Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Monday, January 8, 2024


Only Make Believe

“I can’t believe they won’t let me move my stable.” I huffed at the unfairness of video game logic.

My son, voice dripping irritably with common sense and reason, “So you’re upset because your imaginary horses can’t get to your imaginary barn?”

“It’s on an island, so there’s not much space. The bride and groom don’t have room to get out.”


My son doesn’t understand the urgency. I recently installed a game on my tablet that runs on hidden pictures, and I have to buy items with game currency to fuel the game to produce more hidden picture scenes. It’s all very technical.

“I need to organize my decorations before my observatory finishes renovating or the stable won’t fit.”

He squinted over my shoulder at the cartoon island.

“It says you have 11 hours and 29 minutes to go. I could clean my room in that much time.”

“Let’s see it.”

“I thought we were still talking make believe.”

“I have to hurry. I have two wedding carriages and they shouldn’t be near each other.”

“I don’t even want to know why.”

“They should each have their own wedding experience.”

 “Are there any imaginary people inside the imaginary wedding carriages?”


“And what is that?” he pointed to a sandy pit.

“That’s a Zen garden. People go there for peace and contentment.”

“It looks like a litter box.”

“It doesn’t fit anywhere. Last night I dreamed the wedding carriage got stuck in it.”

“You’re having nightmares about your peace garden? Who designed this game, Stephen King?”

“They said the lighthouse is haunted.”

“Who said? Your imaginary people?”

“No, that wouldn’t make sense. The lighthouse keeper said it.”

“There’s a lot of empty buildings and the keeper of a haunted lighthouse? Where is Scooby Doo and Shaggy? In the carnival tent?”

“You talk big for somebody who plays a game full of chickens.”

“Those chickens are saving the world.”

“If I see one chicken on my island, we’re having it for dinner.”

“Let me see your tablet.”

He performed some magical flourishes over the surface of my tablet and handed it back.

“Wedding crisis averted.”

“Where is my carriage and flower-strewn path?”

“On your cargo ship.”

“I have a cargo ship?”

“Yep. They’re going to have their unique wedding experience on board.”

“But where will they go on their honeymoon?”

“Well I don’t want to give you ideas, but. . . “


“Your haunted lighthouse and nightmare litter box make a package Scooby would die for.”

Sunday, December 18, 2022

 Christmas Symptom Countdown

It’s been a year since I retired. And now that the pumpkins are packed away and Christmas is hovering just around the cranberry sauce comes the season I anticipate all year.

The joyous season of “I’ve Met My Medical Insurance Deductible” is upon us.

The beginning of Advent marks the time allotted to visit all the doctors who have an interest in my health plan before New Year’s draws the curtain and the annual Rite of CoPay It Forward begins anew. It’s a lottery of how many doctors I can fit on my physical symptoms Bingo card before December ends and that mysterious rash goes unrequited. I count down with my Days of the Week pill caddy.


It seems like I’ve won the medical specialist lottery. These days I collect professionals whose titles end in -ist like TikTok followers collect new dance moves. I keep cardiologists in my contact list the way the Kardashians keep cosmetologists. My days rotate around medical tests. The Cologuard people send me flowers on my birthday and the local mortuary offered me a discount on my final arrangements.


It wasn’t always this way. The second I lit that 60th candle on my birthday Triple Decker Hot Fudge Chocolate Madness, my knee went out, my heart skipped a beat, and the skin in my neck draped over my chest like Spanish moss. I used to toot my own horn; now I can’t lift my knee without banging my gong.


I’m not the type that revels in sickness to get extra attention. I’d rather shave my legs with a cheese grater than have a well-meaning Boy Scout help me across the street. If I want somebody who worries about my every need, I’ll trade my cat for a Golden Retriever.


I’m the youngest sibling in my family. Now that we’re all retired, our family potlucks have turned into a medical version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Neurologist beats Cardiologist, Cardiologist takes out Orthopedist, Oncologist wipes out Neurologist. We swap for medical supplies instead of gifts. Last year I got the grand prize. It was an enema kit and a picture of George Clooney.


I can hardly wait for the results of my physical to let me know what I can’t eat this year. Carbs are out, sugar is out, salt is out.


Maybe I’ll just go out.


Merry Christmas to all. With no side effects.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanks to Dale for reminding me of this memory. Thankful I didn't serve Bill up for Thanksgiving. (First published in Huffington Post.)

The Cough Drop

 Bill and I were sitting in that special kind of traffic jam that comes just before the holidays and is the result of a small town growing like an overdose victim of Jack’s magic beans, leaving mundane things like convenience and city planning behind.  The roads were packed like the straw in a peach milkshake.  Fruit gets stuck in the end, all movement stops, and nobody gets any relief.  With a milkshake you can pull out the straw and suck the peach pulp out.  With overburdened roads, the obvious answer is to block off one lane with orange cones and commit to a ten-year construction project.

We had dropped our kids off at a mega-bookstore at what seemed like a short time earlier, doling out the last bite-sized candy bars from Halloween left in the bottom of my pocketbook to hold them until we got back and could hit a nearby buffet extravaganza.  Sometimes eating out, even with two teenaged mouths to feed, is a better idea than a sound investment plan. 

 In the meantime, the Highway Patrol issued an all-points-bulletin to every mall-bound traveler in the area, describing our location, destination, and current state of irritability.  That’s the only reasonable explanation for the fact that our car began to attract morons like a pan of biscuits attracts men named Bubba.  Traffic stalled and Christmas shoppers begin to share the joy of the season with their fellow travelers one finger at a time.  I attempted to retain my normal good nature even though Bill was getting testy.  He always gets that way when he misses snack time.

 Bill:  Do you have any more candy in your pocketbook?

 Me:  Why?  Are you hungry?

 Bill:  No, I thought I would toss some out the window to lure people out of our lane.

 Me: You’re being sarcastic because you’re too hungry. (Pointing across six lanes of stationary traffic.)  There’s a Wendy’s.  And a Chinese buffet.  And a pizza place.

 Bill:  Are you hungry?

 Me:  (Fumbling through my pocketbook.) No.  Why do you keep bringing it up?  There’s that place with the wonderful barbecue ribs. 

 (I find a cellophane-wrapped object which I pull surreptitiously from my bag.  I wince as a tiny crinkling sound gives me away.)

 Bill:  What’s that?

 Me:  Nothing.

 Bill:  What is it?

 Me:  Nothing.  Leave me alone, willya?

 Bill:  You have food.

Me:  No I don’t.  It’s a cough drop.  (Here I wave the cough drop with a flourish.  It’s of a nondescript color somewhere in between magenta and pink eye.)

 Bill:  I want half.

 Me:  It’s mine.  I found it.  (I fondle the cough drop like it was the One Ring.)

Bill:  We can take turns licking it.

Me:  (Pensively) I don’t think I’ve bought any cough drops this year. . .not since I had the flu that year we had the big snow.

 Bill:  You can have it.

Me:  No you.  I can wait.

Bill:  I can wait, too.

We laughed together, the warm laughter of two people coming together over misfortune.

Under cover of the laughter, I shucked the paper off the cough drop like it was a peel and eat shrimp and popped it in my mouth.

Just then traffic parted like the men’s restroom line for a father-daughter combination.  Nothing clears the tracks like a man doing daddy-duty with a lace-clad toddler in tow.  We picked up the boys, and wheeled into a nearby restaurant.

Bill:  See, it all turned out okay because we made sacrifices and worked together.  That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

We all smiled at each other like the Brady Bunch on the 29th minute of each 30 minute show.  And I secretly gave thanks for a cough drop appetizer that kept me from acting like a turkey.



Friday, November 11, 2022

 Love and Lawn Care

As hurricane-driven rain pounded the windows, I scanned an advertisement for getaway packages to my favorite hotel located on the shore of my favorite beach.

“Look,” I said to the Captain of my Love Boat who was staring out the window as the mole holes filled with water. “They have a holiday package for Jingle Bell lovers, a Paws package for Floof lovers, and a Romance package for. . .”

“Great Gophers! Can you believe that!?”

“So much for romance. What is it?”

“That guy next door is working on his yard again. In the middle of a Category 3!”

My guy doesn’t normally escalate above tropical storm level. He’s so cool, the ice in his tea doesn’t melt. The last time I saw him this upset was when the same guy took his new lawn tractor for a spin in our yard. I called it being neighborly. He called it trespassing and threatened to border our yard with the kind of spikes that make hay out of John Deere’s tires.

“He wants to make sure his yard looks nice come spring.”

“He wants to make me look like I learned lawn care on a seaweed farm.”

I waved the hotel brochure like a white flag.

“Why don’t we take a nice trip where someone else takes care of maintenance? They have a romantic getaway with chocolate covered strawberries and rose petals.”

“They have chocolate covered rose petals?”

“No, they sprinkle them around to look nice.”

“When they’re sprinkled around our yard you make me rake them up.”

“We could get the Paws Package and take the dog.”

“Remember when we let the dog sleep with us? It smelled like burning tires in our bedroom for a week.”

I tossed the beach brochure in the recycle-when-we-remember bin. "Let’s just order pizza delivery for the guy next door and turn in for a nap when he stops mowing to gorge on pepperoni.”

“Now that’s a romance package. I don’t have rose petals, but the rosemary in the yard is going to seed.”

It goes to show. The weeds in your garden just might be the spice of life.

Thursday, August 25, 2022


Some people retire to write the great American novel.

Some people retire to beautify their home or garden.

Some people retire and start a second career, helping the homeless in Martha’s Vineyard.

I play fetch with the cat.

I was relatively easy to train. Sort of like teaching Koko the gorilla to ask for a banana. But Koko caught on faster. Probably because she already liked bananas.

Coco, no relation to Koko but just as devious regarding takeout food, brought me the mousey, all white fluff with pink felt eyes and a distinctive death rattle. I tossed it out of the way. She brought it back again and gazed at me with the air of excitement I usually exhibit while perusing the dessert cart at a place where somebody with a fancy hat does the cooking.

I was engrossed in an intellectual pursuit on my electronic writing tablet. By writing I mean gaming. By gaming I mean trying to find the scarf in a hidden picture scene. Also, I was engaged in begging Siri to solve the day’s Wordle in less tries than my husband used.

Retirement is a very busy time for those who have multiple interests. And I’m pretty sure my husband lies about Wordle.

I tried to ignore her, with her big green eyes, quivering whiskers, and six-inch claws plunged into my leg.

I don’t like to brag, but because I was the only one not afraid to risk a broken nose by looking up to catch a fly ball, I was the star right fielder the year my church had a girl’s softball team, and therefore qualified to toss a few practice rounds of fluffy toy mousey with the cat.

I forgot two things:

1. That softball season hidden in the clouds of time took place in 1974. That's almost half a century in mousey years.

2. Cats have more persistence than a car warranty salesman.

I threw the mouse enough that I was eligible for Tommy John surgery.

Now if I could just get her to bring me a banana.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022


"I do what?"

“A half step. Like a baby step. But with bigger feet.”

The Captain and I are standing face-to-face in the living room. We’ve decided, after a half century of ignoring choreographed moves, that we should learn the proper way to do the Carolina Shag, the official dance of the South Carolina coast. Around these parts children learn to Shag before they learn to blame broken dishes on their little brother.

Just now we’re stuck at the most difficult part. Getting started. The Captain can slow dance smoother than morning fog on a bass pond, but when it comes to following directions, it's like asking a cat to walk a straight line.

“Which direction do we step?”

“I guess toward the beach.”  We are presently five hours and six more weeks of winter away from the shore. We pause and gaze serenely eastward in honor of the ocean.

“What are you doing?” The Captain wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his Jimmy Buffett t-shirt and peers at me.

“I’m gazing eastward.”

 “You’re gazing toward the kitchen.  East is the other direction.”

 “It’s the thought that counts.”

 “You’re thinking of the cheesecake in the refrigerator.”

“It reminds me of the beach”

 “Because it’s round like the sun?”

“Because they both remind me my swimsuit doesn’t fit.”

We observe a moment of silence in honor of the good things in life and traitorous swimwear.

He takes my hand.  “So where were we? Half. . .”



We immediately step in opposite directions, then back, then smash each other’s toes into the biological equivalent of strawberry jam. Our arms are locked around each other and we’re stuck together like purse-bottom postage stamps. Every time he breathes, my glasses fog up in a half moon shape.

I glare at him through a sliver of light at the bottom of my right lens. “The men on the video were light on their feet.”

 He grimaced and limped to a chair.  “I wish you were light on my feet.”

 “You need to practice. You’re supposed to look like you’re hovering just above the ground.”

“The last thing I saw hovering was just above swamp level in a bad science fiction movie.”

 “What happened in the movie?”

“The hovering thing got beat up before I got the butter on my popcorn.”

“So you don’t want to learn the Shag?”

“I’d rather line the bed of my truck in taffeta and throw an afternoon tea for the Sugar Tit chapter of the Hell’s Angels.”

 “The only motorcycle in town belongs to Old Man Pirkle, the Volunteer Fireman and Assistant Mayor.”

 “We could just watch You Tube demos and eat cheesecake.”

 “Turn on the laptop. We have six more weeks to buy a swimsuit.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2022




I didn’t do it intentionally; I avoided it with tenacity for half a century, even when the neighbors added a creative touch. But somehow it happened without my consent, which is the sort of thing that will get your name in the news these days if you’re not careful.

I am one of those people.

Through no fault of my own and in a twisted turn of fate that makes me question my life choices, I’ve sprouted a toilet in my back yard. I've taken in many things over the years - cats, dogs, an escaped ferret, even a baby possum. But this is my first time to play host to a passing potty. The term Squatter's Rights takes on a whole new meaning.

A plain, white nonfunctional no-value-added porcelain pot is nesting by my back gate. It’s not situated in a cunning garden sunhouse that serves as the urban equivalent of a greenhouse/outhouse combination. This is a two-piece victim of a hasty removal job and a failed prayer, nestled in a bed of weeds and wild onions like an out-of-date Easter egg. A Peter Rabbit practical joke.

I can’t decide whether to plant geraniums in it or to top it with a beach-themed cushion for a jaunty seaside-inspired cabana spot. It’s sort of like a Kodak moment that you don’t want anybody to see.

I didn’t start out to be a plumbing failure. Life has a way of turning your best laid plans into sewage and before you know it – boom – you’re a casualty of a flush with death.

We are not Do-It-Yourself people. We’re lucky to open our own envelopes. My husband can build a supercomputer from the ground up with spare parts from a Waring blender, but faced with a simple flood of Biblical proportions in the bathroom, he acts like Noah had the right idea: hop a passing raft and row like crazy. This is not something you can turn off and on again to see if it rights itself.

So when the fixture in the bathroom put out enough whitewater rapids to start a rafting expedition, my team ripped the thing from its moorings and pitched it out the back door like a ninth inning fastball.

And time passed. And seasons changed.

Now it’s baseball season again. The tulips have bloomed, the dogwood has blossomed, and the crepe myrtle is fuzzy with new growth.

In the meantime, a leafy green vine awash in tiny white flowers has wound around my backyard porcelain, giving it an air of casual domestication, sort of like Mother Nature’s version of Shabby Chic.

I guess everybody celebrates Spring in their own fashion. In Augusta, the Masters has acres of azaleas, Washington is sprinkled with delicate cherry blossoms, and the Midwest is bathed in fields of sunflowers.

But in my little corner of the country--just below the Bible Belt and just above the Sweet Tea Bag--we have our pottied plants.