In Defense Of The Fanny Pack


I’m over at The Nudge Wink Report today, commenting on a vital matter of international significance. Hurry over and let your voice be heard.

Originally posted on The Nudge Wink Report:

Looking stylish, OH yeah. Chillin’ with the rest of the PTA and lookin’ goooooood.

I have a fanny pack.  I’m not talking about a 20-year old leftover sitting in the bottom of the Goodwill donation box, nor am I being ironic.  I own a fanny pack, I use it, and I like it. Deal.

I realize that any shred of cool I might have claimed has just gone out the window, and I hope we can still be friends. My daughters treat me like a leper if we’re out in public and I’m fanny-tized.   When we went to New York City a couple of years ago I was afraid they would be abducted off the streets of Chinatown because they insisted on walking several blocks behind me.

Me on vaca. What? WHAT??? This is me on vaca in The Big Apple. What? WHAT???

I don’t fanny-up for important business meetings, swanky events or funerals – there’s a time and…

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Magic Carpet Ride

Magic Carpets - only $500 over invoice!

Only $500 over invoice!

How we view the end of life is a reflection of how we view life itself  – it’s a question of perspective.

Those of you who have been around here a while may recall that a couple of years ago I became treasurer of our church cemetery, aka the Crypt Keeper.   There’s a surprising amount of work involved in keeping a cemetery going.  We have a couple of guys who go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the place runs smoothly, but they can’t do everything.  We have professionals mow the grass and the expense of having that done every week in season is the bane of my financial existence.  It can’t be helped.  Few mourners want their loved ones laid to rest somewhere they’d need a machete to visit.  To accomplish the one-thousand-and-one other chores that must be done, however, we rely on parishioner volunteers to come out and help on our annual cemetery clean-up day.  That fun event took place recently.

The volunteers deserved double blessings this year since it was hot enough out there to fry an egg on Great Aunt Fanny’s tombstone.  In case that wouldn’t have been, you know, rather tacky.  Actually, it would be downright weird.  But I digress… Our sexton must consult Poor Richards Almanac, star charts and the Psychic Network so he can schedule clean-up day for the hottest day of the year. There’s no way it’s merely coincidence that that’s what it lands on every, single year.

I started out pulling weeds and rubbing Armor All on the big, plastic letters on the sign out front. After that, red as a lobster and drooping like grocery store roses the minute you get them home, I picked a job in the shed. There I found shade and, miracle of miracles, a fan.  I also found rolls of rugs leaning in the corner like it was Ali Baba’s Rug Bazaar.

They were bright, green area rugs made of AstroTurf.   You’ve probably seen these if you’ve ever been to a graveside service.   They’re laid over muddy spots in the ground so it’s easier for people to walk to the grave-site.  They’re also used to cover the grave, which workers dig ahead of time.

I unrolled the rugs one by one, got down on my hands and knees and brushed them with a stiff bristle brush to remove the caked-on mud and grass. Then I took them outside to shake and vacuum before rolling them back up and returning them to the corner, ready for their next appearance.  I was cogitating while I was agitating.

We veil the hole in the ground because that opening is a tough pit for most of us to look in.

It’s tough in that moment because someone we care about is gone, and death makes us sad.  It may be natural and expected if the deceased lived a good, long life, but we still grieve because we’re going to miss them.   If the person was young, or their passing was sudden or traumatic, the sadness of death can be almost unbearable.

Thinking about the dearly departed isn’t the only thing that bothers us when we look into an open grave, though.  That hole in the ground reminds us that this fate awaits every one of us.  As Shakespeare so elegantly said:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.

Translation: Ain’t none of us getting out of this gig alive.

Most of us don’t like to think about this fact very much – I certainly don’t.  Death is the ultimate question.  It is THE big unknown and that makes the whole process rather scary.   When those fears strike me, I remind myself that this passage, this death, is a natural and inevitable part of life.   And if you believe in a merciful God, then eternal life with Him awaits us at the journey’s end.

It’s a matter of perspective.  Some look down at that green rug and see only the muddy remnants of sorrowful footsteps.   But the faithful see a magic carpet which will lift us up, soaring, on the ride of our lives.


This post is dedicated to heaven’s newest angel, my dear cousin, Moe.  Fly high, sweetie.  Soar!

Maureen Corrigan Milano 4/5/1966 – 9/26/2015 RIP


Posted in Cancer Schmancer, General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 75 Comments

Jack Sprat And His OCD Wife



Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean.

Say hello to Mrs. Sprat.

I’m not referring to our eating habits, though I love me some fatty foods.  But I don’t want to talk about that.  My husband Bill and I are Mr. and Mrs. Sprat because of our polar opposite attitudes about using up the last of something. Anything.

I get a tiny tingle of anticipation when I see that I am getting to the end of a roll of toilet paper or a tube of toothpaste because I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of using up every, last bit.

This could be evidence that I’m my thrifty Dad’s daughter and don’t like anything to be wasted. It could also mean that I have some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The fact remains that I get just a wee bit anxious if we don’t finish up with the NOW before breaking into the NEW.

Here’s how I roll.

  • We’re running low on coffee creamer at the office so a co-worker bought 3 more bottles. She already opened a new one, despite the fact that there’s still a bit left in the old bottle.  It isn’t even a full serving, yet I won’t be able to bring myself to touch the new bottle until the old one is empty.   It’s 4 in the afternoon, I am all coffeed-out for the day, there’s ½ cup of sludge left in the bottom of the cold coffee pot and I am seriously considering nuking it, grounds and all, so I can use up the last smidge of creamer and lay the bottle to rest.
  • I’m on the mailing list of almost every charity in the U.S. and they periodically send sheets of return address labels preprinted with various wrong spellings of our name.  They want to guilt us into donating.  I use them when I mail bills and such.  Once I’m down to a couple of labels on a sheet, I want to use them up and throw out that sheet.  I’m practically looking for things to mail. That gets me closer to finishing all the labels from that charity, which gets me closer to using up the mile-high stack of labels stuffed in my desk drawer, which will never go down because new ones arrive weekly. I’m the mailing label Sisyphus.  (Interesting side note: I mentioned this habit to one of my sisters and found she does the exact same thing!  Nature?  Nurture? Not sure.)
  • Wouldn’t any thinking person agree that Dorothy should have started her journey to see the Wizard closer to the edge of town since she was already standing over there? Never mind that it would have messed up the song and dance number. But I have always secretly understood the absolute rightness of her starting at the tiny, pointy tip that marked the very beginning of the yellow brick road.

It’s a bit weird.

OK, it’s more than a bit weird; it’s uber weird. The most interesting thing, though, is how my weirdness is being answered by my husband’s growing counter-weirdness.

I’ve noticed, just in the last year or so, that he doesn’t like to finish up the last of things.

I give you recently noted Exhibits A through E:

  • 3 pickle jars in the fridge. 2 have a couple of lonely specimens floating in a sea of brine, while a 3rd brand, spanking new jar had already been opened.
  • 2 liter bottles of soda, each with one swallow of flat backwash in the bottom. These bottles sat in our refrigerator for a month until I threw them out.
  • 3 identical bags of rye bread, each with only 1 or 2 pieces in it.
  • A sliver of soap in the shower with a fresh, new bar sitting on top of it.
  • 2 jars of Jiff in the pantry. One with a scant tablespoon practically unreachable on the bottom, the second jar… you guessed it, with a fresh knife trail breaking through its smooth, creamy top.

I would like to point out that I don’t eat rye bread, don’t drink the soda brands in question, have my own jar of organic peanut butter, and rarely eat pickles. I do, however, use soap. I use it and use it until the sliver becomes a soap tissue, and then I laminate it on to a new bar.

Now that this pattern has penetrated my consciousness, I see evidence of it all around me. I’ve pointed it out to Bill a couple of times, and asked him why he doesn’t finish something off and toss it before opening another one. He says I’m crazy. He can’t or won’t admit that he does this.

Neither of us used to have these bizarre hang-ups – they’ve shown up as we’ve gotten older. One thing that has become crystal clear to me through the years is that whatever you are, you become more of as you age. Happy Hannahs get more smiley, Negative Nellies turn downright crotchety, and our cute little quirks turn into hard-and-fast rules of behavior that can annoy the hell out of everybody else.

I guess the good thing with me and Bill is that our weirdnesses cancel one another out. As long as both of us can continue to resist the temptation to bash the other in the head with the soap dish, we’ll continue to get along just fine.


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What’s The Big Idea – Am I Dumb Or Something?

LinaLemontBombayTitle quote courtesy of Lina Lamont, Singing In The Rain

What’s the use of being smart when life has a nasty habit of making you look dumb?

I got good grades in school. The other kids called me teacher’s pet because they were jealous of my truly impressive collection of gold stars. I’m not bragging, merely explaining why I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. And yet…

I can’t spell “occasion.” 1c, 2s’s? 2c’s, 1s? 2c’s and the s’s can go jump in the lake? If spell check isn’t handy, I have to change the word to “event.” It’s the same with “dessert” vs “desert.” I know the memory trick that “strawberry shortcake” and “dessert” both have 2 s’s, but I play mind games with myself – how about “sandy Sahara?”  Then I’m lost again.

I can’t say “subsistence.” I like to watch those TV shows about people living off the land in remote places like Alaska. If I’m at a party and we’re talking about the morality of clubbing a baby seal if the alternative is starving to death, my first attempt at this word is “SUB-sti-dence.” Next I go with “sub-SIDE-dunce.”   Then comes “SUB-stance.”   By the time I’ve fumbled my fourth attempt, whoever I was trying to impress with the big word has already sneaked away to find another drink.

I don’t know when to use “whom” vs “who.” I’ve lost the will to even try with this anymore. Luckily my hubby, Bill, has serious English grammar chops. I go straight to him for a ruling instead of worrying my pretty, little head about it.

I don’t know my parents’ address. I’m pretty sure the street name is Stoney Creek, but I don’t know if that’s a Rd, St, Lane or Rte. The number is anyone’s guess. Given that they moved there 8 years ago, you might expect me to know this by now, but I blame them.   They’re the ones who abandoned my ancestral home.

I am clueless with geography. I’m confident I can name the states immediately bordering Illinois in roughly the proper order, but anything beyond that is beyond me.

I have a friend who moved to Guinea almost a year ago, and I still can’t figure out where that is. The smarty pants among you may be asking, “Which Guinea?” Exactly. It turns out there are scores of places with variations on this name scattered all over the globe. There are something like 10 of them in Africa alone! I always refer to her new home as “down there.”

I was pretty good at geography in school, so this is clearly not my fault. I blame all the countries that have sprung up, merged or irresponsibly changed their names since I memorized them in grade school. Back then, when asked to identify a country you could guess “USSR” and have a 50/50 chance of getting it right.

I’m comforted by the thought that I’m not alone in this. I have a friend who can’t grasp Sudoku puzzles, no matter how many times the concept has been explained to her. I bet everyone has at least one knowledge blind spot.

To be honest, I have a few more little problem areas besides these.   I’d be glad to list them all if anybody is interested – it will only take the next 283 blog posts.




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Rocks Of Ages



It started with the death of someone I’d never met.

I am a treasure seeker (aka pack-rat) and love going to auctions.  If I’m at an estate auction, I pass the time constructing a biography of the person’s life.  You can tell a lot about someone from their things.   This practice is usually entertaining, but sometimes the stuff going under the gavel is depressing.  Family pictures are the worst.  It tells a sad story when generations of black and white photos are dumped in a cardboard flat for sale.  Their curling corners say that the last of the family, or perhaps the last one to care about preserving its history, is gone.

About 7 years ago I went to an estate auction for someone I did not know.  Neighbors said that the owner was an elderly woman who had taught school for over 50 years and never married.  In less PC days, she would have been called an old maid schoolteacher. I remember that auction because that’s where I bought a box of rocks.

I’ve always liked rocks. Whether rough, craggy specimens that break open to reveal the elegant shine of quartz, a bit of leaf preserved forever as fossil or an amalgam fused together and worn smooth by time and water, the look and the feel of them appeals to me.

Much as I like rocks, however, I’m not in the habit of spending my hard earned money to buy them, even if they’re only going for $1. That’s what I paid for the rocks at this auction. I bought them because they told a story about a life, and it was a story I wanted to preserve.

005The lady was a traveler who picked up rocks and seashells as souvenirs of the places she went.  She marked each with the date and place gathered, like a Bedrock travel journal.

The oldest specimen is a seashell simply marked “Florida, 1940.” Most of her souvenirs were from Long Island, with an almost equal number from Lake Superior. In the life story I created for her, she had a brother in New York and a sister in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and she visited them on alternate summer vacations.  She also went to Florida a couple of times. Two, small rocks are marked “petrified potato, backyard.”  I’ve never heard of petrified potatoes but it’s possible.  They do look like potatoes.  Besides, she wouldn’t lie to me.

One small, very ordinary rock is marked “Wales”.  I built a whole, Katharine Hepburn in the movie Summertime fantasy about this one.    She scrimped, saved and planned for years to take this trip, and it was the highlight of her life.  She found love and romance in Europe, but circumstances kept her and her lover apart.  He stayed in Wales, and she went home – sadder, wiser, and with memories to last a lifetime.

I bought the box because nobody else wanted it, and I didn’t want her mementos tossed aside as if they meant nothing.  It was a memory adoption.

I also adopted her practice, and have chronicled my own sporadic trips in the same way ever since. There’s sea glass from my last trip to my parent’s Florida condo before they sold it, the rock plucked from the spray of the Irish Sea in 2009, and my own Brighton Beach memoir from 2 years ago. When I touch that smooth, black stone I can practically feel the sun beating down and smell the salty tang of the strong wind that was whipping off the English Channel that day.

The most recent piece in my collection is a seashell from the beach at San Francisco Bay when I visited my girls there a couple of months ago.  I augment my collection with other bits of stony memorabilia like rocks my then-young kids painted into lady bugs and Pokeballs, and pieces of purple quartz my mother-in-law used to keep by her sink.

These mementos will mean nothing to my kids when I’m gone, and that’s OK. “Stuff” is not the most important thing.  Still, when the time comes for all my treasures to go on the auction block, I hope there will be a kindred romantic soul there to see my stuff through indulgent eyes.  Someone who will be willing to invest a dollar in a box of memories.



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Prisoners May Trade Get Out Of Jail Free Cards for Student IDs


I’m over at The Nudge Wink Report today talking about college tuition and prison reform. I promise the topic’s not as much of a snooze-fest as it sounds.

Originally posted on The Nudge Wink Report:

Don't do the crime if you can't...pull an all-nighter for your English 101 final. Don’t do the crime if you can’t…pull an all-nighter for your English 101 final.

Time for a pop quiz on current events, kiddies.  Which of the following statements is true?

  1. It costs a boatload of money to go to college
  2. Most Americans can’t afford to go without taking out student loans that they’ll be paying on for the rest of their natural lives and beyond
  3. It’s against the law for U.S. tax $$ to be used to pay for college tuition for criminals while in jail
  4. U.S. tax $$ will be used to pay for college for criminals while in jail
  5. All of the above

Did you choose answer # 5, “All of the above?” Good job, boys and girls!

It was recently announced that the U.S. Education Department plans to provide federal student aid so that criminals can attend college while behind bars. This would come in the form…

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And Then There Were More


Me, looking grateful.

It has been 5 years almost to the day since I started a blog.   Given how ephemeral these electronic flashes of word and image can be, that makes me an elder statesman.  Practically a blogging Methuselah.

My first post was about dropping my youngest daughter off at college.  I hadn’t figured out how to upload pictures yet and it was rather wordy.  My daughter, my sister-in-law and an anonymous stranger were the only humans to read my efforts.

A couple of months later,  bolstered by the fact that I was now a genuine writer, courtesy of having this blog, I got up the courage to approach the local paper about doing a little ditty in one of their occasional magazines.  They took the bait.  I had to pay them in the form of advertising, but still – I was published!

A couple of months after that I learned about something called Freshly Pressed when, for the first time, strangers started reading my stuff.

I’ve written almost 500 blog posts in the last 5 years, been Freshly Pressed a couple more times, and this year started writing a monthly humor column for which I am getting paid.   I’m now trying to get it syndicated.

Some blogging efforts were a riot.

  • My plot to take over WordPress.  In 2012 they featured 19 blog posts at a time on their front page as their choice for Freshly Pressed. I cooked up an elaborate scheme and enlisted 18 other bloggers to help.  We all posted with the same title at the exact same time: Better Living Through Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Our coup failed, as takeovers often do, but it was a scream.  I can’t tell you how much fun it was working with 18 of the best bloggers working at that time or since.
  •  The Jacket writing competition, which was won (strictly on the level, by the way) by my good blogging buddy, Darla at She’s a Maineiac.
  •  Freshly Pegged, my attempt to give an airing to bloggers’ favorite posts which had NOT been selected for Freshly Pressed.  That feature is enjoying a very long hibernation, by the way, but is not dead.

Mostly I do humor, but sometimes I’m serious, especially when writing about cancer.  My feisty sister, Lib, is battling it.  Both my close friend, Jane, and my dear, dear cousin Moe have  almost reached the end of their struggles.

I have made some absolutely amazing blogging friends over the years; people I’ve never met, but care about deeply.  Many have dropped off the radar.  A couple have died, but most slipped quietly away to focus on other things.  I miss many of them.  But change is the nature of the beast.  For every blogger who turns away, thousands – nay, millions – more take their place all the time on this constantly growing platform, and I’ve had the chance to make new friends as well.

By now most of you are asking, “What’s with this trip down memory lane? Are you retiring?  Dying?  Practicing an acceptance speech in case the Pulitzer people call?”

Today I hit 15,000 subscribers.

I know there are mega-blogs out there and I’m obviously not one of them.  But this is a milestone for me.  Growth in my readership has been organic and steady.  I haven’t had a post go viral (although one keeps getting spurts of readers and I STILL can’t figure out why.)   People have merely wandered in, a few at a time, pulled up a tuffet and decided to stay.

To all of my WordPress friends, to those who stop by to read my scribblings, to those who take the time to comment, I appreciate how you’ve found a place for me in your busy lives.

And I humbly thank you from the bottom of my heart.

p.s. Since I hit Publish 5 minutes ago, it seems that 3 readers dropped me from their roles, so I don’t have 15,000 subscribers any more. Which just goes to show…something.

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