Category Archives: Rants

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

My family, like most families, has a lot of inside jokes. Many of them have beginnings so obscured by time, it would take at least two of us to nail down its origin story. Most of them are throw away lines we laughed disproportionately at in the moment. Others weren’t that funny to begin with, but repetition and the occasional perfectly timed delivery through the decades have made them set pieces of our repertoire. Some have not only endured but thrived to become such a part of our lexicon that we forget there are only four of us who know what we’re talking about. Those are the jokes we make to the people who weren’t there – the phrases we toss out to strangers, not recognizing we are talking nonsense until the look of confusion, and possibly low-level fear, on our companion’s face registers in our brains. Then we can either try to explain the joke or apologize for slipping and making a joke whose target audience is exactly three other people.  

In my family, the joke that I make to non-family members the most is, unfortunately, of the “wasn’t actually funny to begin with” nature. Like many jokes of that ilk, it started with a dad. Before Mike was officially my stepdad, but when it was clear he dug my mom enough to stick around even with the two young kids she had, we started doing family outings. We had a good time. However, like all kids stuck in a car for more than five minutes, my brother and I would begin to demand ETAs for our destination. Mike decided that the appropriate answer to that question was “twenty minutes.” Actual time or distance was irrelevant. The answer was always twenty minutes. We would leave our house in New Jersey, be on the road for ten miles, ask how long the drive to the Poconos is, and would be immediately told, “Twenty minutes.” 

My brother and I were 10 and 11ish, certainly old enough to tell time. We were also precocious enough to have poured over road maps with our mom, trying to figure out the distance using the provided scale. There was absolutely no way it was twenty minutes. Exasperation and cries of, “Miiiiiiiike! For real how long?” would come from the back of the car. But Mike was unflappable. It was twenty minutes. There was a philosophical argument that the trip was a series of twenty-minute increments, and that it was always twenty minutes to the next set of twenty minutes until there would be only the last twenty minutes remaining. The counter argument was that Mike could out annoy a couple of kids cooped up in the back of a minivan. 

Through the decades, we have waited twenty minutes for anything you could possibly wait for. If one of us asks how long for a given thing, there is a strong possibility of the answer coming in unison. It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “When are they coming? And don’t say twenty minutes!” Our automatic response to anything involving time was, is, and always will be, “twenty minutes”. 

It was never a funny joke on its own. The humor was always in seeing how long you could stick to your guns before a vein started popping out of the forehead of whomever you were antagonizing. There are moments of rejoicing when the answer truly is “twenty minutes”. We giggle if we have to set the microwave timer for twenty minutes. No matter how sincerely you say something is going to be twenty minutes, it is met with heavy skepticism in my house. 

Tonight, over thirty years after Mike decided a third of an hour was the base unit of time for our family, I overheard my parents in the kitchen. Mom was making “Mikey Surprise” for dinner. It’s a dish involving Fritos best described as “Thank God Mike met my mom when he did because my dude had been single for way too long”. It’s also delicious. Deferring to the recipe’s creator, she asked Mike a perfectly innocent question: “How long does it cook for?”. 

“Twenty minutes,” was, once again, his answer. 

My mom replied the only way she could at this point, “For real twenty minutes?” 

I found myself smiling in the other room as I listened in. Mom walked into that one, and even if it were true, Mike has earned the distrust. An innocuous unit of time has become part of the private language of our family. It’s a nothing phrase that unites us, drives us crazy, and makes us laugh. 

There is an entire lifetime in twenty minutes.

Guest post by my daughter – Amanda B. Moretto

BARKING UP THE WRONG (FAMILY)TREE!

dog and trees revised

So…I grew up with the last name of Bennett (along with all my siblings.)

Since my sisters and I all married and took our new husband’s last names,  and my brothers would not be having children…I decided it was up to me to save the “Bennett” family name from extinction.

I gave both my children “Bennett” as their middle name. Brilliant – right?

Not even close!

Through extensive research on Ancestry.com for my first book: Bosses and Blackjacks, I discovered my paternal grandfather had changed his last name when he entered the Marines in the late 1800s.

David Steinberg became David Bennett.

Who knew? Obviously, not me!

So, my Ancestry.com research took a very sharp turn and my kids are preserving a false moniker!

(But, it does give them a funny story to tell their friends about their crazy mother and her obsession with ancestral connections!)

 

Question, Dear Readers:

Have any of you made such discoveries in your own family tree? Let me know in the comments section.

EASTER Public Service Announcement!

This is not, I repeat … NOT the Easter Bunny.

That being the case, he has asked me to make the following request:

Do not make images of him out of chocolate substances – dark, milk, or white (which, as we all know, is really not chocolate anyway!)

He is a living being, and requests that you treat him as such!

 

Also—this is NOT a peep . . . nor is it made of marshmallow! See where I’m going with this?

(And whatever you do … do not place it in the microwave to see if it will explode!)

Have a Happy and Kind Easter, folks!

YIN AND YANG

When you look at your children (if you happen to have some), you see beginnings and wonder about their future. They are your sun.

 

When your children look at you (again, if you happen to have some), they see endings and wonder about your past. You are their moon.

 

Your children will make you crazy over and over again…

That’s their job.

It’s paybacks for all the crazy you put your own parents through.

 

You will make your children crazy over and over again…

That’s your job.

It’s your earned privilege for reaching old age without having killed them when they made you nuts.

 

Hopefully, whether we see beginnings or endings, we will all do it with love in our hearts…and not hurt each other along the way. Know that we all need the sun for its warmth, and the moon to light our way in the darkness.

 

THE BODIES ARE PILING UP!

It’s January, and the dead bodies are piling up.

The murders began at the end of November and continued through December.

Some of the murders were done by hired killers out in the countryside. Others were committed by dedicated dads and moms in the suburbs  to please their offspring. Still others were carried out by well intentioned young men  from the city to impress their girlfriend or new bride.

These brutalities were accomplished with chainsaws, axes, hatchets, or other sharp-edged implements — in broad daylight!

No one reported hearing any screams. When interviewed, folks reported the victim was very quiet, never caused any trouble, and kept to themselves. Then, the witness would slam their door shut to prevent reporters from peering into their own homes.

Why? What were they hiding? Did they commit one of these atrocities themselves? Was there a path of evidence strewn across their living room floor leading to the front door? And what was that scattering of brownish-green specks trailing to the curb?

Yes. Christmas is over, and the dead bodies of blue spruce, balsam pine, and every species of fir tree are piling up outside of homes across America.

We chop them down. Drag them in. Argue over the best side to face ‘out’ avoiding the obvious hole Mother Nature laughingly placed in the most inconvenient spot. Adorn them with ornaments that refuse to hang straight and lights that never fail to blink out in one section just when we think we’re all done. Water them when we manage to remember. Declare them to be the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had. Demand family and friends pose in front of them for photos. Become one with our vacuum cleaner for the duration of the holidays.

Then . . . when the New Year celebrations end, we strip our victims of their colorful decorations, curse their falling needles poking up through our carpets, and drag them to the curb. No remorse. No fond farewell. No looking back. Good riddance.

A simple promise passing our lips: “No live tree ever again.”

 

Until next year comes, and the killing begins again.

WEEPING LIKE A WILLOW

Hello. My name is Linda…and I’m a tree hugger.

They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that in order to recover, you must first admit you have a problem.

My problem is: I want to cry every time I hear the buzz of a chain saw ripping into an innocent tree.

I know. I know…it is not safe to ignore trees who may appear lovely from the exterior, but whose interior may be full of rot, and therefore a danger, if Mother Nature decides to kick up a storm.

But, surely there is a gentler way to bid farewell to a natural wonder which has given years of shade from a sweltering sun, whose roots gripped the earth and held erosion at bay, and whose branches were home to a variety of birds. If squirrels could speak (our language), I’m sure they would beg that their playground not be destroyed in such a violent way.

And yet, I hear the grinding, buzzing, ripping taking place down the street, and I find myself once again, tearing up over the tearing down.

All at once, I am reminded of one of the advantages of living in a town designated as:

“Tree City USA”

. . . a new sapling will be put in its place very soon.

To everything there is a season.

True for trees.

True for humanity.

Now, go hug a tree while you can.

 

SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN!

I recently read a “writer’s advice” column telling authors to avoid political posts if they want to increase their book sales.

I disagree!

This is how whole populations are silenced.

Those of us who write, have a responsibility to speak up loud and clear for those whose voices are whispers.

If writers shy away from expressing their views, they are capitulating to those in power, who happily quash any questioning of their authority, action or inaction.

Throughout history, writers have been at the forefront of free speech. If we stay on the side-lines, in order to make a profit, we do a disservice to not just our own readers, but to our society in general.

 

Your thoughts?

PARDON ME, MADAM AND/OR SIR . . . BUT, I HAVE A QUESTION!

Bull dog resized - two

I’m curious — how many of you, Dear Readers, pay attention to the political news of the day?

Are you too busy with your day-to-day life maintenance activities to care what is going on in the rest of the world?

Do you think politicians are all crooked, so what’s the point?

Do you think you can’t do anything that would make a difference?

 

Well! Have I got news for you! It’s my handy-dandy guide to changing your world — and it’s free! That’s right! No need to spend your hard-earned cash! No shipping and handling fees! Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero!

 

It’s right here in beautiful technicolor, for anyone to enjoy!

 

Handy-Dandy Guide to Changing the World:

V-O-T-E!

That’s right, folks . . . Vote . . . each and every time you get the chance!

Cast your ballot right in your own neighborhood – 

And it’s FREE!♥

Who’s in charge now, folks?

YOU, that’s who! Feel the power!

 

This has been an unpaid Public Service Announcement, sponsored by the writer of this post.

PIE IN THE SKY

Have you ever felt like too many people have their fingers in your pie?

All licking your vitality off their palms as it runs down to their wrists.  They don’t stop to ask permission. They just dip into your allotted 24 hours and sop a bit up for themselves.

Of course, they don’t realize the damage they’re doing. It’s certainly not a group effort.

They are each snatching a crumb of your time without thinking very much about the cumulative affect upon you.

 

The question is this: Where do you draw the line?

 

Before the last slice?

The last bit of fruit?

The last crumb?