IMG_4589This is me on a typical Monday morning, hand over my eyes, pretending I don’t have to get up and begin again pushing that workweek rock uphill.

Not really.

This is an orangutan I took a picture of last week when I went to the zoo again, only this zoo was the famous zoo in San Diego.

San Diego!


Is there a more beautiful spot on the continent? It mists up at night, just enough to keep the grass green, then, and then, like in Camelot, the moisture lifts come dawn and you have a sunny day whose colors seem to come right out of an artist’s palette.

They don’t though; the colors are real. Look at this view out our hotel room window; it’s looks like a watercolor, right?


We did a lot in San Diego, even though we were there for only two full days. We went to spend time with our beloved older brother and his husband,

toby & rusty

…in the Ocean Beach section of San Diego where they live, walking and eating great food at the Organic food co-op and Ranchos Cocina, and – of course! – going out onto the very long pier where people still fish for the dinner while 70 feet below crazy people in wetsuits surf the giant waves.

There’s more to say about the trip, but one thing I know I ‘ll remember is how I walked down Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach and met a woman about my age with dreadlocks, who held a sign reading: “Dirty Jokes: 25 cents each.” I wish now that I’d sprung for a couple. I do admire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Well more later about this Camelot. Until then let me rise up from my monkey-nap and keep on working. Just a day-and-half left to the workweek NOW!


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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in humor


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Bubbles, Baths & the Pearly Gates

heavens-pearly-gates-23869764On a rainy night with the scent of the wakening earth filling the air, I drove to a dinner where I found myself seated beside an elderly gentleman with dark and shining eyes.
After we had performed the small unfurling ceremony of the napkins, he turned to me with a pleasant look.

“And so,” he said, “What have you been doing here on earth?”

What?” I thought. “Who was this, St. Peter come down to do an early audit on me?”

At first my mind reeled back to the time I was three and used my nap to do the wallpaper over in a bright Crayola rainbow; and also the time I got expelled at age seven for incorrigible whispering.

“Do you mean what has my WORK been?“ I finally said, since Americans all think that their work is who they are.

I thought back to the jobs I have held as a swimming counselor, and a lifeguard, as a teacher, and a chambermaid.

And then there has been this decades-long career of writing for publication, which I picture as a kind of mangy tail that I ‘m dragging along behind me, like that super-long scarf I tried to knit in Sixth Grade and had to keep ON knitting because I didn’t know how to finish it.

“Casting off” I think is the term for it. I have never learned to cast off in life.

Yet I knew that none of this is what the man meant. I could tell by his expression.
“Let me put it another way,” he said. “What have you cared about in your time here? What have you loved?”

Stated like that, the question set up in me such a whirring of mental gears that I was struck utterly speechless. Lucky for me, just then the emcee tapped his microphone and began the program.

I was off the hook.

And though the elderly gent and I never did return to the topic, his question remains with me still.

 Now if you thought this was the place where I might go all sublime and send my thoughts soaring into the realm of the angels, well, you’d be wrong.  The things I keep coming back to are more in the realm of the schoolyard. They are that simple.

 So what are they, these things I have loved so much? Well, baths, for starters. I love baths. I love taking baths myself and I love giving baths to little people, who look so much like baby seals with their hair all slicked back you forget they have ears.

Also, bubbles. I love blowing the kind of giant bubble you can make by soaping up one hand, making a fist with it, then slowly opening the fist just enough to see that a pane of iridescence in the nickel-sized opening. I love how you can blow lightly on it and – presto! – make a bright wobbling orb as big as your face.

I love listening to small children and delighting in what they will say.

I think of the time one suddenly said to me “I like your nice fat arms,” or the time another leaned close to her mother in public to whisper, “That poor man has nipples all over his face!”

I love being in the presence of kids generally, no matter what their age or what they are doing, just because they are so funny and honest. I love the way they live in the here and now.

And I think that St. Peter might want me to live like them, open to surprise and delight as they are, with no more thoughts about mangy tails or the casting-off skills I will likely never, ever possess.




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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in humor


“Jameson’s? What’s Jameson’s”

jameson_canister I have always been a frugal person. I have never flown first-class. I have never traveled in the fancy front car on the train where you get free drinks AND snacks AND a fresh copy of the daily paper brought right to you. I have never paid the special fee for the privilege of sitting in those special rooms the airlines provide, where people get the drinks and the snacks and the daily paper while lolling on cushy sofas.

So when, six weeks ago, my husband David and I begin dreaming of a getaway far from all this snow and ice, I went online and found what looked like a decent room in a hotel on St. Thomas.

As I was reading the particulars of the place aloud to him, he said, “Why not just call Scott?,” Scott being the travel agent from The Travel Collaborative used by the company David works for.

So we did call Scott, who looked into his special Travel Agent’s crystal ball and suggested we register at the hotel at the “club level.” It would cost us more up front, but depending on how much we used it, it might…. just….possibly…. end up costing less.

Scott can be pretty persuasive in his own sweet way. He reminded us of how hard the winter had been – poor us! poor us! – and told us how we owed it to ourselves to sign up for this slightly more elevated ‘Club Level’ arrangement.

Twenty-four hours later, with our credit card number duly handed over, he closed with his signature remark. “You kids have fun!” he said.

And by God didn’t we. We flew to the island, bussed to the hotel and immediately upon unpacking went to check out the ‘Club Level Lounge’, where, from noon on, we could get not only free food but also as many servings as we could want of wine, and beer, and rum.

There were, in fact, nine kinds of rum. Nine! Also, tea and coffee. Free for breakfast we could have anything from omelets and bacon to smoked salmon and bagels. And for the day’s two larger meals? Fresh shrimp and cheeses . Soups and fancy wee sandwiches. Fried calamari and salads, and an array of ever-varying cream-infused hot dishes.

Because I am a creature of habit, for the first few days I ate in my usual way, subsisting mainly on feathered celery, cucumber curls, fluted carrot sticks and only sometimes indulging in a bite of calamari, carefully stripping it first of its yummy fried-dough jacket.

Now me, I don’t really like rum, or beer, and for me – eh! – wine is just wine in the end. However also set out every day and free for the taking were: Vodka (Absolut), Gin (Tanqueray), Scotch (Johnny Walker Red) and Jameson’s. 

“What IS Jameson’s anyway?” I asked David on our second night.

“It’s whiskey, dummy. It’s Irish whiskey.”

“Why what at a
coincidence!” I thought. “I’m Irish myself!”

And so I drank me some  Jameson’s, and I LOVED me that Jameson’s, and suddenly I felt a sort of floodgate open in me, such that over the course of next three days I devoured the omelets, the croissants, the pastries and the cheeses, as well as many, many calamari, all still wearing their yummy deep-fried jackets.

It was an experience, all right. And I’m not sure but I think we just MIGHT have beaten the house in terms of value for our dollar.

But now we are home, and both on diets in the hope that we might travel more cheaply again at some future time. Why? Because while we knew the airlines charge for your bags, what we didn’t know is that they charge even more for the added weight of your nice new fat tummy. 

Right now though? Right now all I can think about is the lolling. and the feasting. and the fun. 




Posted by on March 16, 2015 in humor


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Spring (almost)

IMG_4558We had a day of warmth.  

One day anyway.

It was Wednesday.

I brought two of my grandchildren to the zoo near us, a small-scale zoo, easily understood and easy to navigate, like some say the city of Boston is.

One of these two is still in his wheelchair, having RE-broken the leg he broke on January 5th, this time by falling down and twisting it just the wrong way in his very own kitchen. (So close to healed he was! Such a shame!)  And so at the zoo we had a wheelchair and crutches, the three of us. ‘We’ were a seven-year-old, his little sister just turned three and me, a person who after this extremely vivid winter looks every inch her age.

As we studied the lynx and the llama, the tarantula and the monkeys, the seven-year-old insisted on poling along with his crutches over concrete walkways as compromised  by frost heaves as all our roads are. 

So I pushed the wheelchair. which his little sister decided to ride in, everyone under eight casting aside these aids every three minutes  to clamber close to the fences  and TRY to see inside the nostrils of the bison; TRY to grasp the sipping-straw legs of the many flamingoes, those comical birds, dipped in pink-orange dye as they appear to be always. 

And when this happened, I would  be pushing the empty wheelchair while carrying the crutches and their two jackets.

An hour in, the boy with his heavy cast and crutches finally did grow weary. “I think I need the chair now Callie,” he told his sister.

Her face showed her disappointment – of course! I mean who DOESN’T want to be propelled along aloft like this. But his little brother, ever kind, said “You can sit in my lap,” 

So the boy settled in the wheelchair,  I hoisted his little sister up into the chair, balanced the crutches across the top and hung the jackets from the crutches’ two ends.

So the day was tiring, yes, but it sure was fun. We kicked every rotting snowbanks we passed along the pathways, yelling “Die, snow!’ 

The little girl loved the snow leopards best. Pointing to the three heavy rubberized balls set in their environment for them to paw and play with, she told me gravely, “Those are their eggs,” and I wasn’t about to correct her.

The chair lurched at every crack in the concrete and we were all getting tired, but just then an older man appeared who volunteers at the place.

“Which way is out?” I asked him, the grounds having begun to somehow seemed to me less small-scale and easily grasped  than I had thought.

“Follow me,” he said. 

And so we had an escort,

AND the fun of snow-kicking,

AND the sighting of two mammals capable of laying large round  eggs.

It was a a great afternoon, and for one short hour the temperature hit 60.

According to, next Wednesday the day will start out at 17 degrees but we’re getting there, WE”RE GETTING THERE ALL RIGHT …..aren’t we? 




Posted by on March 14, 2015 in family life, humor


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Accept It?

IMG_4431We all gripe but maybe there’s a way to not mind this endless winter and it is this: Accept it.

Look at it this way: Sure there’s always that salt-and-sand mix on the floor by the door, agreed. You track it in on your boots and shoes and every day there’s more of it. Always with the salt and sand by the door!  But what are you gonna do? Sure, you can sweep it up every day and sure, you can put down a mat for those boots and shoes, but mostly things are gonna look a little litter-boxy for a while yet over there by the door. 

Accept that fact. Accept the fact that there’s still treacherous walking caused by the snow and the ice and the slush and the more snow. Over the last few weeks I have seen so many people take that banana-peel-style leap-and-tumble I feel like I’m watching some kind of super-athletic dance company in action. The other day at the grocery store I saw five people on crutches with casts on their legs. Five! And all of them were under 40!

Sometimes it just feels safer to just stay indoors, so accept that fact.

Maybe even try being glad for it. Because when you’re spending more time indoors you have the chance to tidy up a bit.

Take the job of cleaning your closets. People don’t clean their closets in summer. It’s now that we’re moved to do it.  I’ve been cleaning closets myself lately.

 I’ve also been customizing things. Yesterday I dyed a bunch of sad old towels with hilarious results. (Let’s just say it looks like my man will be wearing underpants of a gorgeous sunrise hue for a while.)

And today I began going over letters sent to me by people who have been reading my column all these years. 

I laughed all over again at the one where a woman wrote, in reference to the picture that accompanied my column at that time, “What makes you think you’re so great? Your eyes are beady, your hair is out of style, and your teeth look false.”

After the initial shock, I laughed when I first saw it too. And when I published my first collection of short funny pieces I put that quote right on the back cover where the gushing remarks usually go. 

I took at lightly in other words. I took it with a grain of salt.

Maybe that’s what we all have to do right now. Maybe we have take these snow banks with a grain of salt – and God knows the salt is in good supply. We can just amble over to that spot where our boots and shoes are and take some from there.

As I say, what’re you gonna do?

the above-mentioned blurb , I Thought He Was a Speed Bump

Speed Bump Back Cover closer




Posted by on March 8, 2015 in humor, yay in general


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Forget the Resort Wear

photoFour things I learned on my vacation:

Number One, if you’re not going with another woman, don’t bother bringing a whole lot of clothes. I brought five pairs of pants, seven tops, one of the new floaty cover-ups, two bathing suits, and a pair of shorts. I wore only the bathing suits, the shorts and the cover up, the last of which made me look like Mamma Cass.

I never wore the slacks. What was I thinking, five pairs of slacks in the Caribbean? I did once wear the pair I had travelled in, just that one night when we went to the real restaurant rather than the poolside one.

No, you should only bother about the nice clothes if you’re with your women friends who will appreciate every last stitch and bangle. 

You should totally NOT bother wearing them for your man, who is never going to notice what clothes you have on, but will look at you twice only when the clothes come off.

A bald assertion but a true one. In my experience. Ahem. 

Number Twohotels have all the white-noise action you need. You really CAN travel without your tiny fan and your whirring white-noise machine. You really can. Terry. 

Number Three, if you’re at a hotel high in the hills where you take your life in your hands to travel  by taxi on narrow cliffside roads, you’d better have brought  your book. Or, as my daughter said upon hearing about the place we just stayed at, you’d better really LIKE your book – because your book will be about it unless you are one who can sit in the ocean for hours at a time, letting the surf bat you softly about like a sea anemone.  

Number Four, Yes you can have fun finishing three books and the last six issues of The New Yorker, and yes it’s always satisfying to catch up on a million work-oriented emails while also keeping abreast of events in the whole known world; but if you want your head to really clear, next time, NEXT TIME, sit more in the surf, until  you feel yourself floating like all that nice aquatic plant life.



Posted by on March 5, 2015 in fashions, humor


Funny Lady

ermaLast week, when my birthday rolled around I reflected once again how nice it has been to share the day with one of America’s great humorists. 

At the time of her death, every print and broadcast outlet in the country ran a tribute to Erma Bombeck, the homemaker from Dayton who one day sat down and began sending out dispatches from the front lines of motherhood. The dispatches grew into first a column syndicated to over 900 newspapers and then some 15 books, including the wickedly titled The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.

But as uniformly fond as these tributes were as I reread them online now, many of them read as slightly dismissive, framing her almost as a clever dabbler, a suburban mom who started writing columns as a lark.

As if any writer doing a thing ‘as a lark’ could produce the tightly crafted sketches she was known for. 

As if anyone tossing something off in the odd half hour could describe the child-rearing game the way she did.

She wrote in one column that she once lived in a place so small she had to iron in the baby’s playpen.

She wrote in another that if her kids had looked as good as the kids of her perfect neighbor, she would have sold them.

She spoke about the child who could “eat yellow snow, kiss the dog on the lips, chew gum that he found in the ash tray, but wouldn’t drink from his brother’s glass.”

And then there was the column where she imagined how each of her three kids might someday recall her: Her first-born would think of her as “the slim dark-haired mom who used to read me stories and paste my baby pictures in the album.” Her second-born would picture “the somber-looking bleached blonde who used to put me to bed at 6:30 and bought me a dog to save on napkins.” And the baby of the family, she wrote, would remember her as “the grayish lady who fell asleep during the 6 o’clock news, and was GOING to display my baby pictures, as soon as she took the rest of the roll – at my wedding.”

She had just that light way of describing time’s effect. But funny as she was, she always told the truth.

She spoke of the feeling that comes to women raising kids in the then-newly fashionable ‘nuclear family’ where a man, a woman and their children went off and lived on their own, sometimes far from all kin.

Her commentary on this new arrangement: “No one talked about it, but everyone knew what it was. It was a condition, and it came with the territory.”

She called that condition ‘loneliness.’

I found out about this loneliness when I left my job teaching to care for my own small children. In their baby years, I would stuff them into coats and snowsuits and push, or walk, carry them – somewhere – anywhere I might find another woman in another house trying to do the hardest job on earth all by herself.

But when those babies napped? When they napped, I’d kick the toys under the couch and begin to read and read, looking for something I could not name – until one day in my daily paper I met the writer who would show me what I most wanted to do in life.

Erma wrote a column every week for 32 years. 

By now I’ve been writing one for 35 years – and with every passing birthday I think what a privilege it has been to follow in her footsteps, recording life as we really live it and celebrating its vicissitudes.

the calm before the boy child

this was us in 1980, before the final child come and broke the snoozy,two-little-girls peace



Posted by on February 27, 2015 in family life, humor, yay in general


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Something Like a Storybook

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A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

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Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!


Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

Something Like a Storybook

Where Morgan Bradham shares.

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.


A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!


Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat


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