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Look who’s speaking at the ASJA Conference…


Lucy hates winter.

Small dog, big snow.

Lucy leads crusade to ban winter.

Ban Winter: It’s Unconstitutional!

It’s official—There’s snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states.

With this bellwether, we can swiftly ban winter.

Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate Christmas in hot pants and know your mother-in-law wouldn’t be stuck at your house an extra week?  

If we follow our legislators’ lead—find words in the Constitution to support our cause—we can delete December through March for eternity.

This goal in mind, I began scrutinizing the Constitution for the right words, already scripted by the Founding Fathers.

 Eureka! There it was, smack dab, in the Preamble:

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

“Welfare” jumped off the page and hit me upside the head.

          Welfare (according to the American Heritage Dictionary): n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being.

Only a moron would think that weeks of subfreezing temperatures, blizzards, ice and sleet storms promote health, happiness, prosperity and well-being.

Haven’t we had enough global cooling? 

Constituents in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest will storm Congress to legislate for a revised calendar sans winter. 

Most of the South will surely follow suit. Crackers are always caught with their overalls down when storms strike.

With a little effort, we can gain support from non-skiing Westerners. 

Granted, we may have trouble appealing to Florida, the lone state without snow. But when was Florida ever part of the U.S.? Everybody knows it’s a suburb of New Jersey.

We can do this! Before the first crocus breaks through the slush, we can build grassroots support that will make the 2008 election look like a day at the beach.

Are you with me?


Spam Sandwich

Littering my Inbox is more spam than I ingested during three summers at Girl Scout camp. If I had a big jar of yellow mustard and some Wonder bread I could throw a picnic for the Mid-Atlantic.  

I don’t need a physics lesson to know that nature abhors a vacuum. Every time I hit “unsubscribe” to a teaser for something I can live without (such as cheese-filled brats with a pound of bacon tossed in if I order before Easter), a dozen or so new messages pop up to fill the void.

Today I  scanned ads about breast and penis enlargers (No thanks, I like ‘em all  just the way they are), congressional representatives seeking donations, teeth whiteners, personalized calendars, domestic partnerships (I’ll pass), wrinkle removers and fillers (Not if there are needles involved), books I should buy, belly fat minimizers (20 years too late), a bracelet that will “increase strength, flexibility and balance” (Will it increase my  IQ?); gluten-free recipes (hey, I like gluten!), reverse mortgages, yoga retreats, silk underwear (It’s  97° on my deck), a virtual tour of Miss Ollie’s in Jackson, Tennessee, a retirement community in Tierra del Fuego (My kids would never forgive me), Christian Singles/J Date/ Singles, bladder control, and a rodeo in Kalispell. Some smartski marketer asks, “Want to make your book a bestseller?” (Hell, yes. How stupid do I look?).

 I’ve entertained ads for erectile dysfunction, a trip to Antarctica (only $12k), tango lessons, Vocus, to “monitor my brand on social media in near-real time” (is Bill Maher involved?), and cancer/heart disease/MS/diabetes/cerebral palsy/overeaters anonymous/Red Cross/short people organizations.

An airline invited me to fly to Columbus for $49 (Sorry, $49 too much). I’ve dodged pitches for premium business cards “for only $5,” the First Ever Colorado Virtual Beer Tasting (What fun is that?), and the premiere of “Death and Cremation” at Fox Studios. (Go ahead, look it up if you don’t believe me.)

Of the 100 or more announcements clogging my pc’s arteries daily like nasty LDLs, six or seven are work-related, a few are from friends and family, and one is from a Nigerian gentleman with a pile of dough he’s dying to gift me—if only I’ll send him a check because his aunt is ill and, while I’m at it, include my Social Security number.

Brightening my day is the occasional flirtation from a balding blast from the past who thinks we should give it another shot (after 48 years).

If  I had the discipline to delete messages without first inspecting them, I’d conserve  precious hours each day. I could take up cross-stitching! Bake a soufflé. Finish my memoir, Tales of a Fallen Pork Roll Queen. But I’m weak. And, my luck, I would miss the one message sure to bring me riches and fame.

Every time I double-click on Outlook, I see my life passing before my eyes. And that’s something I can ill afford. So, please, stop e-mailing me. Unless you’re in Nigeria and have a lot of money.

tweet tweet tweet: my exciting life

 6:45  restless night.  never again watch “the shining” after dark. 

 6:50  bring in the washington post. 

 6:51  finish reading it. 

 7:15  strawberries are mushy. bleck. 

 7:21  brush and floss teeth. 

 7:30  in oral distress.

  7:40  floss stuck between canine and premolar. gum inflamed & bleeding. 

 8:11  note: next time, disinfect masonry nail before digging out floss. 

 8:38   put second load in the washer.

 9:00  mary ann’s line is busy. 

 9:03  line still busy. 

 9:09  e-mail mary ann: get off the fone. 

 9:10  staring at screen. 

 9:11  must sweep cobwebs. later.

  9:16  can’t get motivated. 

 9:18  ant is crawling across the monitor. 

 9:22  frigging neighbor’s dogs are barking. 

10:07 finger jammed from deleting spam. 

10:50 have a paragraph (begun last week) I can live with. tired. 

11:14 deadly duo: writer’s block and constipation. 

11:58 stomach growling.

12:01 hungry. resist!  be strong! u can do it. 

12:03 really hungry. 

12:07 really really hungry. 

12:18 teeth marks in forearm. 

1:02  sleepy.  no more fudge sundaes after 4-egg omelette.

2:05  page one done.  at this rate, will finish novel by 2024.

2:06  exhausted. maybe a brief lie down … 

3:20  cat napped.  hungry. 

3:30  find 14 PB cookies, marked “leftovers,” in freezer. a dozen are history. 

3:32  walk to the mailbox. more estate planning workshops. what estate? 

3:34  exhausted.

3:50  finish cookies. 

4:07  watching oprah. she needs to lose dr. phil on her next diet. 

5:00  cocktail time. olives or lemon peel? 

5:20  call mac to pick up reese’s.  all out. withdrawal setting in. 

6:00  laundry.  50+ years later, still can’t fold contour sheets. 

6:20  thinking about dinner. 

6:40  make enough pasta and pesto sauce for 2 meals. eat both.

7:10  sleepy. 

7:30  run up and down stairs before dessert. 

8:30  catch up on phone calls. 

9:05  dust pollen from furniture. 

9:20  discard dead flowers. 

9:30  can’t stand the excitement. 

10:05  exfoliate, shower, shave, cleanse, lubricate, pluck, brush, floss (ouch!), rinse. 

10:30  read the new yorker in bed. 

11:00  turn off radio. 

11:05  goodnight moon.


A friend, invited to speak at a conference on how to organize, asked for helpful tips on how I manage my office. 

If she’d ever glimpsed my workspace, she would have deleted my name from her e-mail blast before hitting SEND. 

For in the loft office, 6 steps up from my tidy bedroom, works a derelict.  

I may be the most disorganized working person in the universe. It’s almost laughable, since I relish taking charge in other aspects of my life, striving for order and efficiency.

This is a woman who empties wastebaskets, wipes countertops and runs vinegar through the coffeemaker with disturbing regularity.

Yet in my office, I’m a slob.

How slobby am I?

Let me count the ways …

 Not a square inch of white desktop is visible.

To the left of my monitor, a crystal paperweight anchors a stack of to-do notes, some from 1998.

Horizontal files cover the floor: one for materials related to the memoir I’m writing, another for my Frommer’s guidebook, a third for travel pieces I’m working on, a fourth for unclassifiable flotsam. 

The utility table I bought several years ago for deck barbecues and dinner parties I never host, groans under piles of periodicals, newspaper clippings (yes, I still clip newspapers) and assorted stuff I need to go through when I have nothing better to do.  

Under the table you’ll find milk cartons full of maps and travel-related memorabilia and  tax info (just in case Uncle Sam pays a call to find out why I work so many hours and earn less than a 16-year-old hamburger-flipper).  

Despite the disarray, I  can usually find what I need within a week. 

I understand why my M.O. shouts dysfunctional to anyone considered sane. And it works for me.

I’ve never won awards for linear thinking. But somehow, I get the job done.  

And twice a year—three, if I’m really bored—I shift into ruthless mode and fill several Santa-size sacks with recyclable paper.

Yet my pleasure at having achieved order is short-lived. And I am compelled to restore chaos. The sooner the better.

In between these search-and-destroy missions, I live in fear that someone–my agent, editor or, worse yet, my mother–will arrive unannounced and discover my dirty little secret.


Three Cheers for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- Florida) gets my vote this National Women’s History month.


A model for multitasking, she juggles the roles of Congresswoman, wife and mother, commuting regularly between Capitol Hill, where she represents Florida’s 20th District, and her home in the Sunshine State.


In her five years in Congress, she has garnered widespread attention, support and respect for her quick thinking, passion on the issues and perseverance. With aplomb, she takes on the tough issues and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.


If you’ve caught her on the tube, you know she’s a force majeure. She may look as though a stiff breeze would knock her down, but this lady is a stately palm, bending in the wind.


And now she steps into the center stage spotlight to assume a new role, perhaps the greatest of her life—that of spokesperson for early breast cancer detection among women 40 and under.


No dilettante, she recently disclosed that in 2008, while serving her constituency and stumping for Hillary and Barack, she underwent seven surgeries for breast cancer, including a bilateral mastectomy and removal of both ovaries.


This she did during recesses, missing only slightly more than 3 percent of congressional floor votes. (I can’t help wondering how her colleagues records stack up for the same period.)


Except for telling a few family members, close friends and associates, she kept the lid on her illness until she had recovered and could reassure her children that mom was okay.


For many women, undergoing breast cancer treatment is labor enough, sapping their physical and emotional strength. Keeping it under wraps? Next to impossible.


While exuding fortitude and resilience, Rep.Wasserman Schultz is not unique. Or alone. Today approximately 240,000 women in this country have breast cancer.


Membership in this sorority carries a certain gravitas. That she is in a position to help others has become her latest challenge.


By introducing the Early Act, a bill to raise awareness among women in their 20s and 30s about the importance of early detection, she hopes to lower the age for a baseline mammogram (currently set at 40 years), especially among high risk women. 


I applaud her Early Act efforts and wish her well on all battlefields.


Beth Rubin is writing a memoir, Breast Cancer Diary: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Illness.


Pay to Pee


It was only a matter of time.


Pay toilets on planes?  This takes the cake, er, toilet tissue.


In addition to a fee for bags and a bill for beverages (payable by credit card only), travelers now face the (sur)real probability that they’ll have to pay to pee in airline toilets.


Thank you, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary for adding to the list of affronts guaranteed to further piss-off flyers.


What next, armrest coin slots for seat adjustments? A tax to perambulate the spacious aisle to your seat? A surcharge for sitting in the Exit row? A tariff for turning on the reading light? A fee for farting? (Actually, that one might fly!)


How long before a distressed male wets the floor—or a fellow passenger? Would you penalize someone for bad aim? Or defective equipment?


Houston, we have liftoff.


And what about the women who left their coin purses at home? Recycle empty apple juice cans?


I foresee an addendum to flight attendants’ contracts: “It is further stipulated that you will blot and deodorize all emissions from overfull kidneys or face immediate dismissal without pay.”  


I’d like the concession for toss-away catheters and bags. I could retire last month. These could be sold at airport fast-food stands. “Would you like a drink with your burger? Fries? A piss bag?”


To date, no one has mentioned the next piece: Charging double for pooping. Illogic tells me it’s just a matter of time.


I sniff a grassroots movement in the works.


Belly Up to a Bar (Mitzvah)—on the Beach

Into the distressed (and distressing) landscape of wars, layoffs, bankruptcies, bailouts, foreclosures, rising unemployment, falling Dow, maxed shelters, and a goniff on every street corner, comes destination Bar Mitzvahs.

             Jeez, aren’t destination weddings bad enough?

            While families are losing their homes, jobs, health coverage, retirement funds, cold hard cash and, sometimes, minds, overindulged 13-year-olds are chanting between sips of virgin daiquiris. 

            Bypassing the neighborhood synagogue—the traditional site for marking a Bar or Bat Mitzvah—well-heeled families can now make a quasi-religious pilgrimage with their nearest and dearest to the Caribbean.

            Catering to this affluent niche group are Web-based event planners who would lust to set up your Bar in Margaritaville!

            What next? Dovening in Disney World?  Shabbat in Sheboygan—with treif brats and beer? Brises in Bermuda? Slice the schmekel on Pink Beach at noon followed by barbecued brisket (first cut, of course).   

            Only in America.

            Maybe you’re the recipient of a coveted invitation, and you need a little help planning.

            First, destination Bars take place in all-inclusive waterfront resorts. For a few shekels shy of the economic stimulus package, you’ll get the whole megillah: custom-fit wetsuits, lox and bagels on demand, massages under a chuppa and sunset dovening on the dock.   

            Packing for a destination Bar Mitzvah is a breeze. No need to break out tasteful knits and pearls, or the navy pinstripe and Italian leather loafers.

            For this coming-of-age party, leave your bowtie and cummerbund on the doorstep. Just toss shorts and flip-flops into a bag. Add snorkel gear, sunscreen and fishing flies along with your tefillin, prayer book and Star of David.

            And don’t forget the Lomotil.

            Some consider it a great privilege, forking over gelt and schlepping to the tropics to hear a pimply youth screech Hebrew against the ocean’s roar.

           Let them eat challah. I think I’ll pass. Maybe someone will send me the DVD for Hannukah.


A Cool Rainbow Yule


My name is Beth. I’m a closet Christian.

I come out every December with the lights, garlands and rusty ornament hangers.

Immune to disdain from observant friends and relatives on both sides of the aisle, I plead nolo contendere.

While others are still picking at turkey carcasses, I’m aging 80-proof eggnog worthy of a Hallelujah Chorus. Candy-cane earrings in place, yule log crackling in the woodstove, I am among the first to fa-la-la-la-la.

My seasonal aberration surfaced early. As my cousins lighted menorahs and hoarded foil-covered gelt, I hung tinsel — one strand at a time. My Jewish friends sang, “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.” But I had trouble carrying that tune. I found comfort and joy caroling with my Christian friends on the street corners of our town. Today I wail, “Fall on your knees,” as I pick mistletoe berries from the oriental rug.

Each December my dad, brother and I would make the rounds in search of the perfect spruce. No spindly Charlie Brown tree for us. No sirree! We had strict standards and spent hours judging trees from every angle, even the side earmarked for the corner. I lived for those annual pilgrimages, my breath a contrail in the frosty air, thick smoke curling from oil-drum fires.

Every year my mother would greet us with hot cocoa and kvetch that we had spent too much money on a sap-dripping, needle-shedding symbol not our own.

On Christmas Eve during my teen years the house became a haven for friends who, after choking on overdone roast beef and dogma, would stop by to fress our holiday nosh of corned beef and rugelach, listen to Sinatra croon, “I’ll be home for Christmas” and play with my younger brother’s toys.

Several Christmases later my groom, raised in a more catholic Jewish household, was unamused when he tripped over the eight-foot spruce blocking the TV in our shoebox apartment. To maintain peace at home as well as on Earth, I purchased a menorah and bloodied my knuckles grating potatoes for latkes.

As a young mother I overcompensated for my wayward youth. I ix-nayed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, clove-studded oranges and twinkling lights and, every 25th day of Kislev, immersed myself in Hanukkah.

A minor holiday on the Judaic calendar, Hanukkah is to Christmas what grape juice is to Veuve Cliquot. But I persevered. We would gather on the first night over brisket and, in the true spirit of the holiday, exchange small, meaningful gifts such as bath salts and shoelaces. These tokens reflected the miracle of the oil as T.M.X. Elmo does the birth of Jesus.

As the children grew we compromised, lighting candles at Hanukkah and exchanging presents on Dec. 25. I filled vases with evergreen boughs so the house would at least smell like Christmas.

Now, decades later, we gather for brunch on Christmas morning and exchange gifts over bagels and buche de Noel.

I gaze lovingly at my rainbow family: My daughter and son who, despite their meshuga upbringing, emerged as responsible adults; my West Indian son-in-law who celebrated the holiday with a dozen siblings and a pig roasting in the yard; my daughter-in-law whose family exchanged gifts before midnight Mass so they could sleep until noon on the 25th; and my four heathen, ecumenically correct grandchildren, who are the greatest joys of any season.

I watch them take turns spinning the dreidel between mouthfuls of homemade Christmas cookies. And I can’t help thinking, isn’t this the true spirit of Christmas?

(Reprinted from The Washington Post 12/25/06)