Watch What You

Last weekend, I got together for lunch with my three closest friends from grade school who I reconnected with on facebook.

We were commiserating on the tardy arrival of spring. I mentioned that 10 pounds had settled on me this winter.

I realized belatedly that, during that 7 minutes of winter when we actually had sun, I shouldn’t have said out loud, “How beautiful! The snow looks just like sugar!”

Comments like that come back to haunt you. My body took it literally and added one pound for every additional week the “sugar” lasted.

Anyway, at lunch, Sue and Donna told me about a new phone app that helps monitor health and activit. It’s called My: My Fitness Pest. Well, of course I went right home, downloaded it.. Goal? Funny that it didn’t offer ‘lose enough weight to fit into 20+ year old wedding dress,’ so I simply chose lose weight. I also picked the ‘slow, steady, and remotelyrealistic one-pound-per-week’ goal. My calorie count to achieve that? 1870 calories per day.

“Hey, I can do that!” I congratulate myself.

Day one, I judiciously fill out my diary with meals, amounts of food and activity. I don’t even cheat on meal choices…much.

The app sends friendly little reminder judgments: ‘Don’t forget to enter all your food. Just because those pretzels are thin and gluten-free doesn’t mean they’re calorie-free.’  ‘Are you getting up to walk around, chair potato?’ ‘You’re not drinking enough water to hydrate a plant, camel person.’

After completing the diary for the day, I’m thrilled to receive the congratulatory note: “Congratulations! If you keep on like this, in five weeks, you should have lost at least 9 pounds! Don’t forget to record your weight tomorrow!”

I’m excited to step on the scale next morning. I came in 365 calories under goal, I walked around the city for a half hour in addition to the regular dog walk, I watched a bike race (doesn’t that count?) and I danced two hours at a Tango party the night before.

I step on the scale to discover I’ve gained 1.2 pounds.

I’ve really got to watch what I say. If an innocent comment like “I need to beef up on my exercise” can inspire me to gain weight, there’s no telling where I may end up a year from now!

Editorial published in the May 16, 2019 issue of Beyond the Nest’s free weekly newsletter.

Alien Testing

Alien Testing 

Years ago, a friend was going to visit a psychic. I decided to go too, for the adventure of it.  Most of what this woman had to say seemed reasonable…even accurate…until she got to the part about alien testing.“Have you ever noticed those tiny red spots that simply seem to appear overnight, out of nowhere? That’s where aliens are performing tests. But don’t worry, they’re benign.”

Which…the aliens or the tests?

Honestly, any credibility she might have had up until then went right out the window.

Now, all these years later, I realize she just might have been on to something. It’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for what is happening, as I age.

This once supple body suddenly seems to be conducting sound from an alien world full of creaks and pops. Some days, it’s like a virtual orchestra! I might not mind so much if they’d throw in a little real music, once in a while.

And why else would this formerly svelte figure suddenly emulate the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s body on a bad bread day? Enough with the leavening agent, guys!

Then there’s the issue of hair. Alien testing might just explain why hair that wasn’t there before is, and hair that was there isn’t. And as for that color testing?  In my book, gray will never be the new black.

It also occurs to me that aliens just might be using my once-smooth skin as modeling clay. In fact, when I see the once-flawless faces of actors my age, I realize I’m not alone. It seems quite possible there’s a competition as to which alien can most accurately replicate the craggy, mottled surface of their planet. Oh, we try to fight their handiwork with money and moisturizers, but believe me…the aliens are winning. It’s just a matter of time.

So just think…the next time you have a  bad hair day, or put on a little weight, or creak from sleeping wrong, if someone has the bad manners to comment that you seem out of sorts, just retort, “Alien Testing gone wrong.”

I guarantee it will either leave them thunderstruck mute or laughing out loud.

Written as Editor of the newsletter and published in the June 7 issue of the Newsletter.
Image: The Scream, by Edvard Munch (1893)

Memorial Days Past and Present

When I was a kid, I’m not sure I really recognized the significance of Memorial Day.

My father, my aunt and my uncle all served in WWII. Dad was stationed in the South Pacific. Like many of their generation, they never spoke of the war. They focused their lives on the here-and-now, and let the past be bygone. I’m sure they had more they preferred to forget, than to remember, about the war.

So for me as a child, Memorial Day meant watching as streams of musicians, fire departments, service men and women, cars and the occasional float streamed by. Later, it mean joining in one of those bands, first as a trombone player, then as a color guard. I began thinking about the patriotic music I was marching to and realized that the celebration in which I was participating was for our country, but that there was an entire other story behind the music and parade.

There was — and continues to be — the story of commitment to an ideal, and lives lost in pursuit of it. There are stories of service, courage and patriotism, families left behind, and lives changed, sometimes not for the better.There are so many stories we will never know.

So, on this Memorial Day, I salute my father (shown above in his Air Force Uniform) and his generation who served to save us from the perils we fought against in WWII.  I salute all who came before him, and all who have served since, including those who are currently serving our country. I wish, as most people do, that war could be eliminated. But as long as there are wars, there are heroes — those everyday people taking a pause in their normal lives to serve — who should be recognized, celebrated and commemorated.

To all of them I say “Thank You for your service.”

If you’d like to read the history of Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day,” for which Waterloo, NY is credited for originating, Click here.

App-etizing Ideas

I think app developers are missing an important market.
cat on roomba

With all the thousands of apps out there, you’d think someone would focus on the Working Woman/ Working Mom Market. Now here is a seriously under-served market.

My main complaint? Apps are supposed to  simplify or beautify my life, not just  gadget-ize it!

Do I really need an app that can turn my photo into a cartoon avatar? And is that a Carvatar which sounds like a tool for the carpool crowd, or a Cavatar, the favorite app of the diligent dentist?

Perhaps I’d use it if that cartoon app also included a cloning device, or even a cloaking device. When choice chores, such as swimsuit shopping, bathroom cleaning, and taxes are being doled out, I’d love to hand them off to Cavatar Carol, or use the cloaking device on my app to disappear completely so they’d fall into someone else’s lap. (Have I mentioned that my entire family holds the misguided notion that bathrooms clean themselves?).

Next, how about a weight loss app? No, I don’t need one that counts calories…QR  codes simplified that years ago! The idea behind this app would be, if I’m about to eat some sinfully delicious, calorie-laden slice of decadent goodness, I could hold my treat up to the app and it would absorb, say, all of the calories!

The final app on my wish list is the housecleaning app. Now this would be incredibly useful!  Sure, they have that little roomba that comes with a free ride for the cat, but how about a free ride for Mom once in a while? Got an app for that?

So what app is on your wish list?

.Gif courtesy of Alfred F. Jones, via tumblr.

Written as Editor of and originally published in May 17 issue of BeyondtheNest’s newsletter.

TV Hacking

Have you ever noticed how domestic tasks tend to fall in the domain of one spouse or the other?

For example, I have very little to do with the electronics in our house.

There really is some upside. For example, I easily sail right past pushy sales reps in big box stores who try to run interference by asking, “Miss, do you have Direct TV?”

I bet they think I’m being cagey when I respond, “I have no clue. My husband handles all things electronic in our house.”

It’s true, he does. And he takes great joy in playing three card monte with the Cable, Satellite and Direct TV companies, so why should I spoil his fun?

Incidentally, those electronics that I have little to do with include the TV itself. We only have one TV in our house, and it’s probably a good thing. Frustration should never be multiplied geometrically.

When I was a kid, there were only so many things you could do with a TV, once you got it. You turned it on, you changed the channel or volume, you turned it off. Now, it’s more complicated than the Mars Rover. I’ve never figured out how my husband has all the components wired (or why we have so many components, for that matter). I asked him to write down instructions for me on how to use it. I never got past Chapter 17.

Occasionally, I experiment, just for the heck of it. In a game that feels like Russian Roulette, I sometimes find the correct remote out of the six that sit on the table next to his chair. Then, I sometimes stumble across the right one to turn on the separate sound bar. After pressing 47 buttons, if I’m lucky, I get to a screen where I have to decide whether what I want to watch is accessed through HDMI, PTSD, or our IRA.

Then, if by chance I do get to a screen that gives me all of the possible 547 options that include watching anything from TEDx to Fedex, I’m usually so exhausted I just want to take a nap.

When I can’t figure it out and eventually give up, I actually take quiet solace in remembering a conversation I had about eight years ago. I was speaking with an Amish woman in Penn Yan who was showing me the dozens of stunning quilts she’d designed over the winter.

“You see,” she said, “I’m really lucky not to have a TV. Look at all I get done!”

Hmmm…. Maybe I should take up quilting instead of TV hacking.

Written as Editor of and originally published in the May 3, 2018 issue of

It’s a Guy Thing

840182_54984586 prehistoric redSo, my girlfriend Elaine calls me up on February 28, laughing.

“You wouldn’t believe it! Our cleaning lady took our Christmas tree down yesterday! ”

Now, I should explain that Elaine had purposely left the tree up because my sister and her husband always visit them over Presidents’ weekend, which is the first chance they all have to celebrate Christmas together. They do it up big, complete with gifts, dinner, Christmas music and tree clad with ornaments and lights. This year it got postponed a bit longer than usual.

“When I came home from work yesterday, the tree was gone, the boxes were back in the basement and our cleaning lady had put all the living room furniture back where it was before Christmas!”

I was actually thinking to myself that if my imaginary cleaning lady ever did that, I’d have a fit. Then of course,  I realized if I could trade in my current non-self-cleaning house for an over-zealous cleaning person, I really could live with that.

Elaine added, “and you want to hear the funniest part?  Hank  [her husband] came home from work before I did, changed his clothes, made dinner and never even noticed the tree was gone. You know he had to walk through the living room at least four times.  When I came home and shrieked when I saw the tree was down, he thought I was kidding.”

“It’s a guy thing,” I said, thinking of the other day when….

My husband complains, “Carol, we’re out of popcorn.”

“I just got back from the grocery store this morning! Why wasn’t it on the shopping list?” I ask, somewhat miffed.

“What shopping list? I keep hearing about this mythological shopping list that lives on the refrigerator, but I never see it!”

“It’s here,” I say, pointing at the bright red and green hard-to-miss holiday-themed shopping list stuck magnetically to the front of the fridge, complete with corresponding pen.

“Well, I never noticed it before….The refrigerator’s big.”

Sometimes it amazes me that the human race didn’t become extinct with men as the hunters.

Originally written and published in the March 15, 2018 issue of Beyond the Nest Newsletter.

Betwixt and BeTwain

In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds
of weather inside of 24 hours.

~ Mark Twain

I have it on good authority — okay, really, on strong suspicion — that Mark Twain (whose real name was Samuel Clemens) penned the quote above shortly after moving to upstate New York. I can almost see him in his octagonal study in Elmira, NY on that first day of May,  chipping little icicles off the tips of his fingers in order to write. I don’t pretend to be psychic, but I can almost hear him shouting to his wife, “Ding blast it, Mrs. Clemens, it’s supposed to be Spring in this infernal region!”

They spoke like that back then, but I suspect he may have used more colorful language, being a satirist, and all.

She, having grown up in Elmira, rather than in his native Missouri, would simply have chuckled at his naïveté.

How do I know she would have chuckled, you may ask.  How would she have stayed married to a humorist the likes of Mark Twain for 34 years without her own wicked sense of humor?

Actually, he may have been duped into moving to this land of snow and ice. You see, he and Olivia Langdon Clemens were married on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1870 in her hometown of Elmira. I bet he was fooled into thinking that, when the groundhog saw his shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter. Everyone who has lived here for any length of time knows that if the groundhog sees his shadow, it actually means six more months of unseasonably cold weather until our six hours of summer arrives.

So, once the weather finally does turn to Spring, if you would like to visit Mark Twain’s charming study, where he wrote such fine works as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, it can be found on the grounds of Elmira College at 800 Park Place in Elmira, NY. While there, be sure to also visit the Mark Twain Exhibit located in historic Cowles Hall. Both are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, May 1 through Labor Day. They are closed Sundays and school holidays. In the fall, the study is open Saturdays from September until mid-October from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. To visit at other times, call 607-735-1941 for an appointment.

P.S. Actually, I jest about him having been duped by the groundhog. The first Groundhog’s Day took place on February 2, 1887… so he was married 17 years too early to have had fair warning about Finger Lakes weather.

Originally published in February 2018 in Beyond the Nest‘s free weekly newsletter of Arts, Culture and Recreation in Greater Rochester, and beyond.  Click here to sign up to receive it.