Best Christmas I Ever Had

When I was a little girl, I had lots of wonderful Christmases. I had Christmas mornings filled with the kind of wonder and excitement that only a child can experience. But this is not a story of a child’s Christmas. This is a story of the best Christmas I ever had as an adult.

In order for you to understand the best Christmas I ever had, you must first hear about the worst Christmas I ever had. It was Christmas day 1965, and the first Christmas I celebrated as a married woman. Alan and I were in college and some of my sisters and their husbands or boyfriends were spending the day at my oldest sister and her husband’s home. The smell of turkey and pine filled the air, and Christmas carols were playing in the background as we sat down to open our gifts.

Mom opened her gift first. Just like always, Dad had somehow gathered together enough money to buy Mom something truly special. Mom’s gift was a bracelet with gold letters separated by pearls that spelled I LOVE YOU. Everyone ooohed and aaahed approvingly as Mom put on her bracelet and Dad beamed with pride.

Then came my oldest sister Cynthia’s turn. Despite the limited budget of a growing family, Seth had purchased my sister the most beautiful beige lace nighty and robe set I had ever seen. It was such a romantic gift. They exchanged tender glances as the nightgown was carefully refolded and put away.

Sharon’s gift was two crisply folded one-hundred-dollar bills placed in a card which read, “To the one I love,” on the outside. That was more money than Alan and I made in three months working at the college library. Everyone in the room let out a squeal at such luxury.

Kay was the next sister to open her gifts. She was going with a couple of different guys at the time, if I remember right. One gave her a gold wristwatch and the other gave her a beautiful Geistex sweater. Geistex sweaters were very expensive and really “in” in 1965.

All of my sisters were so beautiful and I always felt inferior by comparison. It seemed to me that their gifts were befitting them. I dreaded the fact that I was to open my gifts next.

Before I tell you what I received, I have to give you some facts. Alan was raised to believe that Christmas was basically for little children, that gifts weren’t terribly important to adults. In fact, sometime between October and December, Alan’s mom would announce that she had purchased a “so-and-so,” and that this item was her Christmas gift from Alan’s dad. In other words, older members of their family usually exchanged permission to purchase something at a later date. Also, because Alan’s siblings received lavish gifts during the year, another nice present was just not that big of a deal.

I came from a different background. As long as I could remember, I thought of Christmas as a time to splurge. Christmas was when you showed the ones you love that “price was no object.” And it wasn’t just the money; it was an attitude about Christmas. Christmastime was when you showed the other people in your life how much they meant to you. They were so important that you saved up all year to buy them “things they had always wanted,” or presents that “you shouldn’t have.” Christmas was the time you made dreams come true.

As all the eyes in the room turned toward me, I felt a disaster in the making. “Oh, please God,” I prayed to myself, “make the small package something sweet and personal, a necklace or a locket.” As I opened my gifts, a lump formed in my throat. Alan had gotten me a ball point pen and a pair of heavy duty slippers. Tears welled up in my eyes. Wasn’t I more important and more beautiful than a ball point pen and unisex slippers that could be worn by either a man or a woman? Was that all I meant to Alan?

I prayed for a diversion. Maybe the tree would catch on fire (now that I think about it—maybe this prayer was answered years later as another story) or a bomb would hit the garage. I felt so embarrassed that I wanted to die.

That particular Christmas taught me two things: One, never open my presents in front of my beautiful sisters, and two, never look forward to Christmas ever, ever again.

There were many differences in Alan’s and my backgrounds, so it wasn’t surprising that we ended up in marriage counseling years later. It happened to be Christmastime when we started therapy.

Dr. Hoffman started off the session by asking me what problems would arise during the holiday season. That was easy for me to answer: “Disappointment and depression.” So Dr. Hoffman came up with this wonderfully simple idea; make Alan a shopping list.

“What?” I protested. “You mean that it still counts if the gift is requested?”

I believed what I had seen in the movies. Alan was somehow supposed to magically know the deepest desires of my heart. “You mean I could write him out a list and if he gave me an item on the list, it would show that he loved me, even if he hadn’t thought of it himself? Amazing,” I muttered to myself.

“You mean the longing looks as I passed the crystal department and the quiet glances toward the jewelry counter weren’t enough? Are you telling me, Dr. Hoffman, that the man doesn’t know what I want by magic?

“Okay!” I said defiantly, “I’ll make the man a list.”

I will never forget the serious way I approached my list writing. Poised with a hot cup of coffee and a sharp pencil, I proceeded. First, I thought, I should probably put down something he wants also. That way I am more likely to get the gift. I honestly felt that unworthy inside. So a color TV headed up the list, followed by the microwave oven. He’d benefit from that as well. Then I became more daring and I asked for a crystal decanter. No, what the heck, I reckoned, I wrote down, “a Fostoria crystal decanter.”

If this was a test for Alan, I was going to make it a good one. I threw myself into the task with reckless abandon and filled two full pages. I wanted to make sure that there could be no excuse that the stores “were out of it.”

When Dr. Hoffman asked for my list, he questioned me to make sure that the items listed were my most secret desires. I concurred that if I received any one of these items on the list, I would be happy. I thought to myself as I drove home, good Lord, I’d be happy for life.

On December 23rd, I opened the front door to a TV service man. He said, “Where do you want the TV, lady?” My heart jumped as I screamed to the children, “Kids, Daddy bought us a color TV.”

Then, on Christmas Eve, a microwave oven arrived. My heart was pounding as I opened the package. It was just like I’d seen in the movies, wrapped in gold with a big red bow. “Thank you, Dr. Hoffman.” I shouted into the air. He was right. It did feel just as good if you spoke up and let the other person know what you wanted.

On Christmas morning, I was totally content. I eyed the color TV in the living room. It was just the model I wanted. As I happily heated rolls in my new microwave oven, I thought of different ways to tell my sisters about the gifts.

As I wandered back into the living room with a tray of hot chocolate for the kids, I heard these startling, amazing words: “Mom, there are some other presents for you under the tree.”

I thought these were probably some sweet handmade treasures made by our children, Roger and Natalie. But when I sat down, I saw a gift clearly from Bullocks, a high-end department store in Long Beach. I squealed as I opened the Fostoria decanter. My neighbors told me later they could hear me screaming. Next I opened an incredibly beautiful pink nighty with matching robe and “super feminine” slippers from Robinsons (no man would wear those slippers.) What would my sisters say when they saw the crystal sugar and creamer to match the decanter, a real leather handbag with a matching wallet and key holder, and a gold locket with “Love, Alan” engraved on the back? To top it all off, there was a gold watch in a black velvet case. My God, Alan had purchased everything on my list and he’d thrown in the watch for good measure.

I don’t remember what Santa brought the children that year, I’m sorry to say. I was too busy screaming and jumping up and down and crying myself. When I finally calmed down, I looked over at Alan and saw he had tears in his eyes. He was in shock and his face held an expression of sheer amazement.

He choked up as he said, “I never knew it would make you so happy or I would have done it years before.”

I realized several things that Christmas. I realized that I was a worthy person, but that I had to declare that fact myself before others would. Whether I received the gifts or not was not important. What was important was that I had written the list. The list was my declaration of worthiness. Alan’s purchasing the gifts was a confirmation of that declaration. I learned from that declaration that I can’t depend on others to affirm my worthiness. I have to do that myself, and I do it a lot now. In fact, this IBM Selectric typewriter was a gift to myself so that I might write this story.

Alan learned a few things that Christmas too. He learned how much fun it is to find something special for the ones you love. He now looks for things I want and he listens carefully to find out what special secrets are in my heart. Best of all, he learned that he could help me most by encouraging me to fulfill my own dreams for myself. And he does that.

I think back on that Christmas occasionally and I believe Natalie summed it up best when she said that morning, “This is so much fun. Let’s do it again next year.”

Christmas with one of our grandkids….London

Heidi’s Christmas Dream

It’s every parent’s Christmas nightmare:  Santa arrives but does not deliver the present your child wanted more than anything else on Earth.

Santa….as I remember him.

My sister Alice was tucking her adorable little 5-year-old daughter in bed one Christmas Eve and asked, “Are you excited about Santa coming tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Heidi replied, with a glow in her eyes that is so common when children are young, and Christmas is in the air.  “I can’t wait to open up my silver magic star wand and princess crown with jewels and colored ribbons flowing down the back,” Heidi answered enthusiastically.

Alice immediately stiffened.  “Santa” had not heard a word about this silver star magic wand or a princess crown with jewels and ribbons flowing down the back.  Where did that come from?

“What crown, Heidi?” Alice asked weakly, a lump in her throat.  “I never heard you tell Santa about a crown or a magic silver wand.”

“Oh, Santa knows, Mommy. He knows that’s what I want, and it will be under the tree for sure.  I just know it will.”

After giving her daughter a kiss and pulling the blankets up around her chin, Alice wandered into the living room where her husband was reading beside the Christmas tree.

“Larry,” Alice pleaded in a frantic whisper.  “Heidi thinks Santa is bringing her a silver star magic wand and a silver crown with jewels and ribbons flowing down the back.”

“So?” Larry asked, looking up casually from his book.

“It’s all she wants for Christmas, Larry, and Santa is not going to put that under the tree.”

Now, everybody knows men and women are wired differently.  And, it was never more obvious than when Larry gave his unemotional and practical response to this Christmas Eve dilemma.

“Well, it’s almost ten o’clock at night.  How is Santa going to find a magic wand and a silver crown in time for Christmas?”

“Well he has got to!” Alice insisted.  “He just can’t let little Heidi down.  It’s all she wants.”

With that pronouncement made, my devoted and clever younger sister sprang into action.

“This Santa is going to make a crown and magic wand from scratch or die trying,” Alice stammered, still in disbelief at her husband’s casual reaction to an obvious holiday catastrophe.

Alice flew into the kitchen looking for silver … aluminum foil for those of you without any imagination.  But there was none to be found.  This was in the days before 24-hour drugstores and Larry and Alice lived out in the country.

Not to be deterred by a lack of silver in her kitchen drawers, Alice headed for the freezer and started scrapping aluminum foil, two inches at  time, off the frozen meat and other foodstuffs stored there.  It took her about an hour, but she figured she had enough silver to fashion a magic star wand and princess crown.

Up to this point, Larry was no help.

“Alice … I remember one year I wanted roller skates and Santa couldn’t afford them.  It didn’t kill me, I survived just fine.”

“Well, maybe it killed your spirit,” Alice snapped back. “Otherwise you’d be up here helping me figure out how to save your daughter’s Christmas dream.”

That statement must have hit home because Larry put down his book and joined Alice in the kitchen.  She was in tears.  She felt like a failure for not knowing her daughter’s deepest Christmas desire.

“You’re a good mom, honey.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Now, where can we get some jewels for the crown?”

“My jewelry box,” Alice said quietly.  “I’m sure we can take apart a couple of necklaces and bracelets.  And see if I have any ribbons in the bathroom with my hair clips.  Get the glue gun too,” she yell/whispered down the hall

Santa’s elves worked diligently to create a crown and wand with items they found around the house.  They stole pieces of colored ribbon from presents already under the tree and fashioned the wand from a piece of dowel under the kitchen sink, a dowel whose lowly job was to dry towels out of sight. The star for the wand and the princess crown were fashioned from a cardboard box they had in the garage.

Then they glued the entire ensemble completely over with bits of aluminum foil and added jewels and brightly colored ribbons to the crown.

It was well after midnight when Alice and Larry finished their projects and flopped down into bed.  On the couch, in a testament to panic and parenting and hot glue, was a silver star magic wand and silver princess crown with jewels and colored ribbons flowing down the back.

They got a bit of sleep, and then Christmas morning arrived, as it always does.

“See Mommy!” Heidi yelled gleefully, as she danced around the living room waving her magic wand, festooned with bits of colored ribbon tangled in her hair.

“I told you Santa would know what I wanted.  “Santa always knows your Christmas dream.”

Alice gave her sleepy husband a sideways glance.  His eyes slightly teared over as he lowered his coffee cup and said to his daughter …

“You were right, honey.  You were so right.”


A Lesson I Needed To Know

Inuit Eskimo Women

It’s been almost a year now that my book, POTLUCK: Little Stories from a Big Table has been published (like most unknown authors, I self-published POTLUCK). Michael, my book adviser, suggested I say that my book is “independently published.” He’s right, that sounds a little more professional.

Anyhow, once published, the next job for me was to make sure my book got into the hands of readers. If readers enjoy POTLUCK, and tell their friends, there’s a chance I might get picked up by a larger “real” publishing company. Until that happens, promoting my book is up to me.

For 12 months, I have been doing all I can to promote my book. Like with all sales, you must plant a lot of seeds (it’s a numbers game) and eventually a certain percentage will sprout. I’ve had many book signings and I’ve made numerous book presentations in libraries, private homes, book clubs and book stores in Florida, California, Virginia and Ottawa, Canada. I’ve even spoken at a writers’ conference and was interviewed on local T.V. in my home town of Seal Beach, California (that interview is currently being edited for a December release).

During our summer in Canada, I was able to get my book on the shelves and do book signings in eight large Indigo book stores (they are like Barnes and Nobel stores in the U.S.) The events were moderately successful (but don’t look for my book on the New York Times Best Sellers List just yet). Michael tells me that I’m doing better than most new authors, so that makes me feel good. But, my book is not exactly flying off the shelves.

It’s been lots of fun and extremely challenging to promote my book, even for an out-going person like my-self. Some folks in book stores are friendly and willing to listen to my spiel about POTLUCK while others clearly try to flee when they see me approaching. But, last week I had one of the most unusual experiences I’ve endured in this year-long process. And, it taught me an important lesson.

After exhausting the typical venues for promoting my book, I decided to try offering my services as a speaker to a few retirement homes near our place in Ottawa. I Googled “high-end retirement homes near me” and emailed the activity coordinators of the establishments that responded. The title of my email read, “Hilarious and Lively Presentations by Local Author” and I included a description of my book and my website address. I was sure I could provide the retirement residents an hour of fun, even if no one who attended the event purchased a book. After all, making people laugh and telling self-deprecating stories is how I survived my youth.
Overall, the response was excellent, and I was able to immediately schedule three facilities close by.

So, in case you ever write a book and want to promote it in senior living centers, you need to know there is a BIG difference between “independent living” and “assisted living” communities. Independent living communities advertise something like this: “Retire in Comfort and Style.” These communities offer things like multiple dining options, health and wellness support, fitness classes, laundry services, and even a bar or bistro.

The first two facilities I made presentations in were populated by independent seniors who simply didn’t want the responsibility and upkeep of home ownership any longer. Been there, done that, they were retired, and so was their lawnmower. Some still had their own cars, handled their own finances and while a few used walkers for getting around, they were all alert and engaging, regardless of any minor physical limitations.

Both facilities were beautifully appointed, spotlessly clean and in both cases I made my presentation in a theater with big comfy chairs for the residents. In one, a hostess served coffee, tea and cookies during my event. The events were lots of fun and modestly successful; I sold the same number of books in a one-hour presentation as I did in a four-hour book store signing, so that was good. And, none of the residents tried to flee the theater. Most folks got my jokes and laughed quite a bit. At the conclusion of my presentation, the residents thanked me politely and I felt confident I had put some fun in their lives.

My third retirement home was a totally different experience. The minute I passed through the doors of the reception area, I could see what the words “assisted living” really means. The place was nice and clean, and the staff was attentive and friendly, but all the residents needed some kind of assistance. (Okay, yeah – duh, Paula….it’s called assisted living for a reason).

Continue reading “A Lesson I Needed To Know”

Who says you can’t go home again?

(It was Thomas Wolfe, and he sure was wrong!)

In July of this year, my husband and I took the Catalina Express, a state-of-the-art fast watercraft out of Long Beach Harbor, to Avalon on Catalina Island.  Avalon, the main city on the island, is where I met Alan, my husband of 50-plus years, while we were in college.  The small island city was Alan’s boyhood home.  And this month, we were returning after an absence of 15 years.

Our-bunk mates for the trip were our old buddies, Bob and Donna Fees, college friends and Alan’s business partner of over 40 years.  (All these big two-digit numbers…sheesh, we’re getting old).  The reason for our trip was a presentation and book signing for my book, POTLUCK:  Little Stories from a Big Table.  Friends of the Avalon Library (FOAL) were hosting the event (I never met a more dedicated or kind bunch of ladies).

Anyhow, while cruising along in the Express, we sipped wine and discussed our schedule.  First stop would be our hotel, to drop off our luggage and, because it was late in the day, hopefully check-into our room.  It was during that discussion that we discovered the hotel I booked for the long weekend did not have an ocean view.  (Not that not having an ocean view would be a deal breaker, but it had been promised to my friends as part of our accommodations.)

“Are you sure?” I asked Laurie Reiten, a darling gal sitting next to us, who was a semi- local to Catalina and our instant new friend. “I swear there was a picture of Avalon Bay on the website!”

“Nope,” she responded.  “I know exactly where that hotel is and it’s nowhere near the bay.  In fact, it’s up a super steep street.”

“Are you absolutely, positively, definitely sure that it doesn’t have an ocean view?”  I continued, unwilling to accept reality and the fact that I had led my friends astray.

Laurie just shook her head back and forth, smiling sweetly.  “No view.  I’m sure of that.”

Donna, since she knows me well, wasn’t surprised at all to hear Laurie’s report. Donna has traveled with me many times and knows my enthusiasm and spontaneity can sometimes get in the way of finding out the small details, like location, whether breakfast is included, and whether or not a room with a view will be part of the experience.

I tried to put up a defense. “I guess when I saw the price of the room I just assumed it came with a view.  It wasn’t cheap.  And,” I mumbled on, quietly, “That damned website showed a view of the harbor!”

Laurie was so right.  Our hotel was up a very steep street.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the cab was sputtering under the load as it stopped in front of our very tall, very narrow hotel; the one with not a single window facing Avalon Bay.

Our husbands, after unloading our bags in the reception area, gave us each a peck on the cheek and headed for the golf course together. They had called and reserved tee-times from the boat.  Donna and I began the check-in process and that’s when we discovered the second thing it seems I should have asked about.  Our hotel didn’t have an elevator.  And our rooms (are you [expletive] kidding?) were on the third floor.  That might not be a problem for some of you folks, but for four senior citizens past their mid-seventies, “no elevator” was not good news.

At first, Donna gamely suggested we carry the bags up by ourselves.  She has always exhibited pioneering spirit, so that idea didn’t surprise me.

I quickly countered, “No way Jose.  We’re getting some help.”  And, I popped back into the reception area and asked for assistance.

A thin, gangly young fella with a big smile and kind eyes quickly came to our rescue and hefted our big bags up the three flights of stairs, going back and forth to the first floor for additional bags, before us two old gals even got to the second-floor landing (Donna and I were following behind with just our carry-on bags in tow).

She and I paused on the second-floor landing, panting like a pair of Bassett Hounds that just returned from a two-mile hike in the Mojave Desert. In between huffing and puffing, I looked right … and spied the view of Avalon Bay, the one I had seen on the hotel website.

“There it is, Donna!” I said, breathlessly.  “There’s the ocean view I saw on the website!” I pointed to the end corner of a small patio adjacent to the stairwell. “I knew that stupid ad showed a bay view.”

The patio with the rare and miniscule bay view was painted a garish yellow-white and was surrounded by a solid, chest-high, cinder block wall that made air circulation impossible.  It was easily 110 degrees inside that patio, maybe hotter.

“Ocean view, my ass!” I blurted sarcastically between breaths.  “Who would go sit in that oven and stare over that wall at the bay?  Not me!”

By the time I arrived at my room, the nice young guy carrying our suitcases had serious sweat on the front of his shirt and under his arms.  He grunted loudly as he struggled to drag my ridiculously heavy bag up on to the bed.  Loaded with books and other junk I needed for the book signing, it easily weighed 80 pounds.  (Usually my make-up bag is the heavy one.)

Continue reading “Who says you can’t go home again?”

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I love my iPhone, especially for texting.  Texting is a quick and efficient way to reach business associates and family members.  No busy signals or phone tag (leaving messages back and forth), with texting.  Because it’s a quiet function, I can text in a crowd, at dinner (only if it’s urgent) or when my spouse is snoring like a bear next to me in bed.

Holy Mackerel, this sounds like a commercial for iPhones.  And me, not getting paid!

One thing I really like about my cell phone is that I can speak my text into the phone, in lieu of tapping away at the keyboard with my index finger.  Speaking a text is so much faster than typing the words one letter at a time (the kids use their two thumbs to text.  I can’t.  I guess my thumbs are just too fat).

But there is one teensy problem with speaking a text.  Sometimes the microphone picks up words I didn’t say.

For example, I said, “So happy you’re going to the movie.  You’ll love it.  Hugs, Mom.”  The phone sent, “Snappy you’re getting groovy/ Plug Tom.”   Um, what?

Another time I verbalized a text to a tenant, “No problem, Sue.  I’ll call the plumber to fix your toilet right away.”

Sue’s response to my message was a series of question marks.  Looking at my phone, I understood her confusion.

The microphone had recorded and sent, “Nose problem in loo. I’ll call the bummer, he’ll mix your toilet, keep away.”

This “predictive text” feature was pretty unpredictable!

Continue reading “Like Mother, Like Daughter”

A Walk For The Cure

We lived in the city of Avalon on Catalina Island when I went into “training” (and I’m using that term very loosely).  Alan, my sweet and encouraging husband said, “Are you nuts?  My God, I hope you don’t have a heart attack or stroke or something. You do realize you’re almost 60 years old?”

That’s me on the left in green standing next to Emily Beckman, my sweet niece with her mother, Kay Bernards. Alice Ryan, our leader, is in pink. Kay was unable to walk with us but met us along the road and cheered us on.

If I am anything, I’m spontaneous.  So I didn’t think twice when my sister Alice called and asked me to join the “Jelly Bean Team,” the group she was assembling for a Susan G. Komen “Walk for the Cure and Breast Cancer Research.”  After all, I knew the heroic battle her sweet daughter-in-law Lori was waging against cancer.  Surely, a sister could step up to the plate, or in this case, out to the street, for such an important event.

“I’m in, sissy.  When is it?”

And with that quick response, I had just agreed to walk 60 miles in three days.  Plus, I had agreed to raise my share of the entry fee … $2,500.

See, Alice had taken on quite a job.  She had agreed to raise not only her fees but also the money for her son and his wife.  With travel costs and hotels, Alice was planning to raise over $10,000.

“That’s a lot of money, sissy,” I said, trying to be realistic without being negative.

But Alice was steadfast.  “I can do it.  I will do it.”

And she did do it.

Normally gentle and rarely outspoken, when it came to raising money for the Jelly Bean Team, Alice turned into a lioness.  First, she got my husband to donate an old Ford van we used for office deliveries and moving stuff around.

“Alan,” she said boldly one morning at the office.  “Why don’t you let me sell the Ford van so I can raise money for my team?”

Without so much as a whimper, Alan agreed. Continue reading “A Walk For The Cure”

Toddler Talk

At this point in my life, nothing is more fun than spending time with London, our “I’m almost three” granddaughter.  She’s a happy and energetic child, and so full of life.  Just being around her makes me laugh and fills my heart with love.  Recently, we attended an open house at London’s nursery school, which is a short drive from our home in Vero Beach, Florida.

It was obvious that London was ecstatic that we were there.

“Hi, Goo Goo Gaa Gaa,” London screamed as we exited the car.  That’s what London calls my husband.  I’m just “Grandma T.”

Once inside the play yard, London took off.  Left, right, straight…she ran and rocketed.  So much to share, she couldn’t decide which way to go first.  Should she grab a treat at the breakfast bar?  Show us the swings?  Or … show us the “big kids’ monkey bars” (which at her age were normally off-limits)? She kept running, and we gamely followed, until she stopped at the chicken coop, a brightly festooned set of cages attached to the fence on the side of the yard and filled with a rooster and several chickens.

Because we are a family of animal lovers, I wasn’t surprised London liked the chickens.  After all, she’s grown up with two dogs that are more like siblings than pets.

“Dare [they are] my patients,” London told us one Sunday, as she dragged her mobile doctor’s kit out of her room and began taking their temperatures, checking their ears and pretending to give the dogs shots. Totally trusting, the two dogs lay quietly until “Dr. London” was finished with her poking and prodding.

Teri, London’s mom, has told me many times, “They are so close … it’s like we have pack of three dogs.” Continue reading “Toddler Talk”

Welcome to Paula Thomas’ Potluck

Are you ready to start 2018 laughing?

Well, I’ve got the antidote if you’re anxious: POTLUCK: Little Stories from a Big Table. It’s my new book!

I grew up in a tiny beach cottage in Seal Beach, California with six siblings, two parents and my granny from Kentucky on occasion. That’s ten people in a two-bedroom cottage. When you live like that, you have to do something to survive. In my case, telling funny stories about my idiotic antics and the poignant events that filled my life kept my friends in stitches and kept me sane.

All my life I’ve had a knack for embarrassing myself.

Like the time my husband and I were invited for cocktails at a friend’s house. The host wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so he showed us to his bar and poured us a glass of wine, promising he and his wife would return shortly.

As we sat and sipped, I munched on some unusual-looking nuts in a dish on the counter. (In a big family, food is never in excess, so you do NOT pass-up a snack).

“These must be imported nuts,” I told my husband. “I have never seen anything like them. Maybe they are from China or Vietnam, real gourmet. They taste a little weird, but they are not totally awful.”

When our host returned, I was popping another handful into my mouth. I asked, “What kind of nuts are these, Bill?”

He gave me a long stare over the top of his glasses and said dryly, “They’re not nuts, Paula. That’s koi food.”

So, you see what I mean? If you need a good laugh and a break from all the bad stuff going on in the world, read POTLUCK: Little Stories from a Big Table.

I promise you won’t be disappointed. My stories will have you fluctuating between laughing out loud and wiping tears from your eyes. Just punch the title into the search bar at or Barnes & Noble … and like magic (well, okay … science), you’ll be able to purchase it.

I hope after you read it you’ll also share your thoughts with me at [email protected]