Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Weather

Thought for the dayShotgun weddings could be considered a matter of wife or death.

Just like most days, we turned on CNN this morning so we could feed our brains with the latest news whilst feeding our stomachs with Cheerios. (We're multi-taskers.) But unlike most days, CNN was nattering on and on about the Royal Wedding. To tell the truth, we hadn't planned on watching the blessed event, since our noses were still a wee bit out of joint about not receiving our royal invitation in a timely manner. Not that we would've gone, mind you. Being groped at the airport by a sweaty 300-pound TSA agent with bad breath isn't our idea of a romantic encounter, so we prefer to opt out of that particular experience, thank you very much. Still, an invitation would've been nice.

But, there it was on our TV, and we were too blooming lazy to change the channel. The solemn walk down the aisle. The crowds partying in the streets. The sure-to-be-rebroadcast-a-zillion-times double kiss. Jolly good, eh?

One thing newscasters and partiers in the street talked about was the weather. Never having been to London myself, I can't attest to it first-hand, but from what I've heard, London doesn't generally rate terribly high on the scale for great weather. Lots of fog and drizzly rain, yeah, but a perfect Chamber of Commerce day with wall-to-wall sunshine and gentle breezes? Not so much. But the Royal couple was blessed with off-the-scale beautiful weather today.

A good omen, some said.

On the other hand, my wedding day started out with showers. Not the oh-boy-another-blender kind of shower, but the wet falling from the sky kind. Know what people told me? That it was a good omen. That Heaven was shedding tears of joy for me. It didn't cry for long, though. Ended up sunny and nearly 100 degrees by early afternoon. Not sure what kind of omen that was supposed to be, but nearly 42 years later, we're still going strong, so I guess some of that good juju must've worked.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the role weather can play in our writing. For example, it can serve as a direct reflection of the story's tone or a character's emotions. It's no accident that dispositions are commonly described as stormy or sunny, or that unpleasant occurences invoke images of a "dark day." Think of the various possibilities for making weather a supportive element that emphasizes some aspect of your story. Blizzards can serve as a backdrop to feelings of isolation; thunderstorms can dramatize terror or fury; glorious sunshine like the Royal couple were blessed with today can backlight happiness and optimism.

Or the weather can serve as a stark contrast.

Yesterday, when I was preparing a garden for planting, I couldn't help but think about stark contrast. The sky was pale blue, polka dotted with bright white clouds. Lots of sunshine, and enough breeze to keep it comfortable. Yet, just north of me, under that same pale blue sky, and carressed by that same gentle breeze, hundreds of people were dealing with the staggering aftermath of tornadoes.

Remember that old song, sung by Dusty Springfield, with the lines

Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world ...

Those people dealing with the loss of their homes, everything they owned, and even their entire towns, must have felt a little like that. There's a certain disconnect when you are suffering and grieving, and the world goes on as usual, sunshine, gentle breeze, and all. But it is this kind of contrast that I believe adds an extra level of oomph to our stories.

Do you consciously make weather a meaningful element in your writing? If not, can you think of any books you've read where weather does play an important part? Oh, do tell.

Since I'm asking you to show me yours, I'll show you mine first. In Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, the story takes place in Baltimore during an unseasonably hot dry spell, marked by daily bouts of thunder and lightning, and empty promises of rain that never comes. Until the end of the story ...

OK, I know you've all been waiting for it, so here it comes. It's time for the ...

Weirdest news stories of the week:

** Brewdog, the same illustrious beer-maker already credited with creating the world's strongest beer, not to mention serving beer in dead animal carcasses, has now released another extra special brew in the UK to commemorate the royal wedding. Called "Royal Virility Performance", this India Pale Ale is laced with ... Viagra. Yep, that's right. Downing three of these babies allegedly delivers the same upping power as taking a single Viagra. Think of all the twenty-somethings in the UK who are partying hearty in the streets while getting schnockered on these brews. (You KNOW they won't just stop at three!) Think of them passing out. Littering the streets. Lying on their backs with flagpoles raised on high. (a patriotic lot, to be sure) The unusual ale's bottle has some amusing lines on it, like "Arise Prince Willy." And the brewers claim that they've sent some of their new ale to the Prince, so he can enjoy a (wink, wink) stiff drink on his wedding night.

** Also in commemoration of the royal nuptials, a British firm has plans to sell bottles of "Royal Wedding Day Air." As I write this, a team of "trained professionals" is collecting samples of the air so they can capture the essence of this magical day. Hoping to sell these bottles as a collector's item, the company compares it to a fine bottle of champagne, and says the whole family can gather around it to take a healthy sniff. No idea what the price will be for this "collector's item", but I suppose it beats canned cow farts, eh?

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Age is Just a Number

Thought for the dayHow can I possibly be "over the hill" when I never made it to the top?

Sometimes, I actually forget that I'm getting old. I mean, no matter how old you are on the outside, don't YOU still feel young on the inside? So what if the outside doesn't look as good as it did twenty, thirty, forty years ago? I say, avoid those lying mirrors! Got some sagging parts? Parts that "swing"? Eat until the wrinkles fill out! OK, so it may be a little more difficult to deny the creep of age after Uncle Sam starts sending you those  thank-you-God-life-is-good social security checks every month, but for that, I have two little words of advise: direct deposit. (Why be reminded?)

Alas, there are times when the "tra-la-la-la I'm still young" inner child gets a solid kick in the teeth. The best thing to do then is spit out the blood and have a good laugh about it.

Like last summer, when some of our grandchildren were visiting. I convinced my son and granddaughter to spin the jump rope for me. Wanted to demonstrate jumping in. I executed it perfectly, too, and it felt great! Just like being a kid again. But, zippadee-doo-da, my feet went out from under me, and the next thing I knew, my arse hit the driveway like a one-ton sack of potatoes. I thought it was hysterical, but the rest of the family was mortified ... and wouldn't "let" me play jump rope anymore. (spoil sports!)

And a few months ago, while shopping with one of my daughters-in-law, I said something about how all the clothes looked like "old lady" clothes. Then, I laughed and said, "D'OH!" She failed to see a lick of humor in it.

And two years ago, I had an epiphany in a cemetery. The funeral director had set up rows of red-cushioned chairs beside the gravesite for the benefit of the older women in attendance. While the minister talked on and on, (and on) I stood with my husband, shifting my weight from one aching foot to the other, leaning on him, rubbing my back. Then it hit me, and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. By golly, those chairs were set up for ME! As soon as we got home, I called my friend, and after we finished laughing, we agreed that if she and I go somewhere together when we're in our nineties, we'll still be saving seats for the "older" people in attendance.

So, don't let aging get you down. For one thing, it's too damned hard to get back up again, but mostly, it's because this really can be a terrific time of life. So enjoy it! Let me remind you that ANY woman can have the body of a 21-year-old, if that's really what she wants. But (Bada-BOOM!) she may have to buy him a few drinks first. And ladies, as much as we've grumbled over the years about men not looking at our faces when they're talking to us, it's a little reassuring to know that, even at my age, men are still looking at my boobs. (So what if they have to squat first?)

How about you? Is there sometimes a disconnect between the "real you" and what the calendar tries to tell you? Can you laugh about it? After all, we don't stop laughing because we get old; we get old because we stop laughing.

How about your writing? Do you tend to write about... and for ... people your own age? Younger? Older? Any particular reason?

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Technology

Thought for the day: In the Bowling Alley of Tomorrow, there will even be machines that wear rental shoes and throw the ball for you. Your sole function will be to drink beer.  Dave Barry

(Crap. Just my luck. I HATE beer.)

Modern technology is amazing, isn't it? Ohhhhh, the things science and technology can do for us! The amazing things computers can do! The wonders of the Internet ... the joys of meeting people from all parts of the world through blogging. Then again, on the other hand, as C.P. Snow wrote in the New York Times in March of 1971: Technology ... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.

In other words, my problem with Blogger didn't miraculously "cure" itself over the weekend. I still can't post a picture, dadgum it. Sincere thanks to all of you who offered suggestions and/or commiserations. I really appreciate it. Alas, no time to monkey around with the template right now, so I'll simply have to settle for writing another post without pictures.


I find it mind-boggling and a tiny bit freaky that some automobiles can actually parallel park at the curb all by themselves, don't you? But what happens, I ask you, when the technology-dependent driver is reading the newspaper or putting on fresh make-up, or whatever the heck it is a person is supposed to be doing while the car is allegedly working its magic, and the magic doesn't work? What if the car refuses to take its proper place at the side of the road, and the poor hapless driver, who never learned how to parallel park, is stranded in the middle of the road, and has to fend for himself? (The horror of it all!) Fear not, my friends, for I offer you (Ta-DA!) plan B. Curb feelers! Remember them? They were simple metal thingamajiggies that stuck out from the lower side of the car, allowing the less-than-talented parallel parker to tell by the scraping sound that he was close enough to the curb. (Worked like a charm for my mother in '58.)

Do you rely on a PDA? I suggest you have a back-up plan for that, too. Like a good old-fashioned PAD and pencil. And don't you think it'd be a swimmingly grand idea if all cashiers actually knew how to add and subtract? It isn't so much that technology provides pitfalls; I think we trip ourselves and risk falling flat on our faces when we become so dependent on those technologies that we can no longer function without them. We let the machines do for us, and lose the ability to do for ourselves.

I like my new telephone;
My computer works just fine.
My calculator is perfect,
But Lord, I miss my mind!

Can you think of any times that technology stabbed you in the back ... or bit you in the butt?

I hope y'all had a glorious weekend. We did. It's always a joy to spend time with our grandchildren, and even though my body is sitting here in front of my computer, I'm afraid my head is still is Alabama, running around the back yard with the kiddies. I'm not sure who was happier to see us: the grandkids when we got to Alabama, or our cats when we got back home. So I'm gonna close today's blog by listing some of the things that our smart cats (and yours) have to remember:

  • Screaming at a can of food won't make it open itself.
  • I should not assume the patio door is open when I race outside to chase leaves.
  • If I put a live mouse in my food bowl, I should not expect it to stay there until I get hungry.
  • If I bite the cactus, it will bite back.
  • I shouldn't stand on the bathroom counter, stare down the hall, and growl at nothing right after my human watches X Files.
  • Television and computer screens do not exist just to backlight my lovely derriere.
  • No matter how shiny and dangly they are, my human's earrings aren't cat toys.
  • If I keep playing dead cat on the stairs while people are trying to bring in groceries, one of these days it will really come true.
  • My human is capable of cooking bacon and eggs without my help.
  • Canned cat food is already dead. No need to swat chunks of it all over the floor.
  • I'm a carnivore. Potted plants aren't meat.
  • I will never be able to walk on the ceiling, and staring up at it and screaming won't bring it any closer.
  • It is not a good idea to try to lap up the powdered creamer before it all dissolves in the boiling coffee.
  • The goldfish likes living in water and must be allowed to remain in its bowl.
  • If my human wants to share her sandwich with me, she'll give me a piece. She will notice if I start eating it from the other end.
  • I cannot leap through closed windows to catch birds outside.
  • I am a neutered cat, not a peacock, and prancing around with my tail fluffed up will not make my balls grow back.
  • If I must give a present to my human's overnight guests, my toy mouse is much more socially acceptable than a live cockroach, even if it isn't as tasty.
  • Just because I hear voices in my head, I don't have to answer them.
Well, that's about it for now. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Woe is me.

I still can't post images, and it's about to drive me nuts. Worked fine until yesterday. Then, the pictures seemed to download from my computer just fine ... and they showed up just fine on the blogpost as I was working on it. I was able to move the pictures around and caption them, no problem. But the pictures would neither save nor publish.

A search on the internet shows that this is evidently a fairly common problem, but what I need is a simple solution. Logic tells me that if it were a search engine problem, the pictures wouldn't download or show up on the blogpost under construction. Logic also tells me that it doesn't appear to be a pop-up issue. Although I originally had all pop-ups blocked, making an exception for had absolutely no effect on my ability to post a picture. Or rather, my INability.

Strangely enough, in trying to test it out today, I was actually able to get ONE image to show up on a preview page. Unfortunately, I was unable to replicate that success again.

Have any of you encountered this problem before? And if you have, how in the world did you get past it?

Thank you so much.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Snakes, and Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails

Thought for the day:  The sole purpose for a child's middle name is to let him know when he is in serious trouble.

Have you ever noticed the similarities between pets and children?

Well, it IS a fact that our sons loved to horse around like a couple of oversized puppies when they were growing up. Even well into their twenties, if the two of them were visiting at the same time, it was a pretty sure bet that they'd eventually end up rough-housing, which usually involved some loud bumping into and bouncing off the walls.

But times have changed. Now, they live in diferent states and have their own children, and their kids are the ones bouncing off the walls these days. (Don't ya LOVE it?)  My husband and I will be leaving on Friday to spend Easter weekend with our older son and his family. Two boys and a girl, just like we raised. For today's post, I'm going to list some of the interesting things you can learn by raising sons. (Kinda like "things my pets taught me" ... but different) Anyone who's ever raised both boys and girls can tell you how different they are. All blessings in their own right, but let's just say that boys can also be a rip-roaring odiferous rambunctious challenge. (and I wouldn't have it any other way!) Here's just SOME of the things they can teach you:

  • A king-sized waterbed holds enough water to create a 4-inch deep flood in a 2000 square foot home.
  • If you spray hairspray on dust bunnies and then run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
  • A 3-year-old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
  • If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor isn't strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing batman underoos and a superman cape.
  • However, it  is strong enough, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 room.
  • You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.
  • When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit.
  • A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
  • The glass in windows (even double-paned) doesn't stop a baseball that's been hit by a ceiling fan.
  • When you hear a toilet flush and "uh-oh", it's already too late.
  • Brake fluid mixed with Chlorox makes smoke. A LOT of smoke.
  • A 6-year-old boy can start a fire with a flint rock, even though a 36-year-old man says it can only be done in the movies.
  • Certain Legos will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year-old boy.
  • Play dough and microwave should never be used in the same sentence.
  • Super glue is forever.
  • No matter how much Jello you put into a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.
  • Pool filters do not like Jello.
  • VCRs do not eject PB&J sandwiches, even though TV commercials show that they do.
  • Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
  • Marbles in gas tanks make a lot of noise when driving.
  • You probably don't want to know what that smell is.
  • Always check the oven before turning it on; ovens do NOT like plastic toys.
  • The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
  • It will, however, make cats dizzy.
  • Cats throw up twice their weight when dizzy.

Sayonara until Monday. I hope you all have a blessed weekend. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

ARRRRRRRRRGH!!! I do NOT know why, but the pictures I've tried to put into this post (a bazillion times) absolutely re-FUSE to show up. Dadgum it. Sorry. (they were good pictures, too!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dashing Through Life

Thought for the dayI've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.  Maya Angelou

It'd be a lot easier if life were laid out like a marked highway, wouldn't it? All we'd have to do is keep our eye on that center line and follow the road straight to our final destination. No guesswork involved. No tough decisions. Why, there'd even be signs to warn us of the bumpy patches ahead, and of the "dips" we're likely to encounter.

And just think! If we doze off and start to wander off-track, by golly, there'd be signs to tell us:

Just think how many divorces could have been avoided!

But, in truth, life would be rather boring if it were all laid out for us. Where's the spirit of adventure in that? Even though I'm directionally challenged, I love exploring those little dirt roads in life.

My husband and I spent several unforgettable weekends at a mountain cabin with another couple. Wonderful people. Like me, my husband also likes to venture off the beaten path, and thankfully, he has an uncanny sense of direction to go with it, so as long as I stick with him, I'll always find my way home again. The other couple, on the other hand, preferred the safety of the paved road, and the well-worn path. The four of us were tromping on a trail through the woods one day, when I heard the distant sound of water. Natch, I got all excited and took off through the woods. And natch, so did my husband. Our friends stayed glued to the marked trail at first, but quickly decided it was scarier to stay behind than it'd be to follow us. We encountered a multitude of large trees, downed and tangled, so we climbed over them. Ran into brambles galore, but we kept going. But as we climbed through and over the obstacles, the sound of water got louder and louder, until we finally emerged into a sun-lit clearing. It was worth every single scratch and bug bite we'd endured, and every bead of sweat we'd perspired. For there we were, beside a small, secluded waterfall.

And we would've missed that beautiful moment if we hadn't been willing to take the scenic path. The detour. It's wonderful to have a clear destination in mind, but the trip is so much more enjoyable if we learn to enjoy the scenery along the way. Children insist on becoming adults, and you'll only have one shot at enjoying their childhoods. Our parents grow old and die, and then there's no time left to chat with them on the phone, or to stop in for a visit. Our friends pass away, or move away, or simply leave our lives. Shouldn't we enjoy them while we can? I originally planned on calling my blog "Never2Late."  That very much reflects my optimistic viewpoint of life, but the unpleasant truth is ... sometimes, it IS too late.

Sorry! I've gotta dash!
 Hurry, hurry, hurry. No time to stop and chat. No time to listen to the response after you ask someone how they're doing. Gotta dash, gotta dash.

I want to leave you with another thought about our mad dash through life.

The Dash is an inspirational poem that starts:

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

This poem was written in 1996 by Linda Ellis, and her words have inspired millions of people all over the world. She writes about that little line, that simple "dash" on a tombstone that represents the real story of a lifetme, that defines who we are beyond a simple beginning and end date, and touches, simply and succinctly, on what's truly important in life. Here's  the entire poem   I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

How about you? Are you strictly goal-oriented, or do you enjoy life's surprising detours?

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. What can I say? I gotta dash!

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Thought for the dayA baby is God's way of saying the world should go on.

Today's thought for the day comes from a picture that once belonged to my mother, and is now hanging on the wall behind me. One year ago today, our youngest grandson entered the world, and two days later, my father left it. As we went through the ordeal of cleaning out my parents' house, this old dime store picture that was hanging on their kitchen wall helped me put things into perspective.

Life goes on. And it is good.

I never expected to miss my father. He was an extremely difficult man, to say the least, and became even more difficult after my mother died in '96. But, to my surprise, I do miss him. Time has a way of softening the dark memories, allowing the good ones to shine through. For that, I am grateful.

Whatever happened to good neighbors?

 Yesterday, we had an unexpected visitor. Her name sounds like Pow-ee, although I have no idea as to the correct spelling of it, and she's my age or maybe a little older, and is originally from Taipei, Taiwan. She's lived several streets away from us for almost twenty years, and although we've seen her walking in the neighborhood a few times and always waved and smiled at her, this was the first time we actually met her. 
My husband was on the side of house chopping wood when this tiny little bit of a woman, less than five feet tall, came into the yard yelling, "Helloooo."  She was wearing a long duster-type coat, or at least, it was long on her. Very long. She was looking for some help finding an address that was written on a piece of paper. There was also a phone number on the paper, so my husband told her to come on into the house, and we could call the number.

Pow-ee visited with us for almost an hour. She's quite the chatterbox, and even though her English is a little broken, we enjoyed talking with her. She was really fired up over the strange lack of neighborliness in this country, although she didn't put it in quite those words. She said she just doesn't get it. Says where she comes from, neighbors are like family, and will do anything they can to help each other. Then she told us about a couple who live next door to her now. How they'd asked her to call a taxi for them, and she gave them a ride instead. She gave the woman a ride to work, and would've been willing to do so every day, because, after all, they're neighbors.

But the next day, that woman passed her by with no acknowledgement. Didn't look at her. Didn't say hello, didn't wave, nothing. As though she didn't know her at all. Pow-ee doesn't understand how anyone could treat her this way. Neither do I.

She spoke of another neighbor who's ignored her request that he not plant trees on the edge of her property. Even after the police got involved, this neighbor continues to thumb his nose at her and does whatever he wants, without regard or respect for her. She doesn't get it. Says where she came from, the elderly are always respected.

Is she right? Have Americans forgotten how to treat each other? Yesterday, Grammy got on her soap box in an  "L is for lunacy" rant about the lack of civility and empathy in today's young people. Is the disconnect between neighbors just another manifestation of that? Or do some of us still know how to truly be a good neighbor? I certainly hope so.

Our new friend came back to visit today. She didn't stay as long this time, but she came to bring us several bags of Oriental treats. After all, she said, we're neighbors. She says we're "her kind of people." I think I like that. And I think I'll bake her some chocolate chip cookies this weekend. After all, we are neighbors.


When I was a kid, there was a small farm not far from our house, and behind the tiny barn was a small mountain of mule manure. Some of us kids thought that was a great place to play king of the mountain. My mother was never impressed with my aroma when I returned home from one of those ventures, but my father claimed to love the smell of manure. Said it was "good luck", and a "walk through the tulips." If he were still here, I would've had to buy him one of the products I'm about to tell you about in this week's weirdest news story. He would've loved it.

See y'all on Monday. Until then, take care of yourselves. And each other.

What's that smell?

Weirdest news story of the week:  You're gonna get a three-fer this week. The first story was one I passed over last week, but decided to bundle it with two others I found this week, for a genuine bovine trifecta. In the first story, a young German girl wanted a horse, just like almost every girl dreams about at one time or another, right? But when this young girl was denied the horse of her dreams, she settled for the cow her family already owned. Not only does this young lady saddle and ride that cow, but she's even trained it to jump hurdles. The locals have gotten used to the strange sight of this young girl trotting the countryside on her cow, but it seems that her parents are now considering getting her that horse she wanted. In the second cow story, a couple tried to board a plane at JFK airport this week with a dead cow in tow. The carcass was neatly wrapped, but the staff denied this couple their odd request. (TSA never said anything about dead cows!) And now for the third story, and my personal favorite. A German company has recently come up with a new product that's scored a financial home run for them. Called "Countryside Air to Go", it's a can filled with "the air sucked out of an aging wooden stable, straw-lined and filled with gas-producing cattle." As the company's ad says, "Simply put your nose to the tin and peel back for the authentic smell of the country." That's right. It bears the distinctive aroma of cow farts. Evidently, former country-dwellers who've had to move to the big city miss the ol' scent of home and have been forking over five pounds a pop for the pleasure of snuffling up the pungent aroma. Know anybody you'd like to grace with this unusual gift? Check it out at  Oh, and word has it that the company is planning to add products bearing the smells of horses, pigs, straw, and manure. My father would've loved it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lessons from a Killer Rabbit

Thought for the dayThe Energizer Bunny was arrested. He was charged with battery,

Got an early wake-up call of the wild this morning.

You're nobody 'til somebody loves you.
 It was a woodpecker,  imitating a miniature jack hammer on the tree outside our bedroom window. His serenade only lasted for about fifteen minutes, but his presence reminded me of another wacky woodpecker who spent the entire summer here some years back. In fact, he was here so much we gave him a name. We called him Clem.

Now, I've been told that male woodpeckers pound out their jazzy rhythms in the early hours of the morning in order to attract a mate. Don't know it that's entirely true or not, but let's say that it is. And if it is, poor old Clem was sorrowfully unlucky in love.

Because he didn't just show up and rat-a-tat for fifteen minutes just before the sun came up. Oh, no. Clem was an industious and rather desperate suitor, and showed up several hours before daybreak, and rat-a-tatted his heart out for one or two hours every morning. On trees. On the gutters. On a fiberglass canoe. If it wasn't moving, our little visitor took a whack at it. If nothing else, he was persistent. But, alas,  I don't think he ever found love. He eventually stopped coming around, but  I fear the crumpled zig-zag beak he must have had held little appeal for the fairer sex.

Back to this morning. After the woodpecker finished his drum solo, the cats took over. If you have cats, I'm sure you're familiar with the routine. There's the piling-on game, the nose-rubbing and purring-in-your-ear game, the patty-cake game, and let us not forget the rousing round of king of the mountain, where you, of course, are the mountain. All designed, of course, to get their staff out of bed and into the kitchen.

I took all of this as an omen that it was time to write another blog about lessons I've learned from our pets. We've already talked a little bit about cats in the past, and about fish, but today, we're going to talk about rabbits.

Let me preface the lessons learned with a lesson of a different kind, a history lesson. About Jimmy Carter and the killer rabbit.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter went fishing in Plains, Georgia. While out in his row boat, enjoying a peaceful respite from the White House, his serenity was shattered by a rabbit and a pack of dogs. The dogs were doing what dogs do. They were chasing the rabbit. But this rabbit didn't do what one would expect a rabbit to do. This rabbit jumped into the water, hissing and gnashing its teeth, and swam towards the president's boat. Though the president said he didn't have any experience with out-of-control animals, he successfully shooed it away by splashing water at it with a paddle. As you can imagine, if you don't already remember the incident, the media had a field day. "President Attacked by Killer Rabbit" was a common headline around the country. Late night comics took the story and ran with it, and poor President Carter became a laughing stock. If you do a google search now, you can actually find pictures of the rabbit, and of President Carter shooing it away from his boat, but they weren't made available at the time. But I, for one, didn't need to see any pictures to believe the president's story, because I'm pretty sure we ended up with the spawn of that killer rabbit.

My daughter had a pet rabbit. It was a precious little bit of fur with a tiny pink nose when we first brought it home, but here are some of the lessons we learned from owning that rabbit:

  • Precious little bits of fur with tiny pink noses grow up to be big fat rabbits. With sharp claws.
  • All big fat rabbits do is eat and generate a big fat ton of hoodles.
  • Little girls don't like to clean up hoodles.
  • I don't like to clean them up, either.
  • Rabbits don't like you to put halters and leashes on them.
  • Rabbits have very sharp claws.
  • Once the halter and leash are attached, rabbits are lousy at taking walks. They hop. Very leisurely. Because they have to eat every green thing in sight. And, of course, drop hoodles.
  • Rabbits don't like you to take halters and leashes off of them.
  • Did I mention they have very sharp claws?
  • If he ever hopped away from home, (no such luck!) we would have been able to find him quite easily. Hansel and Gretel had nothing on him. He could leave a steady two-mile trail of turds.
  • Here's the funny part. The mountain of rabbit poop that critter generated was useless as fertilizer.

I don't remember what our daughter called that rabbit. Something cutesie like Fluffy. But after a few weeks of shoveling his poop, I started calling him Hoodles, and that stuck. Oh, and on second thought, maybe he wasn't related to President Carter's rabbit, after all. When we tossed him into the lake, he didn't swim.

Just kidding. We ended up donating him to the Yellow River Game Ranch, where he lived out the rest of his life with a bunch of other rabbits, eating, generating hoodles, and ... um... multiplying.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. Oh, and I know some people have rabbits that make wonderful pets. My sister-in-law had one. Ours, however,  wasn't the cuddly type. And I might have mentioned? He had very sharp claws.

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Holding Onto the Past

Thought for the day:  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one, what do you call it?

It's hard to say goodbye.

 Do you have a bunch of stuff around your house that you can't let go? I'm not talking about necessities; I'm talking about those unique treasures from your past that still manage to pluck your heartstrings like a two-bit harp.

Like my cheap-o fifth grade orchestra pin. It still occupies a place of honor in my jewelry box, along with a "lucky stone" I found when I was in second grade, and a neat-o metal typeset of my name that came from a field trip to the Baltimore Sun (newspaper) building, which I, in fact, missed, because I had the measles. None of those items will mean anything to our children when I'm gone, but somehow, I can't bring myself to part with them.

                                    And records. Have I ever got records! My favorites are the 45s.

It's probably time to tell those records sayonara, but like Celine Dion sang, "It's hard to say goodbye." Not that any of these records are anywhere near as recent as Ms. Dion's birth. No, these treasures of mine are Elvis records, Little Richard, (when he was still a young rough and tumble rock 'n' roller) the Coasters, Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, and Rosemary Clooney singing about "This Ol' House."  They're the Drifters, Dion & the Belmonts, (before he went solo) and Eddie Fisher singing "Dungaree Doll." The McGuire Sisters, Artie Shaw and his orchestra playing "Star Dust"  (one of my favorite songs of all time) and Jerry Lee Lewis on the old Memphis, TN Sun label. Treasures, I tell you, treasures!

                                         Not that I've played any of them in the past forty years.

The fact that I don't have a good-working turntable is beside the point. If I wanted one badly enough, I'd buy one. But why should I? I don't NEED one.

No, all I have to do is look at these old records, and admire their brightly colored labels and sleeves, to remember my first record player with its wobbly turntable, which could only play one record at a time. To play a 45, you had to put a plastic piece into the larger record hole to make it fit. Had to tape a penny to the arm to make it heavy enough to play the records right, too. Then, my brother got the portable RCA player. All it played was 45s, and you could put on a whole stack at one time. (Like Sarah Vaughan crooned, "The record player's automatic ... ba-by.") One look at these records, and I'm bopping in the club basement with my girl friends, or dancing cheek-to-cheek at the teen center. So I don't have to actually HEAR them ... to hear them in my heart.

What got me to thinking about those old records is the editing I had to do on my book Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade this weekend. Know what? It's every bit as hard to cut words as it is to get rid of records. What's funny is that some of the parts getting the axe are the ones that I sweat the most blood over while laboring to give them birth. Witty stuff. Clever stuff. Stuff that makes me smile.

But it's gotta go! Because it injects ME into the book and serves to draw the reader away from the story. No matter how much I love those words, it doesn't serve the book if the reader stops to admire "my writing". Damn it.

So, the words are going. I delivered 'em, and now I'm killing 'em. And the book is better for it. And some day, those records will go, too, I promise. But not yet.

So, how about you? What treasures are you holding onto from your past? No matter how illogical it is to hang onto them, they sure do bring us comfort, don't they?

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. I believe I'll sail off into the sunset. (I always wanted to do that!)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Understanding Autism: A Long Way to Go

Thought for the day: I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  Maya Angelou

Today's blog is going to be a little different. It's going to be about some people who are different, and I hope to help you gain a better understanding of them.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and with statistics showing that autism currently affects anywhere from one in 120 to one in 150 of the babies born in the US, you may already know one of these children ... or adults ... personally. In any case, in honor of autism awareness, I'd like to share a few things about this brain disorder with you, based solely on what I've learned from books and personal observations.

When I was growing up, I don't remember hearing anything about autism. In those days, children with special needs were lumped together in a special education classroom at school, or relegated to the mercies of a state facility.

In the late 60s, I briefly volunteered at one of those state facilities. My friend, a co-worker and fellow do-gooder, and I were closed into a medium-sized room with 35-40 children. The only furniture in that room was a TV set, which sat on a shelf mounted high up on the wall beyond the reach of little fingers; and the only toys, rubber balls. Lots and lots of rubber balls. All colors, all sizes. And those balls were in constant motion. Rolling around the floor, bouncing off the walls, smacking into the children, smacking into us. Four or five children screamed non-stop. Two spun in circles until they fell to the floor. Then, they'd get up and spin some more. Two others curled on the floor at opposite sides of the room, either in drug-induced stupors, or near-catatonic states brought on by their conditions. Another child banged his head against the wall. Some children, who were incredibly strong, reached for us, and in their enthusiasm, pulled us to the floor.

 In retrospect, it's very likely that some of those children were autistic, but at that time, from what I saw, those children, as wards of the state, were simply being warehoused. All thrown together, regardless of diagnosis, if there even was a diagnosis. From what I learned later, the spinning behavior and general disconnect we observed at that institution are typical manifestations of autism.

Fast forward ...

During the eighties, I volunteered at our church's respite care program. This was a two-Saturdays-a-month venture, in which parents could get a much-needed respite by leaving their special needs children in our care for the day. Many of these children were autistic, enrolled in a special school, and receiving the best help available. Some of them also had severe physical challenges. But, all in all, they were amazing children, and they taught me a lot about the human spirit.

Autism strikes four times as many boys as girls, so that may explain why we had more boys than girls in our care. I'd like to tell you about one of these boys. His name was Steven.

Steven's body was painfully thin and twisted, and his splindly legs were strapped to a wheelchair. Leather straps buckled around his chest, pinning him in place, and a tray was clamped in front of him.

Unable to speak, he'd make loud gutteral noises, shake his head back and forth, and flail his arms. We'd wipe the spittle from his chin, but tears would fill his eyes.

Then, he got an amazing electronic keyboard fitted to the tray of his wheelchair. Teachers showed him how to use it, and boyohboy, he was a fast learner. And know what? He became calmer. For the first time in his life, he could press a button, and a computer would say, "I'm thirsty!"  or, "I'm hungry!" or simply, "I'm mad!"

And to everyone's delight, we discovered that he had a sense of humor.

Steven taught me, taught all of us, to always look for and remember the person inside. No wonder he was angry! He was trapped inside of a body that didn't work, but his spirit proved to be strong, once he was given a way to express himself.

I recently read a book called "The Tell-Tale Brain", by V.S. Ramachandran, which he describes as "a neuroscientist's quest for what makes us human." He accomplishes that by exploring the workings of the human brain, and he also does an excellent job of explaining some of the differences in the autistic brain.

There are specialized neurons in the human brain called mirror-neurons. Say you're watching someone scratch his nose. These mirror-neurons will trigger activity within your brain that's identical to the activity that would be triggered if you were scratching your own nose. You don't actually move your hand to your nose, but at a basic level, you can relate. As you can imagine, these neurons are essential in the development of empathy, and in the formation of connections to the people around us. And there is a stark deficiency of these cells in the autistic brain.

So, without a innate sense of connection, these children, these people, find it very difficult to connect. Often can't look another person in the eyes. Don't want to be touched. Have a sense of isolation. It's been theorized that because of this sense of disconnect and isolation, some of these children inflict wounds upon themselves just to reassure themselves that they're alive. Sensory overload is a major issue. Too much light, too much noise, too much activity are all maddening to an autistic person. Strict routines and a reliably non-changing environment are important. The spectrum of autism is wide, and the degree of functionality and integration into society vary greatly. Great strides have been made in understanding and treating autism, but there is still a long long way to go.

In this, Autism Awareness Month, let us all be more aware of these struggling children, of their parents, often divorced and/or isolated themselves, who care for them. There, but for the grace of God.

Sorry I didn't make you laugh today, but some things just aren't funny.

So I can work on my book tomorrow, I've decided to skip the blog tomorrow. But, fear not! No weirdest news story of the week for tomorrow, because I'm gonna sock it to you TODAY!

Until Monday, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Weirdest news story of the week:  In December, a Swedish couple embarked on what was to have been an idyllic four-month honeymoon. Must be nice, you say? Not so fast. Wait until you hear about their adventure. Their first stop was Germany, where they got stranded in Munich. Why? Worst snowstorm ever. Then, they headed for Cairns, Australia, which was then promptly struck by one of the most ferocious cyclones in the country's history. They had to spend the next 24 hours sheltered in a cozy little love nest with 2500 other people. In a shopping center. Sleeping on a concrete floor. Next stop? South to Brisbane, but massive flooding there convinced them it was time to move on to Perth. Unfortunately, when they got to Perth, they were met by raging bush fires, and had to flee to Christchurch, New Zealand. Got there right after the place was hit by a 6.3 earthquake. From there, the hapless honeymooners headed for Japan. You guessed it. They arrived in time to experience the 9.0 tornado, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Before going back to Sweden, they were able to enjoy a calm visit to China. Tell ya what, with that kind of beginning, this couple can make it through ANYTHING! (But I don't believe I'll be inviting them over for dinner ...)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday!

Thought for the day: Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.

Have you ever noticed that Wednesdays don't get much love? A Wednesday is what one of my friends would call, "a red-headed step-child." It certainly doesn't get revered like a weekend day, but then again, it doesn't get maligned like poor Monday, either. But I'll bet you never heard anyone say, "Thank God it's Wednesday!" Face it. Wednesday doesn't get much attention at all.

At the very best, some people call it "Hump Day", and depending on your perspective, that might not be all bad. But at least for this day, for this week, I'm declaring today Wonderful Wednesday. You hearby have permission, nay, an imperative to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of this day as you possibly can. Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad way to approach every day, would it?
I was planning to write about the joys of growing older today. Really! There ARE some! There are many things for which I can be grateful. (Like I'm very grateful that wrinkles don't hurt.) But, alas and alack, that dear lady Linda Grimes beat me to the punch today with her blog. Great minds think alike, eh?

So, instead, I'll tell you a couple stories. The first is the tale of what has to be one of the luckiest young men in the world. While hiking in Utah in 2005, the then 21-year-old got caught in an avalanche. No, no, wait! That's not the lucky part. Here it comes: would you believe this young man RODE the avalanche an amazing 1000 feet down a ridge -- FEET-FIRST -- and then walked away with nothing but minor injuries?! (And one HECK of a story!)

 I mean, can you IMAGINE this??? Talk about the ultimate rush. That had to have been an experience that young man will NEVER forget. And I hope he yelled a joyous YEE-HAAAA the whole ride down.

Sometimes, it feels like we're all caught in an avalanche of time, doesn't it?  The days, the weeks, the years, they all fly by so quickly, and the best we can do is hold on for dear life, "ride it out", and hopefully, stay on our feet the whole way down.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW! What a ride!"

Don't you love that quote? Wish I knew where it originated. It's one that many people have sent me over the years, but never with attribution. Nonetheless, let's all aim to try to live this Wonderful Wednesday with that young man's glorious ride, and that glorious quote, in mind.

The other story is about a young bride and one of the first meals she prepared for her new husband.

It was a beautiful ham, but before roasting it, this lovely young bride whacked off a large chunk of the meat and chucked it straight into the garbage can. This immediately prompted her astonished (and financially responsible) husband to ask his dearly beloved why-oh-why-dear-heart was she trashing what looked like a perfectly good piece of meat. The sweet young thing batted her eyelashes and said she did it because that's what her mother always did. So, the next time they saw her parents, the young man asked his mother-in-law about her unusual ham-cooking method. She said she did it that way because that's how HER mother always did it. By this time, the young bride was as curious as her husband, and they could hardly wait to hear Grandma's response to the riddle about the wasted hunk of ham. When they asked her, she laughed, and said, "I didn't have a pan big enough to hold the whole thing."

Isn't it funny how we sometimes get caught in traditions without questioning the purpose or logic behind them? Perhaps, in writing, we may meticulously follow the "old rules" without questioning whether they still apply, or if they're particularly well-suited for our particular style of writing. For example, I'm a real stickler for grammar, but (gasp!) I don't always write in full sentences. Some writers say that in the pursuit of creativity, anything goes. Wanta end a sentence with a preposition? Go for it! Split an infinitive? Have at it! Lift your head to the heavens and say, "I am writer! Hear me roar!" Then write what you want to write the way you want to write it.

Or not. What do you think?

OK, so I didn't write about growing older today, but I simply must share this delightful poem with you. It was written by the inimitable Maya Angelou.

When I was in my younger days, I weighed a few pounds less,
I needn't hold my tummy in to wear a belted dress.
But now that I am older, I've set my body free;
There's the comfort of elastic where once my waist would be.

Inventor of those high-heeled shoes, my feet have not forgiven;
I have to wear a nine now, but used to wear a seven.
And how about those pantyhose --- they're sized by weight, you see,
So how come when I put them on, the crotch is at my knee?

I need to wear these glasses, as the print's been getting smaller;
And it wasn't very long ago I know that I was taller.
Though my hair has turned to gray and my skin no longer fits,
On the inside, I'm the same old me, it's the outside's changed a bit.

On that note, I'll say goodbye for now. Be kind to yourselves. And each other.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keeping the Pace

Thought for the day: A yawn is an honest opinion openly expressed.

Ever hear of a gearhead? That's what my husband is. Simply put, that means he has a passion (and talent) for building cars. At one of the car meets we attended last year , he pointed at one of the cars and said, "All go and no whoa."  (He has a way with words.) Anyway, a couple weeks later, I found out he wasn't just being funny.

Stan, one of our amateur radio buddies, has a '56 Chevy. She's a beauty, and has been lovingly and meticulously restored, inside and out. One weekend, when we were attending a hamfest in his part of the state, he offered to take us for a spin in his baby. Oh yeah!

So, he got behind the wheel, we climbed in, and off we went. It was glorious!

Until it wasn't.

We were barreling down a hill at a pretty hefty pace, and rapidly approaching the bottom, where the road abruptly ended in a T, and a stop sign. Stan pressed his foot on the brake, but that old Chevy barely even slowed down. We kept on a-rolling, right through the stop sign and around the corner. All go, no whoa.

Maybe we should be more aware of the potential all go and no whoa pitfalls in our writing, too.

I'm not suggesting the action in our books should move at a snail's pace. That may be "safe", but it's boring. If we were only creeping along at 5 MPH, the ride in that Chevy would've been much safer, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Who wants to creep down the road, or watch grass grow, or read a book where nothing ever happens? And if you're barely moving, who notices or worries about a stop?

                         On the other hand, we can't be flying at 100 MPH all the time, either.

Adrenaline-pumping, high speed action is thrilling, but it can also be exhausting for a reader, and the longer it goes on, the less effective it becomes. If you give your readers nothing but superlatives, they quickly lose their meaning and punch.

Like so many other things in life, what we need in our writing is balance. Lull the reader with the slow parts, and then smack the crap out of him with a surprising burst of speed.

Sound familiar?   

                                                     Oh, yeah. Like a roller coaster ride.

As an ideal, I think a book should vary its pace, and carry its readers through a lot of ups, downs, and surprising turns. I'm not a huge fan of roller coasters, but I do love to be surprised when I'm reading, don't you?.

That's the ideal. Does my book measure up to that? Honestly, no. Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is more like a pleasant Sunday drive, with a few hairpin turns and dips in the road. (But my brakes eventually work!)

How about you? How would you describe the pace in the books you most enjoy? How about in the books you write? Is it the same, or different?

Oh, and by the way, if you're restoring an old car, please update the brakes. Safety trumps authenticity when you're barreling down the street.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Week That Was

Thought for the day: Wrinkles are something other people have. You have character lines.

It is a gorgeous day here today. There's wall-to-wall sunshine, and the flowers are really strutting their stuff. Supposed to hit eighty degrees later, but there's still a cool gentle breeze blowing this morning. It's the kind of day the Chamber of Commerce dreams about, and the kind I'd love to capture in a bottle. Just think how wonderful it'd be to pull that bottle down off the shelf in the middle of dreary Janu-ugly or Febru-weary.

Before I strap on a face mask and go fork lift away the pollen so I can do some yardwork, let's take a brief look at some of the weird news stories of the week. I'll still give you the one I deem the weirdest, but have decided to touch on a few others this week, as well. (Just call me lazy. It's easier than coming up with another topic for today's blog.)

There was a TV show on in the 60s or so, affectionately known as TW3, which stood for "That Was The Week That Was." Unfortunately, the show was fairly short-lived, but my mother and I both loved it. It was on every Friday night, and was a satirical look at the previous week's news stories. Very hip, and smart. Or maybe we were very un-hip, and un-smart. Like I said, the show didn't last long. More's the pity. They'd sure have some great news stories to satirize nowadays.

Ah well, here's my little glimpse at the week that was:

The mayor of Neuville-en-Ferrain, a French town of 10,000 people, had enough. Since 2007, he's been sharing his town hall space with a buxom terracotta statue of Marianne, the female embodiment of the French republic, but this past week, he unceremoniously evicted her. The problem? Her breasts were too big. Even though the mayor personally approved the artist's plans for the statue, he'd evidently had his fill of staring at her .... eyes? .... every day. The artist said the bust was purposely overendowed to depict the "generosity of the republic," but at least one town hall worker was glad to see the statue go. She said it was causing gossip. However, another offical deeply regretted the mayor's unilateral decision. I reckon he'll miss that busty bust.

After enjoying a taste of freedom, a Spanish prisoner is now back in custody. In December, while he was in jail awaiting a court date, jail authorities received a fax, allegedly from a regional court, ordering the prisoner's release. That fax was followed up by a phone call, allegedly from that same court, and then another fax. All were actually from the man's wife. Pretty crafty, and evidently, effective, too. The pair used the same MO to get him out of jail in October. Just goes to show ya: check the facts when ya get a fax!

This story is just plain sad. A divorcing couple in China are involved in a bizarre auction. They're bidding over their 4-year-old son, and not for who gets to keep custody, either. Loser gets "stuck" with the kid. Each parent is bidding for how big of a lump sum of money (s)he is willing to pay the other to be free of the child forever. The mother claims she doesn't have the necessary skills to raise a child on her own, and the father says he'll lose his job if he has to care for a child full-time. So, neither of them want this boy. Now, one of these so-called parents will end up with a large sum of money, and whichever one of them wins, this poor child loses.

OK, I'll just bid a fond adieu before hitting you with the weirdest story of the week. I hope you all have a glorious rest of the weekend.

Until later, take care of yourselves. And each other.

And here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for, the.....

Weirdest News Story of the Week:  We've all suffered writer's block from time to time, staring at the blank computer screen or sheet of paper. The pen or pencil in our hand becomes virtually useless, because it's like we don't even remember what to do with it anymore. Consider Cao Ruiquin. For him, writer's block would take on a whole new meaning. He's a 44-year-old man from China who doesn't just hold that writing implement in his hand. Oh, no. He's taught himself to write by using FORTY-THREE different body parts. He uses such unusual parts as his eyes, ear holes, nostrils, finger gaps, wrist, armpit, belly button, (must have an innie) elbow, and knee joints. That leaves a whole lot more to imagine, but I don't even want to go there. He said he learned calligraphy when he was six, and started using other body parts to write when a disabled friend of his died. Says it's a way to "invent a way for disabled people to write and improve their confidence in life." Word has it that he's seeking a place in the Guinness record book. He's sure got it by me. So, next time you're suffering from a little bout of writer's block, think about Mr. Ruiquin. Think about how it'd be to suffer writer's block with that quill stuck in your (you fill in the blank)

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Madness

Thought for the dayThe trouble with bucket seats is not everyone has the same sized bucket.

Happy April Fools Day! Not that any of us are fools, mind you.

Fancy that. I'm actually gonna do a post BEFORE I head to the grocery store this morning. (Then maybe I can get back to that editing this afternoon.)

So, do you like to pull pranks on April first? (Or are you an all-year-round equal-opportunity prankster?) I've been known to pull a trick or two over the years, but nothing too outrageous. One of the (few) things I miss about writing that monthly newsletter for amateur radio enthusiasts is the liberties I always took with the annual April issue. One time, it backfired on me, though.

Ever hear of BPL? That stands for Broadband Over Power Lines. That's a technology in which internet service would be provided via the power lines. A plug and play idea, more or less. And a very bad one, especially from the viewpoint of amateur radio. Power lines were never designed for this purpose, and are inadequately shielded, which means that BPL would splatter, and cause extensive interference throughout the radio spectrum.

Anyway, in one of my April issues, which came out shortly after Michael Powell was replaced as chairman of the FCC, I wrote a newsy-sounding article about the shocking "new rulings" the FCC had made about BPL, but I THOUGHT I'd written it outrageously enough that everyone would laugh and recognize it for the joke it was meant to be. I mean, at the end of the article, I even said that Michael Powell would have loved to implement those changes while he was chairman, but "his daddy wouldn't let him." (General Colin Powell)

Unfortunately, one of my readers believed it. (I should've known better than to kid about something as serious as BPL) And that one reader worked for our state's emergency management. And he wrote an angry letter to his congressional representative, based on the crap I'd made up about the FCC.

Not good. I was mortified, and he was angry at first, but did come around in the end. Even managed to laugh about it. But I learned my lesson. Every April issue after that had numerous disclaimers to prevent something like that from happening again.

OK, in honor of the day, I'm gonna fill you in on some of the best April Fools jokes ever played:

  • In 1957, a TV show on BBC announced that due to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Accompanying the report was some footage allegedly showing Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from the trees. Anybody fooled? It would appear so. The station received a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home.
  • In 1985, Sports Illustrated played a good one. They ran a story about a rookie pitcher named Finch who'd been signed by the Mets. Said he could throw a ball an amazing 168 mph, and that he'd mastered this never-before-achieved skill while living in a Tibetan monestary. Anybody buy this story? Well, let's just say that the Mets fans' celebrations were short-lived.
  • In 1996, Taco Bell outraged U.S. citizens when it announced that it had purchased the Liberty Bell, and was going to rename it-- you guessed it-- the Taco Bell. When Mike McCurry, who was White House press secretary at the time, was asked about it, he said the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, and was about to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercuty Memorial.
  • In 1962, Sweden only had one TV channel, which broadcast in black and white. The station's tech expert announced on the April first newscast that newly developed technology now made it possible for viewers to convert their TVs to receive in color. All they had to do is pull a nylon stocking over the screen.
  • In 1977, a British newspaper included a seven-page supplement in celebration of the 10th anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic in the Indian Ocean, which allegedly consisted of several semi-colon shaped islands. The articles went into great detail about the geography and culture of the two main islands: Upper Caise and Lower Caise.
  • In 1976, Patrick Moore, a British astronomer, told his rapt radio listeners about an upcoming once-in-a-lifetime astronomical occurence. He claimed that at precisely 9:47 AM, Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and this would cause a brief gravitational realignment that would reduce gravity on Earth. He said, if they jumped in the air at that exact time, they'd experience a floating sensation. Did anybody believe him? Well, he WAS a very well-respected astronomer. Hundreds of people called the radio station later to report that they'd felt the sensation.
  • In 1992, NPR announced that Richard Nixon was running for president again. His new campaign slogan? "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." To enhance the believability of the story, they ran sound clips of "Nixon" announcing his candidacy, provided by impersonator Rich Little. Surely, nobody bought that story, right? Wrong. The station was flooded with calls from outraged listeners.
  • In 1998, a newsletter, titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason, included an article claiming that the state of Alabama had changed the value of pi from 3.14159  to the "Biblical value" of 3.0.
  • In 1995, Discover magazine wrote that an Italian biologist by the name of Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica. Said species was to be named the hot headed ice borer. These creatures were described as having bony plates on their head that became so hot, the critters were able to zip through the ice in a highly effective technique for hunting penguins. P.S. In Italian, Aprile Pazzo means April fool.
  • In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today about the introduction of the "left-Handed Whopper." In honor of the approximately 32 million lefties in the country, the new burger would include the same ingredients as the usual whopper, but the condiments would be rotated 180 degrees. Surely, everyone got a good laugh out of this and then moved on, right? Not so. Would you believe the burger chain received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original "right-handed" version?

                                        Now, I don't care who you are ... that stuff's FUNNY!

OK, 'nuff for now. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Don't let the jokesters get ya! Don't forget to come back tomorrow and see what the weirdest news story of the week will be this week. Ooooh, so much to choose from! Take care of yourselves. And each other.

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.