Travel on a root canal.

The grocery is not a destination I choose willingly. I’d rather go to the dentist for a root canal. The dentist offers lidocaine, but there is nothing to numb the pain of grocery shopping.

Now, though, on-line shopping is coming to a grocery near me. Will I use it? I don’t know. There are passwords and IDs involved. I’ve pooh-poohed most modern day techno-advancements — dial telephones, electric typewriters, computers, cell phones, programmable appliances, smart phones…. I don’t take kindly to change, and I’m a real spaz with my phone.

Ordering groceries on-line is a new wrinkle in the old fabric of catalog and Amazon ordering: you make out an orderselect a pick-up timesomeone shops for you, you drive to the store at the designated time, your purchases are loaded into your car. But, you still have to unload at home, lug everything inside and  put it away.

Instead of scribbling your needs on the back of an old envelope the way your  mother did, you select them from what looks like a child’s picture-book page, and if you want something unusual, you type it in — black olives stuffed with crunchy peanut butter, for instance.

Many things I buy are spur o’moment, not really a good idea, I know. Will the assigned shoppers know I have a hankering for a bag of peanut M&M’s? Or a pomegranate? Or how about black rice? No, they will not. With this new scheme I’ll have to “pre-know” that I might want a pomegranate and put it on my list.

Leslie and her friend Kenna mentioned seeing people do their weekly shopping while consulting a list on their smart phones. They don’t, they said, and neither do I. I carry a printed list I devised, that groups items according to the way the store is organized: deli, produce, meat, dairy, and so on.

This new enterprise is almost ready to go locally, and now a large section of the store has been re-dedicated. They’ve reorganized merchandise, and shoved shelves closer. The aisles are way too narrow. I experienced a traffic jam in the pasta and other “foreign foods” lane last week. It took about four minutes to clear — four minutes longer than I wanted to spend in a place where I hate to go.





Grandma can tell you where to go.

A map and sometimes step-by-step directions are all I ever need to get where I’m going. I don’t need to know where I am on the globe, nor to listen to an uppity woman tell me which way to turn. Generally, once I’ve been someplace I can find my way there again if I need to. Incessant yakking from the bowels of my dashboard confuses me.

We were just going to Lowe’s, for heavens sakes. My car could drive there by itself. But, as I backed out, the harridan ordered, “Go right one block. GO RIGHT ONE BLOCK.” I could hear echoes of my mother calling long ago, “Judith Ellen, come home, come home right now!

I went the way I needed to go. “Recalculating,” cranky-voice said. She was frowning, I know.

“Might be fun to go wherever she says,” I said to my husband.

“How does she know where we’re going?” he asked. He didn’t know himself anymore, he just goes along for the ride.

“She doesn’t know! I didn’t even turn the darned thing on,” I grumbled. “And I don’t need her to tell me anyway.” I continued south and at every intersection she yelled, “Turn back now.” When I didn’t obey, she recalculated very grudgingly.

The  tirade continued until we got to Lowe’s, then she shut up. Not another peep, not then, nor on the way home. I’ll bet she forgot to sprinkle a trail of bread crumbs and couldn’t find the way herself.

I laughed the next morning when I saw this “Speed Bump” strip in The Roanoke Times. That’s my kind of message, homey and welcoming! There’s probably a rhubarb pie cooling on the windowsill.

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Oh ho, oops, apologies are in order. Karen Jacobson isn’t a harridan at all, in fact she’s very talented and funny. Watch this:


Thanks to Dave Cloverly for permission to use his 4/10/16 strip
Thanks also to Sunrise.


Seven miles isn’t far to go.

UnknownGoing to Lowe’s isn’t as exciting as our travels of years back, but it is only a seven-mile trip. We’ve reached the stage where  things are falling apart around our house. After eighteen years, it’s surprising more things haven’t quit. Yesterday’s adventure was necessary.

We remodeled our kitchen within months of moving in. All. New. Appliances. Yesterday the oven’s light bulb blew. That it lasted so long is amazing! The appliance bulbs prescribed in my dog-eared manual are no longer “appliance” bulbs, and they’re not stocked with all the other bulbs. Now they answer to “multi-use,” but if you don’t know that you have to find someone to ask.

Mayor+Lt+Gov+Elect+Newsom+Attends+Lowe+Store+0eHmL2Z3OmolI found a pleasant, red-vested Lowe’s associate who confessed he was “new,” but said, “I’ve worked in the gardening center for years. They moved me ‘inside’ a few weeks ago. If I can’t find the bulb, I know who to ask,” he said as he toddled down the aisle.

He found Rick. Rick was so nice and able to help me with everything on my list: bulb, Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.56.12 PMthermometer, deflectors for A/C vents, dishwasher and stove specs and prices. In return, I gave him advice on knee replacement surgery, told him what I knew about hip replacement, and recommended surgeons. Win-win.

I needed a thermometer to check the temperature in a room versus what the thermostat said. “Don’t look in the heating and A/C area, look in the birdseed aisle,” Rick said.

I knew our dishwasher was as good as dead and reasonably sure I knew what replacement brand and model I wanted. Rick found my choices on his computer at a better base price that included installation, if I could wait to make my purchase after February 10. I’ll be washing dishes in the sink until then. The door gasket spit out another chunk today. I’ve procrastinated too long.

Our stove also needs a pricey cartridge for the simmer control burners. Way more cost effective to buy a new stove, than to buy more than 500 dollars’ worth of parts and installation. The two-bulb package was a steal at two bucks.

I’d been researching dual-fuel ranges on-line and noticed a lot of them have a “Sabbath Feature.” I questioned Rick who said, “People who aren’t allowed to cook on certain days want ‘Sabbath.’ It locks the stove.”  Sounds like a programming nightmare to me. Why not go out to eat, I wondered?

Our fridge? It has surpassed life expectancy too. And the water-heater, though still functioning well, is older than all our other big ticket appliances.

Oi vey!Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.14.16 PMA woman is looking at new stoves. “Do you have one with a bigger back burner?” she asks. “There’s a lot of stuff I can’t deal with right now.”


Helloo-o-o, birdbrain!

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Walking along briskly early this morning, I heard a bird call, an almost human-sounding whistle. Wheeee whoo wheeee whoo. It seemed to be coming from the tree tops in the little woods I was passing.

Wheeee whooo wheeeee whoooo wheeee whoooo.

On and on it went. Persistent little thing, I thought. Hm, so persistent, I realized, that it couldn’t be a bird. Probably a car alarm, I decided, although it was too pleasant a sound for an alarm…

Oh-h no, who’s the bird brain? It was my phone which I carry in my pocket on my walks as dictated by my daughters. As I walked, listening intently to the “bird,” I missed a call that I only just now remembered to check, a call I didn’t want to miss. Nuts.

So now my ringtone is a “classic” that sounds just like the phones I grew up with:
ring-g, ring-g, ring-g, ring-g.

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‘The Dodo’ drawing, Birdadorable Bonanza, 2009
Cartoon, Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2011

Turn the other cheek.

Electronic devices with beeps and blinking lights and cables baffle me.Screen shot 2015-04-28 at 11.41.38 AM Lead me to a cave. I’ll carve my messages on rocks.

Take my new smart phone, for instance. True, my ancient fliptop was beyond help, but did I really need a so-called “phone” that reports on the stock market, takes my pulse, lets me send texts, emails, and question an otherworldly woman who doesn’t know the answers either? I can take photos with this “phone,” read a book or a map, listen to music, play games, get a weather report and watch a movie. The “phone” part of the phone seems incidental.

No one calls me.

My technical advisors — family — insisted it was time. So I bought a phone that seldom rings, and when it does I’m not sure how to answer it. Son-in-law Martin called a few days ago. “Hello,” I said to no one there. Three more calls and we finally connected. Martin thought something was wrong since I never call him and I’d rung so many times. I said I was returning his calls.

He laughed. “Oh, must’ve been ‘butt dialing.'”

Ack, really‽

That same evening, our blank t.v. screen advised that our service was down. I’d figured that out because the screen was…um…blank. I called help and after intense questioning to identify myself and our equipment — think CIA interrogation — the young woman instructed, “Unplug the cable box from the power source.”

I followed the cable to the power strip. Done!

“Now, what is the bar code number on the back of the box?”

I couldn’t see a bar code. “Where would it be?” I asked.

“Upper right,” she said.

“Nope, nothing there.” I recited all the numbers I saw, but none was right.

I should say here, that the floor behind our t.v is a nest of cables that coil around each other in an incestuous stranglehold.  As I studied the entwined mess I realized I had not only unplugged the wrong box, but I was looking for numbers on the wrong box too.

I explained what I’d done. “Sorry,” I said, “but you should see what I’m dealing with here!” My laugh was hysteria-tinged because now I was wedged between wall and t.v., sitting in a nest of dust bunnies. Getting out would not be pretty.

She giggled. “No problem,” she said. “Let me know when you’ve found the bar code number.”

“Bingo,” I yelled.

“Now tell me what you see on your screen.,” she said.

“Hang on while I crawl around to the front.”

She explained the next steps as patiently as I hope she would explain to her own grandmother — service reconnecting, channels reloading, etc. “Wait fifteen minutes before trying to select a channel,” she reminded, then bid me good night.

Next day, Bill, my husband’s companion, arrived to take Peter and Nobby to their weekly therapy dog, nursing home visit. Bill and I chatted while we waited for Peter. Repetitive beeps came from behind Bill, but he wasn’t “pocket dialing,” no,  he was leaning against the stove’s set-timer button.

A while later — I knew it was only mid-afternoon — when I looked at the stove’s clock it read 6:15. Apparently Bill had “turned the other cheek” when he moved to the left, and in the doing had set the clock several hours ahead. This without a phone in his pocket! What a guy.

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© Johnson 6/12, UFS, Inc





Don’t go where I’ve been!

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‘The Scream’ detail. Edvard Munch, 1853.

Paint March ominous gray pierced with crimson lightning. Color me lost: In March I lost my peace of mind, my self-confidence and, I feared, my identity. Gone, too, are convenient passwords, bank and credit card accounts, computer back-up, and any hope of nightmare-less sleep.

But I gained even more faith in family, friends, and technical helpers, all of whom pushed, prodded and guided me patiently out of the scam I fell for. Trite sayings flitted across my short-circuited brain: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” for instance.

Had I become complacent believing Apple products are inherently safe from nefarious scum who prey on gullible folk? Yes, I panicked when the Apple-looking warning appeared after I’d Googled “punctuation.” Something so innocent as quotation marks, for heavens sakes, and bam I was sucked in.

I won’t glorify with too much detail here in case the evil-doers are lurking in the closet or behind one of the icons on my desktop. But please, do not call even if the number appears to be your computer company’s; do not listen to barely intelligible techno-babble and let them convince you that your computer has fallen victim to a virus; do not permit them take over your computer to get rid of the gremlins; and do not sign up for lifetime service for any device you buy for the rest of your life no matter how good it sounds.

The dastardly deed was so easily done and so frustratingly difficult to undo. Leslie and Martin had my back, literally and figuratively, within an hour of learning what I’d allowed to happen. Carolynn propped me up long-distance, and Joanne listened to me rant, as did Jean, halfway around the world. Peter even doled out hugs and cups of tea although he couldn’t grasp what had happened to my computer, nor can he even turn on his own laptop anymore.

It took two weeks to change accounts, passwords and IDs, and many nail-biting nights trying to think what else I should change, protect, close, delete.

I spent days on the phone with a very patient senior technician at Apple. I bought a new router and modem. And then, when my ancient cell phone finally fizzled, I gave in and bought a smart phone, yet another technical gadget to outsmart me daily.

With the back-up restored I was home free, wasn’t I? But when the auxiliary devices were replaced the computer could no longer talk to them, and  I hadn’t a clue how to fix that. Gone were iTunes, iDVD, Netflix, Pages, Keynote, even my printer.  Martin to the rescue. Again.

Now, shrieking threats from the #*!≠¡ scammers interrupt our evenings, and I could write a Thesaurus entry with the list of names I’ve called myself…and them. Find me under “bird-brained.”

This whole techno-upset was about the worst thing that has ever happened to me, or maybe I’ve forgotten all the other bad stuff. I’m sure my age exacerbated my frustration and embarrassment.

Oh, we had other problems this month too — another sewer clog, frozen pipes twice — but although those still aren’t resolved, they are nothing compared to being scammed. This was a month I won’t forget and one I don’t want to remember.

March madness redefined.


Hostess gets the ‘ho ho’s’

There’s a first time for everything. Ah yes, I remember the days when, if you wanted a table in a busy restaurant, the hostess would write your name on a pad, tell you how many minutes you’d have to wait, and point you towards a comfortable sitting area.

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 11.32.06 AMThen along came those annoying buzzer things to hold or stick in your pocket. They resemble something from “Star Wars.” Scare the bejesus out of you when they buzz.

Now there’s a newer twist. The technology that arrived with iPhones and iPads usurped buzzers. Where have I been you’ll ask? Hm, well, locked in my own little world still using a landline, and neither twittering, tweeting, nor texting. I do have a cellphone, but it’s only for emergencies, my emergencies. My immediate family and one or two friends have the number. Phone’s seldom turned on though.

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 12.15.29 PM

Even if an iPhone cost $3.50, I wouldn’t want one.

Recently we went to a new restaurant within walking distance from home. I gave the hostess our name, told her there would be four of us. She asked for my phone number. I considered lying since it was obviously a marketing ploy — get our number and hound us with phone calls. But I gave it to her and prepared to wait. Not minutes, mind you, but an hour — an hour until we were seated, and forty minutes until we got the pizza we’d ordered the instant we sat down. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, when Leslie and Martin arrived I mentioned I’d had to give our phone number. Leslie burst out laughing. “You gave them your home number, didn’t you, Mom?” Her laugh bounced off the high ceilings.

“Well, she asked for my phone number” I huffed. “I don’t give my cell number to just anyone, you know.”

My daughter knew without asking that I didn’t even have my cell phone with me. She explained restaurants nowadays want your cell number to alert you, especially when there are a lot of people waiting to be seated. By this time there were at least twenty-five people standing around, and as many more walked out when they heard how long the wait time would be.

“I’m standing right here. If she calls our name, I’ll hear her…” Leslie started to interrupt, with a comment about my hearing I was sure, so I amended my words to, “…I’ll read her lips.”

“What if you decide to go shopping down the street?”

“If I wanted to go shopping, I’d go shopping. I wouldn’t be standing in line here…” I spluttered. “And, no, I don’t want a smart phone so a hostess can call me to say my table is ready when I’m standing two feet away!” Oh yes, I was on a toot.

“Other people like the convenience,” my daughter argued.

“‘Convenience’ would be getting seated in a restaurant in a reasonable amount of time, without benefit of a phone call,” I grumbled.

“Sorry, Mom, but you’re out of touch.”

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 12.03.53 PM

At least I’m not as out of touch as my grandparents who refused to have a telephone at all. “If someone wants to talk to me,” Granddad said, “they can come to the door. We’ll set on the porch and we’ll talk.” 

My mother was as frustrated with her parents as my daughter is with me.

2014: a backward glance.

Compared to other bloggers, my piddly fifty-seven posts in eighteen months don’t amount to much. Some bloggers post five to ten times a day! 

Of my thirty-five posts last year, “We may or may not remember” (May 9) had the images-3most views. And on the busiest single day, February 6, sixty-nine people viewed “Elephants and lions, oh my.” The post most commented upon was “What new car smell?” (April 14). I learned these and other statistics thanks to the WordPress 2014 Annual Report. Who knew statistics…numbers…would be a barometer for my writing?

There are various ways to find any blog, and my readers found me primarily via Facebook, MailYahoo, and webmailComcast. One connection thrilled me beyond measure —, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop site. Editor Terry Rivzi published the eight posts I submitted from October 2013-14. Each time, I happy-danced around the house, hooting and hollering as if I were at a Virginia Tech football game, score tied, two seconds on the clock, inches-to-goal, VT’s ball.

A month before I published my very first post, September 13, 2013, I submitted three draft ideas to the writers’ critique group I belong to. Their enthusiasm encouraged me. I floated out of the meeting with Andrea who had two successful blogs running already.  She asked what my goal was —recognition, readership, awards, writing for the sake of writing? Easy answer — to write regularly and to be published. I knew that putting myself out there would keep me writing. And it has. I’m obsessed!

My most active commenters last year — CJ, Carolynn, Leslie, Linda, Andrea, and Joanne — brightened my days with their remarks, as did the others who took the time to read, write, and follow.

I’m still feeling my way along this blogging road that, for me, has been a lot like a logging road…bump bump bumpity. Sometimes the bumps are so jarring they bring tears to my eyes and curses to my lips.

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For those who don’t know, WordPress (WP) is a free blog web-hosting service provider owned by Automattic. Their statistics are beyond amazing! For instance, there are nearly 60 million WP sites that receive more than 100 million pageviews per day. This tells you how insignificant my two blogs are in the grand scheme. But I’ve achieved my goals. I’m happy.

Additional WP statistics from 2014 blew my mind: every second, nearly six new posts are published on WP blogs. That averages out to 342 posts per minute, more than 20 thousand per day, some 7.49 million annually. What those figures mean to me is, in a few minutes I’ll click “publish” on this post and I will join five other bloggers that very second, 341 bloggers that minute, to say nothing of the 20 thousand bloggers this day!Screen shot 2015-01-03 at 4.44.54 PM

Even a numbers-hater like me appreciates those kinds of figures!



Knifed and forked.

Screen shot 2014-11-07 at 2.23.10 PMRemember electric knives? They were the go-to present for brides back in the 1960s. As far as I was concerned they were just another gadget to clutter my tiny kitchen, plus cleaning the blades was a pain, and the gadget, like many “tools,” was designed for a right-handed person. That gave lefty-me another reason to dislike it. Electric knife indeed!

The knife ranked right up there with an electric can opener in my estimation. I could open a can way quicker with the old “turn-key” type.

At some point during that decade I was on a quest to find really different present. I went into store that had gift ideas displayed inside the main entrance. And right in the middle of the table was…was it…an electric fork?  I laughed.

“What does it do?” I asked the salesman.

“It heats up,” he said, trying to hide his grin.


“That’s all, it just gets hot.” He laughed with me.

I had better things to do with a hundred bucks than buy a hot fork!

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If this fork is electric, that swan is in for a big surprise! Installation: Swiss artist Jean-Pierre Zuragg, 10/17/14.

My electric knife didn’t last long in my kitchen, but I did use it for non-food related activities over the years. It was great for slicing slabs of foam rubber to make Halloween costumes or new “throw” pillows, and I remember using it to nip errant threads off the edges of tablecloths just before company arrived.

Turns out, though knives for kitchen use were a short-lived fad, medical and forensic science adapted them, in smaller and more refined sizes, for use in operating rooms and morgues. Who knew? Electric knives for home use are now available again for another generation to try and then discard.

Another gadget remotely related to an electric knife is a musical cake slice. I found it on a list of ten weirdest appliances. The thing plays “Happy Birthday,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Wedding March” and “For he’s a jolly good fellow” while you slice the cake. Presumably there’s a way to choose which tune.

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Top ten.

But who am I to laugh? I have a birthday candle holder that plays “Happy Birthday.” Three years ago I couldn’t find it. In a panic I dashed to the grocery and bought another. It wouldn’t be a birthday with out my musical candle.


No laughing matter.