My husband Bruce’s phobia with tools started when we were newlyweds and we made our first trip to that scary giant home depot box store. Walking down the aisles is as intimidating as walking through the jungles of the Amazon.

We were as enthusiastic with our purchase, as any other married couple on Long Island would be. “How fun,” I exclaimed, as we loaded the station wagon with cardboard boxes containing our first project. “We’re going to make this with our own hands.”

Once we got home, we searched through the boxes for the missing instructions. That should have been our first warning sign. “Don’t worry,” I remember saying. “Even a monkey could do it. (Well, two monkeys, as one monkey needs to stand back to assess the job. In our case, we needed a tribe).  

We were putting up flat slabs of brick, like a façade wall, behind our kitchen counter, while singing Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. “I can’t believe we’re almost done,” I announced to Bruce, a couple of hours later. Then our neighbor walked in, unexpectedly (another reason to always keep your doors Locked!) and hesitantly said, “Um, I don’t know if I should tell you this, but you didn’t…um, stagger the bricks.”

By all rights, the wall should have come tumbling down on the spot and killed us. Instead, we had to stare at The Wall of Shame for the next 12 years, until we moved to another house.

Now, we live in Charleston, Mount Perfect, mind you, but still, not everything can be perfect all the time. Not if you’re Bumbling Bruce and Calamity Janet.

The other day, I forgot that I left the sink water on, full force, in the upstairs guest room, until I went downstairs and saw Niagra coming out of my high hat. My eyes popped out of my head (well, they didn’t actually POP out of my head, only felt that way when I silently screamed, to hide the horror from Bruce, like Lucy from Ricky).

I asked my daughter to stall Bruce from coming downstairs, while I grabbed a bucket and towels, before his eyes really did POP out of his head! I counted down to the last slow motion drip – water torture for me.

That night in bed, still traumatized by the day, I dozed off earlier than usual, but woke up at 2 a.m., dreaming I was submerged underwater. I went downstairs to the kitchen to get a 2 a.m. snack and flicked on the light switch. There it was – a flying mouse (that’s what I call Palmetto bugs), the size of Japan (I’m allowed to exaggerate, I’m a writer.) This time, my scream reverberated throughout the house. Joey, our puppy, came downstairs to see if I was okay. Not Bruce. I have no idea how he slept through the racket I was making below with pots and pans, banging away at the creature from the black lagoon. I sprayed the bug with Lysol, but without WARNING, it went down a floor vent. I tried looking in the vent to see him, and he bounced out like a rubber ball at me. I finally clobbered him with a broom, ‘til he was squished dead. Then I remembered that if you squash them, hundreds of their eggs can be disbursed. Really?

When I went upstairs I knew I’d never fall asleep. I listened to my husband’s breathing in the dark, wondering if he was sleeping with his mouth open. Uh-oh. Do I sleep with my mouth open, too? I hear those bugs like warm dark places. So, I considered getting masking tape, but that would be crazy. Actually, not that crazy, since our primary care doctor at MUSC told us he digs those creatures out of people’s ears all the time. Really?

The next morning, relieved the night before was over, I took my seven-month-old puppy in the car for a long ride on the highway, and without warning, I heard some unpleasant regurgitation sounds, and sure enough, I see Joey had thrown up all his breakfast on the back seat. I kept my left hand on the steering wheel and the other behind me, preventing him from lying in it. I may have swerved a bit over the white lines. I then notice in my rear view mirror that a white car was following me for quite some time. Suddenly, I hear the dreaded sirens and see the blue flashing lights.

I nervously giggled like a schoolgirl when the 12-year-old officer approached my passenger window, asking for my papers. While fumbling through my messy glove compartment, I told him, “Well, officer, I usually am a very cautious driver, but look, THAT happened!”  His eyes did a subtle pop at the size of the mound on the leather seat, and said he would be right back. He sat in his police car forever, checking me out, I suppose, and writing my citation. And I had to wonder if dog vomit would now be on my record. Finally, I hear his car door slam shut. He returned, still not looking amused, and handed me a paper. Phew! Just a Warning! That was encouraging! I Wish I could get a WARNING every time something was about to go awry. Then I could  hide in the closet ‘til it is safe to come out again.



At least it used to be. Back in 1971 when they opened the doors to the Magic Kingdom, adults paid $3.50 and children $1.00 to enter. The rides and attractions ranged from 10 cents to 90 cents. Today, it costs $125 per ticket. And $22 to park your car on top of that, and if you want priority parking, that would be $45.

Do young parents have to take out a second mortgage to bring their kids there because of all the media hype? Are they guilted into it? Apparently, the price hikes didn’t scare families away over the years, including us.

Our greatest wish was to take our own children and two grandchildren to this fantasy land bigger than life itself. Originally, our first attempt in January 2018 failed, though. Mother Nature and the 30-year record breaking snowstorm had other plans for us. Every road, bridge, supermarket, doctor’s office – you name it, closed down in Charleston. The city was literally frozen. Of course, we all got the flu and our grandkids, Jagger 6, and Siena 3, were delirious with frightening fevers reaching 106 degrees.

We thought we’d made the smarter, more economical move by renting an entire house in Orlando, rather than going to a high-price Disney resort. Ahh, the best laid plans of mice and men (no pun intended, and NO refund intended on the January house, either)

Disney, take two! Good thing the kids were never told about the trip because we waited for Easter Sunday to present the big gift. Our daughter meticulously planned the itinerary and made up a scavenger hunt for the kids, one thought-out clue after another that would lead them to the trip of a lifetime, the first week in May.

Finally, the kids solved all the clues and were ready for the unveiling. We led them outside … Drum roll, please! The propaganda and balloons flanked the 3-car garage doors and a giant handmade poster with bold lettering: SURPRISE – YOU ARE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD! . Their faces — Expressionless. We were the ones surprised. Why didn’t we see this coming? It’s not like they didn’t warn us. These two children would never go within 150 yards of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. What made us think these intelligent beings suffering their entire little lives with CCS – Creepy Clown Syndrome, would want to be surrounded by an overabundance of characters.

Once we got to Disney, how could we possibly rectify the situation? Hmm. Bribery! It was the only answer. “Listen, kids,” we said, “if you let us take a picture of you with the two big mice, we’ll buy you a Lego set at the giant Lego store at Disney. There was a long pause. Then,success. They agreed to the deal. But when we got on line for Mickey and Minnie’s autograph, we could see they were getting more anxious by the minute. They swallowed a lot and looked pale. Another pep talk was in order. “Just don’t make eye contact,” we warned them. “Don’t look at their oversized hands, and don’t step on their tails. (I was starting to get creeped out, myself) And, don’t worry, they don’t even talk. Trust us.”

We found ourselves lying to the children every few minutes. Next, it was the rides. We stood behind a family of eight on line, in dire need of dental care, all wearing $25 t-shirts that read “This is the Most Expensive Day of my Life!” We made poor Jagger go on Space Mountain. He’s not been the same since.

Grandpa got motion sickness. Soon, the entire family was traumatized one way or another. Does Disney have no mercy? Yes, yes it does! We discovered that the very day we arrived was the first day they started serving alcoholic beverages in the kingdom of deceit. CHEERS!

So, you may wonder … was it all worth it? The answer is YES – every minute!



Holiday Dinner with the FamilyI

I wonder if it would be socially acceptable to dump my family and invite myself to eat the holiday feast with the Johnsons, total strangers who live around the bend  … ‘cause I don’t think I can take another year with my over-zealous politically-inclined relatives. And I predict this year will be a doozy!

Besides, I hear the Johnsons are politically-apathetic. So what if the cooking is bland? I can picture my surrogate relations now – they’ll have mellow yellow candles glowing in each window. Zen music will be coming from every orifice of their walls. Maybe all they’ll argue about over dinner is the wishbone.

In our family, we have an Chef a ‘la Attitude, who hands out meticulously printed menus to each of the twenty dinner guests seated at the long table. His recipes are so confidential, even the Secret Service can’t break the code. Except for the caucus … I mean, carcass. That’s a given! “Kill bird – cook bird – eat bird,” says our gun-toting Uncle Samuel ready to stab the poor unpardoned thing with his fork.

Don’t get me wrong, we were very grateful for the food we were about to receive: corn bisque with red bell pepper and rosemary soup, brussel sprouts with pecans, baked spiced butternut squash drizzled with pure maple syrup, en salada miste verde, and of course, the main course, crispy roasted applejack tarragon turkey with mushroom bacon leek stuffing.

But at the last gathering, I knew trouble was a brewing when I saw renderings of elephants and donkeys on the backs of the carte du jour. And the alcohol and appetizers was the precursor for the mix of high strung personalities and a melding of different generations

Ahh, a family with diverse political appetites, I write about in my run-on-sentence, including:  the “I’m-gonna-save-the-world” United Nations human rights attorney nephew; his brother, the liberal elitist New York Times journalist; the pompous English professor; the protesting, but creative nieces and nephews in the music business; the high school sophomore  who thought he could apply for his higher education at the Electoral College; the “what-am-I-gonna-do-now?” recent Ivy League college grad student;  and the peace-making surfer dude, who says, “You know, it doesn’t matter who’s in office, the cycle of political eras just go up and down … you gotta ride ‘em out like a wave, man … you just gotta ride ‘em out.”

There’s the identical twin sisters, Aunt Franny from Philly, who always wears those crazy hats, and her sister Flo, from LA, who only eats organic foods like African plant roots. I think last year she brought her own tree to the table. And, of course, I can’t forget the spinster, Cousin Zoey, the vegan, who lives on beans and garlic. There’s usually an empty chair next to hers. She goes into great detail about how she “cleanses the toxins from her body” the day after big holiday meals.

So, who planned Thanksgiving and Christmas time so close together, anyway? We JUST saw these people! We start out very polite; everyone attempts to skirt around the political issues at hand. I recall in the year 2000 (which seemed like such a futuristic date at the time), we turned into the Hatfields and the McCoys. A good old-fashioned food fight would have been more civilized between the staunch Republicans versus the resilient Democrats. I had wished there were no utensils within anyone’s reach. Looking back, the chit chat seems so harmless now, arguing over the dimpled and absentee ballots at the time rather than the Russians and nuclear weapons we now face. Someone had suggested if the ballots were printed like Bingo cards, they never would have counted wrong!

But everyone was eating in between the discussion, except for the vegan who started to cry.  “I can’t eat this poor turkey! Isn’t it bad enough they had to walk around their entire lives with those stupid red things hanging from their necks?” There was silence between gulping. “And what about animal rights?”

“Animal rights? What’s that?” Great Aunt Millie from Brooklyn asked, innocently. She reminisced. “I remember the old days on Mulberry Street. We were sooo poor back then. There were stables across the street from where we lived, and whenever a horse died, they would just put it out by the curb until someone would come and take it away. I once sat on a dead horse when I was little, eating my sandwich.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick!” The vegan bolted from the table. Brussel sprouts rolled everywhere. Again … silence.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Uncle Tooty bit the ear off a dog?”

‘Shut up!” someone blurted.

“At least we got off the subject of politics,” the host said pleasantly.

Then, the leftover hippie from the 60s spoke up. “The last time I voted was in 1976 for Jimmy Carter.” Uh-oh. I knew that wouldn’t sit right with the rich bastard Cuban-cigar smokin’ Uncle from the gold coast. The food was passed around abruptly. To say there was a lot of clattering is an understatement.

The wide-eyed “Why-is-the-sky-blue?” little ones watched the adults as if it was a tennis match. One of the youngest asked, “What is a gravy boat, anyway?”

“I don’t know, but it sure is starting to thicken!” someone said.

“Why are you all fighting?”  Little Bobby asked.

“We’re not fighting, Bobby. We’re having a discussion. A debate, if you will.”

This year, I can only imagine when the main platter, the “head honcho” will take center stage on the dining room table – The Big Orange Bird.

Good Luck, America. Gotta love it!