Giggles and Grins

…because life is a riot.

May 6, 2015
by Cindy O Herman

Computer HELP

Why do we feel foolish when we can’t fix our computers? I certainly feel no guilt when my car acts up. I don’t even pretend to understand the internal combustion engine. I’m happy to let my mechanic figure it out. That’s how life works.

But when my computer nosedives into behaving badly, I feel responsible.

At least part of the blame lies in the HELP tab. I appreciate that the tech guys who created it were genuinely trying to be helpful, but they overestimated my grasp of their lingo. If my “Group Policy Client services” have failed, and I am told to check the “System Event log,” well, far from being helped, I am stumped.

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April 1, 2015
by Cindy O Herman

Not Right Now

Okay, Facebook, take me away. I know there are comments to like, videos to laugh at, statuses to respond to. Twitter? Where are you? Surely there’s a compelling tweet I must read now. And favorite. And share! Sharing tweets is so neighborly. And I am in the mood to be neighborly.

I have to write a blog post. I don’t feel like writing a blog post. I’d rather be chatting with friends, exchanging witty repartee on Facebook. Come to me, social media! I need the distraction!

As long as there have been writers, there have been, I assume, distractions. And the need to resist them. Was it Mark Twain who said something about writing being the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair?

Wait a minute.…

Ahh. According to, it was, in fact Mary Heaton Vorse who said, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” And yes, I looked it up. Just not in the mood to write right now.

Huh. I always thought it was Mark Twain. Who, then, was Mary Heaton Vorse?

Wait a minute….

Ahh. The link in GoodReads lists her as a “Libertarian socialist, labor advocate, suffragist, feminist.” She lived in New York from 1874 to 1966. Troubling times, sure enough. She certainly had enough to advocate for. And yes, I took a moment to tweet the link to her quote on Twitter. And to post it to Facebook.

You, too, might be looking for an interesting distraction from writing.

You’re welcome. ‎

February 17, 2015
by Cindy O Herman

What’s in that Cave?

I didn’t just read Nancy Drew mysteries; I was right there with her. Climbing the creaky steps to the dusty attic, shining a flashlight on faded tombstones in a midnight cemetery, daring to open the ancient wrought-iron gate to the old mansion…my heart stopped and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what was going to happen to me, er, her. Us. Us! Let’s be honest. If Nancy and her pals got caught by the bad guys, I was a goner, too. The best I could do would be to scream for my life.

Nancy Drew would agree: ANYTHING could be in that cave.

Nancy Drew would agree: ANYTHING could be in that cave.

So when my husband, Keith, and I walked the Rail Trail along Pine Creek in Pennsylvania, and I saw some rocky crevices that were almost true caves, well, all those old adventurous yearnings came flooding back.

What if bad guys came storming out of the cave demanding our money or our life! (I’d fight ’em off, of course. I didn’t read The Mystery of the 99 Steps for nothin’.) What if a big bear growled its way over to us, clawed paws flailing! (Wait. Is it curl into a ball and play dead for a bear, or for a cougar? Wait! Wait! I need a minute!) Why, anything could be hiding in those caves. Snakes! Bandits! Hannibal Lecter! (Ruuuun!)

I didn’t share my thoughts with Keith. Let Mr. Nature enjoy the sun-dappled trail and the scent of autumn leaves while he can. But as we passed, I positioned myself between him and the cave.

If anything came flying out of there, it would get to me first. Which is good because Keith is bigger, stronger, faster, and braver than I, so while I’m getting mauled, he’ll have a moment to come up with a quick defense.

I’ll handle the screaming.

November 17, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

I Want The Magazine Life…

Ahh. The shiny, uncluttered magazine life.

Ahh. The shiny, uncluttered magazine life.

No one wants to live in clutter. We want the magazine photos of graceful furniture, artfully placed, in a tidy room with some meaningful accessories and swept-back curtains. We picture sun shining through clear windows and happy people grabbing an apple from the bowl on the counter. And doggone it, we want those happy people and the eye-catching bowl of crunchy apples.

We do not want the mail, magazines, clothes, shoes, toys, phone chargers, and and backpacks cluttering tabletops and walkways. We do not want to be rushing upstairs to change clothes before heading off for evening commitments, passing by the stuff on the stairs that is supposed to be trucked up or down.

Technology has been a double-edged gift in the clutter department. I have never used a rug beater, never even seen one except for decorative takes on the originals. Vacuum cleaners, baby. Vroom, vroom, and the entire carpet stands at attention. Ringer washers? Homemade soap? Those old, heavy irons that the women heated on the old, time-consuming coal or wood stoves? Forget it. Forget it all. Laundry goes into a machine, laundry comes out of a machine. Permanent press items are hanger-ready.

Fast food, prepackaged salads, one-minute rice, microwave mac and cheese…our work and prep time have been decimated. We should have hours and hours of free time. Wasn’t that the promise? Our lives would roll smoothly along with technology handling the tedious tasks, leaving us free, free, free!

Yet we’re busier than ever, and our homes are cluttered with the detritus of our time-squeezed lives.

The life I live...

The life I live…

I know what needs to be done. It’s time to unload. Declutter the house by emptying it of all but useful or loved items. Toss the rest to rescue and recycling centers. I know that’s what’s needed. I keep saying that’s what I’ll do.

And I will. I will!

Just gonna take me a little while to free up some time to get started, but I will. And then, watch out, world! My home will be so uncluttered, you’d swear it was uninhabited!

October 27, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

Blog Hop!

Edna Cravitz, friend and fellow writer, invited me to participate in a fiction writers’ blog hop. She sent a lively little list of questions to answer about the book I’m writing, an Amish romance that’s awaiting both a title and an ending…hey, one step at a time!

Here goes:

What is the name of your character?
– Saloma Herschberger. Can you tell that she’s probably not Irish? Or a rock star?

When and where is the story set?
– An Amish community in the present time.

What should we know about her?
– Saloma Herschberger loves her Amish faith and her Amish family and her Amish way of life and…Jake Yoder, who used to be Amish until his father left the community, taking 15-year-old Jake with him and letting Jake enjoy the marvels and freedom of being “English.” Can you feel her pain?

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
– Jake has the power to either mess up or light up her life. After seven years he has returned to the Amish community. Saloma’s happiness hinges on his big decision: to be or not to be Amish.

What is the personal goal of the character?
– Saloma wants to marry Jake, but only if he foregoes his English lifestyle — the trusty black pick-up truck, the murderous video games, the pretty girls dressed in hip-hugging jeans and flouncy sleeveless shirts.

Is there a working title for this novel?
– Ugh. You’re killing me. You found my Achilles tendon. I’m terrible at titles. That will be the epitaph on my grave, “She was terrible at titles.” But I’ll come up with one for Saloma and Jake, I promise.

When can we expect the book to be published?
– I’ll let you know….

Thanks for the invite, Edna! Watch for Edna Cravitz’s upcoming book about 14-year-old Margaret Mary McRooney, a Lithuanian-American growing up with family and boy troubles in the 1960s coal regions of Pennsylvania. Check out Edna’s Blog Hop and blog site at:

October 8, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

Doubters Among Us

Sly as a Fox

Do you see the fox? I did. Ever so briefly last year, right there between the corn rows. But I had no witnesses and so, no believers…

Look closely in the corn patch in our backyard and you will not see a fox. But I did. Right there in the space between the two rows where I occasionally toss food scraps. Right there on the evening after I’d thrown away some old sausage. Right there, crouched over the sausage links looking up at me, not moving, not blinking, when I stopped dead in my tracks, laundry basket in hand, just a few steps from the clothesline.

Is that a fox, I thought, even as I swiftly debated between feigning a run at him (No, Cindy, what if he charges?) or turning tale and racing back to the house. (No, you idiot, what if it makes him charge? You’ll never outrun him.)

With everything to lose (I’m talking about my life), I chose my only safe option. I backed up, slowly, eyes locked on the beast, until I reached the patio, yanked on the kitchen door, slammed myself safely inside…and breathed.

Whew! Well, that was quite an adventure. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband about it. A fox! We’d seen deer and turkeys and turtles in out backyard over the years. But a fox. Wow! This was something.

When dear Keith came home that night I sprang right into my tale expecting to be met with awe and wonder. Instead I got skepticism.

“Are you sure it was a fox?” Keith asked. “It was probably a cat. Are you sure it wasn’t just a cat, Cin?”

“Was it red or gray?” my son asked.

And you know, for the life of me, I couldn’t say for sure. I’m thinking gray. It seems like I’d have noticed red. But I can’t say. I can tell you about his hungry, squinting black eyes. I can tell you how he looked fearlessly and, dare I say it, arrogantly at me. Almost daringly: Cross that line. But with the evening light creating shadows in the corn rows, no, I couldn’t say what color the stupid thing was.

I saw my fox one other time since then. He–Surely he’s a he. A she wouldn’t have looked so ferocious–He turned quickly and ran deep into the corn rows. No one else was with me. Again.

That was last summer. All this year I watched for Mr. Fox, but alas he has, um, outfoxed me. Well, I don’t mean to sterotype but they don’t say “sly as a fox” for nothing. Anyhow, despite my watchfulness, no fox has appeared in the corn patch. No validation of last year’s siting. No respect from the doubters among us.

It’s just the kind of thing a foxy creature would do.

September 24, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

Tudge all the way!

Tudgeman Herman

Better than a mother’s love…a cat’s cutenesss.

Is there anything better than a pet? Take my cat. No, no, don’t take him. Don’t you dare! Just an expression.

My cat, Tudgeman, is a member of the family. Tudgie sleeps where he wants, eats whenever he convinces me he needs something, and, uh, sleeps where he wants.

And WHEN he wants. Tudge sleeps when and where and as often as he wants, and that’s pretty much it, eat and sleep. And yet, he has entwined himself in our hearts.

When the kids are down, who cheers them up? Not Mom, with her zany jokes and chin-up reminders. No, it’s Tudge all the way. And all he has to do is walk in the room. “C’mere, Tudge,” my kids will say, gathering his hefty weight into their arms as the sun rises in their souls once again.

So when my daughter was sick this week, in college, miles and miles away, I sent her all sorts of encouraging words. I fretted. I considered a surprise visit. And then I texted her a picture of Tudgeman. With a little quip. And she responded, “Made. My. Day.”

He’s just a cat. A sleeper and an eater. He can’t even make chicken soup or read a thermometer, yet he’s the man, isn’t he? He’s the one who makes the kids smile on their darkest days, and for that, he has earned my undying love.

Yes, you can have another handful of Kitty Chow, you great, big lug of a lion. You’re my man!

July 9, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

Going Genius, like it or not!

You might have read a Craig Sailor article from The News Tribune about Jason Padgett, the happy-go-lucky man who was beaten in an Alaskan bar and ended up with a concussion that somehow rewired his brain.

Yeah, he went from being a college dropout to a mathematical genius with synesthesia. It’s a neurological condition that allows people to perceive with more than one sense. For Padgett, circular objects are surrounded by straight lines. Raindrops on a puddle become geometric shapes.

It scared him silly. Well, you can just imagine, suddenly seeing the world like it’s a diagram from a geometry book. It would startle anyone. Eventually researchers found that the left side of his brain comes alive when he does mathematical formulas—probably overcompensating for the damage on the right.

If you’re like me, you probably see exactly where this is leading: we’re going to lose our vacation time.

Oh, it’s as plain as the straight lines around a grain of sun-warmed beach sand. Researchers won’t let this go. Soon they’ll learn how to tweak everyone’s brain. Savant status for all! Sounds great until you read the fine print.

I can imagine choosing from different brain-altering packages, much like the packages for kids’ school pictures. I felt guilty settling for an 8×10 and 12 wallets of my kids rather than the retouched 16×20 and four 5×7’s, and I’m going to feel guilty settling for Package D of the genius surgery, too, because people will KNOW.

Presumably, Package D will enable me to mentally calculate what I owe my sisters on a Father’s Day gift that was 33 percent off and a Mother’s Day gift that was “buy two-get one free,” but how, really, does that benefit society?

Whereas if I spring for Package A, it’ll do things to my brain that will have me analyzing cloud patterns well enough to predict rain and snowfall times down to the minute, ensuring that no one ever again will have their backyard BBQ drenched by rain or a Snowflake Festival ruined by a snowstorm that unexpectedly dwindled to a dusting.

Yup, the only way out of it is to give up my vacation fund and pony up for Package A. It’ll be nice being a savant and all, I guess, but deep down I know I’ll be wishing I was soaring through the air on that cool Dumbo ride at Disney.

June 25, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

The Secret Is Out

Bras are not the secret they used to be.

Remember when it was a kindness to discreetly tell someone her strap was showing? My sisters and friends would give me “the look” accompanied with a casual tug on their shirt collar. Then three things would happen: My hand would fly to my bra strap and I deftly shrugged my shirt around to cover the exposed lingerie. My cheeks burned red. And I’d return the look with one of silent gratitude.

And THEN I’d glance at whoever else happened to be in the room to make sure they hadn’t seen anything. Chances are, they had, but like ignoring a dab of mayonnaise in the corner of someone’s mouth when dining, any eye witnesses would mercifully play dumb.

Slips, too. Do you know how much time women have wasted swishing this way and that in front of a full-length mirror to make sure their slip didn’t show? And don’t think you could just hike it up around your thighs and step out worry-free. No, no. Slips had to fall to just shy of the length of the skirt or dress. You want the sun to shine through there and reveal a slip halfway up your legs? Come on.

The idea was to make it look like you had no need for undergarments at all. Victoria’s—and Deb’s and Kim’s and Laurie’s—secret was just that, a secret women helped each other keep.

We were cool in the 60s and 70s, so we said things like “Make love, not war.” We might have burned our bras, but we never let them show beneath our collars.

Today, the bra is part of the look. Shopping with my college-aged daughter I saw a cute white tank top paired with a royal blue, lacey bra. You couldn’t possibly conceal that bra beneath that tank. They were made to be seen, shirt and undergarment alike. “Nobody puts baby in the corner.”

One could argue that a bra is no different from a bikini top, which is made for public wear. Why should the bra be a secret?

You would think a kid from the 70s would be cool with that logic. But listen, girlfriends, if you see my straps peeking out and you give me the look, I’ll take it as a kindness. It’ll be our little secret.

May 28, 2014
by Cindy O Herman

They’re phones, just phones

Was it a big deal when electronics departments first appeared in major stores? And what, pray tell, did they sell? TVs? Cameras? Transistor radios?

I can’t imagine life without electronics, which is frightening because I really don’t understand electricity. I don’t even get the difference between electric and electronic, though I suspect the tronic part is pricier and snootier.

Electrons, proton, ions…without understanding them I cater to their needs, charging and updating cameras, laptops, and cell phones.

In fact, I’ve upgraded to a smartphone, although my brother-in-law says calling it that is akin to saying “color TV.” That’s how prevalent smartphones are today.

I shouldn’t complain about my (smart) phone. It’s introduced me to constant internet access and an array of apps that I have yet to explore. But it’s also introduced me to the concept of SIM, as in a SIM card, which is a tiny plastic card with an even tinier micro-chip—it’s an electronics thing—that we smartphone users slide into our phones because that’s what the instructions tell us to do.

However, and here’s the snooty part, the instructions absolutely fail to appear when, in saving a contact to one’s phone, one is confronted with a screen asking to store in either USIM-only (unsynced) or Phone-only (unsynced).

That’s it. No explanations—smartphones needn’t trouble themselves with the trivial details of why there is now a U before the SIM, or the benefits of USIM versus Phone. “You should know this,” the smartphone says with a shrug. “Not my problem.”

My owner’s manual is no help—nary a mention of USIM and Phone-only. The electronic powers inside my phone wait with quiet smugness, refusing to budge until I make my uneducated choice: USIM, merely because it was the first option.

Now the electrons and ions swirl into action, storing my contacts like obedient soldiers, expecting me to overlook their recent insurrection. Which I do, but what choice do I have? The electronic scamps are in charge, and they know it.

To be truthful, I never understood transistor radios, either, but I could control them with simple knobs and a metal antenna. Smartphones, on the other hand, with their SIMs and their unmoving screens, baffle me. But I think my brother-in-law is right: we should simply call them “phones.” Stressing the “smart” part only increases their opinion of themselves.