BY DOROTHY ROSBY You know that old poem? Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; All the...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY This year, I’m going to give my Valentine the best gift of all: understanding. And by that I...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY Every year, while I prepare our Thanksgiving meal, such as it is, I tune into The Splendid Ta...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY The reason people who litter are called litterbugs is because they bug me. Okay, maybe that’s...
BY JILL PERTLER My husband has the most exciting dreams. They are action adventures like something out of a Ja...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY I always get my milk last at the grocery store because I don’t want it to curdle while I try...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY A co-worker once asked me if I grew up during the Depression. “No, I did not,” I snapped. “If...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY Every generation since Adam and Eve has criticized the next one for their music, fashion, wor...
By JILL PERTLER The English language is a formidable beast, even for those of us who learned it as our first l...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY I used to keep the partners of every sock my family ever lost on the off chance that someday...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY
You know that old poem?
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year
In honor of leap year, I’d like to expand on it:
An extra day, but I’d like to know
Why put it in a month with snow?
And another thing, what’s the reason
It’s always during campaign season?
Leap day wasn’t created to give candidates one more day to campaign, but that is one of its drawbacks. We really have it because the solar year, the time required for the sun to make one complete cycle of the seasons, is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. In other words, we start every year almost six hours too early just so we won’t have to stay up until 6 a.m. to see the New Year in.
Without leap day to make up for it, we’d be 24 days ahead of the seasons a hundred years from now. We wouldn’t even have our leaves raked and the calendar would be calling for snow shovels—just like now.
This concerned the Roman dictator Julius Caesar so much that he added the extra day to keep the calendar synchronized with the seasons. Smart guy. No wonder they named a salad after him.
Kidding. That was a different Caesar. And Julius didn’t have it quite right anyway. Five hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds times 4 equals…well, I don’t know what it equals, but it doesn’t equal a full day so further adjustments were necessary. This is too complicated for me to get into, mainly because I don’t understand it. Suffice it to say 2100, 2200 and 2300 will not be leap years, even though they’re divisible by four. Lucky! No extra day of campaigning.
An astronomer named Aloysius Lilius came up with our modern calendar. He was so accurate that whoever’s responsible for such things these days only has to add a leap second to the clock occasionally. Incidentally, the last leap second was added December 31, 2016. I remember it well because I appreciated the extra sleep.
Unfortunately Mr. Lilius died in 1576, six years before Pope Gregory XIII officially introduced his calendar, which may be why it’s called the Gregorian calendar and not the Liliusian calendar. You snooze, you lose. Still, it doesn’t seem fair to Lilius. Maybe we could name a salad after him.
Personally I love leap day. It’s a perfect day for putting my old photos into albums, organizing the filing cabinet and cleaning that layer of greasy dust off the top of my kitchen cupboards. Those are the kinds of things I never get done in 365 days. And if I don’t get them done on leap day, they’re the kinds of things I can put off for another four years.
I envy those people who have their birthdays on February 29. How lucky! You have a one in 1,461 chance of being born a leapling as they’re called. Also leapster or leaper, not to be confused with leper which is something else and isn’t lucky at all.
Less than 0.07% of the world’s population was born on leap day which makes them rare and exotic, like white buffalo, blue moons and affordable health insurance that covers anything.
The extra day is bad luck for some people though. I feel so bad for them that I’m inspired to write one more verse:
It’s not helpful at all to have an added day
For salaried workers with no extra pay,
Prisoners spending leap year in jail,
And all the candidates who’ll fail.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of three humor books including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Worry About, Humorous Essays on the Hazards of Our Time coming soon. Contact drosby@
This year, I’m going to give my Valentine the best gift of all: understanding. And by that I mean, his understanding of me. Instead of a card, I’m giving him this letter explaining why I do what I do. Try it yourself. It’s a nice way to help your partner hear your side without having to listen to theirs.
Our marriage has lasted these many years because we agree on politics, religion and the generous use of garlic and onions in family meals. But there are a few smaller issues that have troubled us, and as my gift to you, I’m taking the time now to explain my side so you’ll know why I’m right. Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day.
1. It’s true I have a peculiar tendency to leave cupboard doors open, giving the impression that someone broke in and ransacked the place looking to steal our Tupperware. I know this annoys you, but it’s such a waste of time to close a door I’m just going to have to open again in a day or two.
And give me some credit. I do occasionally sashay through the kitchen, closing doors like Vanna White turning letters, usually before we have company or after one of us has a little forehead mishap.
Anyway, I’m hurt you haven’t noticed that I’ve been doing things your way more since we got the cat and I realized that someone who uses a litter box could start running though our casserole dishes.
2. I know you think I’m never ready when we’re going out. But me, late? Remember I even had our son on my due date. Never mind it was April Fools’ Day.
If anyone is causing us to be late, it’s you. Remember Sunday? You asked if I was ready and I said, “Of course.” But then you went to find your glasses. Someone who doesn’t have time to close a cupboard door certainly doesn’t have time to wait for you to find your glasses, so while I waited, I started loading the dishwasher. You found your glasses then looked at the newspaper while you waited for me to finish. I finished with the dishwasher and saw you reading the paper, so I started sorting the laundry. You laid down the newspaper and took out your cellphone. And that, Valentine, is why we were late for church—because you were looking at your phone.
3. Yes, over the years, I’ve gotten rid of some things you wish we’d kept. But I’ve never knowingly disposed of something you really cared about—not while you were looking anyway.
In many marriages, there’s a collector and a disposer. Collectors keep everything because they think they might need it someday. Disposers can’t imagine why anyone would need an old license plate or a pen that doesn’t write. In our marriage, you’re the collector and I’m the disposer. It’s true that if we were both disposers, we might not always have the exact doo-hickey we need. But if we were both collectors, we wouldn’t be able to find it anyway.
4. You think I worry too much, but be glad I do. Worry works. Think back to all those times I worried I was going to burn the house down because I thought I forgot to unplug the iron. I never burned the house down, did I? Also, I never left the iron on.
But think of all the bad things I didn’t worry about that have happened. I wasn’t worrying when I got food poisoning on our vacation. Or when the airline lost our luggage. Or when our tire went flat, our oven died, and our printer stopped printing—all just before Christmas. At least, I wasn’t worrying about any of those things. I now try to worry about them a little each day, and none of them have happened since. You’re welcome.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Worry About, Humorous Essays on the Hazards of Our Time available in early 2020. Contact email@example.com.
Every year, while I prepare our Thanksgiving meal, such as it is, I tune into The Splendid Table’s annual live call-in show, Turkey Confidential, on National Public Radio. Food experts talk turkey about all sorts of dishes I’d love to gobble up. (Don’t worry. I’ve now used up all my turkey puns.)
And on the biggest cooking day of the year, Turkey Confidential guests come to the rescue of cooks in crisis. I’ve always appreciated how they don’t shame their callers for forgetting to thaw the turkey or using instant mashed potatoes. But I’ve never had the nerve to call them myself, though I have had some cooking crises, and not just on Thanksgiving. It may be called Turkey Confidential but it’s on the radio, so how confidential can it be.
If I had overcome my embarrassment, there are a few calls I would have made over the many years I’ve listened to the show. I trust you to keep these in confidence.
1) Help! My goose is cooked but my turkey isn’t. I told my guests we’d eat at noon. Then I told them 1. It’s now 2. The relish tray is empty and someone sampled the pumpkin pie, but the turkey juices are far from clear and the little pop-up thingie shows no sign of popping up. Opening the oven every five minutes to check probably isn’t helping.
I should have seen this coming. Our turkey wasn’t quite thawed even after it sat in our fridge for four days, maybe because our refrigerator runs a little cold. That usually isn’t a problem, since I mostly use it just to keep drinking water cold.
If that weren’t bad enough, our oven has been running a little cold too. This isn’t as big of a problem as you’d think because I rarely use it. And a repairman told me that if I added 30 degrees to whatever temperature setting the recipe called for, I could get by for a long time, especially as little as I use my oven. But I’m beginning to wonder now if 30 degrees is enough.
My question is, should I go ahead and serve my guests leftover tuna casserole now and have the turkey as a bedtime snack? A lot of people sleep after Thanksgiving dinner anyway.
2) How do you get rid of those little lumps in the gravy and is it absolutely necessary that you do so? In the past, I’ve always told my guests that my gravy recipe includes little dumplings.
3) Does the five-second rule apply if you drop the turkey as you’re moving it from the oven to the counter? Asking for a friend.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the five-second rule is the theory that it’s safe to pick up and eat food that has fallen on the floor as long as you do it within five seconds of dropping it. It’s silly, of course. I base my judgment about whether to eat what has fallen entirely on what was dropped, where it was dropped and who saw me drop it.
And I’ve never yet dropped a turkey. But I’ve lived in fear of it ever since what my family kindly refers to as the Swiss steak incident. We went out to dinner after that. But have you ever tried to find an open restaurant on Thanksgiving Day?
4) I have a little problem. Actually it’s a big problem. My overly-enthusiastic husband bought a turkey so big it barely fits in our refrigerator. I’m not exaggerating. We had to remove the shelf above it to make room for it and that leaves very little space for anything else. We’ll probably have to serve our turkey with no sides. My question is, can we come to your house for Thanksgiving dinner?
BY DOROTHY ROSBY
The reason people who litter are called litterbugs is because they bug me. Okay, maybe that’s not the reason. But they do bug me. Litter ends up in waterways. It makes road ditches and parks look like an episode of Hoarders. And it attracts critters no one wants hanging around, like flies, rats and bad-tempered walkers—like me.
For reasons I can’t explain, I feel compelled to pick up litter when I see it. It’s odd really, because I don’t always feel the need to pick it up in my own home. Early one morning, I cleaned up what remained of someone’s supper off a picnic table at the park. Then I picked up a gum wrapper, a beer can, a Styrofoam cup and a five-foot long grocery receipt. But when I noticed that someone had hauled in a beat-up recliner and left it at the baseball field, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d had it with picking up other people’s trash. And not just because I couldn’t lift the recliner.
I was out for a walk. This was supposed to be my happy time and it was being spoiled by other people’s bad manners, so I quit. Just like that. I walked by a fast food bag without slowing down. I hurried past an aluminum can and a half-empty plastic bottle. I was in no mood to consider it half full.
But then, I spotted an empty plastic grocery bag. I couldn’t help myself. I picked it up and filled it with trash by the time I got home.
I’ve got to come clean here, so to speak. I’ve littered a few times myself. But I swear, it was an accident and I’ve always gone to great lengths to pick up after myself. I once chased an empty tin can all the way down the hill by my house, and I live on a big hill.
One time I littered during a girl’s day out with a friend. My fingernails were still wet with polish after my first and only manicure. I pushed the door of the salon open with my hip and walked across the parking lot with my hands up and my fingers splayed. I looked like I was being robbed. As I gingerly opened the door, a gust of wind swept a paper off the floorboards and out the door of my friend’s car. I thought it might be something important, like the deed to her house, so I chased it across the parking lot and retrieved it from behind the wheel of a parked car. Then I surveyed the damage: Two scraped nails and a tread mark up my arm—and all to save a furniture store flyer. My friend said that, while she appreciated the effort, she normally doesn’t keep the deed to her house on her floorboards.
Another time, I wasn’t so successful. As I got out of my car, a gust of wind blew a paper off my dashboard, onto the parking lot, and under my car. I closed the door, and set my purse, briefcase, and giant jug of iced tea on the ground while I reached under my car for the paper. That’s when I realized that my car was still running, and that at some point, I’d apparently locked my doors. Uh-oh. Fortunately, I keep a spare key in my purse. As I reached for the key, I knocked over my drink, and a puddle formed under me and my belongings. Now my knees were muddy. My briefcase was wet. My iced tea was gone. My car was running with the doors locked. And the paper that had started it all was airborne on its way to somebody else’s parking lot. It’s okay though. I probably picked it up the next time I was in the neighborhood.
BY JILL PERTLER
My husband has the most exciting dreams. They are action adventures like something out of a James Bond or Tarzan movie – oftentimes both. They involve racecars and roller coasters and swinging on vines throughout a rainforest. He’ll often describe them in detail the next morning.
Sometimes I can tell he’s in the middle of one of his dreams because he moves slightly in his sleep. His feet twitch or his hands wiggle. I wonder what sort of adventure he is on. I know I shouldn’t wake him; that would be mean. But sometimes I can’t help myself. My curiosity gets the best of me.
I tap him ever so gently on the shoulder, whisper his name and ask, “What are you dreaming about?”
His answers are brief. Things like “biking,” or “climbing a mountain,” or “flying.”
He’s brief because he is sleeping – still engaged in his adventuresome dream. I imagine he has quite an imagination. I suppose we all do when uninhibited by the factor of sleep.
My dreams are much less exciting than my husband’s. I still dream about school sometimes. Many of us have experienced the proverbial school dream/nightmare. I’m there on the first or second day and I don’t have my schedule or locker combination or maybe both. It’s discombobulating. I try to find the office to get another copy, but I keep getting lost. The hallways are an empty labyrinth of lockers and tile.
And the people who show up in my dreams! In a word? Random. Someone I once knew in a history class back in high school might have a starring role in a dream, never to be seen or heard from ever again. Often, I have strangers in my dreams, or at least I think they are strangers. They could be some random co-worker from my first job at the Dairy Queen who I’ve forgotten everywhere but in the subconscious. Dreams are weird that way.
You don’t have to be an adult to dream. Experts theorize babies dream beginning at birth. Of course, their course material is limited due to the limited scope of their earthly experiences. Still, they dream about something; we just don’t know what.
When he was just an itty bit, son No. 2 experienced some of the scariest of dreams: night terrors. He’d sit up in bed, eyes wide-open, sometimes screaming, sometimes crying out but always afraid and always asleep – wide eyes and all. We learned not to try to wake him, but to hold him gently and keep him safe. Not to shout his name but to repeat it quietly. Usually he’d wake up, remembering nothing of his terrifying experience.
He outgrew his sleep terrors. Thank goodness for that. But he still dreams. We all do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s our way of fleshing out and sorting through the experiences we encounter while awake. We relive and rehash and reimagine the real and not so real. The rules of everyday logic and life don’t exist in the land of dreams – where six-foot tall men, like my husband, can fly.
At my house we are experiencing a new generation of dreamers.
My granddaughter dreams. I’ve watched her. I wonder what her brain ponders during the blanket of sleep. I always assumed she dreams about the things she knows, the things experts would agree upon: hunger, warmth, kindness, pacifiers and wet diapers. But this week, when she was here and napping, her little feet were twittering. Her tiny hands were moving – just like someone else I’ve observed sleeping. As I contemplated her movements, I came to the logical conclusion: maybe she is flying.
How cool would that be?
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.
I always get my milk last at the grocery store because I don’t want it to curdle while I try to choose between whole wheat, crushed wheat, honey wheat, honey bran, sunflower or 12 grain bread.
Shopping for groceries — and everything else — is challenging for the indecisive. I finally choose 12 grain and head to the most difficult grocery aisle of all: Personal Care.
Before me lies toothpaste as far as the eye can see. I prefer gel to paste, but what do I need more? Enamel care, tarter control, cavity protection, extra whitening or breath freshening? Don’t answer that.
Do I want lotion that firms skin, hydrates hands, protects from the sun or provides advanced therapy? I pick the last one because therapy is just what I need after choosing bread and toothpaste.
I’m paralyzed by so many choices. Fortunately, I have some coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, none of them help.
I put off grocery shopping until all that’s left to eat in our home is flour and ketchup.
When I can’t decide between two items, I buy them both. I have two sweaters that look exactly alike, except one is purple and one is blue. And I have another set of duplicate sweaters, one blue and one pink, for the same reason. My closet looks like I share it with an identical twin.
I choose the cheapest one, and not because I’m thrifty. No one who buys sweaters two at a time is thrifty. It’s just that when I can’t decide between oxygenated cleansing action, degreasing or gentle-on-hands dish soap, I have to base my decision on something.
Faced with too many decisions, I choose nothing. And I’m not alone. In one study of the so-called paradox of choice, two psychologists found that customers presented with six varieties of jam were more likely to buy one than those who were offered 24 varieties. The latter were more likely to run screaming from the store.
I’ve made it to laundry soap. Do I want liquid or powder? Do I need it with bleach, without bleach or with bleach alternative? Do I want it to dissolve fast, deep clean or fight odors? And if I choose deep cleaning, will my clean clothes smell bad?
I’ve been at the grocery store an hour, and with the exception of a loaf of bread, I still don’t have any food.
I pick up my pace. I hurry past the baking aisle; I don’t bake. I skip the dog food; I don’t have a dog. I dash past baby food; I don’t have a baby either.
But then…I round the corner at canned soups. There is a cream-of-something soup for every day of the year and almost that many pasta choices: rotelle, farfalle, fusilli, mostaccioli, penne, rigatoni, ziti. Huh?
And Mother Nature can’t be beat for variety. I want apples, I’m just not sure if I want Gala, McIntosh, Red Delicious or Granny Smith. I need lettuce, but do I want Romaine, Red Leaf, Bibb or Iceberg. I haven’t been this overwhelmed since toothpaste.
Finally, exhausted and confused, I head to the dairy aisle for milk (skim, 1 percent, 2 percent, whole, lactose free, chocolate or soy), butter (salted, unsalted, low-fat or regular) and cheese (too many to name.)
I have just spent more time choosing groceries than I spent buying my car. By the time I get to the checkout line, my defenses are worn down like a dieter’s resistance in a doughnut shop. The only thing saving me from grabbing a handful of comfort candy bars in the checkout aisle is that I can’t decide which ones I want.
Uh-oh. I forgot one thing. God help me; I need a birthday card.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A co-worker once asked me if I grew up during the Depression. “No, I did not,” I snapped. “If I’d grown up during the Depression, don’t you think I’d be retired by now?”
I might have been a little defensive. But she was teasing me about my ancient radio, and she wasn’t the first person to do it. The radio was a hand-me-down from my husband who got it before we met, and we met a long time ago. He was going to toss it, but I rescued it and took it to my office because it still worked—usually.
Sometimes it didn’t come on when I turned it on. And sometimes it came on when I didn’t turn it on. It was like magic, but that’s not why I kept it.
I didn’t keep it for sentimental reasons either. When it quit working altogether, I disposed of it and took my son’s castoff radio/CD player to work, and it’s been there ever since.
And I didn’t keep the radio because I’m too cheap to buy a new one. I’m not cheap. I might not even qualify as thrifty. I rarely shop sales and I eat avocados—a lot. Nobody who buys as many avocados as I do could be called thrifty. Those are green because they’re made of money. The only reason I can afford them is because I’ve saved so much on radios.
I’ve saved a lot not replacing other things too. My bathrobe and my sheepskin bedroom slippers are both at least 20 years old. They’re still in good shape though—at least by my standards, which may not be that high if my radio is any indication.
The travel case I used for more than 30 years to carry my toothbrush and travel shampoo wasn’t in good shape by anybody’s standards. Looking at it, you’d think I travel a lot more than I do. But it still did the job, so I used it until my sister, who travels with me occasionally, got tired of looking at it and gave me a new one. I love it! It’s got a place for everything. It’s purple and it’s built to last. I bet it lasts longer than the old one did.
I appreciate durable products. It’s touchy subject for me right now because my dishwasher has started leaving food behind. That means I have to wash the dishes before it washes the dishes or risk having to wash them after it washes them. That’s much harder because the heat-dry part of the cycle works just fine.
When I find something that holds up—be it a bathrobe or a radio—I keep it because so many things don’t hold up. My stove, computer, printer, vacuum cleaner and garage door opener are all relatively new. No, we didn’t win big on The Price is Right. Everything in my house is practically new because a short time ago, everything was old, and it all quit working at the same time.
Appliances just don’t last as long as they used to. I read it on the internet, so it must be true. I don’t know about electronics because they’re obsolete long before they quit working and sometimes before I’ve figured out how to use them.
I’m not sure how old my dishwasher is, but I do know it’s still sticky where the price tag used to be. Or maybe that’s not why it’s sticky. At any rate, I’ve had avocados that lasted longer.
I’m exaggerating. But if I have to replace my dishwasher, I will have loaded and unloaded four dishwashers while wearing the same bathrobe. Is it any wonder I’ve kept the robe? We’ve been through a lot together.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact email@example.com.)
Every generation since Adam and Eve has criticized the next one for their music, fashion, work ethic and inexperience, forgetting that all those same criticisms were once leveled against them. Also forgetting they raised the next generation.
And every generation since Cain and Abel has criticized the last one for being out of touch, as though they alone are “cool” and will be the first and only generation to remain that way forever.
And so it goes, generation after generation, young people forgetting they stand on the shoulders of the geezers who came before them and older people forgetting the whippersnappers will someday be running things, possibly better than they did, but certainly no worse.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see the following article in my internet news feed recently: “25 tragically uncool things Baby Boomers won’t let die.”
I was surprised though when I found there were actually 65 items on the list, which suggests that proofreading might be one of the things the authors find tragically uncool.
They don’t mention their names, maybe fearing their grandmothers will stop sending them birthday money. Nor did they say what generation they belong to—X, Y or Z. I’m sure in their minds that goes without saying. It’s the cool one.
To call Mrs. Dash and throw pillows “tragically uncool” seems a little overdramatic to me. And the authors are also prone to sweeping generalizations. As I read their “list of things that baby boomers think are cool, but they SO aren’t,” I realized I, an actual baby boomer, don’t find most of them cool at all—or tragically uncool for that matter.
I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person myself, which I think is one of my cooler qualities. And while I don’t own them myself, if someone wants to wear an air-brushed T-shirt, denim shorts and Crocs, I’m blissfully neutral about it, as I am about golf, scripted wall art and Yahoo.
I don’t even own a tragically uncool landline anymore, though I wish I did every time I misplace my cellphone.
I don’t play racquetball either, but I think anyone who puts their smartphone down long enough to exercise is pretty cool.
And not only do I not “jump for joy” when I see a Reader’s Digest, as the authors claim baby boomers do, I don’t even subscribe to it. But if you do, more power to you. At least you’re reading something besides social media posts.
I have been known to iron, but not because I think it’s cool. I only do it when my clothes look like I slept in them, which is not cool at all.
Off all 65 items on the list of 25 tragically uncool things Baby Boomers won’t let die, there were only a few I’d call cool. My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a cruise this past summer, and I say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Anyone who doesn’t think meatloaf is cool never ate my mom’s. And I enjoy an episode of NCIS now and then; it gives me something to watch while I iron.
Somewhere between tragically uncool juice from concentrate and paying bills the old fashioned way, the authors managed to blame Baby Boomers for the Social Security predicament, though we don’t find that any cooler than they do.
I’d advise them to start saving for retirement, because whether they believe it nor not, they’ll be older someday. But the cool part about getting older is you no longer worry so much about being cool. That’s a good thing because there’s an entire generation coming up behind you, ready to tell just how uncool you are—exactly like you once did to someone else.
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