Category Archives: Humorous Column

Props and other magnetic items

Photo by mentatdgt on

Working in the theater has been one of my great joys in life. I write the plays, cast the plays, and choreograph the plays–okay, so I just make sure that nobody is standing directly in someone else’s way onstage–choreograph sounds better.

I have done a lot of plays over the years and, and because of this, I have collected a lot of props and costumes. At first, there was nowhere to store them except for a couple of untidy cabinets in my classroom. I had to move them out, however, when the kids began to report that all those hats and feather boas and gun belts sticking out of the crowded doors, made them feel like someone in the closet was watching them.

My first little prop room was a dark little space in the corner of the old gymnasium. It featured a wire cage (don’t ask, because I don’t know why), about ten coat hooks and a few feet of floor space…if you didn’t count the old toilet taking up its share of the floor. Alas, this inauspicious space did not stop me from acquiring even more props and quite a few articles of clothing as well. I removed the wire cage and put in a plastic set of shelves and strung an old broomhandle between two of the coathooks. This wasn’t ideal, but it kept the clothes off the floor–after I had acquired some clothes hangers, of course.

A sane person would have become more discriminating about the theater baubles I collected, but not me. I just kept attracting items like a magnet attracts metal and when the plastic shelves began to sag under the weight, I bought more plastic shelves and stacked them one in front of the other. This made it hard to find props, but they all fit in the tiny bathroom-turned-prop room.

The generous administrators at my school eventually reached the conclusion that I was going to keep collecting without culling, and they built a new, larger, better lit prop room. I moved in my plastic shelves, changed my broom handle for a regular closet rod and didn’t worry overmuch as the years went on and as a result, I kept the cardboard carnival sales trays I had made and the pig’s ears and snouts we had constructed and the five candy-striped shirts we used once in 20 years. My hoarder’s instincts served me well.

Finally, it became clear, as props and costuming began trickling out the prop room door, that something would have to change. I used a beautifully contrived photo of a nearly organized prop room for this article because I would never show you the nuclear bomb test site I call my theater “home-away-from-home.” It was time to begin cleaning with an eye towards throwing some things away.

I began with the costumes. I ruthlessly discarded the yellow dress with the lace ruffles that I hadn’t convinced anyone to wear in 20 years. I threw away the tatty-looking grey suit that has seen one too many performances. I even seriously considered throwing away the black cape that I made ten yeas ago from a bedsheet and a shiny piece of black material. All, all of them were in the garbage, when I decided I just couldn’t part with them. The cape and the suit had so many memories for me and who knows? I may convince some girl with terrible taste in clothes to wear that yellow dress yet.

I think you can see the problem here: there are two kinds of things in that prop room. First, there are the things that have been used in productions over the years that I am fond of. I really can’t toss away the old black suitcase–sure, it smells bad, but it has graced the stage and offended the noses of so many actors so many times. It just has to stay! Second, there are the things that I have never worked into a play–but you never know. I may have use for 12 football helmets or ten office phones in a production I haven’t even thought of yet. In the meantime, I will store the football helmets right on the floor so they are easy to trip over and the phones, well, they could go on the plastic shelves that aren’t sagging quite so much!

It is my belief that I will never clean my prop room. It will continue to accumulate “stuff” until it is so stuffed it explodes. But I cheer myself with the thought that maybe it will wait until after I retire–that way, it will be somebody else’s problem! Good plan, huh?

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Feeding the dog

Photo by Elliot Fais on

I took my shower tonight with my after-school eggroll cooling on the bathroom counter. Maybe you’re wondering why I would take such an odd thing into the shower with me. The answer is: I have a dog.

Now, I’m willing to bet right now that dog-owners understand what I’m talking about. There may even be some cat-owners who fight their felines for the food that only humans should consume. At our house, if the food is in the house, the dog figures it’s hers and if it turns out she doesn’t like after licking it all over, she will happily spit it back for us.

My eggroll was locked in the bathroom with me, so that after my shower it would be cool enough to eat…and it would still be there for me to eat. I’ve been the victim of an egg-roll thief before, and I learned.

We have tried everything to convince the dog that she is not welcome to food simply because it is in the kitchen, to no avail. She has particular favorites: bread is big with her, she adores popcorn, she also is willing to consume any meat available, but her true love is chocolate.

I thawed out a loaf of banana bread left in the freezer from Christmas. I had a slice–it was pretty good, so I decided I’d have some more. I went to the kitchen, but cutting board was bare.

“Why did you put away the banana bread?” I whined to my husband, “I was going to have some more.”

“You got banana bread out?” he said, leaving his football game for a moment. “Great! I’d like some.”

We both stared at the empty bread board. Then we looked at the dog, who was sitting calmly watching us, bread crumbs littering the floor around her. Okay, so now we know not to leave down banana bread, or white bread, or whole grain bread or lefsa, or crackers. All of these are just too much temptation for the dog. She prefers it with butter or jelly, but she’s not choosy–she’ll take it any way she can get it.

It is also a bad idea to pull the broiler, with two sizzling steaks on it, out of the oven and turn to reach a meat fork. Before I could turn back, she had one of those steaks half-eaten and was standing on the other. I really hope she burned her mouth, but I was too busy trying to stab her with the meat fork to ask!

Chocolate seems to be our downfall. She once ate the middle out of some chocolate bars of which we had none. My husband suggested we cut around the outside, but I wasn’t eager to risk dog slobber, just so I could have a brownie. She also ate half a chocolate pie one night. He was so determined to have some of that pie anyway, that he carefully ate around the other side. He offered to share–I wasn’t tempted!

Chocolate bars, chocolate candies, chocolate cookies are also open season for her. She is particularly fond of Reeses peanut butter cups and Oreos, but if it’s chocolate, she is right on the spot.

If you’re wondering by now why we don’t do a better job of keeping our food out of her hands, it’s because we’re getting old, and we don’t pay close enough attention. She took a pop tart out of my hand at breakfast one morning. I yelled at her, got up to wash my hand at the sink and came back to find her slurping the rest of my cheerios out of the bowl. I offered her my coffee, but apparently she only takes it with cream, because she refused.

I don’t really expect this situation to improve because the dog relies on our inattention and lack of forethought to get her snacks. My husband has been insisting for a long time that she is just taking advantage of our carelessness..she’s really not an aggressive food thief. Last night, he was eating popcorn and throwing some to her as well. He stopped so that he could make comment to me while holding his next piece of popcorn in his hand. Before he could react, the dog leapt into his lap and snatched the kernel of corn neatly from his fingers. Then, the dog calmly climbed down and sat on the floor, looking at him.

“You’re lucky you didn’t have it at your mouth,” I observed, “because your non-aggressive food pig would have taken off your jaw to get it.”

That’s what we get for feeding the dog!

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I’ll reunion you!

First, I should probably explain the lovely photo. I took a picture of a picture in my high school annual. The quality is very poor that way, but considering everything, that is probably okay. They were looking for candid photos of the seniors to put in the annual and you won’t get any more candid than this. I believe I was probably suggesting that photographer not take my photo unless he wanted me to insert my shorthand notebook in a very inconvenient place. Obviously, they were so scared of me that they not only took the picture, but splashed it on the senior candid page of the yearbook!

I suppose you might be wondering why I dug out this high school relic (the picture, not me) and chose to share it with you. Well, it’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about those years when, instead of being the teacher, I was the student in high school. Those were not my finest hours and I don’t frequently get out my annuals to look back.

A recent encounter, however, with a former classmate, has got me to thinking about those glorious days. I have never attended a class reunion and I’m reminded with every photo in the album of why not. It boils down to vanity.

Let’s start with our physical appearance. Usually in high school we are still hoping to attract that potential mate of our future. If that is the case, we are striving to look good, stay slim, wear our hair attractively and for heaven’s sake, pile on the soap and water. When I look at this picture and then look in the mirror, I know that my body has not improved at all…although, I can still rock that expression when I’m annoyed!

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with my present body, but there’s something nightmarish about going to a reunion and having all those people who remember you as 17 and all those people you remember as 17, wandering around, looking for something recognizable in a crowd of old people! I kind of prefer to remember them as they were then and I think they might be a little surprised at my appearance as well. I don’t have all my own teeth anymore, but the upside is that I still have my hair!

Second, there is the “what have I done with my life” competition at a reunion. I feel satisfied with my accomplishments, but there are people out there who might look at me askance if I tell them that my finest hours have been spent wrestling the right grammar answers out of a bunch of teenagers. The only one I would really want to see at a high school reunion would be my old English teacher–so I could apologize!

I left high school vowing that I would not be attending reunions. I passed all my classes, annoyed all my teachers sufficiently, and I’m fairly sure that there was a collective sigh of relief as they handed me the diploma. This is sufficient!

Reunions are for nostalgic memories and I have to confess that there aren’t that many in my high school years. So when the reunions take place, I’m likely to keep my somewhat overweight, straggly, years-worn body away from there so I don’t have to register the shock on a former classmate’s face as they realize who I am, while my face is lit up with shock as I figure out who they are—if I can.

This summer, those high school reunions will take place and I doubt they will miss my short-tempered, life-jaded presence, but there is one thing I would like to say: Whoever took that photo that I have shared should be fortunate that my faulty memory doesn’t have it registered. Because, if I knew who it was…I still have that shorthand notebook!

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Household hacks

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Now, I know some of you are going to look at this picture–taken from my own house, no less–and you will think that it is a picture of a load (or three) of laundry. But you are mistaken. This is actually a dresser, where all clean clothes can be found. That large wooden thing in the bedroom with the drawers is simply a flat surface where I can store fifty things that are useless, but do a fine job of gathering dust.

So, for anyone out there, I put this challenge to you: If you have never pulled a change of underwear, a clean towel for the shower, or a pair of mis-mated socks directly from a laundry basket and put them on, you are either lying, or should be carefully watched!

Sometimes, I get up the energy to fold and put those clothes away, but usually, I spend at least two days after laundry day pulling everything I need directly from the basket. I never put things away directly out of the dryer because it seems like too much work. It’s like drying dishes after you have hand washed them (yes, some people do). If you let them air-dry, you save on labor and dishtowels…which you would then have to put in the laundry. If you keep your clean laundry in the baskets, you save all that folding and putting away time and effort.

All those people who put out “household hacks,” are under the mistaken belief that I wish to do things in my house that will make the house cleaner and more perfect. Apparently, I was born without the gene that makes me want to clean and clean and then for entertainment, clean some more. This doesn’t worry me at all because I was also born without the gene that makes me want to ram my head into a brick wall and I don’t miss that either!

My idea of household hacks is a little different from most. I believe in air-drying dishes, putting leftovers in the refrigerator in their original pan because it’s faster and takes less dishes and, of course, leaving clean laundry in the laundry basket instead of folding and putting it away. Except for good clothes–I do take care of them immediately because otherwise I might have to iron something. I would run into a burning house, flames all around me, if it meant I could get the good clothes out of the dryer and on hangers and avoid the dreaded ironing board. But this aberration doesn’t extend to other tasks.

I still remember the day we were all sitting around the newspaper office having an afternoon break and one of the men discovered he had printer’s ink on the sleeve of his shirt. The household hacks started flying: spray it with hair spray, use Dawn dish soap, rub it with ice cubes, then put it in boiling water. None of those sounded at all appealing to me, but when they came to our city editor, her face buried in two articles she was trying to finish for deadline, her advice was succinct: “Sew a patch over it, or cut it out and live with the hole”. When I heard her give this advice, I knew that she and I could be friends.

This is also the woman who was full of good hacks for making people think you had been cleaning your house like some household fairy, when actually, you had been working on your latest novel all day: “Pour Mr. Clean in some of the corners of your living room and kitchen,” she advised. “It smells like you’ve been scrubbing all day.”

This taught me so much. It is the illusion of having things done that makes the difference. Like, putting in some of those pre-mixed and cut cookies before the kids get home. It smells like you have been chained to the kitchen all day, just mixing up goodies and, if you are attentive, you might even get some edible cookies out of that hack!

I’ve decided that I could write a household hacks book and what’s more, I would have a good following to read it. My hacks are not for the cleanest house in town or the easiest spot remover out there–my hacks are for people who want the illusion of doing something around the house without actually doing something around the house.

So every so often, I get a box from the basement and dump all of the things that have been cluttering my desk for months into it. I label the boxes carefully: “Junk from May; Junk from September and Junk from a time I don’t remember because I forgot to label it.” It is not my intention to ever go back and look in these boxes and so far, I haven’t missed much by doing it by this method. That, and cramming the shoe, glove, hat collection from the front door into the front closet and the dirty dishes into the oven, makes for an instantly better organized living space and the Mr. Clean will be poured in the corners if I happen to be expecting guests.

So for all the household hackers out there–I admire you for your clever ways to store grocery bags and your amazing recipes for cleaning the gunk off the inside of the shower, but I’m going to leave those wonderful ideas up to you. Right now, it’s time for me to take a shower (in the shower stall that I have sprayed with vinegar and blue soap), but first I have to go to my white plastic chest of drawers and pull out a towel and some underwear. See you later!

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A War of Worlds

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Photo by Kampus Production on

So often in my life I have felt like my personality was split in two and the two opposite sides were fighting each other: the me that wants exercise and a healthy body against the me that wants to sit on the sofa with a Pepsi and a HoHo. Or perhaps the me that wants world peace and the me that is willing to fight a lady to the death over the last gallon of the “good” milk at the grocery store.

The worst battle of the personalities for me has been the fight between my inner hoarder and my less powerful but equally annoying inner minimalist. I believe I have mentioned before that my tendencies are to be a hoarder. Every once in a while, though, while I am musing to myself over a wadded up bunch of paper napkins and straws at the back of the cupboard, “I might be able to use them someday, I should save them,” I will turn and find my inner minimalist shaking out a new garbage bag, murmuring, “You’re not really going to keep those, are you?”

Even though I am mostly a hoarder, I have always admired those people who knew when to throw it out. They can see the clothes hanging in the back of the closet that haven’t fit or been in style since the 1970s and they can quietly put them out of their misery in the bottom of a garbage can. For me, my minimalist instinct is frequently combated by the hoarder, who is sure these clothes will return to fashion just as I am returning to the svelte, teenage figure I had in the 1970s. (Yes, I did!)

I read a story about a woman who moved from a five-bedroom, multi-level home into a house no larger than her former bathroom. In order to do so, she had to trim her belongings down to nothing. She operated with dining ware for one, which I thought was foolish. But my inner minimalist said, “Of course! That way, she can’t have other people over, so she doesn’t need dishes for them to eat from! Then, she doesn’t need an extra chair for them to sit in or a place to put the chair.”

Like I said, I admire this and sometimes my inner minimalist will get the upper hand in the battle. That’s when I start throwing things away, cleaning out living spaces, clearing away the rest of those empty boxes that have been there for ages, and ejecting all of the unidentifiable food from the refrigerator. These minimalist fevers usually last for a day or so, and then the hoarder regains the upper hand and I’m out in the garbage can, frantically trying to retrieve pillows, yellow with age and leaking stuffing everywhere, because you never when you may need them!

There is one spot in all of this battle where the minimalist can’t win and that is in regard to books. When I finish a book, the two inner voices are right there, whispering over my shoulder, “You should put that book right down on the books shelves, so you can read it again someday — after you’ve read the other four hundred books you have.” At the same time, over the other shoulder, the minimalist is shaking its head, muttering, “Books should be shared; and you really should think about getting an e-book reader–takes up way less space.”

It’s true, I have a lot of books. If ever my house is bombed, my plan is to burrow in under the massive pile of my books. Those books might just save me by their literal mass. Can an e-book reader do that? My inner minimalist has no answer!

However, as I said, the inner minimalist does get the upper hand sometimes, but unfortunately, the fight against my inner hoarder is an uphill battle. It doesn’t stop the minimalist from trying, though. For every time my hoarder says, “keep all of those thousand grocery bags, you may need them,” my minimalist is there commenting, “One of those bags would make a great trash bag to hold the rest of them…you’re not really going to keep those, are you?”

The struggle is real!

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A Wipeout in the Wings

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I’ve been working with high school theater for about twenty years now. I’ve seen it all happen–scripts that don’t work, students who freeze, lines dropped or mis-delivered, sound failing, lights freaking out and students who use the backstage trash bins to throw up their nerves. But this last fall, I had a new experience, where I contributed to an on-stage fail and let me tell you, when I do it, I do it BIG!

We were working with the two freshmen drama productions. Each had a nice little Christmas piece that we had well-rehearsed and which should have gone off without a hitch. Note, I said SHOULD have….

We experienced the usual dropped lines and missed sound cues, but it was actually going pretty well. I was backstage, ready to prompt and attempting to keep everything going forward. We were coming down to the end–the father had taken over the disastrous Christmas gathering and was handing out all the surprises right on cue.

Then, my stage debut happened. I moved backwards and to the left in the dark to be near the curtains to close them for the ending of the performance. I neglected to remember that right next to my chair was a small, squat stool that was to figure in the second Christmas sketch that night. I put it there myself, but my memory is not what it used to be and I paid for that.

Backing up, I caught my foot in the stool. This should have been no problem, but in the dark, I couldn’t see how to step around the stool and so, I tangled the other foot up in it as well. It was like one of those slow-motion shows. I could feel it happening, but for the life of me (and the darkness of the wings) I could not stop it. As I went over backwards, my feet came up and connected with the metal chair I had been sitting on, and the resounding clang gave the people onstage and in the audience their first clue that something unusual was happening backstage.

Now, my primary rule for being backstage is NO TALKING, so you’ll understand that the words I uttered as I went down on my butt and then whacked my head on the (thankfully) wooden floor were not only a violation of my backstage rules, but were in direct opposition to school language policy. Second issue.

That left it to the audience and novice stage performers to determine what was going on. I was told by audience members later that they heard the noise and at first wondered if that was a part of the performance. Their first clue that this was not supposed to happen was when the performers, with no experience in “the show must go on,” one-by-one broke off their performance and moved to the wings to check on the disturbance.

If you watch the recording of the performance, you cannot, fortunately, hear my collapse very well, but you do get to observe the students, whose attention went from the completion of their little play, to a flow of attention and walking to the wings.

Now, I have never had this happen before. I was somewhat stymied myself and a little dazed from bouncing my head off the floor, but when I looked up from the flat of my back to see all of the horrified actors staring down at me, I said the only thing I could think of, “Get back out there and finish the play!”

They did so, although how they managed is still a mystery to me. But those first timers on the stage managed to shake off the biggest distraction I have ever presented, complete with sound effects, and conclude their play. Afterwards, I apologized profusely, but nothing could really compensate for having your debut on the stage sabotaged by the director herself.

It remains to be seen if I can get this group of young people to overcome the trauma of my wipeout in the wings and return to do more productions with me, but I do know one thing: I myself have participated in a great many, long-standing plays over the years, but I will never forget the 2021 production of “Christmas Secrets!”

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Another Merry Christmas Chaos

I should be writing something more substantial than this article, but I can’t quite get into the rest of what I want to do until I move this out of the way, so here it goes: It’s the Monday after Christmas and I don’t know how to proceed from here.

I should clean house–four days in a small house with a lot of people leaves quite the litter trail. But I kind of like the litter trail…I sit with my fourth cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet and the mess around me. There are still bows on the floor from Christmas morning, the dog’s dish is upside down under the backwards-facing chair, there are coats and throws draped everywhere and the tree is sitting atop the discarded Christmas stockings and various debris that couldn’t find another home.

I took pictures because it’s otherwise hard for you to fathom the mess. A right-thinking housekeeper would get up, dust, right the nativity set rearranged by small busy fingers, pick up the trash, load the dishwasher for the ninth time in two days and get things put back together in general. That’s what a right-thinking housekeeper would do.

As for me, I’m going to sit here and contemplate for a while. I want to remember what an outstanding Christmas this was. And it’s not for the presents or even for the season; it’s because there are only so many memories that we can make and this was a great time for making them.

I’m sitting here at the brand-new desk that I got for Christmas and it does make the greatest workspace in the world, but what is even more special about it is the fact that my husband (who doesn’t always) really listened to what I wanted for this Christmas instead of buying something practical that I needed. It’s more special because my daughter and her husband spent part of their Christmas Eve locked in the bedroom, setting everything up. It more special because both of my daughters created hand made items as part of the surprise and my grandsons painted a box and made a candle to go with it. It’s special because my son-in-law went to extra work and even lied (not something he does well) just to make sure the printer I wanted was there and ready to go.

The older I get, the more I understand that old chestnut that goes something like this: “It’s not the gifts you get, it’s the memories they contain.” I understand that now. It’s the shawl my daughter made me, that I had been hoping was for me. It’s the picture my son-in-law painted of my house, the way that I see it. It’s the wonderful cottonwood artwork my daughter did for me, because the cottonwoods are a tree tied up with my fondest childhood memories.

Even more than that, it’s the smiling face on my youngest grandson when Grandma showed up to get him out of bed; it’s the nine-year-old playing a wild game of war with his mother and his uncle or maybe the eleven-year-old slipping into the house for one last hug goodbye before traveling down the road. These are the things that can only be stored in the memories of my mind and for that, I need to take these moments of reflection afterward, to savor the sweetness.

My oldest grandson has a habit of doing the question, “What was your favorite part?” of anything. When he put that question to me about Christmas, I said, “Everything,” and he, an absolute young fellow, would not take that answer. “No, Grandma, what was the thing that was the best?”

I thought a minute and finally I said, “The memories that you gave me.” After a minute of deliberating, he replied, “Mine too, Grandma.”

So, it’s going to take a little while for me to get up and clear away the litter and debris of this wonderful, chaotic Christmas and I’m going to love every bow I uncover tucked in my shoe, or small plastic piece from a game, or the half-eaten piece of fudge, forgotten in the manger scene on the windowsill. And you know what? I’ll bet I’m not the only housekeeper who feels this way this Christmas! Happy memories to you all!

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A Twisted, Terrible Tale

Photo by Erik Mclean on

Okay, so I KNOW that those lines in the parking lot are there for a reason. You are supposed to park your vehicle between two of the lines. I know this. I have just never paid a lot of attention to those lines.

Roy is meticulous about them. He will pull into a parking space with his driver’s door open enough so he can see that he’s between the lines. Or, he will make me get out and guide him in the correct spot. It always seemed like excessive effort to me.

This week, that attitude was revised, with some help from a large green pickup. I was parked at a McDonald’s where the take-out line was long and very narrow, so I decided to just park and run inside for my order. I parked, went inside and quickly got my to go bag and cup. When I came back out a mere five minutes later, there was a pickup parked next to me. To my outrage, he was snuggled up, no more than six inches from my driver’s door.

My immediate reaction was to march back in that store and demand that the pickup owner move out of my way, even while I was a little impressed that he got that close without doing damage to either of us. My second thought was why would he do that? Was he trying to be funny? Was he trying to be mean?

Finally, I took a good look at the way I was parked and I was quite definitely parked over the line and he had simply parked where he was supposed to–I was the one who was too close. Oh…now what?

I went to the passenger’s side and slipped into the car. Could I climb over the car console to get under the wheel? A few years ago, you bet, but now, I’m older; my body doesn’t always cooperate the way I would like. Still, that’s no reason not to try, right?

I slid one leg across the console and then lifted my hip to follow. My hip caught on the corner of the console and refused to go further. With pain causing my eyes to twitch, I finally managed to get my rear onto the console and at that point, I realized that my remaining leg on the passenger side was pushing my bag of sandwich and fries into the floor. I didn’t have to taste it to know that this would not enhance the quality.

By a series of twists and jerks, I managed to get my posterior in the driver’s seat. That just left the second leg to get over the console. Smashing my upper body against the driver’s door, I attempted to fold and pull the leg over to join the rest of my body. It didn’t work.

Resting my foot on the dashboard, I contemplated the fact that I should just have gone back into the restaurant, apologized for being a clod about parking and asked the pickup owner to move for me. Unfortunately, my body was so entirely wedged in the driver’s side (except for that one leg and foot), that I could not unstick myself to get back into the passenger seat.

If you’re still with me now, I want you to imagine the scene. I’m sitting on the driver’s side of the car with one foot and leg bent up on the dashboard like a rather odd-looking pretzel. I couldn’t move my leg or body to make it back to the passenger seat and if I ever did get out of this, I still had to back out on a narrow lane past a very close pickup.

I could not, however, in that position, even reach my squashed bag of lunch and it was about at this point in time I realized that my rear was wet because I had sat on my drink. That’s going to leave an interesting stain in the car, that’s for sure.

Okay, I decided something had to be done and perhaps I was going to have to fold myself into an even smaller pretzel or figure out how to drive the car with one foot on the driver’s dash and my eyes distended to the windshield in pain.

Slowly, and with my shoe leaving black marks across the top of the windshield, I brought the foot across over the steering wheel, bent in a position I haven’t been able to achieve since my days as a toddler. With a great deal of grunting, and bones popping, I managed to bring my foot down onto the floor where it was supposed to be. Praise be!

I sat there for a few minutes, adjusting myself to being unbent again, when—and of course, you know what’s coming next: the driver of the pickup came out, got into his vehicle and backed out, leaving my driver’s door easily accessible.

Thinking quickly, I grabbed my mangled lunch bag and stepped out of the car. “Would you like a mashed hamburger?” I hollered, waving the bag at him, “also, would you like some squashed fries with that?” He looked at me, yelling and waving the bag and gunned the motor so he shot out of the parking lot. I can’t help it, you know…being twisted into a pretzel causes a lack of blood flow to the brain.

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Wrapping it up

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Christmas comes but once a year, but when it comes to wrapping presents, that is probably more than enough. Each year, I must face the harsh truth that whatever that gift-wrapping gene is, my version is wadded up, torn in the wrong places or just a tad short of covering.

It isn’t just Christmas when this failing appears, but Christmas means I don’t just wad up a gift for one individual, I mis-tape, mis-cut and break ribbons for everyone’s gift. I chose the picture above because that is the image I have in my head of a well-wrapped present, but it is a long way from the truth about the way I abuse a gift with wrapping paper.

I usually start out okay, I can get a few things wrapped and under the tree, but that won’t last. I will put a box on a sheet of wrapping paper and it doesn’t fit. I will MAKE that paper fit, even if I have to tear it in a few places. Occasionally, I even punch the gift box to smush it up just a little and make it fit. I always blame that on the delivery people.

Okay, I had too small a paper for one, so for the next one, I cut the paper twice the size needed for a box. Now, this is much less frustrating, but once you have bunched all the extra paper up around the sides of the box and get enough tape on it to hold it together, it looks a lot like the gift has been wadded up into a Christmas towel, and at least they will never guess what it is by its shape!

Gift bags really don’t help me much. I can buy them and stuff them with paper and it never fails–something protrudes out before Christmas Day gets there and my gifts look like those poor, bony children under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present, with skinny limbs hanging out all over.

I think my skills at gift wrapping or lack thereof might be acceptable if those around me shared them, but apparently, the beautiful wrapping gene which skipped my generation, was “gifted” (pardon the pun) to my daughters. In particular my younger daughter can wrap presents with unusual skill. She can wrap a box with a precise piece of paper and then, ever so gently, expertly position that gift on the perfectly fluffed tissue paper–color-coded no less–that she has arranged in a gift bag. It’s really quite frustrating…I mean awe-inspiring.

As the years have gone on, I have learned to compensate. I use a lot of tape and I expertly position bows over the gaps in the paper and for the most part I get by. I try to buy gifts based on their ease of wrapping. Square boxes, medium in size are best. That is why sometimes my nephews will get a box of cigars–they don’t smoke, but the box is easy; or my aunt will get a box of shotgun shells–she doesn’t hunt, but it will be well-wrapped and she can re-gift it if she really doesn’t have a gopher problem!

Gift cards are an excellent choice and they don’t have to be wrapped. However, I listened this morning to the radio announcer outlining all the ways that a gift card can be scammed. So the choice on that is clear: give them a gift card that might have been scammed or hand them that beautiful vase, wrapped up until it resembles something that came out of a mummy’s tomb!

Another year has arrived and I have tried to do my best on the wrapping part. However, I read about a social club that will wrap your presents for a donation to their organization. I took my sad, ripped up, over-taped packages and said, “Do you think you could perhaps make this look a little better?”

“That depends,” said the young woman behind the counter as she looked at my sad little Christmas paper wads in dismay. “It would probably have been more helpful if you hadn’t let your five-year-old try first.”

I should have walked away in a huff, but of course I didn’t. I had them re-wrap all the presents and I put up with the wise-cracks and side-long looks, because they truly were able to do the job right. My gifts looked spectacular: varied Christmas designs, sharp corners, beautiful bows. I was so pleased, I could hardly wait for Christmas.

My daughters were delighted. “Oh, is that the new fryer I wanted?” squealed one, while the other shook a clothing box and crowed, “I just know this is the sweater I asked for.”

And that brings us to my other problem with presents–I’ve never surprised a soul with what I buy! Oh well, one problem at a time–I need to wrap up this wrapping handicap. Happy wrapping to all of you!

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Musings on massage

Photo by Anete Lusina on

Of all the odd things that have happened to me over the past year and a half, (and there have been quite a few) perhaps the oddest would be that I have been voluntarily going to massage appointments. Now, some people will read that and say, “What? Of course you would go to massage voluntarily!” I wish I was one of those people–but I’m not.

I am an individual with personal space and boundary issues. I like to keep my distance. As for taking off my clothes, I would shower in my shirt and jeans if I could figure out how to get clean that way. To receive a massage, you must both remove at least some clothing and you must abandon your boundary issues. So, I was never one of those people who scheduled a massage the same way they do a hair appointment or a pedicure. Until now, that is.

My last year has been fraught with back and neck issues and it wasn’t very long into it before someone suggested physical therapy. Once you have been stretched, twisted, snapped and manipulated by a physical therapist, you lose a lot of your inhibitions and a lot of your fear of being tortured on a rack. They do their job well, but they don’t do it easily. And when they are done and you’re feeling a little less tied in knots, their final advice is, “Keep going regularly to a therapist.”

For a therapist to work on me, I have to get out of my clothes from the waist up. Then, I must hoist my heavy body onto a narrow table, lying face down (for the back, you know) and figure out something comfortable to do with my arms. The first time I went, I put my claustrophobic face in that little headrest, ignored the fact that my nose was itching incredibly, and lifted my feet onto the little support pillow, praying the whole time I wouldn’t have some sort of hysterical fit.

In this position, I discovered I couldn’t breath very well, couldn’t adjust my chest in any comfortable position and worst of all, couldn’t see what the massage therapist was doing. They usually play some comforting “elevator” type music, but if that is designed to relax me, it doesn’t. I have always hated elevator music and I am so busy preparing for when they start the massage that I don’t hear it anyway.

Massage would be a great thing if they didn’t insist on touching places where I am stiff and sore. I know, I know, that is their job, and truly I do feel better–later–but at the time, it can be painful. “Just turn your head a little this way,” they will instruct and I will try, but I’m sure I’m as stiff as a board when they try to do anything to help me and my head is always silently screaming that it doesn’t WANT to turn that way!

I have never been very agile at moving positions when I am on my stomach and worst of all, no matter how much I avoid gaseous foods before I go, I always seem to feel bloated when I go and I always managed to prove it–loudly–before the session is over. I guess someone passing gas in their faces is one of the hazards of their profession, but I always hate to be the one to do it!

One of the hardest things to get used to was the manipulation of the neck. As part of that, they apply gentle pressure under the ears and pull. I am sure I go in with my neck folded down into my shoulders like a turtle, but by the time they are done stretching, I feel more like a giraffe. The first time it was done, I had a terrible dream that night that I was on the block and being beheaded. Only they didn’t chop my head off, they just pulled it off. Massage has a strange effect on my dreams!

While I don’t much enjoy the process of massage, I can tell that it helps with my neck and back issues. I admit this reluctantly because I would like to be right in all of my phobias and the one about being worse off if someone touches me has proven untrue. Even so, when I tell someone I have a massage appointment and they sigh and say, “Oh I LOVE massage! It is so relaxing and enjoyable,” I always have to bite my tongue just a little. But only a little–I don’t want to injure it and require another massage!

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