Laugh Your Way to Lower Stress


As ads for diamond rings keep reminding us, December is “Engagment Season.” As someone who has been engaged (and then married and then divorced) three times, I have some advice for those of you who are still single and thinking NOW is the time to change that up.

Here are my Top 7 Reasons Not to Get Engaged During Engagement Season:

1. Do you become a tree on Arbor Day? No? Then you don’t have to get engaged during “Engagement Season.” You also don’t have to get an STD during Chlamydia Awareness Week.


2.  Are you bored with your romantic partner and think that a diamond on her or your finger might just shake things up? Spend the money on a tropical vacation somewhere during earthquake season. THAT will shake things up.

3.  Does it seem like the next step in your relationship? If you’re thinking about making a lifetime commitment to someone because it’s another step in a process, join a 12-step program for fairy tale addicts instead.


4.  Is engagement on your to-do list because all your friends are doing it or they’ve already done it and are having babies and leaving you in the dust? Are you in middle school? If so, you’re too young to get engaged. If not, you have so many options, including finding new friends who are spending their time volunteering to fight climate change or drinking.

5.  Do you or your partner just want some jewelry this holiday season? Fine, get some jewelry. Buy from a local artisan who crafts amazing art for your fingers, wrist, neck, ankle, or nipples. It will cost you less money, cause you less guilt wondering where the stones came from, and help keep an artistic community member from a life of crime.


6.  Have you been in a relationship with someone for too long and it’s about damn time he/she made you an honest man/woman or you did the same for him/her. (Can we please start using gender-neutral pronouns, grammar police?) Really, threats and coercion are how you’re going to play this? That doesn’t bode well for a healthy relationship. Perhaps you could run a republican presidential candidate’s campaign instead.


7.  Has he/she asked you and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings? This one is serious, folks. I got married twice out of not wanting to make my then-partner feel bad that he had popped the question, despite the fact that the first time the ring wasn’t even real! If someone else wants to get married and you’re not ready, it’s time to move on. Date someone else. Get a dog. Write a screenplay. But for god’s sake, don’t say yes when you mean “No, no, I’d rather have a colonoscopy!”

There you have it. If I’ve saved just one single person from making the same mistakes I have, my job here is done.



Questioning My Sanity

I question my sanity regularly. Fortunately, it usually doesn’t answer and I take that as a sign that I’m mostly still okay — or perhaps my sanity has taken a vow of silence.


Three weeks ago a new puppy joined my family. Well, he didn’t just show up at the front door  and when I answered, say with his eyes lowered, “I’ve been searching for my birth mom and I believe you may be her.” I was somewhat involved in the process. Involved, as in, I decided that my three senior wiener dogs and I could probably use some youthful energy to perk things up around here, then I scoured all the animal rescue sites nearby for dachshunds, filled out three applications, and went to meet a young fellow named “Boston” who was advertised as a 1-1/2 year old dachshund.


Did I mention that I frequently have doubts about my sanity?

As it turns out, Boston was lying about his age. And lineage. And name.

His name is actually Murray. I know this because when I call it, he comes. Two of my other dogs are named Watson and Justin, so Boston was not going to work. Plus, when he barked, there was no trace of an East Coast accent.

He’s definitely part dachshund — the stubborn, hole-digging, begging for treats until you cave in just to be released from the overwhelming guilt in those eyes part. But he’s also got a little something else in him. I’m thinking kangaroo, given that he can jump 3-feet straight up in the air. I’m thinking maybe I should carry him around in an apron pocket.


And given his proclivity for chewing everything, including my earlobes (which is the most action I’ve had in years), I’m pegging his real age at around 9 months.

Murray was found roaming the streets in California. Perhaps he was hunting for a good Pinot Grigio.

So here I am matriarch to a family of three dachshunds and one dachshund hybrid (perhaps I should have called him Prius!) I’ll stand at the back door, rattling off a list of possible names until I hit on the one that belongs to the dog who is digging holes, eating tomatoes, taunting the koi (wouldn’t Taunting the Koi be an excellent band name?), or just obstinately sitting steps away from me ignoring me for the hell of it.

I was right in my prediction that a younger dog would pick up the energy level around here. Everyone is awake a lot more than previously. This is a good thing, for the most part, except at 3 a.m. when sleeping might be a good idea. And everyone is in better shape too. Walks are faster and more plentiful as we attempt to wear the newest family member out so that I can go out into the world and earn enough money to buy squeaky toys for him to destroy the next day.


Am I glad I have a new pup? Absolutely! Am I also crazy to have four dogs? I’m fairly certain of it. But I’d rather be crazy happy than any other kind of crazy.

We all know that dogs are better judges of character than we lowly humans, so why not ask them how to choose the right candidates for president?

After surveying my three dachshunds and a terrier and labradoodle we met on a walk, here are the criteria they came up with that should help you count a candidate out:

A human would NOT make a good president if:

He starts sentences with, “I’m not a cat, but…” and then tells cats what they should and shouldn’t do.

imagesWhen he goes on the paper, it’s the U.S. Constitution.


She rides around in the pocket or purse of rich folks.

imagesHe wants to build a wall to keep out losers.

imagesHe always sticks his snout into other people’s business.

images42He hasn’t learned a new trick in decades.


He only hangs out with his own breed.


Not only did he not pass obedience school, he still barks with a 4th grade education.


He blames others for his mistakes… and his brother’s mistakes.

hqdefaultHe doesn’t care who he steps (or sits) on.


She’s never been a working dog.


He isn’t a service human; he’s a “serve me” human.


She thinks everyone should worship the same squeak toy she does.


He believes in piddle down economics.


He is against reproductive rights.

He whimpers about how much he misses the “good old days.”


I’m thinking of printing out cards that read, “You really deserve a slap to the head, but because society frowns on that, I give you this card instead.” A little poetry in lieu of poetic justice.

I’ll call these my STH (slap to head) cards.


I needed these yesterday when I was at a local grocery store that carries an equal mix of organic and conventional foods, and a woman asked me if I knew where the “other” grapes were as I looked at the organic ones. She then proudly said, “I don’t buy organic.” I replied, “But those are covered with poison,” to which she responded, “I have to die of something.” In my head, I continued with, “But what about the bees? And the other critters who drink the water full of toxins?! And the people downstream? And Casar Chavez?”

A telepathic environmental activist is what I am. Because saying this stuff out loud could lead to harder drugs, such as  keying people’s Humvees or tossing Chinese throwing stars in their general direction as they serpentine across the parking lot.


Also deserving of one my STH cards is anyone who says, “I don’t follow politics.” This is especially true if their response is to a statement such as, “We really need to do something to change the impact of humans on the earth” or “I sure hope no one takes away Social Security because I don’t know how I’ll survive on pension plan of a snarky wordsmith.”

Do they feel that being aware of issues beyond what type of lip gloss Iggy Azalea uses or whether the latest superhero movie holds up to the comic book requires too much effort? As if to “follow politics” they might actually have to physically follow the issues around, hopping a cab here, a Greyhound bus there, never knowing whether they’ll end up in Vegas or Muleshoe, Texas.

For them, my STH cards would be a substitute for my standing on a cruelty free, vegan, free-range soap box and yelling, “You don’t have to follow anything (except the 4000 people you stalk on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest) to take an interest in the world at large. It’s a fascinating place out here. You should come take a look sometime. There are real goats and llamas too!”


Carly Fiorina, most of the female staff at Fox News, and any other woman who speaks out against equal pay for women, unfettered reproductive health care, or maternity leave should get an entire deck of cards. Come on, you’re packing a penis, right?

STH cards would help prevent me from hurling boxes of tampons at these women, yelling “Traitors!” and insisting they sit through the movie Beaches until their estrogen surged back to normal levels.


I clearly need to design these cards fast or take my chances of showing up in a real life Orange is the New Black situation.

Invading My Space


I’ll admit that I’m lousy at setting boundaries. Words come out of my mouth that in my mind make my desires or lack thereof clear, but what other people seem to hear is, “What you need to do is wheedle, and manipulate, and pressure me into changing my mind.”

And by other people, I mean mostly male people.

Wish-washy boundaries are why I ended up married to my last ex-husband, a man who proposed to me while he was in the bathtub! He could leave a ring around the tub, but I couldn’t draw a line in the sand. How sad is that?


My girlfriends all seem to understand that when I say something like , “I can’t be out after dark these days because my 16-year-old dog with Sundowner’s Syndrome gets freaked out and might have a seizure,” what I mean is “I don’t want to be out after dark because my dog is my family.”

Guys seem to hear, “I’d really like to come over and make you a sandwich, day or night.”

Case in point: I met a guy at a book signing event recently. We talked about writing and he asked me if I’d like to have coffee sometime. I assumed (wrongly, I now know) that he wanted to talk about writing with me, a writer–someone who could perhaps give him advice. I have these kinds of “meetings” all the time and am happy to share anything I know and learn new things. Hell, when you’re a writer, you’re always in search of new stories and stealing them from strangers is a great way to “do research.”

When this guy, let’s call him Kyle, sat down for our “meeting,” he immediately started talking about his ex-wife and then caught himself by saying, “Oh, I’m not supposed to talk about my ex, right?” Red flag, right? Still I managed to convince myself that he was just telling a funny story to break the ice and that soon we’d be chatting about how he’d like to write a screenplay about his ex and wondered whether I had any advice about doing that without a lawsuit or bonfire on the front lawn.

bad-dateBut no… He told me about his kids. Then asked if I had any. It was then I finally wised up. He. Thought. This. Was. A. Date.

I mentioned that I was working on a novel. Talked about writing jokes for the internet. Looked at my watch several times in a very obvious fashion. “Hey, Kyle, see, I’m looking at my watch. That’s a sign that I’m ready for this to be over.” I thought I was drawing a line. All he saw were flirtatious doodles.

Throughout our conversation, Kyle made it clear, he considered this to be the first of many “coffees and lunches.” I said I was really busy, that my schedule was unpredictable, that I could turn into a werewolf at any moment and should flee if he valued his life.

werewolf_woman___second_date_by_jrunsteen-d861rxsHe nodded and smiled and asked me why I hadn’t asked him any questions about his personal life. Because, Kyle, I’d rather have a Brazilian wax than give you any reason to think this might be a date.

I should mention, he was extremely loud. The woman at the table behind ours kept trying to move farther away. I wanted to get up and offer her my napkin to stuff in her ears.

Nothing phased him. Not my looking around the room at other customers and servers. Not my determining who owed what on the bill and paying my half as soon as the check came. Not my swift kick to the crotchal area. Okay, that last thing was just in my imagination.

I said goodbye to him at the door of the restaurant and he followed me to my car. I threw out eight or nine clear “I have to go” statements, to which he said we “had to get together again so I could help raise his consciousness.”

I’m sorry, is that my job now? I don’t know him from Adam and not only does he expect me to go out with him again, I have an assignment! Oh lucky me.

Fortunately, I have a friend who is good with setting boundaries — at least for other people. She helped me compose an e-mail and took out all the words that could possibly be misinterpreted. She said I should practice ways to say no for the next time this happens. I told her the last time someone asked me to coffee, I had practically screamed, “What do you want from me?” at him and was trying to be a little kinder.

But I’ve taken her advice and have been making a list of phrases I can use that might keep people from pushing past my boundaries:

o  I’d love to be caught in midnight fire at sea. (This is a Dorothy Parker quote, but might be too literate for many of the guys who come my way).

o  I ‘m sorry, but this vaginal dryness is really distracting. What did you say again?

o  Maybe later, but I’m performing a bris this afternoon. (I’d save this for the Jewish guys).

o  Republican leaders say the sexual orientation is a choice, so right now in this very moment, I’m choosing to be a lesbian.

o  My coven is going on a retreat for the next six months.

A 'coven of witches' line up for a Halloween portrait dressed in festive witch's hats and improvised costumes, ca.1910, United States. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

A ‘coven of witches’ line up for a Halloween portrait dressed in festive witch’s hats and improvised costumes, ca.1910, United States. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

o  I don’t date outside my species.

I’m hoping these help me out in the future. Feel free to use them if you need them.

What’s a Slut to Do?

I’m so tired of people yelling “slut” at women who use birth control and would like it to be covered by insurance. Men who carry around a 12-pack of condoms along with their fully covered little blue pills, on the other genital, get a wink and a nod for doing what guys do.


I like math and this is an equation that doesn’t add up: If X (women) don’t have sex in order not to be so slutty, and Y (men) have sex in order to be men, who are Y having sex with? We all know that the folks who consider women slutty also can’t visualize gay sex without their heads exploding, so how do we solve for Z? Is it socks? Apple pie? A rolled-up copy of the Wall Street Journal?


I’d also like to know if the quaaludes Bill Cosby used to rape women were covered by insurance. Really, this question has kept me up at night for a week.

I am the least slutty woman I know. I’ve had sex with three men in my life and all of them became my husbands. It’s my rule — if I sleep with someone, I have to pay for it not with pregnancy, but with marriage. Since my last divorce nearly 7 years ago, I’ve slept with a total of 0 people. That’s right, I’m much more abstinent that Bristol Palin! I’m thinking of renting out my uterus to Michelle Duggar in hopes that she might pop out a free-thinking child who doesn’t consider molesting his sisters a normal youthful indiscretion.


So, no, I’m not a slut, a whore, a tramp, a skank, or any of the other lovely words tossed loosely at girls and women who have sex, think about sex, can spell sex, or belong to some kind of sect. Yet for nearly 30 years, I relied on birth control of some sort, primarily the pill. I credit my ability to live the way I want to Margaret Sanger and a tilted uterus I refer to as “the goalie” because she never let anything into the net.

When I first started taking the pill, I was 17 and it was free at the university health center in… wait for it… Texas! All I had to do was bear with a good ol’ Texas gyno who told me, a virgin seeking to prevent pregnancy that I had “childbearing hips.” Fortunately I proved that my hips were meant for walking and that’s just what they did… without having a human child hoisted up on them.

But because I had sex, albeit it with a series of spouses, and relied occasionally on birth control I couldn’t afford (hey, I stole toilet paper from the library and ketchup packets from fast food chains throughout college), I guess I WAS a slut. Someone should tell that to my college debate team because when I refused to sleep with any of the guys, I was labeled “frigid” and a “narc.” Well, the latter was more because I also turned down offers of cocaine and LSD.

If the voices calling women “sluts” get any louder, why don’t we implement the solution those folks always offer up: Let’s just unscrew everyone. No birth control or abortion for us? Fine, no sex for you! Jerry Seinfeld had the Soup Nazi; we’ll become to the Sex Nazis. No sex for you, no sex for you, bread for you…


The good news is that studies have shown that women who don’t have sex become smarter while men become stupider. Here’s my plan: No sex with anyone until the presidential elections in November 2016 (you can do it; I’ve made it 7 years!). By then they guys will be too dumb to find their way to the polls and we’ll finally have the matriarchy we need.

When anyone asks where you came up with such a crazy idea, tell them a slut suggested it.

Free at Last!

My most recent ex-husband called me last Saturday. Oh yay…

We’ve been divorced for 6 years, 7 months, 1 hour and 3 minutes (not that I’m counting) and for four of those years, he called me at least once a week. Several times from my driveway.

Divorce Party Joke

So when he phoned last summer to tell me he was moving 150 miles away, I was happier than Dakota Johnson when they finally wrapped up filming on 50 Shades of Grey and she could go back to living a life without handcuffs and safe words. Not to mention eating solid food again.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my ex isn’t a crazy stalker. It was just the oxycodone, anger issues, and gun ownership that made him SEEM crazy and inability to recognize a boundary even if I drew it in red Magic Marker on his palm that made him SEEM like a stalker. So yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder — of the single life.


He called to tell me that he was going in for surgery on a blocked artery and that he had removed me as his emergency contact person. The latter represents amazing growth on his part. He’s finally acknowledging that I am not going to cross often-snowy mountains in my Toyota Camry to hold his hand while he has a splinter removed from his knuckles or a balloon inflated in his neck. I’m not being mean here. In our less than 5-year marriage, I went with him to more than 150 doctors’ appointments. He’s a gun-toting, angry, pain med-addicted guy with hypochondria and weird sexual peccadilloes (isn’t that a great word?) — is it any wonder I fell for him? (Literally, as on our first real date, he rolled his Jeep with me in it down a mountain). I clearly needed a project. Perhaps I should have taken up clog dancing instead.

I’m not sure how people stay friends with their exes, especially if at one point in their lives they worried that their ex might shoot them. “I’m sorry you’re having health problems, but the idea that a little exertion might kill you is kind of a relief.” That’s probably not an appropriate thing to say, but how would I know? Clearly my penchant for niceness has gotten me into situations a smarter woman would have avoided by simply walking away from the overturned vehicle in the mountains.

The good news is, I don’t have to show up when he’s sick. The bad news is that I’m still his power of attorney, so I have to be there when he dies. I guess I’m okay with that.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to get his new phone number tattooed on my forearm, so I never accidentally pick up the phone when he calls again.