Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Bras, Glutes, & Duck Heads: Age-Defining Moments

It’s been a rough few weeks for my ego. Please note the title says age-defining, not age-defying

Party of One Final Cover

Watch for it in May!

It began when I was out with a friend at a small local restaurant. Since my book Party of One is due out within weeks, I’ve been scouting venues to have book signings. I asked to speak with the owner of the place. I was surprised when a cute guy in his twenties approached the table.

He’s the owner?

Anyway, I told him what I had in mind. He was agreeable to the book signing idea, and I was excited.

“We could schedule you any night, maybe seven to closing,” he said. “We’ll set you up at one of our larger tables, and advertise it on Facebook. Just let me know what night would work best.”

The baby-faced owner was so darn cute and optimistic I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

First, nights won’t “work best.” My readers are women, middle-aged and older. Some of them don’t drive after dark—or shouldn’t. The rest of them have taken their bras off by seven. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

After expressing my appreciation, I promised to get back to him soon. Better yet, maybe I could speak to his mother. She may be more sympathetic and better able to explain this rite of passage to her son.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)

A second age-defining moment actually stems from my new membership at the gym … but not in the way you might think.

When I joined earlier this year, I had no fantasies about competing with lunks and beauty queens who were half my age. My goal was simple—to be more comfortable in my clothes, preferably the smaller sizes.

Anyway, after being assessed by a professional trainer, I got started.

I’d been working out for a few months, when I noticed an unwelcome change on my way into the kitchen one morning. My PJ bottoms hugged my glutes a little too tight. My brain ran back to the gym. (Okay, maybe “ran” is an exaggeration.) I pictured the machines in my head, then grumbled, “Why would a pro tell me to do exercises that would make my butt bigger?”

This may look exactly like me, but it’s not.

I was writing a formal letter of complaint in my head as I tugged at my PJ bottoms. That’s when I saw the tag—in the front. In my rush, I’d put my pants on backwards.

Knowing my husband was on his way, I wanted to right that wrong before he noticed.  A speedy off and on, then I began my breakfast duties with all the innocence and sophistication I could muster.

Then I heard him chuckling behind me.

With a hand on my hip, I said, “What’s so funny?”

“If you’re wondering why your sweatshirt has no spots on it, it’s because you’ve got in on backwards.”

Without much thought, my big mouth snapped back, “Then it matched my pants! So there!”

He’s still laughing.

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. ~ Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

This past holiday weekend, I got to spend time with my six grandchildren. The four older grandkids—Jessica, Colin, Michael, and Darin—are polite and tactful, but basically ignore me. Nice way of saying there’s a good chance I bore them. C’est la vie.

However, I can still amuse the youngest two: nine-year-old Max and seven-year-old Margaux—even when I’m not trying.

Dressed in my new outfit with my make-up and hair looking as good as ever, I sat on the sofa in their rental house, admiring the view of a lovely pond.

Margaux joined me. She leaned over the back of the sofa, her precious little face studying my features, like seven-year-olds do—up close and personal. Pointing to my chin and/or neck area, she exclaimed, “Hey! Memere! It looks like you have a duck’s head under there.”

Max jumped on the sofa, abandoning his Legos. “Let me see!” He twisted his whole body for a better view.

I began to laugh.

Margaux turned my head toward her. “Wait! When you laugh it looks like a tiny person!”

Max got even closer. “It does! If we draw eyes on it, it would look like a chubby face.”

I can’t wait until they grow up and ignore me.*

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children. ~ Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

(*That’s so not true.)


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Breakfast at Epiphany’s 

Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! ~ Proverbs 15:23 (MSG)

The breakfast conversations between my husband and me often sound like this.

ME, cheerful as always in the morning: “Do you want banana-pecan pancakes or your usual oatmeal?”

DAVID, laughing: “I take it a banana’s gone bad?”

ME, hiding the brown banana: “Maybe. I can throw it away or make you the pancakes—your choice.”

DAVID, making a snap decision: “Pancakes.”

ME, smiling sweetly: “Wise man.”

[THE PANCAKES ARE ON THE TABLE AND GRACE HAS BEEN SAID.]

ME, resting my chin in my hand: “Do you know how to bail someone out of jail?”

DAVID, looking at his stack of pancakes: “Does this have anything to do with my getting pancakes on a Tuesday?”

ME, befuddled: “What? No. Dee’s son Zach got arrested for drug possession. I don’t know how to post bail.”

DAVID, even more befuddled: “Why do you need to know? He’s Dee’s son.”

ME, sighing loudly: “Yeah, but I want to know how to do it first.”

DAVID, scrunching up his face: “What are you talking about?”

ME, holding my hands up to emphasize my point: “She doesn’t know how to begin to find out about bail. And she’s just not the type of person who’d leave her son in jail for any length of time.”

DAVID, taking a bite of pancake: “Okay …”

ME, narrowing my eyes at him: “What’s that supposed to mean? Would you leave one of our kids is jail?”

DAVID, thinking: “Depends on the charge—and the kid.”

ME, ignoring his wise remark: “Oh, and another thing, I’ve changed my mind on the white cabinets for the kitchen.”

DAVID, turning to look in the kitchen: Our kitchen?”

ME, giving him a duh look: “Who else’s kitchen would I be talking about?”

DAVID, trying hard to get a grip: “Oh, I don’t know, maybe Dee’s.”

ME, waving his comment away like a pesky mosquito: “Anyway, I wanted all white, but now I decided maybe a light grayish-brown wood would look nice with the stainless steel appliances.”

DAVID, again looking in the kitchen: “What stainless steel appliances?”

ME, dreaming about how it will look: “The ones we’ll be getting with the new cabinets.”

DAVID, rolling his eyes: “And how do you plan to pay for all this?”

ME, rolling my eyes back at him: “I already told you. Out of my $7,000 a-week-for-life winnings from Publishers Clearing House.”

DAVID, nodding: “Good to know you’ve got a solid plan in place.”

ME, pushing my dream aside to get back to reality: “Now, about Zach. How do you think Sergeant O’Neil knew he had drugs in his car?”

DAVID, one eyebrow raised: “Who’s Sergeant O’Neil?”

ME, surprised he doesn’t remember: “She’s the cop who works with Kyle.”

DAVID, both eyebrows raised: “Who’s Kyle?”

ME, wondering what he was doing when he wasn’t listening to me: “You know, Charlie’s friend, Sarah’s husband? Remember, I told you about Sarah being Juliette’s best friend?”

DAVID, sighing loudly: “You did? Juliette? Sheesh, I can’t keep track of all the people you know.”

ME, crossing my arms: “They’re not people I know, silly, they’re people I’ve made up.”

DAVID, kneading his face with his hand: “Are any of the things you talk about real?”

ME, astonished he would even ask: “Duh, yeah. You’re eating pancakes, aren’t you?”

DAVID, poking the stack with his fork: “Am I? Then I think I’ve earned some sausage to go with them.”

ME, taking a long slow sip of my coffee: “I’ll get right on that. As soon as my new kitchen is in.”

And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.Overwhelming grace keep you! ~ 1Timothy 6:20-21 (MSG)

 


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In Jeopardy on Jeopardy

alex-welcomeWhenever my husband David and I visit my father-in-law, we have to watch Jeopardy so that sweet man can count how many answers his Son-the-Genius gets right. The genius title has been disputed by David numerous times, but his proud father insists there’s an IQ test score floating around in history to prove it.

Of course, David doesn’t help his non-genius argument when he throws out correct responses like these: “What is a Leopard 10-point Crampon Flexlock?” … “Who are the Limeliters?” … “What is an Aye Aye?” … “Who is responsible for the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder?” … “What is Gallopin’ Gertie?” … “Who is O. Winston Link?

aye-aye

Aye Aye

Who knows all these things … I mean, besides my husband … and people like him?

Not to brag, but I know a lot of stuff too. In fact, my knowledge base is so massive I have to store it outside my brain in places like the Oxford English Dictionary, People Magazine, and Wikipedia. As a fail-safe, two self-appointed guards are in place to correct me: 1) my husband, Son-the-Genius, and 2) my friend, Smarty-Pants Mahoney. But I am quite certain I could do as well on Jeopardy … if they’d only change the categories. Why, I might even rout Son-the-Genius! [For instance, see how I used the word “rout” instead of “beat?”]

Here’s the way I imagine it would go …

CLARICE, WIFE OF SON-THE-GENIUS: “Alex, I’ll take CANDY for 400.”

ALEX TREBEK: “Nation famous for red fish.” 

CLARICE: Buzz. “What is Sweden, the country of origin of those chewy fish that get caught between your teeth but taste so good?”

“Yes, it could be a winky face …

ALEX: “Correct.” Chuckle, chuckle. “Even with the mixed review.”

CLARICE: “Let me have PUNCTUATION for 600, Alex.”

ALEX:  “A partial punctuation mark.”

CLARICE: Buzz. “What is a semicolon, which you should avoid using when writing fiction–especially in dialogue–because editors are not partial to it?”

ALEX: “Correct–again with more editorializing.”

CLARICE: “Glad you like it, Alex. I’ll move on to COLORS for 800.”

ALEX: “A French liqueur made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737.”

CLARICE: Buzz. “What is Chartreuse–also a color which I never wear because it makes me look old and jaundiced?”

ALEX: “Um, you’re right again … uh, not about looking old or jaundiced… uh, I mean … never mind.”

CLARICE: “Thanks, Alex. You’re too kind. Now I’ll take HGTV for 1,000.”

ALEX: Family, Waco, magnolia, farmhouse.

CLARICE: Buzz. “Who are Chip and Joanna Gaines, hosts of Fixer Upper, whose style I love unless she gets too country like the time she used the rusty, dented red metal buckets for kitchen lamp shades, which were a bit too much for me, but what did you think?”

jeopardy-with-cj-2

ALEX: “Uh, correct again, Clarice. I’m sorry, but I’d like to stay on point next time, if you don’t mind?”

CLARICE: “Works for me, Alex. No need to apologize. Besides, I would’ve gotten the last one right on the word Waco alone. How about BIBLE for 1,200?”

ALEX: “It’s the Daily Double! Clarice, you have $10,000 so far. What would you like to wager?”

CLARICE: “I’ll make it a true Daily Double, Alex. Never know when I’ll get this chance again.”

ALEX: “Four creatures sent as part of the plagues against Egypt.”

CLARICE: “What are frogs, mothers-in-law–just kidding!–mice–oops, no, I mean lice–flies, and locusts?”

ALEX: “Hmm. It seems you have more than four creatures … Wait. Our judges have ruled in your favor. Looks like we have a new champion!”

CLARICE: “But what about Final Jeopardy?”

ALEX: “Brad and Stephanie have no money to wager, so that’s the end of our show for today.”

CLARICE: “But I have a lot more answer-questions. I’ll be quick. What is on the lam (not lamb)? What is soapstone? Who is Snoop Dogg? What is claptrap? Where is Patagonia? What is tongue-in-groove and tongue-in-cheek? What are washboard abs? Who are Andrew Johnson and Julie Andrews? Where is Mount Nebo? What are Spoolies? …

ALEX, HOLDING UP HIS HAND: “Again, Clarice, you won, the show is over …”

 

alex-stop-talkingCLARICE, HOLDING UP HER HAND: “… What is a frozen rope? Where is Waldo? What is a frozen shoulder? Who is Amy Carmichael? What is Pierre? What is hardtack? Who is Bobby Vinton? What is the number 42? Who is Juan Ponce de Leon? Where is Double Header?

Yep. It would go a lot like that.

alex-needs-helpDoes not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.. ~ Proverbs 8:1-6 (NIV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Note: To those who know me well (and those who don’t know me at all), you have surmised correctly–I did NOT appear on Jeopardy.


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What Is Hooey and Why Is There a Lot of It?

As my title suggests, another year has gone, and I still don’t know everything I want to know. Here’s my latest dozen queries.

pig-in-mask

Sorry, I’m out. Pulled a hammy.

  1. This is a compound question. On the new reality show Hunted, teams of two go on the lamb, hoping to win big bucks by being the last ones captured. Are they or we supposed to ignore the camera crew following them? And why do they go on the lamb? Why not a goat or a cow or a rat? Huh? What do you mean it’s lam? What on earth is a lam?
  2. Why do the disgruntled get all the headlines? Don’t the gruntled deserve some attention?
  3. Can a pig pull a hamstring?
  4. Why is it that when people drive faster than us they’re considered idiots, but when they drive slower they’re morons?
  5. When we can’t do everything, why do we choose to do nothing?
  6. Why does Hawaii have interstate highways?
  7. In 2016, someone named their baby Little Sweetmeat. Why do parents do this? I’ve already started a GoFundMe account to pay for this kid’s therapy.
  8. Since Jesus taught by telling parables, why do Christians insist they “can’t possibly read fiction”?
  9. The picture of a thousand words. What’s it worth? Does it depend on the words?
  10. Why do we continue the whole groundhog thing? There’s no food or gifts connected to it, and no one really believes it, especially those Christians who don’t read fiction.
  11. What do I say when someone says I’m in denial but I’m not?
  12. Why do I own 47 bowls and still use old Cool Whip containers? (Okay, so maybe I am in denial.)

how-i-bowl-3-strings

[hoo-ee] 

interjection — 1. (used to express disapproval or disbelief): Hooey! You know that’s not true.

noun — 2. silly or worthless talk, writing, ideas, etc.; nonsense; bunk: That’s a lot of hooey and you know it!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~ James 1:5 (NIV)


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Beauty Tips for Ladies of an Uncertain Age Only

And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it. ~ 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (MSG)

The advantage of being my age is that I’ve mastered a few beauty tips over the years which I am transparent enough to pass on to my readers.

dirty-eueglassesFirst, clean your eyeglasses!

You know that blouse you’ve been wearing three days in a row—it’s covered with drips and dribbles. Oh, yes, it is. No one will tell you because they’re just relieved it’s not them.

I once worked with a woman who kept pushing her eyeglasses up her nose while she ate her tuna fish sandwich. By the end of lunch, her glasses were smeared with mayonnaise. Please! This is not a good look for you–first, because you won’t be able to see. And, second, it’s hard for people to take you seriously when you have tuna hanging off an eyeglass hinge. 

Clean your eyeglasses before you attempt to pluck those thick spikes which crop up in your eyebrows. If you don’t, you’ll end up with bald spots. It’s not easy to do a comb-over on an eyebrow.

If you don’t like the look of little pieces of bloody toilet paper on your face, wear your clean eyeglasses when plucking those half-inch chin hairs that pop out overnight. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Along this line, wax or at least trim your mustache. (Yes, I know why women get them–but I don’t get why they keep them.)cutting-hair

Rethink cutting your own hair–especially at 3:00 a.m. If you do cut your hair in the wee hours of the morning, do not follow that act with plucking. You won’t like the results, believe me.

Read the directions on how to use a curling iron. Click here to see what could happen.

hairplugsThere’s always a period of time before your roots start to show and your next hair appointment. A temporary solution is to use eye shadow on your roots. (I’d stay away from blue or green.) Again shadow, not mascara. I got the wand caught in my hair. And not eyebrow pencil. Those little pencil marks made me look like I had hair plugs.

Don’t try waxing your armpits. No matter what QVC says about their product, trust me on this one. First, it’s tiring holding your arms up waiting for the wax to dry. Second, your armpit skin is stretchy—and pulling the wax only stretches it further. Do you want saggy armpits? I mean, it might work if you have someone holding your skin while you tug on the wax. But how many people do you know who would hold your armpit? [Never mind, I don’t want to know.]

dsc03767-35x5My final tip is to smile—all the time. No one will guess you still have wax in your armpits. And it’ll distract them from the spots on your blouse and the ticks on your hairline, too.

There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.  Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. ~ 1 Peter 3:2-4 (MSG)


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Pregnant with Fashion Faux Pas

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. ~ Matthew 6-27-29 (MSG)

This post is meant to make you feel better about yourself—at my expense, of course. It’s a brief history of my fashion faux pas.

BACKGROUND: I was the second oldest of six children. My sister Suzanne was just shy of two years older; the four youngest were boys. Part of my responsibility as one of the oldest was to help my brothers look presentable. I washed their faces, buttoned their shirts, pulled up their pants, and made sure their shoes were on the right feet.

USA, New York, New York City, Paperboy (14-15) holding newspapers, shouting

It’s what sisters did for their little brothers back then. My mistake was thinking it was what all girls did for all boys in any situation.

THE SCENE: My mother and a neighbor were having coffee at our kitchen table. My 11-year-old self was present when the neighbor’s 15-year-old son, and our paperboy, stepped into the kitchen to deliver the newspaper.

I noticed his fly was down, so I quickly reached over and zipped it up for him, hoping to save him some embarrassment at the next house. His mother laughed, my mother scolded me, and his face turned bright red. It took me years to understand what their problem was.

BACKGROUND: Back to my older sister. I envied her when she started to develop in all the right places. Especially the summer she got the black and white one-piece bathing suit that emphasized her curves. I insisted the same suit with the stiff built-in cups fit me as well as it did her. I talked my mother into buying one for me too.

THE SCENE: At the pond, wearing my suit, the 7th grade boys all abuzz.bathing-suit

To get away from the 7th grade boys’ google eyes and wisecracks, I dove under water, swam along the bottom to the raft. I climbed up, planning to sun bathe away from shore with the more sophisticated high school crowd. When I sat and leaned back on my hands, to my horror I saw my two cups crushed almost flat, revealing my less than full figure. I dove back into the water, poked the cups back out, swam to shore, went home, and didn’t return to the pond that summer.

BACKGROUND: As a junior high student, I had a crush on the aforementioned paperboy. I wanted him to notice me. When the neighborhood kids got a game of softball together, I decided to go. I chose my striped top and a pair of short-shorts I’d inherited from someone somewhere. (My mother never would have bought them for me.) Of course, I didn’t want my parents to see what I had on, so I feigned chilliness and wore a hand-me-down London Fog trench coat over my outfit. Pathetic that it made sense to me at the time.

london-fog-coatTHE SCENE: In a big, bare field, all the neighborhood kids in jeans and t-shirts, playing softball. I, alone, in a raincoat.

I hung around clutching my coat closed until it was my turn at bat. The longer I waited, the more I was afraid to take the coat off. When I finally did, I felt like Gypsy Rose Lee [Younger people, ask your parents.] I stepped to the plate. No one whistled, but all the kids laughed. My softball career ended that day.

BACKGROUND: In high school, my nerves got the best of me. For a period of time, I sweat like a pig. [They still say that don’t they?] Nothing could stop it. Going to the prom with a boy I hardly knew made it worse.

THE SCENE: Not wanting sweat stains to show up on my hot pink prom dress before my date arrived, I stuffed tissue under my arms to absorb the nervous moisture. It worked so well I forgot it was there. Until I was standing in the middle of a crowd at the prom and a damp wad of tissues slipped through my dainty cap sleeve and plopped at my feet. My date made himself scarce the rest of the night. Never did like that guy.

BACKGROUND: Married with three kids early in life, I didn’t have much of a budget for clothes. My mother-in-law gave me this cool African top, made of stiff cotton in bright colors of orange, browns, and yellow. I wasn’t quite sure it was my style, but I wanted to be in style, so I wore it.

african-topTHE SCENE: While waiting at a traffic light, a car rear-ended my Pinto without slowing down. I hit the car in front of me and so on down the line. The ambulance was called. While the EMTs checked everyone out, I leaned against my car with my head in my hands, more upset about my car and the inconvenience than my physical condition.

One EMT seemed especially solicitous of me. I didn’t know why, since I wasn’t hurt. Then I heard him speak into his radio: “We’ve got a pregnant one here.” I looked around for a woman with child, praying she wasn’t hurt. Then I realized he was talking about me.

I look down at my African top and back at him. Now when a woman has to tell a strange man she’s not pregnant, that is not a good thing for either of them. He was back on his radio: “Scratch that. No baby. Repeat. No baby.”

The day I got my Pinto back, the African top went to the Salvation Army.

BACKGROUND: The windbreaker I’d received as a birthday gift was too small. I had gained some weight and was not happy. I went to the store to exchange it.

THE SCENE: While trying on the next size windbreaker in the busy department store, I realized it, too, was small. Aggravated, I tried to pull it over my head; it got stuck, and so did my arms. Blindfolded by the windbreaker, I walked around the store calling for my husband. He tried to pull it down when he saw me; frustrated at his ignorance, I pulled it back up. When I finally listened, he explained that my blouse was caught up with the windbreaker and I was standing there in my bra. The bright side: No one could see my face.

I know I’m not alone. Want to share one of your faux pas with me?


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I Have Questions. Where is King Solomon?

QuestionsWhen the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem . . . she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. ~ 1Kings 10:1-3 (NIV)

The US is a complicated place, and the people who live here even more so. I have a few questions. If there’s a King Solomon out there, give me a call.

Do you have questions too?

  1. When a company advertises its frozen chicken product as having “ingredients like all meat chicken,” what exactly do they mean by like?Strawberry-Roll-ups
  2. Why do we say “You’re only [pick any age] once” and “You’re not getting any younger” as if it’s a lost nugget of Solomon’s wisdom?
  3. Why were consumers caught unawares when it was disclosed that strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups contain no strawberries?
  4. One day, a doctor can tell a woman smoking may harm the baby in her womb. The next day, another doctor can end that same baby’s life in that same womb. What kind of choice is that?
  5. Yes, bacon soap is real—but why?
  6. Speaking of soap, what happens to soap scum that doesn’t stick to your tile?
  7. Why does the news media blame drug addiction on everyone except the person who started taking the drugs? I know the problem is complicated, but shouldn’t we hold the addict accountable too?da14_bacon_soap_closeup
  8. Who decides what to do when an endangered animal eats another endangered species?
  9. That brings me to this: Why do sharks get more respect (and news coverage) than the seals they eat?
  10. Why can’t gruntled people get as much attention as their disgruntled counterparts? Sheesh. The word’s not even recognized by spell-check.
  11. Have you seen the ad for the Preparation H Totables which come in a “discreet, convenient travel size”? Pardon me, but isn’t all use of any Preparation H product meant to be discreet?PH
  12. If, for unknown reasons, either and/or both of our presidential nominees were unable to continue their race for office, how would a replacement candidate be chosen?  No, seriously, how?