Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How The Chopper Has Ruined My Life


It looked like an ordinary package when it arrived in the mail. Never would I have guessed how a device that was designed for convenience would completely take over my kitchen. The chopper had become an all-consuming event for my husband and younger son. They would constantly discuss what vegetables my husband should pick up from the store, so they could work feverishly slicing and dicing to create gourmet dinner salads for two. 

At first I was thrilled to give up my position as head of the kitchen, until I realized I was demoted to chief bottle washer. They had all the glory, while I was still stuck cleaning up their messes. Slowly my kitchen was turning into a battlefield, and I was the enemy. I never knew what I would step in, or what might come crashing down on me from the ceiling. I was forced to walk around my own kitchen wearing goggles, and combat boots with a fully loaded Swiffer.

Then the cravings began. I started gaining weight from watching their healthy eating. I couldn't exist on salad, so I would make myself a grilled cheese sandwich on bread that actually tasted like bread. Of course I had to have some chips with it, and things continued to get uglier, and uglier. When they looked up at me in disgust I cried out, "I can't live on horse food."

The other night when my husband was calmly chopping away, he noticed an important ingredient was missing from his salad. As his left nostril began to flare, I decided to text our son at work, "Did you kidnap Dad's avocado?"

I can't tell you how many times I've texted him without receiving any response. In this case, he knew it was an emergency, and instantly got back to me. Our son explained that he took the rest of the avocado with him to work, and half of it had gone bad already. He also mentioned that he told his dad to pick up another one at his favorite store on his way home from the office. Then I responded, "Dad did get another one, but it isn't ripe yet. I hope someday he'll forgive you."

At first he didn't realize I was kidding, and couldn't stop apologizing. When I think about all of the clothes, cell phones, and electronic devices that never made it home from college without a second thought, and how he was guilt-ridden about a single avocado, it proves my theory that there really is such a thing as eating too many fruits and vegetables. 

Sorry to cut this short, but it's three o'clock, and I must start cooking dinner before my kitchen is taken over by the mad choppers. Fortunately, I only had to make the reservation in my own kitchen a month in advance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Phishing For The Meaning Behind Calls From My Own Caller ID


Early this morning I awoke with a start. When our house phone rang, the caller ID listed our home number. How is that possible?  Suddenly, I felt like Drew Barrymore (above) in the movie Scream. I nervously picked up the phone expecting the person on the other end to say, "Are you alone in the house?"  Instead I got a recorded message urging me to find out more about lowering my credit card rates. I'm not sure if I was imagining the heavy breathing or not, but I showed them, by quickly hanging up.

Later, I went to CNBC contributor, Herb Weisbaum for answers. He spoke to Bikram Bandy, head of the Do Not Call program at the FTC, "A person's own phone number is not likely to be on the blacklist, so these telemarketers hope to beat the filtering software by spoofing that number."

According to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, I could have been the victim of one of several different "phishing scams." If I had stayed on the line longer, the "robo call" might have asked me  to "verify my credit card number under the guise of lowering (my) interest rates."  

The BBB offered these common sense tips on What to do if a scammer calls:
  • Hang up. Don't press any buttons and, if you received a message, don't call the scammer back. It may give the con artist information he/she can use.
  • Don't trust Caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.
  • Never give out any financial information. If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card, or Social Security numbers over the phone unless you have thoroughly done your research and verified the caller.

Just when I was starting to feel better about learning how to protect myself from scammers, I heard how showering can be a dangerous experience.


In a recent study conducted by two dermatologists, daily showers were shown to put your body at risk. As mentioned on the Today Show, "Showering too often: dehydrates skin, irritates skin, washes away good bacteria, and increases risk of infection." The dermatologists recommend showering every two to three days in frigid weather depending on "how active you are."

Now I look forward to ignoring both familiar and unfamiliar phone calls, while lying around in my own filth. Why do I suddenly feel like I'm living a college boy's dream?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IWSG: Awkward Introductions

Welcome to the first installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group of 2015.  As a fresh start to the new year, Alex J. Cavanaugh asked us to open with an introduction about ourselves. I began blogging almost four years ago when we became empty nesters after our younger son went away to college. Because I knew my kids would never speak to me again if I picked on them too much in public, I started writing about my mom who in her own words, "Never has, and never will be a burden."

Through Facebook, I reconnected with high school friend Rhonda Albom, who told me about the A to Z April Challenge, and from there I met Arlee Bird, and  Alex J. Cavanaugh, founder of the IWSG. Through the support of the IWSG, and the friendships I've formed in blogland, I was proud to publish a poetry anthology with seven very talented women last September. My partner in rhyme for Old Broads Waxing Poetic,  Susan Flett Swiderski, and I met during  A to Z, as well as Delores. Though we didn't meet until later, Joanne, also participated in the challenge. In addition,  Robyn  and  Liza, along with our cover designer Michael, are all part of the IWSG. Thanks also to Daisy and  Fishducky. All of you have proven that it truly does take a village.

After I graduated from college, my brother introduced me to another person I will always be grateful to. It turns out that she belonged to the same organization that I was a member of in college. Women In Communication Inc. or WICI. This led to an interview at a financial magazine that I didn't even know was hiring. It's amazing how being involved in one group (WICI) led to my first job, and how the Insecure Writer's Support Group  led to my first book about thirty years later.

Back then introductions were a lot easier than they are now. An eager college graduate, is often perceived quite differently than an eager middle-aged person. In some situations an older person's enthusiasm can come off as being anxious, desperate, or even downright creepy. While a young person is respected for being ambitious, a middle-aged person may be frowned upon for trying too hard.

That's what makes the IWSG so special. It's a rare place where the jocks, techies, cheerleaders, mathletes, theater geeks, and class clowns all sit at the cool table in the cafeteria. A place where you're always welcome with open arms no matter where you are on your writing journey. Although Alex does draw the line at people who still wear white after Labor Day.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Nightmares


As 2015 approaches, I can't help but reflect on some of my worst New Year's Eve moments. One year during winter break from college, I went to a New Year's Eve party on a first date. The party was at my friend's house, so I spent most of the night introducing him to everyone. All of this talking made me quite thirsty, so he generously offered to refill my punch glass.

At the end of the evening, he kissed me goodnight at the door, and I raced to the bathroom. To this day, I don't know if it was because he was a terrible kisser, I drank too much, or if it was a combination of the two. I was just happy I made it to the bathroom in time, and didn't wreak havoc on my mom's rust shag carpeting.

I didn't have to worry about letting him down gently, as his family packed up and left shortly afterward. My mom met his parents through a mutual friend who bought insurance from them. They gave them such a good deal that my mom also became a client. They left my mom and her friends with no insurance, and me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

Years later we went on a ski trip with our boys to Snowbird, Utah during winter break. On the cab ride to the airport, I sat in the backseat with the kids, while my husband sat up front. The Russian cab driver was such an animated conversationalist, that he gestured with both hands while he was driving. He also didn't want to be impolite, so he engaged in frequent eye contact with my husband. Somehow he got us to the airport in one piece without keeping his hands on the wheel or his eyes on the road. My husband was so impressed that he asked him to pick us up from our return flight on December 31. Before I could strangle him with his seat belt, he politely declined. He said New Year's Eve was his busiest night, and he wouldn't have time. He gave us his friend's number to call instead.

After risking my life in freezing temperatures without a bunny hill in sight, I couldn't wait to go home to sub zero temperatures where I wasn't rolling down Death Mountain on my raw flesh sled. Fortunately, my boys were much better sports and skiers than I was.

I didn't want to spend New Year's Eve flying home, but our flight was early enough that we weren't worried about being caught in all the chaos. As fate would have it, our flight was delayed a few hours. When we finally arrived in Chicago, our cab driver's friend was nowhere to be found. We tried calling other cab companies, and had to wait almost two hours for a ride.

When we finally made it home, all of the nearby restaurants had closed early for the holiday, so I quickly threw some eggs or pasta together for my starving children. We were too exhausted to take out our party hats, and noise makers. It was hard ringing in the New Year, when I just wanted to wring my husband's neck. He promised that this wouldn't happen again, and agreed to plan a warmer winter destination. It only took him about twelve years to make good on his promise, but at least he didn't kiss our insurance goodbye.

Wishing everyone a very happy, and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Deja Vu Blogfest: Meddling Mothers & Disappointing Daughters


 DL Hammons, and   Nicole Zoltack are hosting the  Deja Vu Blogfest, where writers are asked to "re- post their favorite blog from this year, or one that never received the exposure it should have."  Be sure to check out the list of entertaining entries who are getting into the holiday spirit by highlighting their favorite repeats.

My story was written in February 2013. Thanks to DL and Nicole for inspiring me to dust if off. Happy Holidays, and remember it could always be worse!

 Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters

Host: It's time to play Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters, the only game show where mothers and daughters try to get along to win prizes that the mothers will never be able to operate in the first place. Let's meet the contestants...(He notices that one mother is still trying to climb up into her chair)  Do you need some help Dorothy?

Dorothy: No, I'm fine thank you.

Dorothy's daughter: Just grab my hand, and let me give you a boost.

Dorothy: I said I don't need any help. STOP RUSHING ME!

Host: Okay, let's move on to Gladys and her daughter Gretchen. How many times do you call your mother a day?

Gretchen: Once. 

Host: And you Felicia?

Felicia: I call my mother once a week.

(A loud siren sounds)

Host: Where's Dorothy?

Dorothy's daughter:  She fell down and her Life Alert alarm went off.  

 (The paramedics lift Dorothy into her seat)

Dorothy's daughter: I call my mother six times a day. She hangs up on me, and says, "It's never enough."

(The bell sounds ding ding ding)

Host: You are correct. The answer is, "Never enough." You just won a case of prune juice. You must be very proud of your daughter Dorothy!

Dorothy: Did you see how nice those paramedics were? Why couldn't you have married someone like that? 

Host: All right then. Now we'll ask the mothers a question. Gladys when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Gladys: Don't we get a lunch break?

Host: It's only been ten minutes. We'll have snacks after the show.

Gladys: But this is when I eat lunch.

Gretchen: Here Mom, I brought you a sandwich. (takes one out of her purse)

Gladys: It's on rye bread. I like a nice roll. I can't eat this. What's wrong with you?

Fanny: I'll take it. I'm starving. (Looks at her own daughter Felicia) Why don't you ever make me lunch?

Host: Fanny, when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Fanny: That's easy. As we were driving over, I told my daughter that her dress was very pretty...

Host: Well, that is nice.

Fanny: And I'm sure that if she lost ten pounds it would actually fit her.

Host: Maybe we should just throw out that question. Dorothy, when was the last time your daughter took you to the doctor?

Dorothy: You know falling down really makes a person thirsty. How come no one offered me a drink or a sandwich?

Host: If you answer the question, I'll get you both.

Dorothy: Okay, yes please.

Host: Yes please what?

Dorothy: I would like both a drink and a sandwich. Soup would be nice too, but I don't want to be a bother.

(Gladys is dashing across the stage with her walker. Her daughter is jogging behind her)

Host: Where are you going?

Gladys: I just remembered I think I forgot to turn off the stove.

Host: Can you have someone else check on it?

Gretchen: It's my stove, and I just got a text that the fire department is heading over to my house.

Gladys: Are we stopping for lunch first, 'cause I still haven't eaten?

Host: Good luck ladies. Be sure to tell us your new address, so we can send you a lifetime supply of incontinence products.

Dorothy: Continents? I can name the continents! There's Asia, Africa.....

Host: Well, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for playing Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters. (The daughters storm off stage) Aren't you forgetting something? Don't leave me alone with your mothers. Come back!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shaping Up For Mom's Big Birthday

(Mom with her favorite child)
During one of my brother's weekly visits, he asked our mom what she would like for her upcoming birthday. He was astounded when she replied, "Some small weights for working out." My brother reminded her they had a few sets in the exercise room of her building that she could use on her way to dinner. Mom said she didn't want to workout at that time, and would rather have her own weights to use at her convenience.

My brother knew the weights would end up collecting dust in the corner of her apartment, as her major form of exercise consisted of lifting her comb to her hair. His patience was wearing thin, "What difference does it make if you workout on your way to dinner, or any other time of day? You never perspire, and your breathing is exactly the same whether you're exercising or sleeping."

Needless to say, our mom accomplished the same task with twin soup cans. Seeing her now, it's hard to imagine she was once the reigning arm wrestling champion in our family. She managed to hold onto her title until her grandsons were in their teens.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we celebrated our mom's birthday with a few close friends, and family. At the restaurant, I used a make-shift geriatric booster seat which consisted of one hundred table linens wrapped in sturdy plastic. This helped her maintain over-the-table eye contact at all times. Though the restaurant was louder than we expected, it was nice seeing everyone, especially our dear family friends that we don't see often enough. My brother even made a thoughtful toast, instead of his usual special occasion "roast."  

Afterward, my mom was very appreciative, and had no complaints. This made me a little concerned. Fortunately, it only took a few days until Mom was back to herself. I noticed it when she was unhappy about her temporary new caregiver. Since she was always within earshot, Mom couldn't say what was bothering her, so I asked her a series of "yes" or "no" questions. She replied "no" to everything. Then as soon as she stepped out she whispered, "She can't tell the difference between a pill and a pillow." How dare my mom's temporary caregiver have a hearing problem when my mom's hearing was perfectly fine. Suddenly, I knew she was going to be all right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

IWSG: More Than Just A Guide


Thanks to  Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his round-the-clock team of administrators, The IWSG Guide To Publishing And Beyond is here! I'm honored to be a part of this group that has been growing for three years strong, as well as a contributor to this helpful guide. You can download it at:  AmazonBarnes and Noble,  KoboSmashwords, and  Goodreads.

 Alex decided to take the IWSG to the next level with this wonderful guide to help writers attain their goals whether they're just starting out, or want to strengthen their marketing skills for their next book. Since this will be the last IWSG post for 2014, it's made me reflect on how I've gone from an insecure blogger to an insecure writer, and how this group helped me along the way.

According to Mari Kane from Blogsite Studio, there are "Five Big Differences Between Writing and Blogging." The observation that most struck a chord was how, "Blog readers like to skim, not chew."

The same could be said about many professions in our fast-paced society. Many people spend the day rushing from one meeting to another, barely making time to sit down for a meal. It's not unusual for parents to train their children at an early age to have every hour scheduled throughout the day. I knew one mother of three who kept a port-a-potty in her mini-van, so she wouldn't have to pull over when she was transporting her children from one activity to another.

Our attention spans are getting shorter, and action movies are more popular than ever. Even PBS classics like Downton Abbey have been known to cut quickly from one scene to another. Though you may find a lengthy soliloquy in a stage performance, Maggie Smith's elderly character The Dowager, is more likely to engage in a pithy punchline like, "What is a weekend?"

Some blogs are informative, while others are entertaining. Like the most successful writers, the best bloggers have the ability to do both, but it doesn't end there. Mix in loyalty, compassion, and a healthy dose of encouragement, and you have the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We may still be insecure next year, but thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, insecurity is the new black.