Tag Archives: Humor

Funny Lady

It is taking a while for John and I to wrap our heads around the fact that Mom is in a nursing home. For Mom, not so much. She is thriving in her new environment. This is partly due to luck — the place suits her fine — and her faith, as in “This is where I belong.”

Truthfully the atmosphere is indeed a fun and lively one. “There’s always something happening here,” Mom said with a smile and a shrug during a recent visit. Due to poor planning on my part, I had arrived just before dinner did. I found Mom sitting alone at a table in the dayroom, taking her daily siesta. She was pleased to see me, but there was some confusion on our part about whether Mom heads downstairs to the dining room for dinner or stays in the day room. As usual, one of Mom’s aides managed to read our thoughts. “Your Mom stays in the day room for dinner, and goes downstairs for lunch,” she said, which made perfect sense. Mom is social but in small doses. She enjoys her alone time, which — in retrospect — she could only get while in bed at my house. I am a hoverer of the highest order. By contrast, the tall and pretty aide grabbing the dinner trays while doing a million other things is not a hoverer. She is what you would call “happy go lucky” and I rarely see her without a smile on her face. “She is so patient,” Mom said, and I concurred.

“We love your mom, she’s such a funny lady!” the aide said as she placed Mom’s tray on the table. I nodded, but I was a bit surprised. In all honesty, I rarely think of my Mom as funny. Sturdy, pretty, meticulous, strong-willed, and loving for sure. But funny? Dad was the funny one, the King of the One-Liners. Mom’s humor is unintentional and most often self-deprecating. And for that reason alone, I never really considered Mom to be very funny. It’s on the list of adjectives, for sure, but not at the top.

“Here you go, Mommie Dearest,” I said as I stirred milk and sugar into Mom’s coffee. It’s one of our many inside jokes, but I realized that I had spoken too loudly when the aide’s head whipped around. “Oh no, not her, she’s no Mommie Dearest!” the aide  said, and I could see a questioning smile on her face. “It’s from one of our favorite movies,” I explained. We then engaged in a conversation that basically recounted the litany of great movies starring Bette Davis and/or Joan Crawford — many of which the aide had seen with her own grandmother. It was a reminder of how the simplest joys can enrich our lives and inform our perspectives. My mind turned to the many special — and, in retrospect, fleeting — moments I had shared with my Grandma and then my Mom while watching TV. I am embarrassed to admit that “The Bachelorette” was the first thing that came to my mind. It was not one of Mom’s favorite shows by any stretch, but I happen to like it.

“Ma, are you watching ‘The Bachelorette’?” I asked. Mom looked a bit confused, so I offered a prompt. “You know, the one where the lady is looking for a husband?”

Mom’s eyes brightened. “Oh yeah, I think so.” And then she frowned. “Did she get one yet?” she asked impatiently, displaying her apparent aggravation with the whole shebang. I had to laugh, and she did too.

It was a timely reminder that funny is funny, whether the humor is intentional or not.

And also that, at the age of  90, you are bound to have little patience for “the process.” So go get that man already, Rachel! Mommie Dearest is counting on you.

Black and Blue

When close friends tell me I am stylish — which doesn’t happen that often, trust me — my first instinct is to disagree. I am not being humble. I consider myself more style-conscious  than stylish. I could live in sweatpants, quite frankly, but I am painfully aware of what I am wearing every time I leave the house. And that’s because I was raised by a mother with a highly critical eye.

Years ago, before Mom’s onset of dementia, she and I had a lot of watershed moments. When you both are fortunate to live long enough — and at this point she was in her early eighties and I was in my late forties — you get to apologize for unfortunate incidents. If you are lucky, they become water under the bridge.

“I’m sorry I was so critical of you and your clothes when you were growing up,” Mom told me one day to my surprise. “Years ago, Aunt Bernice told me that my criticism was making you a nervous person.”

I had to stifle an outburst. “And yet you haven’ really  stopped!” I wanted to say. But really, is it kind to fly in the face of a sincere apology? I always have believed in room for individual improvement, and I hope I always will.

“It’s OK, ma,” I said. “I hardly remember it.”

In truth, I did hardly remember it. I had blocked those painful incidents from my mind, even though they obviously had lasting effects.

The water under the bridge came rushing back at me during a visit to my daughter Veronica in college over a year ago. My two high school besties Cindy and Di  had made the trip with me, and during our lunch my daughter surprised me by asking them a question.

“Did my Grammy criticize my Mom a lot when she was growing up?” she asked. I stiffened for a moment, wondering if I had carried on my mother’s work by criticizing my own daughter overly much. But looking into Veronica’s eyes, I saw only concern. I relaxed, and realized that Veronica had witnessed many of my mother’s pronounced judgements about body shapes and clothing choices — many of them aimed at complete strangers,  especially TV game show hosts and the network news anchors. Even the New York lottery announcers weren’t exempt.

As Di prepared to answer, I found myself intrigued. Yes, that’s how well I had put it all out of my head. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat as my wise friend formulated her usual measured response.

“Well, it wasn’t an outright criticism as much as ‘Mary Ann, are you shuah you want to weah that sweatah?'” Di said in perfect imitation of my mother.

“Oh gosh,” Veronica said, and I nodded in agreement. Di’s pronouncement had unlocked a flood of memories, none of them palatable.

“I actually recall her saying, ‘Have you evah thought about looking at yawself in a full-length mirra?'” I said, and we all laughed.

Which brings me to this current and  terrific piece of irony. Mom is most “on” — and we are both happiest — when we are bantering and laughing. Our best and funniest conversations center on her thinly veiled, beat around the bush criticisms of you-know-who. I guess you never really DO forget how to ride a bicycle.

The other day I told Mom about our lease of a new car.

“What color is it?”

“Guess, Mom!”

“I can’t guess. I don’t even know what day it is.”

“OK. I’ll give you three choices. White, red, or black.”

“It’s not blue?”

“No, that’s not one of the choices.”

“But blue is pretty.”

“I know, but I did not buy a blue car.” (A mistake, obviously. Strike one.)

“Ok, then it’s red.”

“No.” (Strike two.)


“No.”  (Strike three.)

Mom went silent. She did not even want to consider the possibility that I would be foolish enough to buy a black car. She and Dad had always said they were too hard to keep clean. So I had to come clean myself.

“It’s a black car!”


“Well it looks nice.”


“Don’t you like black cars?”

“Well, I don’t have to drive it.”

I paused for a second, defeated. But if dementia doesn’t teach you how to make lemonade from lemons, then you’re not paying attention.

“You’re funny,” I told Mom, which began a dialogue very much like the one between Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta in the movie “Goodfellas.”

“It’s good to be funny,” I finally said to Mom.

“Is it?” she said.

“Sure!” I said.

“How would you know?” she answered, and I literally erupted in surprised laughter. Whatever had been  going awry with the neurons in her brain, they were presently doing a spectacular job of connecting at my expense. And frankly I was thrilled to still know that there was a spark.

“What’s going on up there?” John yelled, but I could tell by the unworried tone of his voice that he knew.

“Nothing that hasn’t been happening for years,” I wanted to say. But I kept laughing.

It just felt so good to laugh. And even better to have Mom laugh along with me.



“I’m Tired”

There is a song that Madeline Kahn performs in the movie “Blazing Saddles” that never fails to crack me up. The incomparable Madeline, as a character named Lili Von Shtupp and in a spoof of Marlene Dietrich, sings about being worn out by unsatisfying romantic liaisons with men.

“I’ve been with thousands of men, again and again, they promise the moon.”

Here is my version of “I’m Tired” sans the sultry look and sexy ensemble –

I’m tired of never finishing my second cup of coffee because Mom is up and needs breakfast.

I’m tired of Mom asking where I am going every time I leave the house for a walk, grocery shopping, exercise class, coffee with a friend, or other diversion.

I’m tired of trying to balance Mom’s needs for in-home comfort with John’s needs for out-of-the-house socializing.

I’m tired of not being able to hop in my car and take a day trip, or an overnight to see either of my children who are in different states.

I’m tired of telling acquaintances that I am not technically an empty-nester when they ask if my house is quiet with the kids gone.

I am tired of Mom not being able to follow more than one direction at a time, and having to repeat even that single direction.

I am tired of Mom flinching and complaining every time a curse word is uttered during my favorite TV shows.

I am tired of not traveling when in fact this was the long-anticipated time when my husband and I figured I could finally accompany him on business trips.

I’m tired of spending limited quality time both inside and outside the house with my husband.

I’m tired of those moments – once rare but increasing in frequency — when I wonder how much longer I can do this.

Let’s face it. Like Lili “I’m pooped.” But here is the other side of the coin. Or — as my neighbor Debbie said after spending some time here – “Life is good in “The Josephine Zone.’”

Debbie was right. Life can be good in “The Josephine Zone.” For the first time in my life I am watching movies all the way through and getting “lost” in them. I am learning the satisfaction of preparing satisfying home-cooked meals more often rather than paying a small fortune for weekday takeout dinners. I have learned the art of “cocooning” and shutting out the rest of the world. I am playing along to “Wheel of Fortune” and impressing Mom with my puzzle-solving skills. I have learned to make the most of my limited time for social events and outings – enjoying them more and not worrying so much about how I look and act. I have tackled the crocheting and sewing and writing projects I had thought about for years. And thanks to my mother’s enduring love and appreciation, now so simple and pure, I have begun valuing myself more as a person in my own right and not a conduit to someone else’s happiness or success. I am finally laughing more and crying less.

Be productive. Be helpful. Be nice. Be proactive. Be better-informed. Be spontaneous. Be a planner. Be creative. Be supportive. Be reliable. Be sociable. Be useful. Be the life of the party.

Finally I know the truth.  All I ever really need to do was “be.”


Morning Glory

“You just gave me the stink-eye,” I told my mother during breakfast this morning. She frowned, and I realized that — to be fair — this is not what one wants to hear when one has not yet had a sip of morning coffee.

“That sounds terrible,” she said. “What is it?”

“It’s like this,” I said, arching my eyebrows and giving her a sideways look.

“I do that?” she said. “When?”

“You do it a lot,” I said, and I could see that she was giving this some serious thought.

“Well why would I do that?” she said, and I almost laughed. My mom was never an Italian table-flipper, thank goodness, but she was an expert table-turner.

“Well usually in response to something John or I are doing,” I said honestly. “Like just now, when I told you that you had to take your pills before you can have your coffee and bagel.”

“Oh,” she said, satisfied.

Apparently “stink eye” sounds terrible. But “totally justified stink eye” is a horse of a different color.

I guess I can look forward to lots more of them.


Caregiver’s Mouth

Here’s a news flash. Apparently I have “Caregiver’s Mouth.”

No, this does not refer to the sometimes off-color remarks I mutter to my myself.

It refers to the sorry state of my teeth and gums.

I always know that I have “dropped the ball” flossing-wise when the dental hygienist fires up the “big gun” – the electric-powered tartar-remover that spits out an alarming amount of water.

“Oh, nooooo,” I said to myself when this happened during a recent visit. My hygienist worked harder that I thought humanly possible that morning, dutifully wielding the big gun and then performing an inordinate amount of scraping. She never sighed or complained, and instead turned the tables.

“I don’t mind at all,” she assured me when I offered a garbled apology. “But I have to wonder what else you are neglecting.”

She stopped working for a moment. “When was your last mammogram?” she asked.

“I dunno,” I answered, and she nodded.

“I see this all the time with caregivers,” she said. “It’s time to start taking care of yourself.”

She was right. I’d been putting off important appointments and also neglected my just-before-bed flossing as well – choosing instead to use my last bit of energy to sweep up the crumbs always left in the living room as a result of Mom’s nightly snack.

(My mother, who used to be fastidious in every way, now forgoes the use of a plate and keeps her nighttime cookie on her lap. Before getting up to go to bed, she almost luxuriously sweeps the crumbs off of her skirt and onto the floor. Like she is the Queen of England. She has no idea, of course, that is not the most helpful thing to do. Even so, this sometimes annoys the stuffing out of me. Other times, recalling everything my mother has done for me, I give her a silent “atta girl!”).

Keeping the wake-up call from the dental hygienist in the front of my mind, I wasted almost no time making my necessary medical appointments — even though I am usually the biggest procrastinator about these things.  I also returned to my bedtime flossing routine, even though the thought of leaving crumbs in the living room until morning certainly gave me pause.

Guess what? I did not wake up to mice in the living room, as I had feared. And once this ball started rolling, it kept going. I decided to spend more time on my own interests and well-being. I picked up the acrylic paints once again, and finally committed to the “no holds barred” editing of a work of fiction that I wrote over two years ago. I even began taking nighttime Zumba classes, after putting that off for over a year.

So yes, dirt is left on the floor and dishes are left in the sink. But a spotless house is no longer my number one priority. This has left room for more important items. And, unbelievably, I am one of them.

The other day, Mom came downstairs to breakfast and noticed dust on the floor. She stopped short just inches from her chair. “What’s this?” she asked. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” I said dismissively and I am sure a bit testily. “Just sit down.”

And so she did, with a grimace. She was not happy with my answer, apparently. Well neither was I.

The dust wasn’t nothing. It was something.

It was a sign of progress.


Good Sport Mary Ann

It was working really well … until it wasn’t.

I am referring to my years-long habit of bending over backwards for other people, often keeping my own needs in the side-view mirror.

For years I believed that any blessing I received in my life were due to my habit of putting myself, if not last, at least second-to-last.

I had received warnings over the years about this from friends and acquaintances. Years ago, a supervisor at my first “real” job gently suggested that I take an assertiveness training class offered by the company — I did, and at its conclusion I reported that I “did not get it.” Years later, another supervisor referred to me as “good sport Mary Ann” after I agreed to work extra hours once again.  Yes, that second one gave me pause. And yet, as you know, old habits die hard.

When my life continued to take a turn toward the hectic despite my goody two shoes approach, I got brave enough to confide my deepest fears to a close friend a few weeks ago.

“I feel like I’m being punished,” I confessed.

“You’re not being punished, you’re being schooled,” she said confidently. “And don’t worry, your kind teacher has good intentions.”

I was too shocked to question her, and her words shook me to the core. At the age of 57, what could I possibly have left to learn? Bwahahahaha, said the universe.

For years I had pushed myself to the limit. I said yes when I really meant no.  Instead of ignoring criticism or even gentle correction, I took it as a sign that I really was not as “good” as other people and needed to work on improving. I did not let others know what I needed, figuring that it was a sign of weakness at worst and an imposition on them at best.

The process of turning my thinking around has not been easy. As an example, my mother recently came shuffling out of her bedroom fully dressed and expecting breakfast when I was not even halfway through my first cup of coffee. Good Sport Mary Ann used to put her coffee and newspaper aside, forgoing a half-hour of relaxation and a follow-up shower in order to give Mom what she wanted. Enlightened Mary Ann was honest — she told Mom that she had slept late and needed to get herself together. She sent her shocked mother back to bed (!) with the promise to get her up again in a half hour or so. Surprisingly, everyone survived and the world kept turning.

So it’s official. Good Sport Mary Ann has left the building. Well, at least she is in process of leaving.

Perhaps some people will miss her. I certainly won’t.

Good Sport Mary Ann thought that putting herself last was the brave thing to do. But she was miserably wrong.

Being honest and asking for help when you need it is actually the bravest thing you can do.

Don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-what on your way out, Good Sport Mary Ann.


The Tooth of the Matter

My husband and I recently returned from an evening out to find that my mother had headed up to bed. This is not unusual. Although we tell her that we will only be gone for a little over an hour and we put on her favorite shows, she gets tired of sitting alone on the sofa. Since moving in, she has often said that the bed is her favorite place in the house. She proves this constantly. With a chronically painful back and low energy level, I can’t say that I blame her.

The issue is that she often heads up to the bedroom with certain things left undone. This is tough on both of us. For me, I have to rouse her out of bed and give her step-by-step instructions when all I really want to do is relax and watch TV or sit on the back deck with John. For mom, it entails getting out of bed when she is groggy and performing her nightly rituals as I prod her along — sometimes patiently, sometimes not.

On this recent occasion, mom needed to change out of clothes into her pajamas, take out her dental bridge — which she refers to as her partial plate —  and wash it and put it away, and brush her teeth. Things were sputtering along slowly and I was starting to lose patience. I thought that life was playing a cruel joke as I saw my mother struggling with her partial plate.

“I can’t get my partial plate out,” she announced. Lots of things have gone awry since Mom moved in. But never this. This was a”first” that I was not appreciating at all.  I sighed and did what I do best. “She can’t get her bridge out,” I shouted downstairs to John. Misery loves company.

John then did what he does best. He shouted instructions from the living room. “Tell her to drink some water, her mouth might be dry.”

“What did he say?” Mom asked.

“He said to drink water, your mouth might be dry,” I yelled. “Oh!” Mom replied, startled. “Sorry mom, I forgot you and I are in the same room.” Exhaustion was surely setting in. Or was it those two glasses of wine?

Mom dutifully drank the water and tried again. No luck. “Drink more water,” I said. “Maw watah?” she asked doubtfully. She knew as well as I did that this would entail endless nighttime trips to the bathroom for her. But I needed to put this puppy to bed. I was mentally willing that partial plate to give up its iron grip.

So mom drank the water again. No dice. I sighed, thinking about the unfortunate effects that yet another glass of water would have on the poor woman. And so, desperately needing sleep and emboldened by the two glasses of wine, I did the unthinkable.

“I’m goin’ in,” I announced loudly to mom. “Oh my gawd,” she said. “Oh, my gahd,” John yelled from downstairs. If you had told me years ago that I would ever face my mother with a grimace, firmly grab the two steel hook-like fasteners behind her eye teeth, and pull — well of course I would have called you crazy.

But I did it. And nothing happened. Aggravated and emboldened, I tried again (with my eyes closed this time). I felt something happen and opened my eyes. My mother looked like a deer caught in the headlights. And when I looked at her teeth I almost swooned with shock. I hadn’t pulled out the bridge. I had merely dislodged it, to the point where mom looked like one of “them fellers with the crooked teeth” in the crude cartoons of old.

“Oh my gawth,” mom said, horrified as she looked in the mirror. “Put them back, put them back,” I begged. And, very calmly, she did with a confident “click.” Then my mother and I sighed and looked at one another. She immediately started laughing hysterically. And so did I. We both had to hold on to my pedestal sink and one another to keep from falling. “What happened?” John asked from downstairs. We were laughing too hard to answer, except for me to say, “It’s OK!”

Because it was, thanks to Mom. I had forgotten how terrifically calm my mother always was during any of my childhood and teenaged and — yes — adult disasters, and how she always managed to do the right thing or better yet convince me to do it.  Caring for my mother on a day to day basis and seeing her weaken mentally and physically had caused me to  forget what a rock-solid presence in my life she is.

“What do we do now?” my mother asked. I was still tired, but the laughter had taken the “edge” right out of me. “If you can’t get them out, we’ll just call the dentist,” I answered in a calm and somewhat cheerful voice that surprised even me.

After Mom was finally in bed I headed down the hall.

“Mary Ann!” she yelled.

“Yes?” I answered warily. What else could have possibly happened?

“I got my partial plate out!” she announced proudly.

“You did?” I said gleefully. I was literally giddy with joy at not having another doctor phone call or visit  to look forward to.

“I knew I had to do it,” she announced. “I hate going to the dentist.”

“Yes, I know,” I laughed. I bring my mother to the nicest dentist on the planet, with the funniest assistants.  I feel like going to his office is almost like going to a party. I’m serious. Mom, however, is still is not “buying into” the program and resists going except for emergencies.

“My mother should have forced me to go when I was little, but she didn’t,” Mom said. “That’s why my teeth were always bad.”

I took this information in. Mom was right. My grandmother should have forced the issue. Although strict about many things — religion and morality among the top items — my grandma was soft on others. And she went fairly easy on me as she did with most of my cousins. My plump and adorable little grandma always represented a soft landing.

But my mother — man, she was a presence. A force of nature. If my Grandmother was a placid lake, my mother was the ocean. She could be fierce when stirred. But her strength worked in my favor, because  she always somehow managed to make everything work out all right.

Apparently she still can.

My mother, adorable grandmother, and beloved Aunt Millie visiting Point Pleasant Beach.
My mother, adorable grandmother, and beloved Aunt Millie visiting Point Pleasant Beach.





Bacon Makes It Better — (With Apologies to Margie)

Mom’s functioning and mood are both on a downswing today. My stress level is up. Fortunately a kind friend is going to bring me lunch from a nearby deli. I am on a diet and my friend is a vegetarian. Nevertheless I asked for a wrap laden with bacon and Russian dressing. I feel badly about my decision. But not badly enough to change my mind. Luckily Margie doesn’t mind. And she’s even bringing chips.

“What to NOT Bring on Vacation” — Brought to You by Your Local Sponsors

“For once, don’t overthink this,” I reminded myself as I prepared for our family trip to Maine. But I knew I would. I always do.

In my defense, my family NEVER traveled. Not one vacation, ever.  My father was actually anti-vacation. He felt that he had done all the traveling he needed for a lifetime. Ironically, he had fit it all into the four years he served on the front lines under General Patton. He’d had a horrific time of it, and refused to speak about his service — except to say that I should never bother traveling to Europe because “there’s nothing to see there.”

Before I embarked on my first real extended trip — with my high school BFFs at the age of twenty three — my father finished his usual cautionary speech to the four of us with the now-famous line “I don’t know why you are driving all the way to Maine when you could see the same things in Keansburg.”

Day trips to Keansburg, New Jersey were one of the highlights of my growing-up years, and in truth I am not bitter about not traveling anywhere overnight.  I would be lying, however, if I said that I did not impact my ability to enjoy time away as an adult.

The recent trip to Maine was shaping up to be no exception. Before the trip, I was stressed about logistics and accommodations (in a rare display of  bravado, I had booked the motel). During the trip, I was stressed about the usual nonsense — Is everyone having a good time? How will we pay for all of this? Why can’t I relax?

The vacation was humming along pretty nicely but I was not. Unable to unwind, I was apparently demanding and needy at the local coffee shop we hit on our first day in Bar Harbor — to the point where a woman sitting nearby asked “Where are you FROM?”

Duly chastened (and with John suitably embarrassed) we decided to try a different coffee shop the next day. The venue had changed, but I had not. “I’ll be back,” I announced to the cashier after collecting breakfast for the family. “Don’t threaten me,” he said only half-kidding.

The following day, our friends Dan and Carol suggested getting together for an afternoon beer after a strenuous hike. My anti-relaxation instincts immediately kicked in. “An afternoon beer or two might make me tired,” I thought. “Will I be OK for dinner later?” Or, “Won’t the calories in that beer undo all the good exercise I did on the hike?”

John saw the look on my face and overruled me. He’s been fortunate enough to take many vacations with his family, and he “gets” this whole relaxation thing.

Carol and Dan arrived and we decided to sit at a picnic table near our room. We had just begun our conversation when a man about our age who had been gardening started heading our way on a golf cart. I expected that he would pass us, but instead he stopped directly in front of our table.

“You folks are breaking one of the RULES,” he informed us. I blanched. Our motel was immaculate inside and out, but there were many posted rules. Was there a”no beer on the picnic table” rule? For a split-second I thought I was going to pass out, and I decided that if there was an issue I would put the blame on John.

Fortunately he followed with, “You always offer a beer to the landscaper” and then joined our conversation as though he had known us forever. Sprinkled in with his jokes and riddles were stories about  how he and his wife had bought the motel decades ago, improvements they had made, and some of his own vacation experiences. We found him funny, worldly and wise.

And then near the end of the conversation he handed me a gift.

“When you go on vacation, you should leave your brain at home,” he announced. Everyone else nodded but I must have looked shocked because he assumed that I hadn’t heard him. “I mean, how can you have a good time when you’re worrying about things you don’t need to?” he said, looking directly at me.

Of course! Letting his words sink in, I visualized my puny brain at home. There it was, sitting at my kitchen table and  drinking coffee and  worrying about what was happening in town and how mom was faring at the rehabilitation center and whether the cat was depressed without us and what sort of emails I was receiving and what was happening on Facebook and whether people would be mad at me for ignoring them while I was away.  My “home-based” brain was handling it all, and I took a deep breath while a weight lifted from my shoulders. I no longer felt stressed. I felt blessed.

As our host said his goodbyes and rode away, I thought about what my friend Jamie would describe as an  “AHA” moment. Sometimes you find them in books. Sometimes you find them through prayer or meditation.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky,  they come rolling right up to you on a golf cart.




Birds of a Feather

I recently had a conversation with a  longtime friend whose caregiver situation is similar to mine. I was telling her that caring for my mom often leaves me feeling “closed off” to the rest of the world — and to my relief she understood completely. “I’ve been sort of binge-watching the movie ‘Grey Gardens’ (about an eccentric  mother and daughter who live alone in a dilapidated mansion) and really relating to it,” I confessed. My friend was momentarily at a loss for words and began to laugh. “No … wait … no … just … you need to cut that out,”  she replied. Thank goodness for kind and wise friends.