Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cooling Off

By the time I was eight years old, I knew I wasn't cut out to be a Mom.  It's not that I don't love kids, I do, it's just that I have always known I wasn't sturdy enough to be a parent.  "Sturdy" is the word I've always used to describe this feeling, even as an eight year old girl.

As the second of five kids, my Mom was pregnant for the better part of my younger years.  She was Supermom and loved being pregnant!  Mom was always happy, always smiling, always healthy, and always had more than enough energy for our growing gaggle of kids, as well as half the neighborhood, who were always at our house.

One unbearably hot August afternoon, my friends and I were sitting on the swing set in our back yard but were too hot to actually do the legwork to "swing".  I was praying for a breeze but all I got was a hot, humid, Ohio afternoon filled with mosquitoes and gnats.  None of us had any energy to run around or play in the yard that day.

We had a small cement back porch off our kitchen.  I could see my mother preparing spaghetti for dinner that night through the window and wondered why she as making something that required the kitchen to heat up. It must have been pretty hot in our house, which did not have air conditioning, because while this thought crossed my mind, Mom came outside.

She stood on the porch looking up to the sky.  I think Mom was praying for a breeze too, or maybe rain, to cool things off.  She was wearing her usual maternity "uniform" a big, sleeveless "tent" dress-- This one in deep orange with tiny yellow flowers.  I remember that dress because it made her tan look so nice.

Poor Mom was hot.  Really hot.  She was 8 months pregnant and huge-- all baby, all belly, and really big-- kind of like I remember her always being when I was a kid.  Her face was pale and surprisingly tired.  Mom usually never looked tired even when hugely pregnant in the summertime.

After a long hot minute, Mom reached down to the garden hose rolled up at the bottom of the steps.  She turned it on and for a moment I thought she was going to give us kids a spray to cool off.  We loved to run through the hose on a hot day.

Not this time.  Instead, Mom simply took the hose, water on full blast, slid it down the front of her maternity dress, hooked it into her bra, and let the water wash over her.  She put her hands on her hips, with her face still slightly raised to the sky, her eyes closed, and just stood there until she was totally and completely soaked.  We watched in speechless amazement as the water ran down the front of her, off the porch steps, and onto the lawn.   When the color finally came back into her face, a content smile crossed her lips. 

Then, without saying a word, Mom reached down, turned off the water, and wound the hose back into place. Before she stood up, she gathered the hem of her dress and rung it out, then she kicked off her Keds sneakers and walked back in the house.

My memories are vivid and that's exactly the way it happened.  It was the first time I thought I wasn't sturdy enough for motherhood.  I could never be that big, never be that hot, and would never have a garden hose down my dress to cool off.  Ever.  

I ultimately chose not to have children for other very valid reasons, but I never forgot that day.  Maybe it was my first "light bulb moment".

Since then I have marveled at my mother's energy and limitless capacity to love her children and grandchildren. Mom is young enough for great grandchildren as well and looks forward to loving them too.  She says she always knew she wanted a big family and with five kids she got it-- although I suspect she'd have been thrilled with a few more.

Mom has heard me tell the "garden hose down the maternity dress" story countless times but swears she has no memory of it.  And I'm sure she doesn't.  It's just the kind of thing Mom would say was "all in a day's work".  And with a house full of kids, she worked a lot, so it's no wonder she doesn't remember that August day.  

It was awful hot today in Los Angeles.  My godson asked if he could play with the garden hose-- which reminded me of this story.  But since LA just started water rationing, I made a bunch of water balloons instead.  We had a blast tossing them at each other until we were soaked and cooled off-- All in a day's work.

How do you cool off? 
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Photo Credit: © gbjedi - Fotolia.com

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Met The Pope

Honest! I really met and spoke with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in April, 1994. Why and how we were invited is a long story I'll share another day.

When my mother, who was raised a devout Catholic, heard my husband and I were invited to meet the Pope, she burned up the phone lines to all her church friends with the big news.

As our departure to Rome neared, I started receiving packages from my mother filled with photos, rosaries, and small mementos that she and her friends wanted the Pope to bless. I wasn't sure how I would make that happen, but I knew I would, at very least, carry them with me when I toured the Vatican.

The day of our big meeting, my husband and I made the long walk to the Vatican almost completely in silence. We were both deep in thought and were trying to take in the whole experience. Although we are not Catholic, the meeting was huge for us, and the anticipation of being in the presence of the spiritual leader for a billion people was pretty exciting.

Along the way, we stopped for gelato near a tiny gift shop filled with handmade linen handkerchiefs, all embroidered with lace, by lovely Italian women who were sitting around a table in the middle of the store. Their needle work was so stunning that I had a very hard time deciding which ones to buy-- Yes, plural. I wanted a few for myself and more for special gifts. After much nudging from my husband to hurry up, I selected five and thanked the women for their beautiful workmanship. I slipped the small bag into my jacket pocket.

Fast forward to the Pope meeting an hour later. My clothes pockets were also filled with the stash of items from my mother and her friends, so were my husband's pockets, and my purse.

As for actually talking to Pope John Paul II, one-on-one, as he held my hand-- I'll just leave it at-- amazing! All these years later, I still can't find the words to adequately describe it.

When he blessed us, I knew my mother's mementos for her and her friends had a little bit of that blessing too. Like I said, I'm not Catholic but it was a very meaningful for me on many levels.

Two years ago, I gave my step-daughter one of the Italian linen "Pope handkerchiefs" for her wedding.

Last weekend I gave another one to my lovely niece for her wedding.

A third was used twelve years ago on the day I met my then three-day-old godson. Carrying on my mother's tradition when her five children were born, I undressed him and counted his perfect fingers and toes. Then for safe keeping, I took one of the linen handkerchiefs blessed by the Pope, and rubbed it all over his tiny body. I figured it couldn't hurt. I'll save his "Pope Hankie" for his future wife on their wedding day.

Do you have any traditions?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Girl Who Has Everything

Whenever I feel a tad bit smug and full of myself, life jerks me back into reality.  When I start to think easy street is just around the corner, things go to hell in a hand basket seemingly over night.  And when I think I've said good-bye to my last contractor, handyman and service guy, and our home is perfectly clean again-- Well, s**t happens and I'm reminded of the joys of home ownership. 

A while back, I lived in construction hell for what seemed like an eternity when we did major renovations on our home. Fortunately, our marriage survived and we lived to tell the story, but oh what a mess, oh the noise, and oh the strange men schlepping, hammering and drilling in my house way too early in the morning, for months on end. 

We had a port-a-potty camped out in my front yard for so long I actually decorated it for holidays.  And the big dumpster on my curb-- The one all my neighbors thought was placed for them to throw their crap in-- It changed so often that I actually started requesting color coordinated bins from the supplier to compliment the port-a-potty.    

Have you ever had a port-a-potty in your yard during construction?  It's absolutely shocking the number of people who stop to use it!  Seriously, not just the contractors either!  The FedEx guy, mailman, bike riders, joggers, dog walkers, strangers driving by with their kids, skateboarders, pizza delivery guys-- You name it, they peed it!  One day, a total stranger actually knocked on my door and asked for a fresh roll of toilet paper.  Swear to gawd!

But once construction was over-- the potty, dumpsters and workers all gone, life was good-- I mean really, really good.  I brought in an industrial cleaning crew that sucked up every speck of drywall dust and dirt.  They cleaned, scrubber, shined and sparkled my home to brand new perfection.  I could breath again.  Ahhhh.

That's about the time "smug" started to creep back in.  I knew it was happening and I was getting too full of myself, but I just couldn't help it.  I loved my "new" house and thought I was finished with workers messing things up for the rest of my happy life.

Three weeks ago, well after construction was complete, and the massive cleaning crew was long gone, I tempted fate and decided I needed just one more thing to complete our house-- A brand new Toto Toilet in our guest bathroom.  

I always hated the old toilet because of it's lack of "flushability".  But, when we were remodeling that bathroom, I didn't have another toilet in my budget, so we left the old one and made due.  As I said in my Toto post, I'm a low maintenance kind of girl and already had enough "stuff" so I asked for the new toilet for my 51st birthday! I was a happy girl!

When my new Toto was installed, I swear I heard angels singing.  It was perfect and always "got the job done" when flushed.  I thought for sure, I would never have to live through any sort of construction hell ever again because, basically, I had an entirely new house! 

As you might imagine, everybody loved my new Toto Toilet so much that it's the only toilet that seemed to get used in our home.  And before I could say "Please don't squeeze the Charmin", you guessed it--

My Toto Toilet backed up.  Big time!

Out came the plumber who, after more than an hour of "snaking", could not clear the clog.  In came Boss Plumber with a "sewer camera".  Long story short-- the bad news was the sewer line was broken.  The good news was that only part of the house was affected, so we could use water "sparingly" during the repair, and not have to move into a hotel.  

@#$%^&!  This was going to be an expensive bill.

After much investigation, the Boss Plumber puts a huge "X" on our yard and another guy arrived to dig a hole 4 feet wide by 8 feet deep.  He dug, and dug, and dug, but made little progress.  Finally the digger announced we have very "hard dirt" and he'd be back the following day with a jack hammer and more diggers.

I knew immediately when the jack hammer arrived at 7:04AM because the noise nearly blasted me out of bed. The head-splitting pounding lasted for 7 straight hours. In the end, between the hole and the mountain of dirt, my beautiful yard was trashed.  The diggers let me know they were done for the day, but the looks on their faces gave me pause.  I figured their heads must have ached as much as mine.

Thirty minutes later, the Boss Plumber knocked on my door advising me the massive, just dug hole, was in the wrong place.  They'd be back tomorrow to dig another one, just as big-- six feet to the left.  

Again I said-- @#$%^&!

Next day, more jack hammering and another whale of a hole.  The day after that, the plumber could actually repair the damaged pipe-- The 6" round, very old, ceramic pipe that's actually the City of Los Angeles' pipe and not even on my property, but still my responsibility to repair.  And what a repair job it was since the plumber is not "allowed" to remove the City's ceramic pipe.

Boss Plumber explained that he was going to "blow a giant condom into my pipe" to make the repair.  I was very tired by this point, and for some reason, at the mention of a "giant condom", I started to blush.  

He explained a thick, shiny, black condom-like liner would go into the ceramic pipe to keep the roots out, and the pipe clean and secure.  Boss Plumber then showed me the entire process through a sewer camera, a big gadget which I'm sure contributed to the hideous cost of this job.  

It was interesting to see the damage through the sewer camera, which perhaps eased my mind a tiny bit, considering all the zeros required on the payment check. But Boss Plumber didn't stop there.  Oh no, no, no.

When the job was complete, Boss Plumber insisted on "proving" to me that he actually put MY thick, shiny, black condom into MY sewer pipe.  WTF?  It never occurred to me that I could be watching a DVD of someone else's condom-lined sewer on his camera's screen.

You'll never guess what he did.  Go ahead, guess.  I'll wait.....

Boss Plumber used another expensive gadget to wrote my name inside the condom, in the sewer, while I watched on the sewer camera's screen!  

But wait, there's more!  He wrote my name every two feet on the condom for ten feet! Yes, not only did I have a ten foot long condom, it has my name on it five times for all the world, or at least sewer camera operators, to see! How many girls can say that?  I can almost feel smugness creeping back in with that little ditty.

So now I have a beautiful new Toto Toilet AND a ten foot long, monogrammed, sewer condom!

What more could a girl ask for?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna 
Photo credit© Andrey Armyagov - Fotolia.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Looking For A Lifeline

As part of my recent interview on blogging with Societe Amore, I was asked if I was "addicted to blogging".  I didn't think I was, but I honestly said I checked my blog and email multiple times throughout the day.  I thought it was no big deal.

That interview was done before I went out of town for five (painfully long) days with limited Internet access.  It was one of those non-stop, whirlwind trips, but despite 18 hours days, blurry-eyed, I still squeezed in at least an hour a night to "check-in" with the blogosphere.  

Busted!  I'm addicted.  

Or am I?

I realized I was not so much addicted to checking my blog, I was addicted to checking yours!  Since my time was limited on the trip, my frustration rose as I tried to figure out the most efficient way to read blogs.

Here's my dilemma.  Before I started blogging, I'd spent a sum total of 15 minutes in the blog world!  Translation:  I didn't have a clue how things worked.  So every time I found a new blog I enjoyed, I clicked on whatever link, bookmark, subscription or follow button (if any) they offered, so I could revisit them.  Now I have several different lists, with over 200 great blogs that I read regularly, but no easy way to keep track of them!  

Even though I use the "favorite blogs" gadget on my own blog, with a short list of faves, 200 favorite blogs is way to many for that feature, isn't it?  The page would scroll for a mile.  

You might have noticed, from my previous posts, that I'm usually freakishly organized, but I'm also one of those people who can't remember names but I recognises faces. Well, in blogging, as you know, it's multiplied ten fold.  I remember photos, user names and blog names but I can't remember who goes with what.  It's making me nuts!

So, my dear blog friends, am I missing something when it comes to tracking favorite blogs and their owners?  Is there one universal way to keep track, a secret handshake I need to learn, or a simple step in the equation that I'm missing?  I really need your help. Otherwise I might miss you, lose you, or end up in the loony bin for stressed out blog addicts.

How do you keep track of your favorite blogs?

PS--  To thank you in advance for your advice, here's a tip for you....
This might sound crazy, but here's a recipe for the greatest hard boiled eggs I've ever tasted!  You'll be happy you tried it!  xo

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Would You....

In an attempt to see my "glass half full", I've written a lot lately about love stories, sentimental occasions and happy endings.  All are precious memories that warm my heart and help keep my "glass" on the full side.

In actuality, there have been many, many "glass half empty" days of late. I've attended far more funerals than weddings, receive more devastating news than my heart can hold and I carry with me a sense of loss and, occasionally, dread for what's to come.

Family members and friends are desperately ill; several have passed away in the recent months.  For some it was a "blessing" that ended suffering and illness, others were "blessed" to die peacefully in their sleep before their disease turned ugly.  And a few loved ones simply passed way much too young, with no warning--something I still have no words for.  Although I understand and firmly believe no one should suffer, on any level, when sick or passing, I am stunned by loss and sadness.  So I cling to cherished memories and hope, with time, that the sting will soften, although I doubt the pain will ever disappear.

Maybe losing friends and loved ones is the price you pay for reaching middle-age.  Our harsh reality is that life does not have any alumni.  With each loss, life seems to slow to a deafening silence.  Keeping the "glass full" requires much more work, at least for me, even though my life is good and happy and content.

This past weekend, I discussed my sadness with my Aunt who is also a Hospice counselor.  Simply put, she knows death and has experienced it more times than she can count in her long healthcare career.

As she helped guide me through my grief, she slowly shifted the conversation with positive "what if" type questions to help "full my glass" back up again.  One question, in particular, caught my attention and has been on my mind ever since....

If I had the chance to come back in another life, what or who would I want to be?

My first response, without a moment's hesitation, was to come back as a man, but only for 24 hours.

I've always tried to figure out the opposite sex and if I could change places for a day, and be a man, I would.  If it was a day that included great sex with a woman, reasoning with a woman and prioritizing life with a woman, well then, all the better.
Bring it on!  I think it would be fascinating.

My response was a first for my Aunt's "next life" question.  She was thinking more in terms of a full "next life", not 24 hours, but we had a good laugh even though she knew I was dead serious about my choice, no pun intended.

Life goes on and I'm still processing my sadness, but I can't stop wondering what it would be like to be someone else in the hereafter. If I couldn't be a man for 24 hours-- And believe me, 24 hours would be more than enough time for me to be a man-- I would want to come back as a much loved pet; the pampered, brushed, scratched, rubbed, kissed and fed treats all day long, kind of pet.  I think being a fur-ball with my owner wrapped around my tail would be a very nice life. 

What or who, given the opportunity, would you want to come back as?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dating: Chapter Three - The Way To A Man's Heart....

Big news today!  Please check out my interview on SocieteAmore and leave a comment if you are so inclined.  It's my first interview ever and it's about blogging. Thanks to Rowe for asking me to participate!  

The story below first appeared on Lilly's Life as a guest post.  If you haven't read it, please check it out. And if you haven't met Lilly yet, you will love her! Please stop by and say hello!

I'm off to a family wedding in Ohio.  Be back on Monday.  Have a great weekend!

It started innocently enough. My 50-something gal pal just wanted her house to smell nice when her 60-something blind date picked her up Sunday night.  So she baked cookies 30 minutes before he arrived with the cover story that they were for a co-worker's birthday the next morning.  You know how great chocolate chip cookies smell, don't you?  So did her date.  If the evening went well, maybe she'd invite him in for cookies and milk at the end of the night.

The date was great and the guy ate cookies!

Two weeks later, on their second Sunday night date, she literally saw him inhale when she opened the front door. A look of disappointment momentarily registered on his face when there were no baking cookies to greet him. She made a note of it.

Fast forward several terrific dates later.  This guy always called a day or two before the requested Sunday night date.  He never called in between and the dates are always on Sunday.  What happened to the other six nights a week?  She was feeling taken for granted-- like a "back-up" date, and couldn't understand what was going on.  She really liked him and she thought he liked her too, so she decided to change course.

The next time the guy called for a Sunday date, my friend invited him to her house to watch the football game with dinner afterwards.  She's an amazing cook and her not-quite-yet-boyfriend didn't realize the culinary delights in store.  I'm pretty sure he was expecting take-out pizza.

To his delight, he arrived to delicious smells coming from the kitchen that continued to simmer, all day, throughout the game. When his team was victorious, they shared dinner on the sofa with his feet up, looking very comfortable.  She sent him home with a doggie bag of left-overs to last the week.  He was a happy guy and actually called her the next day to say thank you.  After a 45 minutes of conversation-- a first for him, he asked her for another Sunday date!  Again she suggested football and dinner at her place. 

The following Sunday, same thing.  Dinner simmering throughout the game with her date's anticipation of more mouth-watering food afterwards.  This time though, she surprised him at half-time.  They made out on the sofa like a couple of teenagers until the second half started. The guy was in heaven.  Football, great food, a hot babe AND a doggie bag-- The perfect Sunday!  A guy could get used to this.

Not so fast...

Mr. "Almost Boyfriend" was still only dating her on Sundays.  So the following week--  She didn't answer her phone on Thursday. Or Friday.  Or Saturday.  Or even Sunday.  No simmering smells coming from the kitchen. No "action" at half -time.  No left-overs for the week. Nothing!  She was completely unavailable to "Mr. Almost" and even went so far as to take her own voice off her answering machine.  He was not going to hear a peep from her all week. 

Monday night guess what?  Her phone rang.  It was him. She offered no explanation for missing in action.  Nor did she offer her cooking skills or television for the next Sunday game. Instead, wonders never cease, he asked her out on a "proper" Saturday night date, at a fancy, romantic restaurant.  He brought flowers when he picked her up and was the perfect gentleman.

This was a huge turning point in their relationship. Turns out, he was new to the dating game after having been married for many years, and had a bit of a confidence issue.  He was afraid if he asked her out on a Friday or Saturday night, he'd get shot down.  Guys can be such idiots sometimes.  My friend wasn't dating anyone else and she never figured out where he got that idea.

They've been happily together for nearly three years now and are talking about marriage.  We've all laughed over this story together several times, and each time, they coo at each other like a couple of school kids.  

Why did they play the silly games that often go with dating? There are a lot of reasons and none of them particularly good-- other than dating is hard at any age and insecurities seem to bloom with new love.  Thank gawd they are well past that part.

Whoever said "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach", was right.  But to remind him of that piece of information, sometimes a girl has to take matters into her own hands.

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meet The Family-- Or Not

Never bring a guy home to meet your family unless you are sure he can't live without you.

When I was 19, I took those words to heart.  It was the last time I'd brought a guy home to meet my family-- That is until I was brave enough, at age 34, to give it another try. If you'd met my family, you'd understand why.

First, we're a very big and very loud crowd.  And, we travel in a pack-- If you see one of us, you see all of us! We're everywhere and there's no hiding from us unless you're in the bathroom-- with the door locked.

Second, my folks are very protective so a guy is guaranteed to get the "What are your intentions?" speech within 30 minutes of meeting.  If he answers wrong, he'll get the "evil eye" for the rest of the visit.

And third, my four siblings are a tough crowd.... Not for the guy-- For me!  They will share every humiliating, embarrassing, disgusting and unflattering story about me starting the moment he walks in the room.  It can get ugly, but I've done it to all of them too, and well, paybacks are a bitch.

I learned my lesson early in life and kept my boyfriends to myself for years.  But after dating my now husband for five years, (we had a long courtship!) I finally caved to the pressure and brought him home for a family wedding. Believe me, I was taking a serious risk and braced myself for the inevitable trashing I would get.  Of course I tried to warn my sweetie of what was in store but he thought I was exaggerating. Ha!

We arrived at the Cleveland Airport to a gaggle of family waiting at the gate.  They were getting a head start on my "If we didn't love you, we wouldn't tease you." torture, so I tried to fain exhaustion and head straight for the hotel, but no luck.  When we arrived at my folk's house, the rest of the family was waiting. The stories began immediately and I could see my sweetie's head starting to spin.  I got us out of there as soon as humanly possible.

The next day was the wedding rehearsal dinner at my folk's house.  They were hosting a big bar-be-que and all available hands were put to work to help pull things together. As I peeled an enormous quantity of potatoes , I realized it had been a long time since I'd seen my guy.  I made a quick run around the house but he was no where to be found. Hmmm.  Had he run off already?

Mom saw me searching and casually mentioned my boyfriend asked if he could help, so she sent him to the back yard to shuck a wheel barrel full of sweet corn. Huh?  My boyfriend?  Corn shucking?  In the yard?  Holy crap!  This was not good.

For starters, "shucking" is the same as "husking" for those of you who don't know.  My beloved is not a husker, or shucker, by any stretch of the imagination. And if you've ever been within a mile of a wheel barrel full of sweet corn, you know it's swarming with BEES! He hates bees more than I hate fried liver and onions.  

Oh!  My!  Gawd!

I dashed to the kitchen window and saw my worst nightmare. The poor guy was standing by the wheel barrel, knee deep in corn husks, swatting bees like a wild man, and giving himself a good talking to.  I can only image what he was saying but I'm pretty sure it was something about his soon to be ex-girlfriend's crazy, corn eating family.  I was certain he was about to go running and screaming down the street never to be seen again.  

After a long sigh and a short prayer, I headed outside to the bee zone and offered my assistance.  So far, he had not been stung, but I could tell his chances were dwindling. With my cheeriest voice and biggest smile, I batted my eyelashes and told him what a great job he had done and that I'd take over for him.  Mind you, it was the sorriest mess of corn shucking I'd ever seen, but I kept that to myself. 

Do you think he took me up on my offer?   Oh no, no, no! My City Slicker was not budging until all the corn was cleaned.  Do you know how much corn a whole wheel barrel holds?  Picture a small mountain of the stuff!  Suddenly the guy was a Country Boy on a mission, and that mission was to master corn shucking-- before he died of multiple bee stings.

Many ears of corn later, the job was finished and my boyfriend was still in tack, although I was not so sure about our relationship.  

That night, as we toasted the bride and groom to be, I watched my guy and wondered what could possibly be going through his head.  After all our years together, I should note, we had never once discussed marriage.  Not ever.  But here were were, celebrating a wedding, with my big, loud family all asking probing questions about our future together.

He played it cool, and in actuality, was a real trooper, all things considered.  But I knew something he didn't and that something was the "Chicken Dance" that was in his future.  I still roll my eyes at the very thought of it.

The next day was the wedding, which was a hundred times louder than just my immediate 30 family members.  My guy shook hands with Uncles, got wet kisses from my Aunts, chased my little nieces, nephews and cousins, and did all the usual stuff one must endure when you're the "new guy" dating the "old maid" of the family.  (I was 34 at the time and the only single, female relative, for miles.)

At the reception, he learned a few family rituals that he probably could have lived without knowing-- Like dinner conversation that always leads to discussions about arm pits, boogers and beer belching.  And then the music started....  Here we go!

Directly after the bridal dance came the Hookie Pookie. There was no way I was missing the Hookie Pookie so he joined me-- reluctantly.  Then there were a couple of country western line dances that we sat out, followed by-- The Chicken Dance.  Have you ever done it?  I have, a million times, and with a big crowd, it's a blast.  But my guy had never heard of it and wasn't the least bit interested in learning how to dance like a chicken.  He headed straight for the bar and would have walked into a hornet's nest if it meant he didn't have to do the dance.

Ahh the moment of truth.  My boyfriend survived corn shucking, swarming bees, marriage hints, and all my Aunties wet kisses-- But the Chicken Dance--  Maybe not. It looked like a deal breaker for him.  

My nieces pulled me onto the dance floor and away we went.  As you may know, the Chicken Dance goes on and on, starting slow, then builds its way up to a maddening, hysterical pace.  About half way through the craziness, my sweet guy tapped me on the shoulder to join in.

Over the blaring music and the screams of laughter, when my guy did the Chicken Dance, I swear I could hear the angels singing.  He really couldn't live without me!  

I'm pretty sure that dance sealed the deal for our future. Although he would never admit to ever having done the dance in the first place.  It's our secret-- his, mine, my big, loud family-- And the home video as evidence.

Exactly one year later, we were married.

How do you feel about "meeting the parents"?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Monday, June 15, 2009

Be Still My Heart

"Be still my heart" had a whole new meaning for me last year. For some unknown reason, mine started beating really F A S T. Three hundred times a minute kind of fast! I felt like a human vibrator. The cardiologist called it an arrhythmia somethingorother.

I'd had early warning signs of a shaky heart and was armed with a small monitor to press against my chest during a "big vibration". It's a weird sort of take-your-breathe-away feeling and you wonder why your chest is suddenly possessed and pounding like a jack-hammer-- and for so long! In my case, I'd vibrate for 45 minutes at a time!

The silver lining, if you could call it that, was getting to know my local, and might I add, very cute, paramedics. Four handsome guys would run into my house just to see me! I felt special.

The first time those happy hunks arrived it was a little embarrassing. They'd brought in all their equipment and I just assumed they'd want to hook me up to the EKG like they do at the doctor's office, so I took my shirt off. "Not necessary Ma'am", the Captain said sweetly as he attached the electrodes to my ankle. Oy. I turned red and refrained from asking for mouth-to-mouth recessation.

As I continued to vibrate across my kitchen floor at an increasingly rapid rate, I noticed one handsome paramedic, who could easily be a shirtless Mr. July in the Los Angeles Fire Department Calendar, pulling out the defibrillator paddles. You know, the things you see on TV when the doctor yells "Charge!" then "Clear!".

Fellow fifty-somethings, if you ever, EVER, see someone coming at you with paddles like that, get your sick butt out of there. Pronto! You will not like it-- Trust me on this.

It wasn't long after that I checked into the hospital to have probes inserted into my heart exploring the source of my internal earthquake. And I was awake for it! Let me tell you, THAT was an experience, to say the last. Once the damaged portion was identified, my teenage look-a-like doctor actually froze the defective piece of my heart thereby avoiding the need for a pacemaker. Phew!

Ever since, my ticker has been just fine, thank you very much. But the "cold hearted bitch" jokes are starting to get on my nerves. And the constant "when will it defrost" question is making me nervous.

Seriously, when will it defrost?

Kidding.... It defrosts in 7 years. I'll deal with it later.

Have you met your local paramedics? I hope not.
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor - Joanna

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Over the years, I have lived in countless apartments and homes in four different states-- Ohio, New Jersey, New York and California.  With each move, packing was fairly simple.  The big stuff got loaded into the boxes then put on a truck; the important stuff, my mementos, were always hand-carried by me.  It's been that way since the first time I packed my belongings when I was in the 6th grade.

That's when my family moved from the "country", surrounded by cows and cornfields, to the "big city". The "city" was defined as a place with sidewalks, but it was really more like a small town of about 10,000 people.  My mother did the bulk of the packing but I clearly remember hand carrying my prized possessions.  

As a young girl, my mementos were kept in a cigar box. When I opened the lid, a faint tobacco smell greeted me, along with letters from my great grandmother, a few programs from dance recitals, report cards (only the good ones) and photographs of friends and family.

I lived with my family in our old rambling house until I was 18 years old; then I got my first apartment, a whopping six blocks away.  How's that for independence-- Far enough to be "away" but close enough for Mom and Dad to drive by every day, and for me to "be in the neighborhood" for dinner at my folk's a few times a week. 

By this timethe cigar box was replaced with a larger shoe box and included notes from high school boyfriends, my diary, a small carved bear from a trip to Yosemite National Park when I was 13, and the Christmas decoration my parents gave me each year since I was born.  In my family, when you leave home, you have to take your "stuff" with you and that included Christmas decorations to decorate your own tree with.

When I was 20, I moved with a loser boyfriend to New Jersey, then promptly got smart, and dumped him.  With this move, my mementos box grew into a larger cardboard box, but one still small enough for me to hand carry.  

It was made clear to my loser boyfriend that the stuff in the box was off limits to him and I was not going to include or carry his mementos in my box. That really bugged him, so of course, when I ditched him, he took all of my Christmas decorations thinking I'd be back (to him) for them. He was wrong.  He's the kind of guy who's probably still hanging my baby ornaments on his tree today. Like I said-- Loser.

Newly single, I lived blissfully in New York for several years, first with a wonderful aunt and uncle who "took me in" during my time of need, and then in a tiny studio apartment that I absolutely adored.  

When you live in a small space you only have the things you really want and cherish. Plus your furniture is multi-purpose, like my hide-away sofa that I pulled out into my bed every night for years.  I loved New York and my mementos and memories grew. 

Sadly, when I was 26, my publishing job transferred me to San Francisco-- you know the one 3,000 miles away from all my family, friends and New York City.  I was depressed but it was a great career opportunity.  I packed up my tiny apartment and put everything on a truck that schlepped it cross-county to my new apartment on the Bay.  

Of course, I carried my mementos, now in a wicker suitcase, on the airplane and cried the entire flight.  I had started a new collection of ornaments, added more photos, letters, a program from a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA concert, a couple of love notes and several important family heirlooms that had been passed down to me.  I can't remember how many times, living in San Francisco, I went through my wicker suitcase.  It was a lonely place for me and I found great comfort sorting through my treasures.

Fortunately, 2 years later, Los Angeles called with a better job offer and away I went with the promise that I'd be transferred back to my beloved NYC in three years.  I met my husband four months after I arrived and, as they say, the rest is history.  I never moved back to New York but I did live in two different apartments before we married.

Although the wicker suitcase was now very full, it sat on the front seat of my car as I made the drive south to Los Angeles.  The afternoon I waited for the moving van to arrive with my furniture from San Francisco, I decided to work at "liking Los Angeles". 

I unpacked some of the momentous-- something I had not done in San Francisco, and lined my fireplace mantel, and the nook in the hallway and kitchen.  My treasures had grown to include a tiny hand painted watercolor of the Empire State Building, a small porcelain kitten from my father, pearls from my grandfather, many letters and cards from my family, and a lovely small jewelry box with an antique pocket watch from a dear friend who had since passed away. 

Six months later I moved into my second apartment in Los Angeles which was much bigger and I was finally, for the first time in years, able to spread out. But in this apartment, I soon realized the mementos were all placed in my bedroom, not around the apartment.  Since I traveled so much, I wanted to keep these important parts of my history in eyesight.  Some mementos found a place on a bookcase others remained tucked away for safe keeping.  The suitcase was replaced with a basket with a lid that I kept on the bottom shelf of my nightstand.

I lived in this apartment for nearly five years until.... I was robbed.  

My heart sank.  Immediately, I knew my most cherished mementos were gone. Although the basket was still under the nightstand, everything else in plain sight was taken-- The pearls, pocket watch, painting, porcelain kitten, everything.  I think I cried for a week--  Then I moved to a security building with bars on the windows.  Ahh, life in Los Angeles.

By the time I moved into my husband's home, just before our wedding, my memento collection, despite the robbery, had grown.  I'd done a considerable amount of traveling to Europe and across the US and gathered bits and pieces of treasures along the way.  And I saved many things from my courtship with my now husband-- ticket stubs, cards from delivered flowers, silly notes and the likes.  I tend to cherish smaller things, knowing I travel WITH my mementos, but my basket now required two hands to carry and a little muscle as well.

It took me a long while to unpack in my husband's home. Adjusting to married life and "a room mate" so to speak was foreign to me at first.  Settling into a new home and dividing up "space" was a challenge too.  My husband is "Mr. Clean" with no "stuff" anywhere.  Suddenly staking claim for mementos was an interesting dance between us.

Nevertheless, after nearly 16 years of marriage, many of my most cherished mementos are close at hand and in eye-sight (thank heaven for an alarm system).  Once I started pulling items out of the basket and putting them around the house--although I admit, most are still in our bedroom-- I felt much more at home, both in the house I now shared with my husband and in Los Angeles in general.  I'm still thousands of miles away from friends and family but the bits and pieces of them I have near me help bring them closer.

My basket has grown to a small hamper that I keep in my office.  I sort through the papers, notes, cards, and keepsakes, usually monthly, and I continue to add new things all the time.

My 12-year-old godson has also sorted through my mementos a number of times over the years.  It was much more interesting to him when he was younger but he still enjoys going through it and pointing out the memories we've created together.  I laugh now when he passes me a movie ticket stub or a napkin from the Disney Restaurant in Hollywood to "add to the pile of stuff" as he calls it.  He knows we're creating memories that I will cherish forever.

Do you collect mementos?

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Questions and Letters

Do you write letters?  Not letters to family and friends, I mean letters to make your voice heard?  I do, a lot of them.   Not that I'm an advocate, obnoxious, or a huge pest. I'm more of a polite, inquiring mind, who's rarely snarky and tries to keep my letters short and to the point.

Over the years I've written letters to my elected officials encouraging them to vote on meaningful legislation. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have heard from me often. Thanks to the Internet, they're just a click away.  And they always write back too-- With a nice form letter.

The Deli, that's also known as my "second kitchen" hears from me every year at the holidays.  The staff is great and the food is fabulous so I send the owner a different kind of letter-- A note of thanks naming those that have been especially kind over the year.  I know a copy of the letter goes into their file and hopefully is remembered come bonus time. Although I know the owner well, he's never acknowledged my letters.  But that's okay, it's showing my appreciate that counts.

For the past year, I've been writing letters to the Controller of the State of California. They owe me $600 in escheated funds.  I've been trying to get my hands on the cash for so stinking long that I think they owe me more in interest than the principle!  

You might have read that California is a hiccup away from bankruptcy.  I'm sure the state workers reading my letters were stressed out of their minds, so I tried to make it as easy as possible for them to pay me.  Each letter included copies of all our correspondence, my file number and the relevant information needed to process my payment.  Last month they wrote to tell me to leave them alone!

The Controller's letter said my $67,822 was already paid!  

For the record, I so did not receive a check from the State of California for nearly $68K.  I would have remember that and celebrated wildly.  

I admit, my response to this "payment" was a tiny bit snarky.  I wrote back asking what planet they lived on and if their accounting records had anything to do with California's current economic crisis.  I'm still waiting for my 600 bucks.

I've written so many letters to Oprah that I'm probably on her "stalker" list.  I always ask for a ticket to her big "favorite things" show where everyone in the audience goes home with a boat load of free merchandise.  Not that I need all that stuff-- although it would be nice.  No, I would like a ticket for all that loot so I can turn it into a fund-raising raffle for charity.  There are a number of organizations I work with that could use a financial boost.  But so far, no response from Oprah and her peeps.  

The last letter I wrote was to the Los Angeles Times about their story on Raymond Lee Oyler, the arsonist recently sentenced to the death for killing five firefighters in the 2006 Esperanza, CA fire.  You can read the article here.

No, my letter had nothing to do with the death penalty-- actually it was far from it.  My letter was about his photograph that appeared in the article.  That's Mr. Oyler below, in the orange prison jumpsuit, photographed the day he was sentenced.

I simply asked if California taxpayers were paying Mr. Oyler's orthodontist bills.

They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste and I think the same goes for questions too.  If you don't ask, you won't know the answers.

Are you an inquiring mind?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Caffeine Withdrawal

It's day three with no caffeine and I'm ready to jump out the window! My headache is the size of New York City and I'm on my very - last - nerve!

Why am I torturing myself like this? Believe me, I've asked myself that question numerous times in the last 3 days. Truth is, my doctor said I consume way too much caffeine on a daily basis and it could be the cause, or at least a contributing factor, to my inability to fall asleep, stay asleep and/or wake up rested.  Since I am desperate for sleep, I stopped caffeine cold turkey and pray this gawd awful withdrawal will be over soon.

And I don't even drink coffee!  It goes back to my first job at age 15 when I was a waitress in our local coffee shop. Every Saturday morning at 5AM, my job was to empty last night's vat of stinky coffee grounds and make a fresh urn of java.  The smell was disgusting!  That did it for me, I couldn't stand it.  No coffee for this little girl, not ever. Seriously, I can't even eat Coffee Ice Cream and I LOVE ice cream.

No, my caffeine of choice was ice cold Coca-Cola.  I started with "regular" Coke, loaded with sugar and caffeine.  Later, with age and maturity (translation: middle-age spread) I switched to Diet Coke but kept all the caffeine. Throw in about a gallon of good old Lipton Ice Tea each day plus every piece of chocolate I can get my hands on, and well, I was in blissful caffeine overload.

Which brings me back to quitting cold turkey.  Oh how I miss the sound of the Coke can snapping open and the burn of the Coke as it drains down my throat before I've even had my morning shower.  How I long to chug a glass of ice tea in three giant gulps then pile more ice into the glass and start all over again.

Did I mention my head hurts?

How much longer will it take to "cleanse" my system and feel some relief?  At day three, I'm not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel any time soon! 

To try to move things along, I Googled "caffeine withdrawal" to find some solutions.  Big mistake!  All that did was scare the daylights out of me.  Who knew this "mood altering drug" could be so damaging?  It left me thinking Coke should come with a warning label like cigarettes. 

My next thought was to swing by the pharmacy for a "patch" like the ones smokers use to kick the habit.  No luck.  Apparently caffeine is not addictive enough to warrant one. Damn.

Do you think inhaling the wonderful smell of an open bag of Scharffen Berger cocoa powder counts as "falling off the wagon"?  I've done that three times already today and it's only noon.  Jeez, it smells good, but not good enough to kill this headache. 

Without question, I have a new found respect for anyone committed to the "cold turkey" approach to stop sugar, carbs, chocolate, whatever.  I can only imagine the strength needed to stop smoking, alcohol, drugs or the likes.  I'm not sure I have it in me.

So with 74 hours "clean", I'm not feeling all that much better but I'm hoping a "new caffeine-free me" is just around the corner-- So I can take a nap and actually sleep-- which is the point for all this torture!  Ahhh a girl can dream.  

Have you had to kick a bad habit cold turkey?  If so, I feel your pain. 
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Can You Relate To This?

Is it me, or is this offensive?

I think this is just plain stupid and rude. Does Wendy's management really expect middle-aged women, or anyone else for that matter, to respond to this kind of marketing?  

Granted, I'm knee-deep into menopause, so maybe my sense of humor is melting with my hot flashes, but I'm not getting it.

What do you think?

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High School Reunions

There is nothing worse than a room full of "mean girls" and ex-boyfriends not to mention all the people whose names and faces you've long since forgotten.  This summer is high school reunion time and there's no way in hell I'm going!

Even though it's been nearly 35 years since I walked those hallowed halls, it seems wounds are still raw, insecurities instantly flood back, and the thought of a room full of my former classmates makes me shaky at best, nauseous at worst.  Besides, I always said I wouldn’t go to a reunion until after a full face lift and that’s not on my calendar yet.

Can you tell I was not a big fan of high school?  Even though I was a cheerleader and active in all the usual shenanigans, I was never comfortable in my high school skin.  In those days, I didn’t find my voice, hit my stride, pull it together, or whatever you want to call it.  Nope, it simply did not happen.   

Sure, I had pompoms, friends and high school crushes.  But there were also all those guys and girls that were so intimidating to me as a teenager.  Not that they were actually mean to me, it's just that when it comes to the teenage years and high school, my self-confidence is still in my gym locker and I doubt I'll get it back in time to attend the reunion.   

A handful of friends, from back in the day, have encouraged me to partake saying the past is history and high school BS of yesteryear is long gone; replaced with age and maturity.  But still, therapy is expensive.  I've spent thousands of dollars trying to get over teen boyfriends, the embarrassment of public showering after gym class, not having the "perfect outfit" to wear each and every day, and all those barely average report cards. The shy teenage girl that didn’t feel cool enough for the cool crowd, was too dumb for the smart crowd, too healthy for the smoke-in-the-bathroom crowd and well, just not enough of anything to really "belong" back then, still feels the pain all these years later. 

Yes, I have a few dear friends from high school whose weddings I’ve danced at, children I’ve celebrated and parents I always call when I’m “back home”.  They are a huge part of my life; I love them; and wouldn’t trade our years of friendship for anything.  And, every now and then in Ohio, I run into a familiar face or two and we reminisce about the “glory days”.  But a big group of my classmates, all in the same place at the same time-- No thank you.  That just feels like too much pressure. 

High school, in my small hometown, came with a lot of expectations that were not in my plans.  For starters we had a class in our senior year-- just for girls-- that still leaves me shaking my head even today.  For an entire semester-- a full half of our senior year of school, we girls, spent 47 minutes a day, five days a week, in a class learning to plan our weddings.  I kid you not!  A full semester filed with the ins and out, the do’s and don’ts, and all things virginal and pure, that goes with a big wedding extravaganza.  At the end of the school year, each girl had a big three-ring binder with everything we needed for the wedding of our dreams.  We even had a chapter on planning the perfect baby shower! 

Problem was, I was not interested in getting married or having babies, but that was not the kind of thing you advertised back in 1976 where I lived, especially since several of the girls in our class were already pregnant and planning their weddings for right after graduation.  

The idea of taking a final exam for a “how to get married” class was just not working for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with getting married and having kids, I’m all for it.  But at 17 years of age, I thought maybe teaching us how to balance a checkbook, understand an apartment lease, or how buy a car would be good “life skills”, not lectures on bridesmaid dresses, garter throwing etiquette (apparently there IS such a thing!), or picking china patterns.

So to make the high school years ever harder, not wanting to be a bride was not only a surprise to my high school sweetheart, it was a class I barely received a passing grade.  All that added up to being a bad student and probably a bad future wife, as my wedding class teacher often pointed out to me. 

Where does that leave me today, at 51?  Well, I think I’m a good wife and an adult that has found my voice in life.  But, I’m still not up for a high school reunion and connecting with a crowd of former classmates.  It's a strange feeling too.  My former classmates were, and I'm sure still are, really good people; but I still feel out of place. Maybe because, if they had a show of hands, I’m pretty sure I would be the oldest bride in our class of 200.  And, since I chose not to have children, that could be a conversation stopper.

Perhaps I'm wimping out and not giving them, or myself, enough credit.  Nevertheless, I'm staying on the opposite side of the country and as far away from my hometown high school as possible on reunion weekend.  No trip down Memory Lane for this girl.

How do you feel about high school reunions?

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

High Maintenance Girl - Not!

No one can call me a high maintenance girl.  Ever!  Sure I enjoy window shopping at Tiffany and Cartier, could shoe shop for hours and love having a massage or pedicure from time to time, but what really flips my switch these days is....

A new toilet.  

It's all I wanted for my 51st birthday.  Not diamonds and jewelry, not a Mercedes convertible, not luxurious travel. Nope, all I wanted was a toilet-- that flushed really, really well.  My husband thought I was joking but I was dead serious.  

Today I got my wish.  I am the proud owner of a brand new Toto toilet-- with a self closing lid!  The lid was a "perk" I wasn't actually asking for, but it's a nice touch on a toilet if I do say so myself.

My husband and I became "green" and very eco-friendly way before the current trend of the planet conscious. We're no Ed Begley Jr., but we do our part.  It started about about 15 years ago when we changed our toilets to the highly publicized "water saving" models.  We shopped and shopped until we found 1) the MOST water efficient and 2) AMERICAN made.  

It wasn't easy either.  We looked at a lot of toilets.  Do you know how strange it is to sit on a floor sample toilet-- in a store-- with lots of people around-- looking at you sitting on a toilet.  Of course they weren't working toilets and I was dressed and everything, but it's a very strange thing to do in the middle of Home Depot.

Anyway, we found what looked to be the perfect toilet. Only problem was, when you shop for toilets, they aren't actually installed in the store with water, so you have no way of knowing how they actually flush-- As in, if the toilet's water saving system will actually "do the job" when used.

Long story short, in came a couple of eco-friendly toilets. We were so proud.  But hey, wait a minute.  These @#$%^& water saving toilets don't actually work!   They need to be flushed multiple times to "get the job done". That's not saving water!

Numerous plumbers have come and gone over the years all hemming and hawing over the problem.  None had a solution.  Everyone told me I needed a toilet with a bigger tank.  But, NO-- that defeated the purpose of "saving water".  No bigger bowls for this household. Besides, all that porcelain is not biodegradable and would only clutter up our already full landfills.  So we stuck with what we had and flushed, and flushed and flushed.  We tried to find comfort in knowing we were saving the planet-- sort of.

I can't tell you how many times over the years I've been in the middle of a dinner party, a family Thanksgiving gathering or a business shindig only to be tapped on the shoulder by an embarrassed guest who "couldn't get the toilet to flush all the way" in the guest bathroom.  I was so over our water saving toilets I could scream.

So off I went on yet another toilet shopping spree for my birthday.  Since floor model toilets are still not actually connected to a water source, I went to a speciality plumbing store with about 50 different toilets to select from and asked the expert potty salesmen for advice.  He gave me an in-depth education on all the latest toilets and their water-saving features.  (I will spare you the ** yawn** details.)   It's how I found the Toto brand toilet named after the little dog in Wizard of Oz.  (Kidding, I made the movie part up.)

I decided on the lovely Toto Eco-Supreme model.  But, I got smart this time and had the sales guy put into writing that the toilet would "do the job" or it was returnable! How the "toilet return" would actually take place remained fuzzy, but I felt better having the return policy on my side.

When I schedule the plumber to install my shiny new potty, I discovered, by picking the Toto up myself, I would save $100 on the delivery.  Being the low maintenance girl I am, that was no problem. I drive an SUV. (I know, kinda defeats the saving the planet stand I'm taking but I got it well before the gas crisis.  Promise, my next car will be a Prius.)  As I was saying, I stopped by the toilet store and had it loaded into the back of my SUV. Problem is, toilets are very heavy and since my husband was out of town, it had to stay in my car until the plumber arrived 5 days later.

Despite the toilet box being far bigger than the actual toilet itself, I drove everywhere with the Toto in my trunk to the point I nearly forgot I even had it, including during a trip to San Diego.  If you've ever headed up the freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles you know there's a security checkpoint where the Immigration Police either wave you through and on your way, or flag you over for inspection.  Well, apparently a toilet in your truck is a big red flag and I got pulled over.

Looking at my reflection in the officer's aviator sunglasses, I tried not to laugh as I explained the reason for a potty in the back of my SUV.  The officer was very serious about the whole thing since apparently the box looked big enough to hold several small children I might be smuggling over the boarder.

With the slightest hand gesture, my car was instantly surrounded by several other Immigration officers as they had me inch my way off the highway and into a parking space.  Okay, I stopped laughing with that one.  But come on, it was a toilet-- just look in the box.

After about 20 minutes of "procedures" and "official business", the officers figured out it really was a toilet. And that drew even more attention than the possible posse of smuggled kids in my car.  Apparently, toilet flushing problems were not just limited to my house!  A couple of cops asked about my research and decision-making process for the Toto.  

There we stood, with cars flying by, discussing potties, water saving devices,  environmental issues and landfills. I'm telling you, it was riveting conversation. 

Finally, my toilet and I were back on the road in bumper to bumper traffic.  The following day, my darling plumber appeared right on schedule to install my birthday present in the guest bathroom.  He had a big laugh over the Immigration Check Point and that my Toto was actually a present.  He wished his wife was that easy to shop for.  Further proof, I really am a low maintenance girl.

In less than an hour, I had a shiny new toilet that flushed like a champ!  Swoosh!!!!  The water rushes in and out faster than you can say illegal alien!  And the "job is done" on the first water-saving flush.  No, I'm usually not into potty talk but my new toilet is so great I just had to share my news.

It seems the older I get the less "stuff" I want or need.  I figure, if at 51, I'm asking for toilets, my husband will have it very easy shopping for me in the years to come. What's next?  A new garbage disposal, car tires, a garden hose maybe?  Okay, maybe I'm not that low maintenance.  

What's the craziest gift you've ever wanted?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna