Tuesday, December 27, 2016


I think everyone is acquainted with a person who’s nearly impossible to Christmas shop for – someone who either has no hobbies or interests or who is so fussy, he or she hates just about everything.

For years, that person on my list has been George.

George is in his late 70s and is a dear family friend who’s always been extremely generous with his gifts for us. But the minute I think about Christmas shopping for him, I break out in hives.

The first few years, it wasn’t too bad. For one thing, George collected Titanic memorabilia. So I bought him everything and anything I could find about the Titanic – photos, posters, puzzles, books. I probably even would have gone on Ebay and bid on a frozen chunk of the iceberg the ship hit…if I could have figured out how to wrap it up for George for Christmas.

But then came the fateful day he said, “I’m tired of my Titanic collection. In fact, I’m going to sell everything. I’m sick of looking at the stuff.”

My heart sank (pun intended), especially since I’d just ordered a framed mirror with the Titanic hand-painted on it.

“But I’ve decided to start collecting wooden replicas of old sailing ships and tall ships now,” he said.

My spirits rose slightly. I checked the Internet to see what I could find out about the wooden ships.

I found out they cost just about as much as a new human-sized speedboat.

Nevertheless, I saved my pennies, and the next Christmas, I bought George a replica of the Cutty Sark. And the year after that, it was a replica of the USS Constitution, followed by the HMS Victory. To my delight, he “oohed” and “aahed” over each of them. I was thrilled.

But a few months later, George’s best friend told me about a garage sale the two of them were having together, and emailed me a photo of all of the things they had gathered to sell. There, sitting on one of the yard-sale tables, were the ships I’d bought for George – the same ships I had sacrificed going to the movies – and basically, eating – for, so I could afford them.

“Well, they were really nice, but they turned out to be dust collectors,” George explained when I asked him about the ships. “And at my age, I’ve decided it’s time to start getting rid of stuff instead of collecting it.”

Once he stopped collecting things, that’s when my headaches began. I thought gift cards would be the answer to all of my problems, so I bought him one to a store he usually visited at least three times a week.

“I hate gift cards,” he said. “They make me feel as if the person who bought them was too lazy to put any thought or effort into the gift. Also, they are embarrassing to use. I usually just toss them out. I mean, I wouldn’t insult anyone else by giving the cards to them.”

Toss them out?  I couldn’t believe my ears! I was ready to go fish his trash barrels to reclaim my gift.

I noticed that most of his clothes were in a camouflage pattern, so I asked him about it one day.

“I love camouflage,” he said. “It’s all I wear now.” 

So the next Christmas, I bought him a nice hooded jacket in a camouflage pattern, with a winter hat to match.

His expression when he opened the gifts, however, resembled that of someone who’d just found rat droppings in his cereal. I had the distinct feeling his next words weren’t going to be, “Ooh! I love these!”

Unfortunately, I was right.

“I wear only military camouflage,” he said tightly. “And not the fake stuff. I wear the real government-issued camouflage clothing. This shirt and hat are hunters’ camouflage, not the official military one. I don’t hunt. I don’t kill animals!”

Heck, I’d always thought camouflage was camouflage. If you could hide in the bushes while wearing it and blend in with the trees, then it was fine to me – but obviously not for George. And how was I supposed to get official military camouflage clothing anyway? Go mug a Marine?

“Make a donation to his favorite charity,” one of my friends suggested the next year when I mentioned I would rather be rolled in honey and staked near a swarm of killer bees than to have to shop for a Christmas gift for George once again. “He can’t complain about a gift like that. It would make him look worse than Scrooge!”

I thought she might have a good idea. So I tried to find out which charities George favored.

“Do you ever donate to any charities?” I asked him one day, trying to sound casual.

He shook his head and frowned. “The trouble with charities,” he said, “is you can’t tell the legitimate ones from the ones that are trying to rip you off. So I decided not to trust any of them and not donate at all. I’ve also decided to follow my father’s advice that charity begins at home!”

I rolled my eyes. It was official. George had just broken the world’s record for being the most impossible person on earth to buy a gift for.

So this year, when Christmas-shopping time rolled around once again, I stopped worrying about George. I knew that no matter what I bought him, he would hate it, so I decided to quit needlessly wasting money on him and just buy him some cheap stuff. That way, if he tossed it out, it wouldn’t be as painful to my wallet.

It took me all of 10 minutes to shop for his gifts because frankly, I didn’t care any more. I bought him a couple of his favorite candy bars, a few seed packets of his favorite garden flowers, some birdseed for his bird feeder, and a pouch of his favorite pipe tobacco. The total cost was less than $20. Then I wrapped the gifts and tossed them into a bigger box and wrapped that. I didn’t even think about George or his gifts again until Christmas.

“Fantastic!” he exclaimed when he opened them. “I LOVE everything!”

I honestly nearly needed CPR.

So this year will go down in history as the year I finally pleased George with my gifts.

But if you know of anyone who wants to buy a mirror with a hand-painted picture of the Titanic on it, just let me know.

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CLICK HERE --------> https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106




Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I think the fact that old pills and medication now can be dropped off  for proper disposal at designated police stations is a good idea. For one thing, it’s a safe way to get rid of pharmaceutical products that could be a danger to both society and the environment.

I sure do wish this program had been around years ago, however, when I really needed it.

Back in the early 1970s, when health-insurance companies paid 100 percent of medical bills, I got into the habit of rushing to the doctor’s office whenever I had even a minor ache or pain.

Looking back now, I realize I probably overdid it. I mean, I once saw the doctor because I had a painful hangnail. Another time, and I’m totally serious here, I rushed to the doctor’s because I had a “tight” feeling in my chest…which turned out to be caused by a too-small bra. It’s a wonder my insurance company didn’t dump me.

Still, I wasn’t half as bad as this woman, Charlotte, a former co-worker of mine. She used to schedule a battery of medical tests for herself every year during her vacation, just so she could spend the week in the hospital. I once asked her why on earth she’d want to waste all of her vacation time in the hospital.

“Because I can relax in bed all week, watch TV and have three meals personally delivered to my room, all free of charge!” she said. “How can you beat that?”

Seeing that one of her tests was a G.I. series that included a barium enema, I wasn’t all that tempted to try her free-vacation idea.

Back in those days, not only did insurance companies pay 100 percent for treatments and tests, there also was no limit to the length of time you could spend in the hospital. If you gave birth to a baby and wanted to stay there until he was old enough to start walking, you could. If you preferred to have an outpatient test done as an inpatient, you could do that, too.

As a result of my weekly visits to various doctors, I amassed quite a collection of medications. I don’t think there was body part I didn’t have a pill for. There were pills for headaches, cramps, toothaches, heartburn, hives, constipation, diarrhea, athlete’s foot and lumbago. Most of the time, I’d have the prescriptions filled and then just shove them into the cupboard “just in case” I needed them.

Which was why one night, as I was digging through the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard I rarely used, searching for a set of glasses I’d kept up there since my wedding, I discovered a miniature pharmacy tucked away in the corner. There were dozens of prescription bottles, most of them still full and all of them long expired.

My first instinct had been to flush them down the toilet, but then the thought of their toxins entering the ground through the leach field out back made me veto that idea. I also knew that tossing them into the trash wasn’t a good option, either. So I called the local pharmacy and asked the pharmacist what I should do with about 500 assorted really ancient pills. He told me to bring them in and he’d properly dispose of them for me.

I opened every prescription bottle, which took most of the night and half my fingernails because I had to wrestle with all of the childproof caps, and emptied the pills into a plastic bag.

The next afternoon, I grabbed the bag of pills and headed toward the pharmacy. That’s when it suddenly dawned on me that if, for any reason, the police had to stop me and they discovered a big bag of pills of every color of the rainbow sitting in my car, I’d more than likely end up spending the rest of my life sharing a prison cell with some heavily tattooed woman named “Amazonia.”

“Why didn’t I keep the pills in their prescription bottles?” I muttered, thinking back to every episode of the TV show “Cops” I’d seen where the driver they’d pulled over had protested, “I’m not a drug dealer! Honest, officer, I don’t know WHERE that half-pound sack of pills in the glove compartment came from!” as they slapped the handcuffs on him.

My knuckles were white on the steering wheel as I drove down the highway at the exact posted speed-limit. The entire time, my mind was reeling. Were my tires bald? Was my muffler hanging off? Was my neighbor’s cat clinging to the front grille? I didn’t want to draw attention to my car for any reason. The fact that the pharmacy was located right next door to the local police station didn’t help ease my tension any.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot at the pharmacy, my upper lip was glistening with nervous perspiration.

The pharmacist’s eyes widened when I handed the bag of pills to him. “Wow! That’s quite a collection you have there,” he said. “It kind of looks like a bag of trick-or-treat candy!”

All the more reason why I was relieved to be rid of it.

Flash forward about 30 years. Insurance companies now are so strict, not only are they very selective about what they will or will not cover, procedures like gallbladder surgery, which used to require at least a week’s stay in the hospital, now are done during the patient’s lunch hour…and then the patient goes right back to work.

And I was waiting at the checkout in a supermarket the other day, when a woman holding a tiny baby wrapped in a blue blanket got into line behind me.

“He’s so cute!” I gushed. “How old is he?”

The woman looked at her watch. “Four hours.”

As a result of the insurance companies cutting way back on their benefits, I have learned to bite the bullet and not rush to the doctor’s office every time I sneeze or break a fingernail. And I can’t even remember the last time I needed a prescription, so my cupboard no longer is cluttered with bottles of unused pills. So I guess there is a plus side to the changes.

But I can’t help but wonder where poor Charlotte is spending her vacations nowadays.

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CLICK HERE ------>  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Thursday, December 15, 2016


I'm sorry to post this so late this week, but I have been dealing with an abscessed tooth that also caused a throat infection, which made me feel a little less humorous than usual! Fortunately, it's on the mend now, and I will be able to eat my way through about 75 buffet lunches during the holiday season!

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I keep hearing on the news that the Big Chill is heading this way for the weekend. According to the weather forecasters, any exposed flesh will freeze in 20 minutes. So I have visions of myself wrapped up like The Mummy,  just so I can go out and get my mail. I don’t mind cold weather, but when I have to wear so many layers of clothes that I start to worry about falling down and never being able to get up again, then that’s a little TOO cold, even for me.
I guess what worries me the most about really cold weather is my furnace. Ever since I bought it seven years ago, it’s had a habit of working when it feels like it. Usually, that means if you happen to turn it on in July, it will run fine. But if you turn it on in mid-winter, it will do nothing.

I vividly can recall, a few years ago, during this exact week, when the furnace we had in our former house decided to die. I’d climbed out of bed on a chilly Saturday morning in December, padded out to the living room and turned up the thermostat to 68 degrees. I then waited for the familiar sound of the furnace kicking on.
Nothing happened.

I cranked up the thermostat to 80. Still nothing.
I opened my mouth to shout to my sleeping husband, but then changed my mind. First, I decided, I would try everything possible to get the furnace to pop on. If I failed, then, and only then, would I wake up Rip Van Breslin.
First I checked the oil tank. The gauge said it was half-full (or, if you are a pessimist, half-empty). Then I checked the circuit breakers. They were fine. Finally, I hit the furnace’s reset button. Nothing happened. There was only one thing left to do…write two obituaries – one for the furnace and one for myself…for waking up my husband on a Saturday morning.
In a last-ditch effort, I called my cousin, the heating/refrigeration technician, and asked for advice. He ran through the list of everything I’d already done, then said there was one more thing I could try.
“You know those two screws on the motor that are holding the wires down?” he asked me. “Well, sometimes you can jump-start the furnace if you take a pair of needle-nose pliers and touch the two screws with them at the same time.”
“Won’t I get a shock if I do that?” I naively asked.
“Yeah, but it will only be a mild one.”
I woke up my husband.
“Well, we’re not calling a repairman till Monday,” he said after he tried and failed to get the furnace to pop on. “They charge double, even triple on weekends. I’d rather wear a hat and long underwear around the house than pay all that extra money. Besides that, the furnace is practically new. It can’t be broken!”
“Well, I hate to say it,” I said, “but the blue tint on my lips and my teeth chattering like castanets are a pretty good indication that it just might be!”
So all of that weekend, I suffered with a frozen nose and a bloated bladder (from drinking 400 cups of hot tea to keep my body from turning into a life-sized Popsicle).
The repairman arrived on Monday afternoon and spent a lot of time fiddling with the furnace. At one point, he actually got it to pop on, only to have it pop off again. This continued until he finally got frustrated, muttered a few things under his breath and called for backup. Another repairman arrived within 15 minutes.
Together, the two of them stared at the furnace as if it were a UFO. “I think it’s the heat sensor,” one of them said. “And let’s change the nozzle, just to be safe.”
An hour later, the familiar sound of the furnace running filled the house, followed by the long-awaited blast of warm air. I removed my scarf and earmuffs.
“That should take care of it,” one of the repairmen said. “If not, be sure to give us a call.”
“How much do I owe you?” I asked, bracing myself for cardiac arrest.
He shrugged. “You’ll get a bill in the mail.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Visions of them leisurely sipping coffee and taking extra time to add every little bolt and screw to my bill, filled my head. Christmas shopping, I decided, would have to be put on hold until that bill arrived.
A week later, I still hadn’t received the bill, so I got up that morning with every intention of calling the billing office and asking about my balance. First, however, I turned up the heat.
The furnace made three loud booming sounds, coughed and died. The strong smell of oil began to fill the house. The furnace then struggled to pop on again and made a helicopter sound. I, picturing my house going airborne and landing somewhere in Munchkin Land, dashed to the furnace’s emergency shut-off switch and flipped it. Then I called the repairman.
I was put on hold for 45 minutes.
There have been only a few times in my life when I’ve been really angry, like the time I found out that my supposedly sick boyfriend actually had taken my best friend to a drive-in movie, but I honestly can say that after minute number 35 on hold, I was feeling just about that angry. As each minute continued to tick by, I found myself wishing I had one of those huge old-fashioned furnaces with the fire roaring inside, so when the repairman finally did show up and was bending over to look inside, I could shove him into it and slam the door – kind of like what Hansel and Gretel did to the Wicked Witch (hey, I told you I was angry!).
The repairman arrived two hours later. This time, he decided it was a clogged fuel line. Maybe it was sediment from the bottom of the tank, he said. Or maybe it was a kink in the line. Or maybe it was air in the line. Or maybe it was a clump of jellified oil.
I was waiting for him to say that maybe there was a family of tiny trolls living in there, but he stopped talking and set to work clearing the line.
Fortunately, it worked. And the furnace continued to run fine for all the rest of that winter. When the bill arrived, however, I was forced to finish all of my Christmas shopping at Dollar Tree.
So now I’m waiting to see if my current furnace, known for being cruel and sadistic, will behave and keep running through this upcoming Arctic blast. In the past, it has stopped working due a wasp’s nest in the vent, a nest of mice in the vent and an accumulation of spiders’ webs in the vent.
This time of year, however, it’s probably too cold for the wasps, mice and spiders to be crawling into the outside vent.
But with my luck, it will be the aforementioned family of tiny trolls.
On second thought, make that Santa’s elves.

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CLICK HERE ---->  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Monday, December 5, 2016


(Note: This is reprinted from my book, Happy Holidays! Now Hand me my Tranquilizers!, which was published back in 2013).

I was watching a cooking show on TV the other night, and the woman, wearing a crisp, white apron and a pearl necklace, was giving pointers on how to efficiently manage baking time and minimize stress during the holiday season. She recommended getting the time-consuming chore of baking out of the way at least two weeks prior to Christmas, then freezing everything.  She even suggested setting up and adhering to a strict baking schedule to make the chore go more smoothly.

The truth is, “baking” is a 4-letter word to me. After seeing the creations that have emerged from my oven over the years, I truly believe my stove might benefit from a visit from an exorcist. Still, glutton for torture that I am, I find myself baking – or at least attempting to – every holiday season.

If, as the cooking expert suggested, I were to write out a holiday baking schedule and a step-by-step “how-to” guide, it would look something like this:

Dec. 10:  Head to the supermarket and buy enough flour, sugar (granulated, powdered, and brown), butter, food coloring, decorative candies, and cookie cutters to open your own Sarah Lee outlet.

Dec. 11 -9:15 a.m. – Put on a sweatshirt and sweatpants, tie your hair back in a pony tail and slip into your favorite apron – even the one that has so many stains on it (some of which date back to Thanksgiving of 1982), it looks as if it’s been decorated with a map of a Brazilian rain forest.

9:30 a.m. - Clean out any petrified food remnants from the oven.  Just to be safe, cover all smoke detectors with thick towels or plastic wrap before turning on the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. When the oven stops smoking, start baking.

10:00 a.m. – Quadruple the ingredients in your cookie recipe. Can’t figure out how to multiply 1/8 teaspoon by four? Then just make an educated guess. It shouldn’t matter…much. Mix all cookie ingredients together in a bowl about the size of a washtub.  Use your hands to form the dough into a ball that's about the size of a basketball and weighs approximately 15 pounds.

10:18 a.m. - Tear the dough apart as you frantically search for one of your artificial fingernails, which you just noticed is missing.

10:20 a.m. - Sprinkle a sheet of waxed paper with flour, then heave the ball of dough onto it.  With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch.

10:30 a.m. - With a butter knife, pry the ball of dough from the rolling pin, to which it is now clinging as if it were made of quick-drying cement.  Completely cover the dough with flour and once again attempt to roll it out.

10:45 a.m. - Select festive Santa, reindeer, Christmas tree and star-shaped cookie cutters, and begin to cut out cookies from the dough.

10:55 a.m. - Dig Santa’s decapitated head out of the cookie cutter and stick it onto his body, reshaping it with your fingers.  Don’t worry if he looks as if he’s been in some tragic, disfiguring accident or if Rudolph has only three legs.  You can cover any imperfections with frosting later on.

11:10 a.m. - Pop the cookies into the oven.

11:18 a.m. - Check the cookies.  If they’re nearly black on the bottoms and still pale and raw on the tops, then they’re baking normally for most ovens.

11:25 a.m. - Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool. As they do, they should become as hard as Pinocchio’s head.

11:35 a.m. - With a spatula, gently lift the cookies from the cookie sheets, making sure to collect any pieces that break off so you can be reattach them with frosting.

11:45 a.m. - Mix powdered sugar, water, milk and butter together to make the frosting. When the spoon stands up straight in the bowl, the frosting is about the right consistency.  Divide the frosting into four small bowls and add drops of different food colorings to each.  Fill a cake-decorating tube with frosting.

12:00 p.m. - Slowly squeeze the tube, applying even pressure. Continue to squeeze until the veins pop out on your forehead and your hand goes numb.  Only then will the first signs of frosting actually appear at the tip of the tube.

12:10 p.m. - Clean up the huge blob of frosting that shoots like a cannonball out of the tube and hits the refrigerator door.  Lose your temper and viciously attack the decorating tube, stabbing it with a knife and ripping it open.  With your fingers, smear frosting all over the cookies.  Use colored sprinkles and those little silver candy balls that look like BB-gun ammunition to strategically conceal any flaws.

12:30 p.m. - Stand back and admire your handiwork.  Watch the red frosting seep into the green frosting and turn it to a yucky shade of brown.  Watch Santa’s beard absorb the red frosting and turn pink.  Reject and eat any cookies that don’t meet your high standards. 

12:45 p.m. - Vow that if your stomach cramps ever subside, you’ll never again eat 23 broken cookies in 15 minutes.

1:00 p.m. - Carefully wrap the remaining cookies and gently place them in the freezer.

Dec. 24:  9:00 a.m. - Open the freezer and discover that you accidentally set a 22-pound turkey on top of the cookies and pulverized them.

9:30 a.m. - Head to the nearest bakery, buy a few dozen festively decorated cookies and pass them off as your own homemade ones.

Then pray no one asks you for the recipe.

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CLICK HERE ------->  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106