That’s a negative on the home repairs

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The dryer malfunctioned this week. The repair needed was minor, but we lacked the expertise, proper tools and body flexibility (to get behind the dryer) needed to fix it. We contemplated calling a repair person, but the last time we did that, they laughed a little and told us it might be easier to just buy a new dryer!

As Roy sweated in the tiny space behind the dryer, attempting to affix a hose to the vent that was not agreeing to the attachment, and I stood above, trying to keep him from bumping his head, back, etc. on the shelf above him when he stood up, I suddenly began thinking about “The Long Winter,” a book I am reading with my grandsons.

I know, this seems like a non sequitur from the topic of dryer repairs, but it really does connect. In the book, the Ingalls are struggling without coal, kerosene and flour. Of course, they find that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” for each of those problems and Pa remarks, “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. (Modern conveniences) are good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.” (The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Chapter 19)

Now he was talking about railroads, kerosene and coal, but the truth of his statement is still there. My dryer, which is a wonderful thing when I have it, makes me almost helpless when it isn’t functioning correctly. And while the trains are still running around here, they aren’t bringing in any repairmen to fix the problem.

“How is it looking,” I asked, hanging hopefully over the back of the dryer as my husband attempts with only two hands and a lot of cursing, to get things back together.

“I can’t make the thingy fit over the doohickey,” he mutters, his head covered in leaking lint, “and the clamps they use must have been developed on the moon. I’m afraid you may have to do without the dryer.”

“Do without the dryer!” I exclaim in horror. “I’ve got a pile of wet clothes here!”

“Well, take them to the laundromat,” he grumbled, straining to try and force the things to fit together.

“I tried them, they are closed. I can’t just leave these clothes wet!”

In exasperation, he looked up from his work and said the words that could very well end our marriage, “You may have to hang them outside.”

I was speechless. Hang the towels outside???? I have never heard of anything so outrageous. It has been so long since I pulled out the collapsible clothesline, that I’m pretty sure it’s rusted and as for clothespins? I only use those to keep opened bags of chips sealed. I don’t hang clothes out with them!

It’s true, trying to repair household items could lead to the breakdown of our society and everything we hold dear. When the refrigerator broke down a couple of years ago, we were forced to store our cold food in a cooler with ice for over half a day, before we could find a repairman. The worse argument we had in years was over who was going to be brave enough to test the milk to see if it had spoiled!

My automatic floor sweeper gave up the ghost a few months ago, but I kept it plugged into the wall so I wouldn’t have to face the awful truth that it had died and there was no miracle resuscitation that could help it. I didn’t realize how this had affected me until the neighbor child said, “You should really run that vacuum thing, because there is dog hair all over this rug!”

“Don’t you think I know that?” I sobbed into my hankie. “But I just keep hoping that maybe the battery will suddenly charge and my floor sweeper will come back to life and clean the rugs!” That child has not been back to visit since.

Okay, so I’m not particularly resourceful like the Ingalls in compensating for the things that are not working. Modern society has made me helpless in the face of a phone that doesn’t function, or a printer that’s out of ink. I know I need to learn that “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” or else, move to someplace where there are more repairman–is there such a place?

I was thinking about that again this morning when Roy trudged up from the basement with a grim look on his face. “The furnace isn’t working,” he announced. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”

But no! Winter’s coming, and I don’t have Pa Ingalls here to show me how to twist those hay sticks to burn!

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Medical Mysteries

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All right, it’s true. I pick on the medical profession a lot. But I think it’s a fair trade: I pick on them in my realm of writing and they scare the life expectancy out of me in their realm of medical mystery!

Since it is nearly the time of year when I must pick up the phone and voluntarily give myself into their hands for my yearly physical, I think it is a good time for me to list some of the reasons why I don’t like doing this.

The first reason is the time they set up. I call the office and say, “Yes, I would like to schedule my annual checkup with the doctor. Could we possibly set it for sometime in the early morning in a week or two…”

I am cut off at this point by the medical receptionist who begins to fire questions at me like a drill sergeant with a new recruit, “What is your birthdate? Any changes in insurance? Any trips to areas having outbreaks of disease? Are you experiencing new symptoms?” I swear to you, if I told them I needed to see the doctor because I have a spear sticking out of my throat, they would schedule me for 4:30 in the afternoon, three months from that date (minimum) and I should bring a copy of my living will!

The worst part of the visit is, of course, the orders not to drink or eat anything for the 12 hours prior to the appointment. I get why they do this, all right? But jeez, no food or drink AND I have to see the doctor? That is just too much. But, every year, I drag myself in there, feeling like I’m in the desert as I pass water fountains and with my stomach rumbling as I watch the small child next to me eating Cheerios out of a baggie, which look absolutely delicious, especially the ones stuck to his wet and sticky fingers! By the time I actually see the doctor, I’ve got a case of the “hangries” that just won’t quit!

Blood draw is no fun and it’s the first thing they do. The vampire in the lab is waiting with a large needle, ready to do their part and making clever little comments like, “It’s okay, you don’t have to look and I won’t either.” In my fantasies, I grab them by their white coat lapels and snarl, “Don’t mess with me. I almost punched out a three-year-old for a baggie full of week-old Cheerios. One more word from you and I’m going to slap you around this lab and steal the candy bar sticking out of your pocket!”

Finally, finally, FINALLY, they take you into that little cubicle where the doctor will eventually get around to seeing you. They make you step on the scale and then they ask the terrible question, “Do you want to know what you weigh?” If I wanted to know that, I’d join a gym and work out. As it is, I’m operating on the ignorance is bliss theory, so no-I don’t want to know what I weigh. After that, they bombard you with even more questions, “Are you pregnant? (Seriously?) Are you safe at home? (I stepped on a plastic fork and nearly wiped out, does that count?) or, Do you feel like you want to harm yourself? (A little hint, here, if you answer, “Only when I have to answer these questions” they will make you answer a whole new set of questions. Trust me on this one.)

And of course, they take your blood pressure. Here again, I refer to the spear in the neck example. If I came in with that, they would ignore it to begin with and take my blood pressure. And they would say, “Wow, that blood pressure’s a little high.” I have gone into the doctor’s office after a night of pain in my side and throwing up, having pain washing up and down my spine when I moved, a toothpick shoved completely under my toenail…don’t ask, and so dizzy, I was seeing two of the doctor. In each case, they took my blood pressure first and said, “Wow, that blood pressure’s a little high.” As a result, anytime I see a lab coat, my blood pressure shoots straight up!

Of course, any kind of test is fun; the pap smear (women’s answer to the prostate exam), the mammogram and a fun new one I’ve been having called a thyroid check. That’s where they lay you back in a semi-dark room and shove needles in your throat. The tests themselves are bad enough, but that week wait to hear whether you get a passing grade or not is even worse. “Yes, this is the doctor’s office. We are calling to let you know about the results of you recent test. The test was administered on Friday. Please verify your birthdate…” With a woman of my anxiety levels, I want to scream into the phone, “Get to it! Am I going to live or die????” My ideal report would be no more than the day after the test and they would begin the conversation with, “All good, here.” We can straighten anything else out after that. Is this too much to ask?

Now, before everyone thinks I don’t understand the hazards of the medical profession, I will be the first to say that I don’t. And for the record, I appreciate what the medical community does for me. Now that I’ve done my worst for them in my writing, it’s time for them to get me in their little cubicle and do their worst on me!

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Nothing like a brisk shower

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Jackie Wells-Fauth

I have always been behind the times when it came to taking care of myself physically. I ate poorly (and still do from time to time) for many years–red meats every night, sugar on top of sugar, and processed foods by the fishstick! My favorite pizza in the world is one of those little frozen square ones that cook up to the consistency of a cardboard carton–nothing could be better!

In addition, I did most of that junk-food eating sitting in a chair watching television and stirring myself to nothing more strenuous than changing the channel on the remote. Finally, my doctor gave me the sad eye and informed me that my blood numbers were not good and if I wanted to kill myself early, it was quicker to run my car into a tree. Okay, he didn’t say it like that, but that is darn sure what he meant!

Okay, so I’ve had to bake the potato instead of fry it and enjoy it with less butter and sour cream. I have had to peel my lips off the constant soda pop bottle and teach them to welcome a little tea or water instead. I have had to break off my long-standing relationship with chips and rolls every morning and try a few bananas or melon or apples in place of it. I have worked hard to do this, but I have to admit that a nutritious, crispy apple is a sad replacement for a succulent roll full of cream and chocolate.

I’ve had to revise my physical life as well. I do stretches and yoga…okay it doesn’t look like yoga when I do it, but it seems to serve the purpose. During the last year, I have adopted a lot of back exercises as well in order to avoid another round of spinal shots, which make having to eat cauliflower instead of steak look easy by comparison.

I took up walking a few years ago (I know, I know, I’ve always been able to walk) operating on the premise that I either use it or lose it. I have done well with walking, even walked mornings in the dead of winter until that particular practice began to bother my husband. He felt getting my overbundled butt hit by a car that can’t see me in the early morning fog might do the body more harm than good, so he bought me a treadmill. I don’t mind the treadmill, but the view is seriously less interesting from there!

My latest undertaking, however, has to have most of my former actions beaten. Over the radio one day, I heard that if a person turns the shower on cold for 30 seconds to two minutes or so of their overall time, it will be very beneficial to one’s health. Now this was upsetting! One of my chief joys in life has always been a nice, hot shower. I dismissed this report, until I began to hear others say that yes, their doctors were recommending it.

Oh dear, I knew that I was going to have to try it, but I was of two minds about the result: If I had no benefit from it, I could say I tried and go back to my warm showers. BUT what if it helped? What would I do them? I’d be doomed to a chilly blast every day!

I got in the shower, took my usual ablution routine and then stood there, letting the warm water cascade across me, building up my nerve. I turned down the temperature a little. It began to run rather tepid. The next inch down brought medium cold. All I could think was, “30 seconds, surely I can take 30 seconds.” But that was before I turned it all the way down. What I discovered is that when I am taking a cold shower, everyone will know it, because I bellow like a banshee in a cold spray!

Out I got, put on my flannel pajamas and shivered in a chair for an hour. Well! That was one sacrifice for my health that I was not going to make! Except the longer I sat there, the more I became aware that my chronic neck pain and my chronic knee complaint were absent. Now, they came back, but they disappeared every time I took a cold shower and stayed away longer each time. Darn!

So, I have made one more sacrifice to try and keep myself alive and kicking longer. And just the other day, I read in some Internet post (your red flag here) that you have a better chance of a complete bowel movement if you balance yourself above the stool, and sit backwards. No, No, NO! I refuse to even think about it…unless I start having bowel problems…..

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A list of facts…from the Internet!

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I was reading an interesting article on the Internet the other day…this should be your first red flag! The article gave a series of “facts” that it labeled as “things you didn’t know.” I am pretty sure, after reading some of them, that they don’t know either. I want to share some of these facts with you, only for the purpose of making fun of them. Not one of them has been “fact-checked,” and pretty much all of them are ridiculous in one way or another. Having issued that caveat, here we go:

Fact #1: 85% of statistics are wrong. I felt it was important to lead with this one, because so many of these statistics are questionable at best!

Fact #2: 30% of all traffic in cities is people circling around trying to find a parking spot! If you have ever circled the block ten times, praying a parking space magically appears so you can run in and pick up your cleaning or your prescriptions, you know that this one feels real, even if it isn’t. I’d rather hear some statistics on how many hours of my life I waste, looking for that space.

Fact #3: You can fit about $3 billion worth of plutonium into a shoebox. Now, as the article pointed out, plutonium is apparently radio-active (I’m not up on plutonium properties). That being the case, if you found a need to store something like this in your closet, it’s likely that one of two things will happen: you will be arrested for having it or you will die from the green cloud in your closet!

Fact #4: In feudal Japan, lords purposely built squeaky floors as a defense against ninjas. This one made me a little emotional, because if it were true, I have a home ready-made to sell to some feudal Japanese lord…and in the meantime, ninjas will not get me!

Fact #5: The human eye blinks about 4.2 million times a year. When the job comes up that calls for someone to sit and count the blinks of their eye for a year, I’m applying!

Fact #6: It would take 1.2 million mosquitos, each sucking just once, to drain an average human of blood. The nightmares this particular statement is going to give me have no end! Who is the unlucky fellow that this was tested on?????

Fact #7: Canada eats more mac n’ cheese than the US by volume. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I feel bad, because I didn’t know we had a competition going. I’ll step up my pasta game!

Fact #8: There is a state in the union where there are more tigers living with people than there are tigers in the wild anywhere. In that same state, it is illegal to own six or more sex toys (imagine being the cop on that case). I’m just going leave this one to your imagination.

Fact #9: Sperm count in men have gone down 50% since 1970. This has so many possibilities, I don’t even know where to begin, but if it were true (and imagine the testing), maybe it’s God unique way of “culling the herd?”

Fact #10: A wild boar can ejaculate up to a quarter of a gallon of semen in one go. Who is testing this, how are they testing it and most important WHY are they testing it?

Fact #11: If you are over 7 feet tall, there is a 17% chance that you will play in the NBA. But, there is a 100% chance that you will hit your head on the underside of my deck, because I do it all the time and I’m nowhere near that tall!

Fact #12: 6% of Americans think they could beat a grizzly bear in unarmed combat. I can feel the new reality show coming already: So You Think You Can Beat a Grizzly Bear: the show where everyone had better had their wills up to date!

I saved my favorite fact for the end, and it is this: Female fish (I believe it was goldfish) fake “sexual completion” to trick males into thinking they have been successful, so the female can move on to another mate. On top of the fact that I have no idea exactly how fish reproduce, who is the serious scientist out there with a clipboard asking some promiscuous female fish, about her sex life?

I know what you’re all thinking now and I do definitely agree with you: I’m going to stop reading fact articles on the Internet!

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Paintbrush Peccadillos

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Every eight years or so, my husband makes a decision that imperils his marriage: he says, “I think we should paint the house!” I’m not sure if he is unaware that this decision imperils his marriage or if this is just his clever ploy to wrangle a divorce! If the later is the case, he hasn’t succeeded yet–I wouldn’t divorce him for this, I’d just feed him a paintbrush!

This week, he came in on a fateful Monday, looked at me profoundly for a moment and declared, “It’s time to paint the house.”

I was unimpressed, “So? Who are you, Caesar Augustus announcing an edict throughout the land? Call a painting service,” and I went back to my book.

“Oh no! That would be a lot of money. We can do it ourselves!” and he smiled as though he had just conceived of a brilliant idea for slicing bread or something.

“What’s this ‘we’ stuff?” I squealed, my romance novel hitting the floor, “By ‘we’ you had better mean you and your mistress, cause I’m not doing it! Besides, you said after the last time that we would be hiring it done from now on!”

“Yeah, but I was tired when I said that. I think I can handle one more house-painting job,” he flexed his muscles–I think that’s what he was doing.

“The last one was eight years ago and we have barely recovered from it physically yet, let alone mentally,” I protested further, but by this time, I could see it was a futile discussion and that, indeed, ‘we’ were going to be painting the house.

Now, when Roy paints a house, there are certain rules we abide by. One, we will both be on ladders of some type or another and we must not whine, whimper, or wrap ourselves around the ladder, using all four limbs. Why no wrap-around, you ask? Because then you have no limbs left to paint with, of course. As for the no whine and whimper rule, that’s because it annoys the head painter. Yes, that’s the second rule: Roy is always the head painter.

Rule number three: you may not throw a loaded yellow paintbrush at the head painter after he reaches over and smooths out your “brush strokes” for the fiftieth time. Apparently, it might hit the head painter or worse, miss him and hit the brown trim he just finished painting.

Painting the house with my head painter involves arising in the morning before Gabriel has sounded the trumpet for the day, eating a breakfast at the unheard of hour of 8 a.m. and being on a ladder with a paintbrush in your hand before you’ve even had your fourth cup of coffee, while relaxing on the deck. And speaking of coffee, this is the only way I can ever get my husband to serve me coffee in bed.

He appeared at my bedside at (there isn’t a time for how early it was) and presented me with a cup of coffee and the sweet words, “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!”

“Oh, you made breakfast,” I sat up and sniffed the air, so pleased by his effort.

“Heck no, I left you a banana on the kitchen counter. Get a move on here, daylight’s a wasting!”

“Daylight hasn’t happened yet,” I grumbled, but I got out of bed, sipped the coffee and ate the banana (which was on it’s last leg, by the way) and stumbled out the door.

Another problem with our painting projects: the discussion of a break. I think a break should occur every ten minutes or so and should include freshly brewed tea and perhaps some muffins. Roy thinks a break should happen after two sides of the house are done and the break consists of going to the outdoor spigot, bending so your head is under it and turning it on. The break lasts as long as your glasses stay on your face!

Well, we are mid-way through our house painting project and we haven’t contacted the divorce lawyers yet, although we came close when he criticized my paint spray on the ground. “It will wash off in the next rain,” I reassured him. “In that case, so will the paint on the house,” he growled. Technicalities, technicalities, don’t bother me with technicalities!

Clean-up is an equally fun time with my “head painter”. For me, it is imperative that I buy a cheap brush for painting, because my idea of clean-up is to throw the paintbrush away. Roy wipes down his paint ladder (as you can see from the picture, I do not), cleans and wipes the rim of the paint can (why is this necessary) and washes his paintbrushes to within an inch of their lives. First there is the water bath, then the soak, then the soap and water followed by four or five rinse cycles. I’ve heard of people who have an unhealthy attachment to their paintbrushes, but this boy has paintbrushes still in his possession that were used to paint his baby crib–with something lead-based, no doubt!

It will be another eight years before the “let’s paint the house” hurricane breezes through our marriage, but I’ve vowed to be better prepared next time. Before the painting the house subject comes up, I plan to burn all of his paint brushes and stir sticks at a giant barbeque in the back yard…and I may throw in his trusty paint shoes (bought for him in high school) as well!

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Sleep facts…for anyone awake

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Jackie Wells-Fauth

I read an hilarious article the other day on little-known facts about sleep. The article interested me because I hadn’t written it and I am the utmost authority on sleep, I’m certain of that! However, I selected a few of the “facts” that were given in the article to which I have added a few thoughts of my own.

First, they (no I don’t know what organization put this article out) gave us two medical terms for sleep issues. The first term was dysania. Now, apparently if you have dysania, that is why you do not want to get out of bed in the morning. FINALLY! There is a medical term for this! I can call work and say, “Yeah, I need to take a sick day because my dysania is acting up.” All right, all right, the article said this was intended to describe someone who could not get out of bed for days, but give me enough chocolate and books and I can make that work!

Now, the other term was somniphobia. This was described as the fear of sleep. I am relieved to tell you that I do not have somniphobia. Sleep is my friend any time of the day…except bedtime. Oh wait, maybe that is what they are talking about? I need to do more research on this one.

Then, we moved on to statements on sleep, and as I go through all of these, I ask you to remember that you should not believe everything you read on the Internet, but I was tired, so I didn’t do any fact checking.

First, I learned that the body emits (for want of a better term) an anti-diuretic hormone while you sleep that keeps you from peeing in your sleep. However, this little hormone is not working that well for me as it shuts down at least twice a night, taps me on the shoulder and says, “All done working, get up and go pee in the bathroom.” I figure when it stops waking me up to say it’s not working, that is when I will have a real problem!

Another fact I found interesting was that if you believe you slept well, even if you haven’t, it will improve your performance! I could lie all day about how great I slept last night and it wouldn’t do anything for my performance during the day. I would look in the mirror and see the bags under my eyes, the drooping shoulders and the shuffling feet and I would KNOW I was a liar!

Fact number three: A good sleep improves your memory. I’m sure this is true, but I sleep so poorly that I can’t really test this out. Unless you count the fact that the opposite is true. I slept poorly last night and so today, when I looked at my notes on this article, I saw that I had written down “sleep, sex, eating.” I have no memory of why I wrote that, and I kind of wish I did! I’ll try to get that good night’s sleep and improved memory tonight and get back to you on that one!

I learned that working out before bed is not good–no worries there, I don’t work out at all!. Also, high altitudes can damage sleep quality–which explains why we don’t all stretch out in the trees at bedtime. Kind of feel bad for the birds, though. I know, I know, this fact was referring to trying to sleep on a plane, but since I don’t think I have the nerve to wake up the person in the seat in front of me, who is pretty much stretched out in my lap and say, “Did you know high altitudes damage sleep quality?”, I will use this fact any way I wish!

According to the article, nightmares aren’t all about fear. Says who? The big bad monsters that people my nightmares are pretty scary! In addition, we, as adults, take little naps throughout the day without even realizing it. This explains so much about my college economics classes!

There followed some random factoids that were not helpful at all. For instance, the longest a person has gone without sleep is 11days–that just makes me tired. Also, ducks sleep with one eye open and one part of their brains awake. I can beat that–I can sleep with both eyes open and no part of my brain awake!

The final fact, and hang on for this one, is that bears don’t poop during hibernation. And wouldn’t the spring awakening be rather unpleasant if they did?

Hope I didn’t put you to sleep without my lovely little sleep facts. I’ll leave you to do the research on their authenticity on your own! Goodnight!

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The grandchildren factor

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It’s been a hectic week. While things are always busy, this week took on special significance because of what I like to call the “grandchildren factor.” And while things in my house are never particularly organized, the “grandchildren factor” definitely adds to the chaos.

As my husband was returning from a day at work, I heard the entry door open and close and then, a lot of loud clumping and some very inventive curses.

“Problem?” I asked, not getting up from my chair.

“Yeah, I tripped over a bunch of boxes; where did these all come from?” he came in, still trying to kick one off of his foot.

“The grandchildren collected them. They want to build something,” I answered.

“Build something? What will they do with it after they build it?” he persisted.

“They will set it up in the back entryway for you to trip over,” I answered. “It’s only a week’s visit; deal with it.”

In fact, the “grandchildren factor” contributes to a lot of things. I make boxed meals and frozen pizzas because the grandchildren “love” those and they think grilled chicken and broccoli is, and I quote, “Gross.”

The “grandchildren factor” means that you find things in the bathtub that were never intended to be in the house (and some of them send you screaming from the room because they MOVED) and you find that your best china basket is now the home of some “really cool rocks.” If the smallest grandchild is here, there is unrolled and unraveled yarn in every corner of the main floor, and many of the refrigerator magnets have been removed and pitched off the deck. The yarn art is good, though, because after I’ve run after grandchildren for a week, I’m ready to just veg out in a chair, rewinding yarn balls!

The “grandchildren factor” is responsible for weird things. Strange smears and marks appear on the windows, doors and mirrors, some of which must be chiseled off. There is a paper trail of snack packages from the pantry closet to the bedroom and I’m not sure the refrigerator door will ever recover from so much opening and closing in a week.

The toothpaste roller disappeared from my toothpaste tube on the second day of their visit and I discovered it on their travel tube of toothpaste because it was “cool.” My crystal swans were rearranged, because if you put one forward and one backward and put them on either side of my round “Teacher of the Year” award, it spells SOS in crystal. Perhaps this was a sign!

The “grandchildren factor” has an opposite side, too. Never is there so much conversation at the dinner table as when they are here. We have riveting discussions about what would happen if you were in space and you had to poop, or how much pee it would take to fill a water glass. Dinner chatter has never been more interesting and becomes very dull after they are gone.

It is impossible to keep enough books on the bedside tables when they are here, because they plow through them. I have always loved this aspect of the “grandchildren factor”, but I suspect part of it is a ploy to keep from going to sleep too early. They love to do artwork to decorate our home, and since they have my artistic skill (I don’t have any), I have many Picasso-like paintings and chalk works.

This week, the younger grandson presented his grandfather with a picture. “Do you like it, Grandpa? It’s your lawn mower tractor.”

“Oh, that’s very nice,” Grandpa said, twisting and turning the picture looking for “up”.

“I want you to put this in your office, Grandpa,” declared the young Michelangelo.

Grandpa thought for a minute and then agreed, but before he took it, he had the artist sign it. “Because,” he explained to me quietly, afterwards, “I don’t want anyone to think I drew it and then brought it to the office.”

It may sound as if I don’t enjoy the “grandchildren factor,” but you would be wrong. When my boys are too old to come and visit for a week or two in the summer, I will be sad. However, the end of the “grandchildren factor” will also end the week following their visit being the “grandparent factor,” where we just sit in the wild shambles of our house and stare at each other!

Enjoy the grandchildren; they grow up even faster than the children did!

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My home away from home?

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I’ve spent the last few days on the road, and that has brought for me a renewed appreciation for those inns of the weary traveler. Of course, I mean the hotels and motels who strive to provide a world wanderer with a night’s rest.

In my years of partaking of the institution, I think I’ve seen every kind there is…from the perfect setting for a perfect night’s rest all the way down to one step up from a card-board box on the sidewalk. The first motel I remember being in was in a small town in the midwest, named cleverly with words beginning with the first three letters of the My mother contended that it really should have been called the Already Been Chewed motel (abc), instead. To add insult to injury, after a night in which we battled spiders living in the shower, rain leaking in through the windows and a smell in the carpet that we not only could not identify, but didn’t really want to, we drove past the other motel in the small town which had definitely not already been chewed!

My most memorable motel might have been one I stayed at with my aunt and grandmother. My grandmother had volunteered to get the motel for the night, but she kept teasing us that it was going to be a “flop-house.” My aunt and I agreed that she had succeeded, since the toilet was in a closet, the air conditioning was loud but not cold and my aunt and I spent the night in a bed that we had shoved against the door, because we discovered to our dismay that more than one door apparently opened with the same key.

There have been some lovely rooms rented by us over the years, but it seems like we are always in the room next to the barking dog, the late-night partiers or the enthusiastic newly-weds, if you follow my meaning. One night was spent in a room directly over the hotel’s conference room, where a wedding reception was in full swing, complete with a very good and very loud mariachi band.

If it isn’t noise, it is sometimes the hints that not everyone in the establishment is after the same thing you are…a good night’s sleep. I was in a hotel room once where the door at the bottom was so bent in that I could see the light of the street lamp outside and I was fairly certain that with very little effort, I could have made a drug purchase. Then, there was the night I spent in a motel that was little more than a line-up of cells along a sidewalk and where a very friendly gentleman passed along the line, knocking on every door, inviting us to his party. He got enough takers so that the party spilled into the parking lot and eventually, some police were invited to wrap up the festivities.

Then, there are the things inside the motel room. You know there is a problem when you don’t want to walk on the carpet with your bare feet, or where you only want to step into the shower after you have thoroughly sprayed it with disinfectant. To say nothing of the thrill of checking the mattress for those charming little livestock that sometimes move in and knowing that you missed something if you wake up the following morning with unexplained bites all over you!

Smells are a particular problem for me. If I smell strong cleaners, it makes my eyes water, but neither do I want to smell some of things those cleaners are eliminating…if they can. I stayed one night in a motel room so filled with cleaning odors that I couldn’t take it…so I opened windows and doors and aired it out. That was when I could smell the odor the cleaning odors had been masking, and in the end, I decided I preferred having my eyes water from cleaner as opposed to wondering exactly what had died in the corner by the bed!

I have always been a big fan of the reality show “Haunted Hotels,” mostly because I had never encountered anything remotely suspicious. But my most recent trip seems to have brought out the worst in the spirit world. In our first hotel, there was a reading lamp in one corner that kept blinking on and off; it was particularly bad when anyone tried to sit down in the chair in the corner to read. The rest of the lights worked fine, just that one would flicker and go on and off. Finally, we unplugged it because it kind of unnerved us and as soon as we did, the lamp over the bed began the flickering and blinking. It might have been faulty wiring, but it seemed rather intentional.

While I’ve never awakened to a spectral being trying to pull off my covers or floating over my head, I did wake up in the dead (pardon the expression) of the night to a small green light, which seemed to float back and forth over the bed. I would make a fine ghost-hunter because my reaction was to cover my head with the blankets and try to go back to sleep! That was enough spooky stuff for my whole lifetime.

As I said at the beginning of this rant, I have stayed in many fine, clean, quiet, un-haunted hotels in my life, but of course, the ones that have stuck in my memory have been the odd ones. May you find that all of your accommodations are truly, your home away from home.

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That’s the way I roll….

Some of the most amusing things I read on social media are those little questionnaires: which way do you roll your toilet paper, or how do you fold your towels? These are questions intended for people who actually participate in that activity known as housework.

For myself, a lot of times, my toilet paper rolls whatever way I manage to unthinkingly put it on. For anyone supposing because of the above picture that I roll the toilet paper under, think again. That just happens to be this application of toilet paper. It is just as likely that my toilet paper will roll sideways, because it’s sitting on the bathroom counter since I was too lazy to put it on the little roller thing!

As for towels, please. The space where I keep my towels in the cupboard is usually filled with extra shampoo or toothpaste because I haven’t folded the towels lately, they just come directly out of the laundry basket and we are just grateful that they are clean. People who fold their towels into quarters or thirds, or even worse, ROLL them up, are so far beyond my capabilities, I probably wouldn’t be allowed in their bathrooms.

It’s the same for so many other things in my house. I don’t take cookies from their packages and put them in a cookie jar. For one thing, I’m usually too busy stuffing them in my mouth, so they seldom last long enough for an actual location in a cookie jar. Coffee doesn’t ever make it out of its plastic container until it goes in the coffee pot, so I’ve never used that canister in the fancy sets that is marked “Coffee.” As for the “Tea” canister, I filled that with water and used it to root some plant clippings. Before you ask, yes, they are still in the “Tea” canister, and I may get around to putting them in a pot..someday.

I never decorate my counters with fancy little soaps and I have found that scented candles were invented so youth groups would have something to use as a fundraiser. Generally I keep those candles around so that during power outages, my house will smell like French Vanilla because I had to light something and I don’t have a container to hold my ordinary candles, either. So, I can find those fat jars the scented candles are in while it’s dark and even though they make me sneeze, I’ll have to make do with them.

This lack of system really doesn’t bother me a lot, but I suppose others might become annoyed if they need pencils and there are none in the holder or they would like to borrow some scissors and I have to call out the National Guard to locate some. For myself, I figure that a certain portion of my day should be spent in aimless searching and when I use the toilet, I kind of like the thrill of finding out how I roll on the toilet paper issue that day.

Having a system can be helpful sometimes, though. I have been putting my socks in a particular drawer in my dresser for the last two years and I have become stymied by the number of socks that either disappear completely, or worse, come back with only one from a pair. Imagine my surprise, then, when I happened to pull out a drawer I don’t normally use and discovered that my husband has been diligently putting my socks, paired and single, in that drawer, because I neglected to mention that I changed residence on my socks! It’s a great day for my socks, though, many lonely singles have been reunited and they have all discovered they are in a very large family.

When people post things on social media about how they store their magazines (what, piled on the floor by my chair doesn’t work?) or what they do to contain all of those plastic grocery sacks (I cram them in a small cupboard and then laugh when someone opens it and they spring out and attack), I simply move on to something else. Odd as it may seem, I have my own system and so far, it’s working pretty well–except for the massive amount of socks, that is.

So you all can fold your towels in threes or fours and make sure that paper towel roll is running the same way every week, but I don’t answer those surveys, because somehow, they just don’t seem to like the way I roll!

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Tangled in the Halls of Ivy

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

I like to think I was a fairly good college student in my day. I signed up to attend a school not far from my home and with a remarkably small campus–just the way I wanted it. And when I signed up for school there, I imagine they asked for my high school records and I had to fill out certain health and financial papers to boot. I just don’t remember it clearly…it was a long time ago!

It seemed easy. I packed my minimal suitcase, filled with a few clothes, an alarm clock and a few dozen pencils and I sailed right into the post-secondary halls of my learning experience. Freshman year is always tricky, but beyond that, I didn’t give how I got there, another thought. That college diploma arrived just when it was supposed to, I packed up my less-than minimalist belongings, threw the alarm clock out an upper story window and went out into the world of teaching. Simple, right?

Now, I’ve taught for 30 years and in that time, I have had to take classes to keep my certification together and apart from the fact that I have had to learn how to use an online-classroom format, I have managed pretty well. Until now, that is.

It was time. I needed that re-certification and I was about to embark on taking some classes to accomplish this. I decided that I would try a different in-state university because I had never tried that school and they had a class or two on their summer roster that looked interesting.

I contacted the school, asking for guidance, since they no longer have one of those handy catalogues that you can hold in your hands and refer back to over and over. My e-mail: “I am interested in taking a class being offered at your university this summer. How do I proceed to sign up for it?” Their e-mail: “You are too late for summer classes (this was the beginning of May) and you must go to this link (link provided) and fill out an application to attend our university. We are so excited to have you attend!”

Oh well, perhaps I would do better with a fall selection anyway. I went to the link and filled out the application to join their university students and everything was fine, until it asked me to check the degree I was pursuing. I wasn’t pursuing a degree, but it would not allow me to say that, nor was there any place to explain what I really wanted. I selected non-specific and entered.

Next step: “Send us $28 in application fee and your high school transcript.” Now, the money wasn’t so bad, except I never remembered having to do that before. The high school transcript seemed a tad ridiculous. So I wrote a rather tongue in cheek e-mail: “Since I have a college degree (naming the in-state university) and I have been teaching for 30 years and all I want is a class for recertification, can we assume that I graduated from high school?” Their reply: “All applicants are required to submit not only an official high school transcript, but also indicate any dual credit classes they took. Admission applications will not be considered without this.”

Feeling like a 40-year alumni on a foolish mission, I contacted my high school, which thank fortune, was still in operation. They kindly chipped my transcript off the cave wall and sent it in, with the caveat that since they didn’t start dual credit classes until 20 years after I graduated, I probably didn’t have any.

Problem solved! I received notice that I was admitted! I got an e-mail from a lady saying I should call with any questions. I called. She was on maternity leave. While I was wondering what to do next, I received a new student packet in the mail containing fun things like a school mascot sticker. They didn’t say where I should stick that, but I had a suggestion. This fun packet also informed me that I would not be able to sign up for classes until I had filled out my federal financial assistance application (signed by my parents or guardians) and my immunization record.

Now, that will be tricky. I don’t have a need for federal financial assistance, as I only plan to take a couple classes. And as for my immunization records, I have two objections: a)I don’t plan to set foot on their campus and b) I am not immunized for most childhood diseases because I went the hard way and just had the diseases!

Finally, finally, I was able to contact someone other than the lady on maternity leave. I spent five minutes talking to this real live person and he made an astounding discovery: I was filed under the wrong admissions program! It only took me two months and a lot of aggravation to get someone there to understand that. He very generously told me that I would not have to re-apply or pay another application fee; they would make sure I was transferred to the correct program and he will be contacting me to let me know when that is done and I can at last sign up for the classes I want.

Now, I’m making an even bet with myself as to whether I get this information first, or if I get my on-campus mailbox number and the name of my dorm roommate for the fall. Ah, college life!

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