Sunday, December 30, 2018


I swear I met the clone of Eddie Haskell the other day.  And I’m ashamed to admit I came very close to allowing him to talk me into doing something that would have cost me a lot of money.

For those of you who are too young to recognize the name of Eddie Haskell, he was a character on the old TV show, “Leave it to Beaver,” and was known for complimenting and flattering everyone to the point of being completely nauseating.  The worst part was he didn’t mean a single word of anything he said.

My “adventure” began a few days ago when I visited a jewelry store because I wanted to have one of my rings resized. The moment I entered, “Eddie Haskell” practically leapt over the counter to greet me and then went into action.

“Hello, lovely lady!” he said, smiling so widely it was amazing he didn’t injure his face.  His gaze fell to my green jacket. “How did you know that green is my favorite color?”

“I want to have a ring resized,” I said.  I extended the dainty ring to him.  It wasn’t a very expensive ring, but it held a lot of sentimental value for me.

He completely ignored the ring and instead, stared at the two rings I was wearing (my engagement ring and an onyx one with diamonds). “Oh, what bee-yoooo-tee-ful rings!” he gushed. “Can you take them off so I can see them up close?”

Like a fool, I removed my two rings and handed them to him.  I was too clueless to realize his true hold the rings hostage and force me to become his “captive” audience.

“Exquisite!” he said, briefly examining the rings. “Here, let me clean them for you.  It’s free, and you’ll be amazed at the difference. They will sparkle so brightly afterwards, you’ll need sunglasses!”

As my rings were being cleaned, he asked me if I was married.  I didn't feel like going into any personal details about my being a widow, so I just answered yes. When I did, he said, “Well, I guess then, so am I.”

I looked at his naked ring finger. “You’re a jeweler and you don’t even wear a wedding band?”

“It’s being cleaned,” he said.

He made it sound as if he’d sent it off somewhere to be cleaned and it wasn’t back yet, which made little sense, considering he was the one who was cleaning my rings at that moment.

When my rings came out of the cleaner, he picked up a diamond-testing device and pressed it against my engagement ring. His smiling expression instantly transformed into one of shock - the sort of expression you might see on someone's face after he just caught his wife in bed with his best friend. 

“It’s a Moissanite!” he gasped.

I just stared at him, fearing that my diamond had some rare, diamond-eating disease. “What’s a Moissanite...and is it contagious?”

“A fake diamond!” He clutched his chest for obvious effect.  “You have a fake diamond!”

Before I even could open my mouth to respond, he excused himself and rushed off to assist another customer – a petite, attractive young woman. She inquired about having a medallion personally engraved for a male friend of hers.

“Well, aren’t you just as cute as a button!” Eddie Haskell said. His eyebrows arched. “Are you sure this guy is only a friend? This is a pretty expensive medallion!”

The girl ignored his question and looked undeniably uncomfortable when he added, “Well, if you don’t have a serious boyfriend, you can always have me!”

I was beginning to understand why the guy didn’t wear his wedding band.

“I don’t have time for a boyfriend,” she said, neither smiling nor amused. “Now, do you want me to write down what I want engraved?”

After he took down all of her information, he finally returned to me and my “fake” diamond.  “Maybe your stone was real at one time,” he said, “but if you’ve had the ring serviced over the years, someone could have switched the diamond on you!”

I shook my head. “Impossible. It’s never left my sight.”

“Look, I’ll get my wedding ring out of the cleaner,” he said. “I know the diamonds on that are genuine, and I’ll show you how this device reads REAL diamonds.”

He retrieved his band, which had a row of diamonds across the front of it, and pressed the testing device against one of the diamonds.  The meter landed on Moissanite.  I nearly burst out laughing.

“Dumb machine!” he muttered, giving it a few vigorous shakes. “I paid over $200 for it and it’s a piece of junk!”

He then put a jeweler’s loupe up to his eye and studied both of my rings.

“They’re real,” he finally said, sighing. “But the prongs are so worn out on the engagement ring, you are in serious jeopardy of losing the stones!  I’m surprised they haven’t already fallen out, the prongs are so bad.”

“Really?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

“I can replace the prongs for you with nice new, solid ones. They will protect the stones, too, because they’ll be thicker and will prevent you from accidentally hitting the diamonds against anything.”

I found myself agreeing to the prongs.  After all, I didn’t want to have my diamonds fall down the toilet or wind up in my cake batter.

“Well, I feel generous today, so I’ll give you a discount,” he said in a tone that told me he fully was expecting to earn my eternal gratitude. “Normally, it would cost you over $325, but I like to make my customers happy, so for you, it's only $285.”

Before I could find my voice, another female customer walked in.

“Well, today must be my lucky day for having beautiful women in here!” he immediately said, moving toward her. “I love that coat you’re wearing!  Blue just happens to be my favorite color!  Oooh!  What a stunning ring you’re wearing!  Can you take it off so I can get a closer look at it?”

By then, I was so frustrated with myself for even considering doing business with such a creep, I began to wonder when someone had removed my usually logical brain and replaced it with oatmeal. So while the jeweler was busy delivering his phony spiel to his newest victim, I snatched my rings off the counter, where (fortunately) he had set them down on a drying cloth, and made a quick exit. I didn’t even bother to have my inexpensive ring resized – the original reason for my visit. 

So I must warn everyone who’s brave enough in the future to eat something I’ve are at risk of cracking a tooth on a diamond that might fall out of its dangerously worn-out prongs on my ring.

But to be honest, considering how truthful the jeweler was about everything else I witnessed him saying and doing during my visit, I suspect my prongs probably still are strong enough to support a bowling ball.

#   #   #


Monday, December 17, 2018


I swear I entered the Twilight Zone of plumbers the other day.

First of all, the sprayer in my kitchen sink broke off. As a result, the ceiling received a nice geyser-style washing before I was able to turn off the water. Not only that, the faucet also had been acting up for a while. The single handle on top of it decided to stop turning to the left, which made trying to get hot water nearly impossible.

So I finally raised the white flag of surrender and went to a big-box hardware store to purchase a new faucet and sprayer.  The first thing I noticed on the faucet boxes was a list of the number of holes the faucet required – anywhere from one to four holes. I had no idea what kind of holes they were talking about, so I flagged down a clerk.

“What type of faucet do you have now?” he asked. “One handle or two?”

“One – that doesn’t work.”

“Does it have a sprayer?”

“Yes – that also doesn’t work.”

“Is the sprayer separate or attached?”


He then showed me the faucets I could choose from that would fit the required number of hole options to replace my current set-up. Naturally, being the very selective, fussy person that I am, I immediately chose the cheapest one.

The next day, I called a large plumbing service that advertises daily on TV, and asked about scheduling the installation of the faucet and sprayer. The employee said they would send someone over on the next Wednesday, between 8 AM and 5 PM.

The plumber, John, showed up at 4:30 PM.  I gave him the new faucet and he set to work. 

The first thing he did was attempt to pry my sink out of the granite countertop. I’m by no means an expert on faucet installation, but that seemed a little odd to me.

“This sink is sealed in here for life,” he grunted, still trying to pry it out.

“Well, isn’t that the whole idea?” I asked him.

The sink finally popped out with a loud cracking sound.  I had a "sinking" feeling that any cracking sound, especially when associated with a plastic sink, couldn’t be good.

He then inserted the faucet into the holes in the disembodied sink and went to set it back into the opening in the countertop. It didn’t fit. He pushed down harder. The sink’s back edge, where the faucet was, was sticking up.

“You’re going to have to get a different faucet,” he said, sighing. “This one doesn’t fit.”

“But I had a long conversation with the clerk about the number of holes,” I protested.

“The holes are okay. The faucet is too big. You need a narrower one to fit into the space between the sink and the wall.”

“Well, seeing you already tore out the sink, maybe I should get a new one while I’m at it?” I asked. “I really hate this cheap plastic one and have been wanting to switch over to stainless.” I moved to check out the sink and saw a crack along one of the edges. “And it looks as if this one is cracked now, too.”

He shook his head. “Nah. It’ll be fine. Just put some Wite-Out on it. You don’t have to bother getting a whole new sink.”

He then said he’d pick up a faucet for me and install it the next day.

“OK, but I’m not paying a penny over $120 for it,” I warned him, thinking he’d probably go buy the most expensive faucet he could find otherwise – something worthy of the Playboy mansion.

“That's fine.” He was silent for a moment, then, to my surprise, said, “So, let’s have dinner now.”

I just stared at him, wondering if a guy young enough to be my grandson was inviting me out to eat.  When I didn’t immediately answer, he added, “I’m starving. What are you having for dinner? I was hoping you might feed me.”

He wasn’t inviting me out to eat. He was trying to score a free meal.

“I don’t have a thing thawed out,” I told him. “Besides that, I don’t usually eat dinner until 9 p.m.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, when I come back with the faucet tomorrow, at least have a sandwich for me, okay? I’ll be hungry then, too.  And by the way, I’m not fussy.”

After he left, I’m ashamed to admit I was dumb enough to actually consider going to the store and buying ham and cheese so I could make a sandwich for him. Then I looked at the crack in my sink, which was just lying on the counter, and was reminded that I couldn’t even use it that night, and thought, “Go buy your own darned sandwich!”

John returned after 5:00 the next afternoon with another faucet and set to work installing it.

“I’m doing you a favor,” he informed me. “This is after hours and I’m charging you for only a half-hour of labor. I’m saving you a bundle.”  He looked around. “So where’s my sandwich?”

“I have some brownies,” I offered, “but no sandwich.”

“I’d rather have a sandwich,” he said, frowning. “I’m trying to cut down on sweets.”

He then continued to install the faucet, and while he was underneath the counter, called out to me, “Hand me my Plumber’s Caulk.”

I’d never heard of  Plumber’s Caulk, and considering that the “L” in the word is silent, so it’s pronounced, “cauk”...well, I wish a camera had been recording my expression at that moment.  

The faucet and sprayer finally were installed, the sink was caulked back into the counter, and everything was working properly, so I suppose I should have been relieved.

That was when John handed me the bill...$559. The itemized list even included the rubber gloves he’d worn while caulking the sink.

That was what he classified as “saving me a bundle?”  Heck, I nearly needed a defibrillator.

Like a fool, I paid him.

Two days later, I was out taking my daily walk and met one of my neighbors, who asked how I was doing.

“I’m totally broke for Christmas,” I told him, then explained about the plumber.

“Are you crazy?” he said. “He even cracked your sink and you still paid him all that money?  Boy, he must have seen you as an easy mark...a real meal ticket!”

“Yeah. Believe it or not, he even asked me to make dinner for him.”

His eyes widened. “You’re serious? For that kind of money, he can buy himself Paris!”

He then added, “You know, I’m really mad at you right now!  I’m excellent at anything to do with plumbing.  Installing a faucet doesn’t take Einstein to handle it, you know! If you’d have called me, I’d have put in your faucet in a snap...and free of charge.”

I don’t think he was prepared to see a grown woman cry.

#   #   #


Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Just when I started feeling good about having an artificial Christmas tree, some unknown demons of Christmases past came and conked me on the head and made me crave a real tree this year. The problem was, I didn’t want to spend any money for one.

So last Saturday I grabbed my hacksaw and headed off into the deep, savage wilderness – better known as my back yard – in search of a suitable tree. After an hour of tromping through the snow on my eight acres, I was convinced that every tree on my property was a lifetime member of some club exclusively reserved for trees that didn’t even remotely resemble Christmas trees. Never had I seen such an array of lopsided, bald, branch-deprived, scrawny specimens all gathered in one place.

Still, I reminded myself that for the price I was going to pay for the tree, I couldn’t expect perfection, so I’d have to concentrate on its other assets, such as the nice “piney” smell and its symbolism, not on the fact it had only about six branches and looked as if it had been in the direct path of a moose stampede.

As luck would have it, there turned out to be a fairly shapely pine about seven feet tall growing only inches from my chain-link fence. I knew that in a couple more years, it would be growing right up against the fence and probably would have to be cut down anyway, so I convinced myself I would be doing it a favor if I didn’t prolong the inevitable.

“Hey there, Mr. Tree,” I said to it. “How would you like to come into a nice warm house and be beautifully decorated? Wouldn’t that be better than standing out here in the cold and being a sitting target for bird poop?”

I’m not sure why, but I suddenly had the distinct feeling the tree actually preferred the bird poop.

Gripping my saw, I dropped to my knees and started to attack the tree. The trunk was skinny – too skinny for such a big tree – yet it felt as if I were trying to saw through solid concrete. After 10 minutes of vigorous sawing, my heart was racing, my armpits were damp, and my shoulders ached, yet I’d managed to make only a half-inch notch in the trunk. By the time the tree finally toppled over about four hours later (or so it seemed), I had no feeling left in my arms.

Dragging the tree over to the driveway was much more difficult than I’d imagined. For one thing, the tree was about as lightweight as a 100-lb. sack of concrete. As I slowly inched it toward the driveway, a chorus of so many grunting noises escaped me, I began to fear I’d be attacked by a wild boar in search of a mate.

I finally managed to lean the tree against the garage, then brought out the tree-stand – a red-and-green metal monstrosity on green legs, with giant Frankenstein-like bolts sticking out of it. I hoisted the tree into the stand and then began to screw the bolts into the trunk to secure it. The trunk was so thin, the screws, even at their full length, couldn’t reach it. Still, foolish optimist that I was, I let go of the tree, thinking it might still be able to stand on its own.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t.

As the tree started to keel over, I twisted around to grab it and felt something pull between my ribs. The tree crashed to the driveway, the stand flew up into the air, and the little prong thing in the bottom of the stand, onto which the trunk was supposed to be impaled, tore right off.

I, hunched over and grasping my ribs, was unable to straighten up. It felt as if a muscle had tied itself into a big knot. So I decided to lie down in a fetal position on the driveway and wait until the muscle loosened up a bit.

As I lay there, right next to my fallen Christmas tree, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how the scene would look to a neighbor walking by. I even imagined what the news headlines might say: “Elderly Woman’s Frozen Body Found Lying Next to a Savagely Hacksawed Pine Tree in Her Driveway.”

When my muscle finally started to relax a bit, I slowly got up and then walked over to my neighbor’s house. When he answered the door, I threw myself at his mercy and begged him to help me set up the tree. To my relief, he and his wife both agreed to come to my aid.

After using Gorilla Glue to reattach the prong-thing into the bottom of the stand, and adding a couple pieces of wood to the tree’s trunk to make it thicker so the screws could reach it, the tree finally stood proudly on its own. My neighbor carried it into the house and set it in the designated corner of the living room. The tree, however, turned out to be too tall, so the top of it leaned over into a sideways U shape, scraping against the ceiling. No problem, my neighbor said, and promptly hacked six inches off the top of the tree. It made it look a bit square across the top, but I wasn’t about to complain.  I profusely thanked both my neighbor and his wife and then breathed a sigh of relief (which wasn’t easy because my midriff muscle still was really sore), grateful to finally have the tree standing in the house.

The first thing I did was fill the stand with water so the tree wouldn’t dry out and end up bald, with all of its needles lying in a heap on the floor. Then I started to decorate it.  I’d barely managed to wrap the string of lights once around the very top when I felt the tree begin to lean forward, right toward me.

I grabbed it to steady it, but I couldn’t make it stand up straight again. It seemed determined to tip forward. As it did, the stand, which was full of water, began to tip with it. The last thing I wanted was a flood on my floor, so I strengthened my grasp on the tree...and stood there holding it.

“How long am I just going to stand here?” I muttered to myself after nearly five minutes had passed. “The tree isn’t going to miraculously straighten up and stand tall again – it’s going to fall over...guaranteed.”

I tried to lean the tree back toward the wall in the corner so it wouldn’t fall, but it refused to lean back...only forward. Finally, I admitted defeat, sighed and let go of the tree. It crashed to the floor, sending a shower of water flying up everywhere.  

I’m ashamed to admit I called the tree a lot of very un-Christmas-like names at that point. I could swear I heard it cackling maniacally.

I cleaned up the mess and then, in a moment of anger and frustration, carried the tree out to the garage and flung it on top of the trash barrels.

“There!” I snapped. “I hope you enjoy the cold, dark garage, Fir-Face!”

The next day, however, while I was shopping in a local store, I happened to see a different type of tree-stand  that sort of  resembled a big dog-bowl. It was green plastic and sat flat on the floor – no legs to tip over. Suddenly, I had a change of heart and decided to give the tree another chance. I bought the stand, and when I got home, I immediately shoved the tree into it. The screw-bolts had no trouble reaching the skinny trunk, and within minutes, the tree was solidly anchored and standing tall and straight.

I brought the tree back into the house and stood it in the corner once again, all the while expecting it to do what it did best – topple over and impale my gallbladder with a branch.  But as I decorated it, it continued to remain solid. Not even so much as a needle moved on it.

The end result was not perfect by any means, but I have to admit I really am enjoying the tree.

And after all of the pain and torture it put me through, I’m pretty sure I won’t be taking it down until mid-April.

                                                                               #   #   #


Monday, December 3, 2018


I have DIRECTV, which means my TV is connected to a satellite dish. I’ve had no real problems with it, other than the fact the signal can be temperamental during bad weather. If there is a sudden downpour during the last five minutes of a movie, I can forget about ever finding out if the movie couple ended up living happily ever after...or dropped dead.

Anyway, every now and then, DIRECTV offers a free premium-channel weekend. Most of the time, it’s just one channel, like HBO or Showtime. But the weekend after Thanksgiving this year, they were offering all of the premium channels free at the same time! 

Excited, I prepared for a weekend of recording as many of the movies and programs as possible while they were free. This meant first clearing out some of the hundreds of other shows and movies I’d previously recorded and hadn’t watched yet, so I could free up some space. It took a lot of  time to decide what to keep and what to delete, but I finally managed to get rid of about 60 percent of my stash and make plenty of room for the new stuff. I then searched through my on-screen program guide and scheduled at least a dozen movies to be recorded during the freebie marathon.

On Thanksgiving morning, I was sitting on the sofa, enjoying the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, when suddenly, the TV screen went blank. Up popped a message that said, “Error 771. Signal lost. Click here for solutions.”

I immediately clicked and the first thing I was instructed to do was check for loose connections on the back of the TV and control box. I checked. They all were tight. It then said to press the reset button on the control box. I pressed it and waited for what seemed like 10 years for the box to reboot. When it finally did, nothing had changed. There still was no signal.

So I called DIRECTV. The technician told me to press the reset button.

“I already did that,” I said. “It didn’t work.”

“Please try again,” she said.

So I tried it. Nothing happened.

“Now try unplugging the unit, waiting a few minutes and then plugging it back in,” she suggested.

I did.  Still no signal.

“Is there no signal on just one TV or on all of them?” she asked.

“No signal on any of them,” I answered.

“Oh,” she said in a tone that instantly stripped away the small sliver of optimism I still was clinging to.

“Are you having bad weather?” she asked.

“No. It’s bright and sunny out today. But yesterday, it snowed.”

“Then maybe you should go out and clear the snow off your satellite dish.”

“It’s on the highest peak of my roof, and I’m nearly 70 years old. You really want me to climb up there?”

“No!” She gasped. “I thought the dish was mounted on the side of your house, like most of them are nowadays.” She paused before adding, “Well, I think we’re going to have to send a technician to your house.”

“Good!  How soon can he get here?”

“Um...first, perhaps I should inform you that the service fee is $99.”

I had hoped that because it was their satellite dish, the service would be free. After all, I wasn’t the one who’d crawled up there and caused it to stop working.

“OK,” I said, even though it pained me. “Send the technician.”

“Fine. He’ll be there around 7:45 AM on Sunday morning.”

My first two thoughts were: “I have to go without TV – and the special freebie weekend – until Sunday? I'll never survive!” and, “What kind of sadist schedules a service call for 7:45 on a Sunday morning?”

But I had no choice – I had to wait.

“Well, at least now you can catch up on watching all of the shows and movies you’ve recorded,” the tech-support woman said brightly. “You don’t need a signal for that.”

“Yeah, I have such great timing,” I muttered. “I just deleted 60 percent of my recordings to make room for all of the freebie stuff I now won’t even be getting.”

So I spent the weekend watching just about everything I’d previously recorded, all the while painfully aware of how many great new movies I was missing. By the time the technician showed up bright and early on Sunday morning, I was on the verge of popping a handful of valium.

He first checked outdoors. Then he checked indoors. He tuned my TV to a screen that said, “show signal strength.”  I hadn’t seen that many zeroes since receiving my test scores in college-chemistry class.

“Where is your basement?” he asked me.

I led him to the door.

It turned out there was some kind of little converter box mounted high on the wall in the basement and it had been plugged into one of those big orange extension cords...but somehow had come unplugged. The technician plugged it back in.  The zeroes on the TV screen suddenly began climbing to higher numbers so rapidly, the screen resembled a slot machine.

So I ended up spending $99 just to have someone plug an electrical cord into an extension cord.

Granted, I was pleased to have my TV signal back, especially since the free premium-channel weekend wasn’t over for another 16 hours, but I was puzzled about how something on a wall in the basement had become unplugged in the first place, especially since no one had been down there. Also, every time I’ve tried to unplug one of those big orange extension cords, I've nearly herniated some essential body part in the process, so I doubted the plug somehow had just “fallen” out of it.

Visions of a mysterious border – like a really tall rat or a giant, mutant spider – lurking somewhere in the dark and maniacally cackling as they unplugged cords in the basement, flashed through my mind.

All I can say is that even if I lose my TV signal again in the near future, I still don’t think I’ll venture down to the basement to check things out. 

Nope. I’d rather spend the $99.

#   #   #


Monday, November 26, 2018


Note: I originally wrote this story when Chicken Soup for the Soul was looking for submissions for its newest book in the series:

My mother was one of the most generous, giving women on the planet. Her sister, however, my Aunt Ann, was one of the most…well, frugal.
I can remember my childhood Christmases when Aunt Ann would gift me with coloring books that already had half their pages colored, or slippers that were three sizes too small and had lint balls on them.
Visiting Aunt Ann also was a unique experience. When she invited my family over for tea one afternoon, she brought out an already used tea bag and had us all pass it around and share it because she said it still had a lot of good tea flavor left in it.
Also, she would buy a large chicken on Monday, and by that Saturday, she still was eating it in some capacity – even using the bones to make broth for soup. Her grocery bill for the entire week was what most people would pay for a morning snack of a cup of coffee and a donut
To save even more money, she often did her own home-canning. As a result, down in her basement was a shelf of jars that contained mystery food items in various stages of decomposition.  One day, when my mom was down there, she picked up a canning jar in which all of the contents had turned black.
“This should be tossed out,” my mother said, holding up the jar so Aunt Ann could see it.
“Noooo!” she gasped, grabbing it away from my mother. “Those are mushrooms I canned! They might look terrible, but they’re probably fine.  I’m still going to eat them!”
I swear the woman had a stomach made of cast-iron.
And then there was her bathroom. She was very strict about allowing the toilet to be flushed only once per day so she could save money on the water bill. Believe me, there were a lot of times my bladder was on the verge of exploding while I visited her, yet I still wouldn’t set foot in that bathroom.
Aunt Ann walked everywhere because she didn’t want to spend money on gas for her car or pay bus fare. And although she lived only two blocks from a pharmacy, she walked four miles to a pharmacy on the other side of town because it offered free coffee to customers while they waited for their prescriptions to be filled.
During family get-togethers, we enjoyed playing card games for pennies. Usually, each player contributed 10 pennies to the pot before the game began. I can’t count how many times we all sat there, waiting while Aunt Ann counted every penny in the pot, just to make certain it wasn’t short by a penny or two. And heaven forbid if the pot turned out to be missing a penny. She would refuse to start the game until someone replaced it.
So it came as no surprise that my aunt’s siblings often referred to her as “the old penny-pincher” behind her back.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, both my mother and my Aunt Ann became widows in the same year, 1984. Up until that point, my mother always had looked forward to preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but that year, understandably, she had very little holiday spirit. So my husband and I decided to invite both my mother and Aunt Ann out for Thanksgiving dinner. We had heard about a restaurant that served the meal family-style, with bowls of food placed on each table and even a whole turkey to carve, just like having dinner at home. So it sounded like the perfect alternative.
When I invited Aunt Ann, the first thing she said was, “I never eat out. It’s too expensive.”
“It’s our treat,” I said. “It’s a flat rate for each person and you can eat as much as you want.”
“Oh? Fine, then. I’ll go!”
That Thanksgiving Day, we inched our way through sleet and snow to get to the restaurant.  Due to the weather, we arrived late for our reservation, so we were seated at the only table still available – on a platform overlooking the other diners, which made us feel as if we were at the head table at a king’s banquet.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” my husband said as he gnawed on one of the rock-hard dinner rolls the server delivered.
The server then asked what we would like to drink. I ordered a glass of orange juice.
“We don’t have any,” she informed me. 
When I cast her a look of disappointment, she sighed and said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
She returned with a glass of something that resembled water that had been tinted with orange food-coloring.  It tasted like plain water and sugar. 
The salads, laden with heavy dressing, were delivered next.  Aunt Ann was visibly upset when she saw hers. “I can’t eat this!” she complained to the server. “I have heart trouble and I’m on a strict diet!  Just bring me a plain salad and some ketchup.”
“We don’t have ketchup,” the server said.  The way she said the word “ketchup,” you would think my aunt had asked her for drain cleaner.
Aunt Ann opened her mouth to protest, but my mother subtly elbowed her and whispered, “Be quiet, or she’ll go back out to the kitchen and stomp on some tomatoes for you!”
At least the nicely browned turkey that was delivered to our table looked delicious.  The server handed the carving knife to my husband and then disappeared.  When he stabbed the bird, a trickle of blood ran onto the platter.  At that same moment, Aunt Ann took a sip of her coffee. It was ice cold. That did it.
“What’s the matter with this place?” she stood and shouted. “Raw turkey and cold coffee?  Did you guys forget to pay your gas bill?  Are you trying to give me botulism? My niece and her husband are paying good money for this meal – actually, way too much money, in my opinion!”
All heads snapped in our direction.  That’s when I discovered that sitting on a platform made it really difficult to slide low enough in my chair to become invisible.
After we suffered through a disappointing meal, Aunt Ann critically eyed my husband and said, “I noticed you had three helpings of mashed potatoes. I don’t think it’s fair that those of us who ate less are being charged the same price.”
There she was, still worrying about money, even when she wasn’t the one who was paying.
“Well,” she finally said, sighing, “I’m going to forget my diet for a moment and indulge in my favorite Thanksgiving dessert – pumpkin pie! I look forward to the holidays every year just for that reason!”
“Sorry,” the server said when we ordered the pie. “There isn’t any. We’ve been having trouble with the ovens since last night – that’s why the turkey didn’t cook right. And the pies came out with burnt crust and raw fillings. Would you like some orange gelatin instead?”
I held my breath, knowing Aunt Ann’s response was not going to be a pleasant one.
“Orange gelatin?!” she fairly exploded, once again causing all of the other guests to stare at our table. “What is this place – a hospital cafeteria? I can tolerate a lot, but not having any pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day is unforgivable – a sacrilege!”  She rose to get her coat. “And I hope you know that my niece and her husband are NOT going to pay you for any of this!”
My husband and I just sat there, too embarrassed to move.
As it turned out, the restaurant discounted our bill by 50-percent. I was pleased, but Aunt Ann still complained all the way home, saying what a rip-off the meal had been and how we’d have been better off staying home and eating TV dinners.
My aunt lived to be in her 90s. When she died, it was discovered she had a very substantial bank account – over a million dollars. Actually, I guess it came as no real surprise to anyone, considering she rarely spent any money.
And in her will, she provided every one of her relatives, including my mother, my husband and me, with a nice yearly annuity. She also left me her diamond engagement ring.
Funny, but after that, she never again was referred to as the “old penny pincher” or “the tightwad” by anyone in the family.
Bless you, Aunt Ann.

#   #   #


Monday, November 19, 2018


I have bought so many different brands and types of bed sheets over the years, if I tied all of them together, I could use them to rappel down Mount Everest.

When I was a newlywed, I bought a set of black satin sheets, thinking they would add a romantic touch to the bedroom.  They turned out to be so slippery, I didn't dare wear a silky nightgown when I jumped into bed, for fear I'd end up on the bathroom floor.

I later got into a phase where I enjoyed the feel of crisp, cotton sheets and pillowcases.  My husband, however, didn't share my fondness for them.

"They're like sleeping on cardboard!" he complained one morning. "They feel like those sheets hospitals use. And look at my face!"

He had a series of lines across one cheek that made him look as if someone had been playing tic-tac-toe on it as he slept.

"These lines are from all of the wrinkles in my stiff pillowcase pressing into my skin all night!" he said.

Before I could comment, he added, "And the sheets are noisy!  Whenever I roll over, they sound like someone's crumpling newspaper!"

So I switched to a softer cotton, which he liked, but I didn't.  Every time I washed them in hot water, they seemed to shrink a size. 

It got to the point where the elasticized bottom sheet wouldn't even stay on the mattress any more.  Whenever one of us rolled over, the corners of the sheet would spring up at us, as if it were an attack sheet.  I expected to wake up one morning completely wrapped up in it…like a giant taco.

The sheets my husband and I finally both mutually liked were made of flannel.  They were soft.  They were cozy.  They were warm in the winter and surprisingly cool in the summer. 

The only problem was they were lint magnets.  They ended up gathering more "pills" than a pharmacy.  After a while, lying on them was like lying on a bed of goosebumps.

"Maybe you should use that clothes-shaver gadget to get rid of all these lint balls," my husband said one morning as he was lying in bed, staring at the collection of white bumps that resembled constellations all over the blue sheet.

"I'd have to spend a week shaving it!" I said. "Those little shavers are meant for sweaters and socks, not for something the size of a car."

Then came the answer to all of our problems…micro-fleece sheets.  They were softer than flannel, lightweight, and best of all, they didn't gather lint.  Washing them also was heavenly because they came out of the washer practically dry.

I was so excited about the mirco-fleece sheets, I bought them in plaids, florals, stripes and solid colors. 

I even bought myself some micro-fleece pajamas.  I soon discovered, however, that the two micro-fleeces stuck together like Velcro.  Whenever I wanted to roll over, I had to lift my body off the bed and fling myself onto my side.  By morning, my pajama tops usually were bunched up like a scarf, somewhere around my chin.

Still, I loved the micro-fleece sheets and thought they were the ultimate in comfort.

That is, until I discovered something even softer and more comfy…brushed micro-fleece (also called microplush by some companies)

Brushed micro-fleece was thicker than regular micro-fleece and felt like angora.  It was like sleeping on a cloud. Even my husband raved.

But his raving was short-lived.  "These sheets are way too comfortable!" he complained one frigid Monday morning. "I can't force myself to get out of bed any more.  They're making me late for everything!"

I didn't want to admit it, but I was having the same problem.  Something about the brushed micro-fleece made my body scream, "No!  Don't make me leave this cozy warmth and go out into the cold, cruel world!  Let me just stay here curled up in bed all day!"

I actually slept until 4:00 one afternoon.

I hate to say it, but unless I want to end up hibernating like a big old bear all winter, I may have to go dig out the cardboard sheets again.

#   #   #


Monday, November 5, 2018


I was in the supermarket the other day and happened to stand next to a group of college-age kids whose shopping cart was filled with a variety of chips, pretzels and snacks.  I overheard them talking excitedly about some party a guy named Jason was throwing and what a fantastic time they were going to have.

Listening to them, I couldn’t help but think back to some of the parties I’d attended when I was their age. I don’t know if I was just a party pooper or if everyone I knew gave bad parties, but the majority of the gatherings I attended back then turned out to be anything but fun.

For example, one night, this guy named Norm called to invite me to his friend's party. The woman who was throwing it, he said, was celebrating the fact that in a week, her husband would be returning home from active duty in the army.  I thought it was kind of weird she was having a party before her husband’s return instead of waiting to give him a big homecoming celebration, but I didn’t question it.

The minute Norm and I set foot in the woman’s house, I knew I shouldn’t have come.  For one thing, the hostess, who was wearing enough makeup to stock a cosmetics counter, and a dress short enough to make any attempt to sit down an X-rated event, was the only female there. The other guests, about eight of them, all were men, and let’s just say that good grooming didn’t appear to be very high on their list of priorities. In fact, they all looked as if they’d just stepped off a pirate ship.  I began to suspect that this actually was a farewell party for all of the woman’s boyfriends, before her husband returned …which made me wonder why Norm had been invited.

“I don’t think we should stay,” I whispered to him, my hand in a death grip on his arm.

“Let’s not be rude,” he said. “We’ll just stay for a half-hour or so, okay?”

Well, 20 minutes later, the hostess brought up the subject of Norm’s sports car and how she’d always dreamed of riding in a gorgeous car like that.  I silently prayed he wouldn’t say what I suspected he might. 

Unfortunately, he did.

“Come on, then,” he said to her. “I’ll take you for a little spin.”

My eyes shot daggers at him.  Only two people could fit into his car, so that meant he intended to leave me all alone with the Pirates of the Caribbean. 

I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I gritted my teeth and waited, figuring that Norm and the hostess would be gone for only a few minutes.  And, I told myself, when they did return, I was going to insist that he take me home.

Two hours later, there still was no sign of Norm or the hostess. Fuming, I called a cab and left.  Then I took great pleasure in slamming the phone in Norm’s ear when he called (that’s the sad thing about cell phones nowadays – there’s nothing to slam down when you’re angry).

Another time, a guy named Tom, a bank teller, invited me to a Christmas party his new neighbors were throwing. The party actually seemed very nice. The interior of the apartment was festively decorated, Christmas carols were playing on the stereo, mistletoe was hanging in the doorways, and a big crystal bowl of bright red punch sat on a holly-covered table.  The guests consisted mostly of young couples, all animatedly chatting and mingling.

I really was enjoying myself until about an hour into the party. That’s when the host, a guy named Bob, carried what looked like two big cans of paint into the living room.  “Time for some real fun!” he said, smiling almost wickedly.

I leaned over and said to my date, “Don’t tell me we’re going to have to help him paint this place!  I’m wearing my good dress.”

“I have no idea,” he answered, looking genuinely puzzled.

The host then left the room and came back with two more cans of paint. The crowd cheered.

I glanced over at one of the cheering couples standing near us. “What’s all of the paint for?” I asked them.

The guy chuckled. “It’s not paint, it’s glue. He works in a shoe factory’borrows’ a few cans from time to time.”

Dummy that I was, I had no idea why on earth someone would want to steal that much glue.  Maybe, I thought, the guy had some sort of huge Christmas craft-project in mind where we all were going to sit around making construction-paper chains to decorate something equivalent to the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Before I could open my mouth to ask anything else, my date grabbed me by the arm. “Quick!” he whispered. “Let’s get out of here!”

Without questioning him, I allowed him to practically drag me out of the apartment. 

“What was that all about?” I asked him once we were outside.

“From what I overheard, they’re glue sniffers,” he said. “They put some of that shoe glue into bags, put the bags over their noses and then sniff it. It gives them a cheap high.”

I laughed, picturing the party-goers with bags of glue clinging to their noses like feedbags. “You’re kidding me, right?”

He shook his head.

The next day, we heard that the party had been raided by the police. Had I gone to that party with a creep like Norm, the one who’d left me stranded, I’d probably have had to call my parents for bail money.

So even to this day, thanks to my past history, I’m still a bit apprehensive whenever I’m invited to a party.  

Although, at my age, I don't think I have much to worry about any more. I mean, at the last party I attended, the highlight of the evening, which drew cheers from the guests, was when the host demonstrated a new device he’d purchased to help him put on his socks without having to bend over.

#   #   #