Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Improper Poll: Another Season of Hoarding

 I was recently flipping through channels when my attention was captured by an episode of “Hoarding.” A mental health professional was holding up a pen and looking gravely at his patient. “How many pens do you have to have before it’s enough?” he was asking her.

For a minute I was pretty sure he was talking to me, too.

I’ve already mentioned that I cleaned out my purse and counted 15. That is how many I must have, I’ve found, before I can consistently find one.

In my house, too, I have pens everywhere because so many of them don’t write. And I hate to throw out brand new pens that don’t write well, so I let them sit around for months before I will throw them out—I guess in case they change their minds. The brand that claims it writes “first time, every time” doesn’t seem to write at any time for me.

Papermate, with its little double heart logo, is the brand I call The Precious, but my beloved blue is usually sold out. I recently found out why. I subbed for several Language Arts teachers in a row, and they all had their own drawer full of The Precious.

The psychologist on TV explained that his method of treating hoarders was to take the pen and see how long they could live without it. Whew! I must not be nuts, because I’d let him take it. I’d just go out and buy a whole bunch more. How many pens must I have before I have enough? So many that when I reach for a blue pen, I can find one. And it actually writes.

Do you find yourself stockpiling anything?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Improper Poll: Headlines of Horror

Ten MSN News Headlines that Really, Really Annoy Me: 

1. Anything at all about that little Twilight girl who supposedly cheated on her boyfriend with the married guy who looked way too old for her, how sad the boyfriend is, or what she is wearing that may or may not belong to him or speculation on whether or not they will get back together

2. How—OMG!—other celebrities are super mad at her!

3. Anything whatsoever with the phrase, “baby bump” in it

4. Headlines about celebrity girls and their “wardrobe malfunctions”

5. Headlines that ask people to speculate on who should be a celebrity’s new boyfriend or girlfriend

6. Headlines about girls who apparently have no occupation on earth other than sitting around sporting silicone and obnoxiousness and inspiring inane headlines

7. Three words: Honey Boo Boo.

8. One word: Suri. Or any update having to do with a child or play-by-plays on her custody visitations, bike rides, schools, or what she ate for lunch

9. All news about the exposed naughty bits of British royals. Okay, I have to admit, I’m always initially curious about that one because when I read about royalty exposing themselves, I want to picture them resurrecting the streak or maybe begging for beads at Mardi Gras. But when it turns out that voyeuristic members of the media are capturing sneak shots of them in private, it makes me so disgusted with those publications that I would boycott them if I ever read them in the first place. As an American, I may not be loyal to the British monarchy, but as a human being, I am loyal to basic human rights, such as the right to be naked in private without worry of creepy stalkers and peeping Toms. Ewww.

10. Anything else that would cause Walter Cronkite to roll over in his grave

Are there any headlines that disgust you?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Hard to believe it’s been an entire year since our beloved dog, Buddy, died. The new Chicken Soup for the Soul dog book, called I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That, is coincidentally due out next Tuesday.

A few months ago, I had a dream. I don’t remember my dreams much anymore, so I’ve taken to writing them down. This was a particularly vivid one, so I wrote it right away. Here is what I wrote:

I dreamed I saw Buddy. We were in a pretty, shady park that was lined with hydrangeas, and Buddy was just sitting in front of me, staring at me. Which is what he used to do when he was alive, come to think of it. I knew he was dead, but it was possible for him to come back for a visit. In fact, he somehow let me know that he was back due to a special occasion. I have no idea what the special occasion was—it wasn’t his birthday, which was back in March or April, but I didn't want to ask him because he seemed to think I should know.

Later that day, I looked up the meaning of hydrangeas: friendship, understanding, devotion, gratitude.

Still later that day, I received the message that my story about Buddy, “Happy Holi-dog,” was accepted for publication in the aforementioned book.

Friendship, understanding, devotion, gratitude. I will always feel those things for Buddy. And for Chicken Soup for the Soul, come to think of it.

 Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. ~Edna Buchanan

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Improper Poll: NOW I Get It

When I was a little kid, I noticed—since I’m so sharp and all—that all calendars had the same name across the top: SMTWTFS. I thought that SMTWTF’S was a company that had a monopoly on calendars. Then one day in school I was daydreaming—which is pretty much how I spent grade school—and noticed that the teacher had made her own calendar. Weirdly enough, it still claimed to be owned by SMTWTF’S! That was when I finally went, “Ohhhhhh.”

Did you have something you believed when you were a little kid?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It Hinges on Decency

It started with a hinge that broke on a cabinet door. I contacted Home Depot, who gave me the number of the company that made them (called R.S.I.),  and ordered new hinges. They came almost immediately in a little envelope, free of charge. I took them out…and they were the wrong ones. That’s when I realized with horror that my cabinets had come from a different store. Different cabinet company entirely.

How embarrassing.

 I hate dishonesty. If the lack of empathy is the devil—and I believe it is—then dishonesty is the car (s)he rode in on. I’ve known some of the most honest people in the world as well as some of the most dishonest. I’ve always admired the former tremendously. The latter inspire nothing but pity and contempt.

So I mailed the hinges back with postage. I included a note explaining what had happened and apologized. If it had been their mistake, I would have expected them to make it right. But this was mine, so I tried.

A few days later, along came my check for postage. It included a little note thanking me and explaining that they try to help when they can. The note even had a smiley face on it. That note really made me feel good. I smiled all day…about that smiley face.

Two days later, along came a package in the mail, express delivery, from R.S.I. It was a bigger envelope…filled with hinges. No kidding—there was every possible kind of hinge that my door could need. And it did, in fact, contain the very hinges that worked for my cabinet door. Even though I didn’t purchase the doors through their company.

I’m still smiling. I may not have purchased my cabinets from RSI, but I sure would next time. Who wouldn’t want to buy from such a pleasant and helpful place? I would show you the note, which made me feel so good that I saved it, but it fell off my bulletin board and landed behind the filing cabinet. Which is okay. I imagine someday I’ll move that filing cabinet and find it. And then I’ll smile all over again.

From the rocking horse to the rocking chair, friendship keeps teaching us about being human. ~Letty Cottin Pogrebin (whose name alone should be a quote.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Improper Poll: Tiny Poof of Magic

I have a theory that there are wine people and coffee people. I wish I were a wine person. Wine people are cool. They are calm. I imagine when not sipping wine, they go to gyms. I picture them celebrating relaxation by inviting small groups of people to eat gourmet health food and discuss…what? I have no idea, but I bet it’s cool. I bet it makes them all laugh softly and toast one another.

Like it or not, I am a coffee person. I walk too fast, eat at my desk, and have been known to laugh until I have to run to the bathroom because all that caffeine is a diuretic. Gourmet health food, to me, is buying the GOOD TV dinners.

Usually I drink it black, but this summer I developed yet another vice when I discovered that the little parking lot shack a few miles away makes a mean iced coffee. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself driving miles out of my way. Then I started making it at home.

The easy version doesn’t taste as good as shack-bought, but I secretly get a little thrill pouring the fat-free half and half into the glass. It’s a moving work of art that’s gone in the blink of an eye. It’s so quick, I couldn’t even get a decent picture. That tiny, magical poof was almost done by the time I picked up my camera.

Gone in an instant.  Goodbye, summer. Farewell, iced coffee.

Do you have a weird little thing that gives you thrills every time?