Category Archives: Random thoughts

Family Board Games: A Holiday Hazard?

In case you’re thinking about board games to keep your extended family engaged,  this holiday season, let me share what can go wrong.

 

Christmas Monopoly

From morning routines to family customs, our lives are filled with rituals. I figured there was no time like the holidays to incorporate a new one into my repertoire. But trouble arrived when one of my four children suggested we add a Monopoly game to our holiday boredom prevention program.

My oldest son Ron and his wife Julie had driven into town to stay with us for a few days. Their visits, which typically last just about long enough to digest a meal, are always welcomed. However, this time they’d brought along with them the dog they endearingly called my “grandpuppy,” a wiry-haired, hyperactive mixed breed with a vision problem. To this dog, everything must look like a tennis ball—because nothing is deemed unworthy of a good chase. So as you might imagine, our two cats were nonplussed about this houseguest.  

After a food orgy that began at noon and continued well past the point of intestinal discomfort, I commenced pitching camp in front of the television. (I mean, let’s face it; there’s only so much eating you can do before every bathroom in the house is clogged.) It was time to yell, “Back away from the table, and put down your fork.”

But just as I lifted the TV remote controller, Ron blurted, “Don’t turn on the TV! Let’s all do something together. You know, like family bonding.”

First he says he’s staying for two days, and now he says, “Don’t turn on the television”? This can’t be my child.

“I know,” Ryan, my twelve-year-old, said. “Let’s play MONOPOLY!”

Ron’s face brightened. “Yeah. It’ll be our new family tradition,” he chimed.

Right then, I was glad I hadn’t followed through on selling that game in my last garage sale.

As we gathered around the family dining table with Parker Brothers, the dog and one cat joined us. Each gave the other a suspicious eye, though thus far they’d been fairly tolerant.

About twenty minutes into the game, Ron said, “Hey, Mom, I’ll give you these two blue ones for that railroad you’re holding.”

I didn’t really need what he’d offered me, but I said, “Sure,” anyway.

His eyes lit up as he snatched away my railroad card. “Suck-Er-Er-er-er!”

Okay.  This is my child.

I’d forgotten how long a game of Monopoly can last.

Ryan was the first to go bankrupt, so he moved into position to help me. Already, I’d given Ron his third of four railroads. What blunders were left?

If any family bonding was taking place, I hadn’t yet observed it. More like it was every man, woman, child, and dog for himself.

My arms vibrated from all the table shaking that Ron’s leg bouncing produced. His childhood tics had reemerged, the ones that had caused him to be sent home from school with report cards that said, “Refuses to sit still in class.” That was back in the days before Ritalin.

Next, it was my husband’s turn. He drew a Chance Card that condemned him to pay the last of his money to the remaining three players. “No-o-o!” he shouted, slamming his fist down onto the table.

The dog yelped. Then the cat, thinking she might be in jeopardy, attacked with a hiss and a few punches to the muzzle. Ryan fell out of his chair, laughing, and hurt his knee.

Julie, who was by now almost out of money, maintained a glum expression. So Ron looked lovingly into his wife’s eyes and asked, “Would you like me to give you five hundred dollars for that railroad, Hon—just to keep you in the game?”

She gazed back at him and smiled. “Would ya?”

“Of course. What are husbands for?” he gushed. Then he whisked the card from her hand and hollered, “All R-R-I-I-I-IGHT!”

 No one was surprised when eventually Ron won the game, and he was the only one who went to bed happy that night. My husband felt his position as “head-of-household” had been usurped. Julie had been deceived by her own spouse. The other children had been once again outdone by their older brother. And thanks to this entire ruckus, the dog and cat now had more trust issues than ever before.

That evening, I fell asleep and dreamed about traipsing cross-county to view exterior illumination like most normal families do.

This year, we’ll need to establish a new holiday ritual—because the most I got out of that Monopoly game was the two bucks it brought during last summer’s garage sale.

Excerpted from the book, Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road, by Diana Estill.

 

Available in paperback and Kindle format

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Last-minute Tax Deductions

Last-Minute Tax Deductions

Every year, I search for tax deductions to lower my bill to Uncle Sam. So far, the best way I’ve found to escape paying federal income tax is to remain unemployed.

But if you were smarter than me and you actually earned something last year, it’s time to get creative. Don’t worry about being audited. If your computers are like mine, they’ll crash sometime within the next 24 months—and then you can just tell the IRS that you’re unable to locate your records. They won’t care. But you can tell them this anyway.

I didn’t earn anything last year, after I accounted for all my valid deductions. By the time I subtracted for my costs of paper, printing supplies, and decent-quality Merlot (You don’t think I can write this stuff without alcohol, do you?), I didn’t make a profit.

In fact, my auditor husband tallied my expenses just so he could prove that my financial contributions have been, to be overgenerous, nonexistent. According to him, if I stay on course and continue to work hard, by age 65, I might achieve a positive cash flow.

My spouse doesn’t understand why I purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of books every year. I try to explain that I need to compare my writing style to those who are making money. But he thinks I should spend more time at the library, despite the fact that our community doesn’t have one. And he can’t fathom why I need a Web presence when my own family members refuse to read my columns, which is exactly the point of why I need one.

Still, it would be nice to feel valued for what I produce—which is why I’m begging you to consider me for any last-minute tax write-offs you might need. I know you’re thinking that all charity deductions had to have been made before year end. But I’m perfectly okay with backdated checks.

I’ll also accept leftover holiday gift cards and unexpired free meal coupons. Please send your donations to the Save a Humorist Fund, a U4(c) my scam corporation, c/o Totally Skewed Productions, 555 Obscure Lane, Nowhere, TX, 77890. All contributions are fully tax objectionable.

Additionally, you may purchase my one of my books and claim it as a tax deduction—provided you can invent some business reason for owning it. *

* Consult your tax advisor before making any stupid decisions. Actual deductions may vary. Past audit evasions are not valid predictors of future detection. Not suitable for persons under age 12, individuals who are laugh-impaired, oxygen-deprived, or for those who are taking mood inhibitors. Do not read while driving, operating heavy machinery, or texting. Some thinking could be required. May cause sudden excitability, unexpected oral emissions, snorting, frequent howling, and abdominal cramps. Should any of these symptoms occur, stop reading and immediately notify your book club.

http://www.TotallySkewed.com

 Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life

Stilettos No More

 

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Book offers humorous advice for women over 40

My third humor book, Stilettos No More, is now available in paperback and eBook formats (Kindle, iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Smashwords). This title offers zany advice for women over 40. Here’s a short news release, followed by an excerpt:

Time to Hang Up the Stilettos?

Whether she’s warning women about the hazards of high heels or lamenting over the fashion persistence of thong panties, author Diana Estill milks humor from midlife. In her new book, Stilettos No More (Corncob Press), Estill lampoons shoes that cost more than tires and swears on her “thigh trimmer” she’s past the age to “walk on stilts.”

Fatigued by all the anti-aging rhetoric that pervades our current culture, Estill, 56, claims 50 isn’t the new 40 . . . “without the help of Botox, a plastic surgeon, or Photoshop.”

Instead of trying to look like a Desperate Housewife star, the author suggests women should learn to expect and accept some physical changes during midlife. It’s the feisty, funny side of 50 that Estill seeks to promote by sharing her own perspective as a reluctant “senior.” She’s not afraid to tell the truth about her tummy woes or unwanted toe hairs—or to caution younger gals of what awaits them.

Stilettos No More is Estill’s third book of humorous essays and is available now in paperback and eBook formats from Amazon and other booksellers.

Estill’s previous book, Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life (Corncob Press) was a humor category 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist and a 2010 International Book Awards Winner.

From the book, Stilettos No More:

The Big “M”

As much as I hate to beat up on doctors, the truth is, once a woman nears the “Big M,” she might as well not whine to a physician about anything during her annual checkup. No matter what her complaints might be, her doctor will likely dismiss them by telling her that she’s either entering or in the midst of menopause.

This is kind of like seeing a fortune teller who says your luck is about to change. Of course it is! Nothing remains static. So it’s pretty easy to be accurate when you’re being this vague.

It can easily take a decade to pass through “the change.” Therefore, being told that almost every minor health symptom (no matter how wardrobe threatening) during this time is somehow related to menopause is more than an annoyance. It’s a waste of your “health spending” dollars.

We interrupt this stream of consciousness writing to bring you the following important medical disclaimer:

I am in no way qualified to offer medical advice, so please consult your doctor if you’re looking for anything other than absurd health opinions. A physician may give you even more bizarre instruction, but at least those recommendations will be offered by a professional who is properly insured.

So, like I was saying, save your medical co-pays and buy a personal hair trimmer. You’re going to need it. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Despite the frustrations of being told so, much of what occurs during midlife is attributable to hormone fluctuations. And that includes the appearance of unwanted hair and the loss of one’s car keys.

First, it’ll be only a lone dark spike emerging from your chin. But then, overnight, this hair will grow faster than the US deficit. You won’t see it before bedtime and yet, by the next morning, this new arrival will be long enough to fashion into a pin curl.

The next thing you know, all sorts of fuzz and freak whiskers will erupt. And that’s when a good hairstylist can be your best friend. Just make sure she’s young enough to see well.

My hairdresser is a second pair of eyes scrutinizing my ever changing appearance. She was the first person to call my attention to the billy goat beard I’d sprouted under my chin—a necklace of platinum-colored fringe framing my drooping jowls. This hair was so light and fine that, without my reading glasses, I couldn’t see it.

In her diplomatic way, my stylist offered her best professional advice: “LET ME SHAVE THIS STUFF OFF!”

A few months later, when my hairdresser began fretting over something on my forehead, I feared the worst. Surely I wasn’t going to have to start using Botox too!

While cutting my bangs, she paused and stared at me. With one hand she scooped my hair straight back and peered more closely.

I waited to hear the dire news, whatever it was.

With an index finger and thumb, she plucked at something.

I felt a tug on my forehead.

“Omigod,” she exclaimed. “It’s attached!”

Glancing up, I saw her pulling on a single strand of white hair that must have been four inches long.
When she finally stopped laughing, she said, “Do you want me to remove it?”

Briefly I considered leaving the sprout intact and saving it as a conversation piece. Imagine all the laughs such an oddity might generate. If I left it alone, once my bangs were in place, only my hairdresser and I would know the straggler wasn’t part of my normal mane. But then I reconsidered and asked her to pluck the hormonally haywire hair. To whom would I have shown it, anyway? None of my friends see well enough to notice their own strays.

****

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What do your dishes say about you?

The Blue Willow Bowl

 

Thanksgiving Central, the “war room,” otherwise known as my kitchen. In the place where it all begins each year, I search for a mixing bowl that hasn’t yet been soiled and sent to the sink.

Nothing.

Oh, wait. Here’s that Blue Willow bowl I never use, the one Grandma gave me . . . when was it? Seems like it was right after I married. I recall her voice when she asked, “Don’t you need a good mixing bowl?”  

I lift the bowl and examine it. How many foods have been made and served inside this cobalt blue and white heirloom? Probably thousands.

My fingers trace the rim. Still chipped in two places—just like the day she gave it to me. Otherwise, I see no cracks. Not any unplanned ones, at least. There’s a crackle glaze that’s rather pronounced around the love birds painted near the bottom. Hmm. Love birds. I hadn’t ever before noticed these.

Now, where is my banana nut bread recipe? Well, it’s not really mine. Actually, I got that from Grandma too—indirectly. For Christmas, one year not long before she died, she gave me a cookbook published by her church. Grandma’s contribution to the book had been her banana bread recipe. She was already up in years when she’d provided those instructions. So she accidentally left out the flour from the list of ingredients. I’ve penciled in the correction. 

I stir together the flour, sugar, eggs, and lard. Yes, lard. That’s how she made it. It’s one day a year. I’m probably not going to kill anyone with cholesterol. I mean, it wouldn’t be her recipe if I substituted canola oil.

Mindlessly, I stare at the blue and white china.

I miss her.

It hits me. I am here, stirring the banana bread that I will serve my family tomorrow, and I am mixing the same batter in the same dish that my grandmother used to blend her baked goods decades before this.

So who cares if the bowl is chipped?

Some day, I will look at one of my daughters and ask, “Don’t you need a good mixing bowl?” When I do, I hope she appreciates the significance.

I pour the batter into a loaf pan and turn on the tap to rinse the bowl.

Water pours. The blue willows weep. And tears flow.

Everybody needs a good mixing bowl.

 

http://www.TotallySkewed.com

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Should have never left him home alone with the remote

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I Shouldn’t Have Left Him Alone With the Remote   

 My first mistake was hinting that I wanted an upright freezer. My second was leaving my husband home alone, bored and recovering from spine surgery.

 “I might as well tell you,” he confessed, “I did something bad while you were gone.”

 Visions of 65-inch TV screens and credit card bills large enough to threaten our mortgage payment flashed through my mind. “Wha-a-a-t?” I gripped the kitchen countertop for extra support.

 “Well, you know how you said you were planning to get a freezer?”

 “I didn’t say I was ‘planning’ to get one,” I corrected. “I just said I needed more freezer space and wanted to price a few.”

“Yeah, well, anyway, I figured you were serious about getting one, so I bought us something to go in it!” hubby exclaimed.

 “I already have something to go in it . . . the overflow from the existing one,” I reminded.

 “Oh, wait until you see the steaks I bought!” said my mystery shopper. “They’re awesome. Not the crappy kind you’ve been getting from the grocery store, either. These are big and juicy and taste wonderful!”

 “Someone came to our door offering steak samples?” I asked. Man, the economy must be worse than I’d thought.

 “No. But I saw them.”

“Huh? Where?”

 He ducked his head low and peered up at me. “On QVC.”

 “You bought meat off the TV?” I gasped. Please tell me you’re kidding.”

 “Hon, they are going to be SOOOOO good.”

 “How do you know?”

 “Because I SAW them!”

 “And you think you viewed the actual steaks you’re going to receive?”MPj01827510000[1]

 Hubby shrugged.

 I jaunted to our side-by-side unit and, because I wasn’t wearing hard-toe shoes, gingerly opened the freezer door. With one hand, I rubbed at my forehead and counted to . . . well, at least two. “When are these steaks suppose to arrive?”

 “Soon,” he said.

 “How soon?”  If I threw away the ice cream bucket wedged between the pizza and the burgers I hadn’t yet compared to the most recent recall list, maybe I could make room for a sirloin or two.

 “I don’t know.”

 “Have you looked in here?” I motioned to the refrigerator. Then I remembered he’d been eating mostly soft foods and taking pain meds. “Okay,” I said, faking renewed calm. “Just tell me exactly how many steaks you ordered. Four? Six? Eight?”

 “Twenty-four.”

 I’m not sure where we’re heading with health care reform, but I need family medical insurance that includes QVC protection.

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Deedee Divine’s Budget Guide to the State Fair of Texas

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Deedee Divine’s Budget Guide to the State Fair of Texas

 

The State Fair of Texas, hosted annually in Dallas, is famed for its deep fried debuts. Previous notables have included corny dogs and fried Coke. Among this year’s heart-stopping (perhaps literally) fair contest winners is fried butter. But the costs of sampling such indulgences can far exceed indigestion. Even if you’re not dumb enough to eat battered butter, the fair can break your budget.

 A day at the State Fair of Texas could consume more cash than an all-night poker party. So for those who would rather not spend a fortune, I’ve devised my unofficial guide to the State Fair of Texas—a no-nonsense, frugal way to get the most for your money, and possibly someone else’s, when attending this extravaganza.

 If you follow my advice, not only will you spend less, see more, and avoid long waiting lines, but you also just might leave the fairgrounds with something in your pockets besides dryer lint.

 I’ve patterned my fair guide after those “Disney in a day” tour books, except this one is really doable.

 Arrival

The fair opens at 10:00 a.m. Because you’ll want to arrive early, you may need to search the sofa cushions and empty your coin jar the night before.

The cheapest way to get to the fairgrounds is to make friends with a delivery truck driver on his way to Fair Park. Otherwise, take the DART Green Line train. Visit any local area Kroger store to purchase a $16 combo ticket that includes train transportation, fair entrance fees, and perhaps renewed appreciation for solo travel.

If you drive your car to the fair, plan to spend $10 to park and at least half your shoe tread to hike from the nearest self-parking lot to the fair entrance. Or you can wait for the free tram, provided you hope to see one before your bones are discovered.

Fill your tote bag or purse with snack items prior to arrival. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to purchase meals with coupons that cause you to lose track of both costs and common sense.

 Upon ticket office approach, ask any accompanying children to slump their shoulders forward and bend their knees slightly. Children under 48” tall receive a reduced general admission rate of $11. 

 Park Entry

Cash is NOT accepted for food, beverages or rides, so proceed immediately to the nearest coupon vendor to purchase $40 worth of coupons. If funds are low, use your debit card and hope for the best. (Note: It can take extra days for the transaction to clear, which provides additional time to sell some scrap metal or pawn your Nintendo.)

 In order, follow the list below:

  1. Go to the Food Court Building and eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. to avoid the crowds.
  2. If you are traveling with family members, you should now be out of coupons. Send any children in your party scurrying around the Food Court to search for tickets dropped by others. (Yes, this happens frequently.) Should you come up empty-handed, you’ll need to purchase more coupons.
  3. Hang out on the Midway and consider the irony as you watch gals who shouldn’t tell their weight pay someone to guess it out loud.
  4. If a trip through the Midway with your brood seems too threatening, spend tickets to board the Texas Skyway, a gondola ride that spans the entire Midway. Tell the children they’ve now seen an aerial view of the whole shebang and there’s no need to return to this section.
  5. Head over to the Automobile Building and make a game out of seeing how many cars inside will truly run on 87 octane gas. (There’s a reason they call them “premium cars.”)
  6. Double back to the icon Big Tex and keep your eyes on the ground. Picture takers often lose their coupons in front of this landmark.
  7. Tour the Creative Arts Building to cool off.  On the way out, conduct a family pit stop. Men, check the chain attached to your wallet. Ladies, make sure your fanny pack isn’t sitting on its namesake.
  8. Catch the pig races in the Pan American Arena (free) and get alternative income ideas.  
  9. Grab a glimpse of the star boar in the Swine Building, which may lack visitors because of flu assumptions. See, first-hand, the difference bad carbs can make.
  10. Quell the urge to buy another scratch-off lottery ticket tonight and watch the free games at the Texas Lottery Show.
  11.  Because you probably can’t afford to plant your own fall garden this year, take those autumn photos at one of the many floral themed exhibits scattered throughout the park.
  12. Introduce the kiddos to international cuisine by letting them sample chocolate jalapeno peppers in Cotton Bowl Plaza. This should eliminate all further requests for candy. Afterward, have the little ones wash away the burn at nearby water fountains.
  13. Adults visit the Pepcid Mobile Tour for free samples.
  14. Wander through the Food & Fiber Building and grab any freebies. Don’t forget to gaze low for lost goodies.
  15.  Share a turkey leg on a stick and split a basket of curly taters.
  16.  Sprint to the nearest restroom. Do not look for more coupons. Just run.
  17.  No refunds are provided for unused fair coupons. So head over to the Main Entrance and offer your NASCAR keychain, Dallas Cowboys cap, or designer knock-off shades in exchange for coupons any exiting patrons possess.
  18. Visit the Children’s Barnyard, as frequently as needed, for free anti-microbial cleanser.
  19. Stay for Illumination Sensation, an outdoor light, music, and fireworks display, and prolong your energy savings at home. (As long as you’re watching THEIR lights, you won’t be burning YOURS.)
  20. Before you leave the fairgrounds, wander over to the ONCOR exhibit for more energy saving ideas. You just might find a few to help you better afford next year’s State Fair of Texas!

 

If you found this guide useful, please share it with friends!

 

Read more about the State Fair of Texas in Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life, by Diana Estill. 

 deedeemedportrait

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Hooray! The Recession is Finally Over!

Celebration. Glasses of champagne and wine in hands.

According to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake, the recession is “likely over.” Yes, I know you may feel otherwise, so let me interpret Ben The Visionary’s remark. What he really means is this: The recession is over for those who invest in the U.S. stock market, especially the financials, but live somewhere else, like, oh, say maybe Mumbai.

For the rest of us, Ben says to expect a “jobless recovery,” because, of course, like I just said, any newly created jobs will, in all probability, be outsourced. 

American consumers who once represented 70 percent of the nation’s GDP will no longer be relevant in the now recovering economy. The future drivers of our country’s economic health will be stock and commodities speculators and executives with obscene bonuses. 

It doesn’t really matter whether you’re employed. As long as tax burdens are shifted to behemoth corporations and “rich fat cats,” whatever you once paid the IRS is, quite frankly, now of little significance. Especially since you’re looking at years of unemployment or underemployment ahead. Already you’ve been squeezed for about as much as can be gained from you. It’s time to put the tax burden on someone else. 

To summarize, the recession is officially over. The man who precisely called the beginning of this downturn—give or take a year—has spoken. So please resume your normal life concerns and forget about your broken savings accounts, lost careers, abysmal home values, and, most importantly, your government representatives’ responsibilities.

 

 

 

www.TotallySkewed.com

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