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.

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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022


Dear Wonder® Bread People,

First, let me acknowledge that I’m aware I eat wrong. You can generally view the day’s menu offerings cascading down the front of my shirt like Niagara Falls after the spring thaw. I consider gravy an accessory and ketchup splotches a classic look akin to Coco Chanel’s little black dress. So it could be my fault.

I checked the package. You said I could put all the toppings I want on your extra soft bun. You DID NOT say that mayonnaise would melt the fibers of the bread like hot butter on a brown biscuit. Imagine the difficulties involved in holding enough pieces of bread together to make a fair-sized quilt while keeping the meat from jettisoning out the back of the bun into the drooling mouth of the hippo-sized terrier waiting in hope beside my chair.

The onions, seasoned and grilled to glistening perfection moments before, oozed down my arms into my lap, and since onions are on the doggie no-fly list, I engaged in evasive maneuvers to prevent them from becoming dog chow. This action resulted in a perky elbow flap repetition reminiscent of the Chicken Dance that is so popular at parties.

As I was waving my elbows to prevent the onset of onion catastrophe and rearranging my fingers like I was playing a flute solo in order to keep my bun from launching into space, a potato chip dropped to the floor. Since it was covered in the sort of barbecue that elicits unspeakable lethal aromas from the dog in question, I shuffled my feet to keep dog and potato chip from joining forces. If I had those moves all the time, I would be champion of my Dance, Dance video.

Meanwhile, my son strolled into the kitchen just in time to catch my Bun Dance, and although your buns are enriched, mine are not, so I regret the video that is set to trend on all available social media.

Wonder People, let’s be friends. I’m not interested in achieving the status of Thanksgiving Queen Sharon, whose burnt Marie Callendar pumpkin pie set the Internet on fire along with her dinner. I just want to know the peace of launching into my lunch without having the bun split down the middle like the Earth in a dinosaur-era meteor strike.

Let's get together on this. All people could benefit from a warning label on your package right beside the picture-perfect hamburger overflowing with condiments.

“Caution: Cracked Buns May Go Viral!"

Thank You.



Monday, February 14, 2022




I was born in February and I’m a little concerned that the symbol for my birthday month is a fat, naked stalker baby with underdeveloped wings and a bow and arrow. I don’t know about you, but I go some places a baby should be afraid to follow, even one armed with projectiles. 

Somehow the thought of an undiapered toddler, especially one packing a weapon designed to shoot warm fuzzies, accompanying me to the mall clearance sales and auto-flushers seems horribly inappropriate.  I still bear a French manicure-shaped scar from reaching for a cunning pair of Capri pants on the red dot clearance rack.  If that naked baby grabs the last pair of Prada pumps on the sale table, he’s likely to lose something more important than a finger.

I can see why he’s armed. Anybody named Cupid who goes parading around in his birthday suit here in the red mud section of the South is likely to suffer grievous knuckle prints from guys named Pork Chop or Tiny. And if he ventures out to watch the Nascar drivers go fast and turn left, he just may get tire marks someplace where parking is prohibited.

So just to be sure we’re on the same track, I checked with Cupid to see how he felt about his job.

Me:  So, Cupid, how does it feel to go to work naked every day?

Cupid, the God of Love: Well, I save a lot on dry cleaning and there’s no dress code, so it’s kind of empowering. I use an awful lot of Chap-Stick, though. I’m trying for a corporate sponsorship.  My endorsement deals keep me living in the lifestyle of my dreams.

Me:  You dream of flying naked for the rest of eternity?

Cupid:  Don’t knock it. Even in the weather that frosts my feathers, it beats a business suit and 80-hour work weeks. And I don't have any place to carry a cell phone, so the boss can't ever call me on my lunch hour.

Me:  But do you think it’s safe for a baby to fly around by himself?

Cupid:  It’s not like I’m unarmed. (He tested the point on a heart-tipped arrow.) Hey, I’m the one that made Kanye apologize to Taylor Swift. I just grazed him enough to let all the hot air out.

Me:  If you’re such a sure shot, why are there so many divorces?  You know, I was married and divorced before I settled down with the Captain of my Love Boat and I’d rather have my legs done in the hot wax section of the car wash than go through that again.

Cupid:  Hey, everybody makes mistakes. Actually I was aiming for someone else, but, when you bent over it was like a heat seeking missile and a barn fire.

Me: So you’re saying the whole fiasco was my fault?

Cupid:  Well every action has an opposite and equal unexpected consequence. That’s math, you know. Or science.  Whatever. I was a Liberal Arts major.

Me:  I can identify with that. I graduated with honors, but they don’t take GPA in the Express Lane at the Piggly Wiggly.

Cupid:  Well, don’t be eyeing my job. I had to knock off a guy with winged feet to get this gig.

Me:  So now that Valentine’s Day is almost past, it’s the off season for you. What keeps you busy the rest of the year?

Cupid:  Oh, there’s lots to do.  I like to spend part of the summer posing as a sculpture in a wishing well fountain.  All that loose change comes in handy for the bathroom vending machines. 

Me:  Is that all you do? Make people think their wishes will come true, then steal their money?

Cupid:  Of course not.  Somebody’s got to keep up with the Kardashian sisters.  And Jennifer Lopez. I think I’m gonna need a bigger box of arrows.






Wednesday, February 2, 2022


Why is it that you will tell all your secrets to a total stranger, but won’t give your Facebook password to your firstborn child?

Strolling into Lowe’s because I can’t wait until that shadow-challenged groundhog gets the weather right so I can purchase my first victim, I mean ornamental flowering shrub, of the year, I came across a husband-and-wife pair trying out a fancy chair in the garden department. I’m sure Lowe’s has other departments because Bill is always announcing he’s going there to buy a part. I’m not sure what parts he buys or if he’s just going there to sniff the lumber, because I break more things than he ever fixes, but maybe I’m better at breaking than he is at fixing. We all excel at something.

This couple was about my age, which is the age of needing to sit down as soon as you walk from the parking lot to the front door of the store, and this chair was the first thing past the bugacide and the weed killer, so you can see that this store knows what goes on at my house.

This chair was big enough for two people or one person, a bag of Oreos and a Big Gulp. It was round like a globe and had cushions all around the inside. It was just the sort of chair you would snuggle in to read a book on a rainy day or hide from a solar panel salesman at the door any time.

This couple tumbled out of the chair with a flourish in just the same form I use to fall down the front steps when I’m taking the dog out to soil the lawn. The conversation led to a natural turn of events which, of course included the fact that I had a comfort height (think vertical stretch limo in porcelain form) toilet and that as far as I was concerned it might be comfort height for Shaquille O‘Neill, Big Foot, and the Jolly Green Giant, but for me was reachable only with an Olympic quality springboard and a trampoline.

We were chatting happily when my son texted me for my Facebook password. Since this particular defendant is still under investigation for unauthorized video footage of me napping instead of peeling potatoes for supper, his request was denied.

Besides, I was busy bidet shopping with my new best friends.

Thursday, January 20, 2022


I’m Not the Corn Rake Victim

You’ve said it. Probably after you’ve been quarantined with a child who whiled away the time pasting together the leg holes of all the underwear in the laundry basket with homemade silly putty.  “I’d write the story of my life, but no one would ever believe it.”

Sure, you’ve had some adventures. Like the one when you were stopped by the police one dark, foggy night while dressed as, well, a woman who wears too much makeup for a living. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But how did the world get to a point where I had to include the following paragraph when applying for an online job: 

It is important to note that I am not the woman in the Corn Rake Murder who allegedly suffered a gruesome death at the hands of her husband, an Iowa pig farmer. Even acquaintances who Google my name, Amy Mullis, are sometimes astonished that I am still alive, especially those who know me well. I am sorry for her fate, but also quite relieved that I am still around to annoy my own husband. But if you Google me, you are likely to find someone who was not so fortunate.

Granted, the Captain of my Love Boat has lived through moments when the thought of throwing me overboard was just the other side of tempting. And while it’s true that if everyone has a button that sends them over the edge and down the waterfall of madness, I tend to nest on his, he has always resisted the urge to aim a farm implement in my direction. Luckily, the closest we have to a farming tool is a pair of rusty hedge clippers that turned our dogwood tree into a weeping willow.

There was the time I crashed to the floor behind him while climbing on an antique—by antique I mean old, rickety, and unreliable—stool that he warned me not to use.

Or when I tried to round up wild dogs.

Or distributed the Easter ham to the neighborhood feral cat population.

Or when I moved all his clothes to the front door coat closet to make him feel at home when we got married.

Or when I hit the railroad tracks at high speed driving him to the hospital when his bladder was on the verge of exploding.

Maybe I’d better get rid of the clippers.


Thursday, January 6, 2022



Why do recipes with more than three ingredients exist? I’m not counting cheese that you sprinkle on top of things. That’s not an ingredient, that’s just a law of nature.

Invariably I’m trying out an attractive new meatball on the buffet table at the Office-Wide Potluck Holiday Food Festival and Grazing Day when someone says. “This is so easy. You take 16 pounds of free range, home grown 93% lean ground tofu. . .”

Or I’m flipping through last year’s Southern Living at the dentist’s office, and I find an enticing photograph of a plate of beguiling pasta dotted cunningly with out-of-season vegetables and Beluga caviar, only to turn to the part of the recipe that wasn’t stolen in July by a truck driver with an abscess and find a list of 43 ingredients including home-harvested greenhouse oregano that everyone keeps on their pantry shelves.

My pantry is a box I got from the scratch and dent section at Home Depot. It holds an out-of-date can of cream of celery soup, a jar of Tandoori Chicken sauce that I’m scared to try, and a pack of macaroni and cheese powder in case of an Apocalyptic Event. Looking there for help is like having the heroine in a horror movie look for a flashlight in the darkened cellar.

I have a friend who could make a delicious meal with a bag of frozen peas, a can of Spaghettios, and the creative use of fresh herbs.

The only fresh herb at my house is crabgrass. I don’t see that in Martha Stewart’s “must have” items.

But I still have a trick or two up my apron. I have frozen pizza. I have caramel popcorn.

 And I have Applebee’s on speed dial.