Kiss your toilet paper goodbye.

Like so many people in my age group I’ve barely gone anywhere this year. Oh, I’ve ordered groceries on-line to pick up at Krogers. I’ve been to the pharmacy and the health food stores. I’ve visited, masked, with a few friends outside and at distance. It’s neither news nor unexpected that now, when states have started to open up, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again thanks, in part, to so many refusing to follow the safety precautions.

Me? I’ll stay isolated as much as possible. Most of us elderly folk remain cautious. I don’t mind being secluded for, well, for as long as it takes. I’ve always been a loner so staying behind my closed doors isn’t difficult.

Early on in this siege I busied myself cleaning kitchen cupboards inside and out, clearing closets, tossing old files, gardening with more enthusiasm and more free time than in recent years, burying my nose in books, and binge-watching Netflix and BritBox series. Um, and I’ll admit to watching hours of dog and baby videos too.

The one thing I haven’t done that I always longed to have the time to do is write. This is my first post here since August 2019. I’ve done very few posts on my other blog either — “Dementia isn’t funny” — because I haven’t been able to visit the reason for my blog, my husband Peter. He still keeps the funny in our lives, even though we’ve lived apart ever since I had to move him to a memory care facility two years ago.

During this virus-enforced confinement — in my case solitary confinement — I haven’t worn my pajamas until noon, left messes throughout the house, or eaten popcorn three meals in a row. I do, however, kiss my toilet paper while it’s on the roll! Heck, no one is coming to visit so who’s to know I blot my lipstick without tearing a square off? That 4″x4″ bit of tissue does double duty. Thrift in in a time when hoarders control the supply.

Grandma was putting on her makeup in the bathroom. Her little granddaughter watched her as she often did. After Grandma put her lipstick on she started to leave the room. “But Grandma, wait, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper goodbye,” she said.

I’ve never been much of a shopper, but I do enjoy a TJMaxx fix every few weeks. With shopping not even pencilled in on my calendar these months, I’ve scratched that itch by shoe-shopping on Their free returns and easy return process makes it a pleasure. Other online retailers would do well to follow their example.

Since late April another kind of shopping binge kept me occupied: dog shopping. Our Nobby died last December and it was spring before I could think about another dog. I’ve shopped on-line until my eyelids drooped. Adopt a Pet, PetFinder, local SPCAs and Angels of Assisi all know my name, but that’s a post for another edition. Let’s just say it’s a tale with a happy ending.





2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 


An admiring…blog?!

Time flies. Today is September 13, 2014. Already! We’re not quite two weeks into the month, but Labor Day might as well have been months ago instead of just twelve days.

What is that?

Is it age? Is it the way we live these days? Is it all the electronic wizardry we’re beholden to that makes everything instantaneous and time fly?  Whatever it is, I really hate it.

Screen shot 2014-09-13 at 8.30.46 AM

Twelve months, 365 days, 46 posts and 26,144 words later, I’m still here. Blogging activated my previously sluggish creative juices so that ideas tumble around in my head like clothes in the washer, while bad ideas still clonk annoyingly as if they were coins in the dryer.

On this date a year ago, I clicked “publish” and sent my very first post, “We’ve arrived and to prove it, we’re here”  out there, into the great wherever!  My heart pounded and I was so light-headed I thought I would faint. Terrifying and satisfying, at the same time.

A couple weeks later I was almost blasé about the publishing process. And, if you had peeked in my window on October 6 you would have seen me doing the happy dance because my seventh post, “Nasturtiums askance,” was accepted to the Erma Bombeck Workshop site. Since then ten more have been published there.

Last month, I jumped into the deep end of the pond and started another blog, “Dementia isn’t funny.”

What was I thinking?

Are you thinking, La-dee-whoopin’-dah?  Just who does she think she is anyway? Lots of people, millions of people, write blogs, multiple blogs, and they have a lot more followers than she does.

Well, fifty-three years before I was born, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) summed me up in eight lines and forty-two words, in what has always been one of my very favorite poems. This is who I am:

I’m nobody!  Who are you?
Are you — nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise — you know!

Screen shot 2014-09-09 at 12.26.51 PMHow dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Blog Bog!



Mma’s No. 1.

Don’t let title fool you. This isn’t the first in my African Safari series, but the seventh. (Click on “Contents” above to link to earlier posts.) My title is a nod to the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Friends urged me to read them before we went to Botswana. He’d only written six at that time and I feasted on them, glad for the good advice. They are lovely books, charming, smile-inducing, each a page-turner but with pleases and thank-yous. There are nine more in the series now, and if you haven’t read them yet, please do, or at least look here.

African Safari – Part Seven

There were no sneaky, soap-eating, four-legged visitors in the middle of our second night at Savuti Camp.  Good thing, because next morning, guide Russell woke us at 5:30! One of the best parts of our days in Botswana was awakening to the pink mornings, soft air, and Russell’s cheery, “Morning, morning, Judy and Peter.”  We had a clock, but part of a guide’s job is to “sweep” the area surrounding each tent before guests step outside…sweep for animals, that is.

We were to head to Linyati Camp within the hour and by 6:30 Russell herded the seven of us into the Range Rover and headed out on the long game drive.

In spite of my pre-trip ranting, I loved everything about the trip so far, but that drive and the subsequent three days were the No. 1 best.


Peter relaxes.

When we rolled into the camp, I knew this was The Place. The tents were the faded darkgreen I’ve always associated with camps in New York’s Adirondack Mountains or the Canadian wilderness.  They were spare — two cots, chest, bucket shower, ewer and bowl, toilet. On the little porch overlooking the Linyati River, two folding chairs.  By the way, none of the camps had electricity though they had generators for occasional use, nor were there phones, ready access to emergency aid, or even roads. We bumped along rutted tracks, or made our own paths.



xxxxxxxMma’s No. 1 favorite camp.


The camp’s look was shabby chic meets African bush, and we met the real deal in Max, Jinx, and Pauline. Camp Director Max was “Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.”  Traditionally-built Pauline, “Precious Ramotswe.”  Jinx, definitely a “Charlie.” (You really must read McCall Smith’s books.)

We arrived at tea time. “Oooh, redbush tea?” I asked, gushing hopefully.

Max smiled. “No such thing, Mma,” he said. “You’ve been reading ‘those’ books, haven’t you?”

I nodded. According to Max, the tea the author dubs “redbush” actually comes from a broomlike plant in the legume family, “rooibus.”  I smiled at Max and kept my convictions to myself.

Pauline turned out meals with whatever “the trucks, they brought, Mma.”  Apparently, even with the relative luxury the camps provided, food supplies arrived only occasionally. The ladies created meals with whatever was at hand — maybe enough caulfilower to feed an army for a week, or three fresh, local tilapia.


xxxxJinx calms.

Jinx, a lively young man, was “on loan” from an elephant camp where he was a mahout.  Yes, there are camps where game drives are on the back of an elephant rather than in a Range Rover!  Jinx lived up to his name. He danced wildly to a beat only he could hear, creating his own version of lyrical rap as he went.  A huge talent with big plans. I attempted to stay in touch, but mail delivery was awful at best.



xxxAgeless Max.

Max, so polite, so quiet, always had a tiny furrow in his brow. When I asked, he said he was worried and he missed his “beloved.” The camps are normally run by husband/wife teams, but he didn’t have enough pula (money) yet to buy the five cows her father required. Later, I asked Max how old he was. He looked young, but he was cloaked in “old.”  He thought for a while, brow wrinkled even more, and I apologized for asking such a personal question.  “Oh no, Mma, not personal, but I’m not sure my age. We don’t keep track. I think…28 or 29 years…or maybe 31.”

I like that culture!

Later I learned that just as age isn’t an issue, neither is temperature. The day is hot or not hot.  They don’t have thermometers, because what can you do? Nothing.

Africa-Jo'burg to Tubu - 268

If there ever was doubt about Russell’s reputation amongst Botswana guides, this fellow, left, proved the point. He’d driven miles out of his way for advice. Russell used his “map in the sand” to answer the question. Kate, standing, learns too, but Pauline, in back, rushes off, “Never to be photogaphed, Mma.”


Everyone turned in early.  As always, Peter was asleep instantly, but I sat up, listening to the night. There was a frisky wind blowing and the tent flaps beat an exuberant rhythm. Between gusts, I could hear a steady chomping sound. I could just make out a low, rounded, refrigerator-lying-on-its-side shape at water’s edge, six feet from our porch.

Hungry hippo, I finally decided. The chomping continued, lulling me to sleep.


Africa-Jo'burg to Tubu - 272_2

xxJust to the right of Peter is the “salad bar” where the hungry hippo munched in the night.





Words count. Socks, too.

Have I missed a January blog?  [Become! Believe!] seems to have been the last of the last, or have you problems you’ve not told me about which are holding up the flow? No secrets, please — we need each other, my friend.” This, yesterday in an email from my dear “pen pal” Jean in Australia.

Yes, I’ve problems I’ve not told her about, and the reverse is probably true for her too.

My days fly by so quickly that I didn’t realize it’s almost mid-January and I haven’t written one blogging word. I’ve been fogged in, but to paraphrase myself, “Wherever I went, here I am now.”

Jean and I, and husbands Steve and Peter, met on an Alaskan trip in 2006. We bonded at once. Though Jean and Steve have lived in Australia for forty-some years, they’re still English subjects, as is Peter who has lived in this country fifty years.

DSC08077_2Jean and I decided we would be “pen pals.” But when I returned  from Alaska I started sending emails to Steve’s computer, knowing Jean didn’t have one. She hated the idea of typed letters, snail or email. Wasn’t too long before she was a convert. She even got a laptop — “machine,” she calls it —  for Christmas.  

We’ve had a spirited correspondence ever since, all of which I’ve saved to Word files, some 1132 pages, 654,648 words. That’s two to three John Grisham novels’ worth! We think we’re going to collaborate on an epistolary book one day, though neither of us  likes reading them!

We share funny stories, talk about our travels, favorite books and movies, and our love of ballet and gardening.  We often bemoan the fact that we don’t even live in the same hemispheres, much less the same country, state, or neighborhood!

My friend is a woman who knows her mind. She’s a gourmet cook, a stitchery whiz, a master of beautiful wrappings and card-making, a gardener, a creative soul with a wicked sense of humor.  We’re a lot alike, except, well, I just put food on the table, avoid even sewing on a button, and can’t wrap a package prettily to save myself.  I can type really fast though, while she hunts and pecks.

While on a trip to New York City a few years ago, Jean and daughter Karen traveled out of their way to visit us, and I’d hoped Peter and I could’ve gone to Australia to visit them by now.  But Steve has had health issues for several years, and Peter’s failing memory is pushing him downhill like an avalanche shoving a snowman. Steve has soldiered on, stiff upper-lipped through all, but these days Peter is only occasionally his former self.

Jean and I prop each other up remotely, more than ten thousand miles and sixteen hours apart. We rant, we moan, we cry, we laugh, we feel better, we get on with our lives. So her questioning me about “the flow of my blogs” and her warning, “no secrets, please,” prompted a 4000-word, eleven-page email.  I’d hardly been in touch at all since well before Christmas.

With that email sent, I resolved to write a new blog post…after I made the bed and did a tidy-up. It was 11:15 Friday morning. I neatened my underwear drawer too — yeah, I know — and considered my socks before returning to my desk.

The last time I straightened my closet, seven years ago, I’d told Jean about it.  We were still getting acquainted electronically when I wrote: “I think you’ll identify with this. I’m a really tidy, organized person for the most part, and I know you are too.  Even the junk drawer in my kitchen gets cleared out often, the bits, segmented into trays.  Well, recently I decided to tackle my dresser drawers.  I started with the one filled with pantyhose. I culled ruthlessly and found some I hadn’t worn since I “dressed for success” in suits more than nineteen years ago — navy, which I no longer wear at all, dark thick ones for upstate New York winters, frog belly-pale sheers that have been out of style for how long?  Eight packages had never even been opened!  In all, I had seventy-nine pair of pantyhose, only twenty-four of which I kept.  Most of those I’ll never wear since I hardly ever get dressed up enough anymore to need them.”

OK, whew, just seventy-two more words and I’ll have fulfilled my resolution to bring my blog into the new year.

Now I can go upstairs to introduce my new “Happy Socks” to my boring socks. I bought four pair recently. Their vivid polka dots and stripes are brilliant, ecstatic, deliriously joy-making!  My feet needed the fun and so did the rest of me.

I hope your new year is as bright as my new socks.