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.







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!





Santana said this in a magazine article about his life and family and career and it made a really big impression on me, gave me one of those “Aha” moments.   I’m just imaging how  how happy I would be  if I went to Disneyland (or any other amusement park) and the rides were free.   I’d be smiling and laughing and enjoying every minute of the day.  Wouldn’t it be great to feel that way all the time, to think that life is one big Disneyland?  It would sure make standing in line at the supermarket or going to the dentist or driving to work on a cold rainy morning a lot easier to do.  I’m going to try it.

The title is from the song “I hope you dance” and it’s right up there, in my mind, as one of the best messages or thoughts or happi=isms ever.     It’s so easy to say things like “I’m too tired”or “I haven’t got time.”  or “I can’t do that” or “I’m too old to learn this.”  It’s harder but a lot more fun to try something new, take a chance, to get out of your comfort zone.  Some people wait to live their lives until they retire or earn more money or the children are grown up or….any one of a hundred reasons; they act as if they were cats with nine more lives to live when actually, the only life to be sure of is today so…lets not sit it out…lets dance!

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!

Mitchell Ball has done it again!  Two years ago he introduced  and persuaded me, and (most  of South Florida) to play a game called Pickleball, a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and now that I (and most of South Florida) are playing it, he is promoting another  paddle sport, Pop Tennis!

            “ You have to try it,” he insisted as I, shaking my head and clinging to my Pickleball paddle, tried to refuse, “Just take the racquet”—it looks like a tennis racquet except it’s heavier and  has holes in it—“and a tennis ball “—more about that in a minute—and hit it. Great!  See, you can do it.”

          I had expected to play Pickleball and we were standing on a Pickleball court (20 feet wide and 44 ft long) but Mitchell had sneakily turned it into a Pop Tennis court by adding three feet to both ends making it  20 feet wide and 50 feet long.  He tossed me a deflated (almost dead) tennis ball which is what the Pop Tennis game uses.

       “Serve it underhand,” Mitch instructed  “or”, when I kept missing, “you can bounce the ball and hit it.” That was much easier but I have to say that the supposedly dead ball still had plenty of bounce and I spent a lot of time chasing it.    We played a game.

            “That’s fifteen for me,” Mitch said as I missed a shot.  “That’s 30”  as I missed another one “and “as I missed a third, “that’s forty and my game.”

          “What? Whoa!  Wait a minute. How can the game be over so fast?”

             “Pop tennis is scored like tennis.”

            “Oh.” I didn’t admit that I didn’t remember how tennis is scored.

            “You play six games to one set; a game is scored love (that’s nothing),  fifteen, thirty and forty is game so, we have five more to go. Ready?” ” I groaned but felt better when he said that people usually play doubles.  I actually won one game  but…I think maybe he let me.

           Pop Tennis has been around since 1898 but is played in only in four locations in the United States, Brighton Beach Baths in New York City, Venice Beach in California, the Carolina’s and St Augustine, Florida.   Mitchell is going to change that.  He is now the official  Pop Tennis ambassador for Dade, Broward, Keys  and Palm Beach Counties, is in the process of contacting tennis clubs to set up demo clinics,  has created a website,misterpoptennis.com,  a Meetup group , www.meetup.com/southfloridapoptennis and has a group of people ( even me) ready and anxious to play.

     For more information about Pop Tennis go to the website, join the Meetup or call Mitchell at 786.259.4711

 By Barbara Fox,booksbybarbara.com


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I’m moving. I sold my condo and I’m going to rent a big apartment in…well, that’s the question.   I lived  in Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach (briefly)  and the apartment I’m probably going to rent, which is beautiful and spacious and in a wonderful building with a roof-top pool is in Hollywood, a half hour and a million light years away from my favorite place, Miami Beach.

I’m still looking there maybe the; perfect apartment will turn up but, so far, it hasn’t.  It seems that, in the last three months. everyone in the world wants to rent an  apartment so the inventory is low and and the prices are high.   I want very specific things.  The apartment has to be on the beach, have one bedroom with a den or dining area, one and a half bathrooms and a balcony, I want to be able to walk to something (stores, restaurants, entertainment)   but there is  proble. It seems my budget is sort of low. I didn’t think it was but, according to the seven or so  realtors I contacted, prices have gone sky high.  Everyone wants to rent.

          So, I’m moving  and I’m getting really excited.   I like to move, I like change and I love to throw things away, organize other things, and find things I’ve forgotten that I owned.

“When did I write that article?”  I ask myself as I clear out my desk.  “I don’t remember buying that sweater” as I empty a drawer,   “I’ve been looking for that serving plate for a year” as I stand on a stool to begin  wrapping the contents.

As I’m sorting  out the book case I stop to read a chapter in a favorite book or listen to a record. Yes, I still have my record collection (show tunes and folk music) They have come with me for more than  ten different moves (Chicago , Maryland, Washington DC, Miami Beach)  and  I can’t seem to leave them or sell them.  They’re like family and, strangely enough, they still sound really good.

I discard clothes I haven’t worn for years.  Why, I ask myself, “do I need a purple cashmere cape in Florida?”  I reluctantly select about three dozen books to donate to the library and ruthlessly toss out magazines and paperback books and about thirty bottles of half empty nail polish.

I clear out the file cabinet; manuals, old tax forms, bank statements and bills, whole folders go into the shredder or trash bag and then I attack the linen closet.   Flat sheets which I never use, old towels, pillow cases, the mop and broom (never bring an old broom into a new home) and that vacuum that has been broken for two years all join the Goodwill pile.

The kitchen is next.  My fine collection of unmatched plastic containers has to go and so do the chipped glasses, the six pot covers (the pots they covered are long gone) and the thermos that leaks.  I look at my dishes critically; maybe this is the time to buy new ones.

Sometimes I think should put everything in storage, rent a furnished apartment and be unencumbered by stuff but then, I look at my curvy  red sofa and my round glass table with the four black stools and my purple flowered comforter on the king sized bed and my favorite books and paintings, some of which were painted by my late father-in-law, and I think, maybe not.

So I’m moving, I’m scrounging grocery stores for boxes and I’m wrapping stuff and making to-do lists and canceling some things and notifying places.  I’m moving and, I have a whole week more to decide…where!