Humor Column Archives

Puzzled by Florida


Not only did I have an out-of-Monona experience last week, it was out of the Midwest, all the way down to Florida.

Because I couldn’t bring the pelicans, Tampa Bay waves and Taste of Boston ice cream back with me, I did the next best thing upon our return home:  I went to Ben Franklin to buy a jigsaw puzzle.

We got slightly addicted to jigsaw puzzles while in Florida. We worked on them late into the night, even to the point of barely paying attention to the Badgers dramatic win against Xavier. Smartphones and all other screens were ignored. We would get to work again in the morning before our activities for the day.

I looked online to find justification for this new habit so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. Sure enough, there were articles that say jigsaw puzzles give your brain a complete workout and help improve memory and maybe even prevent Alzheimer’s. Woo hoo! It said that each time you place a piece in the puzzle, it gives your brain a dopamine boost. That sounds healthier than using carbs, Nicotine, or Facebook notifications for a dopamine rush. 500-1,000 dopamine hits per jigsaw puzzle box is a pretty good deal.

I also noticed articles about how maple syrup is being studied as a possible cure for Alzheimer’s and blueberries help improve memory too. Pancakes, anyone? The New York Times had an article on how to use a “mind castle” to remember grocery lists. So I made a mental note in the kitchen sink of my mind castle to have a breakfast of gluten-free pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup while working on our puzzle. What a great way to begin the day by exercising the brain with the jigsaw puzzle and nourishing it with memory-boosting foods. Plus it will alleviate guilt about not going to the gym.

Unfortunately, one of our cockatiel birds has discovered the joys of jigsaw puzzles, too, and delights in removing pieces from it. Somehow I’m not feeling the same dopamine rush when I place the pieces back into the puzzle a second and third time. It gets a little tiring making sure he doesn’t fly away with a piece. This would be helpful when it comes time to dismantle the puzzle and put it away, but he remained stoically atop the cage while we did that.

Now what was it I was going to have for breakfast? Hmmm.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on March 31, 2016.

The public service of jeans shopping


Because it’s almost impossible to find jeans that aren’t mom jeans (or daughter jeans), I wore my old jeans for so long that one day I came dangerously close to having to wear yoga pants in public.

Fortunately, I pulled myself together and performed a public service: I finally went jeans shopping.

I managed to remember the stringent criteria that jeans must meet: correct inseam length, back pocket style, wash, leg and rise.

As I anticipated, this was an ordeal, with many obstacles to navigate. Back pockets with embroidery on them are all the rage. I prefer a discreet backside. Ankle length inseams are the norm for straight/skinny jeans, which remind me of the dreaded “floods” of my youth.

I like skinny jeans, the style of the young, but ironically they make me feel like I’m wearing compression stockings, which are for the old.

As a child of the 1980s, it took me many years to finally make peace with low rise jeans. Of course, now that I’m fully converted, high rise seems to be popular again. I don’t want to have to readjust to the high rise.

Miraculously, I found a pair of plain pocket, mid-rise, straight leg jeans that were long enough. Next to the fly is a label that says “Lucky You,” which I thought was witty, given that no one would ever see it. Or so I thought.

As it turns out, I forgot the most important criteria of all in the buying jeans playbook: a functioning zipper.

The first time I wore these to work I noticed my fly was open, with it’s “Lucky You” invitation. Mortified, I went to the bathroom to try to fix it, but to no avail. The zipper wouldn’t stay up for more than several seconds.

Because this was the last pair of jeans in my sizes (of course), taking the jeans back to the store wasn’t a viable option. I turned to the Internet for help and found a video on YouTube with instructions on how to fix a jeans zipper that won’t stay up.

Options include using a keychain loop, which worked fairly well. The more permanent solution, if, like me, you have no sewing skills and can’t replace the zipper, is to use a wrench to fix the zipper.

By the way, it’s best to take your jeans off first before using the wrench option. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience.


This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on March 24, 2016.

Downton Library fills the Downton Abbey void

BookLover3The popular “Downton Abbey” TV series on PBS recently ended, but I stopped mourning when I realized I can still get a “Downton Abbey” experience just by going to the Monona library.

When the house is too crowded, I can escape to the library and walk up the grand staircase with the determination of Lady Mary. I sit in a comfortable chair in front of a floor to ceiling window I never have to clean and remain uninterrupted for hours at a time.

Like Lord Grantham, I have thousands of square feet at my disposal, and there are paid staff that meticulously take care of thousands of books for me. If I can’t find what I want among all that plenty, I merely click a few buttons and a neighboring estate – er, library – kindly lends me their book and delivers it to me at no charge.

It never ceases to be a thrill to go to the library to pick up a stack of books I placed on hold. I often spend a lunch hour or Saturday afternoon doing this. With services like this, who needs Netflix?

Like the Butler Carson who won’t tolerate the thought that Lady Mary is ever in the wrong, the staff doesn’t charge me fines when I am late in returning Monona books. The $10 fine for a lost book that has been on my account for many months never gets mentioned, either. There has also been nary a raised eyebrow over the eclectic assortment of titles that I have recently checked out, from books about equine therapy, crows, Jungian psychology and golf among the mix.

It serves as a home office when our printer is out of ink, and I need to print something or make a photocopy. A malfunctioning computer or WiFi connection isn;t a source of panic, because there are several computers at the library I can use if I need to.

It’s even a makeshift day care, because you can plop your kids in the children’s section, and they will amuse themselves for an hour or two while you read or use a computer. The downstairs of Monona library doesn’t have a Mrs. Patmore and Daisy to serve up the snacks to the kids, but the vending machines make it easy to treat the kids, and there are bright new tables and chairs and even a couch.

And those times when I need an out-of-Monona experience? I go to the McFarland library, of course.

You’re not my friend if you don’t repost this


In all my years on Facebook, I’ve never posted one of those chain Facebook statuses. But who am I to pass up an opportunity to be slightly passive aggressive? It’s time to get off my high horse and come up with some posts. Here goes:

Please put this as your status if you, or a middle-aged woman you know, have worn makeup in a desperate attempt to look more youthful, only for your face to break out like a teenager’s in return. This is not the type of youthful look you wanted. There is still no known cure for this cruelest of ironies. Many won’t copy and paste this. I did. Will you?

Unfriend me if I’m wrong. But all of us have a thousand wishes. To be thinner, to have more money, more days off or maybe just to scroll through our Facebook feed and not see political posts. Office workers everywhere have only one wish: to not freeze at our desks every working day of the year and never again here the dismissive words “Just put on a sweater.” Wearing cardigans in mid-July sucks! I know that 97 percent of you won’t broadcast this, but my friends will be the 3 percent that do.

I don’t normally do this kind of status update, but this one seemed too important to ignore: After all these years of being online, too many videos still auto-play when you bring up a web page, as if this was 1990s Internet. If you, too, have been the victim of an assault of unwelcome audio when browsing the Internet in the middle of the night during a fit of insomnia, or while attempting to surreptitiously check your phone during a boring lecture or meeting, then copy and paste into your status and leave it there for one hour.

On April 1, 2016, Facebook will change your privacy settings and will own all the media you have ever posted, such as your pet videos and vacation photos, and even including your daily memories status updates from five years ago that nobody wants to read again. To stop this from happening go to Settings > Emotional State > Paranoia > Off.

Send this column to 10 people in the next 10 minutes or next time I will become even more passive aggressive and start vaguebooking, which I can’t go into right now, because I haven’t felt like this in a while, but I’ll post more information soon.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on March 10, 2016.

Let them eat bread (or gluten-free air)

Because lately we keep hearing how healthy foods like salad make us fat (why don’t they just come out and say that even air is high in carbs?), I have to hand it to Oprah. She recently lost 26 pounds while eating bread every day. It’s no surprise the Weight Watchers stock soared after she said the equivalent of “Let them eat bread!”

I could also make the case that bread makes me lose weight. The avoidance of bread, that is. But talking about my own gluten-free diet would cause stock to crash, not soar. Even Ted Cruz spoke derisively about the gluten-free diet the other day, saying he wouldn’t make gluten-free meals available to the military.

It was being on a leprosy medication a few months ago that drove me to my current diet. I had a terrible, blistering rash caused by accidental gluten ingestion. For some reason, leprosy medication is the treatment for it.

Unfortunately, the rash attacked my face, making me look constantly embarrassed. which, technically, I was. Another downside is this also made me appear as if I was had just come back from exercising at the gym, which, technically was accurate, I guess, as the Prednisone I was also on made me run around as if I was constantly working out.

After that ordeal, I changed my diet to go beyond gluten-free, which it has been for many years due to celiac disease, and is now also anti-inflammatory. It even includes things like putting grass-fed butter in tea, which a normal person would find scary. I’m now that annoying person who when going out with a group usually can’t eat much of anything, especially at a potluck.

I realized things were perhaps a bit out of control when I got all excited over a frozen desert that was pitched on the “Shark Tank” show. The entrepreneurs recited a lengthy list of ingredients not in the dessert (no gluten, sugar, nuts, dairy, etc.). The investors were unimpressed with the taste and no offers were made. But that didn’t deter me. “A food that has nothing in it!” I exclaimed to the family members in the room. “I have to order it!”

I’ve looked longingly for this product on the shelves of the local grocery stores but to no avail. It seems Monona and Madison stores are committed to selling me food that isn’t made out of nothing and has actual ingredients in it. Go figure. Oh well. At least air is gluten-free.

This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on March 3, 2016.

Rebel Without a Mantra


This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on February 18, 2016.

It’s so easy to be a rebel these days. All I have to do is not practice meditation, yoga or mindfulness.

Seriously, I can’t scroll through my Facebook feed, read a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing someone rave about how CEOs, school children, veterans, NFL players, golfers, etc., are all doing yoga or meditation. There are even yoga classes set to heavy metal music, which may be the most oxymoronic thing I’ve ever read.

I’ve tried to see what all the fuss is about. A couple of times I used guided meditation on Headspace, but it only made me a head case. My thoughts don’t have bouncers, so I keep thinking the whole time about how I’m not really meditating, and, oh by the way, I can’t forget to pick up some detergent and milk from Copps on the way home from work.

Who am I kidding? When I need to meditate, I go to the pen aisle of the University Bookstore. Few things clear my head more than gazing at all those Uni Balls, colorful Parker Jotters and the fancy pens behind the glass counter. If there is a mantra, it’s “1.0 mm” as I scan carefully to find 1.0 mm tip pens because fine tips are an abomination. The notebook aisles provide yet more meditative effects. Something about a blank notebook and new pens makes me believe in new possibilities and a clean slate.

I’ve attempted yoga, too. It seems that yoga classes at the workplace started becoming the rage a couple years ago, and I took a class at that time. Although there was something fitting about assuming corpse pose before going off to start my work day, I’ve since become a firm believer in separation of work and exercise.

I now perform yoga in the confines of my home using Magic Erasers. I’ve discovered you can stand in front of a wall with Magic Erasers and, using mountain and swan dive poses, clean a whole wall. Downward facing dog with a Magic Eraser under each hand and foot is a great way to clean floors. Plus, using a Magic Eraser has a meditative effect. The way a gentle swipe of a bright white Magic Eraser completely cleans a surface practically puts me into a trance. So I can accomplish yoga and meditation all at once.

As for mindfulness, I’m mindful of all the mindfully mindful talk about mindfulness. Does that count?

Codependent no more on winter



This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on February 11, 2016.

Winter and I are in a harmonious relationship this year. This is because winter has actually respected boundaries. It did not barge into the fall months with blasts of arctic cold. It was even kind enough to wait until at least a couple of weeks after the start of winter before giving us snow and cold temperatures.

As much as I appreciate not having to codependently accommodate dysfunctional winterly behavior, I’m starting to wonder if winter needs assertiveness training or something.

For example, remember that storm last Tuesday? Like anxious helicopter parents hovering over a child’s every move, we started worrying about that storm a week before it arrived. We stalked the storm on radar via the weather forecasts. There were discussions in every school and workplace about the possibilities of closing on that day. Finally, this would be the winter misery we would all endure and post Facebook status updates about together.

But in the day or two leading up to the storm, the forecasters suddenly became vague in their predictions and refused to commit to the storm. Then, sure enough, the storm played hard to get and made a passive aggressive shift to the north, and off to school and work we all went.

I guess the worst part is that winter hasn’t give us much to complain about. Complaining about the weather is a fundamental right of a Wisconsinite. “How about that snow we didn’t get?” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Small talk has become even smaller, because there isn’t weather or the Packers to talk about. If this keeps up, people outside our state will no longer be impressed that we endure Wisconsin winters. In an ironic twist, several Southern states have faced more winter drama than we have in the Madison area. What does winter see in them that it doesn’t see in us?

It’s to the point where I’m reduced to scrounging around in the fine print of the forecast to find something, anything, to complain about. Oh, look, 84 percent humidity! I hope winter humidity gives me a bad hair day the way summer humidity does. That will give me something to gripe about.


Who’s the biggest loser in the checkout lines?


This Humor Me column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on February 4, 2016.

I heard on the radio the other day that the average 50-year-old has spent five years of their life waiting in line, so it’s time I come clean and offer you an apology.

The reason that number seems so high is my fault. I fail 100 percent of the time in choosing the right checkout line at the grocery store and it throws off the average.

I blame those self-checkout lines. I can’t resist them because the lines are shorter, but I get burned every time no matter how meticulous I am in performing my analysis.

A recent scenario: An older woman has a lot of produce she’ll have to manually key in codes for, whereas the young guy in the other aisle has all scannable items in his cart. His line will be quicker, right?


He has trouble with his debit card and has to go find his father. By that time the woman at the other checkout has left the building and has probably already started preheating her oven by the time I finally get to take my turn.

The biggest difficulty is gauging how long it will take the person to bag their own groceries. If the person is alone with no one to help him bag, and has more than 20 items, beware of his line.

Once I chose a line where the young man was bagging and all the other lines still had full carts. I did an internal fist pump celebrating my good fortune in getting the best line. Then it was as if time stopped. He moved at a glacial speed as he loaded his produce into his two cloth bags. In one of my lowest moments ever at the grocery store I finally started checking out and sailed my items down the belt. They crashed into his bags. That was almost as satisfying as if I had chosen the fastest line.

Sometimes it goes down to the wire and I get caught up in watching if the person in my line will finish faster than the person in the line I rejected. Of course, my line always loses, sometimes by seconds. Oh well. At least all this checkout line analysis and people-watching has kept me from spending that entire five years reading the tabloid headlines in the checkout line magazine racks.



Photo: Kaleb Fulgham

Reading Glasses are for the Birds

This column originally appeared in the Herald-Independent on January 28, 2016.

You know you’ve reached a certain age when you start to experience the effects of trying to read something without your reading glasses.

For example, I recently glanced at the Town Planner wall calendar in our kitchen, which has local activities helpfully printed on it. I wondered if there was anything interesting happening around here.

An upcoming Friday night entry said, “Cockatiels in the Conservatory, 7:00 – 11:00 p.m.”

We have three pet cockatiel birds so my mind thrilled at the possibilities of this event.

Was Olbrich planning to add cockatiels as permanent bird residents in the conservatory to join the quail, waxbills and canaries? How fun to imagine cockatiels flying about the palm trees and orchids of the conservatory as they wolf whistled at the guests.

Or would various owners of cockatiels bring their birds in for a sort of show and tell? I wasn’t sure how the logistics of this would work, and would be hesitant to bring in our own birds, but had fun imagining how much they would enjoy that tropical environment.

Perhaps the humane society would bring in any cockatiels and other birds in need of adoption.

Maybe even local artists would be there painting pictures of the birds and flora.

And local ornithology experts would give talks and answer questions about exotic birds and the birds of the conservatory.

Leaving the house on a Friday evening in the middle of winter is normally something I’m deeply opposed to, but I knew I couldn’t miss this event. Just as I was going to run off and check the Olbrich website for more details, I put on my reading glasses and looked more closely.

It said “Cocktails at the Conservatory.”

My heart sank.

True, these Freudian slips when misreading can lead to some interesting creative thoughts. One could make a party game out of it, where you are required to read something out loud without your reading glasses. Even better, compose and send a text without reading glasses on, and the recipient reads it out loud to the group. That could generate more laughs than Cards Against Humanity.

But I’m not sure what’s worse.

Being old enough to have to be a slave to wearing reading glasses to read anything.

Or knowing that cockatiels are far more exciting to me than cocktails.

The side effects of the post-binge watching blues




This Humor Me column originally appeared in The Herald-Independent on January 21, 2016. Why do I also write humor columns? This explains it.

I hope someday they make the Post-Binge Watching Blues an official diagnosis.

I get an acute case of this every winter, when I do most of my binge watching, because it’s too cold to do anything else. The letdown after finishing a binge, with nothing on the immediate horizon to watch, leaves me bereft and disoriented.

I haven’t seen anything yet that describes the side effects of binge-watching each show, so I’ll get the conversation started by listing them for a few of the shows I’ve binged:

“House, M.D.” — Side effects are the fear of suddenly having a violent seizure or coughing up blood, because you’ve seen that happen in each of the 150-plus episodes. You diagnose every ailment of your family members and friends as sarcoidosis. At work, you have an overwhelming urge to bounce a tennis ball against the wall while thinking and interrupt brainstorming sessions with withering sarcastic remarks. Tendency to say “everybody lies” as often as possible.

“House of Cards” — This was my gateway show that introduced me to binge watching. You always remember your first, and it remains my favorite. I can hardly wait for the next season on March 4. Side effects: silently crying inside because you don’t have Claire’s cheekbones or wardrobe and compensating for this by buying Oxford shirts like hers. Tendency to say, “You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment,” at every opportunity.

“Monk” — It’s a tradition in my house to do mini-binges on a season or two of this every summer. We’ve seen every episode multiple times. The garbage strike episode with Alice Cooper is our favorite. Side effects: the urge to touch every fence and lamppost when walking outdoors. Saying “You’ll thank me later,” “Here’s what happened” and “He’s the guy,” at every opportunity. Regularly stirring up “Who is better, Natalie or Sharona?” debates during car trips. Frequent attempts to imitate Monk’s maniacal laugh in the garbage strike episode.

One could also do a cocktail approach to binge-watching. For example, one episode of season 1 “House,” followed by a chaser of two “Monks” from season three, then a shot of “Breaking Bad” to really get the party started. Well, I could go on, but I just found a new show to binge-watch. Whew.

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