Legalized Overdosing

[Auntie Jo dictated this important reminder to alert her readers  to the possibility of negative reactions to medications. ~ed.]

Auntie Jo never gets serious but I feel compelled to warn people of the chance of legalized overdosing. After a recent compression fracture I was treated with Tylenol-Codeine #3. I lost three weeks of my life due to personal sensitivity to medications. The horrors, paranoia, fear and complete confusion still linger. Please be cautious of every prescribed drug that’s new to you.

One of the few memories of my hallucinations was pleasant. I saw minute dancing figures appearing everywhere, dressed as Medieval Royalty, some dressed in Christmas colors. As tiny as ants, they appeared and disappeared, dancing and shuffling. My favorite was a Venetian doge, slouchy hat and all. I named him Count Vesuvius-Vivaldi. He danced endlessly, tiny wisps of smoke appearing as from a pipe. He kept me company and I miss him.

But in all seriousness, do pay close attention to everything you’re being prescribed.



(Joan is going through a rough patch right now. It’s been an up-and-down month for her. She’s just begun hospice care, but remains alert and full of stories. Here’s an essay Joan wrote a couple of years ago.  ~Mimi [daughter])

Here I stand, toes curled over the brink of the unknown,  cane, walker and other trappings of age cast aside, peering into the cloudy future,  WAIT! Is my time really drawing near? Have I had a premonition? I’m not ready, this is not at all what I had planned.

Just in case, I’d better give this some serious thought.  Will it be Heavenly harps, fire and brimstone, the long, long sleep?  If only reincarnation were believable. It’s so tempting to think of having a second chance; another try at life.  Maybe I could get everything right the second time around.

I’d want the original cast of characters back, of course, with a few exceptions. I can think of a cousin or two I could do without, and I’d pass on the funny uncle.  You know, the one with the beach-ball belly, always borrowing money? We children had to be whisked out of the room when he started telling stories. He has got to go.

Reincarnation might bring some answers to a few major issues.  Has anyone come up with a viable political third party? Is the Middle East still a hopeless mess?  Did Chef Michael give in and start adding garlic to the food here at our residence or do we still have to sneak out to Olive Garden or El Torito for a garlic fix?

You remember garlic?  That pungent, smelly bulb that half of us love and half of us hate?  I’m betting nothing will change.

Of course the whole reincarnation thing might backfire.  I’d hate to come back as an armadillo or a nutria or something equally dreadful.

Think about being a nutria: waddling along through your entire life with a waistline ten times bigger than your head, feet always wet.  Imagine the noxious explosion one pin prick in that fat belly would cause. I guess I should give up the whole idea of reincarnation; too risky.  I’ll just accept whatever comes along.

Now here’s another thing to think about.  Seriously, don’t you get tired of all the cliches that go with old age?  I know I do and I’m guilty of using most of them myself. How about reading the obituary page in the paper every morning to see if your name is listed?  Looking in your mirror to make sure someone looks back? Picking up speed as you get over the hill? Constantly feeling your pulse or breathing on a cold mirror just in case something happened and you didn’t get the message?

And the worst cliche of all;  where did the time go? I use that one constantly myself and I haven’t had an answer yet.  All I know is I’ve gotten rid of a huge amount of time without even trying.

So – where did it go?

Weren’t we just kids starting school?  Graduating, getting serious about someone, stepping out into the world?  How on earth can those graying, middle-aged people be our children? Why are my grandmother’s hands on the ends of my arms?

As I hover over the abyss of an uncertain future it occurs to me that I’ll be taking a lifetime of lessons learned,  knowledge gained, stored up advice with me. I’ve tried passing some of this on, but the generations coming after us must learn their own lessons and make their own mistakes in their own way.

Besides, somewhere along the line, somehow I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew. How do you recite the multiplication tables after you get past the sixes?  What is pi-R squared and how the heck do you write it? Was Ares Greek or Roman? Does anybody care?

Remember Trivial Pursuit?  I used to be a whiz at it. Never remembered anything important but I was good with trivia.  Fortunately the game lost its popularity at about the same time my grey cells went into meltdown.  I’d be a flop at it now.

I could conjugate a Spanish verb, thread a sewing machine, tape a drywall, trim a sail and make a good apple pie.  All skills long forgotten. Depressing, isn’t it? I never could fry a decent egg so I can’t lament that loss although my omelets were pretty decent.

But on the bright side I can still burp a baby, tell stories to a four year old, enjoy family and friends and read as much as I want to, so all is not lost.

Shouldn’t there be a summation right about here?  Maybe a report card, an evaluation of a long life?  I’m already on record as wanting a repeat performance so maybe I’ll give myself a  C+ and try harder the next time, if there is to be a next time.

The last paragraph in this rather muddled essay will obviously be written by someone else.  I can only leave them with two pieces of advice:

Be Kind…. And don’t rush things, I may still change my mind.

Sailing Through walmart

( a re-run of an oldie I’ve always liked)

Being rather elderly, I’m always on the lookout for convenience and shortcuts.  With that in mind, I set out one quiet morning recently to do some shopping at WalMart, planning to practice driving one of their motorized carts.  Easier said than done.

I approached the cart confidently and found the process of getting in it was somewhat like boarding a small boat or climbing into a bathtub.  In fact, the phrase “bathtub sailor” came to mind. However, there were neither oars nor rubber duckies at hand so I seated myself securely and looked around for the controls.

I found only a lever to press.  How strange! My feet were pushing frantically on non-existent pedals and I didn’t have a steering wheel!  Accidentally bumping the lever, my vessel was suddenly underway. It crept out of its parking area at a steady one-quarter mile per hour clip, veering sideways as if wanting to head for the exit.

Having no idea how to control it, I passed through the sliding doors and headed for the parking lot, nervously pressing the lever up, down, sideways and probably backwards.  I did a lap around a bright red Kia illegally parked in the crosswalk, missing all four fenders before I was finally able to aim for the doors.

Nerve wracking!  I just got here – I need to shop – get me back into the store!  A lot of lever juggling took place before I made it, hanging on with a death grip.

Finally steering gingerly down Aisle One, I spotted an item from my shopping list, pulled up and realized that, in order to reach it, I had to get out of the cart.  Somehow this defeated the whole purpose of using the cart but I stopped, clambered out, grabbed my purchase and clambered back in. And so it went; every single thing I wanted seemed to be out of reach.

In and out, in and out, an unexpected exercise session right here in WalMart.  Anyway, I carried on, gaining confidence in my boat-like bathtub, or bathtub-like boat, relaxing enough to make several observations.

Down here in my seat I wasn’t seeing people eye to eye, I was looking up into nostrils.  Unbelievable how hairy nostrils can be; I was amazed. It seemed … O-O-O-NO! ICK! Grab a handful of tissues – FAST!  Paper towels would be even better. Look the other way and get out of here. WHEW!

Obviously I’d encountered a Walmartian. You all know what a Walmartian is?  A bottom feeder you’ll never see anywhere else. Colorful and bizarre, they come in quite a variety and are easy to spot. The puzzled looks on the faces of other shoppers are a dead giveaway.

My favorite Walmartian was a pudgy older guy,  apparently on an evening beer run. He was clad rather unconventionally  in a fluffy pink robe and matching slippers, presumably belonging to his significant other. Or maybe it was his; one never knows for sure these days and it did seem to fit him.

There’ve been reports of a lot of plumber’s butts, poorly fitting halters, interesting hair colors and add-ons, studs, tats, thongs (no, not the flip-flops) and other gaudy attire and behavior.  You see these everywhere nowadays, but not always all on the same person.

Anyway, back to my routine of in and out, up and down.  I approached the Bread Aisle, stepped out and reached up to pull a loaf of bread out from under a stack.  The loaf I want is always second or third from the top and I try to snatch it out quickly, but the rest of the loaves invariably bombard me.  Thankfully most bread is soft. I gave myself a black eye once with a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough.

An unexpected benefit of riding along at a lower level; I get to see all the goodies aimed at the kiddie shoppers.  Spaghetti-Os, chocolate cereal, Maxi-Bags of Salty-Greasies and Gummi Bears. I hate Gummi Bears, one bite and they pull my partial right out, but somehow I had this compulsion …..

Rounding the end of one aisle and heading down the next took major maneuvering and concentration, kind of like docking a cruise ship.  Oops, I’m afraid I wiped out several displays before I got the hang of it. But I ask you, talk about poor merchandising, a pyramid of cabernet sauvignon  right on a corner! Foolish!

The crash was kind of exciting but there was no way I could make a fast getaway at one-quarter mile per hour, and I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t me.  My vessel was awash with wine and as I peeked back I glimpsed an old codger slip-sliding along in my wake, skidding on the puddles and broken glass, wearing a goofy grin and inhaling deeply.I was feeling a little buzz myself from the fumes and managed a quick wave at the clean-up crew who showed up with mops and dirty looks.

Taking one last quick peek, I spotted the codger now on the floor, lapping at the puddles.  (I hope he was spitting out the glass.) Another Walmartian, for sure.

I don’t think I harmed anyone on that trip; by now, other shoppers were scattering at my approach.  There was an experience on Aisle Seven between the canned mandarins and the lima beans when I felt a few jolts and a hard rocking and thought I’d foundered.  I didn’t dare look back but I didn’t hear any screams. I decided gasps and curses didn’t count as I dodged a few squishy tomatoes aimed squarely at my back, and I continued on.

Approaching Check-Out I sensed a potential problem with trying to unload, especially as I was bearing down at full speed, towing another loaded cart I’d managed to hook onto.  Unfortunately, a screaming toddler was on board that one, the mother running frantically alongside. She hopped in my cart with me, grabbed the lever and we rolled to a dead stop just short of Check-Out.

The checker had already jumped the counter, prepared to run for safety, but she came back and timidly began to total my purchases, meanwhile eyeing me cautiously.  Parking the cart was no problem; the clean-up crew was there waiting to mop out the rest of the wine. More dirty looks, Sheeesh! what a bunch of grouches!

So now I only have one problem, where in my tiny kitchen do I store all the Spaghetti-Os, chocolate cereal, Maxi-Bags of Salty-Greasies and the Gummi Bears, not to mention three extra loaves of pumpernickel?

At least I’ve had enough exercise for the day and can recommend motorized cart shopping for anyone who needs a good workout.

You Might Be a Hypochondriac if…

( I managed to survive the year I wrote this, decided it was worth a rerun. Looking back on something brings out the funny side)

I’ve had a heckuva year, health-wise. I think I’ve been through most of the ailments known to humankind, some of them twice. I had always believed thinking healthy meant staying healthy.

Mind over matter was my mantra, but somehow my mind didn’t matter as much as it used to, or my matter didn’t mind as much, or I didn’t mind that it didn’t matter as much as when it used to matter so much.  Or something like that.

Anyway, now I’m worried that I’m becoming a hypochondriac, imagining myself sick, dwelling on the dark side of well-being.  I’ve become confused to the point where I finally drew up a checklist just to test my theories

For those of you who are beginning to wonder about yourselves, I’m happy to share my list with you. A simple “yes” or “no” to each possibility might help set your mind at ease, too.

You might be a hypochondriac if you’re on a first name basis with the receptionists at all the Urgent Care clinics in town.

You might be a hypochondriac if you make more than three trips a day to Walgreens to check your blood pressure.

You might be a hypochondriac if you hyperventilate for ten minutes after every sneeze, waiting to see if you’ve caught something.

You might be a hypochondriac if you use hand sanitizer for body lotion.

You might be a hypochondriac if you can knowledgeably debate the pros and cons of Metamucil versus Milk of Magnesia.

You might be a hypochondriac if your favorite online website is

You might be a hypochondriac if a casual “Hi, howya doin’?” gives you a chance to unload a play-by-play from the way your back creaked when you got out of bed, to how many Tums you’ve popped so far today.

You might be a hypochondriac if you sprained your tongue trying to examine your tonsils (at least it felt like a sprain).

You might be a hypochondriac if you’re convinced you have hangnails on all your toes.

You might be a hypochondriac if you can rattle off the ideal numbers for blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen level, body temp, B.M.I., HDL, LDL and triglycerides faster than you can remember your kids’ birth dates.

If you’ve answered “yes” to three or more of these possibilities, Congratulations!  You’re well on your way to joining me as a very concerned hypochondriac. We must get together and compare our symptoms.

A  Day  in the  Life … with Four Brothers

(a re-run from my memoirs)

August in small town Iowa, the late 1930s.  Hot, humid, still and stifling. Boring, boring, boring.  Three weeks to go before school started, and nothing to do.  What was a houseful of rowdy kids supposed to do? The beaches at the lake were closed because of the annual polio scare, we’d exhausted the meager supply of books at the nearest branch library and the heat was too oppressive for games, either outdoors or in.  Air-conditioning was a dream for the future.

We girls, my sister and I, were kept busy helping Mother with the myriad jobs necessary to maintain a large household. I was 12 or 13 years old and had a few babysitting jobs, but the boys, especially the young teens in the neighborhood needing summer jobs had no hope of finding anything to do.  Able-bodied men with families were having a hard time getting jobs, and there was nothing left for the boys. Even the most menial chores at the gas stations were held by grown men. Paper routes were treasured and handed down to brothers and friends. Most families had their own home grown mowers of lawns and doers of chores. The few proud owners of cars spent weekends lovingly washing and waxing their own pride-and-joy with no need of outside help.

There was one optimistic note; a local entrepreneur was even then in California studying up on the newest phenomenon, Self-Service Grocery Stores, and would soon be opening the first one in the Midwest, right in our neighborhood. However, this plan, which would eventually employ all my brothers in turn, was still in the future. The problem was the here and now, without much to be done about it.

My oldest brother, Bob, about 14 or so, was a strong, handsome kid, chafing over the idle boring days. He solved the problem for himself in the time-honored way. He ran away from home, declaring to one and all his intentions of heading for Texas to become a cowboy.  In actuality he never got further from home than his buddy’s backyard across town, with bulletins being secretly phoned back and forth between the mothers, so no one was very worried. We’d harbored a few backyard refugees ourselves. The novelty would wear off and the truant would find his way home in a few days, dirty and homesick.

My second brother, Phil, a sturdy, quiet 10 year old, was young enough that the hot boring summer wasn’t bothering him.  He was a boy with a mission, yearning to become a farmer. He’d been begging to raise rabbits for months. The chance of this happening was very remote but just in case, he was getting ready. Week after week he trudged back and forth between a nearby vacant lot and the derelict old garage on the back of our property, sort of flying under the radar, pulling his rusty little RADIO FLYER filled with long bunches of dried grass he’d harvested.  Not only would this grass provide food for his rabbits, but also bedding, and he was going to be ready, piling mounds of dry hay in every corner of the garage.

Our third brother, Dean, was about 5, our blue-eyed pet with blond curly hair. He was just old enough to play around the immediate neighborhood alone or with his friends without constant watching, or so it was thought. His speciality was charming everyone, meanwhile supposedly keeping himself busy and out of trouble.

Our youngest brother, the toddler with the big boy name, Gordon, was at an age where he required almost constant attention; however, he was an easy boy to entertain, sweet and eager to learn.  Books made him happy, hot chocolate and long naps made him happy, and Carole and I took turns keeping him safe. Four brothers, four personalities.

The days dragged on, everyone in limbo as though waiting for something to happen, anything to liven up a boring time.  And so the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’, was suddenly proven true.

The cries, “Fire!”  “Fire!” rang out sharply, startling and frightening everyone.  Our old garage was in full flame, blazing and crackling before anyone realized what was happening.  The dried hay was perfect tinder. It was fully engulfed by the time a fire truck arrived, and nearby neighbors began hosing down their own properties.  A police car roared up, siren blaring. The entire area was a whirling scene of flames, smoke, noise and confusion; little kids on bikes and stray dogs adding to the furor.

Suddenly a voice screamed out over the din,  “Dean! Where is Dean?” The blue-eyed charmer was nowhere to be found! By now our Dad was home, and parents, neighbors, firemen and the policeman ransacked the house from the rafters to the coal-bin in the basement with no trace of him.  The dread of the obvious sent everyone into a panic when it was learned he’d last been seen playing near the garage. The smouldering ruins were still too white hot to be searched. I was pulled from babysitting duty to help with the hunt, leaving my young sister with the toddler and strict orders to keep him safe inside, away from the action. I can still remember the deep, heavy fear I felt as I searched.

Finally someone noticed a few boards out of place around the crawl space under the front porch.  A very frightened, filthy little boy was pulled out, terrified that he was Really Going To Get It This Time.  Our parents were far too relieved and grateful to dream of punishment, even when he confessed his crime, admitting to playing in the garage with matches.

It took hours for the excitement to die down. The fire truck finally drove off, the neighbors returned home  and the police car patrolled past all evening. Our family hadn’t known such excitement since our Aunt Dorothy’s picture appeared on the front page of the local paper, nursing one of the casualties after John Dillinger shot up the First National Bank.

But the payoff came the next day when our runaway strolled nonchalantly down the street, pretending a cool indifference as he returned home from his escapade.  The look on his face when he saw the burned out garage and listened to our excited stories was priceless. He stood stock still in the middle of the street, mouth hanging open, totally unable to react.  He had run away out of sheer boredom and the only excitement of the summer happened the day he was gone.

Four brothers; Phil’s dream of raising rabbits had gone up in smoke, Dean was cured of playing with matches, Gordon, the only one unaffected by the drama,  went on with his business of growing up, and Bob, restless, ambitious Bob, well, he never ran away from home again.

Nutty Ideas for Ninety-Year-Olds

(I wrote this almost 3 years ago, time to re-post)

As I approached my 90th birthday,  I sensed that family and friends were watching me surreptitiously, speculatively.  I could feel their eyes on me when they thought my attention was diverted. I was not only uncomfortable with this scrutiny, but also a little unnerved.  Why the sudden interest?

Did they think I was going to morph into something entirely different when I reached that milestone?  Maybe collapse into a dusty heap with one last gasp? Perhaps I’d grow back down, as my daughter used to believe; start wearing pigtails and hair bows again?

My brother finally blurted out the question I sensed was on everyone’s mind.  “So, what are you going to do on your 90th birthday, Sis? What’s on your bucket list?  Going skydiving or anything exciting?”

SKYDIVING?  MOI?? Was he out of his mind or did he think I was?  I wouldn’t go skydiving if Brad Pitt were piloting the plane and I was being strapped in with George Clooney for the descent! (Well, let me think about that one for a sec, that’s pretty tempting,) but NO, NO.  Why would a natural born coward like me leave this perfectly safe, solid earth to leap out into empty space?


Neither will I go zip-lining, even if a friend, 88 years old at the time, did that very thing not too long ago, with pictures to prove it.  She’s a far braver person than I.

Hot-Air Ballooning?  No, again, No. No. No. I heard of two Mid-Western balloonists who decided to try their sport around Albuquerque, a noted ballooning site.  Being unfamiliar with New Mexico’s winds and downdrafts, their balloon landed with a tremendous jolt that resulted in their walking away with four broken ankles.  Wait, I’d better rephrase that, they were hauled off with four broken ankles. I could only wonder which one drove back to the Midwest.

Kayaking, NEVER.  Bungee Jumping, NEVER.  Snowboarding, NEVER. Hang gliding, Skin Diving, Roller Coasters, Marathons,  not in my wildest dreams. My bucket list is nearly complete and what’s left can be accomplished from the comfy depths of my easy chair while I’m still of reasonably sound mind.  That’s providing I haven’t already done everything, forgotten it, and decided to start over.

So what have I planned for my 90th birthday?  I want to spend the day contacting every friend and family member I can reach, or remember.  I’ll be giving hugs to everyone who smiles at me. I’ll assure my dear ones of my deep love for them.  I’ll set aside time to reminisce about the many who’ve passed on ahead. sending happy thoughts their way. I’ll have to pose for a few pictures but I’ve scarcely looked into a mirror all day.  It’s far too late to be making comparisons.

I’ll listen to good music and leaf through favorite books.  I’ll enjoy good food and if this should include birthday cake, I’ll have seconds, especially if it’s chocolate.  I’ll try to blow out all the candles but will no doubt need help from two small great-grandchildren who might be hanging around, staring at me, awed by my wrinkles and the number of candles on the cake.

Maybe I’ll give some thought to which decade I might like to revisit, if that would be possible.  We can skip the 1930s. Being a true child of the Depression,there’s nothing about the ‘30s I want to remember.  The 1940s may have been the most eventful for me personally. Going from the trauma of a major war while still wearing snoods and saddle shoes, to peacetime parenting in one decade was quite a change.  The ‘50s and ‘60s were busy and exciting, the ‘70s and ‘80s flew by, and by the 1990s and 2000s, I was aging but trying not to notice. Secretly, I was afraid I’d slipped past my sell-by date and no one had let me know.

So, I suddenly find myself at the age of 90, ready for the big slide into my dotage, with people expecting me to leap out of airplanes and risk my delicate self in screwy stunts. As if!  Who knows what the next decade will bring? Maybe it will be the best yet.

I’ll finish off a long, happy day with a hearty gin and tonic (extra lime), and count my many blessings.  And Oh yes, I’ll spare a thought for all those other 90 year olds out there risking life and limb skydiving, zip-lining, skateboarding or whatever thrills them, while I prop my feet up and relax.

I’m grateful for being me and I plan to drink a toast to my 100th birthday, coming up fast.  A decade can be gone before you know it.

Breaking News

(I wrote this some months ago. Looks like it’ll be happening sooner than we expected.)

Dreams really do come true! If we can believe the constant barrage of news alerts, bulletins and breathlessly excited broadcasters, one of our most tiresome chores, grocery shopping, will soon be a thing of the past.



“BREAKING NEWS: Androids tested for use in packing grocery orders. Response favorable”

It just gets better and better! I can see the day coming when I kick back in my easy chair, pick up a WHOLE FOODS flyer, make my selection and punch my order into a smartphone. A disembodied voice answers and I’m in business.

AMAZON will soon have functioning androids programmed to receive orders, fill them, call up the next drone in an assembly line and dispatch it, all from centralized warehouses. My address will be entered into the drone’s data banks and it takes off.

Moments later my phone will ring and I step outside just as the drone lands gently at my feet. Or better still, it’s programmed to pass through an open door, settle on a kitchen counter and begin unpacking! Too good to be true? It may happen sooner than you think.

Or not!   What happens if the ‘droid that packed your order hadn’t been properly assembled in the first place, had a screw loose or some other little detail that threw off the entire operation? In a worst case scenario it might never have been fine tuned and it’s jerky movements caused it to do something outrageous; maybe nudge an entire case of JIM BEAM Kentucky Bourbon onto the floor for one horrible example. The breakage and resulting fumes would send the entire assembly line into chaos.

Now ‘Droids can’t possibly be affected by alcohol, that’s a no-brainer, unless an error in programming had resulted in accidentally including a “scent” sensor into their makeup, rather than a “send” sensor.

Drone after drone would take off in a cloud of Kentucky Bourbon fumes more than a little tipsy. My very first order might arrive with


I’d dash out my front door to investigate the awful racket and find myself skidding down slimy steps and sliding across a definitely slick sidewalk. A horrified look around confirms my worst fears. My first AMAZON order has gone from groceries to garbage in one alcoholic spree. A distinct odor of JIM BEAM rises up and I stare in dismay. It’s raining groceries!

A carton of eggs drops with a crunch at my feet. Now, I enjoy omelets as much as anyone but a 12 egg omelet? And that would be only if I could get the shells strained out. An 8 pack of toilet paper unrolls as it descends, draping the magnolia tree faster than a crowd of rowdy teens on Homecoming Night. TIDE laundry detergent powders my lawn. Onions are rolling  everywhere, their smell fighting with the reek of the bourbon.

Fido bounds happily away with my rib eyes, and Fluffy snatches a salmon steak right out from under my nose. CHEERIOS add an alarming crunch to every move I make. The salad greens are tossing themselves as they float down in a leafy blur. A carton of chocolate milk lands squarely on top of my head, turning me from a platinum blonde to a brunette in seconds.

Fido bounces back for my sausage links, having safely buried the ribeyes under a lilac bush. A 6 pack of BUD LITE drops with a hard  THWACK! and all 6 cans burst open, spraying the TIDE covered lawn, thereby creating a foamy effect around my ankles and bubbling up among the onions.

WELL! I want you to know I’ve just created my own Breaking News Headlines:


adding my own spin to the story; “Irate housewife sues to bring D.U.I. charges against entire AMAZON Corporation.”