Posted by: deadmousediaries | September 7, 2016

Five Signs You Might Be Your Neighborhood’s Crazy Cat Lady

Let’s face it, there’s a fine line between being an animal lover and being an animal crazy. Like most descents into madness, you don’t truly realize your destination while en route despite the mile markers along the way. In my life, it doesn’t help that my daughter is building her career in a place where she is surrounded by critters all day long, many of which find their way onto her radar by default. If something has been abandoned, falls chronically but not terminally ill or seems otherwise unadoptable, chances are good it will end up in a carrier in the back of her Jeep. That explains the iguana, the parakeets, the pair of canaries, the turtle and the rabbit. By design, I’ve also had to babysit her geckos, betas, goldfish, bearded dragon and a darling little puppy that grew into 125 pounds of big, happy meathead.

   Although my own menagerie also includes two dogs, a few random fish, and on occasion, a spider in a terrarium, I’m partial to cats because I grew up under the tutelage of other women cat lovers.  Sadly, I  have apparently never read any of the warning labels on my cat food bags alerting me that I might be morphing into a crazy cat lady if I was buying more than one 16-pound bag a week. And because what goes in must come out, there is a reciprocal indicator regarding the purchase of cat litter.
   Because I believe there is a teaching moment in every situation (and because anyone can serve as a bad example), I’d like to share some things that are clear to me in retrospect. If there are others among you wondering why your grocery cart always has cute little cat faces peering back from boxes, bags and jugs, I’d like to assure you that the ride to becoming a crazy cat lady is not an express;  there are lots of stops along the way that alert you it’s time to jump off if you’re paying attention.
    Here are just five of the signs that you might be turning into your neighborhood’s crazy cat lady.
1. Your Cats‘ Names. When you have raised and fostered too many cats, you run out of traditional names like Mittens, Whiskers, Max and Tiger. If you’ve started naming your cats based on their appearance or behavior such as Short Cat, Square FaceYellow Cat or MOYA as in Mother of the Year Award,  that’s a problem. (I have a 10-year-old we now call Bart, short for Badass Rip Terror, a name he earned as a tweener.) Likewise, if you’re on your second or third time around with favorite names and are now adding the word Baby in front, as in Baby Houdini or Baby Hipboots, you’re in trouble. Ditto for adding titles after their names as in: Yellow Cat, III or Bootsie, Jr. Of course the ultimate giveaway that you’ve been riding the train too long is when you’ve assigned proper titles to your little cat friends such as The Regal Mrs. Dupont or Miss Elizabeth Sweetiepuss. 
2. Your Shopping Lists. If you visit the pet store as often as the grocery store and have ever paid $6 a can for an 11-oz can of cat milk replacement to hand-feed kittens with a dropper, you should re-evaluate your situation. At that price, a gallon of people milk would cost you $69.12. Would you spend that kind of money on your human children??? In truth, you’re probably in the danger zone if you even know cat milk replacement exists.
3. Your phone. If you don’t have your veterinarian’s number on speed dial because you have it memorized, be warned. If your photo gallery is filled with your cats‘ pix and all your Google searches are accompanied by cat litter ads, it’s time to slow down. If you spend the hours when you can’t sleep watching funny cat videos in the dark on a three-inch screen, hit the brakes hard.
4. Your environment. If your cats have more playthings than your babies had toys, you’ve gone around the bend. That also means you expect to turn an ankle or otherwise trip and fall because we all know you don’t make your cats pick up after themselves as you required of your kids. Also, if you have ever laid down a towel and a water bowl in your bathtub to safely stow a kitten overnight, you probably host more cats than house guests.
5. Your vacations. If one of the key factors in planning your vacation is determining how long you can afford to pay a pet sitter, you’re probably past all hope. Although cats require less maintenance than their canine companions, most have an innate desire to ignore you at some point in the day and they can only do that when you’re present. The implications of ticking off your cats by staying away too long will be reflected in shredded upholstery, claw marks on door frames and little surprises deposited next to the litter box and beyond.
  So there you have it, my top five signs that you’ve earned a place in your neighborhood’s history. As for the research behind this article, I can only tell you, I write what I know.
Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 29, 2016

Eight Reasons to Get Out of Town Before Summer is Over

At last look, much of the summer still sprawls ahead of us taking us
well into September. That means there are plenty of vacation days
ahead. I’ve had some great staycations in recent years but the idea of
getting out of Dodge for a week while it’s hot will always hold some

Let’s agree; going anywhere is not quite the same as when you were a
kid. Back then, your only job was to make sure you were in the car.
Now you are the one responsible for executing all those annoying
logistics before you can even get out of the driveway.

Somewhere in the middle were those glorious teenage years when getting
away from home for vacation offered grand possibiities of late night
adventures and summer romance, real or imagined. The reality is that
if we had known then what growing up was really all about, most of us
would have refused to do it. Author Judith Martin offered this
perspective in her writing as etiquette expert Miss Manners: “The
invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of
life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes
— naturally, no one wants to live any other way.”

But here we are. Thank goodness vacation dangles a carrot, a chance
for us to put some of our grown-up rules on hold for a week and tone
down the stress of adulting. As kids, we could never have imagined how
gratifying the smallest delights could be. Here are eight vacation
perks that might get overlooked but for which we can be grateful.

1. You can be whoever you want to be on vacation; the people you meet
do not know the you you left behind. I pretended to be a celebrity
once with my family as entourage. That was lots of fun and generated
another story in my collection, one I called:  Lifestyles of the
Middle Class and Fabulous.

2. There is no “to-do” list on the fridge, and sometimes, no fridge.
If that’s the case, there is zero likelihood that you’ll have any
peucliar odors filling your room from a slab of mystery meat slowly
going south behind all the pickle jars.

3. There is no crammed-full bill drawer, not even a bill basket, in
your vacation fantasyland. I know; I’ve checked. After you make that
one convenient payment during check-in, you’re good for the duration.

4. You get no telemarketing calls. The room phone never rings unless
it’s housekeeping with information you really want, such as offering
freshly laundered towels–or advising you to head to the basement due
to an impending tornado.

5. Every breakfast promises a smorgasbord. It is presumed that you
will eat out on vacation — and often.  Dining-in for breakfast could
mean Cheerios and cheesecake, pulled pork and cole slaw or crab
fritters and asparagus.

6. Nap is an actual agenda item — with TV on or off.

7. Sex is frequent, long and languorous– or so it seems based on the sounds coming from the room next door.

8. You can live in your bathing suit for days which means underwear is optional.

Here’s to your fabulous vacation! If you’ve just come back, remember
you  are now that much closer to leaving for the next trip. If there
isn’t a getaway on your horizon, you can always pretend. Lie around
without underwear surrounded by fresh towels as you eat leftovers.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 11, 2016

10 Reasons to Love a Beach Vacation When You’re Over 50

I’m back from my annual trip to the beach. Every summer, five women friends and I escape together to unwind for a weekend at a friend’s beach house. The trip is an amazing three days of catching up, slowing down, and most of all, laughing.

My friend Cathy is a laughter wellness instructor and she told me recently that 10 minutes of laughter has the same benefits as 30 minutes on a rowing machine and that 15 minutes of laughter a day can help you lose four pounds a year. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather laugh than row or diet. I’m happy to report that our one weekend in June covered two months of aerobic workouts and offset all the calories we noshed, savored or imbibed.

A lot of things have changed since our little group formed 12 years ago, the long-term effects of gravity among them. Dolly Parton put it this way in the movie Steel Magnolias: “Time marches on and sooner or later you realize, most of it is marching across your face.”

But as women often do, we’ve learned to celebrate the changes our life journeys bring and welcome the freedom that comes to women of a certain age. It’s a powerful leap forward to learn to care more about what we think of ourselves than we do about the opinions other people hold of us. It’s also great to know that as the years roll by, you learn to lighten up and let go. That means enjoying some perks of a beach vacation you never saw coming in your 20s. Here are just 10 of them. 

#1. The hell with fashion trends. You can finally buy a comfortable swim suit that feels great and has the right coverage no matter how you turn, reach or bend. Love it for the fact that it won’t require constant adjustments and know nothing will ever slide down, ride up or fall out.

#2. Sunbathe with impunity. No one will be looking at you and if they are, it doesn’t matter and you don’t care. 

#3. Nap luxuriously and forget the constant vigils. As you lie down, you won’t give a thought to whether the maple butter blondie your ate last night is going to appear evenly distributed across both thighs. You can relax completely and turn off your radar. When a dozen little voices start chirping “Mommy! Look what I can do!” you don’t need to squint, scan and identify the one calling to you. 

#4. You no longer have to pretend you enjoy cavorting in the broiling sun to play volleyball, fly a kite, toss a football or otherwise expend any energy that might whip up some perspiration. These are all cruel tricks invented by beach guys to show off their pecs or evaluate the jiggle of beach babes. You are past the point of selling anything so you don’t need to advertise

#5. When you say the maid will do something, you mean the actual maid in your hotel room, not some sarcastic euphemism for you as mom or wife.

#6. You can enjoy watching young families sculpting sand tarts and building sand bakeries knowing there won’t be any grit in your britches at the end of the day. You can relive all your happy memories of beach trips with your own kids without having to clean up anything when you get home.

#7. It’s finally okay to make your own shade by wearing a hat, no matter how dopey. 

#8. Your beach accessories are limited to a chair, a book and a towel. You no longer have to drag along a U-Haul filled with sand buckets, shovels, inflatable giraffes and all the items necessary for every kid contingency including Band-Aids, Pampers and a parachute.

#9. It’s expected that you will go bottoms-up when the big wave rolls in so crash with style and roll with it.

#10: When you tell your significant other that you want to feel the earth move while you’re on vacation, he will know you simply want to stand in the surf — and nothing more.

Enjoy your beach vacation. If you’re over 50, flash those senior discount cards. Take full advantage of your status; you’ve earned it.


This stunning image created by Victor Walsh.

Were you on this planet in 1967? Will be you be here in 2062? Tonight may be your only night to join me for a sliver of our luminiescent new dessert, Strawberry Moonpie. It may be your only chance to say  you’ve tasted it.

Tonight full moon launches summer on summer solstice, the year’s longest day, and she’ll be scrumptious in her spectacle. It’s been 49 years since she graced us on this night. It will be another 46 before she appears here again.

If you know my stories, you already know I love the magic full moons promise. I’ve written about the buck moon and the harvest moon. I’ve called you to join us on our blue moon-tanning nights. I’ve coaxed you to go outside and dance naked in the moonlight. I’ve invited you to join us on adventures where you can let your best full-moon howl roll down the mountainside. Tonight I say, come join us for dessert; the strawberry moonpie will be delicious.

Native Americans understand and know her better than I ever will and they appreciate her for all her gifts. In June, they name her strawberry moon to honor the height of the strawberry season. She’s also called the “hot moon” or “rose moon.” Whatever name you give her, join us in this celebration.

Will you turn out your lights and step outside with me to accept your slice? We’ll serve up moonpie here on a velvet cloth. We’ll frame your  plate with giant trees, and sprigs of maple, ash and white oak will garnish the edge. We’ll decorate with twinkle lights. Sparkles of yellow will dance in the shadows as the lightning bugs perform. Open your throat and indulge all you like. It will not cling to your hips but it will be gone tomorrow. Our strawberry moonpie is creamy, rich, abundant. It’s luscious and it’s free.   MK

Posted by: deadmousediaries | June 19, 2016

Zuzu’s Petals and Other Acts of Daddy Magic

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It’s Father’s Day, year five for me without my dad, and I miss him. As I was growing up, I thought “Dad” meant man with secret powers. I love this photo of the two of us at the PVH, in part because it was so rare for me to catch a memory of him sleeping. In truth, he was still on duty here because who else but dad could get a kid to take a nap on Christmas day so she’d sleep away the grumpy? On this beautiful June afternoon, I can’t help thinking about him, and us, and Christmas, and Jimmy Stewart and random acts of daddy magic. 

Is there a more poignant look at what the best dads do than when Stewart as George Bailey performs a miracle for daughter Zuzu? You know the scene; it’s from that classic movie  It’s a Wonderful Life. Little Zuzu lies in bed on Christmas Eve with just a smidge of temperature. She walked home with her coat open and caught a chill; her only focus was on not crushing the flower she had won at school. When she hands her treasure to her dad and the petals fall she pleads:Look, Daddy. Paste it.George doesn’t disappoint. He makes daddy magic happen. He gathers the fallen petals, turns away so she can’t see him, and tucks them into his watch pocket. “Here. Good as new,” he assures her and hands a perfect flower back. 

Dads get called on to perform all sorts of magic. I remember a former boss telling us a story about waking to find his son standing at his bedside at 6:00 a.m. The kid announced he needed a gorilla suit by 8:00 for school that day, a small detail he had apparently forgotten. His dad made it happen with black sweat pants, some face paint and a fuzzy winter hat but it took daddy magic to make sure it was convincing.

The best dads must be born with talent but it’s possible to learn through practice;  I’ve watched others working at it. If you’re a beginner, don’t get overwhelmed because it’s not difficult. It’s as magic to bring home a random little surprise like a piece of quartz for your kid’s rock collection as it is to surprise her with a bicycle on her birthday. 

I remember my dad’s brand of daddy magic. In my eyes, he was Merlin, Gandolf and Houdini all in one. I saw what he could do on every adventure we took into the woods when he could see beyond the deadfall and show me deer trails. He had x-ray vision, too, like the superheros on TV. He could see right through the leaves and spot the morel mushrooms poking their heads up at the base of the ash trees. For years I was convinced he didn’t find them; I thought he commanded them to pop up thru the dirt so I could fill my bucket

Daddy magic doesn’t always mean you must produce the Presto! moment, either. Sometimes it’s enough to know when to treat a daughter older than she is if she is feeling grown-up or putting an arm around her when she is growing up and wishing that she wasn’t. 

Is it magic when you take a tumble and dads know precisely when to rush in and scoop you up or keep their distance and gently coax you: “Jump up! You’re ok!”? Maybe. Life is full of tumbles and false starts. It’s good dads take the time to teach you can choose to bounce and not be flattened. It is surely magic when a dad can tell if his daughter’s knee, her pride or heart is only bruised and not completely broken. 

For me, the greatest proof of dads’ best magic powers is the way they help us dream about our futures. They don’t need us to see ourselves as doctors, presidents or business moguls but they always help us build our vision as strong and happy people who have been learning to make some magic of our own along the way. 

George Bailey knew about the power of instilling dreams for daughters, too. Even as he is facing the biggest challenge of his own life, at the end of the petals scene he has some daddy magic left.. “Now will you do something for me?” he asks his little Zuzu tenderly.“Try to get some sleep?” 

“But I’m not sleepy,” Zuzu protests, of course. “I want to look at my flower.” 

“I know, I know. But if you go to sleep, then you can dream about it,” George coos his promise, “And it will be a whole garden.” And that’s the real power of daddy magic. 

Happy Father’s Day to all dads everywhere, those with well-honed daddy magic and those who are still working on it. Your kids will notice and remember —and we  love you for it.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | May 26, 2016

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #92: Close Encounters

    The unseasonably cool and rainy weather of recent weeks has put a damper on activities and the guest list here at the Path Valley Hotel. The furnace still grumbles in the morning to chase off the chills and the wood stove has had to step up to supply the glow that’s been missing from that fireball in the sky. But what we lack in sunny spring days we make up for in unusual wildlife encounters. Take last week’s sighting as example.

To set the stage correctly, I need to remind you that the back yard of the Path Valley Hotel is a mountain. Fortunately, the PVH owner holds claim to enough of it to offer guests a fairly wide berth of privacy. At this time of year, the dense hardwoods obscure the neighbors to the right and left and also make the lane from the main road leading up to the PVH hard to distinguish. In the front, the nearest neighbor is a business only a stone’s throw away. It hosts long hours and is patronized steadily well into the night
and even though we can hear the conversations in their parking lot, PVH wildlife is largely protected from view.

   It’s also important to understand that on a particularly chilly morning earlier this week, the innkeeper started errands so early that is was too cold for only a light shirt and flip flops; she tugged on her boots and pullover sweater instead. As the hours passed, the sun came out in full force and it was obvious she had overdressed for the rest of the day. 

   By 1:00 p.m. the heat hit critical mass and she launched into her personal summer in the midst of her pursuit of yet another “important” piece of paper. Her temper flared and body temperature hit broil. She peeled off her pullover in the middle of her kitchen only moments before realized she had left her phone in her Jeep.

  I remember her decision-making process. The Jeep was only 10 feet away, and straight out the back door. Before stepping outside, she made a quick a scan of the woods and consciously checked the clock. It was well past noon which meant any stray turkey hunters would already be out of the woods. She decided then to make the dash outside and went for it, and by she, I mean me.

   It must have been a hybrid. Even the dog alarm didn’t go off it was so quiet. I never heard it until I spun around to see it crunching gravel at the top of my driveway. Our eyes never met. The man in his car sat frozen in my driveway. He had obviously made at least one glance to his right, seen me, and was now praying he wouldn’t be blinded for life. There was absolutely nothing in my Jeep I could grab for cover so I had to make a run for it. In the split second it took me to cross my arms over my chest and better cover the girls who were spilling out over my laundry-day underpinnings, I was amazed and grateful at how intently he was looking away. It was as if Rocky V was playing on the big screen somewhere right up on the mountain. I took three giant strides back to the cover of the PVH (Oh, hell, let’s be realistic. It was more like three bunny flops.) and slammed the kitchen door. Now what?

   What could I do? My attire had been at least adequate if not appropriate. It was too late to be embarrassed and too late to pretend I wasn’t home. I pulled on my sweater and headed back out just in time to see him backing down the driveway. I watched him turn around in front of the PVH and as best as I can describe it, hightail it out to the highway. I suspect he may have been off in search of one of those emergency eye wash stations, you know, the kind you seek when splinters of glass or metal fly into your eyes or when a chemical splash threatens to dissolve your retinas. But some things can’t be washed away. They can’t be unseen, either.

   Readers, if your husband, father, son, brother, boyfriend, fiance, nephew, friend or neighbor returned home earlier this week unable to speak or walked in speaking in tongues as from an alien encounter, I hope that you were gentle. He did the best thing a gentleman could during an encounter with unexpected wildlife but he suffered trauma nonetheless. Judging by the muddy ruts he left in his turn-around spot, there must have been a moment when he wondered if he would even get out alive.

   And to that guy if you’re reading, it’s more than Victoria’s Secret now and I thought it best to get the truth on record for both of us. Thank you for the courtesy of not hanging out long enough to be recognized or trying to conduct whatever conversation you first intended.

   In the end, there is an important lesson here for everyone and it is very simple: Do not drive up to the PVH without a reservation. We are not responsible for encounters with our wildlife.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | May 2, 2016

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #89: The Maternity Ward

It’s Spring and baby-making season here at the Path Valley Hotel. In an attempt to get one more stray mama cat under control, I opened a maternity ward for a sweet little tabby we call Baby Jack. The American Humane Society reports that the geometric implications of just one busy mother cat could result in 420,000 kittens being born in only seven years. On the chance that Baby Jack is that one cat, it’s good to know she’s off the streets.

It was obvious she was already full of baby cats when I brought her home but she made an amazingly smooth transition to hotel life. After two days in a large pet crate where she learned about indoor plumbing, she made herself quite comfortable on the sofa in my front room. I watched her belly wriggle while she soaked up the morning sun and I imagined her kids jostling for position. More likely, they were conspiring to keep her from napping too comfortably as babies often do. She radiated that zen-like smile that cats can get, signaling a level of contentment we humans rarely achieve. We simply don’t know how to let it happen and fail in our attempts to buy it at spas or on cruises. We even turn it into work and hot pursuit as we meditate our way toward it with the help of gurus. But my cat had only to embrace it.

Two weeks after checking in at the PVH, she presented me with three mounds of fur, two miniature variations of her striking pattern and one little all-black guy (or girl) tipped by a white paintbrush. I had explained the living arrangements to her after I offered her the master suite; she had a great box and clean blanket away from the litter box, all tucked away so she would have some privacy. When the babies came, she changed the rental agreement and I had to play hide and seek to find the trio. I found them wound around each other inside another box, plopped on top a pile of dog toys. How appropriate.

Needless to say the other PVH permanent residents, two dogs and two cats, have not been happy. (And for those among you who cohabitate with cats, youknow exactly how they show you their displeasure…)

Meanwhile on the back porch, a bird couple decided to set up residence in an old nest above the back door. For two days, every trip out the back door triggered a flurry of feathers. The birds flitted from perch to perch inside the porch, failing to find or choosing not to exit through the tear in the screen when they entered. The dogs loved the idea of pursuing aerial chew toys every time we went out. The two cats knocked everything off my counters in their scramble to watch that show from the window sills. In the end, the constant commotion must have been to much for the birds  because the couple moved off my porch without starting their family.

There are kittens in the front room, birds in the back, and in the attic? It wasn’t the patter of little mice feet I heard last week when the dog alarm went off. I caught the dogs watching the ceiling before they quieted down enough for me to hear the unmistakable rough scrapping of another critter sliding above me. I’m choosing to think it was only my blacksnake, not any of his more notorious relatives. I know how beneficial blacksnakes are and have even removed a few of them from harm’s way in recent years so I tried not to get too excited. Frequent sitings outside at the PVH and years of hearing them in my husband’s garage and shop has probably made me a little too comfortable with the thought of a blacksnake roaming overhead.

But there’s always a wrinkle. My friend Cathy rattled my confidence. “But what if it’s a mama snake?” she asked me. Hmmm. I Googled snake traps and am considering buying one after all, catch-and-release, of course. But baby snakes this summer?  That sounds like more great stories from the maternity ward waiting for another day!

One of the things that separates rural America from our urban counterparts is the contents of our refrigerators. Sure, you expect to see more carrots with a little good clean dirt still holding on but you are also likely to find something in the freezer waiting to be tanned or mounted. Here at the Path Valley Hotel, I once found a green chunk of meat-liked substance in the back of my fridge after my brother-in-law had spent a week house sitting. It had been wrapped in freezer paper and labeled “Badger Meatloaf.” But I’ve already told that story.

What’s important now is that our fridge tells the story of Opening Day, as in the opening day of trout season. For a lot of people who live near the PVH, this is far more important than the opening day of baseball. The thought of seeing a rainbow or a palomino flashing color as they fan through a stream motivates sports men and women everywhere to shake off sleep and pull on their waders. After weeks of being bundled in layers of wool and flannel, it’s suddenly appealing to wade waist-deep into the numbing spring water simply to find out if we are smarter than fish.

My husband Doug worked in rural sporting goods stores for years, the kinds of stores with the character and characters that is missing in national chains. The guys behind the counters in those kinds of stores are always happy to help on opening day and are ready to swap stories, although the bumper stickers on their trucks in the parking lot also read: I’d rather be fishin’.

Doug’s philosophy about fish tales was like nearly everything else: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. That meant every retelling of any fish story ever got grander and more amazing as time went byBrook trout got bigger, muskies battled longer, and catfish got feistier. 

My dad hunted, he didn’t fish, so when I met Doug. fishing was a new experience for me. I loved to go fishing. That’s different, of course, than saying I love to fish. The truth is, I never understood the appeal of getting cold and wet to drown worms and calling it sport. For me fishing is a chance to get outside and stretch out in the sun or the shade and devour a good book. 

Back in the early days of our dating, before we both accepted I was better at waiting than wading, I used to walk along the banks of little streams with my husband-to-be as he waded and seined minnies. I carried the bucket and was expected to grab up whatever lay wriggling in the grass after he flung the contents of his net my way. I caught on pretty quickly that not everything he scooped up was a cute, shiny little fish so I learned early to wear sturdier shoes and bring gloves. Even now, decades later, I have the perfect image of him wearing his waders and a smile as he catapulted a water snake at my feet.

I also remember Memorial Day weekend when he took my van, our son and the neighbor’s boat to spend a Saturday at Codorus State Park. We had fresh fish for dinner that night but the real treat greeted me three days later. When I opened my van door Tuesday to head to work, I knew instantly they had not removed their bucket of minnies. The minnows had been marinating in the heat all weekend long and the sad tale of their demise was told through the odor in my upholstery.

The experts have determined trout don’t see well when looking side to side but see best when they look up. That makes meals floating on the water’s surface look extra yummy. They also know that a trout has a great sense of smell which may help him determine what he’d like to munch. One thing I never figured out was what it is in nature that tells a trout he’d like chomping on a bright, florescent cube of cheese but maybe it’s an acquired taste.

I got my education about what bugs taste best to trout at what time of year when Doug sat down on winter nights to hand-tie flies. That kind of fishing is an art form and he was definitely an artist. As trout season approached, our kitchen counter would be covered with interesting bits of fluff and feathers as he wound tiny hooks with the combinations he thought looked most delicious. When he was finished with each masterpiece, I got the chance to weigh in. “Yep, I’d eat that one,” was the answer he hoped to get.

Our local store where he worked longest used to have a refrigerator right behind the counter. The contents were advertised by the list handwritten in black marker on the door. In the days before there was a nearby convenience store, you could count on buying a little snack there en route to your next best fishing hole. The menu on the door read something like: Chocolate Milk, White Milk, Snickers Bar, Milky Way, Red Wigglers, Meal Worms. In a man-like manner, all contents had been loaded as space became available which meant meal worms shared shelf space with the milk and Milky Ways.

That always made me wonder: if guys at the store had the same eyesight as guys do at home, would they ever find the stuff at the back of the fridge? Before it became a case of bait gone bad, they might have needed a woman working there to tell them: If you can’t find the meal worms, move the chocolate milk! 

Posted by: deadmousediaries | February 26, 2016

A Leap Year Bonanza! Harry Potter, Your Floor Mats and Six Million Trees


“Enter Today! Earn an Extra 1,440 Instantly! You’re a Guaranteed Winner!” That was my original thought about the title for this post but that would have been misleading. You can’t really enter today; you must enter on February 29th to secure your winnings. It’s Leap Year and you must be present to win. 

Despite your amazing good fortune when you win, you’ll probably play it cool and go to work, right? On one level it works like this: if you’re pulling an eight-hour shift at a minimum wage job in Pennsylvania where rates match the federal minimum, you’ll gross an extra $58 thanks to February 29th. Head west or north and do the same job in California or Massachusetts, the minimum wage exceeds federal standards. At $10 an hour there, your pay jumps another $80 that you’ll have to report on your 2016 tax return. 

But money isn’t the issue. No matter who you are, what’s in your bank account or on your pay stub, you will win an extra 1,440 minutes on February 29th. Time is the great equalizer. On any day that you start and finish, you get the same number of tick-tocks as the neurosurgeon and the pizza guy. The question is what can and will you do with them?

To put some perspective on the potential of what can be done when you maximize the minutes, Paul McCartney took only one day to write the music for the Beatles hit Yesterday. Keith Richards wrote the riff for (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in about 45 minutes and it became the first international #1 hit for the Rolling Stones. Adele drafted Skyfall, the theme track for the 2012 James Bond movie, in just 10 minutes and earned a Grammy, an Emmy and a Golden Globe for doing it. Pennsylvania homegirl Taylor Swift reported that she spent 25 minutes writing Never Ever Getting Back Together after talking with a friend about a bad break-up. The result? Her first Billboard chart topper. 

But what if you don’t want to do what you always do only faster when your 1,440 bonus rolls around? You could veg and binge-watch all your favorite shows. At 46 minutes per show, Grey’s Anatomy could deliver 31 full episodes as you count the characters who die or otherwise disappear. Or, if you prefer retro TV, you could nearly double your viewing pleasure by tuning in to 58 episodes of I Love Lucy and then tracking all the scenes that include smoking. Ever wondered about that? Smoking was required and the name Phillip Morris was worked into the script whenever possible because the cigarette company was the only sponsor producers could secure to help launch the show.

More of a movie buff than TV fan? You could watch all 11 segments of the Harry Potter series in 19 hours and 39 minutes. If you need a little snack time and a few more potty breaks in your day, go for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series instead. At six segments, you can watch all those in 17 hours and 12 minutes. You could also save nearly half of your free minutes for something else if you’d choose to watch the Rocky movies. You can plow your way through all seven of them in only 12 hours and 45 minutes– and that includes the 2015 release of Creed.

Maybe you’re like me and still prefer a great story direct from its source, the book. The average person reads at about 300 words per minute so if your butt, bi-focals and bladder can take it, you could tackle Gone with the Wind. At 418, 053 words, it might take you 23-plus hours to do it but hey! You have an extra full day this year! Rather conjure up your own images of Harry Potter soaring in Quidditch than have someone else envision it for you? Pick up the book but choose your favorite volumes wisely. The entire series is 1,084,170 words and will break your Leap Year budget, which probably explains why people who devour good books are often disappointed with the movies..

Enter Today! Win 1440 Instantly!You could spend some minutes moving your floor mats and flipping sofa cushions to search for spare change. Find a penny to start and then make it your intention to double that amount every hour for 24. Find one penny at midnight, two at 1:00 a.m., four cents at 2:00 a.m., etc. At the end of the day, you would have an impressive pile of jingle that totals $83,886.08. (And if you can make that happen, let me know. I’d like to visit and sit on your magic couch.)

Sadly, an extra day in 2016 also means that here in the U.S. we will toss an additional 105,000,000 plastic water bottles into landfills; only 23% of what we empty gets recycled. We will also each use an extra 80 to 100 gallons of water, most of which will go down the drain. By comparison, each person in the world’s 40 most water-starved countries lives on just two gallons of water a day for every use.

So. What if we use our powers for good? Imagine if we all worked together to pool our resources for just one day? The tiny country of Macedonia in the Balkans has done just that – and more than once. It started on November 19, 2011, when people from that population of just two million planted six million trees in a single day. There are six times as many Pennsylvanians as Macedonians. That’s a lot of saplings.

“There is no present like the time,” comes a line from the movie Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. However you view the extra minutes that Leap Year brings this month, an imaginary bonus or a real one, we will all get the same present.  All we need to do is wake up, breathe, repeat. Every day’s a good day to think about that and consider what to do with a gift of 1,440.   MK

Posted by: deadmousediaries | February 2, 2016

All Hail the Groundhog!

   It’s election year again. I say it’s time to get Punxsutawney Phil on the ticket. With today’s good news, he has as much chance as other candidates at getting the nod. After all, he’s already meteorologist to the masses and today, Groundhog Day 2016, his popularity soared. For the 18th  time since 1887, that cute little varmint has promised us an early spring.
   We all know Phil doesn’t have any special powers in terms of weather prediction. That’s just silly. What he does have is a huge fan base and great PR. His super power is getting into our heads.
   As humans, we’re starting to understand the flow of energy generated by the collective consciousness and the influence positive thinking has on an outcome. How do we calculate the power of that one, big sigh of relief we all release on those days when we get his good news? How could the universe not respond with beautiful spring weather when that’s what’s on everyone’s mind — and all because a whistle pig left his dark burrow to brave the sunshine.
   Phil’s annual pronouncement is supposedly linked to Candlemas, a European celebration that falls between winter solstice and spring equinox. I don’t know if Phil is well-read in his British lit or not but I uncovered this English saying that he might be following for guidance: If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas has clouds and rain, Winter will not come again. With that wisdom, even I could predict the next six weeks and without ever leaving the house.
   Most of the year, Phil leads a pretty cushy life down at the Groundhog Zoo, also known as the town library. He’s a kept hog thanks to the generous taxpayers and tourists of Punxsutawney. In the wild, groundhogs create tunnels that are so elaborate that each one also has its own bathroom chamber. I have to wonder how plush the flush is for an icon like Phil while he’s in his man-made condo.
   It used to be that Phil only worked one day a year but now he’s into guest appearances and endorsements. Ever heard of Woodchuck Hard Cider? Rumor has it that Phil posed for that label as a rookie without an agent or a contract. He learned his lesson and drives a harder bargain now after missing out on all those residuals.
   This year, Phil stepped up as spokeshog for the launch of a new golden lager, Punxsutawney Philsner. Not only did he make an appearance at some meet-and-greets in his hometown, he has traveled to Pittsburgh to brew up some publicity for the suds in local pubs and at a Penguins game.
   On May 28, 2016, another gang of groundhog groupies will gather to party on Phil’s hallowed ground. The Hogtoberfest craft beer festival is again being hosted by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, complete with a home brew competition and free beer tastings.
   Groundhogs normally eat one-third of their weight in vegetation daily. The diet of the average Joe consists of apples, bark, clover, flowers and vegetables from your garden including beans, peas and carrot tops. I read recently that Phil is two inches longer and five pounds heavier than the average groundhog. Well, of course he is. I have yet to read that he has a personal trainer and celebrity bloating is an epidemic. Between the stress of being in the spotlight, road trip junk food and all that lager, a beer gut was inevitable.
   Also inevitable is Phil’s expanding presence in social media. Groundhogs not only whistle, they also tweet, apparently, so if you like, you can follow him on Twitter at PunxsutawneyPhil@GroundhogClub, He’s all over Instagram, too, so if you’re tweeting or pinning him, don’t forget to add his hashtag #GroundhogDay.  I admit it; I sent Phil a FaceBook friend request on the chance he’s looking to hire other publicists because he has a good thing going but if you’re old school and prefer a website, check him out all year long at
   I say: All Hail the Groundhog! I’m happy that he made time this February 2nd to grace us with his presence and send out the good news. He could have made the choice to forego all the hoopla and stay inside to spoon one more morning with the missus.

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