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Friday, December 24, 2021

This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post blog on December 7, 2015. Merry Christmas to the child in all of us.



Who knows how old I was?  It was the age of strings of lights with screw-in bulbs that squeaked with age and once-a-year use when you tightened the ones that worked themselves loose over the seasons. The one in my hand was a dull red, almost dusty rose with age. How could that be pretty on the tree? How could it shine with the light of Christmas on our wonderful tree? I wanted to throw it away.  But you didn’t waste, not even a single lackluster bulb that lived in the hidden cupboard under the stairs all the months of the year save one.

Bring that light, Amy. This one’s broken.

I held back, sure the cloudy bulb would ruin Christmas, would cast an ugly shadow on the beauty and take away the magic of the day. Mama held out her hand. I dropped the bulb in her open palm and thrust both hands behind my back. I wanted no part of this.

There. Let’s plug them in and see how it looks. Run turn off the lights.

Toe-lifted, I reached up and turned off the lights.  I stared at the wall, not wanting to turn around.

Ohhh! Look! Assorted sounds of admiration floated like fairies around the room.

I squeezed my eyes shut and turned around on a moment that hung in time, then chanced a peek through one eye.

It WAS beautiful. All of it was beautiful! And the loveliest light of all was the red one that shone with a deep, lustrous beam when lit from inside.

And so do we all.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 20, 2021


When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come starts spreading its merry magic around, anything can happen. One year, the spirit of Snap, Crackle, and Pop possessed me, and with a joyful heart I set about making Rice Krispie treats.

I might not bake like Betty Crocker, but I mix like a lidless blender.  Ingredients disappeared into the bowl like bathtub toys down the drain.  Seeing what I was up to, my husband volunteered to do a store run to buy emergency rations of vanilla extract.  I’m not normally a baker, but when the situation calls for it I can preheat like Paula Deen.  It was Christmas, and if the kids wanted Rice Krispie treats to take to school, why I was going to snap and crackle if it killed me.

I was elbow-deep in white fluff and crunchy bits when the phone rang. This was prehistoric times, before the days when a cell phone would make it easy to check a shiny screen for pertinent information.

I looked at the phone on the shelf.

I looked at the mass of seasonal sweetness glistening in the mixing bowl.

Ring Ring

Surely it was a late night salesman calling with an offer on reindeer rides or antler cleaners.

Ring Ring

Or it could be. . .

Ring Ring


I lunged for the phone.

Across the dog napping by my chair.  Across the table.  Across the mixing bowl full of sticky, marshmallow goodness.

Which immediately grabbed my sweater like a Hoover on a hairball.

I squealed and grabbed at the sticky mass stuck to my sweater. My hands stuck tight.

The phone rang forlornly. Would Santa wait?  I couldn’t take that chance.

I wedged a rubber spatula somewhere very inconvenient for a spatula to go and tried to pry myself loose from the goo.  No luck.  Finally, through the use of my gourmet kitchen superpowers, I pulled a hand free and grabbed the phone.  Crispy Christmas spirit clung to my clothes like a solidified lava flow.

 “Hello, Santa?!” 

Dial tone.

I sat back to ponder the situation, one hand stuck to my shirt in a modified Pledge of Allegiance salute, the other hand held fast to the telephone, wondering if there was a known antidote for marshmallow crème super glue.

About that time the man who promised to love, cherish, and pick up milk on the way home from work came in the back door.  “Why didn’t you answer the phone?  I wanted to ask you about the ingredients for the . . .” 

I looked up at him, festive clumps of cereal globs hanging from my sweater like Christmas tree ornaments and marshmallow crème tipping my eyelashes like disco balls. The black Labrador dozing at my feet dreaming of sugarplums looked like a Candyland Appaloosa.

That night I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, now I know that the combination of crispy rice cereal and marshmallow crème must have some sort of unstable effect on the individual ingredients, some sort of recipe for disaster than an entry-level biology student has memorized. Or maybe, as my kids suggest, the unstable effect dealt mainly with the cook. 

I’m not sure where I went wrong, but the next day my family strung electrified razor wire around the kitchen door.  Now I have to sign a consent form to check out a spatula and I only have access to marshmallow creme when accompanied by a guardian under the age of 12. 

But I learned a good lesson the hard way. When the chips are down and your snap and crackle have lost their pop, a man who will chisel petrified puffed rice off of your Partridge in a Pear tree sweater is worth more than a herd of flying reindeer. He headed right back to the store for a sleigh-load of store bought Rice Krispie treats.

And these days?  I eat oatmeal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021



For those of you who gaze wistfully in the distance when I mention being retired, please understand that this life is fraught with difficulty, but is waiting nonetheless for you, too, to arrive at the day you can take your morning shower at three in the afternoon if you so desire.

For instance, my action-packed schedule today left no time for reading my overdue library book or baking banana muffins.

Today I ate breakfast in bed. (Thanks #2 Son who is not afraid to employ technological advances, such as Door Dash, for our mutual benefit.)

I had a post-breakfast nap.

And I had a doctor visit.

 I did all this without venturing outside in the cold or taking off my bunny slippers. Well, I didn’t put my bunny slippers on until after the nap, so technically I just had them on for the doctor, who wasn’t aware of having a conversation with a woman wearing, among other things, pink Christmas tree earrings and biscuit crumbs.

Normally I’m not a big fan of the telephone, having answered it professionally (and in some instances very unprofessionally. I once slipped and called the doctor who employed me Hon) for forty years, but when the doctor’s office left me a lovely voicemail (see, no phone love here) suggesting I speak to the doctor by telephone instead of trooping down the stairs in the cold to the car and engaging in an updated version of Frogger on the highway to get there, I voted in favor of the phone.

Because I hate cold worse than telecommunication.

So instead of leafing through old magazines in a waiting room, I whiled away my time shopping online for a desk. Instead of complaining about the doctor running behind schedule, I played computer games. Instead of wearing my Leave the House outfit, I donned sweatpants and an old sweater.

And bunny slippers.

The doctor is in. And so am I.

Thursday, December 2, 2021


An Open Letter to the Man Chasing Chickens With a Leaf Blower

I worked in public service for many years, so it’s pretty tough to throw me a scenario that leaves me speechless.

I worked in a psychiatrist’s office when answering the phone was a lot like playing Hollywood squares. You never knew if the answer would have anything to do with the question. 

I worked in manufacturing where anything could happen when the machinery was having a bad hair day, and in a church where everybody on the outside thinks its peaceful on the inside.  

I have a lot of experience in dealing with the situations that pop up in everyday life.

But I never saw a man chase chickens with a leaf blower. 

Until today. 

The chickens were racing toward the road like your driveway was the final stretch at Churchill Downs. You had to think fast. You reacted with the speed of a mama who hears her toddler answer her phone.

There are well-paid individuals who make a hearty living teaching other people to think outside the box. They have seminars and interact in role playing exercises so that people will find new ways to solve problems.

I’ll bet those guys never thought of herding chickens with a leaf blower. I don’t really think they could handle the concept, because they would want to form a committee to find the best solution. They would create a Chicken Chasing Team.

They can think outside the box.

But YOU can think outside the coop.

Thursday, November 18, 2021


One benefit of retirement is that you have extra time for medical tests. You may believe that there will be extra time for sleeping longer in the mornings or lingering over cheesecake at lunchtime, but this is not true. You have to be up early to get to your medical tests before the doctor has time to fall two hours behind in his schedule, thereby throwing off your afternoon nap plans.

One thing doctors are concerned with is measuring things, such as your blood pressure, which goes up because you have to drive on the highway to get to the doctor’s office, and your weight, which goes up because you reward yourself with doughnuts for taking such good care of your health that you go to the doctor All. The. Time.

Before you retired you probably made many fun plans to travel and to have lunch with your friends. This will not happen because the warranty will expire on your body a week after retirement and you will spend all your time at the doctor learning about replacement parts as if you’re an old Chevy. Also, your friends are at work and get inexplicably cranky if you ask them to go to lunch at ten so you can get home for your nap.

Sleeping is important in retirement because you have to make up for 40 years of waking up at ten minutes until dawn and thinking, “Is it Friday yet?” and pining for retirement because you don’t know yet about the doctor visits and medical tests. The one time you can’t sleep in retirement is when the doctor sends you for a sleep test and your eyes stay wide open for eight hours because you’re in a strange bed, hooked up to 100,000 wires, and are busy wondering what sort of noises they’ll hear when you’re asleep.

Then they tell you to relax.

That’s a good time to take your blood pressure.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


(With many, many thanks to the people who excel at them.)

1.     Waitress (Server )  The first time someone threw a napkin on the floor, I would pop them with my tray and give them the “If we want to have a nice place to live, we clean up our messes“ speech. Then I would take away their phone and dessert privileges.

2.     Truck driver. I would stop at every rest station. It would take me a week to deliver a load to the next town. Also, I can’t reach the pedals.

3.     Bounty hunter for identity thieves and computer hackers. Unnecessary roughness. With a smile.

4.     House painter. Aversion to heights. Houses would have a band of paint that circled the house, reaching 5 feet, two inches above the ground. Also, I'm likely to paint ornamental shrubbery, potty-bound house pets, and random passersby.

5.     Caterer. Eating is my jam. I love jam. And all the stuffed mushrooms would disappear along with the icing from the birthday cupcakes.

6.     Welder. Fire. Seriously.

7.     Speech therapist. Not that I have a Southern accent, but can you imagine learning to pronounce words from someone who requires five syllables just to say yes? And six to say no.

8.    Fashion designer. My idea of haute couture is a shirt that will button across the chest and not ride up to show belly overlap. Also bunny slippers with ears that exceed two inches in height.

9.    Pet trainer. To me a 100 pound pit bull is a lap dog that just needs more leg room.

10. Teacher. See number 1. Also, I'm cranky if I skip naptime.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


Many thanks to The Writers College for showcasing my work. My Just Hit Send group helped me send stories and essays out into the world for many years. That group turned the Enter key from terrifying to terrific!

Monday, October 25, 2021


One of the activities I enjoy most about retirement is taking pills. I never had time to go to the doctor before, but now I see doctors for body parts I didn’t even know I had. They gave me pills and then gave me more pills to cure the ailments caused by the first pills. I saw a commercial for one of my prescriptions on TV. They said it could cause certain side effects such as death, but not to stop taking it without my doctor’s permission. I have a feeling my doctor’s brother-in-law is an undertaker.

Also, I graduated from Physical Therapy this week. When it first started, I didn’t want to go, but then I found out it was really gym class where you don’t have to wear an unflattering outfit or run laps, and your insurance pays for it. If high school had been like this, I would have lettered in track.

My PT instructor gave me a yellow elastic band for resistance training. I wrote “Police Lines Do Not Cross” on it and hung it on the vacuum cleaner.

At Physical Therapy I got to play tennis inside in the air conditioning while standing in front of a chair in case I wanted to sit down. My therapist brought me ice water and chased the ball whenever I missed it.

I’m ready for Wimbledon and she lost twenty-five pounds.

Monday, October 18, 2021




In the Spring and Fall, seasons in the South change not only day to day, but sometimes hour to hour. It’s not unusual to find someone sporting a sweat-wicking tank top under their Let It Snow Christmas sweater.

Wondering if I should grab my jacket when I went outside, I asked my living room meteorologist, Bill, if it was raining. He whipped out his cell phone and in seconds I knew the temperature and average rainfall in London, Alberta, and Sydney. He threw in the humidity and air quality for free, but noted that I need to sign up for updates concerning UV index and wind direction.

He was sitting beside the front door.

“Just open the door and peek outside.”

He looked at me like a newborn robin looks at mama just before she coughs up the worm.

“I’m not going to build an ark. I just want to snip some rosemary for my sauce.”

He consulted his phone.

I slipped on my jacket and strolled outside. It’s not that it was hot and dry, but the moisture in my skin evaporated immediately, giving me the jaunty air of a body with a shrunken head and dusty dirt clods  for eyes. It must have been a fetching site, because the neighbor called Emergency Services for the Kool-Aid Man.

I snipped several sprigs of rosemary and felt my way back into the house, making a mental note to add my house number to the door in Braille.

“Don’t forget to work on the gutters this week,” I quipped as I staggered past Bill’s chair.

He clicked out of his weather app and headed toward the door.

“And don’t forget your coat.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


The Twelve Steps (Give or Take a Few) of Retirement

1.     Everyone will perish without you

2.     Everyone won’t.

3.     You’ll die, simply die because they won’t.

4.     It will be okay.

5.     You sit on the porch to watch other people go to work.

6.     You sit on the porch because you’re not going to work.

7.     You decide to cook homemade meals from scratch every day.

8.     You rediscover the Crock Pot so you can go back to bed every day.

9.     You order Chinese takeout and wear something without stains to pick it up.

10.You order pizza delivery wearing your bathrobe.

11.You find yourself wearing work clothes as play clothes.

12.You order play clothes off the Internet.

13.You discover that takeout food has made the new clothes shrink.

14.You do a sit up.

15.You discover the danger in doing floor exercises and pull yourself up using a chair.

16.You decide that exercise is dangerous and could involve your health insurance.

17.You shouldn’t put yourself in danger because everyone will perish without you.