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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!

 

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished applying color to my lips and cheeks and looked closely, critically at myself in the mirror.  Not bad, I thought, in fact, I look pretty darn good.  No one is going to guess that I forgot my make-up case and—– but wait, let me start at the beginning

I’m the producer/director of Mystery On The menu, an interactive theater company I started in Washington DC in 1986  and, like most small business owners, I have to do a little bit of everything. I write, produce, direct and act in the plays (the fun part) , book shows, write contracts, figure payroll and taxes (the business part).and handle all of the publicity and public relations.  I  have an accountant and a lawyer but that’s for the big stuff, I do the everyday things all by myself.

Mystery on the Menu, MM for short,   performs at hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruise ships and, back in the nineties, aboard trains.  I chartered a private car on Amtrak and  presented the mystery show during the ride to and back from New York or Atlantic City.  We would murder someone (an actor) on the and figure out “whodunit” on the return trip.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with make-up.  Wair, I’m getting there.  Every business needs publicity, needs to become known, to attract clients; paying for effective advertising is expensive so when a local television station asked me to appear on their program I said yes immediately.

‘Here’s the thing,” the manager of the station said, “we’d like to film you on the train and the best time would be at 5:30 in the morning before the train leaves the station.  You don’t mind coming up to Baltimore do you?”

I lived in Washington DC so I had to get up at 4 am to get to Baltimore by 5:30.  It’s actually only a half hour car ride but I always allow extra time just in case of, well, in case of anything.   He named a date and I agreed even though it was the day after MM was doing a big, late night show .

“I don’t need much sleep,” I thought, “I’ll have everything ready so all I’ll have to do in the morning is get up, get dressed and go”

That’s just what I did.  I got up, grabbed a bagel, a thermos of coffee and my bag, jumped in my car and headed to Baltimore.  I didn’t do my hair or make-up; I figured that I’d have plenty of time for that when I got to the train station.

I arrived, parked my car, went into the ladies room, opened my cosmetic bag and found, not lip gloss,  mascara, foundation, brushes etc. but, starter pistols!  Three starter pistols!  I had picked up the prop bag from last night’s  show instead of my cosmetic bag. Well, they’re both white and I was in a hurry.

I ran outside to the train station; the only person in sight was the camera man, a huge African American guy in jeans and sweat shirt, not the type you would ask for make-up!  Anyway, I was a professional, the president of a corporation. I didn’t want the station to know that I was all alone and unprepared.  I looked around frantically, no stores but, aha!  A news stand! I rushed over.  No make-up but stacks and shelves of newspapers, candy, cigarettes, magazines, crayons, key chains, jewelry…Wait! Crayons!   Hmmm.  There’s a possibility!  I bought a box and hurried back to the ladies room.

“Let’s see, the brown for my eyebrows, turquoise for eye shadow, red for blush, orangey- red for my lip”s.  I was coloring diligently when the door opened and a while-haired lady in a black pants suit  came in.  She stared at me. I was so tempted to take out one of my guns and say.”give me your make-up” but I didn’t.  I just smiled as if it was a perfectly normal thing to be coloring my face with crayons at 6 o’clock in the morning.

I checked my face in the mirror, (see opening sentence) and went out to meet the cameraman. We climbed aboard the train, filmed the scene and I drove home.

The segment aired that night and friends began calling.

“You looked great,” they said, “It must be nice to be a television star and have a make-up crew do your make-up.”

I just smiled, said ”thank-you”  and never told a soul about my emergency cosmetics.

 

 

 

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It feels so good to laugh and, laughter is so is good for you    Norman Cousins watched Charlie Chaplin movies to conquer the pain of his illness; studies show that laughter produces endorphins that block pain.  My former yoga teacher ended each class with the laughing asana where the class stood  in a circle and laughed and yet, according to this clown I know (an actress/mom who moonlights as a clown) most people don’t  laugh even ten times a day.  Why not?  It’s easy, it’s free, it’s fun, its better than a tranquilizer or a glass of champagne  and there are countless things to laugh at once you become open to the idea.

You can even laugh at nothing, just laugh for the sake of laughing.  Interestingly enough, your body doesn’t know the difference; it still produces those happy little endorphins.

I tell myself jokes, I really do.   I have a few favorite jokes  and, when I’m feeling sad, angry, mad, depressed, tired, when I’m unhappy because something has gone wrong or someone has done or said something hostile or I’m stuck in traffic or problems seem overwhelming or— (the list could go on and on) I mentally pull a joke out of my collection, tell it to myself and, suddenly, I’m laughing!  It sounds so simple, but it works.  The following jokes have never failed to make me smile, laugh and laugh harder.   The first is  from my daughter Carrie.  I claim no credit for the others but unfortunately,  I can’t remember where I heard or read them so I can’t credit their creator but whoever you are, thank you.

1-  –Two peanuts were walking in an alley; one was assaulted!  (a—salted)

2–     An airline steward was taking dinner orders.  She approached a gentlemen passenger.  “Sir,” she asked, would you like dinner”?

” Well, let me see,” the gentlemen replied, “ what are my choices?”
The steward looked at him. “Yes,’ she said, “or no.”

3- Two  friends had been playing bridge for years.  One day, one of them looked thoughtfully at the other and said,  “You know, this is terrible but I can’t remember your name”

The second one looked up and frowned, “ How soon do you have to know”?

“ How soon do you have to know”?

4        A man was having his 96th birthday.  The doorbell rang.  He opened the door and a beautiful young girl was standing on the porch.

“Happy Birthday” she said.  “I’m here to give you super sex.”

The man thought for a minute.

”Hmmm,” he said, “I’ll take the soup”

5– Two cannibals were eating a clown; one of them said to the other—“does your food taste funny?”

6    Two cannibals were eating dinner.  One of them said, “I hate my mother-in-law”, the other one answered, “try the potatoes”

7  Question–         How do you catch a wild unique?

Answer—           Unique up on it.  

Question…           How do you catch a tame unique?

Answer                 The tame way  

Explanation                 if you really  don’t get it.

(say it fast, it sounds like “you sneak up” and the “same” way

8   (My favorite) a wealthy couple owned a very smart talking parrot but the only words the parrot could say were “Polly wants a cracker”.  One night the couple put the parrot in his cage, covered it and went out to dinner.  The parrot was just falling asleep when he heard some strange noises.  He carefully picked up the cover, peeked out and saw two robbers stealing the silver and other valuables.  The parrot very, very quietly opened the door of his cage, hopped out and tiptoed across the room, hopped up on the counter, knocked the receiver off the telephone, and with his beak, dialed 9-1-1.  A voice answered, “Police emergency”.  The parrot opened his little beak, struggled and finally was able to croak….”Polly—wants—a –cracker.

Okay, I know the jokes are silly and corny but…are you  laughing or at least,  smiling a little?   That’s the point!

 

 

I’m having a birthday in April and I’m thinking about what kind of legacy I’d like to leave for my family and friends, about how I’d like to be remembered.  I collect (informally)  quotations, sayings, special lines from a  song or poem, even fortunes from fortune cookies so I’ve decided to put put them into a book that I’m going to call Life’s A Beach and Other Happi-isms.   Here’s the first one.

                              LIFE’S A BEACH

There are lots of sayings about life;  “Life is real, life is earnest”,  “Life is for living”, “You only have one life to live.” “Life begins at (pick an age)” Even tee-shirts get into the act with the message “Life is hard and then you die,”which, for some reason, always makes me laugh.

In college my friends and I had deep conversations about the meaning of life until  life caught up with all of us in the form of  love, marriage, children,  careers, celebrations, vacations, moves,  illnesses, death . The years flew without much time to think about the meaning of life; we were too busy living it.

I asked ten people (a mini survey) for their definition of life. Their answers ranged from hard to  wonderful, full of problems, getting better all the time, getting worse all the time, better in the old days, stressful, too complicated, exciting, better than ever, going too fast, over before you know it.  Some people were generally optimistic and happy about the meaning of life; others were pessimistic and gloomy.

I read somewhere (I don’t remember where) that  people are just about as happy as they decide to be.  I’m going to paraphrase it and say, Life is just about as good as you decide it is. 

I’m an optimist; I have a firm belief that I have a right to live as happy a life as I possibly can and I believe that everyone has that same right.  I also believe that happiness doesn’t just happen; it has to be courted and coaxed into being. It’s up to each person to decide what makes him or her happy and then, it’s up to him or her to do that thing (those things)  even if it’s sometimes easier to stay in bed and hide under the covers..

I’ve been very lucky all my life. I had a great marriage for over forty years until my husband Shelly died in 2006; I live a vacation life in Florida and I have a reasonably successful business writing and acting in interactive murder mysteries. I have super-special children , grandchildren and friends, even a wonderful man who came into my life unexpectedly a few years ago. My days are full of swimming, writing, acting, line dancing, reading, people watching on Lincoln Road, outdoor movies, dancing on the Hollywood Broadwalk and, most important, the ocean which is just a few steps from my apartment.   I swim  everyday, even in what native Floridians call winter. So,what’s life?  For me, the answer would be…. Life’s a Beach!

i love hotels and cruises and days spas where I can be pampered  with facials, pedicures  and  massages . I love soaking in a bubbling hot tub and candlelight dinners in elegant restaurants  and eggs Benedict  with mimosas for breakfast.  I also, at the other extreme, really like camping in a tent, picnics on the beach and playing skeeball at amusement parks.  I like doing things, going places and I’ve found its possible to do almost anything without spending an inordinate amount of money; it’s possible to live a caviar life on a hot-dog budget.  Anyone can spend money to buy stuff or do things things and its certainly nice if you don’t have to think about the money part but I, an most people, do have to think about it so, I figure,  the trick is to spend the least amount possible and still do and buy the things I want, the operative word here is want.

I  don’t want expensive clothes or jewelry.  I don’t care if my purse is  knock-off or  my earrings come from a flea market or  my jeans are a copy of a copy of a copy.  I love bright colors and matching jewelry and cute bathing suits but most of the things I wear were on sale or come from the nearby discount store.   I don’t have a  good eye (or any eye at all )for expensive or quality stuff. Maybe its because I’m nearsighted but I think  I’m just missing the “quality, expensive” gene.            Example–My late husband and I were browsing in a department store one afternoon and I spotted a ring I liked.  I slipped it on my finger; it glowed and glimmered.

“I don’t know” I said to him as I held out my hand and studied my finger critically.  “It’s pretty but–fifty dollars?  I don’t know if it’s worth hat much.”

“Take  off and put it back Barbie,” he said.”Put it back…now.”

“Why?  What’s the matter?”

“Look at the zeros, It’s not fifty dollars,  I’ts five hundred dollars.”

“Oh,”

Another time he bought me gold earring for our anniversary.  The trouble was that the vendor on the corner was selling identical ones for three dollars; I’m sorry but I actually couldn’t tell the difference.

So the first step in living a caviar life on a hot-dog budget  is  to  decide what is most important, what provides the most joy, the most happiness and then focus on those things,