Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going…

You may have noticed that I have been out of the writing loop for a while. I don’t have a note signed by “Juan Epstein’s mother” to excuse me but I do have reasons for my prolonged absence.

I didn’t give up writing. What I did was I gave up publishing what I had written. Because it wasn’t funny. It was, in fact, very angry. Essays that were meant to address the frivolities of life in what I always hope comes across in a whimsical tone, devolved, instead, into diatribes where I railed against our current President, his administration, the press, the electorate, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

There is enough of that going on in the world, in social media, in the mainstream media, in grocery stores, coffee shops, and workplaces. While I am aware that I do my part to add to the divisiveness on my Facebook page, I didn’t want to add to it here. This is where I try to be more light-hearted. And, really, does it make any difference that I think that this country is headed for disaster, going to hell in a handbasket? It does not.

What I have to say, have said, hasn’t convinced any of my right-wing friends to come around to my way of thinking over on The Facebook, why would anything I have to say here make a difference? It won’t.

Not that the nonsense, the minutiae, of my every day life is important, either, but I have been told that it can be, has been, an amusing diversion in the lives of some of my more dedicated readers. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I have decided to go back to using this space to tell my stories.

Unfortunately for my husband, the much put-upon Fang, my stories often include him and/or our daughter, the lovely and quick-witted, Fangette. And that is a slippery slope.

I tried to remove them from my anecdotes because they wanted to be removed. They tend to take what I write to heart — and they take everything that I say very literally. Bad feelings have been a result of some of the things that I have written about them. And that was never my intention.

They honestly are hilarious, sometimes in a frustrating, pull-your-hair-out sort of way, but hilarious just the same. That is what I had hoped people would see. And plenty of people did see this. Fang and Fangette were not, sadly, part of that population.

It is nearly impossible, though, to remove them, the principal players in my life, from the story of my life. I am going to try, though. Because they have lives, too. Blogless lives. They have no recourse to amend what I have written. That is their argument, and it is a good one; they make a valid point.

In an effort to strike a better balance and to insure a more harmonious home life, I am going to make every effort, when I have to mention them, to be more sensitive to their feelings. And that’s not just because my daughter often threatens me with litigation, but because I truly love them and want to respect their right to privacy.

We shall see if once I have to edit myself more carefully whether or not I will have any topics left that are worth writing about. In the meantime, I would like to thank all of you who have stuck with me. But let me just say this, if all I can come up with to write about are rainbows and unicorns, I am shutting this whole enterprise down. Because that’s just not ME, people!

And, you know, I’ve got to be me. (Just not at the expense of others.)


For the record, my husband is a kind and generous person who goes to work every day, doesn’t drink, smoke, gamble, or have any other heinous habits, unless you count snoring, which I have been told I am guilty of myself. So, there’s that.

He is a good father, at least in my estimation, but I am certain that my daughter would agree. In fact, I know that she wold. I am 100% certain of that, just as I am 100% certain that there is nothing that I could ever do (say, write) that wold make him love me less. Piss him off? Sure. But love me less, not on your life. I’d bet the cat on that one.

As for my daughter, she is a funny, intelligent, independent young woman who makes me proud to call her mine every single damn day. Even on the days when she is driving me crazy. (And there have been a good number of those days!)

She is competent. She is headstrong. She is snarky. She loves animals. Ditto for Beyonce. She hates injustice and intolerance in all its forms. She is both a feminist and a humanist.

She loves a bargain, but is also one of the most generous people you will ever  meet. She is fiercely loyal, both as a daughter and as a friend. I, and countless others, can bear witness to that statement.

How can I not respect the wishes of these two? The answer is simple: I must. Because they would do if for me.

Peace out. (But just for today, tomorrow when and if you tune in, I may have a thing or three to say about the undercelebrated but always relevant legume.)




What’s Going On?


I don’t always know what is going on in the world — I suspect that most of the time it’s going to hell in a hand basket, but I don’t actually know that for sure. Admittedly, I’m a little self-centered. My world, being as Jackie-centric as it is, means that I pay very little attention to things that don’t impact me. It’s a good bet that I’ll have some idea what the weather is supposed to be like on my day off, but don’t expect me to know that there are changes afoot in Turkey’s political landscape.

In an effort to help me stay a little more on top of things, my husband, the far more interested in keeping current, Fang, recommended that, to this end, I download an app. This was prompted, no doubt, by his exasperation with his ill-informed wife. In an urgent tone, he reported that this app would send breaking news directly and immediately to my phone. I’ve forgotten what exactly it was that I didn’t know that so exasperated him. Whatever it was it caused him to nearly beg that I show a little more interest in both national and international events. He may have mumbled something about being an embarrassment to the family name.

I would like to take this opportunity to defend myself — and the family name — by saying that I often know when there’s big stuff going on in the world — not always, but often enough. I knew about the missing Malaysian airliner, for example. That this may have been the result of social media being all abuzz about it, I can’t recall. It’s probable that I had come by this information by clicking on a link that some helpful friend posted and which I stumbled across while I was trolling around on Facebook while awaiting new lives to load for Candy Crush. While it’s possible that I got the information in another way, it’s not bloody likely.

Unless there’s a baseball game on, I don’t watch television when I’m home alone. Outside of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, I can’t remember a time that a sports network interrupted my enjoyment of a game with current events. As I didn’t have the app yet, it’s a pretty good bet that I got the airliner news, one way or another, via the internet. Even if The Mets were on that day, I don’t remember Keith, Ronnie, Kevin, or Gary commenting on it.

Because I was so proud of myself for finally being in the loop about something newsworthy, I not only had a conversation with Fang about it, I initiated one. I know. It was cocky of me, but sometimes I have to take my successes where I find them. Breezily and confidently, I just threw a comment out there, over dinner or some such, in a nonchalant way about how it was so odd that such a large thing could just disappear into thin air. By way of a response, Fang just looked at me and said, “It’s good to know that news made it to Facebook.” Alas, he’s always on to my shenanigans.

I decided to let this mildly snarky comment slide. I had already allowed my mind to wander. That it wandered in the direction of “Where We Get Our News Today”, instead of whether I had remembered to tape last week’s installment of “Ripper Street” or when, if ever, PBS would provide the world with another episode of “Endeavour”, surprised even me.

Normally, those are the sorts of questions that take up space in my brain, not why I, and I suspect millions of others, no longer keep up with what’s going on in the world through newspapers, television, and/or radio. Honestly, if the event doesn’t make it to my home page or if someone doesn’t post or comment on it through social media — it’s helpful when they provide a link — I won’t know about it.

Frankly, I’ve never been one to read a daily newspaper. I used to get The New York Times delivered, but that was mainly for show and for the crossword puzzle. National television news spends far too much air time time covering wars, famines, and natural disasters; local television expends its energy on fires and murders. It’s downright depressing.

As far as the radio is concerned, if we even own one, I don’t know where it is. Once in a while I’ll tune in to NPR, but I do that via the internet, too. I do so enjoy “This American Life”.

With this topic in mind, I interrupted my husband, the guy who foolishly thought he was having a conversation with me, while he was going on and on about the theories that were swirling around regarding the circumstances of how a gigantic aircraft could just disappear. I asked him how he happened to come by all of this information — these theories, I suspected, weren’t his own. That’s when he told me about the fabulous app he had on his phone, the one that delivers to him, in real time, breaking news stories.

I did not ask him why he thought his means for keeping current was better than mine. I knew then, as I know now, that he would make the argument that his source was better, more professional, more substantial, even, than my more willy-nilly method. I wasn’t looking to tangle with him, I simply wanted to know.

Ultimately and for some inexplicable reason — perhaps I thought that my husband and I would converse about issues and affairs not related to baseball if I knew something about issues and affairs unrelated to baseball — I did something that seemed a good idea at the time. I downloaded the app. I’ve regretted it ever since.

This thing beeps and blips all night long! It has, thus far, alerted me to many, many things in the middle of the night that are of little or no interest to me, but that I fear, as a result of the incessant beeping and blipping, may be of utmost importance. Every time the noise alerts me to something new, I worry that if I don’t at least glance at it, I may miss out on life-saving information.

This gripping dread has led me on far too many recent evenings to roll over, bolt upright, begin a search for my glasses, and wearily click on the app, as I hope against hope that I won’t be instructed to evacuate my premises or, God forbid, the State of New Jersey. I know all too well that in my mismatched pajamas and brightly colored fuzzy socks, I’m not really dressed for that sort of thing.

Fortunately, no such instructions have been forthcoming. Instead, I have been advised about fires in Russian shipyards that may, or may not, involve nuclear submarines, nearly minute-by-minute reports about what Congress may or may not be up to (in the dead of the night?), and sanctions that the UN may or may not levy upon some country that up to now I didn’t even know how to spell.

I could go on and on, as the stupid app does, but I won’t. I’ll spare you that. Suffice it to say that this app hasn’t provided me with new information on anything that is of any real concern to me. I still, for example, do not know what the BBC is up to in reference to “Endeavour”. As soon as I delete the app, I am going to do what I always do when I want to discover something — search the internet or head on over to Facebook or Twitter. What’s nice about my method, willy-nilly though it is, is that I can use it at my convenience, like when I’m awake.

My husband can go ahead and think me shallow and ill-informed. That’s fine. I’ll learn to live with being a disgrace to our name, which is his name anyway, so, really, what do I care? If I’m going to plow through life shallow and ill-informed, at least I’ll be both of those things AND well-rested. I’ll just have to rely upon Fang to rouse me from my slumber if, indeed, the zombies (or the Russians, or the Redcoats) are coming. Hopefully, I’ll be wearing matching pajamas.

Fang: The Inventor!

My husband fancies himself an inventor. Really, he’s more of a gerry-rigger, but we’ve discovered that it’s best not to argue with him. Tomato/Tomatoe, Potato/Potatoe and all that. We are all better served if we just nod our heads in an affirmative (and enthusiastic) way while he’s attempting to sort out the latest conundrum that has presented itself here at the hovel. He finds it helpful to have Fangette and I around to fetch him the scissors, the tape, a shoe lace, or a button — whatever it is he needs — when he gets into full “mad scientist” mode.

 Thomas Edison: Tinkerer extraordinaire.

Thomas Edison: Tinkerer extraordinaire.

Unlike me, who prefers to be left to my own devices when working out household problems of great magnitude — things like how to keep the pot lids from sliding out of the cabinet every flipping time I attempt to free up a skillet — Fang always seems to require the presence of others when he sets out to “fix” something.

I also tend to rely upon items that already exist to solve my problems. For example, I used a metal filing tray to keep my pot lids in order. I bought one at Staples. Simple.

Fang prefers to fashion his own devices. And, he enjoys company while doing so. Like a stand-up comic working out his timing, Fang needs an audience.

He likes to tell you what he’s doing while he’s doing it, too. Mostly this consists of saying things like, “I’m cutting circles out of cardboard now.” You know, just in case we couldn’t discern this by watching him work, as if our powers of observation were not up to snuff. It reminds me of the play-by-play guy during sports telecasts — the one who insists on pointing out, as the players are taking the field, that “the players are taking the field”.

As everyone knows, the play-by-play guy needs a good color commentator. That’s where Fangette and I come in.

I figure if I have to be present, I may as well have some fun. To this end I ask questions like, “how big are the circles?” — because I know he will not only answer my inane question, but also because he will tell me why the circles are of a certain diameter. He will do this in great detail. This line of questioning and the ensuing explanation surely makes the process of “invention” take longer, but I find it fun. I subscribe to the theory that if I have to be there, I might as well make the best of it.

As an added bonus, our shenanigans drive Fangette crazy. Like most adolescents, she would rather get back to watching grass grow than be forced to spend any amount of time engaging in family-related activities with her parents. No matter how often we tell her that “inventing is fun”, she just doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much as we do. Her presence is important, though. Historically, she has been the one in charge of Velcro.

In addition to her responsibilities involving Velcro, we have come to rely upon her — or, at least, I have — for the making of snarky comments. This used to be my area, but, over time, she took up the mantle — she’s good at it, too. She’ll make some poor, unsuspecting guy a fine wife some day.

During Fang’s most recent foray into the wonderful world of inventing, Fangette pointed out that this whole thing could have been avoided had he simply purchased a travel mug that fit into the cup holder with which his car is equipped. She told him that he could have returned the mug, minutes after buying it, when he realized it wasn’t going to fit properly into the cup holder, thereby avoiding all of this “inventing nonsense”.

Well, sure.

I took this opportunity to point out the number of travel mugs we already own — travel mugs that Fang has been buying and tossing aside after one or two uses — the ones that he has deemed unacceptable for one reason or another — over the last fifteen years. Yes. That is correct. Fang has spent fifteen years purchasing undesirable travel mugs. (Don’t even get me started on the number of years Fang has spent attempting to find the “perfect” sunglasses!)

If his latest “invention” works, I fear that our overnight guests will be sorely disappointed, in that they will miss their parting gifts. In an attempt to rid my life of the “perfectly fine, but not good enough for my husband” assortment of cast-offs collecting dust in a cabinet or lying fallow in a drawer, I have been known to send these poor, unsuspecting lodgers on their merry way with a travel mug filled with a hot cup of Joe in one hand and a pair of sunglasses in the other.

Mind the Manual!


I like to think of myself as a “straight-shooter”, a “tell it like it is” kind of gal. And, for the most part, I am that. I try to be as honest and as straightforward as I can be without being mean. There are, however, certain situations that call for the use of other, more subtle methods of persuasion. These situations include, but are not limited to, any time I find myself in a position where my husband and I are at odds over how to go about a thing — recently, during “the hovel purge”, we have found ourselves in such a position on a number of occasions.

For many years I have been threatening to throw together something called “Fang’s Manual For Living”, which, for the sake of brevity, we commonly refer to up in this joint as “The Manual”. We refer to it pretty often. Oh, yes. We do. Seldom does a day go by in which Fang does not utter something along the lines of “Mind the Manual!”

We can regularly be overheard saying things like, “Oh, I can’t use a butter knife in lieu of a flathead screwdriver? I didn’t realize that. That’s in ‘The Manual’, is it? Okay. Now I know. It won’t happen again!”

Of course this is an outright lie. And, I will definitely employ the same method again. Why? Two reasons. First, I’m not going to go through the trouble of digging out the toolbox when a butter knife, which is far more accessible, can very easily tighten the screw on the drawer of the kitchen cabinet — a drawer that, as luck would have it, actually houses the butter knives! Second, because his rules annoy me. So, there!

The reason I’ve yet to compile this tome is because I’ve always thought that it would be a great deal of work for very little return — Fang has a lot of rules. While it would provide an amusing look into the way in which my husband’s mind works, it probably wouldn’t be useful to anyone living outside of the hovel.

And then it occurred to me that there may, indeed, be large numbers of folks who have their own Fangs, their own significant others who have their own manuals. I’m here to tell you that ignoring their rules isn’t always the best way to go. They get a little excited when you do this. There are, however, other weapons in the arsenal that can be employed.

This is especially important to know when you find yourself in a position to deal with matters that are included in Chapter Four. Chapter Four covers, among other home improvement tasks, hanging things on walls. Getting around the rules set forth in Chapter Four often requires that you bring out the big guns.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, do not despair. All is not lost. Use this recent conversation between Fang and myself as your guide.

What I really want is to put some sort of inspirational quote up on the wall over the television — possibly something from “Harry Potter”, I haven’t decided yet. I know that Fang will think this “stupid” — and not just the quote that I may or may not have in mind, but the idea of any quote on any wall.

What follows is an example of how I managed, through what others might term “manipulation”, but that I like to think of as “mental sleight of hand” — it has a much better ring to it than “manipulation”, don’t you think? — to bring Fang around to my way of thinking. Sure, he hasn’t wholeheartedly embraced it, but, as you shall see, he has reconciled himself to this design choice.

Hon, the living room looks swell, but I think we need to put a few pictures up on the walls. Ya know, I was thinking, some fine art might be nice. You like that sort of thing.

Yes, I do. Like that sort of thing. I’m weird like that.

After Christmas I’d like to paint and get the new blinds. Once that’s been accomplished, I was thinking that we could put a ledge over there. (I say this as I point to the blank wall in the dining area.) I’d like to create a gallery of family photos and such. I’ll put them on a ledge and display them that way. (I say this because I KNOW that Fang has an affinity for family photos. Feel free to substitute whatever your partner has a soft spot for — I hope it’s not ceramic replicas of rodeo clowns, but that’s really your problem, isn’t it?)

You want to paint??? Again???

This room has never been painted. At least not by us. So, I’m not sure where the “again” you’re referring to comes in.

We just painted.

To be clear, “We” only painted Fangette’s room. “I” painted the hallway and the bathroom.

Let’s get back to the blank walls.


I feel like a ledge is another way of saying shelf. Is it? Because I don’t want any more shelves. You have a mania for shelves. You see a blank wall and think, ‘That would be a nice place for a shelf!’ I don’t understand why you need to put shelves everywhere.

Because they hold and display things. And we have things. Things that need to be held. Things that need to be displayed.

But, you’ve got all of these shelves! (He says this as he is pointing to the two 16-unit cubby shelves that line the living room wall.)

Agreed, but they’re more for storage. I’d like the ledge to be for displaying things.

Stop calling it a ledge. Let’s just agree that it’s a shelf and dispense with the lying. And, what kinds of ‘things’ are going to be displayed on this ledge, I mean, shelf?

I just told you. Family photos and such.

Yeah. It’s the “and such” that worries me.

Don’t worry your pretty little head over it.

You’re going to put bowls on it, aren’t you? Or roosters? Or owls? You are, aren’t you? I know you are.

Perhaps. We’ll see how it goes.

How what goes? Your trip to Home Goods? I’m telling you right now that I don’t want to see any bowls or roosters or owls up there. Or platters. I forgot about platters. No platters. That place is ugly with platters. And owls. And roosters.

And bowls. You forgot to mention bowls.

Yeah, them too.

I’m not making any promises.

Oh, my God! The walls are going to be lined with shelves aren’t they? And platters!

Don’t worry. There’ll be family photos sprinkled in.

What about the fine art? Where are you going to put the fine art? If you’ve got all these shelves with platters and pictures where will you put your fine art? Huh? You didn’t think of that, did you? And do not say that you’re going to hang pictures behind the television. I don’t want any pictures back there! They’re liable to fall and bust the TV. You know I don’t want anything back there.

Yes, I know. You’re very concerned about the remote possibility that the next earthquake that hits New Jersey will cause pictures to fly off of the walls and “bust the TV”.

It could happen. We had an earthquake here a few years ago. Do you remember that?

I do. I was in the kitchen sorting through plastic ware. Do you remember how you thought that I was somehow responsible for the tremors that we experienced? Do you recall how you thought that whatever I was “up to” in the kitchen had caused the house to rattle and shake a bit?

Well, how did I know what you were doing?

You were in the next room in a five-room apartment. And, really, putting away plastic ware does not, generally, require sledgehammering, does it? I mean, I would have had to be using such a thing to cause the shaking and rolling that we experienced in that minor quake.

Okay, so we do have to worry about earthquakes.

Nothing even came close to falling off the walls in that — the largest quake we have ever experienced here in New Jersey. Not even close. Frankly, if you hadn’t thought I was ‘up to something’, you wouldn’t even have noticed it.

On the subject of you being “up to something”, let’s firm up this fine art thing. Let’s get back to how you haven’t figured it into the shelf/photo equation. And, let me remind you, earthquakes or no, nothing is getting hung up behind MY television. Nothing.

I know. I know. Nothing can be hung above or behind a television EVER. It’s in “The Manual”. Chapter Four, I think.

I believe so. I’m glad you’ve familiarized yourself with that chapter.

I have. But, I was thinking that there is a great deal of “dead space” above that television. You know what would eliminate this problem? One of those thingies. You know, those thingies that allow the television to hang from the wall. Those thingies are nice. They are designed to allow the television to tilt and to telescope. Are you familiar with them? Having one of those would eliminate all of that dead space.

They’re called brackets, I think. And, are you crazy? Those things can’t be safe.

They must be safe. Hundreds of thousands of people install them every day.

Hundreds of thousands of people ride roller coasters every day, too. They’re not safe either.

Oh, please. Let’s not have another roller coaster conversation.

Let’s not. Let’s get back to the fine art that you are NOT going to hang anywhere near my television. A television that will also not be suspended from any wall by any bracket. It’s fine where it is. On a stand. A nice stand with drawers. A stand that I spent four hours putting together.

A stand with one drawer askew.

Never mind that. It’s fine. You’re the only one who notices it.

I’m the only one who says anything about it. Everyone who sees it notices it. I’ll bet the students at “St. Mary’s School For the Blind” would notice it.

Whatever. What’s your plan for this “dead space” behind the television. I’m intrigued.

Have we abandoned the fine art conversation?

We’ll get back to that. What’s going on behind my television. That’s what I’d like to know.

I was thinking that I could put a quote up there.

Absolutely not. Quotes are stupid.

Really? How, I wonder, if they’re so “stupid” did they become famous quotes at all?

Okay. Quotes aren’t stupid. Quotes painted on walls are stupid.

I could order a decal. It’ll be nice.

No decals.

I don’t think “No Decals” is in “The Manual”.

I’ll work it into the revision. No decals.

Because they’re stupid, too.

When they’re decals of quotes they are.

What if I got a decal that read: “Mind ‘The Manual'”?

Now you’re just being ridiculous.

Okay, I’ll figure something out. After we paint and hang the ledge.

That’s fine. Whatever. Just no quotes.

What about roosters or owls?

I give up.


Do you see what I did there? With a bit of finesse I skirted my way around “The Manual” and his lack of vision where wall quotes are concerned. I’ll get my ledge. I’ll get my platters, my bowls, my roosters, my owls. I’ll display my family pictures. I’ll fill that dead space with a quote. He’ll be fine with that, knowing that it could have been a rooster. And this, my friends, is how these things are accomplished.

You’re welcome.

photo credits: