Humor Column Archives

A different kind of fitbit

For those of us who don’t count steps, points or calories, what are we to do?

For starters, we can stop saying that golf is a good walk spoiled. That honor now has to go to a Fitbit walk. Nothing ruins a walk like counting the steps and learning how few calories were burned. Knowing that a mile is around 2,000 steps is TMI that I can no longer unsee. Kind of like having a song from Z-104 stuck on repeat in my head.

We can also update Coco Chanel’s saying, “Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory” to “Before leaving the house, remove all wearable tech.” The Fitbit and Apple Watch are profoundly ugly and ruin any outfit. No wonder my first thought when I received a debit card with that shiny new chip was to wonder if I could turn that chip into a fashion accessory. Surely we should be allowed to use it as a bracelet charm or necklace pendant and toss the plastic. Considering that only a tiny fraction of my debit card purchases are for items for me, the only option I can see for having fun when using the debit card is if I wear it as an accessory.

And speaking of chip debit cards, even though it’s been several months since I received it, I still have no idea if it is actually more secure or not, because Walgreens, Walmart and Trader Joe’s are the only stores I go to that have the chip option of processing the card. So most of my transactions are of the insecure variety.

The other day I read that there is something called e-skin, which can give your hand or arm the power of a smartwatch. The article said, “If you functionalize your own skin, you don’t need to carry anything, and it’s easy to receive information anywhere, anytime.”

Oh my. Imagine the possibilities. Maybe I wouldn’t even need a library card anymore. And it would give me yet another reason to avoid going to the pool, so I don’t get my e-skin wet or sunburned. Otherwise my transaction at the cash register might decline for excessive ultraviolet rays and chlorine. Although at least that’s less embarrassing than “insufficient funds.”

Until then, the best I can probably hope for someday is a “Throw a Fit” Bit that counts all the irritating things that cross my path. Now that would be useful.


This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on June 23, 2016.

Infinite Campus: Summer Edition for Helicopter Parents


Imagine if Infinite Campus ever got an upgrade so as to provide daily information to helicopter parents all throughout the summer. It might look something like this:

Emily has an updated Effort Grade. No effort at all was detected, as she uttered the word “bored” an average of six times per hour during the past week.

Dad: How can you be bored? Look at all the work that needs to be done around here! When I was your age I was mowing lawns …

Emily: Yes! My favorite YouTuber finally released a new video. I have something to do now!

Michael has received a new grade in nature studies of F. He positively identified zero leaf images and all 24 app icons on an online quiz.

Mom: How did you not identify even one leaf? This is terrible. I want you to go online right now and send an email to Aldo Leopold Nature Center and request tutoring with a naturalist!

Michael: Uh, Mom, it wasn’t an official test. If was just a dumb online quiz.

Mom: I don’t care! Weren’t you paying attention all those times we went hiking at Devil’s Lake? I knew we never should have given you that Nintendo DS in 2007 …

Hailey has received a new grade in Summer English. It reflects the results of a spell check of her texts from the past week, which revealed a complete absence of proper grammar and spelling.

Mom: When I was your age we wrote notes … actually handwritten notes, not even typewritten! … to each other. And even though we were writing by hand we didn’t use acronyms.

Hailey: OMG my texts were graded? I’d rather be in actual school than deal with this! (Furiously types a group text about this violation of privacy).

Emma has received a new grade of A in debate.

Zachary has received a new grade of A in debate.

Mom: Wow, you both did so well in debate today!

Zach: What? She doesn’t deserve an A! I totally won all my fights with Emma today!

Emma: Did not, butthead!

Matthew has not turned in his math assignment requiring that he calculate how much energy is wasted each time the refrigerator door is opened.

Dad: You need to keep your math skills up in the summer. Kids in Asia don’t have summer vacation like we do and are way ahead of us in math.

Matthew: I didn’t have the energy to do the assignment because there’s never anything to eat around here!

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on June 16, 2016.


Memorial Day Parade: A Primer

mem day

On Memorial Day morning, Monona residents are faced with a dilemma: sleep in or go to the parade. Based on almost 20 years of experience of always choosing the parade option, here is a primer to help you enjoy the parade.


Drive to the parade, don’t walk. How do you justify this waste of fuel when you live within walking distance? By parking at IHM school and church and going to their white elephant sale before the parade. You’ll need a car for all your purchases.


Stand at the same location every year. We had to deviate from this the year Monona Drive was under construction, and the experience was too disorienting. Make sure it is within striking distance of liquid refreshment and bathrooms (i.e. McDonald’s).

Don’t bring chairs. It is too oxymoronic to sit in comfort and gaze at the parade as if you were watching TV, while veterans who sacrificed for us walk by. It’s either that or I’m too lazy to bring chairs, I’ll let you guess which one is the real reason. Ahem.

Activities during the Parade

Candy-gathering. You’ll usually forget to bring bags for the kids to use to store their candy, which ensures there will be a mountain of candy thrown their way. Of course you will discreetly pocket some of it for yourself (feel free to send some Tootsie Rolls my way if you get any extras).

Anxiously look for the World War II veteran. If you don’t see him walking with the other veterans, don’t panic. Sometimes he’s in a car.

Express disappointment that Tammy Baldwin isn’t in the parade anymore, like she was in the good old days when she was in the House of Representatives.

Talk to the same neighbors every year. It’s too easy to live near someone and go months with barely any chatting outside of Facebook. The Memorial Day annual chat is a wonderful way to catch up in person.

Realize you forgot to put on sunblock.


The parade becomes boring after about the first 45 minutes once the veterans, vintage cars, politicians, marching bands and school teams have marched through.

Because we stand, no one begs to stay until the very end. We go back to IHM, this time for the festival. If the children spot friends at the festival, be prepared for yet more standing and chatting. If not, you’ll be home by noon.

You could now head over to Brat Fest or, like me, start resting up (and saving money for) for the July 4 festival. After you figure out what to do with your white elephant purchases.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on May 26, 2016.

The grass is “purpler” on the other side


A day or two after Prince died, and the color purple was suddenly the “in” color, the purple creeping Charlie in our yard fully bloomed. What a fitting tribute. It’s also proof you shouldn’t mess with nature. So when a lawn care salesperson came to the door a few days later I said, “No thanks, I like the weeds!” with more confidence than ever before. I now have all the justification I need to not feel bad about refusing to spray weedkiller on the yard now that it’s an ongoing tribute to the Mozart of our generation.

I only wanted to one time to see you laughing

Deer Grove Vet (IN STORY) - 300 x 250 - CD HI

I only wanted to see you

Laughing in the purple weeds

I’m laughing alright. The creeping Charlie and wild violets in the yard don’t grow as quickly or as tall as grass. Less mowing required. And when I do mow, the smell of the violets and the purple lilacs is almost intoxicating. During times of drought, there aren’t so many brown patches in the yard, because the weeds have deeper roots than grass and can remain purple and green.

I only wanted to be some kind of friend

Baby, I could never steal you from another

It’s such a shame our friendship had to end

Speaking of friendship, that reminds me of the purple irises by our mailbox and in the back yard. We acquired the ancestors of these bulbs from the family of a high school friend way back when I was in high school. The friendship ended, but the purple lives on.

Honey, I know, I know

I know times are changing

It’s time we all reach out

For something new, that means you, too

I’ll take that into consideration. Maybe I’ll get some purple petunias from the Monona Farmers’ Market this weekend instead of the usual pink.

May Sarton once wrote: “The garden is where my madness lies, and is a more useful madness than drunkenness or a tantrum.”

I’ll have to take her word for it. I’ve tried, but it’s clear my useful madness lies in areas other than gardening. But, hey, at least I have a purple thumb.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on June 2, 2016.

The 7 stages of blame


It’s important to revisit from time to time the proper sequence of who to blame when something goes wrong. Last week’s Charter outage provided a perfect opportunity:

Denial – At 9:15 p.m., I kept getting a DNS error on my computer. I rebooted the computer. Still no connection. Whatever it is, I know it can’t be my fault.

Pain – After 15 minutes of denial, other family members announce they don’t have an Internet connection. Let the blaming begin.

I notice the router was askew, like it had been knocked over. Aha. That must be the children’s fault. One of the cords looks slightly frayed. Did the pet bunny chew it? That would again be the children’s fault. I reboot the router, which appeared to be working just fine, but still no Internet connection. I try to think of ways to blame my husband, Gov. Walker, and Obama. Then I finally call Charter.

Anger and bargaining – I get a busy signal when calling Charter. Internet problems are the only thing in life that make me desperate enough to want to place a phone call. I call again and again and still a busy signal. On the verge of completely losing my cool, I log into my Charter account and notice the bill was due a few days ago. Oops. I quick pay it in hopes that will placate the Charter gods. Still no Internet connection. This is obviously Charter’s fault.

Depression – I was in the midst of a writing project for a client and am depressed that I now can’t finish it. I had set aside the evening to do so. What if the problem never gets fixed, and I’m reduced to being one of those people who sits at the picnic table near the library in the late evening and mooches off the free WiFi? I’ll always be behind on my projects. What will I do?

The upward turn – I do a Google search for “Charter outage.”

Reconstruction and working through – I find a Tweet that shows a Charter outage map, and there is a nationwide outage. People on Twitter are complaining. I feel comforted.

Acceptance and hope – I find a Facebook post from Charter saying they are working on fixing the outage. Why didn’t I think to check Facebook right after getting a busy signal and spare myself 90 minutes of anxiety and stress? That’s not my fault, of course.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on May 19, 2016

Thanks for not reaching out


Clerk: Can I help you?

Me: No thanks, I’m just looking.

Clerk: Just reach out to me if you need anything. I’m happy to leverage some industry standard best practices from our stylists to find pieces that will take your wardrobe to the next level and get you to …

Me: (plugging ears) Don’t say it …

Clerk: … think outside the box. I understand this kind of paradigm shift may not be one of your core competencies. We want to get your buy-in. Let’s start with some of the low-hanging fruit in the sales rack over here. We really moved the needle … excuse the pun, haha … when making this new linen fabric. It drapes beautifully and will break down your silo, which seems to trend toward preppy. It’s a stretch goal for you, but the colorful print is impactful and will empower you.

Me: Empower? Is this the Lean In store? I don’t do prints. And I only take fashion advice from the likes of Tim Gunn and Kim France. By the way, I see your jeans have less than 90 percent cotton, which is unacceptable.

Clrk: I will socialize that with my manager. In the meantime I want to solutionize and give you an actionable takeaway more within your comfort zone. Let’s circle back to the shoe section. This pair of Van’s mesh slip-on espadrilles is on sale, and there’s one pair left in your size.

Me: …

Clerk: Is there a problem?

Me: How did you know I like those? They are on my Zappos wish list. Did you somehow hack into my phone while I’ve been here?

Clerk: Of course not. We use big data to take a deeper dive and gather learnings that help us create a customer avatar for someone with your particular customer requirements.

Me: Avatar? Did I stumble into a video game? If so, I hope it is called Thanks for Not Reaching Out, and avatars lose a life every time they say annoying business jargon. Look, it’s been real, but I gotta go.

Clerk: What I’m hearing is that your wardrobe has a lot of moving parts but you have limited bandwidth right now. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating the best customer experience we can. Let’s tee it up over here where we can map out some next steps.

Me: This isn’t the golf course!

Clerk: Golf? There are some Under Armour women’s golf shirts over here …

Me: Argh! I think we need to take this offline.

Clerk: Gotcha!

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on May 12, 2016.

Thou shalt not live on Starbucks alone


Because I don’t drink coffee, I’ve happily never been part of the tired, huddled masses yearning to drink coffee at Starbucks in the mornings.

But recently I had occasion to go to a Starbucks for the first time in five years or so, and what should appear before my very eyes? A green tea latte with coconut milk.

Before this the fanciest drink I would ever get was Cherry Coke Zero from those fountain drink machines at Qdoba and Wendys that have 100-plus flavors. So it felt a bit pretentious to order a latte. Then there was the awkwardness of trying to pronounce “grande.” I have been using Duolingo every day this year to brush up on my French and desperately wanted to pronounce it the French way. Then that would make me look even more pretentious. I worried I would butcher “venti” too. So I just said “large” and got away with it.

The experience was pleasant enough that I thought maybe I should start going to Starbucks regularly. At first I resisted, because I couldn’t get past the fact that this felt too hipster and would be as bad as shopping regularly at Whole Foods. I looked carefully in the Starbucks parking lot and didn’t see a parking spot with a “preferred parking for hybrid vehicles only” sign so that made me feel better. Suddenly I found myself coming up with justifications to go to Starbucks

“It’s Wednesday! I deserve a green tea latte! But it’s $5. I know, I’ll make a meal out of it. It has plenty of calories, 12 grams of protein, lots of calcium, and a few vitamins. So it’s not much more expensive than a pricey protein bar and much tastier.”

“I’m hot after mowing the yard. I deserve an iced green tea latte!”

“Daughter has a cold. A hot chai tea latte will help her with her congestion. While I’m there, I might as well get myself a green tea latte!”

“It’s the first day of the Monona Farmer’s Market. It’s just down the road from Starbucks, how convenient! We’ll get tea afterwards to wash down the Chippy’s popcorn!”

But, really, going to Starbucks regularly isn’t that sustainable from a budget perspective. I did some Googling to find a local source for matcha powder so I could make my own lattes and discovered a tea shop on the east side that sells it. And they also sell lattes at a more affordable price than Starbucks. Well then. Time to set a course for Jade Mountain Café!

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on May 7, 2016.

Spring Stoicism

meadow tree hannah

Its arrival every spring is as dependable as the sighting of spring birds and blooming daffodils: The utterance of “I refuse to turn on the air conditioning this soon.” I overheard someone say this when I was out and about during the recent April weekend of 80-plus degree temps and considered that the official first day of spring.

I wonder if our ancestors 100-plus years ago were similarly stoic during spring heat waves. “Son, I know it’s hot as blazes, but you can’t swim in the mud hole today. It’s too soon. Why, just two nights ago, we made a fire because it was so cold!”

Speaking of stoicism, stoic philosophy is all the rage right now among Silicon Valley types. But, really, there’s no need for these folks to read the ancient writings of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca the Younger when they could just visit Wisconsin during a spring heat wave or in the middle of the winter.

I have no qualms about using air conditioning in April, so on Saturday, I embarked on my own form of spring stoicism: coaxing a daughter to go to the Aldo Leopold meadow with me. When children reach a certain age, it takes persuasion to get them to agree to such an outing. I sheepishly admit that getting iced beverages from Starbucks beforehand was involved, even though it was rather oxymoronic to walk around a meadow carrying a Starbucks cup. I happily discovered, however, that when the wind blows through the top of an empty plastic Starbucks cup it sounds just like a loon.

“We’ll only stay for 15 minutes,” I announced as we stepped into the meadow. Almost immediately, it was as if we were in a playful nature scene from a Sunday Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. She became transfixed by a huge tree in a marshy area and figured out a way to walk on sticks to get to it, undeterred by how wet her Converse shoes and jeans were getting. Then she had the opportunity to experience exposure therapy when maneuvering past bees that normally frighten her. I binge-watched the baby geese as she explored all the wooden docks. 107 minutes later, we left, with plans made to visit the meadow regularly to monitor the changes in flora and fauna as the season progresses.

It’s entirely possible I turned on the air conditioning during the drive home, but I will neither confirm nor deny.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on April 28, 2016.

Confessions of a softball mom


8 a.m. – Opening day for my favorite winter – er, spring – sport of snowball – I mean softball. I check the weather. 27 degrees. Ugh. I check email. Game not cancelled. Darn.

11 a.m. – 32 degrees. Check email for the 10th time. Game still not cancelled. I decide we will arrive just 10 minutes before the 12:45 start time, to minimize exposure to the cold.

12:35 p.m. – The warmup turns into a cooldown as we wait. The game shows no signs of starting, because the previous game doesn’t stop. So much for my “minimize exposure” strategy. It’s too cold to get out of the car and find out the reason for the delay.

1:30 p.m. – The game finally begins, 45 minutes late. “C’mon, three quick outs!” I almost yell when our team is at bat. There’s nothing like the cold to make you long for even your own kid to quick strike out or hit a catchable line drive and bring a speedy end to the game.

2:25 p.m. – I decide to try a little cheery optimism about the cold for the beginning of the second game. Did I mention this was a doubleheader? In 37 degree weather? Maybe going to a game at Lambeau in late fall wouldn’t be so bad after all. Maybe I could even handle snowshoeing. Or walk to the mailbox in the winter without complaining.

2:48 p.m. – The delusions continue: Is that a drone I see in the sky? Is it perchance delivering hot chocolate? With Baileys Irish Cream in it? Does Amazon Prime have instant delivery yet? Or can I ask an Uber driver to go buy some hot chocolate for me?

3:01 p.m. – Daughter is taking a turn on the bench and won’t be at bat again for a while. I seek the refuge of the car. Thanks to a lengthy inning I read at least 50 pages of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic: Creating Living Beyond Fear” book. At this point, I’d settle for “Beyond Cold.”

4:00 p.m. – The game ends. We lost but celebrate as if we’ve won, because we no longer have to endure the cold. We set a course for Qdoba in Monona.

7:30 p.m. – I find out that the boys high school baseball games were cancelled this afternoon due to the cold. Does that make the girls’ sacrifice less meaningful? Or does it instead mean that girls are tougher than boys? Conclusion: Can someone please pass the Baileys?

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on April 14, 2016.

It’s the end time for cart-ageddon (or, the life changing magic of online grocery shopping)


After decades of putting up with dysfunctional shopping carts and shoppers who don’t know how to properly push a cart, the situation finally reached a tipping point last week. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get the shopping cart to fit into the cart escalator at Walmart. Instead, I was left having to lug the heavy items to the car using my brute strength.

True, one could view this as a proper punishment for choosing to shop at Walmart. But I thought of all the times over the years I’ve pushed carts whose wheels were out of alignment. The multitudes of shoppers I’ve encountered who park their carts in the middle of the aisle, ensuring that I can’t move past them. Those occasions I’ve pushed carts through slush and snow to my car, only to look around in vain afterwards to try and find a cart corral.

No longer wanting to put up with cart-ageddon any longer, last week I went online and used ShopWoodmans (run by the local company GrocerKey) for the first time. Every item at Woodman’s is on the website and sold without markup. Almost effortlessly, I created a shopping list on the site and filled the cart just by tapping on the keyboard. The order was to be delivered on Friday between 5-7 p.m., and I looked forward to it with a degree of anticipation that normal people reserve for going out to a fish fry.

Then, for the first Friday in ages, during 5-7 p.m., suddenly others in the family had places to go and wanted me to take them. It took air traffic control type coordination to ensure someone would be home. As I waited for the delivery I wondered what’s worse, waiting for a delivery or doing my own shopping?

I logged into my account and took comfort in how it gave me the blow by blow of how my order was being picked and “staged.” The delivery arrived, and it was something of a religious experience. As I unloaded the bags, I noticed there wasn’t any junk food. I must have subconsciously kept such items out of the cart, wanting the order picker to think we eat only healthy food, akin to the desire to not wear dirty underwear in case one ends up in the ER later that day.

And the best part? No unexpected add-ons that spontaneously appear in the cart when shopping with kids, causing the total bill to increase. So what did they think of the experience? “I don’t think we can do this online shopping every week. Maybe twice per month.” Oh oh.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on April 7, 2016.

 Page 1 of 3  1  2  3 »