A Personal Assistant for the Holidays

A Personal Assistant for the Holidays

This is the time of year I really wish I had a personal assistant. The kind who can do my holiday shopping for me, because, let’s face it, when I do it myself I inevitably end up buying two items for myself, with every gift I get for someone else. Think how much money I’d save if I had an assistant who would forgo my crazy impulse-buying habits and actually stick to the shopping list! Continue reading

Say it Ain’t So!

Yesterday morning Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, jumped on my bed, and gave me the usual stare-down. The one he gives me every morning, compelling me to get up, get out of bed, drag a comb across my head, and then make my way down to the kitchen to feed him.

That stare-down.

Only yesterday, it was a different kind of stare-down.

“What, Henry?” I groaned. “Why are you looking at me that way?”

“I’ve got some good news and bad news,” he offered up. “Which one would you like to hear first?”

I opened one eye and wearily said, “Tell me the good news.”

“Your daughter is heading back to college today, and it’s going to be months before you see her again.”

That’s not good news, Henry. You know very well I’m miserable about her departure, and am going to miss her desperately. So, tell me the bad news.”

“Okay, but first I have more good news.”

I adjusted my pillows and sat up, and looked at him with a skeptical eye.

“Okay, Henry, tell me your other good news.”

“We’re in for another hot, dry spell. It’s going to be over 100 degrees again today.”

“Henry, don’t you know anything about what makes for good news?”

“At least we have air conditioning,” he added with a wink.

“Now, that’s good news, but I already knew that. So, what is the bad news, Henry? I’m getting impatient.”

“There’s one more piece of good news!”


Turning red-faced, he said, “I just had an accident downstairs, so I can wait a bit before you take me for a walk.”

“HENRY! I can’t believe you think that’s good news! I’m guessing that the bad news must be really, really incredibly bad. ”

Henry nodded and blurted out,

“Amazon just started charging tax in California today!  Your free ride is OVER!”

“What???” I demanded, with a sense of panic overcoming me.

“Kaput, gone, finito,” he sighed. “It’s hasta la vista, Baby!”

“Henry! This can’t be true!  Say it ain’t so! Amazon’s been fighting the state of California about this tax for years. No way. NO WAY!”

“Way,” Henry replied solemnly.

Which is when I bolted out of bed, turned on my computer and headed to the Amazon website, where I have at least 20 things in my shopping cart, and about double that on my wish list.

As I prepared to make a purchase, to see if Henry was right, I took one look at the total, which included the estimated tax, in bright, bold numbers, and screamed.


Henry, seeing my pain, put a paw on my shoulder and said,

“Look at it this way, Cook. At least now you’ll be contributing to a good cause, helping the state balance its budget.” He flashed his best smile at me.

“Henry, ever hear of the old adage, ‘Kill the messenger’?”

Which is when, Henry jumped off my bed and hightailed it downstairs, retreating as quickly as he had appeared, leaving me to begin my 16 stages of grief.

  1. First, I cried.
  2. Then, I sobbed.
  3. My sobs soon turned into giggles which just as quickly turned into maniacal laughter, while a nervous tic developed in my eye.
  4. I climbed the walls and injured my tailbone when I landed on the floor.
  5. I suffered a nosebleed.
  6. I tore my hair out.
  7. I then scrapbooked my Amazon invoices from past purchases, where the tax line item still said, “zero.”
  8. And, I devoured a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, not noticing I was eating a flavor I didn’t like.
  9. I reflected on the old days when I could make any purchase and not think about the tax.
  10. I buried my head in my pillow while holding a printed version of my Amazon wish list.
  11. I belted out the lyrics from a song by Bad Finger, “I CAN’T LIVE, IF LIVING IS WITHOUT YOU…”
  12. I then watched a marathon of The Brady Bunch and cried for the Brady kids who lived in a time when shopping online didn’t exist.
  13. I listened to the song, “Free Ride,” by the Edgar Winter Group and cried when it was over.
  14. I watched a documentary about the Amazons and got another nosebleed, when I realized it wasn’t about the online retailer.
  15. I wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos and begged him to give me one more tax-free day.
  16. And finally, acceptance. I tried to accept the new tax charge, but instead fell back to square one, thus starting my stages of grief all over again.

And here, I was hoping California would legalize marijuana and get their much-needed tax revenue that way. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. That bill didn’t pass the electoral vote.

Amazon, it was a good ride, but now it’s over, and I have a feeling my life will never be the same again.

How about you? Have you ever had something you’ve secretly enjoyed, taken away?

A 200-Year-Old Man Gives Dickens of an Interview

I scored the coup of the century. Make that TWO centuries! Charles Dickens, author extraordinaire, just turned 200 this week, and in honor of the milestone, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a rare, one-on-one interview.

MTW: Mr. Dickens, everyone’s talking about your 200th birthday. What’s your secret to enduring for so long?

CD: Plenty of rest. For, it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest, than I have ever known.

MTW: Ahem, okay. So, you’ve enjoyed your rest. Well, how does it feel to be revered, so long after your death?

CD: Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed.

MTW: I’ll grant you that. I suppose it’s been uncomfortable, though, lying in a narrow wooden box all these years. I expect being on the outside must be like a breath of fresh air.

CD: Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.

MTW: So, are you saying you’ve been comfortable in there or you’re glad to be out of it?

CD: Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

MTW: Mr. Dickens, you should know that, as lovely as it sounds, we no longer use such proper English. Mass media has gotten the better of us so, you may want to take it down a notch. Capiche?

CD: It pains me to hear that. For, I do not know the American gentleman, God forgive me for putting two such words together.

MTW: No worries. You’re forgiven. So, which of your books would you say is your favorite? Based on the number of remakes, I’d say A Christmas Carol is one of your more popular today.

CD: I despise that one. Too common. Besides, Tiny Tim was not easy to capture on paper. In real life, you know, the lad was a bit of a brat.

MTW: I don’t think that’s common knowledge.

CD: Nasty child, that one. Burped a lot and thought it was funny. Imagine. Who would see the humor in that? No, definitely not one of my best. Though I rather did enjoy Bill Murray’s cinematic version, Scrooged. Rather a brilliant take, wouldn’t you say?

MTW: Yes, but I didn’t think you had seen any of the film versions of your books, considering movies weren’t around in your day.

CD: I’ve seen them all. There’s the Muppet, Mister Magoo and Scrooge McDuck versions. George C. Scott and Reginald Owen, too. I spin in my grave every time a new one is released. Which reminds me, may I use your cell? I need to call my agent.

MTW: Is he still around? Frankly, I didn’t realize authors had agents back when you were writing.

CD: The movie deal he obtained for me was appalling. And, frankly, he did not foresee either the invention of television or the Internet. And the toy industry? Talk about a missed opportunity! Think how popular a Miss Havisham doll could have been with designer wedding dresses made by Vera Wang or Valentina.

MTW: Yes, I can see how such a doll would sell on eBay for quite a penny.

CD:  And don’t get me started on Amazon. I hate that nearly all my books are free on Kindle. Copyright, be damned! I don’t care what the lawyers say, those stories are still mine! They’re priceless! David Copperfield alone ought to be worth two quid.

One of my favorite stories by Charles Dickens.

MTW: Ahem, Mr. Dickens, it’s euros now.

CD: Euros? What the damn devil is that?

MTW: Never mind. Let’s change the subject. Tell me what inspired you to write, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

CD: Funny how that happened. I couldn’t make up my mind is all, plain and simple. Was it the best of times? Probably not. Sheer luck is what it was. Sheer, unadulterated luck!

MTW: Well, I guess it’s true then. Some of the best lines happen quite by accident.

CD: And some of the best characters, too. You’re familiar with Jo March in Little Women? Well, she was based on me. Louisa May Alcott said I inspired her.

MTW: No, I did not know that.

CD: Indeed I did. Louisa always said I had spunk and I told her she should write a character with spunk and name it after me.

MTW: How is Jo March named after you?

CD: Well, I didn’t say she listened, did I? Nice woman, that Miss Alcott was. Though, stubborn as a mule and couldn’t sing to save her life.

MTW: Well, Mr. Dickens, it appears we’ve run out of time. Any parting thoughts?

CD: Yes. Where’s my birthday cake? After 200 years, don’t you think I deserve one? Preferably, chocolate, with ice cream, too.

MTW: I do apologize but I didn’t think to bring cake.

CD: Well, that’s just like an American, isn’t it? See if I return in 200 years!

His Dog, Henry

The balance of power has tipped in my home. Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, my pampered pet whom I’ve always made sure to treat like the royal descendant that he is, has switched his allegiance. Hook, line and sinker.

My prince of a dog switches allegiance.

It seems the little ingrate has more important interests than me. And why not? I’m just the human who’s been there for him all these years (he’s almost four). I’m the one who has nurtured and supported him through all his incessant barking when friends stop by, or when the UPS truck pulls up to deliver my latest items from Amazon.  And yes, I’m the one who has indulged his sweet tooth and his penchant for tennis balls. Yet now, it seems, I am history. My little prince has moved on.

Henry gets plenty of barking action when visitors stop by or when the UPS truck pulls up with my Amazon delivery.

Ever since my son returned home, Henry is decidedly on Team Josh. Except, of course, if it’s feeding time. Then he’s back to Team Monica, albeit briefly.  The rest of the time, I’m chopped liver.

So much for man’s best friend. So much for unconditional love.  A dog’s loyalty can only go so far, after all. So, it’s buh-bye me and hello, Josh!  Henry has even taken his little doggie steps–that I purchased for him after his knee surgery, to make it easier to climb on my bed–and pushed them over to Josh’s bed. Which is where he hangs out most nights, visiting me only in the morning when his hunger pains kick in.  Sure, he wouldn’t think of waking Josh. But me? I’m a horse of a different color! He knows I’m an early riser, so he pitter-patters into my room in the wee hours, and gives me the old stare-down, the one that says it’s chow time.

The rest of the time it’s all I can do to pry him away from his new pal. Thick as thieves, those two are. And what amazes me most is my son’s sudden willingness to see to Henry’s needs.  Not only has Josh taken to walking Henry, he’s also playing fetch with him, and bathing him, too! When Josh is watching TV, he lies on the sofa with his head resting on Henry.  If Josh is at his computer, Henry is happily snoring nearby, most likely nestled on the floor, in a pile of Josh’s dirty laundry.

When I get home at the end of the workday, Henry gives me a cool stare down. He doesn’t flinch, nor does he wag his tail. He just glares. His cold indifference mocks me. Sigh. I get no respect from that dog.

Then, when Josh gets home, I am eyewitness to the reunion of the century. They’re like twins separated at birth and reunited after 30 years.  The only things missing are fireworks and a high school band belting out, “Happy Days are Here Again.”

Yes, friends, I’ve been rejected by the king himself, which is very cavalier of him, if you ask me. I’ve been pushed aside by my own flesh and blood, too.  And, frankly, seeing the two of them together, well, it’s kind of sweet.

Breakfast of Champions

I’m thunderstruck. Amazon, my favorite place to shop online–and if you don’t believe me, read my post, Addicted to Amazon–has kicked me to the curb. Yes, you heard right. My supplier, my source for just about EVERYTHING, has sent me what amounts to a  “Dear John” letter.  An email, to be exact, and the message has left me completely and utterly flabbergasted.

It seems the cereal they have been shipping me for the last five years is no longer available. Discontinued. Manufactured no more. Swimming with the fishes.  And, in case I still don’t understand, they add: It’s over!  For added effect, these last words are underlined and written in bold.

Now, if I want to eat my cereal, I have to get it from the likes of Tony Soprano.

WTF??? How can this be? I was so faithful to them, ordering my six-box supply every three months like clockwork.  I had a standing order. They had me on automatic pilot thanks to Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” plan, which knocked an additional 15% off the price. So I thought we’d go on this way forever.

Sometimes I’d run out before the next shipment was due, but one click of the mouse, and Amazon would ship my order instantly, no questions asked. We had an understanding. Or so I thought.

I cannot begin to express the crushing blow this has been for me. This product has been my favorite breakfast indulgence since the summer of 2004, when I was first introduced to it while summering in Key West. In an instant, I was over the moon. Not only was it deliciously refreshing,  it also had magical powers that helped keep those pesky, high cholesterol numbers at bay.

But now, my cereal is gone. We had our good times, our laugh-out-loud times. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing, but three boxes left in my pantry.  I will treasure them and savor them slowly. Perhaps I’ll even save the last box for 2014, the 10-year-anniversary of the day we met along the Key West beach, just 90 miles from Cuba.

Of course, I blame the manufacturer.  Though perhaps I should have seen the writing on the wall, back when all the local grocery stores, one by one, stopped carrying my cereal.  The reason for its sudden disappearance from the store shelves I was told, was because there are so many cereals available. Mine, it seems,  was an under performer and needed to be retired to make room for the newbies.  Under performer? Why my cereal performed very well, thank you very much! Always tasty, always reliable.

Nowadays, my cereal bowl is empty. My cup no longer runneth over.

I called the manufacturer about this unexpected turn of events. The woman at the other end of the line sounded a bit exasperated–perhaps she’d been receiving many calls like mine? Wearily, she notified me that I could still buy this product on Amazon.  Amazon? Why, of course. Amazon sells everything! So Amazon became my dealer, my lifeline for five incredible years. And now, in the blink of an eye, it’s over.

Though in a recent visit to the Amazon website, I noticed that they still carry my cereal. Only now it’s sold by one of their independent sellers, which I’m assuming is code for The Mafia, as now the going price has tripled.  TRIPLED! Plus, add to that a $21 shipping fee. We’re talking black market prices!  Is the cereal coming from Columbia and being brought into this country by drug mules?  I wouldn’t doubt it. All I know is that my cereal has been hijacked and taken underground.  Curse you, General Mills!

Yet, no matter how much I know I’m going to miss my cereal, I just cannot bring myself to pay these black market prices. It’s plain wrong.  Besides, I saw The Godfather and I watched The Sopranos on HBO. I know that nothing decent comes from messing with the Mob. The Cosa Nostra, if you will.  I will have no brush with organized crime. Not even for a bowl of the best cereal that was ever made.

And so closes another chapter of my life. Goodbye, my morning companion! You were too good for American palates. Indeed, too fine for this planet.  Find solace in knowing that you brightened my mornings. In your honor, I will leave an empty cereal bowl in my window. You are gone, but not forgotten. At least, not by me.