Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Biggest Aftershock


Swatting fliesThis is embarrassing to admit: I’ve had flies.

We are usually pretty free of flying insects in this area. We don’t have screen doors, and we leave our doors open most of the time.

It was raining the day the flies arrived. Our doors and windows were closed.

It started out looking like an episode of Hoarders:  Gigantic flies clinging to the ceiling, walls, and patio doors.

Did I mention these flies were HUGE? The insect version of an old, military transport plane:  Low flying, lumbering through the air with a loud hum.

These suckers were so slow, you could kill ’em with one swat.

I got my Google on, and discovered we had house-of-horror-flies.

They were coming from SOMETHING DEAD, either very near the house, or INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Oh dear Lord.

Hoarders was now a Stephen King movie.

The flies were in the living room, and the master bedroom directly above it.

Clearly not fans of my cooking, they steered clear of the kitchen.

In an effort to recover the body, we checked the attic, closets, and cabinets. We pressed our ears against the walls and heard nothing.

John, the exterminator paid me a visit.

He walked around the exterior of the house. No signs of any “rodent activity.”

Together, we sniffed through the interior of the house.

Despite being cursed with a sensitive nose, I wasn’t getting even a whiff of anything “off.”

It was unsettling to think something was rotting somewhere in the house.

I wanted to employ chemical warfare, or detonate a bug-bomb in the house.

John said it was futile.

To get rid of the flies, we had to find the body, or once the “food source” was exhausted, the flies would disappear as quickly as they had appeared.

I was disgusted, and on a mission.

The flies arose with the sun, deployed in squadrons of 6-12.

I skipped my Grandmother’s antique gold fly swatter,

The "Gucci" fly swatter retired from active duty.

The “Gucci” fly swatter retired from active duty.


and chose a small Aerosoles catalog as my weapon of choice.

My weapon of choice. Casualties were all shoe flies.

My battle-worn weapon. Casualties were all shoe flies.

It had a comfortable grip, adequate range, and didn’t leave any collateral damage.

Each day, I quickly made my morning kill, and then got ready for work.

By late afternoon, I was on the hunt again.

In the evening, just as I climbed into bed, they buzzed around the lamp on my bedside table.

I was going out of my mind.

“That’s it!” I yelled as I threw off the covers, and again armed myself.

After my final round of daily serial killing, I could turn in for the evening.

This became my routine.

I decided it was time to call a varmint hunter, like Elmer Fudd; but effective.

Then on Friday night, a 5.1 earthquake hit.

I heard the quake coming, and then our house shook for a very long 20 seconds.

We swayed for a few more minutes. The commentary from the neighbors echoed the TV news anchors:

 It’s still going.

We’re still moving.

Outside, in the dark, the house appeared fine. The pool water was eerily sloshing about.

There wasn’t much else to see.

I forgot about the flies. I was bracing for aftershocks.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny.

The previous night’s excitement had given way to a quiet morning.

Suddenly, there it was:  A horror in the grass.

This sight rattled me more than the subsequent 4.1 and 3.2 tremors that afternoon.

A mere 10 feet outside the living room doors, lay a medium-sized, grey, furry carcass.

Dental records would have been required to identify the deceased.

Obviously, the body had been moved, and I suspect Mother Nature was an accessory.

Her seismic shift had shaken it loose from somewhere.

But from where?

I don’t need answers. I’m just grateful for my second chance at life.

I realize I narrowly escaped death on Friday night.

Oh, do you think I am being overly dramatic?

Trust me, If I had walked outside during the shaking and been hit with that thing, or stepped on it…

I would have expired on the spot.


Pssst…I’m on PST… So Shhhh…


On Sunday, at 7:50 p.m. PST, I checked Facebook and saw a status update from my friend, Nancy that read:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 7.41.23 PM

She was referring to a central character in the CBS drama, The Good Wife. The writers’ decision to kill off Will Gardner was unexpected. It was a stunning plot twist.

It was especially shocking to me, because I live in the Pacific Standard Time zone. It would be another two hours before Will would meet his demise here on the West Coast.

What was Nancy thinking? How could she spoil this? She was pulling Oprah’s old trick: Revealing a crucial plot detail of every book or movie she featured on her show, thereby spoiling it for the rest of us.

Never mind Will Gardner, I wanted to kill Nancy – for just a second. First, I put my caps lock on and yelled at her.

Then I found it hysterically funny. The truth is, I had my DVR programmed and wouldn’t watch it until the following night, anyway.

I thought of all Nancy’s Facebook friends reading her simple, four-word post. I envisioned dozens of people groaning, yelling and swearing because, either they were in a different time zone, or they thought Will was alive and well on their DVRs.

It became tragically funny the next day, when I realized my DVR failed to record The Good Wife.

Of all weeks. I couldn’t believe it.

I sent a text to Nancy, telling her of my misfortune.

She replied with three words: Well, Will died. 

She’s funny, that one.

Sure, television viewing in the PST zone has its benefits. It is fantastic for coverage that airs live: major sporting events, (especially Superbowl Sunday); The Academy Awards; Election Night; and Presidential speeches.

While these events air live in prime time on the East Coast, we don’t even have dinner started here on the West Coast. We can actually stay awake to view these shows in their entirety, and we don’t feel exhausted at work the following morning.

However, it sort of stinks every other day of the year. We might not be the last to know; but we ARE the last to see the show.

AOL was the first problem. Even back when we were still dialing up, logging in meant diverting your eyes away from the headlines on the home screen; for fear of seeing a recap of of your favorite TV show.

I’m guessing with the proliferation of DVRs in combination with Twitter and Facebook, everyone has at some point been a victim of the stink from a spoiled storyline, or results of a reality competition.

Twitter and Facebook buzz about each episode of American Idol, The Voice, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Bachelor, and DWTS. 

Traditional media and social media have made spoilers a way of life.

We don’t even have to wait for Superbowl Sunday for the reveal of the clever commercials. They can be seen all over television and websites the week before the game.

News outlets even took all the surprise out of The Winter Olympics. Truly spoiled sports.

I can deal with this.

It is ABC’s Scandal that I worry about.

It is my guilty pleasure. Maybe an obsession.

Partly because of the fantastic writing, and partly because I just wish I could lounge like Olivia Pope: dressed head-to-toe in cream-colored cashmere, while drinking red wine in a balloon goblet, and never spill a drop.

While it is pure fiction, it probably more accurately portrays the happenings in our Nation’s Capitol, than any news coverage.

However, I can’t stay awake to watch it.

Which by the way, begs the question:  Forget Obama, Why can’t President Fitzgerald Grant air at 5:00 p.m. PST?

I DVR Scandal, and then save it for 2 or 3 days, trying to decide when I will sit down and savor the episode.

Each week brings a shocking plot twist, and I could use anti-anxiety meds to get through the episode.

It’s a good thing Nancy doesn’t watch Scandal, because if she “talked” and compromised the security of the contents of my DVR, I would have to call Pope & Associates.

It would be my duty as a good Patriot.

Spoiler alert:

She’d learn about Affordable Healthcare, in the form of free dental work.

From Huck.

Or B6-13.

Who is really working for whom in that show?

Shhhh….don’t tell me.


Well-heeled or healed?


DanskoA few years ago, I was in Chicago for an International Expo. It meant long days standing in an exhibit hall.

I had recently purchased a pair of black patent leather shoes by Dansko. They’re water resistant, non-slip, great for a healthy back and super comfortable.

The Chicago weather was cold and rainy, so my Danskos were the perfect thing to wear.

One of my stylish nieces lives in Chicago. When I walked into her apartment one evening, she stepped back and in the tone a daughter uses only with her mother (and Godmother) said,  “WHAT….are you WEARING?”

I realized she was looking at my shoes.

I tried to sell her on the benefits of Danskos.

She wasn’t buyin’ it.

“Those are…. AWFUL! ….just  TERRIBLE!”

Then she added, “They aren’t even….FEMININE!”

Hey, I was  already wearing black pants and a Land’s End blouse with a company logo, how much more utilitarian could a gal look?

I was comfortable. She was disgusted.

Two months later, I again traveled to the snowy Midwest for Christmas, wearing my Danskos in place of winter boots.

I was immediately scolded: “OK…NOW you’ve crossed over. You’re wearing them ALL the time, aren’t you?”

I had nothing to say for myself. It was true. I had been powerless; seduced by the comfort and practicality of my butchy shoes.

Cited by the entire family fashion police force, I was a victim of officer brutality. Shamed back into cute shoes, I vowed to wear my horrible Danskos only when required for work.

Months later, when warm weather arrived, I dug my Spring collection out of the back of the closet. I wore strappy heels every day for a couple of weeks.

Clearly, fashion sense trumped common sense.

Soon, the pain propelled me to a podiatrist.

The foot doc was passionate about healthy feet. I eyeballed her, and noticed she was sporting a pair of athletic shoes.

She quickly schooled me on the evils of flip flops, all thong-style shoes, ballet flats, and the pitfalls of so-called “comfort” shoes. I sat there mentally sorting the contents of the shoe cubbies in my closet. In my mind, all that remained was athletic shoes and those Danskos – which according to the Doc are great for healthy feet.

Panic set in. I told her about a family wedding just 4 weeks away, and wondered what shoes I would wear. She listened, and then handed me a framed photo of her family taken at a recent, and very fancy wedding.

Her dress was stunning. Her shoes were low in sensibility and high in fabulosity. This Doc possessed the style and elegance that seems to be innate to many Persian women. Perhaps she wasn’t all scrubs and running shoes.

She dispensed this girlfriend medical advice :  “You have to live! Go buy some fabulous shoes. Before you get dressed for the wedding, take 4 ibuprofen. When you arrive at the reception, have a cocktail or glass of wine. Then take 4 ibuprofen with dinner. The next day, put your athletic shoes on and let your feet recover.

I followed the doc’s treatment plan. While my foot made a complete recovery, my style prognosis is bleak.

For many women, buying shoes is an easy way to stay current. Despite figure flaws or shifting shapes, we can always count on finding something cute to fit our feet.

Then we hit middle age, and the sexy foot talk begins:  Bunions, arches, and arthritis. Neuromas and plantar fasciitis.

Suddenly, slipping into something more comfortable means putting in our custom orthotics.

Ironically, the most painful step is admitting you have a problem. Surrendering to rehab is difficult.

I know I’m not the only gal struggling to give their unhealthy addiction to cute shoes, the boot. I hear it from women frequently.

A few months ago,  The Laughing Mom grieved the loss of her life in cute shoes.

I was reminded of the conflict between the shoes we want vs. the shoes we need, when I saw the new Sarah Jessica Parker shoe collection at Nordstrom.

First of all, SJP had me at grossgrain ribbon. In a sweet homage to her mother, and the only hair accessories they could afford during SJP’s childhood, the shoes have grossgrain ribbon along the back of the heel.


The colors are fresh and the styles are elegant.

While the collection is lovely, I have an issue with it.

SJP is celebrating her 49th birthday next week, which means she is middle-aged!

Since she’s one of us, I’m applying some peer pressure: Not to change her style, but to help her sisters born in the 60’s, with ours.

We don’t need more Manolos, Jimmy Choos, or Louboutins for special occasions. The market is saturated.

We need an everyday shoe breakthrough!

Middle-aged gals want to be well-heeled daily, in gorgeous shoes that are healthy for their feet.

I’m tired of buying good-for-my-feet shoes simply because “Well, they aren’t too bad.”

Maybe SJP will step it up with her fall collection, and bring us some beautiful shoes from Italy, that are sensible enough to wear every day.

In the meantime, if you do splurge on a pair of SJP’s dangerously cute kicks for your Spring collection, they may empty your pocketbook a bit.

On the bright side, you’ll have room for that bottle of ibuprofen.*


* This is not intended as medical advice.  While I studied for my Web, M.D. via Google, I am not a licensed physician. 

The Gift Of The Moment


IMG_5465Next month, I will be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

This is very cool for me because I have always enjoyed Erma’s writing. It is often heartwarming, always pure comic genius, and timeless. Long before I could relate my personal life experiences to her writing, I thought she was hilarious.

At the age of 50, I have a greater appreciation for her insight and her use of  humor to celebrate the ups, and cope with the downs, of life. Life is short, but some days sure seem long. The ability to see the funny in everyday life is a gift.

Even Erma’s views on the subject of humor were insightful. Some of her more famous quotes about the importance of humor are:

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.

He who laughs….last.

When humor goes, there goes civilization.

I have a sentimental attachment to her writing, because it reminds me of my Mom. When I was growing up, one of us would often ask the other, “Did you read Erma today?” Together, we laughed about her column, read her books and watched her segments on Good Morning America.

During the summer, we also tuned in at 9:00 a.m. to watch The Phil Donahue Show together. Oh, the education a teen could gain from The Phil Donahue Show back then. It was THE source for information, because he covered all the thought-provoking and juicy topics.

So, Phil and Erma are forever linked together in my mind. Not only because they are former neighbors who had a mutual admiration and affection for each other, but because they were involved in a sort of 1970’s Midwestern love triangle with my mom and me. Nothin’ weird here, this was a triangle of appreciation and adoration.

erma phil diagram

We enjoyed Phil, and we loved Erma. Erma and Phil loved and adored each other.

In light of this, it is especially cool for me that Phil Donahue will be the keynote speaker at the The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

During a visit to my hometown over the holidays, I decided to tell my Mom that I had gotten into the workshop. The former version of my Mom would have been so tickled about this. I knew the current version of my Mom, with advanced dementia, would not fully grasp what I was saying. I also knew she would have absolutely no memory of the conversation, just a minute later.

Despite being the subject of a few blog posts, including Sweetie Pie and She’s Such A Doll; she knows nothing about my blog, and has never read a single post.

So, as silly as it may be, I still wanted to share this news with her, and just enjoy the moment. 

One afternoon I sat in her room, reading the Christmas cards she had received. Some included photos or letters. (For anyone who continues to remember nursing home residents with greeting cards, may God Bless you for this kindness.) We passed the cards, photos, and notes back and forth. She was able to fondly recall at least a small detail about each friend or family member.

She was “tracking” fairly well, so I decided to share my news with her. As we chatted, she was lying on her side, atop her bed, like a teenage girl. Her elbow bent, her head propped up in her hand.

“Mom, do you remember reading Erma Bombeck?”

“Oh GAWD, yes. She’s SO funny!”

“Well, do you remember my friend, Terri?”

“Well, of course. How is she?”

I went on to explain in very simple terms, with no details, that Terri and I would both be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

I never even got to the part about Phil Donahue.

My Mom sat up, and said, “Really? You’re kidding?”

Wow! Had I really picked the perfect lucid moment?

Then she said, “We should call Grandma! She loves Erma, too!  She’ll go with us!”

Chatting with dementia, the trickster, is sort of what I imagine doing improvisational comedy is like: you never know which direction your partner will go next. You need to be on your toes, open to anything, think quickly, and just go with it.

We both smiled at the idea.

It was a lovely moment.

I went with it.

“Sure, that’s a great idea, Mom!”

As she slowly counted off on her right hand, she said “That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of us.”

Yep. Me, Terri, Mom, Grandma….and Erma gettin’ away for the weekend.

Of course, only three of us are actually alive, and only two of us are registered for the workshop.

Yet in some way, I feel like all five us will in fact be there.


Laughter rises out of tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.

– Erma Bombeck

The Test Results Are In


During my college years, I was afflicted with a chronic case of test anxiety. Sure, given an essay exam, I could ramble my way to high score. But, I dreaded multiple choice exams.

Given the following choices as a possible answer:

A. Widgets, thingamajigs, and whatzits

B. Yadda Yadda Yadda

C. Blah Blah Blah

D. All of the above

E. Some of the above

F. None of the above

I would be frozen in my seat

It had been nearly 30 years since I took my last exam – until a few months ago when I began willingly answering multiple choice questions. On a daily basis. is my proctor, and the lecture hall is packed!


Why do millions of us take these quizzes? Are they merely a fun diversion, like a Cosmo quiz, taken in anonymity in the gynecologist’s waiting room?

Or are we all hungry for some quick self-discovery and insight? I mean, could an internet quiz really provide validation of our life choices, or give us some life direction?

Some of the questions are absurd. (I couldn’t choose a favorite Ryan Gosling. It didn’t seem age appropriate). Some of the answer choices are obscure.

I’m curious if the results are based on an algorithm; or if the results are randomly generated by former pranksters from the back of classroom, now employed at Buzzfeed.

The class clowns and their quizzes have annoyed me a on a few occasions.

I started with Which City Should You Actually Live In quiz. Turns out, I should head across the pond to London. While I appreciate the Brits’ culture, including design, music from the 80’s and The Royal Family; I’m not a fan of the food. Well except for scones, bangers & mash and of course – mushy peas. Frankly, I need more fiber. And sunny days.

Through Buzzfeed’s Which Dream Home Should You Actually Live In quiz, I discovered I would be happiest in a quaint converted school bus. Sure, that sounds positively dreamy to me.

Quaint School Bus

A homemade camper down by the river.

No Wine Country home? No apartment in Paris? No summer home in the Hamptons. Is this Buzzfeed, or buzz kill?

I took the Which State Do You Actually Belong In quiz. Surely, California is my state of perfection. Nope. The state most ideal for me is…..Kansas. Sorry Dorothy. If I’m leavin’ So Cal (no one who lives here says “Cali”) and headin’ Midwest, I’m definitely gonna click my heels, channel Jim Nabors and be back home again in Indiana.

Jim Nabors

I eagerly zipped through the Who Is Your Style Icon quiz. Would I be Audrey Hepburn? Or maybe Jackie O? A minimalist chic Donna Karan? Nope. I’m Tilda Swinton. What a glaring example of self-perception vs. reality. This result disturbed me. Then I got my Google on to search for recent photos of Ms. Swinton.

Tilda Swinton

OK, Fine. If Chanel works for Tilda, Tilda works for me.

After clicking through the  Which U.S. President Are You? quiz, I discovered I am Ronald Reagan. Hmmm… I am a registered Republican, but I am restless! I struggle with my bipolar political personality:  fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

Then, I took the What Career Should You Actually Have quiz. I knew Sales Rep (the title on my biz cards) was a likely possibility. I was also curious if Psychologist or Change Management Specialist (how I really spend my work days) would be the result.

Nope. Not even close. According to those geniuses over at Buzzfeed, I should be a writer.

And it wasn’t even an essay exam.