Jif Wars

JifSo, my thoughtful, kind, loving husband texts me the other day asking if there’s anything I want at the grocery store. He does things like this. As I said, he is thoughtful, loving, and kind.

I tell him, why yes, in fact, there is something I want at the store. I would like some Jif peanut butter and some bananas. I’m trying to spice up my otherwise monotonous lunch break. I am one of those people who will eat the same, exact lunch every day for 180 days.

Yes, 180 days. In my real life, my Clark Kent life, I am a teacher. Clark Kent likes the same lunch every day. Clark Kent has twenty minutes to throw something down his gullet, so delighting the palate is of little concern. Clark does not exist in the summer, hence there is no lunch in the summer. In the summer, I do not eat lunch. I do not need to. I live off my super powers.

But I digress. I want to incorporate a peanut butter and banana sandwich into my lunch routine and by the time my kind, loving husband returns home I am as excited about this sandwich as The Tea Party was about John Boehner resigning the speakership.

And then I see the Skippy.

I’m crying, Boehner-like, on the inside and I ask my wonderful husband:

“What’s this?”

“Peanut butter,” he replies, pulling me close and kissing me.

“Didn’t I say Jif?” I ask, smiling, still smiling, my glittering lunch dreams turning to dust on the island butcher block.

My husband coaches the Mock Trial team at his school. Yes, he’s a teacher too, but he teaches at a private school where they have four-course, gourmet lunches free for teachers and students that do their homework and keep their butts safely stowed out of sight in their pants.

He is using his Mock Lawyer voice now as he tells me that I did not specify the exact peanut butter brand in my request. Thankfully, I know a thing or two about lawyering and, since my husband and I do not speak to each other much, I produce and submit the textual evidence wherein I specified the product brand Jif by name.

Somehow my dear, sweet, otherwise intelligent husband cannot understand what the big deal is.

Mind you, I have lived with this man every day for over a year now.

“I don’t like Skippy.”

“Peanut butter is peanut butter.”

“No it’s not. Skippy sucks.”

“They taste exactly the same.”

“No they don’t. Choosy mothers choose Jif.”

“You’re not going to eat it?”


At this point I wouldn’t eat that Skippy peanut butter if I had just spent the winter on the Donner pass.

What can I say? I like what I like. Otherwise I would’ve texted in the generic.

I think my problem (and now my husband’s problem), is I am an only child. I grew up in the contented splendor of my own quiet kingdom where everything, or so it seemed anyway, was either for me, about me, or mine. And we ate Jif peanut butter.

Now before you go thinking that I was Veruca Salt in the chocolate factory, all spoiled and demanding with the stamping foot, I wasn’t. I might have been spoiled, but I was really quite pleasant about it. I didn’t demand things or pitch a fit or throw myself on the floor in the toy department at Grant’s. I didn’t have to. Things just came to me, like magic.

I had my own room with a canopy bed and pink shag carpet, a groovy bike with Hi-Rise handlebars and a flaming banana seat, and Barbie’s three-foot, three-story Townhouse with working elevator. I’m pretty sure my mom was reliving her, let’s say, less abundant childhood vicariously through me. My mom didn’t say I love you, she bought it and gave it to you.

I had a lot of stuff, what I didn’t have were siblings. I never had to wait for my brother to get out of the shower. I never had to share my clothes with my sister. I never had to plot the death of my sibling so I could ensure my parents’ undivided affections. I was A New Hope Luke Skywalker, solitary and slightly bored on Tatooine, ignorant of the ways of The Compromise.

But The Compromise was out there – like The Force. And like The Force, The Compromise was everywhere and in everything and I grew tall without an Obi Wan or Yoda to teach me its ways.

And there was that jar of Skippy. That jar of Skippy was Vader, in all of his dark-side splendor, right there on the butcher block island, testing me, baiting me, trying to lure me to the dark-side where I would give in, give up, renounce my allegiance to Jif and in so doing deny my history, my make up, my very soul!

I had to turn away.

A couple of days later, a jar of Jif appeared, like magic, on the kitchen island.

Seems one of us is learning the ways of The Compromise.

Now if I can only get him to stop eating off my plate.



GravityThe last time I wrote at length in this space I was unmarried, both of my kids were still in high school, and my mother was alive. Oh, and I wasn’t 50! As David Bowie so eloquently put it: “. . .turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes!”

I am not the first person to experience the untethered, anchorless feeling of losing the last of one’s parents, or of the unfinished, phantom-limb sensation of the Empty Nest, or the sternum cracking, joyful chorus of a more perfect love, but I find that I am in a place that begs its expression – a kind of through-the-looking-glass place where nothing is familiar, yet everything is, a place where I should know where I am and I do, but I don’t – a world where nothing has changed and yet everything has.

I’m not a stranger to loss. My father died suddenly when I was 16. His death was more shocking to me than Donald Trump leading in the polls. And when he died everything died with him. It was like the Auden poem from Four Weddings and a Funeral:

“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

My mother’s death was not sudden, but it was shocking in its own sneaky way. I was with her when she breathed her last and that was that. No fanfare, no soul rising up out of her body or brilliant white light or choir of angels. Nothing. She simply breathed her last and ceased to be. Suddenly the end was Here. Not near, but Here. In a moment, an instant, the riot of life that for 83 years was my mother ended – just like that.

I thought I was prepared for her to die. I thought I was ready. There’s a James Michener quote Reese Witherspoon’s character cites in that movie Wild: “We are never prepared for what we expect.” And so it was when my mother died.

I knew when I received the call that morning at work. I knew when I got to the emergency room. I knew when the doctor laid out the odds. I knew as I watched her disappear over those endless days and nights and I really knew when one morning, before she lost her voice, she asked me not to leave her. But, all along I still thought I was ready.

I had imagined my life without my mom many times. Typical teenage fantasies of escaping her tyranny and angst filled adult ruminations on wills and wishes. My mother drove me nuts and I drove her crazy. We loved each other and wanted to kill each other. We needed each other and resented each other. We were, for most of my life, everything to one another. And now she’s gone and I’m trying to find my way without the sun, the tides, without air. I am Sandra Bullock and I am Off Structure!

And as if that’s not enough acclimatizing, my kids are gone too! No, they’re not dead, just off in college. Now it’s just me and my new husband at home alone. Well, not entirely alone. We have our dog, our cat and now my mother’s undocumented devil dog Domino. Like I said, nothing makes any sense.

It’s a strange sensation when the people who define you – I’m a daughter, I’m a mother – go. I find myself suddenly finding myself again and I’m finding that I’d rather stay lost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad this open-ended time. I can go to the gym before work, write this blog, finish up publishing my novel. And I most certainly do not miss packing everyone’s lunch at five in the morning, but I haven’t had time to hear myself think since Jerry Garcia was alive and now all I can hear is myself thinking and it’s driving me crazy.

So now, instead of a mother or chidren, I have a therapist. My own personal Anne Sullivan. She’s turning me into a Buddhist and so far so good. I’ve been meditating which is comically ironic since meditating is all about being with yourself and that’s the very thing that’s making me lose my mind. And, on top of that, it’s really fucking hard. Apparently this is a journey, a long journey. A Frodo and the One Ring kind of journey, except at the end I won’t be able to extinguish my crazy in the fires of Mount Doom, I’ll just learn to live with it. Seems rather anticlimactic.

But on the upside, it seems to be working – a little. When you meditate you’re supposed to feel yourself grounding and being connected to the earth and every living thing in it. I can get there, sometimes, for maybe a nanosecond and then the devil dog barks and I’m off structure again. But for that instant, I remember what gravity feels like – what my mom’s perfume smells like, what my kids singing in the car sounds like – and suddenly, for a moment, it feels like everything is going to be okay, like I’m back on solid ground.


Out of Mothballs

11800103_150342288631618_8056253078256854643_nYes, that’s me and yes, I’m back. It’s been five long years since I’ve written this blog and now here I am, back again. I am back because I’m publishing my awesome novel, Beauty and Other Vices, on Amazon and in order for an awesome new writer to sell his or her awesome new book, one must shamelessly (but oh so awesomely) crow about one’s absolute awesomeness via every possible free media outlet. You will soon be awesomely sick of hearing from me.

So, where the hell have I been? I’ve been here, doing the usual stuff we all do, work, play, getting married, getting a masters degree, getting the kids out of high school, getting drunk, getting lucky, getting not so lucky . . .

In all honesty, I stopped blogging because coming up with new ideas every week is tough! And writing is tough! And being funny is tough! And Game of Thrones premiered on HBO!

I had an easy out, going back to school to get the government-mandated master’s degree, so I took it and then it was just another thing and another thing, and then five years had gone by and now I’m 50! So, I figure I’ll give it another crack and shamelessly self-promote my book and everyone will love it and buy it and a movie will be made and I can make a cameo appearance like Alfred Hitchcock or Peter Jackson and I can attend the Oscar Ceremonies where the Oscar will Go To Me for Most Awesome Screenplay and I can retire and write more awesome books and make more cameo appearances and have more Oscars Go To Me . . .

Ahhh – Livin’ the Grammatically Butchered Dream. (Remember when Cher balked at “the Oscar Goes To” and said, the more direct and correct, “the Winner Is?”)

So, tune in next week sports fans for more insightful and awesome musings about things of which I feel like writing, not the least of which will be my awesome book, Beauty and Other Vices!


Ode to summer

So, it had to happen. Summer had to end. Unfortunately, it’s just ending too soon.

I love summer. I love everything about it. Except Triple E. I hate Triple E. Triple E is the one thing I do not love about summer.

(A brief aside: for those of you fortunate enough not to live in southeastern Massachusetts, below sea and I.Q. level, Triple E is Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mostly fatal virus transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. And even if you manage to survive, you are left in such a state that you pretty much probably wish you were dead.)

Triple E, in a word, sucks.

But I digress.

I love summer. I love the heat, the bare feet, the sleeping later than 5:30 a.m., the staying up past 10 p.m., the wearing of the bathing suit all day, the tanned skin, the birds in the morning, the peepers at night, the dripping watermelon, the beefy tomatoes, the sweet corn, the kids’ laughter outside…

But I think if I had summer all year long I’d be dead.

I Love summer.

I Love summer with a Vengeance.

I am to summer what Lance Armstrong is (or was) to the Tour de France. Unfortunately, I do not have the benefit of controlled substances so, I am, therefore, exhausted.

Every day in the summer I wake up and say, yes, I literally say this out loud: What are we going to do today?

It’s like I’m on that old game show, Beat the Clock, and I have to get in as much fun as possible before the autumnal equinox. I am that crazed contestant in that money wind machine, snatching at summer days like they’re one hundred dollar bills.

All I can think is, summer is short don’t waste it.


It’s like I was raised in the Great Summer Depression and had to go without July. Like every hour of summer is a shaving of soap and I must scrounge up every one I can get and work it into a good lather.

And this summer was tough. It didn’t rain once. All right, maybe once, but that was the day we went to laser tag until midnight.

Every day I woke up, secretly hoping, wishing for just one rainy day…rolled over and saw the sun. Half of me was happy, the other half resigned, but determined.

Must go on, must have fun, must go play beach volleyball.

I am to summer what Arnold Schwarzenegger is to Sarah Connor.

Now you know why there hasn’t been any words written in this space since May. The sun came out.

I am to summer what a gerbil is to his exercise wheel.

And, I have to be honest, I am ready to get off.

I’m ready for the cool nights, that clean snap in the air, the colored leaves, pumpkins and hardy mums. The new season of Survivor.

I know, I’m breaking the Cardinal Rule of Summer, wishing it away, but I need a break.

I need a vacation from my summer vacation.

It’s like I’ve been in Vegas for the past nine or so weeks, except instead of gambling and drinking I’ve been hiking, swimming, biking, camping, and barbecuing.

I am to summer what Wayne Newton is to Las Vegas and I have a summer hangover.

But, in the meantime, I have one day left.

And the sun is out…


A Rock and A Hard Place

So, it’s springtime and a not-so-young-anymore woman’s thoughts turn to flights of fancy and…yard work.

Yeah, that’s where I’ve been oh these long weeks. Out in the yard. Working. No more sitting in the house. Blogging.

I had a pool put in last summer and, while I love my pool to the point of actual physical desire, I miss my back yard.

Once upon a time, I had this really great back yard. It was one of the main reasons I bought my house. The lawn was green and lush and quite picturesque. Just the kind of lawn that made you want to break out in cartwheels.

Now all I’m breaking out in is the sweats and back spasms.

You see, my formerly picturesque, green and lush back yard now more closely resembles the post-apocalyptic landscape beyond the Thunderdome.

Or the surface of the moon.

But with more rocks.

I never knew that there were this many rocks on Earth, never mind in my back yard. It’s like one of the ten plagues of Egypt. The Rock Plague.

And I could wander around back there for 40 years, picking up rocks and still not get them all.

The Taliban would love my back yard. They could stone all kinds of people back there and never run out of ammunition.

I told my son I would pay him twenty-five cents per rock that he picked up. He liked the idea until he discovered that picking up rocks was a lot like work. He quit after about 12 rocks.

So now, the rocks just sit there. Mocking me.

I cannot bring myself to pick up these rocks. It truly is like a plague. Or like plucking gray hair. You pick up one rock and ten more rocks appear in its place.

It’s just too disheartening, so my new strategy is to simply concentrate on the front yard, ignore the rock plague in the back yard and wait and see what grows back there.

Something will grow. It’s inevitable. There’s already quite a congregation of dandelions back there wagging their snowy afros at me.

Why is it always dandelions? And crab grass?

Nothing ever grows that you want to grow and if it does, it never grows where you want it to grow.

It’s like my yard is a middle-aged bald man. No grass grows where he wants it to, on his head. But random, unruly patches are sprouting all over his back, neck and shoulders. 

To tell the truth, even my front lawn is a mess. It looks great from a distance, but up close, it’s another matter entirely. Kind of like Cameron Dias.

And it’s a shame really because I used to have a beautiful lawn.

Back when I didn’t live there.

I remember when I first looked at my house. I was so impressed with the lawn. It was so thick, so green, so lush. It was obvious that the people who owned this house were lawn people.

You know those people, those lawn people. They are of a different breed, like bird people or reptile people.

You can always tell a reptile person’s house because they have that one window with that creepy, poltergeist light glowing out into the night. There are only two explanations for a light like that: some kind of cold blooded reptile pet or a grow operation.

Either way it’s a lifestyle.

Lawn people have a lifestyle. It’s sort of like a priest’s lifestyle.

Lawn people are completely committed to their lawn. Lawn people have sacrificed everything to their lawn. Lawn people never go away. Lawn people are always home. Lawn people get up early and work in the yard all day. Lawn people do not hire outsiders to tend to their lawn. Lawn people are well versed in the proper application of Scotts products and can recite passages from the directions on the back of the bag. Lawn people have big, shiny lawn tractors with all kinds of big, shiny attachments.

Lawn people use words like putter.  

Now there’s a word that is the exact opposite of onomatopoeia.

Putter around the yard. Puttering implies some level of pleasure. Some level of fun.

I don’t putter around my yard.

I work my ass off. I slave away. I get filthy dirty.

And I sweat a lot.

Puttering congers up images of flowery gardening gloves and rubber clogs and iced tea.

I got none of that.

I got rocks.

A whole lot of rocks.

Yup, I am Charlie Brown and it is Halloween and it is going to be a long night.


The Facial

So, I took my mom to get a facial for her birthday.

Mind you, I am not a facial type of girl. Neither is my mother. The apple doesn’t fall far, and all of that.

I have had one other facial in my life and my mother has never had one. It’s not that we’re Anti-Pampering or making some kind of political statement against micro-abrasion, we simply don’t like to be touched. And neither one of us is too keen on small talk.

I don’t want to know whose kids those are in the picture taped to the hairdresser’s mirror or what the hairdresser is doing this weekend and I don’t want any questions about my kids or my leisure time activities either. If I wanted to answer all these questions, I’d go on Oprah. Or get a therapist.

Oh, and, just for the record, don’t ask me about my kids’ sporting events while you’re checking my cervix for cancer either.  

So, anyway, upon hearing our evidently appalling admissions regarding our lack of facial experience, the facial ladies made faces at us. They made the kind of faces that encourage the kind of wrinkles that these kinds of facials are supposed to lessen the appearance of.

Needless to say, the facial ladies’ faces did little to boost our confidence or our self esteem.

And what is it with the white lab coats? They’re rubbing cream on our faces not testing us for HIV. Why the doctor theme? Everything in the place was white. It was like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I was already a nervous wreck anticipating all the touching and talking, I certainly didn’t need to start imaging big needles. Or Malcolm McDowell.

When I first envisioned this birthday present, I had thought that my mother and I would be getting our facials together. You know side-by-side under a teak awning with an ocean breeze like one of those reward challenges on Survivor or those Cialis commercials with the bathtubs. Not that we would be voting each other off the island or enjoying any long-lasting pharmacological effects, but I had hoped that we’d at least be able to talk to each other and not to the facial lady.

This was not to be.

My mother and I were immediately separated and directed to our own white rooms.

In my room was a kind of dentist chair type looking reclining bed thing, covered with white blankets and sheets. To the left of the bed thing was more dentist inspired decor, the only discernable difference in the machinery being the size of the brushes on the hand-held electric equipment.

I have no idea what was inside my mother’s room because I never saw her again. Well, at least not until after she had been exfoliated.

Facial land is full of words like this: exfoliation, extraction, micro-abrasion. Like washing your face is such a big mystery.

Overall translation: exfoliation and micro-abrasion are in the same family and come from the Latin “washing your face with stuff that is NOT soap and has little bumps in it sometimes using an electric powered spin brush,” and extraction is from the Germanic “popping zits.”

So, I go into my own white room and my facial lady directs me to take my clothes off.

And here I was thinking I was getting a facial.

Oh, sorry, not all of my clothes. Just half of my clothes. I can leave my jeans on.

Well, this is good news.

And I am to put on this kind of tube-top towel dress/nightgown number and crawl into the reclining dentist chair bed.

As I am a rule-follower type of person, I immediately comply.

I decide would make a great prisoner of war.

Upon my facial lady’s return, I confess to her my trepidation on getting a facial. I, of course, do not disclose my aversion to the touching or the talking as I do not wish to offend her while I’m lying half naked in a dentist chair bed and she is but inches away from an electric brush the size of a drywall sander.

She pashaws my concerns and shines the big light in my face. I am overcome with a need to confess everything and then she asks me if I want her to “clean up my eyebrows” for a mere twenty dollars.

Well, in for a penny in for twenty bucks, I always say, so I give her the go ahead.

She explains that she is not using wax and then drips this really hot sticky liquid around my eyebrows and rips it off.

OW! I say.

Oh, you’ve given birth, she says.

Here comes the f’ing small talk, I think, but instead I say: yeah, but they didn’t come out of my eyebrow!

She doesn’t laugh and then she doesn’t wax my other eyebrow and rips some more hair out.

Then she explains how she’s going to trim my eyebrows. Apparently my eyebrows are in pretty rough shape.

“I’ll just trim down some of these Andy Rooneys.”

Andy Rooneys.

This is why I don’t pamper myself.

Later, over a shot of whiskey and a cigarette, I inspect my eyebrows. They look the same to me despite the half an hour she spent working on them.

So, from the eyebrows, it’s on to the actual facial.

After further inspecting my face under the big light, the facial lady informs me that I’m a little dehydrated and not particularly hairy.

I am immediately relieved that I will not have to undergo anymore not-waxing and since I’m a semi-fitness professional I equate dehydration with drinking water.

This is not the case in facial land.

I quickly learn that I had been doing it wrong all these years. Instead of drinking water, I should’ve been applying massive amounts of mango chutney to my face and steaming it until it reaches a slow boil. 

I swear that facial lady scraped that mango sauce off of my face with tortilla chips, but I’ll never know for sure.

That’s the thing about the facial, you have to keep your eyes closed the whole time. You have no idea what’s coming next. One minute you’re lying there, face to God, and the next you’re on the Kids’ Choice Awards, smothering under pounds of mysterious fruity smelling goo.

I can’t remember what came after the mango chutney, but it was cool and there was lots of it and she rubbed it all around my face like she was Patrick Swayze and my face was the blob of clay on the potter’s wheel.

It was a miracle. I had finally started to relax and actually started to enjoy this whole pampering thing.

And then she started smacking me around.


When I came out later I asked my mom if her facial lady had hit her.

She replied in the negative.  

I do not know what I did to so offend the facial lady, but whatever the reason, she smacked me around real good. She smacked me about the chin, round the mouth, and even gave me a couple shots to the throat.

I was Rocky Balboa and she was Clubber Lang. I wanted my mommy. I wanted Burgess Meredith.

What I really wanted to do was get up and smack her back or maybe give her a good Tropical Infusion Treatment, but my hands were secured in some kind of heated oven mitts and I couldn’t move. I just had to lie there and take it.

Never mind that if I had sat up, I would’ve gotten that almond sauce in my eye.

She must’ve knocked me out because the next thing I remember was the sounds of Gregorian chanting.

Gregorian chanting is not relaxing. Gregorian chanting is scary.

Lying there in my white room, all alone (facial lady had stepped out, probably to tape up her wrists and go another round) I kept seeing those creepy masked people in Eyes Wide Shut.

I had worked myself up into quite a little state of panic when facial lady returned cleaned me off and set me free.

But not after trying to sell me some expensive face cleaner that was NOT soap.


All the Little Things

I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything particularly amusing to write about this week.

All that’s been going on around these parts is the Big Flood. The National Disaster. The National Guard people and Humvees at every corner, sand bags and detours and fish all confused, swimming in the street.

And lots and lots of people in lots and lots of pain over the loss of their homes, belongings, peace of mind.

There’s just nothing funny about that.

I had this same problem following the earthquake in Haiti. How can I write some goofy column when so many are dead, dying, suffering?

The world is a terrible place. The world is a wonderful place. It just depends on what kind of day you’re having.

I like to think of this column as one of the small good things that can maybe provide a smile, a LOL or maybe even a LMAO!

One of my students asked me not too long ago how to be happy. I told him I don’t know.

I think happiness is an individual thing. Kind of like your eye color, or your target heart rate.

But I told him what works for me.

I am able to maintain a healthy degree of happiness by remembering to enjoy all the little things. After all, you can’t count on too many great, big happy things, not every day can be Christmas morning, but there are all kinds of little happy things, little unnoticed miracles, all day long, pretty much every day.

Like kids barefoot and laughing and catching fish in the middle of Route 18 – right smack in the middle of a National Disaster.

So, back then, when the earthquake happened, and my student was trying to find a way to be happy, I felt compelled to compile a list of all the little things in life that make me happy:

Russel Crowe

Clive Owen

70 degree day in March


“Project Runway”

“Sex in the City”




some people



Harpoon IPA


wine – all kinds

matzoh ball soup

those little umbrellas you put in drinks

hot tub

hot shower

Tabasco sauce

the Heat Meiser and all those claymation Christmas shows

a big, fat, orange, rising June full moon

sunrise, sunset

Susan Boyle when she sang on that show




Newbury Comics

“Charlotte’s Web” the book

riding the chairlift with my kids

riding the chairlift without my kids

Christmas Eve

Yankee Candles

Pixar movies

bare feet

fresh cut grass

snow men

kickboxing class

making a great spinning CD

singing really loud in the car

heated seats

Fenway Park


patio tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

the frogs in summer



Milky Way ice cream

a fire – indoors our outdoors

jumping on the trampoline


leaf blowing

the end of school bell

my morning coffee

coming home

And so on and so on.

And that’s all I can think of lately when I drive past these homes that are now sitting in the lake and see all the things ruined and lost.

Sometimes all you have are the little things.

And a lot of the time, if you string them all together you can make one big happy.

So, if you have your own list of all the little things, please comment back and post it. I could use another smile today.

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