The doctor will see you now

I was coaxed into getting a physical yesterday. I hadn’t planned on a physical, but the grands had setup an elaborate city in the basement and needed patients for the clinic.

I was met by a “nurse practitioner” at the front desk. She immediately asked for my insurance card. The kid’s been to the doctor a time or two.

Then I had to verify my name and address. I’ve been her grandmother for her entire life, but whatever.

She did a pre-screening asking if I had any aches or pains.

“From my head to my toes,” I said.

She laughed. I laughed, too. Say that at a real doctor’s office and you’re off to see a specialist.

She asked if I was on any medications.

“Chocolate,” I said.

With the screening completed, I was sent to see the doctor, which meant crawling between two chairs and into a makeshift tent. The doctor was wearing a white coat and had a blue plastic stethoscope dangling around her neck.

“How are your internal organs?” she asked with a straight face.

“They’re all good except when they hit the wrong notes.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Do you have dizzy spells?” she asked.

“No, not unless I stand up,” I said.

She pursed her lips and said, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

She took my blood pressure with a cuff wrapped around my wrist – it was too small for an adult arm.  She said my blood pressure was 40/10. I was good with that. She scanned my forehead with a plastic thermometer and said I had no fever. Just as I was about to crawl out of the clinic, she announced I needed a shot.

That’s when a huge geodome-like contraption made of long plastic poles and colored balls began lumbering across the basement. Three of them maneuvered it to the “clinic.” The doctor busted out a side wall of the tent so she could use one of the poles.

“What’s that for?” I asked.


“Why do I need anesthesia?”

“Because we’re going to give you a shot.”

“Why give anesthesia when it’s not surgery and just a shot?”

She pressed the end of a pole against my arm and said, “Well, if we give you anesthesia then we won’t have to listen to you scream when we give you the shot.”

When I checked out, they said I owed $300. I didn’t mind, considering I’d found $500 in play money on the floor by the cardboard grocery store. It was the only time I’ve ever been to a doctor and left with more money than I came with.

Later that night, I asked the husband if he got a physical.

He said yes, they asked him to fall on the stairs on his way down to the basement clinic and break his leg so they’d have something to treat.

There’s something to be said for knowing what the doctor plans on doing before the appointment.

We may have found our new primary care physician.

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Healthy curiosity can be a sick thing

Cold and flu season is here. At the first sneezing fit or sign of a sore throat, the question is not, “How long will this last?” but “Where did I get this from?”

We tend to get vindictive when we are forced to the sick bed. We don’t like it when our orderly lives are disrupted.

Oh sure, we hide the attitude and put on our best pathetic sick-person face but, on the inside, a lot of us slip into detective mode.

I may be weak, fatigued and sweating out a fever, but I can still muster the strength to cruise through a list of possible sources of contamination.

Chief suspects are always the grands—those lovable, adorable little ones we cherish dearly, the same ones who cough and sneeze into the crooks of their arms, and seconds later spray tabletops, countertops and doorknobs.

Next on the list of possibilities, merely by reason of proximity, is the husband. It is never him though, because he’s never sick. It’s one of the more irritating things about him. Always healthy. When you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want is to be reminded of others who enjoy perpetual good health.

Once family members have been eliminated as suspects, I expand the circle to consider the places I’ve been. There’s always the possibility of picking up something at the grocery. Who knows what germs reside on those carts or the produce? Did I really lick my finger to open that plastic bag?

The gym is a possibility as well. It’s easy to pick up something from an elliptical or a treadmill that wasn’t wiped down. Isn’t that ironic? We get sick trying to stay healthy.

Then there’s the ATM. Maybe it was that guy ahead of me in line. It’s going to be hard to track down a stranger.  It could have been the cash itself. Money is a huge carrier of germs.

Maybe it was that kiosk I used to order food. The findings of a recent study on all the microbes found on kiosks are disgusting. The conclusion was never order food at a kiosk. At least not with your hand. Use your elbow.

Maybe it was that friend I hadn’t seen in ages—the one who gave me a great big hug and who knows what else.

Paranoia is a faithful bedside companion to cold and flu season. All the detective work is so exhausting it can add another full day to recovery. Or lead to a complete relapse.

Maybe no one gave me this bug. Maybe I gave it to myself—inhaled at the wrong time, rubbed my eyes with some microbe on my fingertips or yawned wide when a germ caught a ride on an air current and sailed my way.

The truth is there’s no way to know.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop wondering. Or compiling suspects.

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Your Someday is in the making today

This is for all the mothers and fathers who dream about Someday.

When our three children were small and I’d clean up after baths for the thousandth time, pick wet towels off the floor, squeeze water out of yellow rubber ducks and call the kids to come back and brush their teeth, I often thought of Someday.

Someday I’d do something important.

When I read bedtime stories, the same stories I’d read so many times that I knew them by memory, my eyes glazed over, my brain froze from the repetition and my mind wandered to Someday.

Someday life wouldn’t be so routine.

When I stared at a pound of frozen ground beef, considering my two standard options of spaghetti or sloppy joes, trying to remember when we last had what, and if anyone else noticed this culinary rut, I thought of Someday.

Someday I’d be creative.

Someday we’d eat food that required table knives. Someday we’d have a meal and nobody would fall off a chair, flip a serving spoon out of a bowl of peas or knock over a glass of milk.

When I had to have another nose-to-nose about lying and honesty, the consequences of disobeying and why you don’t take a swipe at your sibling, I thought of Someday.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I wasn’t one who was going to leave a mark on the world or build an empire. But I was going to leave a mark on this family, and I already had an empire. It was right under my nose, nestled snug in bed by 8 o’clock.

The Someday I often dreamed about was being shaped by all the todays and yesterdays. Someday was in the making now.

I was doing something important. Caring and nurturing children, creating family, trying to make a home that is a sanctuary from a rough and tumble world is one of the most important things a person can do.

Creativity? We didn’t always have ground beef. Sometimes we had chicken or fish. It wasn’t the food that mattered; it was being together around the table, the conversation, the laughing, the connecting.

As for routine, no routine stays the same. But even as the routine changed fundamentals are taught—the fact that choices matter because choices become habits, and habits become a way of being and that is how character takes root.

Sometimes routine meant another lecture on respect for others’ property or dealing with a kid who acted up at the grocery, then later growing misty-eyed reading the apology letter in crooked letters left on my bedside table.

The things that matter most—knowing you’re loved and knowing how to love others, being generous, extending charity, working hard and recouping after failures and setbacks—are learned incrementally, one day at a time.

Someday is closer than you think.

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Marriage-related hearing loss

Sometimes the husband and I pretend we have superpowers and can hear through walls, around corners and upstairs.

Yesterday he was in the kitchen and I was in the family room and he said, “Would you like to see ‘Hank the Dirty Narcissist?’”

We have different likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment, but this was more puzzling than usual.

“Why would I want to see a show about some guy named Hank who is a dirty narcissist?” I called back.

He walked into the family room and slowly said, “Do you want to go see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?”


Our superpowers aren’t as super as we think. In truth, sometimes we can’t hear each other when we are in the same room.

The husband thinks we may have age-related hearing loss, but I don’t think that is the case at all. I think we have spouse-related hearing loss, which is entirely different, but equally as frustrating.

Spouse-related hearing loss begins around the 20th anniversary, picks up steam by the 25th, and is a runaway train by the 30th.

The husband surmised he should have his hearing tested and I said, “Don’t bother, I can diagnose the problem.”

“You’re not a doctor,” he said.

“No, but I play one in real life—ear infections, sore throats, strep, sinus problems, chest colds, appendicitis, asthma, flu and broken arms. I can test your hearing right here, right now.”

He just looked at me.

“No charge,” I said.

“OK, have it your way.”

A few minutes later, we are in the same room and I say, “I’d like to go see a musical I’ve been hearing about. What do you think about Wednesday evening?”

Of course, in a musical the actors periodically break into song and dance and I knew that might be a problem for him.

No answer. Nothing. The man is within arm’s reach and he cannot hear me. His problem is twofold—tonal frequency and topic.

My tone told him I was about to attempt to sell him on something, so his hearing began shutting down. At the mention of the possibility of attending a musical, his hearing turned completely off.

Had I inserted the words football, basketball or baseball in place of musical, he would not only have heard and responded, but pumped his fist in the air.

To further test the theory, I try again.

“How do thick juicy burgers on the grill sound for dinner?” I whisper in a barely audible voice.

“GREAT!” he yells. “I’ll light the grill.”

Just like that, the man is out the door and fanning flames on the grill. Excellent hearing and even better response time.

Dinner is now on the table.

“The burgers are ready and I bought tickets to the musical,” I say.

“I heard the burgers are ready,” he says. “What else did you say?”

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New traditions for the stroke of midnight  

Our one and only New Year’s Eve tradition is putting a coin outdoors before the clock strikes 12. Every year a coin goes out; every year a coin come back in. The husband insists the custom is supposed to bring good fortune and prosperity.

We are still waiting.

We’ve also had black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day a time or two, another tradition that is supposed to bring good fortune, but for the most part our celebrations have stagnated.

We’re so predictable it’s painful. Routine is our middle name.

I’ve been reading about traditions around the world and think we may go global this year.

People in Romania are about coins just like we are, only they throw them into the river. Maybe that’s where we went wrong. We held onto the coins instead of tossing them. This year we go to the river and throw.

In Spain, people eat a grape for every strike of the hour at midnight. I can’t quite visualize eating 12 grapes at a time (nor do I want to), but in the name of adventure, I’m not ruling it out.

People in Denmark save unused dishes and plates until New Year’s Eve and then, and I’m quoting here, “affectionately shatter them against the door of friends and family.” I have never seen anything affectionately shattered, but I’m willing to try.

The French often celebrate New Year’s by eating a stack of pancakes. I’ve always liked the French.

In some parts of South Africa they throw old furniture out the window. And to think of the years we spent watching the ball drop over Times Square on television when we could have been throwing furniture.

In Columbia people carry suitcases around with them in hopes of having a year filled with travel. It’s certainly worth a try.

People in Switzerland often drop a dollop of ice cream on the floor. I suppose as long as they all clean up after themselves there is no harm, but it’s still a waste of ice cream.

In several other countries people throw buckets of water out of the windows for good fortune. We thought cheese and crackers was a celebration.

In Denmark people often stand on top of chairs and literally jump into the New Year at the stroke of midnight.

We’re going to be ready this year. We will be standing on chairs by the river, our pockets bulging with coins and our hands clenching clusters of grapes. At the stroke of 12, we will throw coins, jump off the chairs and scarf down a dozen grapes.

We will then trek home carrying suitcases filled with unused dishes, which we plan on smashing against the doorways of close friends and family.

Should we actually make it home before we have been apprehended by our formerly close friends and family, we will feast on stacks of pancakes, drop ice cream on the floor and heave buckets of water out the window, as well as our old piano.

Out with the old, in with the new!

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A few of my favorite things

Every Monday I post the column that I send to the outlets that distribute me, but because they all work almost a week in advance, that would mean you’d be reading a column about New Year’s today. So instead of rushing Christmas, I’m posting a few of my favorite things this Christmas season and hope you enjoy them, too.

Nativity scenes staged by little hands
One of our daughter’s little ones have a plastic nativity set that they rearrange nearly every day. These are a few of the pictures we have received, along with titles speculating as to what may have been going through their minds.



This ornament is a hoot!
A 10-year-old Georgia girl came crying to her mother that one of the Christmas tree ornaments was scaring her. The mother, who has several owl ornaments on her tree, investigated and found a real owl perched in the tree. The family tried leaving the doors and windows open, but the owl didn’t budge. They finally called a wildlife expert who captured the screech owl. They think it was in the tree as long as it had been in their house — more than a week.


The Sad Side of Christmas
We do a lot of pretending at Christmas — that it really  is the “Hap, happiest time of the year” when in truth, it is often a conflicting and sad time for many. Craig Aven, wrote a song titled, “The Sweetest Gift.” A member of Piano Guys lost his daughter last year, heard the song and asked Craig to record it with them. This song is dedicated to everyone who is missing someone and could use some comfort. Click here

But be sure you come back because there’s one more you have to see below.

Absolutely beautiful
This is a wonderful musical and visual portrayal of the nativity. A feast for the senses! Click here


From our home to yours Merry Christmas!

And wishing our Jewish friends Happy Hanukkah!

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Family resemblances and the joy of Christmas

One day of the year over the Christmas holiday, our children and grandchildren are our prisoners for the entire day.

We lure them in with lights on the house, a wreath on the door, gifts under the tree, mugs of hot chocolate and wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen. Once we get them all inside, we bolt the door.

They couldn’t escape if they wanted. Coats and jackets piled on the hall tree spill onto the floor beside mittens and gloves, puffy snowsuits, wet boots and bulging diaper bags, creating a virtual barricade to the front door.

If there were ever an emergency, we’d all have to bail out through the windows.

My favorite part of the day is “after”— after the gifts, after the meal, after the last piece of pecan pie has disappeared, after the last blast of aerosol whipped cream has been shot into a kid’s mouth, after the kitchen has been returned to some semblance of order and after the dishwasher begins to hum.

The energy wanes, the commotion quiets and a lull descends. A game of checkers unfolds on the rug. One of our sons-in-law falls asleep on the couch and the other often naps in a wingback chair. I like that. It tells me they feel at home.

During this brief pause I can watch and study the grands, noting growth and changes and see family resemblances.

A little one is on her daddy’s lap reading him a book. They have the same eyes. A toddler curls next to her momma on the sofa. Their skin and hair color differ, but she is the same spitfire her momma was at that age.

Three of the kids have double-jointed toes just like their dad. Our gatherings are highbrow.

Our son loved building when he was a boy and his sons are carbon copies. His youngest built a Lego contraption that will hold four drink cups and can be wheeled down the center of the table at mealtime.

The resemblances between parents and children are a wonder to observe as we lounge about in the aftermath of the holiday. Even more wondrous is the resemblance between another father and son that is the very heart and soul of Christmas.

In the deep of night, long ago, there was another lull, one of a most holy sort. A baby boy was born to peasants in a manger stall. The birth of Christ is celebrated because the son bore far more than a resemblance to his heavenly father—he was the exact representation of the father, a mirror image of heart, intention and purpose.

The healing hands of Christ worked the will of the Father. His teachings and commands spoke the words of the Father, and his anguished death demonstrated the love of the Father.

That is the true wonder of Christmas, worthy of reflection.

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The Death of Common Sense

Three yards of black fabric enshroud my computer terminal. I am mourning the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense. His obituary reads as follows: Common Sense, aka C.S., lived a long life, but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was, his birth records were long ago entangled in miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape. Known affectionately to close friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, he selflessly devoted himself to a life of service in homes, schools, hospitals and offices, helping folks get jobs done without a lot of fanfare, whooping and hollering.

Rules and regulations and petty, frivolous lawsuits held no power over C.S. A most reliable sage, he was credited with cultivating the ability to know when to come in out of the rain, the discovery that the early bird gets the worm and how to take the bitter with the sweet.

C.S. also developed sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adult is in charge, not the kid) and prudent dietary plans (offset eggs and bacon with a little fiber and orange juice).

A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, the Technological Revolution and the Smoking Crusades, C.S. survived sundry cultural and educational trends including disco, the men’s movement, body piercing, whole language and new math. C.S.’s health began declining in the late 1960s when he became infected with the If-It-Feels-Good, Do-It virus.

In the following decades, his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of overbearing federal and state rules and regulations and an oppressive tax code. C.S. was sapped of strength and the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, criminals received better treatment than victims and judges stuck their noses in everything from Boy Scouts to professional baseball and golf.

His deterioration accelerated as schools implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of 6-year-old boys charged with sexual harassment for kissing classmates, a teen suspended for taking a swig of Scope mouthwash after lunch, girls suspended for possessing Midol and an honor student expelled for having a table knife in her school lunch were more than his heart could endure.

As the end neared, doctors say C.S. drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of developments regarding regulations on low-flow toilets and mandatory air bags. Finally, upon hearing about a government plan to ban inhalers from 14 million asthmatics due to a trace of a pollutant that may be harmful to the environment, C.S. breathed his last.

Services will be at Whispering Pines Cemetery. C.S. was preceded in death by his wife, Discretion; one daughter, Responsibility; and one son, Reason. He is survived by two step-brothers, Half-Wit and Dim-Wit.

Memorial Contributions may be sent to the Institute for Rational Thought. Farewell, Common Sense. May you rest in peace.

This essay, along with tongue-in-cheek biographical sketches of the survivors of Common Sense, is available as a small book. It is an ideal gift for those who have a sense of humor and are not PC. It’s also ideal for those you think lack common sense but you’d rather not tell them yourself.  Buy here at amazon.


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