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Love me, love my cat

Allia Zobel Nolan(Allia Zobel Nolan and Nicole Hollander’s newest book, Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much, will be released in September 2015 but is now available for pre-orders. Enjoy this interview with the author to understand her obsession affection for felines.)

Cats are ridiculously popular these days. But it wasn’t always so. When and what got you interested in writing about these feline fur babies?

Truth is though I always had an affinity for cats, my parents were really 
dog people. In fact, my mom really didn’t like cats at all…said they were 
sneaky. Then one Christmas morning, a friend dropped off a box for me. It was large, moved, and had holes in the top. It turned out that inside the box was a white ball of fluff…the cutest white kitten I’d ever seen. I named him Oscar Pooke. Much to her dismay, the tiny fur ball followed Mother around all day and at night, sat in the crook of Dad’s neck while we watched TV. Needless to say, Mother fell in love with him; father fell in love with him, and of course, I was over the moon. I was about 15. Ten cats later, I’m still smitten.

Do you consider yourself a “crazy cat lady?”

You know the stereotypical image of the crazy cat lady is of a spinster, in slovenly clothes, who lives with hordes of cats in a stinky house that looks like a bomb hit it. Other than the messy house, I don’t fit that category. Some may consider my over-the-top treatment of my cats “crazy.” But I believe if you are blessed with the care of an animal, you should do all you can to make it happy and comfortable… cartoon

What is the most bizarre thing you’ve ever done for your cats? 

Well, I don’t consider anything I’ve ever done for my cats “bizarre.” The 
book notwithstanding, others whose involvement with their puddies may not run as deeply as my own, may think I spoil them — what with insisting on fresh, wild caught (never farmed) salmon for their meals, or hiring a vet technician to come in to the house six times a day to make sure they are okay when I’m away for more than two hours. Also, when I’m cuddling my newly rescued baby, Nolan Nolan, I also run my face up and down his fur, imitating the licking gestures a mommy cat makes when she cleans her puddy. I do that because he is under a year old and may be missing being groomed by his birth mom. But I don’t consider any of that “bizarre.” However, I read on the web of some woman who actually “married” her cat. Now, to me, that’s bizarre. That’s like marrying your child.

Does your love for your cat interfere with your love life? 

Well, truthfully, my husband, who is Irish, prefers dogs. However, it’s a matter of the old saying, “love me, love my cat(s).” I really couldn’t spend my life with someone who doesn’t like cats. I’m not saying they have to be ga-ga over them — like I am — but they have to at least understand where I’m coming from. I just lost a cat, Angela Dahling, who had thyroid disease and kidney failure. For two years, I hand-fed her, or arranged for her to be fed, four times a day. She also had to have fluids three times a week and Vitamin B12 shots, and all of this was very time-consuming and costly, both physically and psychologically. And my husband was very understanding of it all. Many wouldn’t be, but then, I wouldn’t be with a person like that.

Can you give us three things women who love cats too much can do to course-correct their lives?

Well, first, many of us (and I include myself in the quotient), don’t want to course correct. Our lives may not be as smooth as they would be if we didn’t love cats too much. But then, surely our lives would not be as fulfilled as they are now. But for those who may consider (however briefly) changing, I would suggest: Be firm when it comes to opening and closing the door for your cat.
 Do it 50 times, and then leave the door ajar. Kitty may learn the mechanics of door-opening, and you’ll have 10, maybe 20, extra minutes in your day. Here’s another thing: Try (and I say try, because you may have to give in) not to feed puddy every time she stands at her feeding bowl starring at you with soulful saucer eyes. Walk away, engage yourself in busy work, build a catio…anything to get your mind off that face. If you can’t stand the silence, though, wait a while before you fill her bowl. This way, she’ll know you are NOT at her beck and call. The third thing is to try (I know it’s difficult) to do more outside the house: volunteer, go shopping, get the mail. If it becomes simply too unbearable, you can always get a video monitor app for your phone to check on them. Course-correcting will not be easy, so take baby steps.

Many people don’t like cats at all. They prefer dogs. In fact, many people think dogs are the superior companion animal. What do you say to that?

Hogwash! I’ve written extensively…books and articles…on why the cat is paws-down above and beyond the dog. For starters, unlike dogs, cat don’t have self-esteem issue. They’re not hyper and aren’t in your face for approval every half-second. They may sit on your computer or book now and again. But that’s only for your benefit — so you don’t feel they’re not paying attention to you. A cat’s breath doesn’t smell like a mixture of a dumpster and an old locker. Cats would never cling to a guest’s leg, nor slobber all over them. Cats wouldn’t dream of rolling in the mud, then jumping all over you. I could go on and on and on. But you get the picture.

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is an internationally published, award-winning author of more than 200 children’s and adult trade titles. Her books reflect her two main passions, God and cats, and include such varied titles as Purr More, Hiss Less: Heavenly Lessons I Learned from My Cat, Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell-All Book, The Ten Commandments for Little Ones, The Worrywart’s Prayer Book and Whatever: Livin’ the True, Noble, Totally Excellent Life. Her newest book, Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much, will be released in September 2015 but is now available for pre-orders.

Confessions of a reality TV snob

Ann_GreenFor many years I had a rather snooty view of reality TV. Not for me were “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” “American Idol” or “The Bachelorette.” I had better things to do than watch “Big Brother,” “Survivor” or “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Then I joined a gym. Boredom had always been my primary barrier to engaging in regular exercise. Planet Fitness is a low-key place where ordinary folks, an encouraging number with gray hair and imperfect bodies, can exercise while watching TV with handy on-board controls. Some people listen to music while working out; I need the visual.

As I plod on the treadmill, arrayed before me is a vast choice of channels. And when I’m struggling to stay fit, any distraction will do. With the touch of a finger I can channel surf, avoiding commercials, without breaking a stride.

I now look forward to what I used to look down on. I watch “Dr. Phil,” “Judge Judy” and “Hoarders.” As for “Say Yes to the Dress,” the fact that I’m currently planning my daughter’s wedding makes the folks at Kleinfeld Bridal my special pals. Watching parents, bridesmaids, friends and siblings sabotage the bride’s choices makes me feel like I’m doing okay as mother of the bride.

As a fashion illiterate, I can feel a little better about myself while enjoying “Love, Lust or Run.” Between wisecracks, Stacy London mentors women who dress in ripped jeans; loudly printed, skin-seizing leggings; spiked necklaces; skirts up to the stratosphere and underwear on top of their clothes. Not to mention green hair. And this is what they wear to work. I especially enjoy the before and after shots, as Stacy’s protégés emerge stylish and perfectly accessorized.

Before and after shots are also the best parts of “Hoarders,” when the monumental piles of garbage are contrasted with rediscovered and usable living rooms and kitchens. The possibility that these rather pathetic folks might backslide is something I just don’t want to think about. Another great thing about “Hoarders” is that I go home psyched to clean out my house. After one such post-“Hoarders” binge I almost singlehandedly supplied the yard sale at the animal shelter where I volunteer.

If you want to feel better about your life, watch “Dr. Phil.” Uncontrollable teens, husbands who cheat and laugh about it, older relatives who send their lifesavings to Internet con men. I watch and I feel functional. Sometimes, however, it does seem that the good doctor is scraping the bottom of the dysfunctional barrel and exploiting the pitiful. A recent show featured a drug-addled mother whose children and siblings are held captive by her hypochondria and her addictions to pills and bad wigs. Face it, Phil, some cases are hopeless.

Some shows are a treat for very personal reasons. Watching “Wahlbergers” gives me a warm, hometown feeling.  TheWahlberg Family is from Dorchester, Mass., where my father was born and which is a stone’s throw from the city where I grew up. And I just love to hear the Boston accent I worked so hard to get rid of. “Undercover Boss” crescendos with the moment of the big reveal, when the CEO discloses his/her true identity to the shocked employees, then gifts them with scholarships and rent money. Much weeping all around. What’s not to enjoy?

Reality shows are a guilty pleasure. While visiting my niece a while back, I joined her in watching the “Kardashians” for my first time. Her life is hectic, with three small children and a demanding job. Kim and Company relax her. I don’t see the attraction, but then again there are people who are too compassionate to be entertained by other people’s woes, unlike myself.

Still, there are some shows I can’t abide, no matter how impatient I am for my treadmilling to be over with. Sometimes while screen scrolling I pause for a moment on “Naked and Afraid.” After watching two morons test their survival skills au naturel in some snake- infested hell hole, my imagination feels sand in very uncomfortable places. I have to stop myself from hopping off the treadmill and jumping in the shower. The “Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank” are so self-involved it’s hard to see the screen for their egos. For me, cooking shows are, like exercise, boring, thus eliminating “Top Chef,” “Chopped” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”

In the end, binging on reality TV is not just about distraction while putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about feeling that whatever issues I deal with in life, there are people who are worse off than me, and, incredibly, they are okay with the whole world watching. So, I just keep treading, and the schadenfreude keeps me going.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Dating checks and feeling dated

Pat GardnerPretty often I date checks “1995.” Something will look a bit odd, so I wonder if this is really 1996. I never ask anybody, lest I seem senile.

Today my daughter asked why, when I wrote a note to her at the front of a book — her birthday present — I dated the note “1995.” Not making excuses, I said, “It may be Alzheimer’s. I’m always saying I want to be out of here by 80 to avoid running out of money. Maybe it won’t get as bad as President Reagan’s did.” (I’m almost 68.)  My daughter and her husband laughed.

After my husband and I were in the car, I asked, “Is this 1996?” He said,”No,” I asked, “Then what’s wrong with 1995?” He said, “This is 2015.”

I thought it must be frightening for him to discover my condition. Later, he told he wasn’t scared, that he had recently told the mechanic that our car is a 1966 Ford. Looking at the car, the mechanic said, “I live in the ‘60s myself, but this is pushing it.” The car may be from the early 21st century, but I’m not sure.

It was obvious that my husband and I both favored the 20th century over the 21st.  I wondered how we chose the particular years. In his case, 1966 was the year he was a junior in college. It was a good time to be in college — a time of more passion than our last students, the ones in 2014 — often showed.

At first I thought I knew why I chose 1995. I still believed that my fiction would get published, and my husband and I thought we would find real  academic jobs — not adjunct work but something with a living wage. Then I realized that it was some other year that my fantasies were intact. The year 1995 was, in fact, rather awful.

My daughter is sure that I do not suffer from any cognitive impairment. As she points out, I have been doing such things all of her life.

— Pat Gardner

Pat Gardner has a Ph.D. in English and a tendency to date current checks “1995.” She’s 67 now. In the past, she had a fine time teaching writing classes and reading her comedies at conferences.


Picking a woman who’s right on the money

Barreca,-Gina(This piece first appeared in the Hartford Courant on June 24, 2015. Reposted by permission of author Gina Barreca.)

 America’s been discussing women’s influence on our nation’s history, destiny and character. And we managed to talk about women’s contributions for almost, oh, an entire quarter of an hour until the conversation veered back to men.

Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

The topic under discussion was, “Which women, from U.S. history, might appear on a piece of paper currency?” (Just one piece of paper currency, mind you, one single denomination.) Many men, however, became so distraught at hearing nothing about their accomplishments — for up to three minutes at a stretch — they tried to shut the whole thing down.

Men swiftly reclaimed the conversation with a fierce debate over the merits of the two men on the $20 bill and the $10 bill, respectively.

Not that there aren’t several good reasons for suggesting that Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson be ousted from the $20 instead of Alexander “Federalist Papers” Hamilton from the $10 — I’m all for it. But what I noticed is that we’ve shoved the women out of the way so that Jackson and Hamilton can have center stage. The women of American history are now sitting in lawn chairs, drinking cold coffee and wondering whether their time for recognition will come.

But for a while there, we were having a fun, active, interesting conversation about which women might appear on paper money. We know it didn’t work out with the coins. Some of us still have the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea coins sequestered somewhere in a separate compartment, probably in a plastic bag tucked into a drawer, because we’re afraid we’ll mistakenly circulate them as quarters.

Sure, they gave women coins, but they made the coins look as if they were worth one-fourth of their value. Are you shocked?

Yet it seemed as if the country, or the part of it that can make conversation, was having a lively and enthusiastic discussion about putting one woman on one piece of paper money — while still allowing the original owner to keep some real estate on the bill (Hamilton’s image will still be there somewhere). Even Jack Lew, U.S. Treasury secretary, cheered the idea and said merely that the woman had to be representative of American democracy and, by law, no longer living.

You’d think, given those parameters, there’d be a lot of names. You would think that a joyful noise would be made unto the government and that names of women who lived and died for the red, white and blue would be enough to keep us talking until 2020, when the new bill is due to be issued.

Not so much.

Perhaps it’s an unconscious fear of putting women into circulation or the uneasiness some men might feel putting Eleanor Roosevelt directly into their pants pocket.

Or maybe it’s the worry that once women start getting our faces on the money, we’ll want our full share of it, too.

I propose something entirely different: I believe that we should reinvigorate the term “funny money” and endow it with a literal meaning.

You want to represent democracy and embody a trait that’s fiercely defining of the American character? It’s got to be our sense of humor. Mark Twain argued that humor is “the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”

I want currency with Mae West, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, Gracie Allen, Dorothy Parker and Erma Bombeck on the bills.

Take Grover Cleveland off the $1,000 and put Gracie Allen on the grand.

Sophie Tucker deserves her own green because she told the truth about money: “From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55, she needs a good personality. From 55 on, she needs good cash.” Put Sophie on the sawbuck.

While not one of these women was among the Founding Fathers (I researched it), all of these women could be called impulsive. As defined by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf in their new book Spinglish, the word “impulsive” is “a handy adjective for disparaging a female colleague who, if she were a man, would be applauded for her ability to make quick decisions.”

Sounds like the definition of an American leader to me.

— Gina Barreca

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She regularly writes columns for the Hartford Courant, The Huffington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Psychology Today. In 2012, she served as a keynoter at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and returned to be part of the faculty in 2014. Learn more about Gina here.

Bathroom brawl almost broke my family

Charles HartleyThere are six kids in my family, and I am the youngest. For several years we all lived in the same house. During those years the unspoken and sensible rule was that the six of us were supposed to share two bathrooms located upstairs only a few feet away from each other.

The rule was broken one day when my oldest brother, who was then 16, declared that one of the bathrooms was “his” and that the rest of us had to share the other one.

Yes, he made up a rule that no one was allowed to use his bathroom. Presumably, this meant until he was 18 and went off to college at which point he wouldn’t care anymore who used either bathroom.

He was serious. Two years seemed like a long time at the time.

To the rest of us kids, this, on its face, seemed unfair. Why should five people use one bathroom and one get one to himself? He was the oldest, but that didn’t seem a strong enough reason. Beyond the fairness issue, his declaration struck all of us the same way: slightly if not completely selfish, and slightly if not completely presumptuous, and slightly if not completely combustible enough to tear at the fabric of our family.

It seemed to us as if he was breaking ranks with our unspoken but well understood family code that everyone should be treated fairly and that we all shared in household things equally.

For a while as we digested his new rule, we allowed it to go on. This occurred, I think, because we were reeling that he made such a bold and questionable intra-family maneuver. We didn’t know how to react. The move had to be absorbed and chewed on first.

“OK, well, maybe because he is the oldest, and he does deserve his own bathroom,” we seemed to say to ourselves. At least I did being nine years younger than him.

This was new territory for me, a family shockwave that took me awhile to process. My older siblings, however, had more life experiences. They were able to sense in the deepest crevices of their beings that our older brother had crossed a family red line. He had intentionally garbled the family code.

While he continued shaving, brushing his teeth and showering in his own bathroom for a few weeks, you could sense rumblings of rebellion building in the house among the second- and third-oldest brothers, and oldest- and second-oldest sisters.

Day after day we were having to wait in line to take showers in our one bathroom — “our” bathroom as opposed to “his” bathroom. It was becoming a daily nuisance especially as we saw our oldest brother prance in and out of his any time he pleased.

Plus our bathroom was getting dirtier and more disheveled. What’s more, it wasn’t the prettier bathroom. It had a dark green carpet; his was lively pink. In his bathroom it was easier to be put in a happier mood by the brighter color and the less trampled rug and mushier towels.

My oldest sister, known to have the strongest opinions and principles in all family matters, started calling my oldest brother out more often, seemingly daily, that his decision was wrong on its face.

I seem to recall she raised this point a few times while our whole family ate dinner. And you know who is always at a family dinner: Mom and Dad.

Until this, I don’t think Mom and Dad had been made aware of their oldest son’s dubious behavior. He had been sly, announcing his bathroom to us when Mom and Dad were not around. He may have calculated that they would never find out because he was older and wiser and maybe his younger siblings would buy into his decision. It’s also possible he believed that if Mom and Dad asked him about it, they would agree that because he was the oldest he deserved his own bathroom.

I don’t recall Mom and Dad getting involved in resolving this family spat. But I do remember that the more my oldest sister pointed out the inequity and inhumaneness, the pressure on my brother mounted even though he would not show he was feeling it.

“This is my bathroom,” he would say.

In other words, get out of his bathroom.

Even as a naïve and uneducated seven-year-old, this didn’t sound right to me. And I had not yet experienced much of interpersonal relationships and  self-centeredness. How could it be “his” bathroom, I remember thinking, when he did not own the house? Mom and Dad did. How could it be “his” bathroom just because he told us it was? If he could do that, I could declare the other bathroom “mine” and tell the others to go to the downstairs bathroom. Just declaring something seemed a powerful tool to wield. But how could he think it right and just to have five people lowering the quality of their lives as the quality of his life soared? Why does he get the better life than us?

By then, my second- and third-oldest brothers had become taller than my oldest. So physical intimidation to change his policy may have been a factor in the reversal of this proclamation. But the biggest reason we stopped this madness were the annoyingly well-articulated, prickly, and sometimes unsettling complaints by my oldest sister. She did not see any way around the fact that this bathroom rule was not right. And when she decided something was not right, she was going to let you hear about it and the chances of her changing her mind were zero.

While my oldest brother never relented in claiming “his” bathroom, the rest of us just starting using his bathroom without asking his permission. There were never any arguments or fisticuffs. It just became the rule of the other five kids that we were not going to let Big Brother push us around.

Even as the youngest I remember going in that bathroom when I felt like it and not worrying about my oldest brother ripping on me to get out. I had four other siblings, a Band of Brothers and Sisters, who had my back. Our family feud dissipated.

My oldest brother went to college two years later. Going to college resolves many family issues. And my oldest sister continued to call anybody out in our family who she believed was being unprincipled.

The bathroom situation was a bonding experience for our family, and a blow to my oldest brother. We are all better for it.

To all of them, I declare that this essay is “mine.”

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

College daze

Jerry ZezimaAs soon as my lawyer gets out of jail, I am going to file a classless action lawsuit against the makers of “National Lampoon’s Animal House” for theft of intellectual property.

I came up with the idea recently while drinking a beer at my 40th college reunion, where my classmates (who also, like my lawyer, were admitted to the bar) agreed that the 1978 campus comedy was heavily influenced by our shenanigans.

While we got an excellent education at Saint Michael’s College, which is in Colchester, Vermont, and is annually rated as one of the top small colleges in America, the Class of 1975 stands out as the most notorious in the 111-year history of the school.

That its graduates, like those in “Animal House,” have gone on to enjoy distinguished careers in business, education, law, politics, medicine, aviation and even journalism only bolsters my case.

The plaintiffs, whose last names are not being used to protect the guilty, include Hank, my roommate for three years; Clay, my roommate for one year; Tim, the brazen ringleader who lived next door; and yours truly, who was only, I will testify under oath in the event we are countersued, along for the ride.

Accompanying us to the reunion were Hank’s wife, Angela; Clay’s wife, Lorraine; Tim’s wife, Jane; and my wife, Sue, who also is a member of the Class of ’75 but is innocent of all charges, unless you count being guilty by association.

The first thing Tim and I did, with help from Clay, was turn the Class of 1975 banner upside down on a fence in back of the school. It hung proudly, if slightly crumpled, next to the crisp, right-side-up banners of the other classes at the reunion barbecue. Then the three of us, along with several of our classmates, posed for pictures behind it.

Tim, co-chair of the ’75 reunion committee, later reported that Jack Neuhauser, who has been president of the college since 2007 but knows all about us, heard what we had done.

“He just shook his head, like he expected it,” Tim said.

“He can’t revoke our diplomas,” I noted, adding that we graduated magna cum lager, “or we’d have to come back.”

“And repeat all the stuff we did,” said Tim.

That stuff included starting a snowball fight that erupted into a campus-wide riot; putting snakes in other students’ rooms; engaging in firecracker wars; throwing a burning bonsai tree out of a window and accidentally igniting the ivy on the side of the building, which forced our resident adviser, Flash, to run across the quad, beer in hand, to extinguish the blaze; locking a pep squad in a dormitory basement so it couldn’t march at a pep rally; putting kegs of beer in a dumbwaiter and sending them up and down between floors so campus authorities couldn’t find them; streaking in front of the girls’ dorm (I did, modestly, wear a bow tie); creating an international incident on a trip to Montreal; and committing innumerable other acts of mayhem, craziness and blatant stupidity that are safe to mention now because, let’s hope, the statute of limitations has expired.

“The drinking age was 18,” Tim reasoned. “What did they expect?”

They expected us to behave ourselves at the reunion, which we did. Mostly.

At the awards breakfast (somehow, none of us won anything), I issued a blanket apology for the Class of 1975 to the now-retired Don “Pappy” Sutton, who was dean of students during our four-year reign of error, when Playboy ranked St. Mike’s as one of the nation’s top party schools.

Dean Sutton, who is 87 and looks fabulous (he’s had 40 years to recover), thanked me and said, “God bless you.”

We had a great time, both in college and at the reunion, and are proud to be associated with such a fine institution of higher learning.

I can’t help but think, however, that like the rowdy crew in “Animal House,” we are still on double secret probation.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won five humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Alcohol conditioning

Hillary IbarraOn the last evening of my visit to the UK in April, my brother Nate and his wife Natalie gave me gifts to bear home to my children.

Then Nate came into the dining room, hiding something behind his back. It was a gift for me, a tribute to my writing he explained.

Unfortunately, my brother’s speech was interrupted by the pizza delivery guy, so Natalie took the gift, tucking it into her cardigan until Nate returned. Resuming, he mentioned how a post I wrote a couple years ago made him and Natalie laugh out loud, and then he placed a bottle of Dom Pérignon, Vintage 2004 in my hands. I was stunned.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would actually get the chance to drink the Champagne of Champagnes, certainly not before the kids graduated college. As promised, my husband and I relished it while toasting our 14th wedding anniversary this month. We even bought our first Champagne flutes to go with it, for such a bubbly demanded the proper stemware. A gal who gets balloon head after half a glass of wine, I can now say that I know what a really expensive hangover feels like. It was so worth it.

As for that humble post that earned me a bottle of Dom Pérignon from my extraordinarily generous brother and his lovely wife? This is it:

I am not a connoisseur of alcohol. As a young woman I did not sip brightly hued mixed drinks with my cool, fashion-conscious girlfriends. (Once I did sneak some of my dad’s scotch to mix with orange soda in order to cure a cold. The only thing it cured me of was drinking scotch and orange soda ever again. It was something like putting cotton candy in your martini, I imagine.)

I thought I knew something about wine, but I proved my ignorance in a servers’ meeting post-hours at a nice cafe where I worked. The owners were trying to teach us about red and white wines. When the question-and-answer session broke out, I spoke up and said, “Whites are all sweet and reds are dry.” My boss made an example of me, the poster child of blatant alcohol ignorance.

I was even more clueless about other liquor. Nine months pregnant with my first child and balancing a menu on my belly, I sat in a steak house with my Man and spied a tea I wanted to try.

“I’ll take a Long Island iced tea,” I confidently told our waiter.

The waiter stared, pen suspended, and my husband almost startled me into labor.

“Whoooaa! She doesn’t know what she’s saying,” he assured the wary server. “Just regular sweetened tea for her.”

Then he leaned over and whispered, “Honey, that has alcohol.”

“Oh,” I said. “I just thought it was like Texas tea.”

“That has alcohol, too…LOTS of alcohol.”

“Oh. Glad I didn’t order that then.”

Many years later I would discover per a friend’s suggestion that I liked a Zebra or Preacher’s collar. So when I found myself in an Olive Garden with several friends, and there was a long wait that prompted someone to suggest we get something at the bar, I knew just what I wanted.

I sauntered up to counter, leaned in and with a smile told the young man there that I’d take a Zebra.

The clever guy knew just what I meant, but he held up a bottle of wine and said, “Ma’am, we only serve wine here. We’re an Italian restaurant.”

My friends broke out in merry laughter, and I’m good for that. But I really could have gone for that beer.

The one I will never live down, though, the one that will haunt me every December 31, happened only a few years ago.

I love Champagne. Love, love, love, love, love. I don’t need to know much about it, because my love is unconditional. Still, I did read a column in the paper that listed several great sparkling wines to enjoy for New Year’s Eve, so when my husband casually asked me what kind I wanted him to pick up for the big celebration, I spoke up excitedly, “I’ve heard Dom Pérignon is good!”

“Dom Pérignon? That’s a hundred-something bucks!”

“It is?”

My husband burst out laughing.

“You could get me some, you know,” I retorted. “Maybe it’s worth it.”

“No I couldn’t. Dom Pérignon!” And then he laughed some more.

Now every time there’s a special occasion, and my Man has to make a sparkling wine run, he smiles and teases in a high, snobby voice, “Do you want me to pick you up some Dom Pérignon?”

Yeah, alright, alright. Put a cork in it. Because one of these days, one of these Valentine’s days, I’m going to swing by the drugstore…or the French Embassy…on my way home. Then when my Man walks in the door, I’ll be sitting in a sweet little red dress with a nice little bottle of wine. I’ll extend a glass to him and say smoothly:

“Care for some Dom Pérignon, Darling?”

Like Marilyn Monroe, I might even bathe in it — or at least wash my hair in it — because life should be sweet…or dry…and expensive, even for a dork like me.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

Carpe Diem!
They’ll never notice the pillow cases

Kelly GriffithsI wore a white sundress with yellow daisies and half a head of braided cornrows because they charged per braid. We were married on a cruise ship, docked in the port of Saint Thomas. In the sea glass morning hours before we got married, we snorkeled. Getting married? The best snorkeling ever? We can do it all. Carpe diem.

One of our ports of call had Sea-Doos available for hourly rent, and there was just enough time to ride one before the ship left. The cliché is that time flies when you’re having fun, but it grows thrusters when you’re riding Sea-Doos in the Caribbean. May I remind you that the ship waits for no one?

Panic. Us on the sidewalk, as little puddles of sea water gathered around our bare feet, all testifying to our romp on the waves. Taxi after taxi went by without stopping, the drivers shaking their heads at the two messes who would not be wrecking their cabs. Exquisite panic.

Finally, a taxi stopped, and we were directed onto the tarp in the way back seat. Smart guy. A fare’s a fare. Except, we weren’t. We had spent our cash on the Sea-Doos, and realized too late the cabbie didn’t take credit. More panic. Furtive whispering. Also the realization that Bob had left his shoes in the phone booth. With no shoes and no cash, we hurtled toward the moment we’d have to deal with the fallout from our stupidity youthful spontaneity.

But no! Thanks to the kindness of strangers we escaped the retribution for our little carpe diem. They paid our fare, and we paid them back once on board. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

The last night of any cruise is different. All luggage, except toiletries and the next day’s outfit, is placed outside the room by midnight. While we sleep, our goods get sniffed and searched by the customs department. Then after disembarkation and a customs turn of our own, we are reunited with our luggage. It’s a process that works swimmingly.

So long as one doesn’t pack one’s jeans in the luggage.

If one were to pack his jeans in the luggage, that would be very unlucky, as the ship’s stores cannot be opened while the ship is at port. The luggage is long gone into America, and one is left with whatever is in the cabin.

If one were to walk through customs wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes on his lower half, shod in his only pair of shoes, black dress loafers and white tube socks, it would be a long walk, indeed.

Critical fact #1: We shared a waist size in those early days of our marriage.

Critical fact #2: Ship cabins have everything one needs to survive the walk through customs.

Critical fact #3: We are a resourceful couple.

Picture this: Half my hair in cornrows, with a sunburn on my face and a sleep deprivation hangover, with dainty sneakers on my feet, I sauntered off our cruise ship and through customs — wearing our pillow cases tied around my waist. Like a skirt. Like, I meant to do that. Bob wore my jeans.

That was how we walked into America as husband and wife. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Or seize whatever’s available. And if you walk with a swagger, no one will notice the pillow cases.

— Kelly Griffiths

Kelly Griffiths, soccer, swimming and homeschool mom, lives in her van all over Northeast Ohio. Kelly is recently returned from a 20-year writing hiatus, taken so she wouldn’t kill her flow-interrupting children. Kelly’s pure thoughts can be found here. Her skeletons, here.

Reflections of Erma