Nothing Stands In Between Me & Mr. Softee


I have a fond childhood memory of the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck.  If what I’ve witnessed regarding memory and music is true, I will be able to travel to the depths of Alzheimer’s disease and still remember the Mr. Softee tune.    Although I haven’t heard it in a dozen years,  today after hearing just the first few faint and faraway notes, I knew it.  He had come back.  I heard  the familiar jingle that once sent me running from my house with change in my hand and hope in my heart that I might soon have a small vanilla cone with jimmies (sprinkles to you non South-Jerseyans) and maybe, possibly, I’d be the one in the crowd that the Mr. Softee Man would pick to win a free cone for the next day.

And that was a million years ago.

Now that I am a full grown grownup and a career weight watchers member, I’m  aware that eating  a Mr. Softee cone has consequences.  But when I heard the music and saw the truck,  I didn’t care if I had the food allowance available for the day, IT WAS MR. SOFTEE!

On my way to the truck, as I skipped in slow motion through the field of flowers (weeds) in my front lawn, I waved the my money out in front of me calling “Stop! Stop! Mr. Softee!”

My daughter got there first and placed her order while I continued my gleeful frolic until, wait, ouch, holy crap, I stepped on a bee in my bare feet.   I grabbed my toe and called out in pain.  “Ow, ow, ow ow.”  My toe started to swell and the pain seared through but  I hobbled like the woman at the back of the race who was determined to cross the finish line if she had to crawl and  I was getting my ice cream!

Mr. Softee was not happy waiting for the middle aged crazy lady to drag her injured self to his window and then once there,  had no idea what to order.  Pain mixed with decisions…. not today… please not today…

An Ice cream sandwich!  Freshly made right there in front of me, YES!   Only it wasn’t called an ice cream sandwich and poor ol’ Mr. Softee had a really thick accent so I couldn’t understand his questions, which frustrated him, and I was in terrible discomfort which made it hard for me.   I was trying not to cry out in pain.  I just  wanted my ice cream.

Finally it was done, and we paid him and exchanged pleasantries as I turned to hobble back to my house.  In my hand, was a waxed paper sac with 3 inches of soft serve ice cream nestled between two big chocolate cookies with beautiful rainbow jimmies all around the edges.   I couldn’t wait.  But once inside I only had a couple of bites and put the rest in the freezer because despite the delicious frozen treat, I still had a throbbing burning painful toe that was beginning to itch like mad.  I could no longer deny it needed some attention.   It was time for a good home remedy and some Benadryl.

Several hours after my bee / ice cream encounter I still have dessert in the freezer and toothpaste (my mothers  solution to most things) on my toe.    I remember Oprah said “listen to the universe.”   Some may think the bee sting was a sign that I should not have gone for the ice cream.   But some may say, “Look at that lesson!  Despite all odds, if you want something bad enough, will find a way to get it. ”

I can’t wait until the next time Mr. Softee comes down my street.  I’m getting a different dessert and next time, also, I’m wearing shoes.


My Perfect World


I often imagine if things were different, (more how I’d like them to be) what changes would I make?

For starters, high school would begin at 9:45 and  end at 2.   Is the goal of our  school board planners’ to provide education or to make parents drag sleeping teens out of bed against a tidal wave of resistance day, after, day?   This is just mean.   I would also offer that school activities end by 5 so we don’t have to go out and fetch our kids when we’d rather be in a robe, holding wine.

And frankly,  I don’t know the last time (um… in 1979 maybe?) that I had to multiply two negative numbers or conjugate a word in French.  Four years of  high school french and all I remember is how to say “I don’t know” en francias.   So.. “je ne sais pas” why we  insist on this stuff.  Teach kids how to balance a bank account, make change, understand loan amortization, and know how many gallons of gas it would take to drive from here to say, Wyoming and back.  Want more?  Try making a budget that is livable, know how to file simple taxes and maybe throw in a lesson on investments and financial planning that doesn’t involve holding a palm out for dad to put money in.    I am also in favor of teaching them to cook in 7th grade so that by high school they can make dinner, because they of course will have plenty of time without the homework

And the words?   I have to side with my daughter on this.

Big, bigger, biggest

Good, gooder, goodest.

Really, don’t you get it?  No matter how you say it?

She and I?

I and she?

Me and them?

Me & her?

She and me?

Does it really matter?  All we need to know is that the two of you have something going on.

And my personal favorite pet peeve:

adverbs and adjectives — boo hiss!   Why can’t we just say adverbs and adnouns?  The other option would be to change the word ‘noun’ to ‘jective.’  But really, what is a jective anyway?

I have a ton more plans that would improve things but I’ll just hold onto those thoughts for now.

But one more thing I would like to mention in my societal planning for “helen’s better living.”    I would very much to live in a hip urban setting with my two next door neighbors  Mama June and Jimmy Fallon.  I imagine the three of us having the best of times when we run into each other at the supermarket on Saturday afternoons.  We’d talk about our kids, minivans, movies, and how to tweak recipes to create Red Neck Fusion Cuisine.   It would be glorious, simply glorious.  I just know it.

the home office


All moms need an office.     I have two part time jobs, neither of which cost me more time and brain space than parenting, and neither of which gives me an office, or even a desk, and  I would really like one.  A place of my own, where the treadmill to my right isn’t reminding me that my exercise regimen is pathetic,  or a place where the laundry room door isn’t staring me straight in the face saying “You! Come here! There’s work to be done in here!”   How am I supposed to be effective working from home with all these distractions!

Everybody in my family has a place to go and a door to close. They alone command everything inside their room.   If I had my own room, just for me, I imagine it would be glorious.   Nobody would just walk in demanding I help find a missing shoe.  The door, my barrier, would limit my availability to the rest of them.  I’d have office hours. Inside, there would be actual living houseplants for an abundance of oxygen, and I would use aromatherapy and  playlists to set the mood I choose.  All just for me.

Outside, on the door I’d keep a “problem box” with instructions:

  • Please fill out a form and state your problem, all complaints will be read on Friday between 4 & 5 pm.
  • Feel free to offer a solution to the problem for extra allowance.  
  • Forms submitted without a viable solution will be charged a small processing fee in advance of any response from the management.    
  • The turnaround time is about a week.  

I imagine that my office has a beverage container from Crate & Barrel, filled with spring ice water and pretty slices of fruit.   The drinking glasses are so clean that the sun  bounces off of their shine and fills sparkles of light fill the room.  And there is no dog, cat, rabbit, or guinea pig fur whatsoever.

As I come out of the dream scene I just described it becomes clear that I do not have my own room, or a beverage container from Crate & Barrel.    I have a desk in a cluttered room and one glass pitcher from Ikea.  As for the sparkling clean glasses and the absence of pet fur?  (enter laughter here)

So, for now I’ll just appreciate the roof and four walls that I call home.  I could paint the laundry room door a pretty color and put more things on the treadmill to disguise it but maybe, what I should do, is set out to prove what I tell my kids all the time.  It’s not what you think you need that really matters, it’s what you do with what you already have.

Whenever I complained to my own mother she’d always point out the more disadvantaged.   “Be happy you have shoes at all,” she’d say when I wanted really expensive converse sneakers that weren’t in the budget.   Or, “there are children suffering all over the world that would love to have the asparagus on your plate!”

I know. I really do have everything I need but gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I just had an office.    I can hear my mother now,  “be happy you have a place to live and food on your plate,” and I am happy for all of that .  But I wouldn’t mind if I were also happy for an office.


A Plethora Of Planners

hallmark date book 2-17

We’re currently in the seventh week of 2107 and I still haven’t settled on a planner. It used to be that for me,  executing a plan was more of a problem than making one, but now I’m stuck at selecting which planner to use in the first place!

Over the last several years personal planners have become a big deal.  I could  spend a ton of money and time with any one of the planner styles, even though the large refrigerator calendar(that I regularly update and nobody checks) would still be sufficient.

The planner I buy annually, (for 10 years now), is from Blue Sky.  It’s a good size for me and it’s sturdy, but my favorite part is that the dates go from June 2016 to July 2017.   It does the planner job quite well but I still look around, because each time I try some new way to keep track of things, it makes me think:  more is possible, I could be better at getting things done, and then I’ll do more.  Who wouldn’t like more?

One of the popular styles of planning is in something called a Bullet Journal.  This a great way (they say) for the creative person to combine planning, doodling, and record keeping.  I tried it, but I got lost in the process.   I know plenty of people who claim to love it, but I spent more time  finding you tube videos about how to use a bullet journal then anything else.   Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.

The Passion Planner is also supposed to be great for the “creatives”.  I got one when they first came out several years ago.  I might even have contributed $7.00 to the Kickstarter. You put your hopes and dreams ( and more doodles ) on the pages as well as your wants and needs.   But it turns out that my hopes and dreams cannot coexist with my wants, needs, and grocery lists.   Perhaps it’s just an uneven balance of passion but they just didn’t get along.  So I moved on.

Martha Stewart has a mix and match set up for your pocket calendar  so you can  customize  one.   Mine was very nice but it was so pretty, I didn’t write in it. is another line with planner components, and now I have  tons of little tabs and stickers and even a tiny rubber stamps that says “good job!”  If you are bad at impulse control, stay away from the planner section at Staples.

So, even with all of the options out there, I keep coming back to my Blue Sky June to July 5’X8″ planner.    I spiced it up a little this year with colored pens and vinyl coated paper clips.   I’ve also begun to fall in love with Washi tape which comes in way too many colors and patterns to make it simple, but I like still to try.

Fo now I think I must come to terms with my regular old planner. I did start a project called a creative goal journaling which isn’t a date book but is more of a record keeper for your goals. That’s not going very well either.  I keep forgetting about  tracking my progress in it and I haven’t really had much success in making my goals recently   so it’s just a vicious cycle anyway.

Sometimes I think I should just go back to the days when allI had was that one free datebook from Hallmark.  These were given out every year “until supplies last.”   I remember my Aunt getting all excited about the new one every year.  Maybe I’ll stop into the closest store and see if they have any left even though in the seventh week of the year it isn’t likely.  But who knows?   If nothing else I’ll have a browse at the cards and wrapping paper.  Hmmm…. I wonder if Hallmark has a planner section.  After all, It can’t hurt to look.

Cat and Dog People


I grew up with dogs so I thought I was a dog person.  But then  I got a cat.  Sorry Fido, I’m hooked, on felines.  Ever since I proclaimed my pet partiality I’ve wondered what makes a person pick  team cat vs. team dog. It’s more then just a preference like vanilla or chocolate.  It’s much, much more.

To answer the question, cat vs. dog I turned to the expert on most things – Google. There is enough research and opinion out there to write a thesis on this topic but here are my top 5 findings about dog people and cat people.

  1. It seems everybody agrees that dog people are more outgoing and friendly then cat people. No surprise there, right? Just picture the folks in the park throwing Frisbees to beautiful golden retrievers. Are they not the picture of health and well being, just out there inviting conversation, companionship, or a friendly wave. “Nice throw.” “Good lookin’ dog! “What fun!”

Cat people therefore, are more like, um, cats? You see a beautiful cat who looks like he’d be yummy to pet so you approach him, hand gently extended and you say “hi kitty” in the most loving voice possible.  You get  close to him, maybe even just a few inches away and BAM!  You get a swat, a snub, or the cat simply gets up and walks away with his tail bobbing up and down, flipping  you off in cat language.  Cat people don’t mind keeping to themselves, and if a cat person is not in the mood for you, he or she  will definitely let you know.

  1. Another across the board finding was that cat people are generally smarter and more curious than dog people. There’s a bunch of supporting evidence on this but I’ve always held that dogs are not particularly smart, however they are highly trainable. I’m not sold that trainability equals smart but the majority disagrees with me.


Here’s a picture of a dog named Scout who is internet famous for balancing things on his head, and waiting.   He has outstanding patience.   Go Scout.

Felines are complete agreement that putting a treat on their head and waiting for the command to eat it is just dumb. I think that makes them smart.  And,  I believe that cat people don’t invest a lot of time or energy in things that make no sense either, thus, smarter.

  1. There is a strong agreement out there that dog people are less neurotic than cat people. I guess it makes sense.  If you have idiosyncrasies, walking or running with a dog, receiving the dog’s love, licks, and constant reassurance that you are the one and only may help ease your problems.  But to say that dog people are less neurotic than cat people? I disagree on this one without a shred of documenting evidence except to say that the term ‘crazy cat lady’ is not without merit.
  1. I’ve repeatedly read that dog people are more tolerant than cat people. I agree, being a cat person I know intolerance first hand.   My teenage children are good examples of cat people.
  1. Dog and cat people each have a different sense of humor. I’m not sure if I understand the research behind this finding but it does go  along with two other bits of information which is this:   There is a higher percentage of females who identify as cat people, thus a higher percentage of males as dog people.   Cat people enjoy satire and irony, dog people think burping the alphabet is a sport and that the fart and dart is funny.

Oh, you dog people!   I like you all, even if you have gone over to the bark side.


Finding Your People


cgsqdbquqaak2qnI attended the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop last April. There was recently a request for attendees to comment on successes they’ve had since that time.  If you know this particular group of people, you would know that successes are measured in many ways.. “I finally found the courage to ask for what I want,” or “I finished and published my novel” are both acceptable answers.  I thought long and hard about my own answer to this call for success stores ,because  I did not finish a novel, nor did I find courage to speak up.   I found my people.

Every meeting, everyday, every meal, snack, session, and after hours moments led me to the most interesting, loving, and funny people you could imagine – and not always in the knee slapping belly laughing kind of way. I sat next to a woman who lost her 16-year-old daughter to suicide.  She shared her story with me, how she came to terms with things and now she was looking to find her “funny” again,   It’s as if the ‘funny’ was a drug. Of course there were outlandishly funny people there, including stand up comics, humor bloggers, even TV personalities known for their funny side.   And there was no shortage of fiction and non-fiction writers of satire.   The most hilarious new greeting came from a  person who told me “I don’t even know why I’m here!  I’m not even a writer!”   She was looking for something new.

Some of us find our people at Wal-Mart, some at Armani.

It’s important to find your people, no matter what age you are. I found my people in college where I learned how to party, and the value of hard work. I found my people in my first ‘real job’ where all of us post grads suffered under the hand of a boss who makes Michael Scott seem average. I found my people when my twins were born and a bunch of the moms of twins joined in joy and misery.   I found my people at Erma.

From every stage of my life I’ve found my people, because I go out and be where we can find each other.   I’m not always looking for them, I  don’t know who they are, what they look like or when they will show up.    I know it when they come however, because they fill up a space I didn’t know was open and it just feels right.  

The best piece of relationship advice I ever got was from a friend who was from the young professional version of me – those people.   I will never forget what she said while I was despairing about meeting that someone.   “Just do what you like to do,” she said.  “You’ll find like minded people who like to do what you like to do, and then you can do that together.”  In fairness my mother probably said that to me, many times, but let’s face it, mom advice is usually only good in hindsight.    

I spoke to my friend, the advice-giver recently,  and even though it had been years and years since we spoke, it was as if it was just the other day that we parted.  

Once you find even one of your people, they will always be with you, in different geographies, or sizes, or importance, but they never leave, they’re you people after all, and you are theirs. 




Fall 2016

IMG_6106I wave bye bye  to summer

And the beehive in my yard.

I’m deflating all the pool toys

Which is more sad than hard.


The beaches are still open but

leaves are on the ground.

I can’t help buying pencils and

A bag to tote around.


I haven’t been in school full time

since 1983

But September always makes me sigh

And wish that it was me


who is


Cramming summer reading,

And catching up with friends,

And picking out my “first day” clothes

As if my life depends


On making good impressions,

And turning a new leaf,

But soon enough I realize

that me,

is just still me.



The air is subtly changing

I pull more toys from the pool.

And pretend I’m getting ready

for another

of school.

What Attention Span?

IMG_6030 This morning I did a few of the regular morning things that many people do.  I made coffee, let the dog outside in the yard, decided not to rid the kitchen sink of the dirty dishes and went to my desk.  

Because we’re still on summer break there is zero structure, extremely flexible plans and  due dates that move along the calendar line two to three days at a time.  There’s no rush to do much unless company’s coming.  At least that’s the vibe in my house right now.   

This is the point at which, (beginning next week)  I  set a timer to read my email and then to peruse Facebook in the morning.    But  I’m on summer vacation right?   I don’t have to worry about the time space continuum making me late for work or the kids needing a 7AM last minute thing for school.   I am currently unencumbered by 20 minute intervals. 

After a few minutes of sorting through email messages I noticed one about an upcoming convention I’ve been looking for.   That message reminded me about a seminar I’m waitlisted on so  I hopped over to that page to see if there was any news but when it loaded, all kinds of information beckoned my attention!   Yes, kid in a candy store kind of stimuli.   One speaker’s bio in particular interested me but clicking on her bio took me right to Amazon and her new book.   It was no surprise that the sidebar of the Amazon page featured small printers for college dorms which was the one thing we forgot to send with our oldest  when she left for school earlier this week.   The price was appealing but I always check Shopzilla when buying online and that led me to the sale at Target.  I put the printer in my cart and got myself more coffee because I wasn’t sure if we still needed the printer.   It was then, back in the kitchen getting coffee that I made the only true decision of the morning.  I decided once again NOT to empty the kitchen sink.  

So funny story – I went back to my computer where my planner, the family calendar, a stack of bills to pay and some postage stamps reminded me that I haven’t done a single thing to make my to do list smaller and somehow I’ve been up for over two hours already.   I figured I may as well write about it since that’s the one thing I might actually finish, and at least I won’t be 100% ineffectual this morning.    As soon as I press the  ‘post’ button for this blog entry I’m going to have at that stuff in the kitchen sink, but it’s such a nice day, maybe I should take a walk first, clear my head and exercise before getting the day underway. 

Big Sister Goes To College

 When the girl in this picture was a wee tot I took her to preschool.   I held her hand as  we walked down the hallway and as soon as she let go and waved ‘bye bye’ I started to cry.  I didn’t think she saw me when I teared up, and I know for sure she didn’t see the director comfort me and show me how I could peek into the classroom undetected to see that I had nothing to worry about.


Melody Moves into the dorm.

So as certain as I am that she didn’t see me cry that day, she still somehow knew, because on day two as I held her hand and walked her down the hallway to her teacher she looked up at me and said “Mommy, are you going to cry again today?”    Of course, you know I did.    But on day two I cried because my little baby girl didn’t seem to mind leaving me and that was hard.

Yesterday, when I left her at college, it was just as hard.

And the reason it was hard to leave her two states away in a dorm room, was not because she doesn’t need me, and it wasn’t hard because I’ll miss her.  It was hard because she’s so incredibly confident and smart and beautiful and, well, ready.    She is ready and I don’t think she’s going to need me at all soon.   It makes me  wonder if the mama bird who kicks her birdies from the nest feels the pain too.   She thinks she’s ready for them to go, but then they fly away and it’s too late to say, “wait, make sure you eat vegetables, and make good choices!”   I wonder.

When we were leaving yesterday she let me have a little pow wow with her so I was in fact able to tell her to eat right, make good choices, and go to class, even when you don’t really want to sometimes.  We hugged for a long time (I thank her for that), we both got a little teary. and then hugged for a while more.    She hugged her sisters and her dad and we all said I love you and then she waved bye bye just like she did all those years ago.   She was off to start an exciting journey and we just went home.

So today was her first day there and our first day her without her.   When I went up the stairs past her room this morning I noticed from under the door that her light was off.  I thought “Hmm, she’s still asleep,” and then I realized she’s not here.  I told her sister the story and she said “Funny, I did the same thing.”

Resisting the urge to text her, to call her, to drive two states away and peek in the window like I did when she was little is hard. Yesterday I cried because I handed her off to her new place at her new school and today I cried because she went.  Tomorrow will be better and before you know she ‘ll be home arguing with her sisters and making a mess in the kitchen and I’ll have to remember just how much I  missed it when she was gone.

And when she returns to college for another term she might say “Mom, are you gonna cry again this time?”  And my answer will probably be yes.  Of course you know I will.




Why Oh Why

I’ve been writing in my journal about the same damn things for the past 20 years.

Why can’t I lose weight?  Why is the house always a mess?  Why am I so stressed out all the time?   Why , oh why?  Every day  I get up, I do what needs to be done first,  followed by what should  be done (as energy permits), and lastly is the stuff I’d like to see done.   As one would imagine, the things I would like  to see done, are never, ever,  done.   Have you heard this one?   “Why is it every that every time I get to the bottom of my inbox, I always find the same damn thing?”

It’s time to start at the bottom of the to do list and work my way up to the top.  But the universe is working against me.

One of my favorite things to imagine is living in a house that I love.   I write about in my journal sometimes, how all the rooms are painted nice calm colors and the furniture doesn’t have to be camouflaged in a way that hides the coke stain or the sewn up tear from the day the dog attacked the cushion.

I also imagine about being a perfect size six.  I would  never eat standing up,  never overeat, and  never eat something just because it tastes good.  Only true hunger would drive  me to the kitchen.  In my perfect size six world I open my very clean  refrigerator  and see  Perrier and a  vegetable platter for a snacks, rather than moldy strawberries, flat soda and mystery meat.

Oh and  I would have no stress.   I imagine walking into the house to find a nice clean entry instead of skates, tutus, and computer parts.  Do they realize that they all have a room of their own to house this stuff?   They do realize it.  They choose to ignore it.    I live with a fish, a dog, two cats, a guinea pig, a husband and three teenage girls.  There are certainly enough humans to help out.   In my no stress land they help each other with small things like finding keys or checking the calendar before making plans.  In my world there are no cell phones that light up with  texts that end with “can I”, or “why not?”   At night, in pretend land,  I turn on the TV set and enjoy my favorite show at a normal sound level, instead of  bumping up the volume so I don’t have to listen to the sister warfare over the missing hair conditioner.

So why can’t I live that life I imagine in my wishes journal?   That’s like asking “why can’t I move that mountain?”  Because it’s too big and heavy and not what nature intended?   Gee Whiz.

This morning I was certain my daughter was going to be home for a while when I returned from the high school drop off.   I stopped and got her a Caramel Frappucino, something I never do.  I have  a firm belief that that unless I own shares of Starbucks, being a customer of their overpriced fancy coffee is just overrated.   But I got her one, imagining she took the later train to work and we’d have a little mom/daughter time.   But I got home and she was gone.   Then, while trying to get my key out for the front door I dropped the $4.75 coffee at my feet.   I sent he a picture of the Random Act of Kindness I was trying to complete and then nine texts later after she told me about how she missed the train, and about the injustices of the pay for parking lot and the woeful balance of her bank account, she finally got on the train and then I was off to clean up THIS:



I will not stop fighting the universe to move the mountain.  I’m like the little engine that could.   Cleaning up the porch is nothing compared to the work ahead of this size six, zen wannabe.

I’ll keep you posted, you keep praying for me.