What Snew

Snowmageddon: The big dump hit Illinois last weekend.  I know 12 inches is nothing to what Boston, Maine and other points east experienced recently, and I may be a total little girly-woman for even mentioning it but, and this is the important part, it was really inconvenient for me personally.

If you get to experience a big snow fall by looking out at a world turned magically white and clean, then it’s all good.  It’s like living in a snow-globe.  If you have to get out and actually BE in all that white stuff, which, as it turns out, is very cold and makes your feet wet, it stinks.

Our power went out early Sunday morning.  The temperatures in the house fell along with the snow throughout the day. The gas stove still worked so I drank mug after mug of hot tea and burrowed down with a good book under my blankie.  By mid-afternoon it was clear that the power was not going to magically fix itself any time soon.   My bladder was going into toxic shock from all the tea, hubster and I were losing feeling in the lower extremities and the Super Bowl was happening in a couple of hours.  We decided to make a run for it.

Thank goodness for my hubby’s truck.  We somehow stayed on the road, made it to town and checked into a hotel.   There we stayed with hot showers, snacks and color TV, warm and cozy, until morning.   By then the major roads were plowed enough so we could get to work.  They got the power going again the next afternoon and we were able to go home Monday night – all was good.

This is an actual, unretouched(ish) photo of the road as we drove into town.

Bumbles bounce!  Off your bumper.

Bumbles bounce! Off your bumper.


Humor Me: As bragged, er, mentioned before, I signed (as a free agent) to write a monthly humor column in the local paper.  My first offering appeared a couple of days ago to universal acclaim.  By which I mean I got an email from one person who did not hate it.  I was really touched when a group of townspeople came by the house to show their support.  Little confused by the pitchforks, though…


What snew with yew?

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Church Of The Bubonic Plague

churchwindowchildA large family with an adorable toddler sat in the pew in front of us at church the other day.  She made a game of reaching her arms out to be passed from person to person in the family, up and down the line.  The poor poppet had a cold.

Most of the time she sat on Momma’s lap, right in front of me. Her little nose was running, and she was coughing.  Quite a bit, actually.  She coughed and coughed.

I smiled indulgently.   Sometimes Grandma would hoist her up to look around.  My eyes met her sparkling little eyes.  Sparkling because of fever, no doubt, to go along with her runny nose.  Cough, cough, and cough over Grandma’s shoulder, about a foot from my face.  I was slightly alarmed by all the germs that were being launched my way.

I started breathing shallowly to block some of the bacteria shooting straight out of her mouth in my direction.   Another child joined the coughing chorus two pews back.

Our church does something called the sign of peace about ¾ of the way through the service.  You turn to each neighbor, shake hands and wish one another peace.

I tried to breathe even more shallowly.

When the time came: “Peace be with you” (shake, shake, infect). “Peace be with you “ (shake, shake, infect).  Momma, Daddy, Grandma, Auntie, Auntie, every one of the infected family turned with warm, open smiles to share the peace of the Lord along with the bubonic plague.

You could practically see the miasma of germs surrounding the child’s little head, though Momma tried to cover her mouth.  I had to wonder why someone would bring an obviously, gravely ill child out in public to put the healthy population at risk.

By the time the service was over, I was light-headed from barely breathing for the last 45 minutes, wondering whether it would be sacrilegious to break out the hand sanitizer in this holy place, and doubting it would do any good.  That bug was probably resistant to anything modern medicine could throw at it.

I know Howard Hughes was a genuine nut case at the end, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a point.   There are a lot of germs in the world.  Maybe I should start wearing a haz-mat suit to church.  With the careless disregard some people show for others, it will be a miracle if I don’t end up sick as a dog inside 24 hours.

But here’s the point I’m trying to make; it’s important to set aside time each week with others of our faith family, to give 100% of our attention to God.

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Service With A Sniffle




 A wise man uses his head when using a headset.

I had to call the customer service department of a major software company the other day, which is trip to the third circle of hell at the best of times. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the young man on the other end of the line was a native English speaker. His every word came through loud and clear! Unfortunately, so did his every bodily noise.

My knight in shining headset had a cold.

The more I think about it, though, he was probably afflicted with seasonal allergies.  Someone who is suffering from a cold is miserably aware of that fact, and this guy seemed oblivious to the noises coming forth from his nasal region. Those noises were being picked up with nauseating clarity by his ultra-sensitive headset microphone.

“May I help you? (snort)” he started off.

“I’m having trouble with this program,” I replied and went on to try to explain the problem. With my limited knowledge of computers it was like a 5-year-old trying to explain Euclidean geometry.

“Let me check that for you (snxxpt!)” he replied.

There followed long minutes of silence broken only by the sound of him tippy-tapping on his computer… plus throat clearing and moist-sounding snorting every couple of seconds.

“Maybe I should just reboot. I can call back later if that doesn’t work.” I suggested. By now I was eager to get off the phone.

“Just one more minute (ptooie!)” he coughed in response.

After 10 minutes spent listening to him snorting and snuffling, I no longer cared if my issue got resolved. I could visualize the exact color and consistency of his nasal discharge with pinpoint accuracy, I was flinching and sympathy-swallowing with every phlegmy utterance, and I wanted out – right now.

“OK, great! Thanks so much.” I said with false cheerfulness.

“But you need (skxxxtp!) the reference number…” he started.

“Nope! We’re good. Gotta run now.  Bye!” said I and I slammed the phone down.

I still need to resolve the problem that prompted my call, but it’s not really that urgent.  I figure I’ll call again in March. By then cold and flu season will be over, and the pollen count will be low.


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Next Stop, Total World Domination

Peg-o-Leg: real writer or jackass?

Peg-o-Leg: real writer or jackass?

It was a busy week around here. The last 7 days brought good news, good times, and lots of stepping out…out of my comfort zone.

Good News: I was excited and humbled that my last post, Why I Would Rather Try To Find The Funny Than The Meaning Of Life, was chosen to be Freshly Pressed in the Humor category this past weekend.

Welcome to any new readers – pull up a tuffet and sit down. Old readers, please help the new readers. (By old I mean “already subscribing” as opposed to “newly subscribing”. Of course I don’t actually mean “old.” Have I mentioned lately how young you’re looking?) Show the newbies around and explain our customs; things like how they’re expected to provide sycophantic flattery and monetary tribute to the host blogger, how they have to wear zebra-stripe underwear on Wednesdays – you know, the usual stuff.

New News: I am now techno hip and groovy in a far-out, happening way. I somehow set up both a Twitter account and a Facebook page, linked them to the blog and slapped something up on each one!  At least I think I did.  I can’t really figure out how Twitter works, when you use the @ instead of the #, how to hook it to Facebook and how you’re supposed to follow, like and retweet 5 bazillion bits of information and funny pictures of cats every hour, round the clock.

One thing I have figured out after just a couple of days, however, is that this stuff could totally suck all the time out of your world.  Humongous, Super-Hoover time sucker.  I can see myself being so occupied with this I will have no time for real life trivialities, like working at the job that actually pays my bills.  To paraphrase Flounder, Oh boy, is this gonna be great!

You can join or subscribe or whatever they call it to my Twitter and Facebook stuff at the bottom of the right hand column.

New News About The News:   I lead a double life.  Writing is very important to me, but few people in real life know anything about it.  That’s because I’ve confined most of my efforts to this blog, and nonbloggers have no idea what it is all about.  Most of you probably know what I mean.  When you try to relate a blogging anecdote to real-life people, you’re met with a look of mild puzzlement that quickly morphs into near-comatose boredom.  All that is going to change, because blog life and real life are about to collide.

I’m turning pro.

Pro may be too strong a term; perhaps gifted amateur.  Anyway, this week I signed a contract to write a column for the local paper.

It may not be the New York Times – this ain’t exactly a metropolis – but I’m excited.  I will be doing a monthly column with my own picture, byline and everything.   I imagine it will be a lot like this blog.  I said I envisioned an Erma Bombeck type column, and the editor’s response was, “Ego trip much? Pul-leeeeeze.” I am REALLY going to have to watch what I say. It won’t be enough to change the names to protect the innocent, because this will be read by people I know.


That’s the part that makes me just a teeny bit nervous, as in terrified to the point of puking.  These people know me.  They see me, and have seen me for years, as a mild-mannered insurance agent.   Now I’m going to be showing them my thoughts, practically stripping my soul naked and strutting it down to the Piggly Wiggly on a Saturday morning.   They can read, judge, and criticize me everywhere I go.  What if they don’t like my words?

But I am determined to force myself out of my comfort zone because that’s the only way to progress as a writer.  That is what I want to be.  Like Pinocchio yearning to be a REAL boy, I’ve yearned to be a real writer. To me, that’s someone who gets paid for their work.  I somehow conned the paper into paying me for this gig.  It’s not a fortune, but I will be getting real, cash money for the words that come out of my brain.  I will be a real writer at long last.

With blogging, Twitter, Facebook and print journalism under my belt, a book deal and screenplay are sure to be right around the corner. All I have to do is write me a couple of those things. Then nothing can stop me.

Total world domination is in my grasp.  Bwaahahahaha.   BWA-HA-HA-HA!

Just as long as I can keep from throwing up.

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Why I Would Rather Try To Find The Funny Than The Meaning Of Life

Sir Loin of Beef

Sir Loin of Beef

Some look at life’s journey as a pitched battle, and some as a noble quest. Either way, a smart knight should be prepared for the dragons he or she is bound to encounter along the way. My weapon of choice is a feather duster.

It has only snowed once so far this weird winter.  I took advantage of the unlooked for boon of ice-free roads here in the country last week and went for a walk.  My mood was somber as I set off down the road, well bundled against the bracing cold.  I needed the lift that nature always gives me because I felt lower than I have felt in a long time.

I was thinking about my dear cousin, Moe. She’s experimenting with multiple chemo treatments, locked in mortal combat with the cancer that has spread despite her efforts. We recently learned that her husband, Paul, a great guy and one of the funniest people I know, has been struck with a serious, as-yet-undiagnosed neuromuscular disease.

I thought about my beloved sister, Lib. She has been living with a brain tumor for more than 3 years and a couple of new, small spots showed up on her latest scan. She started a course of more aggressive chemo last month.

My mind raced ahead of my brisk steps as I grappled with this question: why do such things have to happen?  What does it all mean?

I saw a dark something at the side of the road up ahead at the turn off to a small, grassy lane. When I got close enough I could see that it was a puppy, and he was dead.

He was black with long legs and brown paws that looked too big for his body, gangly the way growing puppies get. He had no obvious injuries and was curled up in a ball as if asleep. I bent down and watched for long moments, hoping, but, no – he was dead. I don’t know if he had been hit by a car, if he froze to death, or if somebody tossed him to the side of the road. I suppose it didn’t matter.

It was too much. It was all too much, and I started to cry.

I straightened and walked away from the little dog, veering onto the side lane. “Why?” I cried out to the still, solitary fields around me. “Why does it have to be like this? Why is life so hard?” Tears filled my eyes and spilled down my icy cheeks. I was blinded as I lifted my face in anguish to the bright, cold sky. Then I tripped over a toilet.

This is not a metaphor.

Some nature lover had dumped a (presumably) used toilet at the side of the private lane, not 20 feet away from the puppy. It could have been the same dip-wad for all I knew.

The exquisite absurdity of the situation struck me as I lay on the frozen ground. Here I was, working myself up to the finale of A Grand Scene, played for an audience of none, full of I’m-ready-for-my-close-up-Mr.-DeMille high drama and instead, I get knocked on my bum. It seemed life had cast me, not as Norma Desmond, but as one of the Keystone Cops.

I started to snigger.

I thought about an incident Moe had related along with her latest, lousy medical news. How she and Paul had been talking quietly in bed about their problems and he turned to her solemnly and said, “Well, at least we still have our health.”

I started to laugh.

I thought about an inside joke that Lib and I have shared since her diagnosis, a recycled gag about what is funny and what’s not. We deliver the lines together in a sing-song voice: “Cancer… not funny. Dead puppies… not funny.”

That schtick ran through my head and the timing of it, the absolute rightness of it right here and now, set me off even more. I was still crying, but now the tears were from laughter.

I believe in God. I believe that this life is just a prelude to the next, and what happens to us there is determined by what we do here. Maybe you believe likewise – I hope you have the comfort of faith – but maybe you don’t.  Perhaps you figure that this go-round is all we get. Whatever you believe, my point is this:

We don’t get to know.

We ponder, we anguish, we reason, we work and we pray but in this life, on this earth, some things can’t be fixed, and we don’t get to know why or what it means.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try – Lord, no. I’m firmly behind the seekers, the dreamers and doers looking for answers in medicine, theology and other fields, even if much of that effort turns out to be tilting at windmills.

I’m not smart enough to contribute anything to such noble quests.  One thing I can do, however, is laugh. It helps.

Everyone has a cross to bear in life.  Some are obvious, and some are hidden, but everyone carries one.   A smile, a giggle, or a deep, belly laugh is a little bit of grace that lightens the load, if only a smidgen, if only for a short while. I believe that sharing that grace, helping other people to find the funny, is a noble thing.  Yes, I said that. It’s sappy and schmaltzy and I mean it.   Humor, if not at someone else’s expense, is a good thing and the world needs a whole, hell of a lot more of it.

Let’s lighten up.  Let’s give ourselves permission to laugh, even when times are tough, and let’s pass it on. We’ll never know when a shared smile will come just in the nick of time for someone else whose burden has become too heavy.

Life is full of fire-breathing dragons. We can’t slay them all, but maybe we can tickle some of them into submission.

Posted in Cancer Schmancer, General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | 446 Comments

Last Minute Gift Ideas To Keep You From Being Ebenezer Screwed

Christmas time is here again.  Tis the season for celebrating old traditions.  Around this blog, that means dusting off posts of Christmas past, posts that are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.  Enjoy. 

Bah humbug!

Bah humbug!

Christmas is only a couple of days away.  The cards are written, the presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree, and now everyone can sit back and enjoy the season.

Everyone except you.

You haven’t done anything to get ready.  You have no presents, no ideas and no money again this year.   You’re basically screwed, right?


Don’t despair!  You don’t have have to spend Christmas in the doghouse, just because you’re lazy and broke.  Borrow some of these last minute gift ideas:

1)      For the book lover:  Does someone on your gift list always have his or her nose in a book?  Have you priced hardcovers lately?  They can be $30 and up – ridiculous!  Trot down to the local library, check out the newest bestseller and wrap it up.  When the recipient opens your gift and looks bewildered, start on a long-winded diatribe about what an outrageous assault on the environment it is to cut down defenseless trees for books, and the importance of sharing resources.  Add a bit about the great history of Carnegie libraries in America and by the end of your presentation the book lover will be feeling vaguely guilty for ever having bought one.  Be a Christmas angel and remind the recipient they’ll incur overdue fines after 2 weeks, so they should read fast!

2)      For the wine lover:  With your Annie Green Springs tastes, you have neither the budget nor the knowledge to please a true wine connoisseur.  Don’t even try.  Take a card and write, “Here’s a little something to toast the season”.  Wrap up a box containing …2 pieces of dry toast.  I suggest using whole wheat bread since wine snobs also tend to be health food snobs.  They’ll look like poor sports if they even hint that they would prefer a real gift to your clever gag. (Thrifty suggestion: Cut a square of wrapping paper, fold in half and use this as a card.  You can write on the inside and it matches the package for an expensive, coordinated look.)

3)      For that special woman:  Is there anything a woman loves more than a truly spectacular piece of expensive jewelry?  Since THAT’s not going to happen this Christmas, you can still score points by hitting her other hot button: a love of schmaltzy romance.  Just write in a card, “You own the key to my heart.”  Wrap up a small, jewelry-sized box in which you’ve placed…a key.  Any old key will do –could be the key to your locker at the gym.   Make sure it’s not your car key, though, as it might be awkward to have to ask for it back at the end of the evening.

4)      For your kid:  Every parent has experienced this.  You get your kid a Suzy Homemaker kitchen, or Little Tykes workbench and they run right by the big, expensive toy to play with the box.  Encourage their creative spirit with an Imagination Kit: an assortment of cardboard boxes, rolling paper and toilet paper tubes, rubber bands and other stuff that you have around the house.  Pontificate about the importance of creative play, developing building and imagination skills and getting back to basics.  This will confuse the in-laws so they can’t be sure if you really believe all that stuff, or you’re just a cheap Scrooge.

5)      For the kid’s teacher:  Teachers get so much lame junk: ornaments, bubble bath and candles, they could open a gift store.  What do they really, really want?  Some relief from the unrelenting torment of having little monsters like your kid in their class.  Make up several coupons “Good for one day without Johnny”.  On days when your offspring has been acting even more like the spawn of Satan than usual, Teacher can send one of the coupons home with the kid.  You promise to keep him home “sick” the next day, thereby giving Teacher a much-needed break.  Be careful not to give so many coupons that all his days off catch the attention of the health department or truancy officer.

6)      For the brother-in-law:  Your lush of a brother-in-law is always getting in trouble with the po-lice.  What a hoot when he opens your gift in front of the whole family to reveal a stack of “get out of jail free” cards, taken from a Monopoly game.  Even funnier if you could be be there when he tries to use one when he gets stopped, weaving down the road on the way home from the family party.

7)      For your pets:  What dog doesn’t love a rousing game of “fetch”?  Simply gather up a couple of sticks (not too fat), about 1-1/2 feet long, and tie them up with a jaunty, red ribbon.   For the cat, smush a page from the Sunday funnies into a ball, wrap in twine or rubber bands, and you’re ready for hours of pouncing play.  (These also make thoughtful gifts for the dog or cat lover on your list.)

With my helpful hints, a little bit of cleverness can take the place of true thoughtfulness, money and any real effort on your part.

Merry Christmas, and good luck!

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 50 Comments

Wal-Mart, The Christmas Play

Christmas time is here again.  Tis the season for celebrating old traditions.  Around this blog, that means dusting off posts of Christmas past, posts that are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.  Enjoy. 

The Wal-Mart Christmas Musical

Thanks to People of Wal-Mart for the raw footage.

The entire play takes place in a Super Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Our heroine is a young ingenue who looks almost exactly like me.    She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy-dust and sent on a quest in the Land of Wal-Mart.  She must find another strand of the same brand of lights she bought last year, to finish the string dangling 1 foot short of the bottom of her half-finished Christmas tree.  Then she must get through the check-out and back to her car before the fairy dust wears off and she turns into a mean, bitchy old crone.

The show opened with Miley Cyrus’ spiritual performance of “I’d Rather Be Naughty, So $&%# You, Santa!”  In honor of the season, she updated her usual bra-and-panty costume with a sprig of mistletoe, strategically placed.  As for Miley’s dance routine, let’s just say I will never look at a humble candy-cane the same way again.

Next up, one of the female leads softly crooned a simple ballad to the 5 ragged children gathered around her cart.  She was imaginatively costumed in skin-tight black stretch pants and a leopard-print shirt cut low enough to reveal a pair of angels tattooed on the upper slopes of her absolutely ginormous, er, charms.  The song was ” I TOLD You 20 Times!”  and the chorus went something like this:

“I TOLD you 20 times you gotta be 8 years old before Santa will bring you “Call of Duty, Black Ops.”  I’m going to have your daddy (Rodney, that guy who’s staying with us and kinda like your daddy) WHUP YOUR A** if you ask me ONE more time!”

I wasn’t the only one who left the show humming THAT moving tune.

The children’s choir almost stole the show with their rousing hit, “I Want THAT!”   The lyric was not complicated – only “I Want THAT”, over and over – but the performance elevated the words to art.  The volume of their childish cries built and built to a mighty crescendo.  The number ended with the whole choir falling to the floor in the aisles, kicking its collective heels.  Unforgettable.

The Greeter’s Gospel Choir’s  a-Capella rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain (The Holidays Are Here)” had everyone clapping along.   The reworked lyrics explained in an uplifting, catchy way how if the store employees said “Merry Christmas” at the door, it would be the same as forcing shoppers to join a church and submit to full-immersion baptism just to get in the store.  Entertaining and really thought provoking.

But the showstopper was the big production number finale.

I took a couple of dance classes as a kid, so I’m familiar with steps like the flap-ball-change.  But I’ve never seen the moves the Wal-Mart Shoppers Dance Troupe perfected for this extravaganza, a routine they call the Oblivious Shuffle.

Each shopper/dancer leaned on his or her cart and pushed it slowly, oh so slowly, back and forth across the stage.  Their shuffling gate kept one shoe (or house slipper, as the case may be) on the floor at all times.  The shuffling feet made a “shush, shush” sound that underscored the “squeak, squeak” of their unoiled cart wheels.  The occasional crash of colliding carts played like cymbals in the composition.

About half of the dancers had cell phones pressed to their ears.  One at a time, each burst into song with lyrics like “…so that witch my baby-daddy is with now said they couldn’t take the kids on Christmas Eve and I told HER, if you think I’m going to pick them up on HIS weekend, you can just tell that &%$#…” Their solos were incomprehensible, one-sided conversations when taken by themselves.  Together, they wove a timeless Christmas story.

The dancers went through their movements with vacant, glassy stares that gave the illusion that they were totally unaware of everyone else around them.

Think of Night of the Living Dead as a ballet.

Meanwhile, the young ingenue wove her cart skillfully in and out of the shuffling throng, trying to get to the registers.   The checkers each turned their lights off as she approached, crying “price check on 10″, “change needed on 5″, “register frozen on 8“ in a surprisingly harmonious medley.  The audience held their breath when a determined shopper with 2 carts piled high cut in front of our heroine in the “15 items or less” lane, but there was no crash – it was all part of the show.

I don’t want to give away the ending in case you decide to see the show.  Suffice it to say our ingenue looked a lot like the apple-wielding hag in Snow White as she trudged to the car with her packages at the end.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments