Tonight promises us another beautiful full moon and from where I sit, it has arrived with the best of summer weather. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate it than to wish you a little happiness. The post below is replay of  another of my crazy true stories.  If you were reading in 2012, it’s a rewind. If not, well, it’s new to you. Either way, it can’t help but bring a smile and who doesn’t need more of that???

 

Wishing You Many Years of Continued Sex

Who among us has never been trapped in a cramped meeting spot and tortured to exhaustion by a long-winded speaker? There’s a great rule of thumb when it comes to making speeches:  “The mind will absorb only what the butt can endure.” Too bad so many speakers have never heard of that.

“Under-promise and over-deliver,” is other guidance great speakers will  follow if they really want you to remember their message. But when was the last time a speaker promised you something you’d really like to have?? It happened once in my lifetime.

Imagine 1200 people gathered around their pricey plates of bad hotel food at yet another lengthy banquet at a three-day convention. A full slate of speakers has already coaxed and cajoled, enticed and entertained them into a coma. Enter a polished young woman who speaks from her heart and charms them back from their carb-induced stupor with a few short and refreshing remarks punctuated with authentic enthusiasm.  They applauded her as a fresh, pure face among the parade of endless reports and shameless self-promotions.

“Always leave them wanting more,” advised legendary showman Walt Disney. And she did.  She surveyed her audience from the podium, summoned her most engaging smile and concluded by saying: “I wish you many years of continued success!”

The words hung in the air. A titter swept out from the center of the crowd like a nuclear blast until the whole room exploded in laughter. I’m not sure how often any of us get blessings from speakers that are really worth the anticipation but she had generated one that night.

After a whole  year of special appearances, of meeting and greeting the media and legislators alike, and after speaking to more than 200 audiences, she had finally hit on the phrase for which she is now best remembered. She had indeed left them wanting more with just one small slip of the tongue: “I wish you many years of continued sex.”

When the dust had settled and the crowd had calmed down, she outstretched her arms and laid her head down on the lectern.  What more could she say. Nothing, as far as a the crowd was concerned, and lots of people left the room smiling that night.  And many were smiling again in the morning. Ah, the impact of a powerful thought.

The critical financial reports of the convention were quickly  forgotten and the high-powered keynote’s name was gone in an instant. But convention goers will no doubt return again in hopes that another banquet speaker will again wish them something that they really want: many years of continued sex.

It’s makes a wonderful story, I know, and you’re wondering… But it’s also a tale too tall not to be truth.  It happened as reported and I  know it– because that speaker was my 19-year-old daughter.

If summer had a theme song, it would have to be this: Are We There Yet. It doesn’t matter if you are headed to the beach for a week’s vacation, to the water park for the day or just to the ballgame for the afternoon, travel time will never pass fast enough for someone in your car. Otherwise games like punch bug would have never been invented.

My favorite are-we-there-yet memories involve an annual July migration to Wildwood Crest, NJ, for an entire week of family vacation. For many summers, that included my great-grandmother and my maternal grandparents as well. Like true pioneers, we would strategize for weeks, pack our supplies carefully and set off in a caravan before the sun was up. Our wagon was a Mercury with real fake wood-grain paneling on the sides. The back seats folded down to make room for all kinds of exciting things like rubber horseshoes, an inflatable giraffe and an aluminum jug of lemon blend.

I was an only child so my most vivid summer memories involve traveling only with adults. My own children remind me constantly that I don’t have a real handle on travel reality without having been strapped in the backseat with a sibling. Regardless, the beach trip was the one time a year I was allowed to travel as a potential human projectile and could lie down in the back on a faded blanket somewhere among the grocery boxes. The route to the beach in those days never involved any type of four-lane highway. Racing along the open stretches of Route 30 at 45 miles an hour was our honored pilgrimage.

Say what you want about embracing change or keeping life exciting by trying new things but the truth is, kids like the predictability of routine. It makes them feel more in control of their circumstances and when it comes to an important ritual like vacation, it sweetens the anticipation.

Over the years, my parents learned to minimize my are-we-there-yet inquiries by capitalizing on routine; we noted our vacation travel landmarks. The first one was only 30 miles from home. Next came the drive-in theater; I was 14 before I ever saw a movie on a giant outdoor screen so that concept was always full of intrigue. Next, we kept an eye out for the house that was shaped like a giant shoe.

By the time we had been on the road for nearly three hours (or three days, depending on who you asked), our first official stop was always for a slice of warm shoe fly pie with real whipped cream in a restaurant shaped like a giant windmill. Not only was having dessert for breakfast an unheard of treat in the 60s, the whole idea of stopping at a restaurant, period, was huge for a middle class family that had saved all year to afford seven days in the sun and sand. I always had a tough time managing to squirrel away some of my allowance money for vacation and a tougher time yet not spending part of it right out of the chute on some tourist-themed chatski from the Dutch Haven gift shop.

Route 30 took us right into Delaware where the next trip marker was a giant clock at the top of a stone tower. Delaware was a short state from a backseat traveler’s perspective and that clock was a literal symbol that enough time had passed that we would soon be entering New Jersey.

Across the state line, we kept an eye out for the giant rocking chair on top of the furniture store knowing that we would be stopping again soon to fill the car’s tank and empty our own. The first step onto a New Jersey roadside made it all real. Even the dirt was different there; it sparkled. Are we there yet always got cranked up into a frantic how much longer as soon as my feet touched that sandy NJ soil. By the time we hit the marsh areas where we could hear the gulls, I knew my real summer had begun.

I think we had a 12-year streak with that same beach trip and it never once occurred to me that a week at Heather Courts where we stayed without air conditioning or a pool or a balcony overlooking the ocean was anything other than a first class vacation. We cooked every meal in our little kitchen and Grandma Bone slept on the pull-out couch. At night we sat on folding chairs on our little slab of concrete in front of our unit and watched the cars travel along Atlantic Avenue and we were happy.

About 10 years ago my husband and I took our kids to Cape May for vacation and we made a stop in Wildwood coming home so I could take a picture. Heather Courts still stood, dwarfed then by the huge hotels built between it and the ocean. En route to the giant rocking chair, I regaled my teenagers with tales of my summer vacations without IPods, pizza or air-conditioned cars. I realized they had stopped listening long before I had stopped talking when a bump in the road snapped them both out of their snooze. The gap of generations was instantly bridged by my old music; they awoke mouthing that same summer theme song: Are we there yet?.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 22, 2014

Where Have All the Teaspoons Gone? – a question from Mitchell Kyd

I-know-where-my-youthWe were finally out of clean cups Wednesday so I did the dishes. I am using the same set of flatware I bought before I got married nearly four decades ago. It was a dainty little Oneida pattern with ivy garland on the burnished handles and now I have a question: where have all the teaspoons gone? Really. I started with 16; I’m down to six. That’s a 62.5 percent casualty rate.

I have a 70-year-old cast iron kitchen sink with no garbage disposal so grinding down the drain is not an option. I never sent real spoons out on picnics or trusted their safe passage in packed lunches. We also never recycled any flatware into trendy wind chimes so — what’s the answer? My mom has been a homemaker for 63 years and she still has all HER teaspoons.

I know where my own youth has gone; I have watched it settle on my hips with only a few blackout years spent in job hell or being caught up in surviving two kids in diapers. I even know where my waistline went. It’s now cowering under my mid-life tattas. But where have my teaspoons gone??? I haven’t a clue.

I raised this question at a formal dinner recently and some new thoughts emerged. The ideas included the sad truth that some spoons just get trashed along with the pudding containers where they scooped their last spoonful. Someone else pointed out that if the dog noses a bowl of cooked oatmeal under the sofa, time leads to a gruel fate as the bowl and spoon become permanently bonded and both are most likely taken directly to the trash to conceal the evidence of a lapse in housecleaning.

I also remember painting a few faces of former bosses on a teaspoon or two and tossing them into the brine of a pickle jar as I learned from that sassy little character from the movie Lilo and Stitch. But that was a long time ago (and besides, they needed to be punished).

During my search and rescue efforts to find my flatware, I did uncover six other foreign spoons, all unique, that matched nothing in my kitchen. I’m sure their original owners have stopped waiting for the phone to ring by now with a promise of their safe return.

I’ve discussed this mystery with enough people to know this is a universal problem. Now here is my proposal:

1. Take your own home inventory to see what you may be missing from your set.

2. Set aside the invasive species that don’t match your pattern and drop them in a zip lock baggie.

3. Carry this baggie with you at all times.

4. Every time you pass another kitchen sink – at a friend’s house, in the office break room, in the house that’s up for sale, drop a mismatched teaspoon on the counter.

5. When you are all out of mismatched spoons, you can take a break until the next new spoon appears in your kitchen drawer.

I really think this could work. I’m sending this directive to 150 people on my distribution list. If we all find new homes for six mismatched teaspoons and also send this note on to just 50 more friends each, we will be putting 45,906 teaspoons back into circulation. At least one of them might be mine. Please call me if you find it. (And if your face was ever in my pickle jar, I do apologize; I’m over it.)

Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 12, 2014

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #44 – Full Moon Quiz

It’s almost here again- full moon! In fact, July brings us another Supermoon when the proximity of the moon’s center to the center of the Earth will make her appear even larger, brighter and more glorious. She’ll be with us for one night only, July 12, 2014. If you read my June post (Full Moon Dancing), you know this is my favorite night of the month. I’m a howler, I admit it, and I’m an enabler when it comes to encouraging others to drop their inhibitions and their skivvies to revel in the moonlight.

The July full moon is also known in folklore as the Thunder Moon, Hay Moon and Buck Moon. That’s  because it falls during a time of increased thunderstorm activity in the Northern Hemisphere, aligns with hay harvest season for farmers and corresponds with the time male deer begin to get their antlers.

The Path Valley Hotel is never at a loss for engaging things to do (i.e. cheap entertainment), so for our Saturday night pleasure,  we’re going to celebrate some ways the moon has insinuated herself into our culture and our memories. Feel free to play along at home! I’m listing 20 moon-related references and giving you the chance to excavate some answers. If you think you have them all correct, send a comment –but please wait until Sunday, July 13th. Don’t spoil the fun for the people who only draw their energy from solar power!

Ready?

1. What was the name of Karen Valentine’s/Karen Field ‘s boyfriend in all the Gidget movies?

2. Three years before Don Henley and the Eagles released their first album, another U.S. Eagle was making world history. What descriptive phrase was this Eagle also known by?

3. If your neighbors are gathered outside your bedroom window waiting to perform a shiveree, you are probably trying to celebrate what?

4. What slang name is often assigned to members of the Unification Church?

5. Named after a Roman goddess, this looks like a big green butterfly but its correct name is  …?

6. What 80′s romantic comedy starred Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Nicolas Cage?

7. Hit single Radar Love came from what 1973 U.S. album release?

8. What best-selling children’s book features a little fruit bat as the heroine?

9. What U.S. hit single includes the lyrics: “Neath the cover of October skies/And all the leaves on the trees are falling/To the sound of the breezes that blow” ?

11. Grease characters Doody, Putzie and Sonny — as well as Mel Gibson playing William Wallace in Braveheart — found this non-verbal communicator the perfect way to send a message of flagrant disrespect. It’s called…?

10. A 2012 U.S. movie release starring Shai LeBeouf showed how Forrest and the Bondurant brothers made a living –and some history– with what home-based business?

12. According to crooner Dean Martin, what’s amore?

13. She is a sister to Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Thin Muffin. What is her name?

14. From the American classic sitcom, what was Jackie Gleason’s famous line when he was upset with his wife?

15. What southern treat is made with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows?

16. What Andy Williams standard was actually launched into Grammy and Academy Award status thanks to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

17. What did George Baily pledge to do for Mary as they were walking home from the high school dance in It’s a Wonderful Life?

18. What native American expression is used in storytelling to describe the long passage of time?

19. In the Dennis the Menace movie. poor Mr. Wilson missed what rare occurrence after waiting 40 years for this special event when Dennis interrupted his garden soiree?

20. Beethoven named it Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor. What is its more popular name?

There you go, kids. Have fun. Or not. However you choose to spend your time, remember to look up at the sky and drink in the beautiful full moon on July 12, 2014. . She’ll be waiting for you.

One of the eternal charms of our little Path Valley Hotel is that nearly everything is authentic to a homey retreat in the woods. You could translate that as rustic. You could also say it’s old. We have our share of closet creaks, the patter of rain in places where there shouldn’t be patter and now, a screened-in porch that is more screened-out.

The carpenter bees and the June bugs have already mapped their routes into the porch with the precision of an air traffic controller. But this story is about what got off the porch.

My tiny house cat, the adorable little waif who used to drape herself across my keyboard during every writing assignment, still weighs less than five pounds but now rules the roost in terms of presumptuous bad attitude. She is in fact, the poster cat for cat haters everywhere. She never purrs and never uses her powers for good, only evil.IMAG0465

One of her annoying habits is using her ninja skills to weave her way through the dogs’ legs to finagle her way onto the back porch. I was running late for an appointment on a recent early morning and was, as my daughter often says, all outtta’ nice when the cat slithered out the back door.  Fine! You can just stay outside today, I remember thinking. I pulled out of the driveway while her little cat face was pressed up against the porch screen with a look of incredulity.

 

My daughter sent a text six hours later: Cat’s goneVisions of coyotes and red fox dining on a rack of little cat ribs put me in high gear when I got home. A sad little meow emanated from somewhere near the porch. There wasn’t any sign of her but the cry was reassuring she hadn’t yet been on the menu.

 

We couldn’t quite follow the sound; it seemed to come from every direction until one of us decided to look up. There, balanced on the spindly top branches of my hemlock tree sat my little hairball; it was clear she had no intentions of coming down on her own. The afternoon was warm and sunny so we gave up our pathetic entreaties for a while and went inside. Two hours ticked by. I went out with the treat bag, then the tuna can. I had no tricks left. I decided then it was probably best that she didn’t make a racket lest she attract unwanted attention and be turned into owl pellets by morning.

 

The next day I called my vet thinking she was would tell me that my cat would come down when she got hungry. No such reassurance. It appears that cats do sometimes get themselves into that kind of predicament with no exit strategy whatsoever. She advised me to call the fire department. Really? I thought that only happened in old 60s TV shows and first grade story books.

 

Here’s what I learned. Fire companies do get calls about this kind of thing often enough that they won’t treat you like a crazy cat lady if you call (at least not while you’re on the phone with them). I had estimated that my cat was 50 feet above ground which it turns out, is too tall for any of the fire company ladders in this end of county.

 

“It’s funny you’re calling now,” said John of the first volunteer fire company that answered my call. “We were just saying that we have never found a cat skeleton in a tree.” Well, yeah. I’m a country girl. I know why that is and there are three reasons: owls, hawks and eagles.

 

By Thursday night, we were into a second day of this catastrophe and facing the first major summer storm of the season. When the skies turned dark and the winds began to blow, her little cat calls turned into full blown caterwauling, a strident and genuine cat scream for help. I stood in the pelting rain until I started to shiver, pleading as I watched her swaying in the topmost branches. The rain continued into Friday. 

 

When I stepped outside Friday morning, I watched a hawk circling my rooftop. I was afraid to call her but she let out a little cry. I don’t know how she survived the night but by Fiday afternoon, she had stopped answering my kitty-kitty calls. I was sick. 

 

As a last attempt, I called my neighbor, a good friend and a roofer. His wife answered and Clint was instantly on his way with his 35-foot ladder. My 50-feet estimate had been pretty close; his ladder was 15 feet short. By this time, the cat had been in the tree for 48 hours. 

 

Two hours, five phone calls, two neighbors and two tree services later, Clint had managed to find a guy with a bucket truck who was willing to come up the rutted lane of the Path Valley Hotel on a Friday night to try and rescue my silly, stupid cat. I sent him up the tree with a pillow case.IMAG0450

 

His bucket towered about the Hotel roof. My neighbors and the rescuer’s wife watched with me from the ground as he plucked that tiny body from the top of the hemlock. He didn’t need the pillow case and I could only hold my breath.  As he approached the ground, he signaled Clint to jump up into the cab of the truck.  A tiny, little fur ball was returned to me, cold and hungry, but not much the worse for her adventure. I cried. (Thank you, Clint, and thank you, Daniel from Barnhart’s Tree Service!)

 

For the first night after her rescue, she attached herself to me like Velcro, purred all night and even followed me into the bathroom so she could wrap around my ankles. CpcuBy day two, she had bounced back completely, refusing any cat food that was not fresh from the can,  swatting at the dogs and crapping right beside the litter pan. It was good to have her home and safe, if only for those first 24 hours. There will be no skeleton in my hemlock tree for now. Next time? I’m not so sure.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | June 14, 2014

News from the Path Valley Hotel: Episode #41 – Full Moon Dancing

Dancing-naked-in-the

We have no ballroom here at the Path Valley Hotel which is one of the things I love about full moon nights. There is absolutely no place inside to be dancing naked. The lure of summer’s lunar cycle demands that we usher our guests out into the moonlight. It will be the single most cathartic moment of their stay. The ridge-runners and the moon howlers already know the power of this primordial abandon. When that luminescent wafer commands the night sky, her cool white rays wake the sleeping parts of us that even the sun can not penetrate.

It will be easy to identify the first-time full moon dancers; they will waste too much time watching to see who might be watching. Their movements will be guarded, nearly non-existent, as they struggle against their own primeval instincts to leave the world behind and accept pure joy as their entitlement.

The rest of us will have dropped our anxiety and our expectations in the pile with our clothes and will not sacrifice one precious moment. We will open our arms, our eyes, and our throats lest a single drop of moonlight splash to the ground and be wasted.

Ten minutes from the Hotel is the perfect spot for beginners’ moon gazing. We will offer a midnight shuttle service if you’d like a view not framed by our exquisite hardwoods;  it is the elixir we serve our guests who need some transition time to be ready for moon dancing.  Broad,  flat rocks cling to the side of the mountain face there where the earth and sky are sewn together. Something in the spot changes the way you breathe, the thinness of the air, the trailing scent of pines or the pffffffttttt of owl wings beyond your range of sight. Even on the warmest nights, gooseflesh rises as you dangle at the Edge of Everything. Moon howling is delicious there, and your song rolls down the mountainside until it is joined by the other wild things, an a cappella celebration of the night. Stay until morning and revel again in a sunrise hand-painted just for you.

Dancing naked in the moonlight is not about releasing pheromones or drawing in a mate.  It is about peeling back the rusty layers of  the you you used to be. Our Hotel guests are encouraged to step outside and be immersed but it’s a solitary revelation.  If you hear my howl rolling down the mountainside, please don’t try to find me. I will be dancing my own version of the  magic dance,  a wild thing in the moonlight.

I’m on the hunt this week for Happy Fathers. That seems appropriate because Sunday is Happy Fathers Day. I know there are lots of them out there; I’ve seen them. If you’re happy and you know it, I hope you hear from Hallmark.

   One of my favorite memories from my old work routines was pulling up beside a man at a stoplight who was obviously having a great time listening to his radio. His lips were moving but it was the shoulder rolls and head bobbing that were the giveaways that he was having too much fun for phone talk. My first thought was Wow! He’s pretty confident to be singing like no one is watching. Then he turned and looked over his  shoulder to his passenger strapped securely in the car seat.  By the time I got stopped beside them, his toddler was into full-blown baby giggles.
   I love it when those things happen!  Those few seconds of peeping in on a young dad’s life warmed my heart for an entire day. It made me wonder how many of those kinds of  gifts we miss, both as bystanders and as the parents who can grab an ordinary moment and juice it up to be  spectacular.
   I was grocery shopping recently and got caught up in the antics of a young family crossing back into the parking lot. The mom was very pregnant and looked a little frazzled. Dad was pushing the cart with a toddler riding shotgun. This dad was singing, too, only this time it was the same three or four bars of a song that sent the kid into hysterics at the end, every time.  “Again!” the kid would squeal. “One more time?” Dad would question before launching into another animated round. In the short time it took them to cross the parking lot, this dynamic duo managed several volleys of singing followed by absolute delight that even wiped the weary from Mom’s face. It was so amazing, it made me want a toddler again — if only for a second.
   What is it about dads singing that is so endearing? Is it because so many of them can’t carry a tune in a bucket (as my grandfather would say)? Or is it because all the stories of child-rearing refer only to the melodic moms with voices of angels who sing only lullabies in darkened rooms and only at bedtime. Whatever it is, it’s charming.
   When-he-died-a-goodMy husband was not a singer but he was a charmer. He also always had a moustache, and not a small one. Our son was five months old by his first Christmas and Doug used to sing him Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.  When he got to the line: and kiss her once for me, he would bend down and give our kid a zerbert. I’m not sure zerbert is the technical word for this kid-pleaser but it’s what we called it when you press you lips on your kids cheek or neck and blow air against it. His moustache hairs would ripple in unison like a hundred thousand-leggers auditioning for A Chorus Line. It tickled and our son would giggle twenty times in a row if Doug would do it twenty times. Just like Pavlov’s dog, that little ritual turned into conditioned response. It got to the point that just hearing those words on the radio sent all three of us into spasms.
   I’m pretty sure my dad was a Happy Father, too, at least he always made me feel that way. I have a bizillion joy-filled images of the two of us in my brain (which is pretty amazing considering that for most remembering purposes, my retrieval system seems to be out or order). This is my third Father’s Day without him and sometimes I still forget for a second that I can’t pick up the phone and call him for advice or share something good about my life.
   When he died, a good friend sent me a note quoting a few lines from the TV series Grey’s Anatomy; she was welcoming me to the Dead Dads Club. In that episode, the character Christina tries to comfort George as she says: “There’s a club. the Dead Dads Club, and you’re not in it, until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can empathize but until you feel that loss..I’m sorry you had to join the club.” Yep, that about sums it up.
   I remember how it felt to pass all those Happy Father’s Day cards that first year as a new member. I also remember how to dodge that section now.
   It may be a tough weekend for all this year’s new members of the Dead Dads Club, my own kids now included. If you’ve become a member too, join me on my mission to catch Happy Fathers in the act. It might give you something new and good to pour into The Big Empty.
   When you see a Happy Father, give your heart permission to sing out like no one’s watching.  Give that dad a smile or word of encouragement; he’ll remember it.  He might also put it on deposit for a day when withdrawals from his Happy Dad account need a little balance.  It’s a pay-it-forward kinda’ thing, a small deposit on the debt we owe dads everywhere.

It’s that time of year when all good children everywhere are beginning to panic about the perfect thing to give Dad for Father’s Day. One thing the perfect thing is not is another slender silk noose he can tie around his neck on Sunday mornings or for a dreaded family gathering. When it comes to buying for dads, the perfect thing is often so obvious it is overlooked.

That’s one of the differences between men and women. What does he want? Try the direct route and ask him! For women, gifting is a competitive sport and we enjoy the thrill of the game more than the thing itself. For example, we hint and don’t ask. By hinting at what we want and not asking outright, we test our men’s skills of perception. There is magical value we assign to sorting that out that equates to an indicator of the true depth of a man’s love for us. (This is a complex formula known only to women and will never be revealed to anyone of the opposite sex.)

This roundabout approach is frustrating for men. When they want something, we get the name of the dealer, the model number and a full report on all the specs. The importance of this concept for Fathers Day is, unless he has actually asked for a new bowling ball, grill or lawn mower, that isn’t what he wants. Another contradiction between the sexes is the repair and replacement pact. For women, having a broken item attended to without being asked is a good thing. Don’t do that for Dad as a gift. Don’t repair the hinges on a squeaky shop door or replace the broken window without asking. Those things represent the opportunity to earn a a great sense of satisfaction at a later date. Who would deprive a loved one that, especially on Fathers Day? Unlike washing dishes or running a vacuum, most things dads do stay done for quite a while so waiting to fix it allows him the extended pleasure of the anticipation of getting around to it.

He also probably does not want a new pair of jeans or work boots just when the other ones are getting broken in properly and show signs of wear in all the right places. (We call that state of being as loved up at our house.) Buying your dad or your spouse clothing because you would like to see him throw away the old stuff is just plain selfish and it should not be the underlying motivation for honoring dad on Fathers Day. As a corollary to this rule, don’t buy him a new putter simply because you think it will improve his attitude about his golf game.

The same rule applies to buying him new after shave. A wee bottle of something pricey from a department store most likely says: (1) I think you need to spend a little more time on personal grooming or (2) I like the way this smells better than what you do or do not use currently. I know from experience that some of the best dad smells can never be found at the fragrance counter. Sawdust and Hoppe’s gun oil are two great examples. If your dad smells like buck lore, maybe he’d like some items connected to what causes these scents to stick to him in the first place. Ditto for gasoline; if he often smells like gas, go with it. Chances are you already know he’s a tinkerer or a gear-head who would love more pieces-parts for his big boy toys.

So what does work as a perfect thank-you-Dad gift on Fathers Day? How about a new universal remote to manage all the new electronics from the command post in front of the TV? Or if your budget is tight, try creating a whole deck of get-out-of-jail-free cards that he can play as needed. These come in handy if he has missed an important event or eaten the potato salad that was meant for the family picnic. He can also use one if he accidentally set the inside cat loose to make her big break for the outside.

If your creativity still fails you, consider tickets to a baseball game where he can sit along the first base line to hear the crack of the bat. He might even catch a fly ball before it bounces off a windshield. As an accessory item, include a new ball cap and pair of shades to make it a complete gift package. Nothing says I love you as much as a clever disguise that allows a dad to avoid being recognized by his vigilant spouse –or his cardiologist –as he enjoys what he might really want for Fathers Day: no-fuss entertainment, guilt-free guy time and a few bacon cheeseburgers washed down with cold brews!

Posted by: deadmousediaries | May 29, 2014

Have Cheese Dome; Will Travel – a career shift for Mitchell Kyd?

Nothing makes a woman feel more powerful than putting on her big girls pants and removing a creepy crawly from her environs with a calm hand and cool demeanor. Whether the object of attention has a tail, looks like it’s all tail or simply has more than the acceptable number of appendages, when you stand alone to face your fears and choose to catch and release the invader rather than flee until it finds a new hiding place, you are Queen of the Universe (QU).

When you have done this repeatedly, have perfected your technique and start doing it for friends, you are entitled to flash your Queen of the Universe badge and parlay it as you please. In my case, it earned me 200 bucks.

I’m very grateful to the nearly 1,000 people who are now following my blog because YOU, all of you, feed my soul. You also reinforce the mantra I preach daily: our stories are important. Many of my stories have a point or involve some poignant reflection and I love it when I hear from someone who connects with that. I also love hearing from people who’ve had a chuckle, belly laugh or just plain snorted out loud from an account of my adventures. Life is short; laugh like you’re wearing Depends.

I’ve posted several stories about my critter encounters in this space and am happy to report that Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers liked Itsy, Bitsy Spider enough to include it in their newest edition: Home Sweet Home. I’m also happy to say that for the fifth time, I’m doing a book signing to help raise funds for a local non-profit I support.

From 9:00 a.m. to Noon on Saturday, May 31st, I will be signing copies of Home Sweet Home at the Ft. Loudon Library, 210 Mullen Street, as a fundraiser for the library. Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers offer non-profits a fabulous discount purchase program and I have underwritten the cost of 20 books for this event which means every dollar collected Saturday goes directly the library. To make it good for you, too, the books will be available for just $10, not the retail price of $14.95. Better yet, if you visit, you’ll get to meet the inspiration for this particular story – if you choose.

After removing my itsy, bitsy spider on two previous occasions and releasing him outside, he made one too many appearances on my shower curtain; he now lives in a terrarium. Whether he likes it or not, he’s coming with me to the book signing. He’s been dining on pet store crickets since his incarceration and has already gone through “ecdysis” once, (the molting of his exoskeleton) which my pet care manager daughter says is a very good sign that he’s healthy and stress-free. Well, whoop de frickin’ do. My stress has also been greatly reduced now that I always know where he is.

I’ve finally accepted how beneficial spiders are and I am no longer a squasher. Thanks to years of careful tutelage from my son, I have honed my own spidernapping skills and consider myself somewhat of an expert. If you ask, I’ll be happy to share my tried and true technique for safely removing this kind of threat with a cheese dome and follow-through flourish of a paper plate. The real challenge is snatching a spider from a soft surface like a bed pillow– but you can do it and become somebody’s hero.

The gun-slingers of the Old West were in high demand as deterrents and even exterminators to help control the “undesirable element” of emerging America. Their ads read: Have gun, will travel. I’m thinking that in the 21st century, there might be a market for a woman with my particular skills and QU certification. Watch for my ad appearing soon: Have cheese dome; will travel.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | April 24, 2014

The Groundhog and the Gratitude Penny -an update from Mitchell Kyd

 I believe most of us would like to know that we’ve touched other people is some kind of positive way. Life is short and it’s nice to know that something you said or did might get remembered. As a writer, I think I’m doing something important by keeping others’ stories alive and if, in the process, somebody chooses to remember me for that, well that’s good, too.
   For all the slice of life vignettes I’ve shared here and in my blog, for all the everyday heroes’ praises I’ve sung or family characters I’ve celebrated, I could never have imagined that it might be a groundhog that would bring me some notoriety. Yes, a groundhog.
    On January 31, 2014, I posted my little story Let Sleeping Groundhogs Lie on my blog. I was rudely awakened February 2nd, Groundhog Dog, by the blip of my cell phone alerting me to a new email message, 273 of them in fact. The alerts came in all day, and for weeks following that, each one notifying me that another new reader had found my story and was now following my blog. I discovered later that my blog host WordPress had promoted that particular story to all their bloggers in their Freshly Pressed section. I had suddenly caught the attention of some omnipotent editor in cyberspace and had received the blogging world’s version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Very nice!
    At last count, I’ve picked up 702 new followers from across the globe as a result and I get one or two more new ones every day. They now represent 80 countries. The list is staggering:  Germany, Egypt, Slovakia, Argentina, Trinidad, Japan, Netherlands, Iceland, Greece, Peru, Israel, Kenya, Luxembourg, Singapore, Greece. India, Brazil… I think Punxsutawney Phil would be mighty proud to know his fame is building because it is surely the intrigue of his lore and not my writing that has caused such an international stir.
    It’s been nearly 40 years since I’ve had a world geography course and as I look at the names of countries these new readers represent, I’ve had to do a little Googling more than once. Do you know where the Isle of Man is located? How about Republic of Seychelles, Mauritius or Brunei Darussalam? Yeah, me neither. My ancient studies of the world didn’t cover those but I did find them on the map and know a little more about them now. I also know someone there now knows something about Phil.
    There’s no doubt that Internet has compressed the world. As social media out-shouts traditional news sources, we now connect through channels that are conveniently pocket-sized and battery-powered. Facebook describes their connections in terms of friends; in the blogging world, we talk about our connections as our community. My blogging community has become surprisingly important to me.
    Two weeks after the groundhog story started making its rounds, I had to come to terms with a completely impossible writing task, my husband’s obituary. What can you say in the width of a newspaper column that reflects someone’s entire lifetime or even encompasses 36 years of a relationship?
    Friends and family continue to circle around us, holding us close, siphoning away a bit of our sadness at times and filling up the empty places at other moments. Our son told those who had gathered at our Celebration of Life service that if anyone truly wanted to honor his dad, they should continue to tell his stories. I plan to do that. We also asked friends to carry forth the ritual of the Gratitude Penny.

   If you missed the related story I posted on my husband’s birthday in March, this is how it goes. Some people pick up lost pennies and make a wish. Not us. For many years, our family has picked up found pennies and expressed gratitude for something in our lives. My husband would often fill extra moments at restaurants, malls, etc.–usually while waiting on me – by walking through the parking lot looking for pennies. He nearly always found one. Our daughter often “plants” pennies in odd places for others to find as her own way to pay-it-forward.

    In honor of Doug’s memory, I shared a version of this story at his Celebration of Life  service and also on my blog. I asked that friends hold a coin in their hands while expressing gratitude for something in their lives they appreciate before giving it a toss for another treasure hunter to find. I wanted us all to be intentional in thinking of him for a moment and create a reason to smile. I asked friends to let me know where they tossed their pennies and what they appreciate.

    The stories came rolling in. Gratitude pennies have been deliberately dropped at handicapped parking spaces, libraries, chapels, gas stations and convenience stores, Friends reported they are grateful for their families, their health, happy memories, and also the ability to let go of the past. A teacher even gave pennies to the students in her human development class and asked them to be part of this request. And oddly, friends tell me they are now finding pennies everywhere.

   Thanks to my globe-trotting groundhog, our little ritual has been picked up in places outside the U.S., too.  A woman in France wrote with a promise to drop a 20-cent piece in the carpark of the supermarket in Vire, Normandy, in gratitude for her husband having survived his surgeries. A Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova dropped a five bani piece in appreciation for her family and for our friendships. Visitors in Morocco left a half dirham piece on the steps of a school.

If you find a penny in your travels soon, maybe it was a friend of ours who left it there for you. If you don’t find one, toss one. You never know when someone else might need a reason to pause a minute and be grateful.

   I would love to hear your gratitude penny tales . Comment here and I will continue to share our stories.

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