every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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Endurance produces characters

Today, The Daughter and I are going to see the movie Pitch Perfect 2.  I have not seen its predecessor, Pitch Perfect, but I assume it doesn’t matter.  The plot appears to be that old chestnut; a group of loveable misfits enters a contest and comes out on top.  Instead of catchy tunes playing over the action, the catchy tunes are the action.  Oh, they might actually lose the Big Contest itself, but they will all be Winners.  Someone will find the Love of their Life.  Someone will discover hidden talents.  Someone will summon latent courage.  Someone will make the cover of Time magazine.

The Little Rascals, The Dirty Dozen, Star Wars, Bad News Bears, Major League, Ghostbusters, Cool Runnings, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Oceans Eleven, Slumdog Millionaire, Over the Hedge, Glee, and, in a reversal, Legally Blonde, the story of a beautiful rich girl whose goodness is thwarted by jealous people who are even more beautiful and rich.  They’re humans, animals, toys, children, adults, felons, wizards, time-travelers, athletes, rich and poor, from all cultures, real and fictitious.

They all suffer and endure and become memorable characters with inordinate amounts of hope and do great things, because that kind of hope does not disappoint.[1]

Who can’t relate to at least one of the characters in a misfit movie?  At some time, we have all felt ourselves to be The Other.  If you haven’t, then you probably don’t have a heart.  These stories have a Smart-Ass.  A Genius.  A Shrinking Violet.  A Cool Kid.  A Privileged Kid.  A Really Poor Kid.  A Kid with a Unique Physical Attribute.  Everyone has a crucial talent to contribute.  Their equipment is dilapidated, but their key to success is threefold:  They’re smart.  They persevere.  They have Principles.

I’m sure I’m the Smart-Ass, because my mouth gets me into trouble.  All.  The.  Time.  In trying to be truthful, I am all too often blunt.  For all my verbal acuity, I have a lot of trouble with tact.  I also have trouble with the arrogant, the liar, the fear-monger, the cheat.  (The honestly stupid, not so much.  They try my patience but get my pity.)

The other day, I got into an argument in a clothing shop, the “cheaper” version of a major women’s retailer.  I saw a sign hanging on a rack of denim pants that said, “Denim – $39.99.”  I checked the tag.  The pants were normally $69.99, which is ridiculous for a pair of non-descript, white denim pants.  They probably weren’t worth $39.99, but they were a petite-size, which is hard to find these days.  I tried them on.  I even verified with a clerk in the dressing room that these pants were on sale.

“Oh, yes,” she said.  “All denim is on sale.”

I got in line at the cashier.  The pants rang up as $69.99.

“Excuse me,” I started, “these are on sale.”

“No, they aren’t,” the clerk replied curtly.

“Well, the sign says ‘Denim – $39.99.’”

“Not all denim is on sale,” she continued.  The other cashier side-eyed us.  The customer behind me stepped away from the counter.

“The clerk in the dressing room verified it when I asked her,” I pressed.

“These pants are NOT on sale.”

I marched to the rack and flipped the sign in her direction.

“The sign is on the rack with these pants!” I complained rather forcefully.  “How can these denim pants, hanging directly beneath the sign, not be the denim pants that the sign says are on sale?  If these aren’t the denim pants on sale, which ones are?”

Now, people all over the store were staring at me, the crazy misfit Smart-Ass.

“Ma’am, the company sends us the signs and tells us where to hang them.  It doesn’t mean that those pants are the pants that are on sale,” she said loftily.

“That’s false advertising.  I don’t want the pants.”

“You don’t want the pants?”

“No, I certainly do not, and, you know what?  This is the second time in a month that this has happened in this store.  I won’t be shopping here again.”

I picked up my handbag and walked out.  Behind me, I heard laughter.  Morons.

I should have whipped out my cellphone and photographed the sign on the rack of pants and posted it on Facebook.  The Daughter, who had some experience in retailing in a better women’s clothing store, said I should have asked to see the store manager.   She pointed out that a smart clerk or store manager would have sold me the pants at $39.99 and moved the sign.

Coulda.  Shoulda.  Woulda.  I’m not going to be ripped off either by overpriced pants, deceptive retailing, or snarky clerks.  I’m not going around pants-less.  I own other pants.  It’s the principle that matters. I shall persevere and be a better person for it.

DATE UPDATE:

142 views this week and only one scammer, a woman from Delaware allegedly writing on behalf of her boss in Reno, Nevada, who said that I was “the only woman that caught his attention…”  I always feel bad reporting the people with the profiles, because they’ve obviously had their photos and profiles hacked.  Still, it’s the principle that matters.  I see myself as a one-woman avenger, in my crazy misfit Smart-Ass way.

On match, you can see some of the men/women who have viewed your profile.  Lately, most men have bought the “Hide your profile so you can look at women without their knowledge” option.  I find this creepy.  It’s like being stalked by a peeping Tom.  At best, I envision spies in restaurants peering over the tops of menus.  At worst, I envision perverts photographing women on the beach for nefarious purposes.  (I saw that on Inside Edition last week.  What is our world coming to?)

Out of 142 views, only 12 profiles were visible to me.  Only five of those followed up their viewing by expressing an interest.  That’s kind of depressing.  Of the five, only one was even remotely appealing.  Some of the 12 were attractive, and, assuming that there was something in my photo that grabbed their attention, I wrote to them anyway.  I decided to be less picky, just to engage men in conversation, but it’s hard for a woman of character to endure men of no principle.  I also changed my profile to say that I would write to anyone who winked, interested, or favorited me.  It seems only fair to answer someone who summons the courage (or the chutzpah) to flirt with a complete stranger.

Which brings me to Pitch Perfect 2.  It’s really not giving anything away to say that the misfits overcame a humiliating disaster.  More than one character found love.  More than one character exhibited hidden talents.  Someone summoned courage when it was needed.

Goodness always wins.  Beat it up.  Steal its toys.  It may wear dilapidated pants, but it’s still going to be good.  And that gives me eternal hope, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


[1] Romans 5:3-4.  Yeah.  Even for cartoon characters.


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Queen of All I See

I tend to swear a lot when I drive alone in my car.  Other drivers aggravate me when they tailgate, drive too slow, drive too fast, fail to signal, abruptly cross lanes of traffic to exit, stop in the middle of the road, drive without headlights, come at me with their high beams, don’t clear the snow off their windshields, play music too loud, park too close to my car, bang my car with their doors, park in restricted spaces without authorization, and on and on.

However, I am a lady.  It would never occur to me to set their car on fire.  Or smash their windshield with a baseball bat.

Instead of a bat, I want a magic wand.  I would wave my glittering wand in their direction and POOF!  The offender would disappear instantly, transported to their final destination — their earthly destination, that is — so that they couldn’t endanger anyone else.

When an inconsiderate fool with 20 items gets into the express lane for 15 items and under, instead of shoving my cart into their backside, I would wave my wand and POOF!  They would be transported to the end of the longest line in the store.  While they wait contentedly, they could enjoy the tabloid headlines: Sleep your Fat Away, Baking Wedding Cakes with Three Common Household Ingredients, Self-Mowing Lawns, etc., etc., etc.

When a clerk talks on her cellphone while waiting on me, instead of slapping it away from her ear, I would use my wand to send her on a break and replace her with one of the wacky characters from the British television classic Are You Being Served?  We customers would be gently amused and served tea out of fine bone china while our purchases are wrapped in discreet packages with elegant ribbon.

When my flight is delayed for mechanical issues, instead of ranting and raving to the gate agent, I would wave my wand and POOF!  I would be transported with my loved ones to a private beach on my own private island — in a comfy chair under a shady palm tree with an infinite supply of good books — and a cooler full of iced beverages — and nothing to do all day — forever.  No jerks.  No fools.  No swearing.  Queen for Eternity.

With a private chef.  My idea of heaven includes a skinny me eating all my favorite foods, guilt-free, no fat, no calories, no carcinogens, and food that I didn’t even know existed.  Ambrosia.  The Nectar of the Gods.  All that crazy good stuff.  Transports of delight.  Even food that I can’t stand.

IMG_5067When I was a child, I ate three vegetables, corn, green beans, and potatoes.  It’s a wonder that I survived, isn’t it?  When I learned to cook, I discovered a whole new world of earthly delights.  For example, asparagus.  I always hated asparagus when I was a kid, because it came in a can and was a slimy, drab olive green.  It smelled bad and tasted like the can.

What a treat to find out that the real thing, properly prepared, tastes almost sweet, especially when garden-fresh.  I look for stalks that are a uniform diameter, either all tiny or no bigger than ½” in diameter.  I look for heads with tight “petals,” preferably almost purple.  If I’m not preparing it immediately, I cut off the bottoms to even them up and stand them in ½” of water.   When ready to cook, I break off the tough bottoms by flexing the stalk until it snaps.  (It actually does the work for you.)  If they’re larger than ½”, I scrape them with a vegetable peeler.

IMG_5073Don’t be intimidated by asparagus steamers.  Even I, the collector of obscure cooking equipment don’t have one.  Just follow these super-easy directions:

In a skillet large enough to lay the asparagus in one layer, bring 1” of water to a boil.  Gently lay the prepared stalks in the boiling water.  Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes or until a bright green, never drab green.  If your stalks are under ½” in diameter, reduce cooking time to 2 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove skillet, and carefully drain the stalks.  Return stalks to the hot skillet and roll in 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg.  If desired, sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and sea salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

After 40 years, I’ve learned what asparagus smells like when it’s properly cooked.  When it’s overcooked, it smells like that stuff in the can.  Of course, asparagus is one of those foods whose fragrance returns to haunt you a few hours after dinner, if you know what I mean.  Of course, I’m a lady and wouldn’t dare use the “p” word…wink, wink.

DATE UPDATE:

Things have been really sloooow.  100 men (I assume they were all men) viewed my profile last week.  I like to reset my view counter each week to see how many men I have frightened away.  Of the 100 potential suitors (that sounds idiotic, even to me), several were brave enough to wink, like, or favorite me.

An attractive man winked at me, so I returned a wink, but he did not respond, so I still don’t understand the purpose of winking.  Maybe he was winking at someone else.  If he winked at me in public, I would have made eye contact and smiled.  If he turned away, I would have looked around to see if he was winking at someone else.  You know, that embarrassing moment when you realize that someone is not waving at you, as you wave back at them? Maybe it was a pity wink.

I received another message from match.com about a different attractive man that read, “So-and-So is interested in you.”  He only lives 15 minutes from me, so I read his profile and, thinking that I should have written to the other guy instead of just returning a wink, I commented on a photo of him on a sailboat, asking where he was when the photo was taken.  That was three days ago. My email box says the message hasn’t been read.  Does that mean that it was deleted or just not read? Maybe I shouldn’t have commented?

No one tells you these things.  I googled “Online Dating Etiquette” and found conflicting information.  Maybe he didn’t read it (match says he’s been online every day).  Maybe he deleted it (no way of knowing).  The “experts” say that I should just move on to the next guy because the more that I look and the more that I answer the more chance I have that the next guy who is interested or winks or shows up in my “Daily Matches” could be THE one.

I’m having my doubts.

More from the “experts”:  Guys who wink instead of writing are “players.”  Guys who wink instead of writing are just shy.  Guys who click “interested” without writing are just shopping.  Guys who click “interested” fear rejection.  Guys who are still married say they’re “currently separated.”  Guys want confident women who write to them first (ha!).  Guys of a certain age don’t like women who initiate contact.

You should answer every email, even if you aren’t interested.  It’s ok to ignore email from guys you don’t like.  Send a second email, if the guy doesn’t respond.  Never send a second email, if the guy doesn’t respond.  Don’t lie about your age.  It is expected that everyone shaves a couple years off their age.  Contact guys who want much younger women because much younger women don’t want them, anyway.  Don’t contact guys who want much younger women because they’re delusional.

Where’s Emily Post when you need her?  This is why manners are de rigueur to me.  We all understand the rules of the game when we follow proper etiquette.  Hey!  Guys!  How about just being honest?  If you don’t intend to start a conversation, DON’T DO ANYTHING.  If you’re married, talk to your wife!  Why frustrate two women?

In browsing what the site calls “Matches,” there was a 63-year old guy about 30 miles from me who said he’s a veterinarian.  I looked at all of his photos but didn’t recognize him.  Okay.  So, maybe I don’t know every veterinarian in Maryland (could be industry or government), but I know most of them.  And, yes, he didn’t want a woman older than 55 (wth is with these old guys?).  I wrote to him anyway, saying that my late husband had been an avian veterinarian and asking if he was in private practice.  As a divorced man, I guess he doesn’t want another long-suffering veterinarian’s wife, because I ain’t heard from him, either.  Silly me. I’m only one year younger than he is.  My email box says the message hasn’t been read, either, whatever that means.

On Sunday, I received a first email from a man inviting me to a “music circle” at his brother’s house on “Friday night” at which I “wouldn’t be expected to sing or anything” with a “group of men with guitars.” That sounds like the plot of a slasher flick.  No, thanks.

You may be amused to hear that the widower who doesn’t like the French emailed me that I am geographically undesirable.  For once, distance worked in my favor.  I didn’t need to bring out the wand and make him disappear, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Secret Ingredients

I received a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day.  My Mother fixed dinner for us.  We were in shock.  In the TVLand of the 1950s, the stereotypical mother cooked three fabulous meals a day for her grateful family.  Mine did not.  At least once a week, My Dad would walk into the house, note that the stove was empty, and say, “I guess we’re going out to eat.”

Although it seemed like a great treat to have her fix dinner for us, there was some trepidation on our part.  For the past 40 years, I have been the family cook for Important Holidays and Other Significant Occasions.

“She says she’s making roast beef,” My Sister informed me.

“What?!”  I was incredulous.  I’m the succulent beef roaster, served with freshly-grated horseradish root, port-laced au jus, glazed carrots, and crispy Yorkshire Pudding.

“Mm-hmm.”  She muttered.

“But she doesn’t like to cook.  Maybe we should order out Chinese or Italian.”

“I offered, but she said she wanted to make roast beef,” My Sister sighed.

I considered bringing a bottle of red wine, because I can eat anything, even mushrooms, if I gulp them with copious amounts of wine.  My Mother thinks that all meat should be served well-done, which means gray and dry.  After living with The Veterinarian for 42 years, I now eat beef medium-rare and, occasionally, even carpaccio, if the kitchen is trustworthy.

When dining out with My Mother, we pray that she orders fish.  I have seen her fight with waiters over meat that she said was presented still “mooing” and have seen chefs in perfectly fine restaurants refuse to serve her prime rib well-done.    We grovel with the waiter when she orders beef, begging them for an “outside cut.”

It turns out that we needn’t have worried.  She made pot roast, one of  my favorite recipes.  Still, she grumbled.

Secret Ingredient

Secret Ingredient

“I couldn’t find canned French onion soup at any of the grocery stores,” she said, “no Campbell’s, no Progresso, not even a generic store-brand.”

The key to her pot roast is two cans of Campbell’s French Onion soup.  It’s the only soup that I ever cook with, and I only use it to make pot roast, because, well, it tastes like Mom’s.  It isn’t too salty, like that dry soup mix, and it doesn’t have mushrooms.  You simply dredge a piece of lean chuck roast in flour with salt and pepper, brown it on all sides in hot oil and drain on paper towels.  Then, you pour one can of the soup in the bottom of a Dutch oven or slow-cooker, top it with the meat, whole peeled carrots, and celery (with the leaves), pour another can of soup over the top, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for at least 2-1/2 hours.  Alternatively, you can cook it, covered, in a 325° oven, which My Mother did.  Hence, roast beef.

Of course, a lot of sliced onions and beef broth will give the same effect, but I think that  piece of pseudo Swiss cheese in the soup can makes a richer sauce.  Yes, I’m delusional.  Although I’ve not read the soup can’s label, it’s probably a mess of chemicals, but I just don’t care.  It’s the taste and the memories that make the difference.

My Mother finds gravy a challenge, too, although this time it was nearly perfect.  She strains the broth to remove the vegetables and globs of fat and meat and reheats it in a saucepan.  Then her technique gets a little “dicey,” as she takes her ancient, empty jar of Taster’s Choice instant coffee crystals, into which she places flour and — yikes! — cold water, which she shakes vigorously, increasingly complaining that it won’t smoothly blend.  She stirs this into the hot broth and tries to stir out the inevitable lumps with a spoon.  This produces more grumbling.  I offered to make the gravy, but she wouldn’t let me near the stove.

Let me tell you how to really make gravy.  You start with two tablespoons of hot fat — strained pan drippings or butter — and slowly whisk in two tablespoons of flour, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling.  To make more gravy, use more fat and flour, in equal proportions. Then, and only then, do you slowly whisk in enough hot broth to make a thick gravy.  It’s better to have gravy that’s too thin, because you can always reduce it by simmering (or boiling, if you’re really pressed for time).  If it’s too lumpy, just pass it through a sieve.  No sweat.

With My Mother and My Sister, 1958

With My Mother and My Sister, 1958

All in all, our meal did just what a Mother’s Day dinner should do, evoke memories of family and love, which puts the comfort into food.  No one had to get dressed up or grovel with waiters or dodge the traffic in downtown Baltimore headed to hear the Artist-Once-Again-Known-as-Prince in his “Rally 4 Peace.”

DATE UPDATE:

I had two dates with a mostly pleasant widower a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t think I’ll hear from him again, which is ok.  We disagreed about voting (I do; he hasn’t for 20 years), current events (he doesn’t pay attention to the news; I do), and the hospitality of the French.  I have never had a bad time in France.  He hates the French.  That’s a quote, not a paraphrase.  He said that the French are only nice to me because I speak French.  I pointed out that The Veterinarian didn’t speak French at all.  I pointed out several occasions when the French have been extremely gracious to me, my family, or my friends, but he wasn’t convinced.

I told him about a train trip in France where some young people made rude remarks about Americans.  Two middle-aged Frenchmen sitting in front of us got up and chewed the kids out.  On their way back to their seats, the men came to us and apologized in English.  I replied in my choppy but intelligible French with beaucoup smiles.  Graciousness when traveling goes a long way to effective communication with others.

My date remained unconvinced, and in the end, I didn’t see myself traveling any place with him, much less through the remainder of my life.  Oh, yeah!  And he doesn’t drink wine.  Maybe that’s why he doesn’t like France.  Maybe that’s why I don’t like him.

I received an email from a man who said he was a medical researcher and teacher with a PhD.  He wrote to me, “Hi!  Cute photo!”  I read his profile essay, which said he was born in Canada, and skimmed his other profile information, noting that he had traveled a lot and lived abroad.

I thanked him for his compliment and said, “I grew up in Detroit.  Where in Canada were you born?”

His response?  “Hmmm.  I guess you didn’t really read my profile…”

Mystified, I re-read his profile, which still only said that he was born in Canada, but down below, under the notes section, where I noticed again that he refused to comment on his “Faith,” that he speaks English and French, and then, near the bottom, under “Favorite Hot Spots,” between “Love NYC and San Francisco” and “lived in Tel Aviv” that he was born in Montreal.  Oops!  My bad.  That’s why I was a better English major than chemistry major, failure to note the minutiae.

I replied, “Sorry.  I did read your profile, but the items under “Hot Spots” didn’t stick in my memory.  Bonne chance! [Good luck]”  I wanted to say, “Sorry, Professor, I read your profile but didn’t realize there would be a quiz.”  Yes, I made a mistake, but a little graciousness on his part would have been nice.

Yesterday, a man who lives 50 miles away in Washington, DC and whose profile claims to only be interested in women within 40 miles, asked me to Skype him.  I know how lame I sounded telling him that I don’t have access to the internet except through cellular data.  I told him I would be happy to correspond by email, citing my geographic undesirability.  Of course, he hasn’t responded.

Then, there was this guy, whose grammar is questionable: “Oh boy do I love the sarcasm.  I am that way as well.  Your profile is a great read & in person I bet it’s a million times better.  Now that I am retired I had made several considerations.  I opted out on all of them except for going to hell in a hand basket.  I haven’t been there yet.  Oh wait, I’ve got that covered.  I use [sic] to live in New Jersey…”

“Do I sound that wacky in my profile?”  I fretted.  I reconsidered myself and rewrote my profile to sound more gracious; sweet, gentle, kind, patient, forgiving, loving, tolerant, demure, meek, etc., etc., etc., a ruse that I have tried in the past without success.

Today, I received this from a man in Pennsylvania, “I enjoyed reading your profile.  It was clear, direct plain … and positive.  I do not seek a reply.  You have a very interesting personality.”

I translated this as:  “For God’s sake, don’t write to me, crazy lady!”

By the way, My Mother, who isn’t crazy about France, either, loved the blouse that I bought for her birthday last October and then lost and didn’t find in time for Christmas and finally gave her for Mother’s Day.  She gave me a giant Tootsie Roll, my favorite childhood candy.  We shared love and comfort on Mother’s Day, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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An Open Letter to My Fitbit

Dear Fitbit;

You call this

Fitbit – You call this “progress?”

I received your email at 1:01am today with my “Weekly Progress Report,” and I sense that you are a little frustrated with me.  You didn’t come right out and say it, but I can tell.  I see the red downward arrows for “Total Steps” and “Total Distance.”  There’s no need to be so passive-aggressive about my laziness.  It only makes me want to reach for the chocolate.  I would appreciate it if you would be more encouraging when I am struggling.

You should know that I lost my rhythm when I was on vacation in March.  Mind you, I took my Zumba dvd with me and even used it three times in 10 days, on the hard tile floor of the condo, during the morning, when I was fairly certain that the guests in the unit downstairs were off scuba diving.  The tile was too slippery for me to plank, so the old abs didn’t get much of a workout, either.  I have returned to planking on my soft wool rug, but I just can’t get motivated to “aerobicize” myself.  Please cut me some slack.

Is it really necessary to rub my nose in the success of my two “Fitbit” buddies?  My friend, Sassy Soprano, has infinite energy, plays tennis and hikes every single day, rain or shine, snow or swelter.  The Daughter is a nurse, for crying out loud, and not only walks a million miles each shift but also runs and bikes for no apparent reason when she isn’t working.  Honestly, I’m getting tired just thinking about them.

I must confess, though, that I lied to you about my weight.  My heaviest was actually 120, but it wasn’t my fault.  I ate French fries because I didn’t want to look like a picky eater in front of my date (who was the first decent man I’ve met in eight months), and then I was served loaded mashed potatoes at a wedding reception and didn’t want to ruin the happy couple’s big day.  What could I do?  Shove them in my purse when no one was looking?

Please tell me what business it is of yours how much I am sleeping.  Are you mocking me for buying the cheapest version of you, which doesn’t track sleep?  If it means that much to you, I’ll have you know that, NO, indeed, I have not been sleeping well, lately.  As the weather changes from winter to spring, I’m having more hot flashes, which means I wake up to throw off the covers and realize that I have to pee again because of all that water that you make me drink, creating a horrible sleep pattern.  I fall asleep at 10, awake at 3, review 62 years of foolish mistakes from 3-5, then doze off until 7, when The BFF butts me with her head for breakfast.

Why doesn’t your activity log include the things that I actually do besides Zumba? Like yard work.   I’ll have you know that I blew or raked all the wet leaves in my side yard that I didn’t remove last fall and whacked all the early weeds.  That took two hours and was really strenuous.  Doesn’t that count?  I dug dirt, hauled cinderblocks, and rebuilt the border of my garden.  Surely, that counts for something, doesn’t it?

How about working at church?  I walked so much at church last Sunday, going up and down stairs, serving at one service, teaching Sunday School, singing at the spring concert in the afternoon, that I was thoroughly exhausted.  You have no interest in religion, do you?

You gave me a paltry 78 calories burned for 20 minutes of dancing at the wedding reception.  That’s 20 vigorous minutes of the Twist, the Boogaloo, the Frug, the Jerk, the Swim, and the Pony.  In gold sandals with 3” heels, no less.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a Senior Citizen who was happy she could even remember the names of the dances of her youth and thrilled to sing along with the great 1960s tunes.  You get quite a workout shouting “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” while dancing off loaded mashed potatoes, especially when you’ve made it into your 60s, so show a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t and find out what it means to be me.

Let me give YOU a weekly progress report.  Every day, I wear you close to my heart (literally). Sometimes, I can even feel you

Snarky little thing

Fitbit – A snarky little thing

poking into my sternum. I regularly change your expensive lithium batteries.  And how do you repay my loyalty?  When I’m exercising and want to know if I’ve burned enough calories to quit for the day, you refuse to sync with the app on my iPhone so I can read it.  What’s up with that?  All I get is your snarky little face with your nasty tongue sticking out at me.  Not nice, Fitbit, not nice.  You need to develop a more generous, forgiving attitude, if we’re to remain in a relationship.  Speaking of relationships…

DATE UPDATE:

How much food should you eat on a blind date?  Does it depend on where you’re eating?  Who’s paying?  Time of day?  What do you do when the date suggests a restaurant you don’t like?  Should I just have salad for dinner?  Should I have a cocktail or a glass of wine?  Or should I stick with water?  My dates have always said they would pay because that’s how men of our generation were brought up.  I think that the invitee should pay for the invited, but because there is rarely a second date with these men, I feel a little guilty.

Last week, a guy that I didn’t want to date (even after I asked him to read this blog and reconsider, thinking it would scare him off), invited me to a diner for coffee at 6:30pm.  There were so many problems with this that I should have listened to the Shrew in my head and cancelled.  It was an unremarkable diner.  It was dinner time.  It was 40 minutes away at rush hour. I don’t drink caffeine after 6 or coffee without food.  I didn’t want to be there.  He was so insistent and so clever in his emails that my silly heart said, “Go for it” while the Shrew was groaning, “Are you nuts or what?”

The first thing he said when we sat down in the booth and the waitress handed us menus was, “I’m not hungry.  I don’t get up until noon and eat on a different schedule.  But you have whatever you want.”

“Ok,” I shrugged.  After all, it was a coffee date, but I saw the waitress purse her lips.  I felt even worse for myself because I was starving.  “Well, I’m going to have a bowl of chicken noodle soup.”  I needed it for my soul.  He very graciously paid the $2.95 plus tax and tip for my soup, but I’m still not going to see him again because that was the only gracious thing he said or did in the one hour and fifteen minutes that our date lasted.

The previous week, a different date seemed insistent that we split an appetizer and an entrée.  How do you agree on what food to share with someone you barely know?  He should have picked a cheaper restaurant or skipped the appetizer.  We shouldn’t have had either one, because something violently parted company with my body in the middle of the night.  I also didn’t hear from him again, which was fine with me.  He doesn’t drink wine.  Which brings me to another point…

How many dates should I have with someone who doesn’t drink wine at all?  It’s not like they don’t consume alcohol.  They do, just not wine.  I’m pretty sure that The Veterinarian wants me to be happy, but I’m not sure he wants me to share his fine wine with someone who doesn’t appreciate it and is making moves on his widow.   Of course, it’s my wine now, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Betrayed by My Peeps

The only good Peep is a stuffed Peep.

The only good Peep is a stuffed Peep.

Today has turned into “Health Maintenance Day.”  For reasons that I don’t recall, I scheduled a visit with my internist on the same day as my semi-annual dental hygiene appointment.  Perhaps I thought that confining my agony to one day every six months was a good idea.  Actually, I don’t mind the dentist.  My gums are great, so no one yells at me for neglecting them. I’m in and out in 30 minutes. It’s the doctor that I dread.

The doctor’s visit started last week with a routine blood draw.  I don’t care for those much.  You have to remember to fast the night before and drive to the office the next morning before you faint.  Of course, my blood pressure always elevates, and I might very well faint either from low blood sugar or from hyperventilating.  Either way, not good.

I don’t like the latex strip of drain tube that they wrap around your arm like an anaconda. I don’t like the smell of alcohol, and I don’t like that big wad of gauze that they tape to the wound that is going to become a half-dollar-sized bruise about 10 minutes after leaving the office.

More than that, I absolutely hate having a stranger slapping my arms trying to find my veins, because I have those shy veins that are invisible to the naked eye.  “Oh, it should have been right there,” the phlebotomist will say as she/he swivels the point of the needle subcutaneously (i.e., under the skin) like a snake searching its prey, while blood drains from my brain and pools just above the tourniquet.  I once had to send the phlebotomist to get her supervisor when she threatened to take the sample from my foot.

When I was first diagnosed with high blood pressure and sent for a nuclear stress test, the technician stabbed me six times before settling on the top of my right wrist to catheterize me and strapped on a 50cc syringe filled with radioactive material.  I swear, it was so big that if the lights had been turned out, I probably would have glowed.  Instead, they sat me in the waiting room in front of a television tuned to the “Maury Show” with inbred idiots screaming at one another over paternity issues.  I was the only one NOT surprised that my blood pressure peaked at 210 on the treadmill portion of the test.

About a year ago, a very capable phlebotomist pointed out the exact spot on the upper inside of my left arm.  “In the future, tell them that’s the sweet spot,” she advised.  By golly, she was right.  Maybe I should get an X tattooed on the spot.  Medical professionals don’t like to be told how to do their job, but everyone has listened to me after slapping both arms to find a vein.  And no one, but no one, is going to draw blood from the back of my hand.  I will draw blood from someone’s nose, first.

Today’s visit was about a 5 on the satisfaction meter.  My weight remains what it was last October. [Must they weigh you in your clothes?  Can’t each exam room have a scale, so you can strip down to your skivvies like you do at home?  Don’t they know that boots and a heavy sweater add 5 pounds?]  My blood pressure was 136/74, which is actually low for me.  Yay!  The beta blocker and statins are doing their jobs.  Then, the doctor came in.  After looking in my eyes and ears and listening to my chest, he sat down in front of his computer to go over my lab results.  My HDL (or “Happy” cholesterol, as I think of it) is so high that it probably keeps my LDL under control.

“Liver function, normal.  Complete blood count, fine.  Blood sugar, low 90s — it’s always low, you know. [Nope.  I had no clue.]  Cholesterol is good at 194.  LDL is 74, but triglycerides are 299.  You need to work on your diet.”

“What?  What will be left to eat?  I don’t eat fat or dairy.”

“Sugar and alcohol make the triglycerides go up.”

“I don’t drink more than 3-4 glasses of wine a week, and I’ve cut out sugar,” I protested. “I’ve lost almost 20 pounds.  What else can I do?”  For nine months, no sugary drinks, no sugar in my coffee, no ice cream, just the occasional (maybe once a week) dessert.  I apportion super thin cookies, which have 20 calories each, to one a day, or one little square of dark chocolate a day.  I don’t even have maple syrup with my daily frozen waffles.

And then, I remembered.

“Oh, wait.  I had that blood drawn last Monday, didn’t I?  The day after Easter, after two weeks of eating Peeps.”  The doctor started to laugh.

“I ate the Peeps because they’re fat free!  Oh, give me a break.”

“Well, we’ll see when you come back in October.”  As he left the room, I heard him chuckle, “Peeps!”

DATE UPDATE:

I know I say this all. the. time, but I am really going to give up online dating.  I’m proud to say that I annoyed two men on three dates in the past two weeks.  The one guy even tried a second date, but he moved to the kissing stage before I did, and boom!  He deleted me.  I’m too much of a lady to pass judgment on them in print, but I will say that I was relieved.  I will also say that I learned a little.  No divorced men.  No men who lie about their health.  No men in their 60s who have never been married.

My friend, Maureen, and I frequently compare notes on the guys we encounter on match.com.  We are similar in many ways.  We are both short.  We both have daughters.  We’re both blonde (one of us naturally, and it ain’t me).  We both live in the country in beautiful homes with large dogs.  We are both singers.  Well, she actually has a degree in music, which I can barely read.  I just have a degree in English, and, heck, everyone I know reads, speaks, and writes English, so that’s no big deal.  She, however, enjoys the outdoors.  I appreciate the outdoors — from the indoors.  Therein lies a key difference to all the rock-climbing, snowboarding, marathon-running, cross-country-cycling silver foxes on match.com who aspire to be Bruce JennerLance Armstrong — well, maybe that’s a different issue.

Located 15 miles north of Baltimore, Maureen and I have decided that we are geographically undesirable, although she attracts a better class of date than I do.  She actually had a guy from the DC-area (the most desirable demographic) date her more than once.  I can’t even get one to answer an email.  Her dates are professional men who take her to trendy restaurants and out kayaking and hiking (yeah, yeah, I take ownership of that).  Mine are all ax-grinders.

Do all short blonde singers look alike?

Do all short blonde singers look alike?

One of my recent dates tried to set up a date with her while his date with me was pending.  This is not the first time that’s happened.  I once dated a guy who turned out to have been one of her former boyfriends.  Maybe all short blonde singers look alike.

“You should put the photo of us singing together on your match.com profile,” I suggested.  “I have it on mine.  We’re standing side-by-side.  I wonder if anyone will notice.”

On my date with the guy who unwittingly was trying to date us both, he mentioned having been on an outing in the neighborhood where she lives, not too far from mine.  I seized my opportunity.

“Oh, yes, that’s where my church is,” I told him.  “St. James?  The old, historic church on the hill?”

“Really?” he was clearly uninterested.

“Yes, I’m the Senior Warden there, and my daughter went to school there.”

“Oh,” I thought I detected wheels turning.  “Did you say you sing?”

“Yes, I sing at St. James, and I sing with the Deer Creek Chorale.  I have a photo of it on my profile.”

I could swear he was putting it together, but I could be wrong.  That would make the perfect story, wouldn’t it? Alas, I’ll never know. Our date lasted a total of 90 minutes, which was a disappointment, not because I wanted to spend more time with the guy who showed up, but because I wanted to spend time with the charming man who had written the most flirtatious emails I’ve ever received.  Instead, we found out that our political ideals don’t match, our cultural ideals don’t match, and our geographical preferences don’t match.  I told him that before I agreed to go out with him, so he can’t say he’s surprised.  Another date courtesy of mismatch.com.

Well, I’m going to enjoy the last slice of My Sister’s birthday cake, orange and devil’s food marble with fudge frosting, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Pot Head

Blackened steakI was thinking about moving the other day.  As much as I love my house, which has taken 34 years to perfect, I’ve decided that it’s too much trouble for one little woman; the woodland pests (deer, ants, snakes), the icy gravel lane in the winter, the remote location.  The BFF and I really don’t need 11 rooms and three full baths.  I can’t get her to bathe enough, as it is, although she needs it, after chasing the aforementioned deer through the aforementioned woods all the muddy winter long.

I googled houses for sale in my neighborhood and found a solid brick rancher on a corner lot with a field across the road.  My imagination, as it usually does, went wild.  The price was great (sadly, it was a foreclosure).  A two-car garage and deck or terrace could be added.  The living room had refinished hardwood floors and a fireplace for my pellet stove.  There were no photos of the bedrooms or the two full and one half baths, but I imagined that they were serviceable, in a retro way.

Even the kitchen, with a recently installed stove and microwave and decent stainless sinks and faucet were usable.  The vinyl flooring was a mess.  No sweat to replace.  The refrig was missing.  No big deal.  I have a spare, if I have to use it.  The counter was a hideous red Formica.  Easily replaceable.  But I hesitated at the cabinets, which were plain, golden oak.  No trim.  No handles.  Probably strippable.  Probably paintable.  All things I have done a million times in my lifetime to other sketchy cabinets, but these cabinets were few…and far between.

I thought of my cooking equipment.  I thought of the number of cabinets in my own splendid kitchen and sighed.  Do I really want to return to the 1970s?  I have soooo much stuff, so many pans, so many gadgets, so much glassware and china and flatware and table linens.  Everything lovingly chosen for a specific purpose.  No “sets” with useless extras.

I could hang a pot rack again, but it wouldn’t hold everything.  I’d have to purge.  I gave a lot of things to The Daughter when she set up her own household, but there’s still so much stuff left in my conveniently-placed deep drawers and pull-out shelves.

I wouldn’t get rid of my two cast iron skillets.  One belonged to my grandmother and one was given to us as a wedding gift, holding a pineapple upside-down cake.  I use them both every week, and you can’t make a dark roux or blacken a steak or piece of fish in anything less substantial.  (Yes, I still blacken stuff, sometimes intentionally.)

Always blame the cook!

Always blame the cook!

I have two omelet pans, a Calphalon and a stainless-lined copper.  I already gave away a non-stick Calphalon omelet pan to The Daughter.  I blame The Veterinarian for those.  He was famous for his omelets and was always looking for the perfect pan.  I gave it to The Daughter because she makes omelets, and I don’t.

I have a non-stick 10” skillet and an enormous 12” Calphalon fryer with lid.  When I need that big pan, nothing else will do. I have a wok which I use more for deep-frying than as a wok.  I don’t deep-fry any more, but I wouldn’t part with it.  I have a cast-iron fajita grill and stove-top grill and a 12” griddle.  I might jettison the fajita grill.  It’s definitely superfluous.

That’s just the skillets.  Then, there’s the saucepans, stock pots, Dutch ovens, and gratin pans.  As outdated as they are, how could I part with my two remaining Club Aluminum saucepans, remnants of my earliest days of cooking?  You can really smash a potato masher into the larger of the two.  How could I part with the little Calphalon with the steamer insert, which, now that I’m cooking for one most of the time, is the perfect size?

Saucepans

My oldest saucepan was purchased with Gold Bell gift stamps.

I’ve ended up with two 3-quart Calphalon saucepans, thanks to the aforementioned woodland pests and, I suspect, bacteria.  I once carelessly left one of them unattended while I was boiling down some stock.  (Probably distracted by something stupid like the laundry or the BFF eating something inedible.)  The residue burned into the bottom of the pan so badly that I couldn’t get it out with soaking or steel wool.  It had become lumpy and completely unusable.  Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I threw the pan outside into the woodsy underbrush, where it lay for over a year.  (One of the many advantages of living in the woods without neighbors; you can chuck stuff into the brush.)  I trotted over to Target and bought another, this time, non-stick (so when it burns it will provide toxic fumes).

When the reject reappeared, in an accusatory manner, in the dead of winter, I retrieved it and was surprised to find that the black residue was gone.  I don’t want to know where or why.  I filled it with water, boiled it for 10 minutes, carefully observing it this time, and voilà!  Now, I have two 3-quart saucepans, one with a clear glass lid and one with a lid that strains the contents.  Both are useful, so neither is redundant, right?

The Italian gratin pan is a work of art.

I have two stainless-lined copper saucepans with lids and one solid copper for making candy (again, I blame the Dearly Departed for the excess).  There’s the enameled double-boiler, which also is small enough to make the perfect stovetop-to-oven casserole for one little woman.  There’s the Le Creuset Dutch oven in which I always make my butternut squash soup and Julia’s Boeuf à la Bourguignonne and a domed Dutch oven for my pot roast.  Don’t ask me to choose!  Same with my two stock pots, both of which have strainer inserts and one has a steamer basket.  I always strain my stock from one pot into the other.  How else could I make a clear stock?

I have two beautiful copper gratin pans, both works of art, especially the Italian one with the acorns on the handles, a spectacular gift from old friends.  I never part with works of art.

I have two roasting pans, one of which holds a 25-pound turkey on a rack.  What else could I use, once a year, on Thanksgiving?  Not that I’m roasting 25-pound turkeys these days, but, it could happen, couldn’t it?

I must not be the only one with a pan fetish.  The vacation condo that I stay in on Grand Cayman came equipped with a basic set of pans, two sizes of saucepans, two sizes of skillets, and a Dutch oven.  For the past three years, I’ve noticed that the other co-owners have added two skillets, a stock pot, and a roasting pan, some of questionable quality, I must say.  None of us is there for longer than three weeks, so you’d think the basic assortment would be sufficient.  I didn’t contribute to the pan collection, but I bought better knives and wine glasses.  First things first, I always say.  Now, if I could get them to replace the glass-topped electric stove with gas burners…

Yeah, my knife (not to mention sharpener) and stemware collections are subjects for other days.  I blame the Veterinarian for those fetishes, too.  How convenient!

DATE UPDATE:

I have been mostly inactive on the dating site.  I did receive the following email,

“Enjoyed reading your profile. It made me laugh, multiple times. 1st and last paragraphs are exceptionally honest, the others somewhat challenging. Understand not playing games, but playing nice may prove beneficial. But what do I know.”

He’s “currently separated,” so, probably, not much.  I answered,

“Thanks for the commentary!  I don’t know how to be less than honest.  I was with one man for 42 years and have no clue what men are looking for.  I can only be me.”

Pointlessly, he replied, “Sorry for the unsolicited commentary. It seemed you were a little frustrated and the scammers seem to pick up on that. It just takes a little time to get the hang of online dating, at least that has been my experience.”

I am happy to say that my profile seems to have deterred the scammers, as I have heard from just one in the past two weeks.  His profile name contained the words “sugary” and “muffin.” Before I ever read it — because, why would you read anything written by a man describing himself as baked goods? — his profile became “unavailable,” meaning that some other exasperated woman beat me to reporting him.  Get a load of what he wrote:

“Hello,
I pray that this letter meets you in good health. I really enjoyed reading your profile & everything you have to say about yourself …. I am a gentleman as respectful and considerate as I am passionate and focused. The most virile men, I think, are the ones that combine a steel core of resilience in adversity with a loving devotion to wife and family, and who want their families to be truly happy. [Points for that.] The small things matter: warmth, good conversation, and fun, the capacity to give and receive and to experience…I would appreciate it, if you could contact me on my personal email, so that i will contact you at my convenient and tell you more about me, my family and work…I’m not into finding girls in bars or parties i believe people i find here are responsible and are searching for the same thing. I humbly urge you to find time and convey your reply back to me .
Warm regards,
Dave
PS.. I went through your profile and pictures and I was like wow ,YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, Quite enchanting!!!!!”

“Enchanting.”  No one ever uses that word any more outside of Disney films.  I am quite taken with the idea that I could be “enchanting.”  I don’t think of myself as an “enchanter.”  I’m more the “annoyer” or the “defender.”  My enchantments would be more like the seductive Siren than the hapless Helen of Troy;  more luring ships to the rocks than launching them to my rescue.

Maybe I am challenging on the outside, but, honestly, on the inside, I’m really a cream puff, full of sweet crème anglaise, gently thickened in the perfect double-boiler.  Cooking is quite sensual, obviously, which is why I just can’t part with my pots and pans or my kitchen.  They’ve served me faithfully, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Happy Easter to all my Peeps!

Peeps!

Peeps!

Spring may or may not be upon us, but Peeps have been in my kitchen for about a month.  I remember when Peeps came in one shape (chicken) and one color (yellow).  On their website, the Peeps folks offer a year-round explosion of squishy rabbits, ghosts, pumpkins, reindeer, snowmen, Strawberry crème hearts, and sour watermelon and blue raspberry flavors, in colors like turquoise and lavender.

I’m a traditionalist.  Mine are yellow, and they are chickens.  Of course, they’re chickens, they’re Peeps!  Did you ever hear a rabbit “peep?”   Mine are purchased far enough in advance (and on sale the day after Easter) to become dry and crispy on the edges.  Of course, you can speed up the drying process by slightly slitting open the package.  Unfortunately, then I can hear them peeping at me.

Last week, I posted this on Facebook:

“OH, NO!  The package of Peeps has been opened!  Why did I do that?”

30 of my crazy friends wrote to agree with me.  Well, not all 30 are crazy.  I was surprised to find that even my most staid friends agree that the best Peeps are aged Peeps.  But, as my cousin said,

“Some are always willing to be eaten before their time.”

I’m a woman who has eaten in many Michelin-starred restaurants (for lunch, when it’s cheaper and seems incredibly more chic to be indulging in a leisurely lunch and a bottle of wine at mid-day), but a finely aged, sugar-coated, airy confection rivals the finest meringues, and I do love meringues.

I once had dinner with about eight veterinarians at the now-shuttered Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia.  My friend, a Philadelphia native and holder of multiple graduate degrees, had been intimidated to eat there, but, she thought, if she could get the globe-trotting Veterinarian and me to go with her and her delightful husband, she could cross it off her bucket list.  As we were in town for a conference, she started adding people to the reservation, telling them (as you sometimes must do with veterinarians),

“You have to wear a jacket and tie, cowboy boots are ok.  It’s going to be expensive, but you can afford it, and I don’t want to hear any complaining, because this means a lot to me.”

(I love her.  She’s as direct as I am.)

We had a riotous time from the get-go.  In that elegant bastion of Frenchness in the wilds of urban America, where the menu was entirely in French, the maître d’ was gracious and accommodating and, by the end of the evening, was telling us jokes.  At the end of a dinner made excellent by the company of friends and great service, the dessert trolley rolled up to the table, boasting every manner of sweet imaginable, and about six different meringue-based confections.  I asked the waiter,

“Which meringue do you recommend that I have?”

“I recommend that Madame has one of each.”

And I did.  It rivals the time I was served 10 different chocolate desserts at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and the pistachio nougat on a pool of dark chocolate that the waiter in Dijon referred to as “dessert before dessert.”  (We had pre-ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé, which followed the nougat and preceded the petits fours which preceded the chocolate truffles.)

So, yes, I know my food.  And I know my Peeps.  They should be served aged, slightly crispy, and eaten rapidly.  A friend of mine says they’re great toasted over an open fire, but I don’t think I could bear to see my little friends go up in flames.

DATE UPDATE:

Let’s play match.com’s daily dating game “Which Do You Like?”Match game

The guy with a woman draped around his neck or the guy propped up on bed pillows.  Skip.

The guy in funky, Elton John eye wear with Rip Taylor hair or the unshaven guy taking a selfie of himself in a mirror but staring at the ceiling.  Skip.

The cute guy with a profile that could have been written by a four-year old or the serial killer squinting at the camera.  Hmmm.  This is a tough one.  The cute guy would be nice to look at for a couple hours, but I fear that his 12-year old self would monopolize the conversation.  Or, worse, that it’s a scammer.  Oh, well, let’s go with Cute Guy.  He won’t respond, anyway.

There are no winners in this game.  Of the many times that I have looked at a photo, made my choice, and written to someone, only two have responded.  One guy said, “We are not a match,” and the other said, “I am cruising on my sailboat and out of the country for the next two months.”  As the “experts” recommend, I am always polite and brief and ask a knowledgeable question about one of their interests that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer.

For example, if you say you are a wine aficionado, I might ask, “Which wine do you like with turkey?“ because there are a lot of acceptable variables.  Could be a white.  Could be a red.  He could be a traditionalist or could be thinking out of the box (not of wine, I hope).  And wouldn’t I be an interesting date with whom to talk about wine?  Or food?

Or, if your profile photo is taken in front of the Eiffel Tower, “What is your favorite museum in Paris?” because I’m not wasting time with someone who would go all the way to France and not step into one of its many fine museums.  And wouldn’t I be an interesting date with whom to talk about art?  Or Paris?

Or, if you claim to be a pilot, I will ask, “Which airport has the best $100 hamburger?” because every general aviation pilot knows the joke about spending $100 in gas to fly to an airport to have a hamburger.   And wouldn’t I be an interesting date with whom to talk about aviation?  Or hamburgers?

Hmmm…maybe I should try dumber questions.  I bet these are guaranteed to get me a date.

To the guy who’s a homebody and likes to snuggle in front of a fire, “Would you like to take a nap on my comfy sofa while I clean the kitchen after I fix you a four-course dinner?”

To the guy in his alma mater’s sweatshirt holding a football, “Would you tell me all about that winning touchdown you made in high school?”

To the shirtless guy in swim trunks on a beach, “Want to compare tan lines?”

Finally, I have a word of advice for a particular gentleman who wasted my time for nearly three weeks:

If you initiate contact with me by commenting on my profile photos like a man besotted, writing “I would love to meet you” and “You are beautiful; let’s share a bottle of wine” and “You and your dog are beautiful; I could kiss you both” and you IM and email me multiple times with extensive information about yourself and your children and how compatible we are, and if I should respond favorably to all of this, and if you set up a future date with me, and if you subsequently never write to me again to confirm the date that YOU offered and don’t respond to my very brief inquiry (“Which wine should I have with my pizza, or should I look elsewhere?”) and if I google you and find out that you were lying about your age and, I suspect, your marital status, just know that the soft, warm breath of my dear friend, Karma, is breathing down your neck.

And with Karma for a friend, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!