Dream Schmeme

Have you come to the realization that, because you’re of a certain age, some of your dreams will never materialize? In your childhood, it’s the garden-variety, “I’ll never be Cinderella/Prince Charming,” stuff. That whole, “win the lottery” (sustaining you through most of adulthood) is really far-fetched, especially if you only buy a ticket once every eight years. Personally, chances are good that I’ll never be able to carry Bruno Mars around in my pocket. Until they change celebrity stalker laws. I’ve made my peace with that. Sometimes you have to tweak that goal a bit.

Recently I was able to achieve a lifelong dream (keeping a celebrity in my pocket is more of a recent idea) in an unexpected way. I’ve spent most of my life in search of missing family. Well, they’ve never thought of themselves as missing, but they’ve never been a part of my circle.  For me, these missing pieces have been a structural element lacking from my very foundation.

When you spend so many years without answers, the fantasies take mainstage. The people in question become something they most certainly are not. In my situation, I spent many hours of many days creating a circumstance with no basis in reality. Just like the lotto ticket dream, where everyone creates a detailed world filled with good deeds and fancy cars, my missing family fantasy was just that.

This dream was finally realized after several decades, but not in the way I had planned. The family in question, when found, were not at all what I expected. What I fantasized. That requires some regrouping. The most amazing part of this story is that an unforeseen family member turned out to be kind, funny and completely in-tune with my oddities.

Some of the dreams we have die a slow death. Some will remain important our whole lives, but it’s ok to turn them on their head a bit. You may not be able to carry Bruno Mars around in your pocket.  So find something completely different to store in your pants. The results may be equally satisfying.


Quote Schmote

Television was an event in our day. If you were lucky, you had cable. If not, you had three channels. One was really just to keep up on Sesame Street without anyone knowing. The shows we watched defined us, as so many publications have mentioned. What the articles don’t offer are funny and random quotes from these shows. Here is a trip down memory lane, via the voices of the seventies:

Tim Conway, on The Carol Burnett Show:

“I was at this freak show one time and I saw these Siamese Elephants. They was joined at the end of their trunks. This trainer made ‘em stand up on their back legs and their trunks stretched. Then this little monkey would come out and dance the merangue. Kinda felt sorry for them. They couldn’t go like the other elephants and go Pffffffhu! All they could do is Snrkin.”

Nellie Olsen, queen of 1800’s snark on Little House on the Prairie:  

“Half the time, you don’t even SMELL like a girl! You’re either sweaty, or you stink of fish!”

Cindy Brady, (The Brady Bunch) on the occasion of the family’s fateful, two-part Hawaiin adventure:

“I’m sure glad Greg didn’t get hurt. It would have ruined our picnic tomorrow!”

Land of the Lost. A time-traveling family, Rick, Will and Holly always had their corduroys in a bunch over some miscommunication with a Slestak or dinosaur. You had to be there.

“Sometimes, Rick Marshall, you demonstrate your intelligence in a strange, but effective, way.”

Batman, from the re-runs of the Batman series, which originally aired in the 1960’s:

“I knew what you were up to Penguin so I gently coated my stomach with buttermilk.”

The Star Trek series:

“He’s dead, Jim.”

“I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.”

George Jefferson, wealthy dry cleaner extraordinaire, The Jeffersons:

“I’m gonna stick my foot so far up your behind you gonna think I grew there.”

Columbo, the squinty-eyed, trench-coat- for -every-season detective so understated he had a show named after him:

“There are a couple of loose ends I’d like to tie up. Nothing important you understand.”

“I can’t swim, I don’t even like a deep tub.”

After kickball, television was our main form of entertainment in the middle of nowhere. These shows and many more formed our sense of being in the seventies. What are some of your favorites?


Theory Schmeery


Things I like in theory:


  • Hairless cats. Great idea. Poor implementation.
  • People who agree with everything I say. I enjoy feeling like the smartest person in the room and all, but conversation tends to lag when you nod eagerly in response to my listing the reasons why the world should completely accessorized in purple.
  • Long nails. They are beautiful. Just not functional for a writer
  • Beautiful plant. Worth the work?
  • Smart cars. Look adorable driving down the street. Under a semi – not so much.
  • Airatarians – I appreciate that you’re saving food for me, but the whole non-eating gets so annoying.
  • Shirts with buttons – Sure do look nice on you. Too chokey.
  • Socializing – It certainly looks like fun. In reality, there is sweat pouring down my back and I can’t remember the names of your kids.
  • Television shows about people “my age.” Wouldn’t it be great if she actually graduated before the millennium? Look for her to be playing the grandmother in ten years, even though she has been fully reconstructed.
  • A book with tiny print. It must be incredibly educational. You don’t see smutty novels in small print. It just makes me irritable in practice.


Recently I found myself slogging through a t.v. show that was, for me, mind-numbingly dull. Everybody’s watching it. The scenery was painstakingly perfect for the time period. The actors even whispered the entire hour, like all serious actors do while taping a show that will be in Emmy contention.  In theory, it had all of the elements of a good show. In theory, it was great. That’s why I forced myself to sit through four episodes. In practice, this thing is a ridiculous waste of butt-flattening, life-shortening time.

Life lived “in theory” is probably a great thing for some. Just don’t ask me to take a spin in your smart car to discuss what we’re not eating.


Scent Schment


What scent immediately fires up your nostrils and engages your brain in holiday reverie? Newly-cut pine? Peppermint?  The smell of fresh plastic symbolizes celebration to me. Childhood holidays meant re-assessing the year, the constant threat of Santa’s ambiguous list (what constituted naughty? Hiding the cookies in my bedroom? Or that kid who kicked dirt at everyone, but got a new bike every year? I never understood the criteria.) and hoping that somehow my violations had slipped by the ever-watchful eyes of the Elf Mafia.  No matter what the offense, the smell of fresh plastic in the dark of Christmas night assured me that good things were coming.

One especially significant plastic bouquet belonged to the folding Barbie House of my seventh year. I had wished for a three-story manse, one with an actual elevator and an extra bedroom for the occasional sleepover with Skipper, or Flatsy if the party went totally interspecies. My nostrils flared with the smell of “new” that night, as I laid in my bed imagining the great adventures in fine living ahead for my formerly homeless Malibu Barbie.

I awoke to a simple three-room cottage, consisting of a bedroom, kitchen and a mystery room of many uses. It was Barbie on a modest budget. There was, however, room for outdoor expansion, and eventually chez Barbie obtained a dining table, a refrigerator and an outdoor bathtub.  At the end of the day, the three sections of cozy living folded up neatly. Each night I would dream of new adventures, a clean slate each morning as I re-opened the case and started over.

Barbie had plenty of room for guests and even hosted a celebrity.  Truly Scrumptious, on temporary hiatus from her life in the movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dropped by once for plastic steak. She didn’t seem at all disgusted to sit on the floor and politely left her one shoe by the fake door without complaint. barbie-home

The smell of fresh vinyl still gets me tingly. It’s about anticipation. More exciting than the act of gift opening is the plethora of possibilities in the dark of the night prior to gift giving. Close your eyes and imagine.


Stick Schmick


I remember it well: Hopping once, then twice, stretching to reach the seat of my canary-yellow bike. I would pedal across the main highway through town and continue four blocks to the grocery store. Four long, windy blocks of complete independence. If I remembered my combination, (Once. It only happened once.) I would lock my bike after leaning it in front of their cart return.

Upon entering the store, I pushed the squeaky adults-only cart down every aisle; once, then twice. Every packaged item that wasn’t in our home cupboard was worthy of my attention: Hunt’s Snack Pack puddings, Korker’s Corn Twists, (crunchy, pre-Tostito snacking) and Mug-O-Lunch, the INSTANT “beef” noodle can- of- goodness; only ten minutes to boil the water, four minutes to cook and two seconds to sear the inside of your mouth. With a newly acquired paper route, I had at least fifty dollars each month burning a hole in my macramé purse and I wanted to try every single item.

By far the best test of my newfound monetary independence and expanding culinary pallete was the Food Stick.  Described sumptuously as, a “non-frozen, balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein,” it was the equivalent of today’s fruit leather, if it came in rod-form without the fruit or any discernable taste. It tasted like…chewy.  Astronauts ate them, we were told. Food Sticks came in three boxes: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. While they were three distinctly different colors, they shared one taste.

Imagining myself someday eating them on the moon colony, I savored each one. No canned vegetables or boiled meat in the moon kitchen. If we played our cards right, we would probably evolve beyond real food altogether. Just food sticks and other tubed items.

If I was feeling saucy, I would take the long way home – six blocks; my leftover food sticks tucked away in my pockets. It was so much more than box of artificial ingredients. It was the first chewy taste of freedom.




Clog Schmog

Did anyone else have to wear those awful special-order shoes? The ones that came in one color, one style and one sad-looking, yellow box? It wasn’t even a fun day when they were picked up. The shoe salesman just kind of shook his head and went, “enjoy your functional footwear.”

Abruptly, junior high, bell bottoms and platform shoes walked into the room. The higher the platform, the more the cool oozed from every pore of your being. Proper foot alignment and common sense lost out to style and absurdity.  If your heel was so tall that you had to lean forward to walk, you were somebody. (Translation: those with good posture went to the bottom of the popularity scale.)

Not to be outdone, the clog offered the platform popularity with the additional, mid-winter, bare-naked heel appeal. Trudging through snow drifts and surprise rain storms was the perfect way to break in your brand new, clunky shoe obsession.  Tender heal skin and intact argyle socks were a distant memory.  The ripe scent of feet marinated in soggy clogs was a mark of stature.

These supposed works of Dutch culture were not entirely aerodynamic. In fact, when removed from the foot and placed in the hand of a diabolical sort, they made efficient brother-smackers and would today likely be classified as medieval weaponry. Law and Order missed a real opportunity to incorporate murder- by- clog in their story lines.

It’s hard to imagine now the noise level of the 70s. Cars sped down the road without mufflers. Boom boxes sat on shoulders, well – booming – without the aid of ear buds. We all clunked around on our high wooden shoes, just trying to make it down the street without leaning forward so far we fell on our hair- sprayed helmet. Life was loud and meaningful.

“How’s the new record player?” someone yelled from across the street.


“Record player? With that fancy diamond needle?”

“Can’t hear you! I’m clog walking!”

Shoes today come in an incredible array of styles, fashions and noise levels. Shoe judgement starts long before the halls of junior high, with kids as young as four casting a reproachful eye at those non-blinking, generic things on someone else’s feet. Silently they glide, with no idea of the sacrifice we, the clog generation made for their benefit.




make up

Has anyone had success with the Age Rewind Makeup? Does it rewind by decades, or is it more like wearing yesterday’s face? If I were to choose, the 80’s face would be my rewind decade of choice. There was no brow-shaping, lip plumping or face tightening cream. Just a thick surface of mud, over which blush and blue eyeshadow were applied. The piece de resistance was Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper-Flavored Lip Smacker.

If you think about it, the process was somewhat similar to house painting. A general color scheme and plan of attack were developed, either by your local department store employee or for us rural folk, the Avon Lady.  After a week, the ten-step procedure was scrapped for something cheaper and more realistic. The property was thoroughly washed with hand soap and slathered in Noxema and then the real work began.

The spackling, Cover Girl Concealer, came in a tube similar to lipstick. Once this was applied to the walls…er…face, it was time for the base coat. Preferably something thick and orange that left an obvious line between your jaw and neckline. Held up against the packaging, the face and the actual color were as different as egg- shell and pebble- gray. That’s ok, because the accent color, a bold cheek- swoosh of ruby red (meant to mimic your natural (?) cheek hue) called blush was about to consume the face. For a time, we were instructed to apply it under the cheekbone, then on top.  Eventually most women just applied it as a solid four-inch highway of red, just to be safe.

Lifting the fur of youthfully- natural eyebrows out of the way, the eyelids were about to receive their due. A bright, blue shadow was applied with a tiny sponge that probably contained more germs than an infectious disease lab petri dish. From azure to cobalt, we were nothing if not inspired in our color scheme.

As with all good paint projects, the entire face had to be covered in sealant. In this case, it involved some kind of pressed powder, no doubt still lodged today in the recesses of our collective lungs. It all seemed so simple. Too bad there was an hour of hair work yet to be completed.





There you were, at age fifteen, in the department store shopping for that absurdly small pair of jeans that you could still zip with a pair of pliers. This pair had fake rhinestones. That pair had orange swirlies, making your backside look impossibly small. If only you could decide…  in the end, (ha!) you would take neither. There was no possible way to make a decision with the ridiculously, ear-splittingly irritating sound they piped throughout the store.

At that time, it was a strange combination of familiar tunes and musical cottage cheese called, “muzak.” It was a sleepy, music-alternative meant to encourage you to concentrate more on shopping and less on lyrics. It was quick and painless, and by the time you got home, the discomfort of listening to non-music music was over.

Today, it is music embarrassingly plucked from the rock concerts and late-night rides of our youth. It is not uncommon to hear Def Leopard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” while perusing the sweetener alternatives. Wandering through Target, searching for feminine hygiene products is kind of the last place you need to hear, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” It’s gotten so unblinkingly common that you may even be humming along to “Highway to H@#” as you’re sitting on hold waiting to speak to your cable company.

We took seriously the sounds of our youth; only to be played during the endless drives down Main Street or while our parents were trying to sleep in the next bedroom. It didn’t matter if the lyrics made no sense: A park became a runny, melty cake when someone clearly mismeasured ingredients. Or it was caused by rain and suicidal thoughts – never clear.   It didn’t matter that many of those lyrics were unintelligible when we belted them into a hairbrush, (Blind-ed by the light, left out something by yada yada) they meant something to us.

That misguided teen who felt a lasting sting from having to endure bland tunes while purchasing Pop Rocks and Orange Crush are today responsible for the downfall of our musical dignity. Listening to our music on the internet is fine. Humming along to the oldies station, while somewhat humiliating, is also fine. Elton John in the mammogram dressing room has crossed a line.

Toasty Bit #5


This Toasty Bit comes from a blossoming writer named Laura Cataldi. She recently graduated from college with honors and is pursuing her master’s degree in the fall. Laura has faced more mountains in her young life than many of us combined. Kudos to you, Laura and thank you for your toasty bit of writing! -JK

One of my favorite quotes that floats around the internet goes something like this:

“Tell someone you love them today, because life is short, but SHOUT it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.”

While good for a laugh, I’ve come to realize that this quote also accurately sums up my experiences as a twenty-something. Perhaps one of the most frustrating and confusing things about being in my twenties has been the constant pressure to have my life figured out. Like everyone else, I was supposed to graduate high school knowing, without a doubt, what I wanted to do with my life. Advice from adults, however, was maddeningly contradictory. “Follow your dreams!” they said. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Then the realists stepped in. “Gotta pay your bills. Flipping burgers will help you do that. A Liberal Arts degree probably won’t.” (Whoops.)

So, in the spirit of takin’ care of business, I started working at grocery stores or in other retail settings, just to make ends meet while I clawed my way to a degree that I wasn’t even certain I wanted, all the while being bombarded with more expectations. I was supposed to be building my credit. I was supposed to budget my minimum wage paychecks into paying rent, utilities, and food and have enough left over to save up for a downpayment on my first house. Perhaps it was just the bludgeon that is my personal anxieties, but I felt like the more people around me succeeded, the less I was doing to successfully adult. Because that’s what it’s all about: adulting. You’ve seen the memes. “Cried but did the thing anyway.” “When I was sixteen, I wanted my freedom. Now I’m twenty-six, and I want my mom to make my doctor’s appointments and buy me groceries for my birthday.” Being a young adult today is both terrifying and confusing. I’m hoping that hitting the big 3-0 will bring about the miraculous truths of life, because so far they’ve eluded me, and unlike everything else, I can’t purchase a clue from Amazon.

“Youth is wasted on the young,” they say. I’m inclined to agree, but that’s only because nobody ever told me how to make the most of this time. Some of my peers have it figured out, but as for me, I’m still trying to figure out a healthy balance. Should I pick up extra shifts, or binge-watch more Netflix? A successful adult would pick Option A. I, however, am only three seasons into Grey’s Anatomy, so….

Laura Cataldi

Dance Schmance

Your decade of birth determines not only your preference in style and music but also the Danceway you dance.

Do you have the predisposition to wiggle your rear like an excited pup every time your favorite song is on the radio? Chances have you learned your dance moves in the sixties. Do you feel the need to roll your arms in an upward motion and sway back and forth in the widest possible clothing? Point to the ceiling. Now the floor. Now the ceiling.  You child of the seventies, you.

Slide your feet across the floor as if it were a moon-like surface, or perhaps bang your hair against an invisible wall? Life was good in the eighties. If you have the urge to Macarena or squat-slide your balloon pants across the room in true Hammer style, welcome to the nineties. Beyond that decade, I confess I do not know what motivates your movements. There are some unexplained jerks that just defy logic.  I hope all of my 2000-and-beyond dancing friends have a good relationship with a chiropractor. Why? Umm… no reason.

No matter what your dance-decade preference, at some point your body dictates your movements. Those dance floor high kicks will at some point become more of toe-tap. The hip swirl will evolve into more of a suggestive head bob, willing those hips to follow along.  Those broad dance moves that once defined us are suddenly channeled into much smaller movements.

Look no further than any summer concert series. Rows of lawn chairs interspersed with blankets and gleeful toddlers contain many wishful dancers. The band begins playing a Beach Boys tune and immediately heads begin to bop. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the thoughts of those head boppers projected above us? Dances from every decade would appear. The wide, green lawn would suddenly become a crowded dance floor with booty shakers and sky-pointers dancing side by side.

The decades melt and we are all dancing together. In our heads. Keep those fingers moving.