Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Birthday Challenge

I typically don’t take requests for readers of my blog, but a friend, Cindy Canipe, living in eastern North Carolina has a birthday today and she requested I write something funny for her. 

Imagine the pressure this poses. 

One, I’m not Jay Leno, and two, my brain doesn’t produce humorous quips under pressure, or at a moment’s notice. However, I found her request intriguing and by opening my mouth, moving my fingers, I am bound by honor to oblige. 

The sad part is that I told her it would be published by 2:00 today. That gives me shy of 4 hours to be funny and do all the edits. 

So, here’s to you Cindy, happy birthday. 
Thanks for the pressure.

I started looking through some humor stories that had never been published. There was a boat story, a sailing story, and a travel story that I could have shared. But that’s not the kind of story Cindy would want to hear. She would like to hear about another cooking disaster or that I set the kitchen on fire for the fifth time. That wouldn’t work because I’ve only set the kitchen on fire three times. 

Sorry Cindy, but I gave up cooking. I live on air.

I suppose I could tell the story of the two women that work at Wal-Mart, that stopped in the Maritime Museum on Tuesday while I was volunteering. 
One woman was reserved and congenial while the other one was brash, loud talking and couldn’t refrain from commenting about each male that walked by. She was on the prowl. She outright confessed, “Anything above the waist I can touch but I won’t go down there. Nope.” She had her values in order and it was perfectly okay to ogle after men and let them know how fine they were. To their face, no less.

The first woman didn’t participate in this sport but was there, just in case. I’m not sure what she would have done if the second woman got over her head, but after 14 years of being her friend, she was through chastising and made no comments. Deep down, I think she was vicariously living another personality, one she didn’t dare indulge. When they left the museum, the second woman said, “Let’s go to the fudge factory. I see some men I’d like to sample.”

Unfortunately, Cindy probably wouldn’t like that kind of story. I thought about my bedroom and sleeping with 3 cats. You can probably guess that it entails cats walking on my face, biting my head, jumping on the least meaty part of my legs, the shins, when they want to go somewhere, bruises and bite marks everywhere. Or maybe about the different kinds of meowing, squeaks and chirps that occur at all hours of the morning, the cat that has to cough up hairballs, ate too much and is throwing up, and the male cat that has to make so much noise at 3 or 4:00 in the morning that he’s ready to hunt outside.

On second thought. All that’s depressing and I’m yawning now just thinking about all the sleep I missed.

Perhaps Cindy would find my writing amusing.
 She’s only known my “real” writing from the newspaper and magazine articles I’ve written over the past 9 years. My writing has been nonfiction, creative non-fiction, and a little bit of humor that is nonfiction or slightly skewed.
I am the queen of nonfiction; it fits my science/math orientation. I like facts, figures, logic and order. She’s never known me to write fiction, and neither has anyone else.

I’ve always said that I couldn’t write fiction if Stephen King stood over my computer key board, took my fingers, and started typing with the manual sitting next to me.

My friend, Joan Carris, who is a fabulously famous, award winning YA author, read one of my manuscripts for a children’s book and said, “Helen, you should stick with nonfiction.” Who am I to dispute such authoritative wisdom?

All this being said, rather than write the 100 American Boats You Must See in Your Lifetime (which I’m working on, by the way), I decided to get the farthest from the nonfiction genre as possible, I’m writing a romance novel. 
Not even Scott knows this and it’s hard blushing all the time while he wonders what I’m writing.  I’ve also been taking cooler and cooler showers lately…

I hope this tickles Cindy’s funny bone, and with an hour to spare.  

Happy birthday

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love is in the Air

I planned a valentine's day themed luncheon, "Love is in the Air" for the 3 water aerobics classes I attend. 

Yes, I'm waterlogged most days but between the water weights, noodle and fast moving, there's always lots to talk about and getting together for lunch about every other month is fun. An old Ziggy mug I used to own expresses my sentiments correctly saying, "Never call me for anything I can't eat."

When the ladies arrived, they were directed to choose a broken heart part and to match it to its partner on the table; that match indicated their seat- it got people together that normally wouldn't sit together. 

After orders were taken, I gathered two matching heart halves and proceeded to sing, "Don't go breakin' my heart." This was the segue into the next game. I asked "Who was your first love, and who was your first kiss with?"

I started by saying that my first love was with my mother's chicken salad. No laughs. However I followed with "Food has always been my love," and I guess they understood. 

Then I said my first kiss was with Evan Council at the roller rink when I was a 6th grader, and explained that he married one of my childhood friends and became a "roadie" for some heavy metal band. 

Boy was I glad that relationship didn't stick.

As I went around the tables the stories were touching and funny. Almost everyone remembered their first love and even their first kiss. A few women said their first kiss came from playing spin the bottle. Many ladies nodded and from their sparkling eyes, they remembered things...

I don't think I was ever that lucky.

Two of the older women indicated that their first love became their only love in marriage. One had been married over 50 years and the other over 60 years. Amazing true love.  

I copied some Hallmark party word searches, word scrambles and puzzles to do if there was some "silent" time. These went over better than I had imagined and was told that many of the women enjoyed doing puzzles- another surprise.

I asked the ladies to bring a photo of their "youthful" self. These were placed on top of  red heart doilies and I asked them to try to guess who was who? Most guessed correctly but a few stumped the group. There were lots of smiles and infectious laughter. 

What a great time at lunch, but it carried over to today's water aerobics' class. 

My friend, Joanne came up to me in the pool and lowered her voice. "I probably shouldn't tell you this but after the luncheon was over, I collected all the hearts left on the table."

"You did? That's okay."

She moved even closer and said, "Do you know what I did with them?"

"No."

"I spread all the hearts over my bed... and it worked."


Indeed, love was in the air.


May you always be surrounded with love in the air. 
I'd love to hear from you. Write to me at aitkenhelen@gmail.com.








Friday, February 10, 2017

It sounds like Valentine's Day

Sometimes I get distracted with all the things I need to do and end up doing things at the last minute. 
Before special holidays or birthdays come around, I spent hours thinking about the perfect gift to give.  

This year’s Valentine’s Day came too fast and I was unprepared.  My last option was to visit Wal-Mart.   Going there showed the desperation I felt; the parking lot is beyond chaos, the lines are excessively long and the selections are always picked over. 

I was determined to buy a card.  I never buy a card- I don’t find just the right one and feel like I’ve wasted too much time.  This year the card would be part of Scott’s gift; he wouldn’t expect it, so great.

I found 2 cardboard kiosks of cards near checkout lane number 52.  In kiosk number 1, the only Valentine ’s Day cards left were to Mother-in-laws.  I went to the other side and saw two funny cards for husbands.  I bent over and instantaneously heard, “Bbbffffffff”.

I popped up thinking, I didn’t fart, so who did? 

Two feet from me, in a shopping cart was a three-year-old boy practicing fart sounds; he made the best whoopee cushion imitation.  The mother realized what happened and said, “Timmy.”  I guess I smiled.  I think she was also looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day card.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I went to the second cardboard kiosk.  Again, there were plenty of Mother-in-law cards but nothing else.  I rounded the corner and thought I saw the perfect card.  

I bent down to the bottom tier and as fate would have it, “Bbbfffffff”, made me jump up.  I almost split my pants.  It was the same little boy.  This time, the mother didn’t even notice me or admonish Timmy, and I wasn’t smiling this time.

Enough! I grabbed the card and decided not to stick around for a third pass.


May all your shopping days be “Bbbfffffff”-less.
I'd love to hear from you, please email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Catalogue Queen in Training

People, who know me, know that I am a “hardback snob.” This means that I vehemently prefer a hardback book to a paperback book, and that I don’t like to break the spine of a book; the mark of a true hardback connoisseur.

In spite of my snobbery, I love magazines and catalogues, and getting something in my mailbox.

I love the small ones, the medium sized ones and the over-the-top extra large ones. I read then from cover to cover and promptly recycle them, unless there is something that I must order. Usually I will rip out the page, put it beside my computer, recycle the rest of it and then deliberate on whether I truly need the items.

The process may linger until I see the next catalogue which may have these items on sale. Not only am I a connoisseur of catalogues but I am proud to be a sale-lover as well. As an online shopper, I have graduated to beaucoup catalogues covering various genres.

Eventually the ones that try to sell me cement mixers and dogsled equipment realize I’m not their target audience and give up.

Perhaps like you, my name and address have been sold repeatedly to other magazines; I seem to keep certain catalogue companies in business.

However, I am perplexed by the ones that say, “This may be your last catalogue, if you don’t order soon,” since I’ve never received them before, and would prefer they keep their word in making it the last time I see it.

I’m really not into sleazy nightwear or the toys that go with them. Just saying.

I’ve always admired the “off- the- grid” inventor that delights in the junk mail and catalogues, creating paper logs from to heat their homes for the winter. I would consider this, but I don’t have a fireplace or potbellied stove, but I’m sure I’d keep the house toasty.

In general, I read catalogues in the car while Scott is driving, or in the “reading room.” Although I try not to distract Scott’s driving, I like to share a comical T-shirt logo or stupid pet item. When I’m finished, I drop the catalogue on the backseat’s floor and rely on him to recycle; he doesn’t like picking up after me, but, oh well.

The catalogue bug bit me while visiting my Mother-in-law, Ada; she is to be revered as the “Queen of the Catalogues.” In the past, while visiting her, I would marvel at the plastic boxes of catalogues lining the lower shelves of her office. One would never imagine they would be found in alphabetical order and by genre; clothing, household goods, foods, children’s, gardening and so forth, but it is so. I spent hours perusing little known ones with heightened anticipation. In a very short time, she became my catalogue guru, and I have tried to make it my mission to outdo her.

It never happened. Apparently, I’m still in training.

Today and even after many “remove my name from your list,” instructions, I am still happy to find catalogues in my mailbox. Today, I received 3 magazines and 10 catalogues, and it’s not even Halloween.

Holiday catalogues come next. Woohoo.


I hope the Postal lady still likes me. I think I need to leave her some candy with one of my favorite catalogues.

May all your mailboxes be filled with great catalogues. I'd love to hear what catalogues you like to get; email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Small Town Thoughts

I’ve lived in different sized cities and towns both in the states and overseas. There are pros and cons for living in a small town.

I like to be part of the community; volunteering and even being part of other people’s lives, making a difference.

Sometimes it takes a long time to be accepted in a small town. Typically, I don’t like being the center of attention, especially the focus of gossip.

However, sometimes it’s appropriate to be the center, like on my birthday. On Facebook, I received over a dozen birthday wishes from friends/family, and writer friends. 
That was nice.


Even my small town remembered me in an unusual way. I got a recorded phone message from the local drug store, singing happy birthday and wishing me the best for today. 

That’s a first.

May all you days be filled with warm wishes and great birthdays. Email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just When You Think It’s Safe To Go Into The Shower…


I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7 years old. Multiply that age by the times my glasses have been changed and you get a Progressive Lens wearer that’s nearly blind as a bat. 

Although bats can really see, they use echolocation to find their prey in the dark. Technically, they’re not blind then either, so why do we even say that?

I wish I had echolocation without my glasses, in the dark or in the light. Six inches away from my face and things just become blobs of color
Scott knows all too well because even with my glasses on, I can’t find where I dropped an earring or the remote, and he is enlisted to help me find these things. 

Unfortunately, he can’t find the remote either and since he doesn’t leave it in the same place twice, it becomes comparable to a “man hunt.”

Thankfully, I try to leave things like car keys and my cell phone in the same place each time they drop from my hand. I know, one day in the near future, they will be found in the refrigerator, but when I get that forgetful, I will have a “clapper” or whistle device attached the them.

Getting back to being blind. I got in the shower this morning, sans glasses and said to myself, “I need to pick up that blob of hair when I get out.” I toweled off, got dressed, put on my glasses and reached into the shower. It wasn’t a hair ball. It was a roach!

Apparently, I had taken a shower yesterday and today with the rude but extremely clean Blattodea. This may sound quite benign to you but I have two mortal enemies: spiders and roaches. Terrified is a mild word for what I feel for them. I believe I could adjust my name to “Helified” and that would describe my condition.

Scott knows “the scream,” “the look,” “the petrifaction” when I see a roach, a common occurrence living in the South with lots of rain. They migrate in hoards to climb the walls and ceilings just for the pleasure of torturing me. My family knows that the vacuum is the best and only way to securely remove the vermin quickly from sight. Not today.

I had to steel my nerves to use three squares of doubled up Kleenex to throw the disgusting thing into the toilet before the cats realize that I dropped something in it.  Heaven forbid if the cats brought it back into the bathroom. 

Swoosh. Another one bites the dust.

Note to self: keep glasses on before entering the shower stall. That is all.

May all your showers be insect-less. I’d love to hear about your glasses faux pas, email me at aitken.helen@gmail.com.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Things I Get Into

Why do I open my mouth and stick both feet inside?


Besides teaching a Weather class this evening, leaving at 4:30 to eat, set up and teach from 6:30-8:30, then take down and drive 50 minutes home, I made the mistake of saying I would give a floral demonstration to a garden club this morning.

They wanted to see "contemporary" Ohara Ikebana designs. My least favorite type; I have to be "creative." So I labored for days thinking about it and looking at all the containers I had that would fit the description. I chose 4 to work with and one was a traditional suiban that I would slip past them...

I sketched my designs, thought of appropriate greenery from my yard to cut in 100 degree heat that needed to live more than 1 day and knew I could go to Lowes' Foods for a few flowers.

 I bought too many flowers and began to work the designs. I thought, this is a test and I should always do the easiest things first; so the traditional container was chosen, the design got a twist and my confidence soared. 






Then came the clear green glass container with the hole in the middle that had never been used. I fought it and hour later, came up with what looked like a simple design. Even Scott said, "I could do that."



The third container looked like a cracked rock and I knew if I saw it in a field, eventually some wild plant would eventually grow there, so that inspired the design. The fourth one was in a pottery bowl I bought near the famous fish market in Tokyo. It screamed for a design mimicking flowering hostas and that worked (unfortunately I forgot to take the photo.)

This is where it gets stupid.

I got up early, tried on 4 different outfits, packed up the car with the flowers, and drove 35 miles to the venue. No one was there to pick me up. I brought in the flowers and didn't see the group. I went to the manager's office and he told me the meeting was NEXT WEDNESDAY. I repacked the flowers, drove home, unloaded the flowers and then promptly got in bed.

Later, It took me 1 hour to clean the kitchen and I thought I have to do this all over again next.

Oh boy.


Disclaimer: Usually, I would never show my work with "junk" all around it, but these were only going to be reminders for me to use while I was demonstrating. The "real" photos would be taken in a great setting with a wonderful backdrop. On well. Wonder what I'll be inspired to do next week?