clothes dryer.  I’d usually end up with bruises in places I’d never had bruises before…yet I loved every minute of it.

But sadly, now there is only one wooden coaster left in the area - The Yankee Cannonball at Canobie Lake Park. The ride lasts only 60 seconds and isn’t as high or as fast as the one at Salisbury was, but it still provides just enough thrills to satisfy my addiction.

A few years ago, I dragged my husband to Canobie Lake because I wanted to ride the coaster. He, however, didn’t share my enthusiasm. In fact, the only way I finally got him to agree to take me to the park was by promising to keep him supplied with cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream all night. So while he sat on a bench and stuffed himself, I rode the roller coaster.

The first ride, I waited in line for an hour and 23 minutes. By the time I finally set foot on the coaster, I knew the life’s history of just about everyone in line. Then, to my disappointment, after all of that waiting, the ride was over in a flash. Not satisfied, the minute I got off the coaster, I headed back to the end of the line so I could ride it again.

An hour and 15 minutes later, I had my second ride. Still, I wasn’t satisfied. But I was tired of standing in line. My feet hurt, my back hurt and I was hungry. So I did something I never would have done if I hadn’t been desperate. I noticed there was only a short line at the steel loop-coaster. Without pausing to think about it, I headed over to that one. After all, I was seeking thrills, and it was better than nothing.

The moment I sat in the car of that coaster, I knew I’d made a mistake. The attendant came along and pulled this hinged harness down over me. It had padding on each side of the head area that squished my ears flat against my skull. Immediately, I felt a stabbing pain as the posts of my pierced earrings dug into my skin.

Before I could open my mouth to complain about the discomfort, the coaster started to move. That’s when I spotted the sign that said to remove earrings before riding. It was too late. I was impaled like a rotisserie chicken.

With each turn and dip, my earrings dug deeper into my flesh. I had visions of emerging from the ride with my head looking as if I’d been the victim of a dart-gun ambush. And when the coaster made its upside-down loop, I was pretty sure my ears had been torn off and I’d find them lying on the ground somewhere underneath the tracks.

So I definitely will stick with the old-fashioned wooden coasters. This means if I want to ride one, I’ll have to go back to Canobie Lake Park. The trouble is, I don’t want to go alone. But whenever I mention it to my friends and relatives, I get comments like, “Are you crazy? You’re not a young kid any more. You’ll end up in traction!” or “I’d really like to go with you but I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately with my (insert any body part here) so I’m really not up to it.”

But I think I might have found the perfect solution to my addiction. I recently saw a guy on TV who built his own private roller coaster right in his back yard.

And I have eight acres of land…

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Friday, April 3, 2015


I finally made an appointment to see a podiatrist next week (Dr. McCann in Concord), and all I can say is the poor man probably will take one look at my feet and call the Guinness Book. I’m pretty sure my feet have just about every ailment he learned about in medical school…and maybe a few he didn’t.
First of all, I was born with flat feet. My bare footprint in the sand looks just like a brick with toes – no shape whatsoever.
Because of my super-flat feet, combined with the fact my right foot always was determined to point inward, I had to wear orthopedic shoes during my first few years of school. They were really ugly lace-up shoes that came in only two colors – red or brown. So while all of my friends were wearing their dainty patent-leather Mary Janes, I was clomping around in my big brown shoes, looking like Herman Munster’s daughter.
My mother thought ballet lessons might help my feet, so she enrolled me in classes when I was only three. I enjoyed ballet, but as I got older, I wanted to try toe dancing, or dancing “en pointe,” as it was called.
It didn’t take long for me to realize the human body wasn’t built to walk on the tips of its toes – especially when that body is packing more weight than average on the bottom half. After a year of toe dancing, my toes resembled pretzels, all bumpy and twisted. I also developed bunions so large, they looked as if I were trying to smuggle golf balls under the skin on my feet. And the bunions caused my big toes to cross over the tops of the toes next to them.

So not only did I have flat feet, I had lumpy ones with twisted toes.
But my problems didn’t end there. When I was 16, I decided to take judo classes at the YMCA.  The key to being a success in judo class was learning how to fall correctly so you wouldn’t get hurt when the person you were partnered with threw you. Unfortunately, I never really mastered the art of falling, which, according to the instructor, was to land on the flat portion of your arm between the wrist and elbow.
Well, I landed on just about every body part but my arm. My favorites seemed to be my butt or my back.  During class one night, my partner threw me over his shoulder and I landed hard on the floor…with all of my weight on my big toe. I think people out on Elm Street heard it crack.
Needless to say, I flunked out of judo class. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, I had to go to the emergency room while I still was wearing my judo outfit and had a bone sticking out of my big toe. I also had to have surgery, which resulted in the toe becoming even more crooked…and scarred.
Buying shoes always has been a problem for me because if the heels are too high, they force my feet to have arches they don’t have and cause my shins to hurt. And if the shoes are too narrow, they hurt my bunions and squish my crooked toes. Open-toed shoes or sandals are out of the question because I don’t want to expose even a smidgen of my feet’s hideousness to the public. Just the sight of them might frighten small children.
So my solution has been to buy men’s shoes. They are wider and roomier across the toes and sturdier than women’s shoes. My favorites are Asics Gel Runners. They are comfortable and solid and are great for long walks. Mine are silver with red laces. The only problem is, I don’t think Gel Runners, especially the men’s styles, were designed to look sexy with fancy dresses.
Despite my weird feet, I love to walk, and have taken a 45-minute walk nearly every day for the past 40 years.
Not wanting my long walks to take their toll on my already ailing feet, however, I went to a podiatrist back in the late 1970s. He took molds of my feet and sent them off to a lab to have professional orthotics made for me. They cost over $300, which was the equivalent of a down payment on a car back then, and were made of rock-hard red plastic. At first, they felt about as comfortable as trying to walk in Cinderella’s glass slippers. But they gave me the arches and support I’d never had before, so I faithfully wore them until I finally got used to them.
And I’m still wearing those same orthotics every day. They have so many battle scars on them, they look as if they’ve been run over by a fleet of lawnmowers. So I’ve decided the time finally has come to invest in a new pair.  I realize I’m about 30 years overdue, but I wanted to make absolutely certain I got every penny’s worth out of these orthotics before I bought some new ones.
And that’s why I’m going to see Dr. McCann, the podiatrist, next week. I’m going to clomp in there with my crooked toes, flat feet, bunions, scars, and gnarly looking toenails and throw myself at his mercy.
I’m thinking he’ll take one look at my feet and grab a camera so he can capture their uniqueness for posterity. Then he’ll whip out the photos when he’s having coffee with his other podiatrist buddies and say, “Wait till you get a load of what walked into my office the other day! You have to see it to believe it!”
On the bright side, with the summer months approaching, my friends will be spending a lot of money on pedicures so their feet will look attractive in their cute little sandals and flip-flops when they go to the beach. I, however, won’t have to spend a thing.
Nope. I’ll be the one wearing socks and lace-up shoes with my swimsuit.

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