Mercury in Retro Love

Available now in kindle for only $2.99! A fun summer read about crushes, conflicts and astrological confusions.

Read all about Emma, a typical teen, just trying to make sense of her world- Click Here.

 

Stay save and have a wonderful 4th of July!!

Janie

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Aging Icons

It’s one thing to look at your face in the mirror and see wrinkles, age spots and white hair. It’s quite another to see your favorite musician staring at you from a screen resembling an old man or woman

It’s unbelievable to me that Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, and Joni Mitchell, to name just a few, are in their seventies.

YES! For the rest of the story, click here.

And have a great Sunday!

xox

Janie

 

 

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Then: The Three Rs Now: The Three Ws

reading-writing-arithmetic-9944699

THEN: THE THREE Rs

Walking Wine Writing

NOW: THE THREE Ws

When I was  young,  education focused on the three R’s:  Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic.   When you think about it, only one of these words, actually starts with an R. But nevertheless, we all knew that these three subjects were important to our well-being and to getting good grades.

Now, many decades later, having mastered the three R’s, plus the rest of the alphabet, my days are consumed with the three W’s:  Working, Walking & Wine.  And please take note, that all three of these words do begin with a W.

Let’s start with Writing – I was eager to grow up, graduate and get out in the real world. And get to my passion: writing.  Once I did, things moved along smoothly enough, until I realized that expressions like “summer vacation” and “winter break” no longer applied to my life.  That was, until I started having children and then those chunks of time didn’t mean rest and relaxation.  But more like panic and frustration.

Walking – As an adult, I now have to make time to exercise.  When I was younger, I never thought of making a special time to workout.  I was always running, jumping, bike riding, playing.  Walking was something I did to get from class to class, from place to place.  I was continually burning calories and never thinking about getting old.  Never thinking about blocking out a special time to walk.  Unlike today, when Working forces me to sit in one place.  Thus, the necessity of making time to walk.

And that brings me to the last W.  Wine.  My favorite.   After a hard day of Writing and Walking, what better way to relax than with a cocktail?  I often have a martini, but that didn’t fit with the W’s theme and unlike that person who created the three R’s, I wanted to be true to my saying.

So what follows the three W’s?

I’m thinking that the next phase of my life will be the three D’s:  Drool, Diarrhea and Dementia.   Not!

No, I’m going to spend my retirement (if it ever gets here) living the three L’s:  Life, Love & Laughter.

How about you?

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Eight Hours

 

8 hours

Eight hours – A flight to Europe.  A work day.  A road trip. A lifetime.

I experienced many things in 8 hours, but nothing ever like this.

What does 8 hours mean to you?

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A Viral Proposal Will Not Stop a Virus from Infecting Your Marriage

Hawaii young me and rick

 

My proposal was anything but romantic, but 37 years later, we’re still going strong.  Read about it now in The Washington Post.

 

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What I Learned Working In Porn

 

CCC logo

 

One of my all time favorite posts is being featured on Huffington Post this morning. You never know where you’re going to learn about yourself.

Happy Sunday,

Janie

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The Curse of the Creeping Cabinet

“The Curse of the Creeping Cabinet”

by Tina Ferraro

Tina's Xmas Tree

It’s hard to scream or to run for your life when you’re frozen stiff as a board. Even when the reason you’re frozen is blood-curdling panic.

There I was, Ella Sanderson, still as a statue beside our twinkling tree that Christmas Eve. My eyes were wide, my hands in front of my gaping mouth—and my heart was beating so loudly I could almost hear it. The only light in the room came from strings of colored bulbs on our tree, casting just enough blues and reds and greens to throw bony finger-like shadows on the carpet, make the dangling tinsel look like squiggly worms, and give me a good view of the wooden cabinet against the wall.

The cabinet that Mom got a few months ago from Grandma. After Grandma died.

The cabinet that wasn’t behaving like a regular old piece furniture now, but rocking back and forth.

Gah!

Tina's China Cabinet

I didn’t have to be top of my sixth grade class to know wood came from trees. Dead trees. And that dead stuff couldn’t make noises. Not by itself, anyway. So that meant either the wooden cabinet—or something inside—was, well, not dead.

I tried to unfreeze one leg. Nothing. I tried the other.

That’s when I heard the sound. A deep growl rumbling from the cabinet. Like a big old stomach that had been empty too long.

Was it…hungry? Looking to feed? And holy moly, what did dead wood eat, anyway?

Wait—I probably didn’t want to know that answer.

#

My parents and I had tried hard this December to act as if everything was normal. But how could it be, with Grandma gone? No more meeting her flight at the airport, baking up thumb-jam cookies, or laughing together while watching “Home Alone.” Still, Mom, Dad and I  had shopped, listened to Christmas carols, decorated the house—same old, same old.

Except it wasn’t.

Sitting around the tree that Christmas Eve, after our usual baked ham dinner, we followed the tradition of each opening one present (saving the rest for morning). But even though the cell phone cover I’d unwrapped was sparkly and cool, I’d had trouble finding my smile.

Mom must have known why. Probably because she had the same hurt in her heart.

“Let’s tell Grandma’s Christmas Eve story, Ella,” she said, her smile shaky. “Like she would if she were here.”

She passed me the black-and-white photograph from the coffee table of little-girl-Grandma on a snowy day, proudly holding a doll with a straw hat. Grandma had had blonde wavy hair just like mine, only while hers was nearly up in a ribbon in this picture, I always let mine fall anywhere it wanted. That’s why her nickname for me had been Goldilocks.

“Grandma’s family didn’t have a lot of money or electricity,” I started. “So they cut down a tree, and used candles to light it up. Plus, they only got one present. That year, when she was eight or nine, she’d was hoping for a doll she’d seen on Main Street. A pretty one, with blue eyes and a straw hat.”

Mom nodded. “That Christmas Eve, the whole family came to their house. Including Uncle Arne and his daughter, Dot.”

When I was small, I’d laugh about the girl’s name. Dot. Like Polka Dot. Dot.com. Connect the Dots. But Grandma used to speak it very seriously, and soon I understood why. There was nothing fun or funny about Dot. The year of this story, Dot had secretly taken Grandma’s present from under the tree and hidden it, so Grandma would think she didn’t get anything.

“They were serving spiked egg nog to the grown-ups, and Uncle Arne got drunk,” Dad spoke up from his center seat on the couch.

“He fell into the tree. The candles set the place on fire,” I said and drew a quick breath, imagining a room on fire. “Everybody tried to put it out, and in the end, they did. But the tree and all the presents were ruined. Everyone was crying, even Uncle Arne.

“Dot wanted to make her father feel better, to show not everything was lost, and went right over to this cabinet,” I went on as I crawled across the rug and opened the cabinet’s door. Inside was a couple of platters we used for cheese and cookies when we had visitors. “She pulled out Grandma’s present, which she said she had put in there to be funny.” I made a face. “But haha on Dot. Grandma got her doll, and Dot got nothing.”

“Grandma always loved that doll,” Mom added. “But she lost it somehow years later. That’s why the photograph and the cabinet were always so important to her.”

“And ever since that night,” I finished up, “Grandma slept in the living room on Christmas Eve.”

“Protecting the tree,” Mom said.

I nodded. “And the presents!”

Dad’s brow wrinkled. “From another fire?”

Mom shook her head. “Yes, at first. But after they got electricity, it was more like a tradition. Like how we make Swedish pancakes after church on Christmas morning.” She flicked her head toward the wall clock, showing almost eleven. “And make sure we’re all asleep well before midnight.”

“Hint, hint,” Dad said, flicking his thumb towards the stairs.

Soon enough I was in bed, in my favorite nightshirt and fuzzy sleepsocks. Digging down inside my covers, I told myself I was warm and cozy, and even a little happy. After all, it was almost Christmas. But my good thoughts didn’t keep the backs of my eyeballs from feeling stingy and swollen with the realization we’d just spent our first Christmas Eve without Grandma. She was never coming back. And now there was no one to protect the tree.

Eventually, my feet returned to the hardwood floor. I reasoned I could sleep just as well on the living room couch as in my bed. Tonight, maybe even better. I grabbed my comforter and pulled it around my shoulders, like a long, flowing superhero cape.

Then I tiptoed back down the stairs. I didn’t want to wake my parents. Not that I thought they’d stop me, but I didn’t want to talk about my feelings right now anymore than I wanted to have them.

It was on the bottom stair that I inhaled something, a scent that had no business in our house. We didn’t have a fireplace, and Mom and Dad gave up cigarettes long ago.

After a big, brave breath, I lunged into the living room.

Because while the air around retained a remote smell of smoke, there wasn’t a flame or even spark to be seen. No fire at all.

Then, from across the room came a low, long rumble. My head swerving to the sound, my gaze fixed on the cabinet. It was moving. The cabinet was moving.

I froze dead in my tracks.

#

Time lost all meaning. I wasn’t sure if I’d been glued to my position in front of the tree for thirty seconds, thirty minutes, or if a whole year had passed and it was next Christmas.

What I did know was that the cabinet had gone still. Stopped lurching and rumbling. Even the aroma of smoke had left the air.

I felt…safe…somehow, and while my legs wanted to make a fast run back up the stairs, my brain won out, grasping for logic as I collapsed down on the couch.

What the heck was that? The ghost of drunk old Uncle Arne? Or mean Dot? Coming back to burn the house down now that Grandma wasn’t here on watch?

Or did the cabinet rock-and-roll like this every year? Was it some sort of tension release, some time-travel thing where all the cabinet’s Christmases repeated in fast motion? Had Grandma sat here every year to watch it creep?

No, that didn’t make much sense. But then, none of this did.

Yawning, I thought I might just sit there for another few minutes, in the hopes the answer came to me…

“Ella,” spoke the all-too-familiar voice. “Can you hear me?”

I nodded, or at least, I thought I did. Problem was, I couldn’t seem to get my eyes to open, let alone get other parts of my body like my neck to work. It was like I was frozen all over again. But in a softer, dreamier way.

“Look in the cabinet, Goldilocks.”

Look in the cabinet? I thought, my lashes fluttering back. Look in the—

I refocused inside the dimly lit room. Okay, so I’d fallen asleep. And since Grandma had been so much on my mind, no surprise she’d appeared in my dream.

But her voice had sounded so real.

Still, I should probably go back to bed. And if Mom and Dad never knew I’d been down here, maybe I could make myself believe none of this happened, too.

Good plan.

I found my feet, crossed towards the doorway.

Then I paused. Might as well peek inside the cabinet. I put my hand on the metal handle, which felt surprisingly warm, like the radiator cover in my bedroom.

Pulling the door back, I bent down on one knee. I leaned in, and yep, there were the serving platters.

Resting below the doll with the straw hat. The doll that had been missing for like fifty years!

Tina's Doll

Feeling like I’d been hit with water from a fire hose, I poked a gentle finger at the doll’s satiny dress. Nothing happened. I poked harder, then harder. When it continued to act like, well, the lifeless doll it was, I brought the doll out into the tree streaming colored lights.

I stared down into its porcelain face, the empty blue eyes.

I didn’t play with dolls anymore, but felt certain this wasn’t a present to me from Mom and Dad. Or anyone of this world.

It was from Grandma. Floating around above us, she’d managed to locate her doll. And on this special night, she was handing it down to me. To let me know she was all right. That we’d be all right without her.

And perhaps for me to protect it, the way she had always protected the tree.

Who knew?

All I did know, as I pulled the doll close, was that my sadness was gone. And in its place? That oh-so-familiar tingle that only comes from it being the night before Christmas.

Tina Ferraro is a two-time RITA finalist, and author of several novels and short stories for young readers. Just in time for the holidays, her latest release, HALF-LIFE is available in audio, paperback and e-book. Find out more about Tina and her books at her website and on Facebook.

Tina and I hope you enjoyed our holiday stories and wish everyone a very merry holiday season!

xo
Janie


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Buried in the Barn

Barn. Best One

(photos by the phenomenal Betty Bishop)

A wind whistled across the barn and blew right through my bones. This was the coldest winter in forever. Even too cold to snow.

I stood at the bottom of the ladder and looked back at my little sister. She had one foot inside the barn, the other outside, ready to take off.

“Come on, Rosie. Don’t be such a wuss,” I yelled. “Besides, he’s not even up there.” I stretched my neck back as far as it would go and looked up to the top of the rafters. No owl in sight.

“You are the most annoying brother,” she said, taking a tiny step forward.

I don’t know why I even try. My sister is afraid of everything that moves. Which means she’s afraid of just about everything except the walls and furniture. And sometimes even those because our dining room table wobbles, seeing as how one leg is too short.

“Dad said to stay away from the nest,” she said, as I started up the ladder. “Besides, it’s the first night of Hanukah and she could be here. Please, come back down.”

“There’s no such thing as a ghost,” I said.

“Kids, it’s getting dark.” Mom’s voice drifted across the meadow. “Jake. Rosie. Get back here, right now.”

“Let’s go,” Rosie jiggled the ladder.

She didn’t wait for my answer. From my spot, I saw her running through the meadow toward our house. As she reached our back porch, the blue and white twinkly lights came on framing our fence, our roof and almost all the windows.

Almost, because on my window half the lights didn’t work. But what did I expect? It’s always about cute little Rosie who does everything right and my big brother,  Ethan, who is so smart, my parents are sure he’ll be president someday. What’s the chance of that ever happening?

A blast of icy air hit me in the face. I climbed up a few steps, slowly, feeling the way with the toes of my boots. One more and, yes, there was the nest. It was made from twigs and colored yarn and…was that doll hair? Eww.  From my sister’s creepy doll with the missing eyes.

I couldn’t see inside the nest from where I stood but my hand reached the edge. I felt something cold and pointy. My fingers wrapped around it.

Betty's owl

Eeeeeeeeeeee.  The owl’s raspy scream cut into my ears and right through my brain. The air swept around me like I was in the middle of a million fans. I tucked my chin into my neck, clutched the ladder with my free hand and slid to the ground. I squeezed my eyes so tight, the veins in my neck hurt.

As I hit the dirt, the owl dive bombed at my back. I buried my face in the ground with my arms over my head. My heart sped as fast as a race car. Everything in my life spun around me. Mom. Dad. Rosie.  Ethan. Mindcraft. Hockey. Skiing. Hot chocolate. Grandma. Bye bye world.

But the world didn’t end. Instead, for one split second the owl’s humongous wings flapped above me and I saw my chance. I dragged myself up and ran for the door.

Our house seemed a million miles away. I clutched the  pointy object and bolted as fast as lightning.

Old Man Spike, who used to live in our house, stood near our back porch. His torn winter coat glowed in the light cast from our house. For a one split second, he even shimmered. I didn’t have time to talk with him. I barely nodded as I hopped up the steps. I flung open the door and leaned on the kitchen counter, panting in front of my whole family.

“Where have you been?” Mom asked.

Didn’t she notice my arms and legs shaking like crazy? Didn’t anyone notice?

“What’s that in your hand?” Dad asked, as he sliced the turkey.

I opened my palm. “I don’t know,” I said, staring at an old, dirty driedel.

I smeared the dirt off, revealing the four symbols: nun, gimel, hey and shin. But there was something else printed, “Spike and Olivia. May 2, 1950,” I mumbled.

“That’s her. The lady that died in the barn on Hanukah,” Rosie said, hugging herself like a baby.

“You mean, the one Spike murdered.”  Ethan tried to grab the driedel from my hand. “Let me see it.”

“He didn’t kill her,” I said, holding the ornament against my chest. “He couldn’t kill anyone. Did he, Dad?”

“Well, her body was never found,” Dad said. “When they searched the barn, all they discovered was lot of old junk from Spike’s toy store.”

I held the driedel in the air. “What do you think, Mom?”

“I think you should get that dirty old thing out of here.” She scowled at me as she carried plates to the table.

“I’m going to put it on the mantle next to the menorah,” I said, leaving the kitchen.

Menorah

“No, you are not!” Mom waved a fork in my direction. “Just throw it away.”

Mom’s evil eye burned into my back as I walked toward the living room. Instead of going to the fireplace, I opened the front door and sat down on the porch with the driedel on my knees.

It was the type where the top came off, and gelt would be stuffed inside. I picked it up by the spinner, trying to open it.  I jigged and twisted, and finally it cracked a tiny bit, but still wouldn’t budge.  As I balanced it on the palm of my hand, a gob of dust rose out of the crack like a snake and traveled up my nose. I sneezed about ten times.

I batted at the dust, or whatever is was. Because now it looked like old, curling witch fingers. I moved to the driveway, but the fingery blob followed me. It followed me everywhere, wrapping me in webs that stuck to my skin.

And then I heard a voice. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Hurt me? My heart slammed against my chest.

I made a three sixty in the driveway. “Who’s there?” I shouted.

The wind answered with a long, low cry. The webs separated for a second. Whoosh! I was sucked into a tunnel.  Down. Down. I curled into a ball, hugging myself. Gasping for air.  And then everything stopped. Stillness. Silence. Nothingness.

I wasn’t any place I had ever been in my entire life.  I couldn’t see anything around me. There were no sounds. No smells. I was nowhere!

A light flashed. Out of nowhere a scene appeared, hanging in front of me like a hologram. It was Old Man Spike, but he was young with lots of curly hair, and he was holding hands with a girl. Olivia. It had to be her.

“Meet me at the barn, at midnight,” Young Spike said.

The world spun around again. This time when it stopped, I saw Olivia writing a note. “I love you,’ she said. “But I can’t be here at midnight. It’s our Hanukah dinner. Meet me at the bus tomorrow morning. If you’re not there, I’m leaving forever.”

She tacked the note on the shiny barn door. After glancing around and waving at the cows, she walked out into the meadow. A ginormous blast of wind shook the barn. The note fell to the ground, drifted into the corner and was buried under a pile of dirt.

Proof! Spike didn’t kill her. I had to tell someone. I ran forward, smacking into a dirty window. I turned around and bonked my head into another window. My forehead throbbed. Was there no way out of this place? A tiny stream of light beamed down from above my head.  I tried climbing up, but I kept slipping.

“Jake! Where are you?” Rosie called.

“Here,” I yelled. But nothing came out of my mouth.

I screamed, silently pounding on my prison walls.  As I stared, a Hebrew letter came into focus. A nun. Do nothing.  And then a big eye stared at me. Rosie’s eye.  Fricken Chicken! I was inside the driedel.  No way was this possible. But it was.  Because next I stared into Rosie’s ear, all waxy and ugly. And up her boogery nose.

“Mom, I can’t find him,” Rosie said. “All I see is this old driedel he found.”

And then I was spinning around again.

“Help me!” I pounded on the smeared glass. “I’m in here. Rosie. Stop spinning me and get the top off.”

This time when I stopped, I saw the Gimel through the dirty window. Player takes all.

Gimel

I rose up. “Do something,” I screamed. I waved my arms in the air and stomped my feet.

“Oh no,” Rosie cried, as the ground dropped from under me. “I broke it.”

The dreidel shattered. My insides were totally whacked out.  But I was back on the driveway. Back to normal size.

“OMG! Jake.” Rosie bit on her fingertips. “Where did you come from?”

“I don’t know what happened,” I said. And I didn’t have time to think about it. “We have to go the barn. Now! I know Spike didn’t kill anyone. And I need your help.”

“I…Mom…we…”

“Please, you can sleep in my room tonight if you want,” I said.

I grabbed Rosie by the hand and dragged across our backyard and through the meadow. As we reached the barn door, the owl swooped us and into the night.

“Gaaah,” I cried as his wings skimmed the top of my head.

“I thought you weren’t afraid,” Rosie said.

“I’m not,” I lied. “Stay right here. Watch for him to come back.”

Moonlight slithered through the open slats in the barn.  Long, skinny shadows bounced around on the ground, like dancing ghosts. I kept looking back at Rosie, making sure she hadn’t deserted me.

Down on my hands and knees, I crawled into the corner where I saw the note had fallen. The barn rattled all around me. Something long hung over my head.  Whatever it was, it scratched and moved slowly down the wall. I couldn’t look up. But I had to. Toes dangled above me.  A body?

My breathing was jagged and painful.  But I kept digging, tossing dirt and leaves out of my way. The wind howled through the barn. The scraping grew louder.

“Watch out,” Rosie shouted.

Thud! A netted bag landed at my feet. Heads and arms poked through the openings.  I gasped.  Dolls. Just  frickin’ chicken dolls. My heart pulsed and pounded.

I went back to searching through the dirt. Finally, my hands touched an old piece of crumpled paper.

“Let’s go.” I grabbed Rosie’s hand and took off running.

“Hey, Spike,” I yelled, seeing him walking by our fence. I waved the note in my hand. But he didn’t hear me. He grew fainter, although he didn’t seem to be moving.

I wanted to run after him, but I didn’t want to let go of Rosie’s hand.

I barged through the back door. “Mom. Dad.” I shoved the note in their faces. “Old Man Spike didn’t kill anyone. Olivia left town. Read this. They loved each other.”

“Oh, be still my heart,”  Ethan clasped his hands over his chest.

But for once, my parents took me seriously. With Dad looking over Mom’s shoulder, they studied the letter.

“I’m right, aren’t I? We have to tell Spike. Can we invite him in for dinner?”

“Oh, Honey,” Mom put her arm around me. “Spike died last week. In his sleep.”

“But I…I just..” I thought about how he shimmered and looked so thin and see -through. Like a ghost.

A lump the size of a soccer ball, bounced in my throat. “We need to let the police know. And everyone in town.”

“We will,” Dad said.

“But poor Old Man Spike.” I stared out our kitchen. Snowflakes started falling onto the meadow.

“He’s okay,” Rosie said. “Ghosts know everything.”

 

cloudy barn

Happy Hanukah to all who celebrate. Watch for Tina Ferraro’s Christmas story, coming soon!

 

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Funny New Parenting Book!

Science of Parenthood cartoon

Two of my friends, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler have created one of the funniest, most intelligent books on parenting:   Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations.

This book is quirky, clever, smart, funny and will make a perfect Hanukkah gift.  In fact, why not buy eight copies, one for each night to give to out to all the parents in your life.

Buy your copy today on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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It’s All About the Turkey

Just a turkey

Tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in November which means it’s Thanksgiving here in the United States. A holiday which took on it’s modern day form in 1863 due to a woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies’ Magazinehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Josepha_Hale

Thanksgiving is a day spent with family and friends, watching football and feasting on an abundance of food.

Yes. It’s all about the food. Amongst a setting of cornucopias, flowers, and fruit bowls, there sits the usual suspects. Green bean casseroles (which I must add, I do love), cranberry sauces, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies and plumped up in center stage: The Turkey.

For the past few weeks, the Food Network and Cooking Channel have bombarded us with programs on how to cook this star of the day. (If we spent this much time on how to bring about world peace, we may have a more unified world.)

According to these TV chefs, there are more ways to prepare a turkey than there are sex positions in the Kama Sutra. Some of the most popular are: Baked. Deep fried. Smoked. Grilled. Rubbed with spices. Injected with wine.  Bagged in beer.  Soaked in Brine.

And then there is that is the age-old question. To baste or not to baste?

Looking at the turkey

In our family, my mother swears that basting is the only way to go if you want a moist turkey. My husband on the other hand favors soaking his turkey in brine for twenty-four hours. And take my cousin.  She’s currently deciding on whether or not to use the turkey baster in order to get pregnant.

And once we know how to cook the turkey, the master chefs are hell-bent on advising us what to do with our leftovers. All this before we’ve even eaten the special meal.

You can whip up turkey tacos, turkey soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey pancakes, cupcakes, smoothies, eggroll, dumplings. There is no end to the diversification of this grand bird. Even vegetarians get into the act with their variation: Tofurky.

I wouldn’t be surprised if turkey-flavored edible undies will soon be on the shelves. Or hot turkey oil for those “happy ending” massages.

With all this focus on the turkey, I often think that we’ve forgotten what we are celebrating.  You know the story about the Pilgrims arriving in America ill prepared for the winter? How they had a traditional British feast with the Indians who helped them survive? Imagine that? Dining with the Indians. But that’s a story for another day.

So, tomorrow we will eat, drink and eat some more. Eat ourselves into a stupor.

I’ll be thankful if I wake up on Friday without having massacred my digestive system. Or added to that turkey wattle on my neck that I’m trying so hard to pretend doesn’t exist.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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