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Laughing at the selves we create. My horror-ble halloween costume

I love dressing up for Halloween. And I love that I’ve pulled my husband Michael into my web of enthusiasm. It never gets old.

I usually go for a unique or unusual look, not the typical witch or zombie or skeleton. And a busty cheerleader or spandexed Cat Woman is not my thing. It’s more fun laughing at myself than trying to be sexy.

One of my costume favorites from the past was our California Raisins. (In case you’re a young’un, these were marketing characters and pop-culture icons of the 1980s.)














Sorry for the grainy photo. This was back in pre-digital days.

Another more recent favorite was our Amish couple, inspired by the Breaking Amish reality show.













But my all-time favorite costume was conceived the year we got a Halloween party invitation that said, “Come as your scariest self.”

The challenge intrigued me.

Hmmm. My scariest self… Our scariest selves …

I wracked my brain, but all the usual characters came to mind— ghosts and goblins and gory ghouls.  Booo-rring. I wanted different, clever.

Then in a flash of insight like a ZZZAP from a witch’s wand, it came to me.

Our scariest selves were…

Us… OLD. 













So we hit up the Good Will, borrowed a few props from some friends, and I resurrected my stage make-up skills from my freshman year as a drama major.

After the final touches, we looked in the mirror. There were our wrinkles and grey hair, Michael’s argyle sweater vest and mismatched tie, my brooch and the white vinyl pocketbook.

It was indeed us, old. It was surreal and at the same time, hilarious.

D***, we were good.

But the most mind-blowing part of the evening was a picture someone took of us in the living room at the party. The hosts had a fog machine, giving the shot a grainy, hazy feel that looked like it belonged in an old photo album of someone’s great-grandparents.









Looking at the picture, I thought, Yup, that will be us someday. If we’re lucky.

I hope when I’m old for real, I won’t care if Michael mismatches his clothes or if the top of my knee-high stockings show.

And I hope I won’t care if my lipstick bleeds or my age spots show through my makeup, or that my purse is outdated.

I hope when all those things come to pass, and when my wrinkles are deep, my hips are stiff, and my eyesight is poor, I’ll be able to laugh at it all like I did that night.

I hope I’ll laugh at the self I’ve come to be.

And I hope I’ll still get invited to good Halloween parties. Maybe then, I’ll be ready to do Cat Woman in spandex. Nothing could make me laugh harder.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

My gluteus maximus research

After close to a year of weekly blogging, I can say that I’ve learned some interesting things. Like when I researched different names for the gluteus maximus, sometimes called the gluteal muscles, or glutes, for short. According to, Wikipedia the fleshy mass of these muscles “in a quadrilateral shape, forms the prominence of the buttocks.”

In case you’re still on your first cup of coffee, I’m talking about the butt.

I researched this topic as a legitimate inquiry for a personal essay. I didn’t post the humorous essay to my blog at the time because I was too embarrassed, but it was accepted in a chronic illness publication. Those readers are used to the TMI, and hopefully appreciate a slightly warped sense of humor. Humor is especially welcome when one’s gluteus maximus and associated body parts are not pulling their weight.

As with all submissions to publications, the editors made some changes to my essay. Maybe I was a little too ballsy in my original draft, but I preferred my version to the edited one. And now, after more months of an uncooperative gluteus maximus and the associated undignified medical procedures, my prudishness has been whittled away. It’s gone from the level of a blue-haired Victorian spinster granny to that of a blue-haired Victorian spinster granny with a bold streak. To confirm my evolution, I’ve posted my original essay to my website, hidden not too deeply within a secret tab, but since you’re special, you can read it here.

In case you “don’t go there” literally and figuratively, here’s a limerick I wrote as part of the essay:

Inside my butt is my bowel.
That word is not really so foul.
It could be much worse.
I would have to curse,
Had my given name been Colin Powell.

I’m no Ogden Nash, but I had fun writing that silly limerick. So I’ve taken my gluteus maximus research and put it to good use, giving myself a good laugh in the process. Here’s my result:

My keister’s a thorn in my side.
There’s nothing that I haven’t tried.
To make it work well,
And, (in a nutshell)
Allow me to stay dignified.

It feels like a stick up my a**.
Said the woman, her words very crass.
It can’t last forever,
There must be some clever
Solution to get it to pass.

You say that’s going up my wazoo?
And then you’ll put WHAT up there, too?
I’ll warn you up front
And let me be blunt
It’s nothing I’ll take kindly to.

If you got through those limericks without your writing or personal sensibilities being offended, thanks for indulging me. I’ve found that the more I laugh at my most embarrassing moments in life, the less embarrassing they become. And I strongly believe that laughter is one of the best medicines. It may not heal my gluteus maximus in discernible ways, butt, if it lifts my spirits, that’s healing of another kind.


— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Glazing out the window

When we bought our second old house 11 years ago, it needed some serious TLC.

The least of our problems was the broken window glass in the basement stairwell door, which I “temporarily” fixed with blue painters tape. Last week, I decided to do the job right.

I’d done a lot of old-house renovations over 30+ years. Replacing a window would be no biggie, I thought.


Here’s how it went:

Day 1 

Hour 1: I start to remove the old glaze. How hard could it be? Answer: Like chipping away concrete with a toothpick.

Hour 2: I watch some DIY YouTube videos. Lacking the special products and tools shown, I continue to chip away the concrete.

Day 2

Hours 3-5: Chip, chip.

Day 3

Hour 6: The glaze is gone, as is my enthusiasm. Later that evening, I say to my husband, Michael, “I wish I had never started this project.”  He replies, “I wish you never did, either.”

Day 4

Hour 7: I watch YouTube on removing broken window glass. How hard could it be? Answer: Never ask that question.

I put on goggles and work gloves, and begin to wiggle the broken fragment out of the bottom corner. I realize that if the rest of the glass falls out, it will drop on my bare arm. I stop, look at my arm affectionately and go get a heavy old winter coat.

The broken piece comes out easily. Hah! How hard can the rest of it be? Answer: When will you learn?

I follow a YouTube suggestion to cover the remaining glass with duct tape. Then I tap the glass with a hammer to break it into small, easily removable pieces, just like the first piece. I tap harder. I stand at arm’s length and bangBang again and again.

It occurs to me that the duct tape is doing its job of preventing breakage. So I pull my coat over my glove, turn away, scrunch up my eyes, and THWACK!  The glass gives way, crashing into the space between the interior and exterior doors.


Hour 8: After cleaning up the mess, I measure the window opening to within a 16th of an inch. Michael would be so proud. I head to the hardware store for new glass, and a young guy puts it in my car. At home, I put on my winter coat to carry it inside.

Hour 9: I set out some glazing points (metal slivers you push into the wood frame to secure the glass) and gingerly lift the arm-amputator into the opening.

It’s too small. Shit. But only barely, so I proceed.

Holding the glass in place with one gloved hand, I reach for the points and drop them on the floor. I’m afraid to bend over, putting my head in guillotine position, but I’m more afraid to remove the glass. I have visions of Michael coming home from work to find me standing in a puddle of pee, hand pressed against the window. I choose to stretch down for the points and rise triumphant, head intact.

When I finish setting the points, it’s clear the glass is indeed too small. That night, I reluctantly tell Michael I screwed up the measurement, but he’s got a trick to make it work. And it does.

Day 5

Hour 10: I watch YouTube on applying glaze. How hard… oh, never mind. Locating two containers of glaze in the basement, I open them to find they’re hard as my hammer. Shit.

Back at the hardware store, an associate hands me a can of window glaze. “Good luck with that,” he says with a slight smirk. His expression suggests he’ll have a chuckle later, thinking of me glazing a window.

Hah! You don’t know me, I think as I walk out.

Hour 11: I attempt to apply the glaze. Check YouTube. Try glazing again. Go back to YouTube. I must have missed some details. Try again. Admit defeat. Sh**.

Hour 12: That night Michael shows me how to apply the glaze and I finish the job.


Day 6

I hang ivory-colored blinds on the inside of the door. The stairwell glows, as do I. When I finish any house project, I spend some time sitting with it, taking it in, appreciating my handiwork. Perched on the steps, I reflect on the simple adventures of my well nested life.

Glazing out the window, I realize it’s not so hard after all.

(Michael wants me to add that this adventure of mine has redeemed him from a former post.  I told him he’s still not getting out of a trip to the fabric store some day.)

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Stupid deer.

The deer members of Club Critter in my back yard are stupid.

There’s one doe in particular who’s not exactly the sharpest point on the antler rack. My husband named her Clarice, like Rudolph’s girlfriend.

Clarice is a regular at my popular social venue, stopping in throughout the day. I thought deer were nocturnal — sleeping during the day and foraging for food at night. But Google says deer are actually crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.

Clarice doesn’t know she’s crepuscular. I see her at the club in broad daylight, grabbing a snack at my all-you-can-eat garden buffet and lounging in the shade.

A smart deer would be more careful. Humans are predators, after all. I don’t happen to own any deer-hunting weapons more deadly than a broom. But for all Clarice knows, I could be a gun-totin’ sharpshooter just pining for some venison stew for dinner.

If Clarice had half a brain in her pointy head, she would at least try to blend in with the wood fence or a tree trunk. But, no, she prefers the green grass where she stands out like a lawn ornament. Or a target, more obvious than a red-nosed reindeer.

There’s another thing that shows Clarice is two hooves shy of a six-pack. She devours plants that she’s not supposed to like. Google and all the other wildlife experts say unless deer are literally starving, they won’t eat certain flowers and shrubs.

Well, I shut down the deer dessert bar at Club Critter, getting rid of every single gourmet menu item. All that’s left are essentially tofu burgers. The woods behind our house offer a much tastier smorgasbord. But what does Clarice eat? The garden equivalent of napkins and silverware.

The biggest indicator that Clarice is dimmer than dirt is when I try to boot her out of the club. When I throw up the window sash and yell “Go away, Clarice!” she just looks all innocent at me, wagging her white tail as if to say, “How’s it going, girlfriend?” And when I run into the yard in my pajamas, waving my arms and yelling “Git!” Clarice calmly looks up with a mouth full of foliage like I’m the one who’s stupid. I have to get really close and a bit crazy before she finally trots away.

And then, Clarice got sneaky. As I was in the middle of writing this blog, she showed up with Bambi.

He was tiny and downy with white spots and saucer-sized innocent black eyes that made me realize where the term “doe-eyed” came from. He had spindly, wobbly legs that barely kept him upright as he silently pitter-pattered around Clarice in the grass. Bambi gazed up at Clarice and she bent down to lick his head all over, smothering him in deer kisses.

When I saw the pair, I didn’t throw up the window or run out into the yard or yell. I just watched, mesmerized, as they nuzzled and nibbled before they tip-toed back into the woods.

Well, Clarice is dense if she thinks I’m not going to run outside in my pajamas and yell at her simply because she shows up with an adorable little fawn.

If she believes I’ll let her gobble up my garden just because she has another life to care for, she’s wrong.

She’s got another thing coming if she plans to win me over now that I see her as a momma, just like me.

I keep looking out the window, hoping to see Clarice and Bambi again. I wonder if they’re OK.

Stupid deer.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

My inner youth has a thrill
at the liquor store

When I look in the mirror lately, there’s a curious older woman looking back.

She has grey hair at the roots, some wrinkles and two age spots on her cheek. Oh yeah that’s me, I have to remind myself.

Years ago, before the older woman showed up, when I was well into my 40s, I got carded at a grocery store. Among the apples, eggs and a family pack of chicken pieces was beer for my husband. It was a day I didn’t have much makeup on, my hair pulled back in a ponytail. I even remember the red shirt I wore.

As my groceries slid down the conveyor belt, the cashier grabbed hold of the six-pack and asked for my ID. I glanced up, then turned to the person behind me, thinking the cashier was talking to them. Nope — they had no beer. I looked back to the cashier and said with a big smile, “Really?”

But then I thought, OK, this is a scamI am so gullible, I’m not getting caught this time. So I looked around for hidden cameras, as I dug in my purse for my license. A little giddy, I asked the cashier, “Is this some kind of a joke? Are there hidden cameras somewhere?” She just shrugged, checked my ID, then handed it back. I thanked her profusely and told her she made my day as I floated away inches off the floor.

I came home to brag to my husband. He was happy for me, said of course I looked great, gave me a big hug. Then he reminded me that stores were now asking for IDs from everyone who looked under 35.

Thud. (That was the sound of my feet hitting the floor.)  

Oh, that’s right, I thought. Still, I’ll take it.

Now, I’m in my late 50s. I really didn’t think it would ever happen again. I thought I would have to settle for NOT being asked for my AARP card.

But, guess what? It happened again. Just last week.  I went into a liquor store for a bottle of wine. The cashier asked to see my ID. I joked, “Oh, are you asking anyone who looks younger than 60?”

She said, “No! You’re not 60?”

“No, but I’m pushing it,” I answered as I pulled out my license.

She took my ID and made some kind of exclamation, then showed it to the young cashier next to her. He laughed politely, probably thinking that everyone over 30 looks ancient — what’s the difference in a decade or two.

I did my shtick about hidden cameras because, really, could she be serious? I mean, I have been asked if I want the senior discount at the movie theater. I teased her that it must be a marketing ploy, as I would certainly never buy my wine anywhere else ever again. As before, I floated out, feet not touching the floor.

It’s nice to know that my inner youth stills shines through from time to time.  I don’t think she’ll show up again in a liquor store — my recent ID thrill was probably my last — and that’s OK.  I’m learning to love my older self in the mirror, wrinkles and all. She doesn’t look like how I feel, but she’s like a fine wine that gets better with age. Within her will always be my inner youth. And I’ll take it.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

It’s payback time, dear husband.

Yes, my handy hubby, someday soon you will accompany me to a place that strikes fear into the heart of many a man.  A place that can weaken the knees of the toughest guy.  A venue you’ve managed to avoid for years.

The fabric store.

When there’s a lull in our house projects, and you won’t need me to hold the plywood or hand you the drill or find the dropped nail, I’ll need you to be my helper for a change.

I think I’ll make curtains.

At the fabric store, be prepared to wander among row after row of bolts upon bolts of compelling colors and patterns.  We’ll do a quick walk-through, then a thorough inspection and comparison of dozens of possibilities.  Then we’ll repeat the process to choose lining material.  You may want an extra cup of coffee that morning.

We’ll need thread, too.  Of the hundreds of colors, it may take awhile to choose just the right one. Oh, and seam tape – that has to match, as well.  I may also want some new pins, needles, and tailor’s chalk.  Speaking of pins and needles, wear your comfortable sneakers.

I’ll ask your opinion and expect that you’ll have one, but of course, I’m the seamstress, so you’ll have to defer to me even if you really have your doubts.  Practice saying, “I think you’re right, Dear.”

And you won’t complain when I get particular because, after all, when I’m checking your dimensions on a piece of lumber, you’ll often ask me,

“Which side of the pencil line are you measuring to?”

And I have learned to answer without a grumble.

When I am ready to sew, you will sit on the bed next to the sewing machine, holding the fabric, so it doesn’t trail on the floor.  It will be a lot of fabric.  And a lot of holding.  You may want to think of some world problems that you can solve while you sit.

Don’t worry, though.  This entire curtain project won’t take too long – it’s just some straight seams after all.  Just a few hours, maybe.

NOT.  It will take a whole weekend, including evenings.

NOT.  Since I don’t sew that much, it will take several weekends, because you and I will have to rip out some very long seams after it dawns on me that I mismeasured.  Or pinned the pieces together inside-out.  Or cut them wrong.

In which case, we’ll have to go back to the fabric store.

And I’ll want you at my side, dearest Michael, so you can experience the joy of helplessly helping on a mind-numbingly tedious but ultimately satisfying project.

Some couples make beautiful music together.  You and I make handsome and enduring and inspiring house updates together.  And now we’ll include curtains.

I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Is that a dog?

Years ago, we had new neighbors move in to the upstairs apartment in the house next door. One Saturday afternoon shortly after the couple had moved in, I saw them out with their dog on the grassy median strip dividing our residential street. The couple was talking with some other neighbors, so I went out to say hi.

After meeting the friendly guy and his girlfriend, with no introductions to their scruffy dog sniffing at my feet, a question formulated in my head:

“Is that a male or female dog?”

(Because, really, how can you tell without being, y’know, obvious?)

In a moment of supreme brain-body disconnect, the question that came out of my mouth, however, was:

“Is that a dog?”

Write that down as an excellent example of how NOT to make a good first impression.

But it still cracks me up when I think about it, even though it happened more than 25 years ago.

I probably take myself and the foibles of life too seriously much of the time. But I also love laughing at myself. Not in a way that feels like a self put-down, but in a way that makes me feel human and hopefully approachable, in an “I screw up, you screw up, we all screw up” kind of way.

If I’m at a party, I’m not always a great conversationalist. I’m not especially politically astute (although for some reason lately, I’ve had more of an opinion than ever before — go figure). I’m not good at remembering details from trips and vacations, so I can’t name that “memorable” restaurant on the lake in Skaneateles, New York, and I can’t discuss which historic sites we visited in Philadelphia.  (Other than the Liberty Bell, of course — the memory bar isn’t set that low.) I’m also severely “directionally challenged,” so don’t even ask me the best way to get from East Poestenkill to Cropseyville.  You might end up in Massachusetts.

But I can tell a funny story about myself and I always seem to catch a listening ear.

Our imperfection — our vulnerability — is a great human connector. Like the K’nex building blocks that my kids played with years ago, it pulls us together and helps us stick with each other. In fact, a little more self-deprecating humor and a lot more K’nexing may be what the world needs right now.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Reflections of Erma