It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a commercial!

“Stop the show,” a grandkid says. “I have to use the bathroom.”

They are watching Jeopardy. I don’t know that they’ve ever seen Jeopardy but they are seeing it now and liking it, especially the 2-year old who seems taken with 17th Century Monarchs.

“We can’t stop the show because this is television,” a grown-up explains.

We are at a house with a television without streaming capabilities.

“Can you rewind it when I get back?”

“We can’t rewind it when you get back. It’s plain old television.

The concept of plain old television where programs play whether the timing is convenient for you or not is foreign to these kids. They are the children of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“Can we finish watching Jeopardy after dinner?” another asks.

“Jeopardy won’t be on after dinner,” I explain. “Wheel of Fortune with Pat Sajak and Vanna White will be on after dinner.”

“Wheel of what?”

Such poor, deprived children. “Fortune!” I snap. “Seven letters, three vowels!”

This is no help either.

The tekkies among us begin explaining the mechanics of old school television when something unbelievable happens. A commercial begins. There are no commercials on Netflix. This may be the first commercial some of them have ever seen – it is the equivalent of man seeing fire for the first time.

Instantly, the kids glue to the screen.

It is a commercial for Snackeez —“The all-in-one go anywhere snacking solution,” as though the ability to snack and go places at the same time is a problem in need of a solution. Somehow, I think we’ve got this one covered.

One of the kids excitedly asks if this is another television program.

“No, it’s a commercial.”

“A what?”

An explanation commences about how commercials are time segments companies buy to advertise their products in hopes that viewers will . . . it doesn’t matter. No one is listening.

The man in the commercial is filling brightly colored Snackeez containers with beverages, then topping them with little bowls filled with chips, chicken nuggets and fries, all your basic food groups. He then rolls them on the floor, tips them over and nothing spills.

“In the car! On the go! Perfect for parties!”

A cheer goes up from the crowd.

“But wait! It’s buy one, get one free.”

Another cheer goes up from the crowd!

“I want a Snackeez for my birthday!” a 5-year-old yells.

Their eyes grow bigger and bigger.

“But wait! There’s more! Buy two and get two free! But wait! Buy six and get six free.”

Dinner is ready, someone clicks off the television and kids head for the table shuffling their feet because the Snackeez guy was still talking. And still hawking.

These commercial-deprived children have learned something many of us have known for a long time.

Commercials are often the best entertainment on television.


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Beware of falling unicorns

We are still recovering from the birthday party of all birthday parties.

It was a child’s birthday party. There were no pony rides, hired clowns or professional party planners. It was the birthday girl who put it over the top, the one turning four at a full throttle.

We thought it was going to be the usual—a few presents, some candles on a sloping cake accompanied by an off-key round of “Happy Birthday,” followed by a sugar surge.

We were wrong.

The second we entered the house, her older sister whispered in my ear, “She’s been in trouble ever since she woke up. It’s been a rough morning.” When a five-year-old says it’s been a rough morning, you know it’s been a rough morning.

A flash of purple shot through the room. It was the birthday girl blasting up the stairs, down the stairs, rocketing out the front door and back in again. She hurdled her baby sister in a single bound and somersaulted across the floor, yelling, “It’s my happy birthday!”

I regretted not having a lid for my coffee. And a padded suit.

In post-party analysis, the husband says it was to be expected. She’d witnessed a string of birthdays for others all summer long. At each and every celebration she was front and center when it was time to blow out candles, her little face wedged beneath another kid’s armpit waiting and longing for when it would be her turn to be center stage.

Time after time, she watched as someone else opened the gifts and someone else blew out the candles. She’d bottled it, suppressed it, contained it, then she woke up, knew she was four and simply exploded like spring coils bursting open from a closed can.

They corralled her to open gifts, which is when the falling unicorns began. She loves unicorns. She opened a unicorn beach towel, shrieked with delight and threw it toward the ceiling.

She ripped open a large box containing a stuffed unicorn, squealed, and hurled it skyward. A unicorn nightgown was launched, followed by a unicorn headband.

“Heads up!” people yelled.

“Incoming unicorns!” others screamed.

Baby unicorns ricocheted off the ceiling.

“Somebody cut the ceiling fan!”

She bolted toward a straight back chair, climbed on top of it and began jumping up and down.

“Do you want to go to the ER on your birthday?” someone snapped.

Depends. Does the ER have unicorns?

She made a beeline to the table and stared at the candles on her unicorn cake. If intensity alone could have ignited them, they would have been shooting giant flames. She momentarily stood still while the candles were lit. Poof! The candles were out and she was off again with a jet stream trailing behind her.

We heard that Flash began sputtering around 7 that evening and was out soon after. It was such a memorable celebration we may start a family tradition of throwing gifts in the air.


There is a buy one, get one free sale on “What Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s” for a few days. Why? Well, when my wonderful literary agent quit the business, I began self-publishing because it was easier than finding a new agent. The Grandma book did so well in my own limited launch that it has been picked up by a publishing house. (Yay!!! Wild cheering!!!) It will be released nationally (with a new cover) March 2021. Terms of the agreement require that I stop selling my self-published copies September 1. If you’re interested, click on the shop tab at the top. All copies personally signed. Free shipping. Orders must be placed by midnight Aug. 31.


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Modern take on saying I love you

A well-known love sonnet begins, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” The poet then goes on to express the height, and depth and breadth, molecular density and kilograms of her love. I may have made those last few up, but you get the idea.

Her love is eternal and exists everywhere.

In times of global pandemic and quarantine, love is expressed in material goods that are in high demand and short supply.

We were down to six coffee filters when the shutdown began. I looked in store after store and online to no avail. I mentioned we were down to three coffee filters, and not looking forward to a new routine of chronic headaches, when a neighbor offered us some of hers.How do I love thee? Let me count our new supply of coffee filters.

A friend could not find whole wheat flour anywhere. On the rare occasions when she bakes cookies, she uses whole wheat flour. She didn’t want cookies at that moment, but if we were locked down for ages and ages, she’d want cookies eventually.

She pulled into our driveway late one night after checking on her mother-in-law. Wearing a mask, gloves and having double sealed the whole wheat flour that had been in my freezer, I set the package on the driveway and quickly backed away. She sprang from her vehicle, swooped up the package and shot back into her car.

It was like a clandestine money drop in an action thriller movie.

How do I love thee? Handing off whole wheat flour at 9:30 at night.

Our daughter-in-law, and most of the nation, was not able to find yeast. It is still difficult to find. The world goes into quarantine and immediately starts baking bread. Yeast was at the top of her “Most Wanted” list. I had purchased a large jar of yeast shortly before the Covid-19 outbreak. I kept a few tablespoons for myself and gave her the bottle for Mother’s Day.

It took a global quarantine and interrupted supply chains, but I’m finally finding just the right gifts for special occasions.

Our daughter put out an all-points bulletin for a specific spray bathroom disinfectant cleaner that she has always used and cannot be found anywhere. She texted a picture of the bottle to family members so we can all look for it whenever we are out.

Her birthday is next week. I don’t want to give away any shopping secrets, but it pays to bend down and check bottom shelves that look empty. Let’s just say she’s going to love her birthday gift.

Years from now she can tell the story about how her mother loved her so much that she gave her disinfecting bathroom cleaner for her birthday.

How do I love thee? Let me count the sprays.


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Where a blue moon shines day and night

When our son, daughter-in-law and their five children moved in with us for a temporary stay, they brought five guitars, four banjos, two mandolins and a dulcimer along with them.

And five violins, although that’s not what they call them.

In their world – the world of folk music and bluegrass where fingers and bows dance like fireflies in the night air—a violin is called a fiddle.

Look at the 11-year-old who plays fiddle, call it a violin, and she will look like she has no idea what you mean. Then she may pick it up, play a few lively bars that sound like a steam train barreling down railroad tracks and sweetly say, “Did you mean the fiddle?”

There are few greater gifts than music in the home. I should qualify that as we once had a beginning violinist and two budding percussionists under our roof. What I meant to say is music that doesn’t hurt your ears or stand your hair on end is a gift in the home. Of course, every gift is a work in progress.

Round a corner at our place today and you may happen upon a kid having an online music lesson. Step out the backdoor late afternoon and their momma may be on a small bench plucking a tune on a banjo.

Our grandson is sitting on the front porch early one morning when I step outside and sit down in a chair. He strums a little of this and a little of that, looks at me and says, “What would you like to hear, Grandma?”

He says it with the confidence of a seasoned professional packing a vast repertoire in his fingertips, though he’s only been playing for two years. Confidence may exceed talent at present, but there’s no saying talent won’t win the race.

I mention a beautiful but sad song I’d heard him play a few days ago about a blue moon and a broken heart.

“Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that’s gone and proved untrue”

He plays and sings with feeling even though he is only 9 and is far more interested in the dried snakeskin he found at the creek than a sweetheart who has proved untrue.

“Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue”

There’s a high note at the end of that line. He goes for it and comes real close. An unbridled lunge for a grand finish, at any age, is a thing of beauty.

The boy singing about heartbreak has dirt under his fingernails, 37 bug bites on his legs and sand between his toes. Somehow it all mixes together and sweetens the sound.

They are leaving soon. We will miss the chaos and laughter, squabbling and curiosity that makes us feel our age, as well as the music that crosses the barriers of time and distance, age and youth, plucking the strings of the human heart.

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Can you spare a dime?

We don’t have two nickels to rub together.


We don’t even have one nickel.

We are among the growing number of people finding themselves change-challenged. Blame the pandemic. Businesses shut down, people stopped going to coin laundries, restaurants closed and piles of change often left with tips disappeared. For a brief time, even the mint than makes 17 percent of all coins shut down.

To make matters worse we are spending less and, when we do spend, we tend to use credit cards or mobile devices.

Many of us have stopped using bills and coins because they can spread germs. Just try getting Lincoln to wear a little face mask on the penny. Won’t work. The loops won’t go around his big ears.

The Federal Reserve calls this coin change shortage the “slowing of circulation.” Slowing of circulation used to be something that happened exclusively to the elderly. Now it is happening to everyone. We may finally have found our common denominator as Americans.

I love change—the kind that rattles at the bottom of my purse.

I just checked the bottom of my purse and there’s no change there either. Three pieces of gum, two cough drops and the inner workings of a ballpoint pen, but no change.

The low tire pressure warning came on in the car the other day. We stopped at an air pressure machine but didn’t have six quarters between us to start it. Everybody knows money doesn’t grow on trees, which is why we shook down four grandkids in the back of the vehicle. They didn’t have any either, although two of them said they had full piggy banks at home and would gladly share.

The other two were strangely silent. They’ll do well one day as venture capitalists.

Naturally, the next step was to look under the floor mats, dig deep in the back pockets behind the driver’s seat and the passenger seat and search through the glove box. Nothing. Not one red cent. Not one thin dime.

The clerk inside the gas station was reluctant to give the husband quarters for his dollar bills, but mercifully relented.

We were not only out of change; we were close to being out of air.

A bank system in Wisconsin was so desperate for change that it offered customers a $5 bonus for every $100 in coins they brought in to exchange at a branch. That’s a 5 percent return on your money. Try finding a CD that pays that much. The program was so successful, the bank suspended it after only a week.

My parents used to keep money in the freezer for emergencies. You could always count on them for hard, cold cash.

The other day we were driving along and the husband said, “Penny for your thoughts.”

“Make that sentiment a cash offer and I’ll share them with you,” I said.

I was thinking there is a reason money is called dough.

We all knead it.

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