There are  things I do really well like writing a mystery play or baking killer brownies or sun-bathing at the beach; there are things I  do medium well like line dancing or swimming the breast -stroke or polishing my nails and there are even things I do passably well like typing or playing scrabble or clothes shopping but…..there are things I don’t do well at all and most of them are computer related.

I don’t understand how to refresh a page or download music or change the margins or copy a picture and a hundred other things I don’t even know that I don’t know how to do until the issue suddenly arises and I’m stuck.   I try to figure out whatever it is; I experiment and, I confess, I sometimes express my frustration with loud exclamations.

“I can’t do this! I don’t understand! Darn (I might possibly use a stronger curse word) this stupid computer!”  I’ve even, once or twice, cried real tears as the computer refuses to do (or not do)  what I want and that’s when I sometimes make the fatal mistake of asking for help or moaning so loudly that my long-suffering bf in the next room grudgingly offers to help.  I should mention that he is a computer guru, almost a genius;  he can make a computer do anything and everything he wants and if he doesn’t know how to do something he can figure it out or make the computer tell him how to do it.

“It’s simple,” he says as he stands over my shoulder assessing the problem. “you pushed the wrong button over there.    Okay, all you have to to is  (pick one), click here, scroll there, sign into that box, delete those boxes, open these tabs, refresh that, upload this, download that, right click on that box,  double click over there, copy that.   See.  It’s simple. Have you got it?”

Of course I haven’t got it.   I don’t have any idea what he did or even what language he’s speaking.   I know I should write down what he is saying but I’m scared to ask him to slow down and repeat because, like me, patience is not one of his virtues.

I vow that I will never ask for help again or moan (or curse) out loud; I promise myself that I will bravely soldier through whatever problems—oh wait! The computer froze; The cursor won’t move. Help!!!!




I can handle  big problems  like paying bills, packing up and moving to a new apartment,  buying a new car but it’s  the thorny, knotty little problems  that defeat me.  For example……

1-    –LIGHTBULBS   Not the regular kind, I can certainly manage them but. halogen bulbs, that’s a  whole different ball game.  I own three halogen lamps and one by one, the bulbs have  burned out, I can’t even get the old bulb out much less insert the new one.  I read the instructions and as near as I can figure,  you’re not supposed to touch the bulb or something terrible (like death) will happen but the instructions don’t say how to take out a bulb without touching it.  Right now I have two non- working lamps in my living room so I have to read in bed where there is a normal lamp.

2–  BATTERIES    I can’t figure out how to   insert them  There is the television remote, the flashlight, the CD player,  the scale to name a few. As they stopped working I bought new batteries (after I figured out which ones I needed, (double A, triple A or one of the hundred or so other choices) but I never seem to insert them properly.  Evidently the plus sign has to be opposite the minus sign  (or not) but the way I do it is  always wrong so I can’t weigh myself on the scale  anymore and I use the manual buttons on the television.

3—KNIVES     How do you sharpen them and what do you use to do it?  My  knives were razor sharp when I bought them; now slicing a  grapefruit or a pineapple or a raw chicken wing feels like I’m using one of those little plastic picnic knives.  I  end up sawing halfway through a grapefruit  and then give up in frustration and rip the rest of it apart with my bare hands.

 4–DIRECTIONS–  How do you reverse them?  I can follow directions to somewhere (friends house, restaurant, shopping mall) just fine but I can’t seem  to reverse them to get home. It seems to me that, if I turn right to get someplace, I should turn left on the return trip but, it never works out that way. I end up hopelessly lost and confused (or the street names change or dead-end or become one-way streets going, of course. the wrong way. I just found out that I have a  GPS on my phone and as soon as I can figure out how to tell it where I want to go, I’ll be able to scratch this problem off my list.

5   COFFEE POTS    It sounds silly but I have never actually gone into a store and bought a coffee pot.  My late husband was a real coffee expert; he used to order a special blend of coffee from some exclusive company and they always included a coffee pot.  He did this once or twice a year.  I don’t know why the coffee pots wore out but he said they did and he would get a replacement.  My current  coffee pot has lasted for over a year and I keep waiting for it to deconstruct or detonate or something and, when it does, what will I do?    Maybe I’ll just switch to tea.’

6    AIR IN TIRES— I can put gasoline into my car, take it in for a tune up,even  go through the car wash but how do you put air into tires?  Wait!  How do you know when the tires need air? It must be a guy thing because tires always look the same to me.  I go to this one gas station and the attendant is always willing to  check the tires for me and put air in (if I remember to ask him) but, I’d like to be able to do it myself.  I need someone to show me how  (and show me again  because I didn’t learn the first time.  Okay, I’m a slow learner.

7–      RADIO–  I’d like to listen to the radio in my car when I drive (and even sometimes at home) but, no matter how I turn the dial all I ever get is static!  Why?  I’m know my car radio can play music; when I valet park and the guy brings it back  there is alway music playing. I’m so happy until I park and turn off the engine.  When I turn it back on I only get static  and I’m back to listening to  CDs.  Other people  find talk shows, country music, top forty, oldies. I’m sure they must be  there but …where?

8–  BUYING PINEAPPLES AND MELONS –The ones I buy are either too hard or green inside or over-ripe, the ones other people buy and serve are perfect.  It seems you have to sniff the melon and pull out a spoke from the pineapple (or the other way around) but I never learned so now I mostly buy strawberries!

I know there aren’t earth-shaking problems but, it would be nice if I could solve them or at least, some of them.

My boyfriend  told me not to talk to him at night because all I do is pick on him, the condo president (and his wife) yelled at me for requesting to use the recreation room, the clerk at the supermarket glared when I inserted the credit card chip the wrong way, my friend was upset because I hadn’t invited her for Thanksgiving dinner and the guy at the automatic car-wash swore when I left the emergency brake on while the car was in the wash thingy.

Why?  What did I do that was so terrible?  I didn’t insert the chip wrong on purpose, I didn’t realize Thanksgiving was so close ”of course I was going to invite you” and I would have been happy to release the brake if I had known that it was important. If you’re supposed to do that why don’t they have a sign saying so—or does everyone in the world but me know this?

In retrospect though, these were just the opening acts.  The stars of the evening were the condo president (and his wife) and my boy friend.

The condo where I live has a really nice recreation room which is supposedly available to the residents with prior notice and a deposit.  I wanted to reserve the room for three dates so I left a note requesting a few mornings and one evening and I left a check for the deposit.   A few hours later I got a phone call from the president’s wife.

“We want to talk to you, we want to know what kind of meeting you are having.”  I told her it was a rehearsal for my little play reading group.  Well, you would have thought I said it was a rehearsal for my little orgy group.  She got angry. She got  angrier and then she became abusive. She called me a liar’ she said she couldn’t trust me and  that there was no way, “not going to happen” that I was going to use that room–ever!

“Okay,okay,” I said.  “I’ll have the meeting somewhere else but we would like to have the room for our holiday party.”No way. I don’t believe you; I think you’re bull__________ me,” she said and when I objected to her language she sneered.

”No way. I don’t believe you; I think you’re bull__________ me,” she said and when I objected to her language she sneered.

“What? Is it too much for your virgin ears?”  Her husband (the president) got on the line and said, in a very ominous voice, ”Barbara Fox, I’m going to take this up with my board.”

They both acted like they hated me, like I had done something terrible. Why?  Before this we had a friendly and cordial relationship.

So, I did what any normal human being (woman) would do.  I told my boy friend.  He listened, said a few things about how wrong they were and then he went back to eating dinner.  That didn’t seem right to me. I kept going over and over it in my mind and I finally went to him and asked him, in a perfectly reasonable voice, why he didn’t defend me when I told him about the condo president (and his wife) yelling at me.  I wanted comfort.  I wanted a hero.  I wanted him to say things like “no one talks to my girl-friend like that” and “I’ll kill the ____” and  ” just wait till I get my hands on him.” I wanted him to roll up his sleeves, flex his muscles and stuff like that.  After he said and did all that  I of course, would have said something like “Oh honey, it was nothing: don’t get so upset.”

Then he would kiss me and it would be forgotten and we’d have a nice evening.  Instead, he got mad—at me! He got angry—at me!  He yelled. He slammed the door.  He said he was tired after working all day (and playing Pickleball) and that I always picked on him and not to talk to him at night.

I really don’t like having people angry at me so. I’ve made some decisions.   I’ll pay cash at the store, I’ll give my friend a blanket invitation for the holidays, I’ll never forget to release the brake, I’ll have the party in my apartment and  I’m sitting here waiting for my boy friend to come home so I can not talk to him.

A friend recently told me that she had to call the pharmacy because the instructions for her medicine were wrong. She was worried abut calling because she was afraid she wouldn’t or couldn’t explain the problem properly.

“I know I’ll get all confused. I  never seem to say what I mean so I end up saying too much or all the wrong things.”

I had one piece of advice for her.

“Write it down,” I said. “Write down exactly what you want to say, what points you want to make and then call the pharmacy and read it; read exactly what you’ve written.”

This is a method I use all the time.  Did someone hurt my feelings, make a mistake, say or do something I thought was wrong?  I write down what I want to say; sometimes just the act of writing is enough and I don’t  have to actually confront the person.  Other times, I do have to act and at those times  my thoughts are organized and I say exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I even anticipate their answers and prepare a reply or rebuttal.

The pharmacy says, “the instructions on the bottle came from your doctor.”

I say, “they are not the instructions I received in the past.  Please check your records.”

The person I’ m confronting  says “oh, don’t be so sensitive, I didn’t mean it”

I say, “my being sensitive isn’t the point, the point is that I think what you said (or did) was wrong  and I wanted you to know.”

Writing,venting on paper or on the computer is a great release; it’s my therapy.What I do is write  everything I feel or think as fast as I can.  I just let the words pour out;  I don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or complete sentences.  I just write and write until I’ve said everything I want to say, until I get that “wow, that felt great” feeling.That’s when I  go back to  use spell- check, to  punctuate and make corrections, Then, I either delete it or file it away under a code name so I can read it another day. This is important.   Never send an angry letter over the internet; it will be there forever and you can never take it back.

Writing can even solve problems for me.  I had a situation with two friends and I wrote a short play about it.  I wrote it from all three viewpoints and when I finished the situation didn’t bother me so much anymore.  Seeing the problem on paper reduced it to  (almost) nothing, made me see that it really wasn’t much of a problem after all.

I wrote a whole book of memories when my mother died  and another,  Widowpedia,  when i lost my husband.  Writing about them softened my grief, made it (a little) more  manageable.

One of my best gifts ever came from a friend who wrote a “this is your life” poem for our twenty-fifth anniversary.  She summed up our whole marriage, children, jobs, vacations, places we lived, in thirty lines of poetry. It was and is one of my favorite possessions and it gave me the idea to try writing life poems myself, maybe for senior citizens who want to leave a remembrance of themselves to their families  without  writing a whole autobiography.

Writing is the best thing I can do for myself. I was feeling headachy and sneezy when i started  this article but, somehow, I feel much better now.  Writing can even cure a potential cold!













“If you really want to sell your house, don’t forget to bury St. Joseph” My mother, my Jewish mother said, “it’s the best way to sell quickly?”

Several years ago my husband and I decided to sell our empty-nest six bedroom house in Rockville Maryland and move  into  The District  (Washington DC).  I called  my mother (who lived in Chicago) to tell her our plans and that’s when she started talking about St. Joseph.

Well, what would you think if your Jewish mother told you such a thing?  You’d think, as I did, that the poor woman was finally losing it!. She was past ninety after all.  I hung up and called her doctor

“Mom is really failing”, I said.  “She’s saying irrational things” and I went on to tell him about the St. Joseph statement.

He laughed.

“You mean you don’t know about St. Joseph?” he asked.  “What’s the matter with you people on the east coast?  In Chicago every realtor carries St. Joseph  statues in their car to give to prospective clients.”

I called a friend/realtor  to check and it was true.  She explained the procedure.

“You bury St. Joseph upside down in your front yard facing your house”

The method is very important.  Evidently if you face him the wrong way he might sell your neighbors house!

“After your house sells” my friend/realtor continued “and it will sell quickly, you must dig the statue up and give him a place of honor in your new home”.

This explains why my mother, my Jewish mother, had a St. Joseph statue on her mantel right next to the Sabbath candles and the menorah!   He helped her sell my late aunts condo; it actually sold in one day!

I decided to try it so I went to a Catholic book.  I was a little worried, a little embarrassed. What if they laughed at me or worse, thought I was insulting them?   I sort of mumbled that I was looking for a St. Joseph. statue   The sales person grinned.
”Are you trying to sell your house?” She pointed to a bin full of little St Josephs.”.
“There’s what you’re looking for, it’s guaranteed to work.”

I took St. Joseph home, buried him in the front yard (upside down facing the house) and, truly, within a week, we had two offers, good offers.  We moved a month later, carefully digging up St. Joseph and taking him with us to our new little row house in Georgetown.

Sixteen years later we decided to move to Florida so we put St. Joseph back to work; we buried him inthe front yard, upside down, facing the house.  He took a little longer this time but within a month we put up a sold sign.

On moving day, my housekeeper Ralph and I went into the front yard to dig up St. Joseph and….disaster!  We couldn’t find him.  We practically dug up the whole yard; even my husband came out to help. St. Joseph was nowhere to be found.

Ralph was wringing his hands and I was pretty upset too.  What should we do?   Part of the deal was that St. Joseph has to come along to the new house.  Finally, I wrote a note starting “Dear St. Joseph”.  I  explained that we had tried and tried but couldn’t find him

“Thank you for helping us sell the house and here is our new address in Florida (I carefully printed the address) and an open invitation to visit anytime.”

. We buried the note (upside down facing the house) and carefully covered it over.  What else could we do?

Fast forward nine years.  I owned a  condo on the beach and dediced it would be more practical to sell it and rent an apartment. I needed a St. Joseph and the  local Catholic Church  actually had  kits in the gift shop complete with instructions.  I was a little worried about where to bury him; if I put him in the common front yard he might sell the whole building so I compromised by burying him in a planter on my balcony with a note explaining the situation. It worked!  The condo sold in a week even in a very slow real estate market. I’m renting an apartment now and St. Joseph is resting in a place of honor  on the bookcase just waiting to be needed again.  I recently shared the story of St. Joseph with some neighbors, one of whom is trying to sell her house, the other is a real estate agent.  They had never heard of this method but, the day after I told them about it, guess what they went out to buy?

I belong to a meet-up  group that meets to play a different game each week; it’s very informal.  I post the time, place and game on the meet-up site, people rsvp and I go to the appointed place at the appointed time (game in hand) to see who shows up.  There could be as few as three people or  as many as  eight. We play rummy cubes or Mexican train dominoes, drink coffee  and eat pastries   It’s all very casual, friendly and informal.  No one cares or  even asks about what kind of work  anyone does or where they live, no one shows pictures of children or grandchildren or pets, no one talks about vacations or health problems; we exchange first names and we play. Period.    I might wonder about the guy with the tattoos up and down his arms or the woman who absolutely refuses to  even consider playing  for money (not that I or anyone else want to,  but why is she is vehement about it?)   or the couple who are obviously together but always arrive in separate cars.  but I don’t ask and neither do they.  Our conversation is limited to the rules of the game and discussions about said game.  We talk and laugh and congratulate the winners and bicker a little bit about possible moves.

“Are you sure that’s legal?” ) a questionable move in dominoes) and  “could you possibly play a little faster?” to a newcomer who seems to go into a trance when it’s her turn in rummy cubes. “Come on,” I want to say as she sits staring at her board, “either you have twenty-six points or you don’t; it’s not rocket science.

. The games  are challenging (but not too much) and competitive (but not too much) and most important, fun. We play for two to three hours and then say “good-might, see you next time” and go our separate ways.

In another life I played bridge but my heart wasn’t in it. It’s too serious, too intense, too scary.   My late husband was the expert bridge player and I had to promise, when we got married, that I would learn the game. If he could have, he would have put  that condition into the wedding ceremony.”I promise to love , honor and  learn to play bridge.”  I did manage to play a passable game  but I was never what you would call good at it.  I once committed the unpardonable sin of opening with a four card minor suit!   If you don’t play bridge I will tell you that  is a very bad thing to do.

My bf Mitch likes games too. We can play Spit (a sort of frantic form of double solitaire) for hours and when we  get tired of that we switch to Jenga or Sequence and our latest favorite, Bananagrams.   We like to have company for dinner and then finish the evening with a game or even a puzzle.  We have these really challenging puzzles.           “There are only twelve pieces, nothing to it , give it a try” we tell our guests and then sit back and watch while they struggle.  For the record, we can’t complete one of them either even with the hints  on the puzzle’s website.

I  sometimes play mahjong but I’m not in a regular game and I love scrabble  especially since I’ve learned some great two letter words like za(pizza) or ai (a three-toed sloth) or Jo (sweetheart) or qi ( i haven’t any idea what it means but it’s legal) If there is no one else around, I play  hearts and solitaire ( I confess that I sometimes cheat a little)  on the computer. I recently went to a brunch and we played Pictionary, remember that? and we laughed  at what really bad artists we are.  My grandson came to visit last month and he challenged me to a game of Monopoly.  “I never lose”  he said but he did.  Guess who won?  He was impressed.

There are so many games to play; games I can’t seem to master like backgammon or chess, old standards like checkers or bingo, gin  rummy or Scattagories,   games l’ve forgotten how to play like canasta (does anyone remember the rules?) and even games that don’t require a board like “In my grandmother’s attic i found…. In case you don’t know the game, what you do is take turns going  thru the alphabet one letter at a time  starting  with A (I found apples). Each person has to repeat the list each time   and add the next one.   This  is a great game for memory skills and for when you are on a road trip and have run out of conversation.

So, back to game night. When I arrive there are two women and a man  waiting and  another couple walks over to our table.

.  “Hi, I’m Barbara ”

“I’m Diane,”

“I’m Ray.” Let’s start the game.”