Patsy Porco

Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

What I Want for Christmas … Next Year

In Humor on December 27, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Christmas is barely over and I’ve already made my list for next year. I’m thrilled with the presents I received this year from my very generous husband, son, and extended family, so don’t think I’m ungrateful, because I’m not. And, besides, my list only has one item on it.

This year, we entertained a lot of people over the Christmas holidays and, on the day after Christmas, I was despairing over fitting all of the soda, beer, and wine bottles into our recycling container, which is four-feet tall. Granted, it was also stuffed with boxes, unpopped bubble wrap, wrapping paper, newspapers, and other recyclable detritus, but the soda bottles took up more than their fair share of room.

The beer and wine bottles I could overlook. They deserved room at the inn because they were compact, but the cumbersome 2-liter soda bottles were wasting valuable space. If only we had a soda fountain, I thought. I didn’t want a Soda Stream, however. You can only make one bottle of soda at a time with that.

No, what I wanted was the kind of fountain you see at pizza and fast-food places. I wanted a variety of beverage choices with no recyclables. That would be a great thing to have in the house. It would end the soda-bottle problem and also preclude my guests from sneaking the unsightly bottles onto my holiday dinner table when I wasn’t looking—despite the signs that I hang all over the house that say “Soda bottles are prohibited from being seen. You will find them in the bathroom where they must remain.”

If my husband springs for a top-of-the-line model next year, I might even be able to hook up a few wine and beer canisters and rent out the empty space in our recycling container. Now that’s a Christmas gift worth waiting a year for.


Rudy the Devil Dog

In dogs, Golden Retriever, Humor on December 9, 2013 at 12:13 am
Rudy with his summer cut 2013

Rudy with his summer cut 2013

Rudy, our Golden Retriever, won’t come in.

I was late to work a few mornings ago because he wouldn’t come in then, either. I’ve also missed many hours of sleep when I’ve let him out after 11 p.m. and he refused to come in until 4 a.m. Fearful that his barking at the door would wake the neighbors, I huddled under a blanket on the couch, waiting for him to determine when was a good time to come inside.

After every trip out back, it’s the same story: eventually, he barks urgently to be let in. We open the door and say, “Come in.” He, in turn, stands just-close-enough outside the door so that we can’t grab him. Then he turns his head to one side, then the other, refusing to meet our eyes. Entreaties to come into the house fall on deaf ears. We command, cajole, beg, and bribe—to no avail. He’s in charge and wants us to know it.

He’s always been this way, despite having gone through puppy training. He was probably enrolled at too early an age, but I was pressured by my peers from the dog park to get him trained right away.

At about 12 weeks of age, maybe earlier, I enrolled him in a puppy training class at a local chain pet store. The trainer, Dwayne, who was about 20, said that he had been training dogs since he was 5. I figured that Dwayne was exaggerating, but after seeing his methods, I realized that he was still training dogs like a 5-year-old would. He would say, “Sit.” The dog would either sit or not. In Dwayne’s eyes, the dog had obeyed him.

When Dwayne was teaching the dogs in the group to “Drop the Ball,” they all obeyed. Rudy, who was sprawled on the tile floor with a ball in his mouth did nothing. Dwayne patted him and said, “Good boy, Rudy.” I countered that Rudy had not dropped the ball. Dwayne replied that he had indeed, but Rudy’s mouth was so close to the floor that it was hard to see that he had released it. That was a bald-faced lie, but there was no arguing with Dwayne who had, by this time, moved on to teaching us another of his no-fail training tactics.

There were many mishaps each Saturday morning during the training sessions, but the last session lowered the bar for all future trainees. It was the day that the dogs had to demonstrate that they had learned everything that they had been taught. All of the dogs were tested on obeying basic commands, and they were all deemed proficient—even Rudy, who was lying on his back, oblivious to Dwayne and his orders. Finally, we dog owners were instructed to take the leashes off of our pets and walk them through the store. This was the final test. If the dog walked calmly up and down aisles filled with colorful, plush toys and delectable treats without veering off course, that would earn him or her a “Fully Trained” certificate.

My son was with me that day. He leaned down and unclipped Rudy’s leash. The other dogs calmly walked toward the aisles. Rudy took off like the proverbial bat out of Hell. He ran up and down every aisle like a demon. He skitted, he rolled, he jumped, he raced, he howled, he defecated on the floor. And then he ran again. While my son took off to find paper towels and disinfectant, I chased Rudy. Soon after my son had returned to begin his task of removing the evidence, I managed to back Rudy into a corner. Once Rudy had evaluated his chances of escape, he gave up and sat down.

Dwayne appeared right as I trapped Rudy. After a glance at my son, who was scrubbing the floor, he looked at Rudy. “Look at you sitting down!” he said. “Good boy! You passed!” Dwayne turned to me with a big smile, handed me Rudy’s “Fully Trained” certificate, and walked off. My son and I looked at each other in amazement.

Rudy, on the other hand, looked smug. He considers that certificate to be his license to act just like he did at the pet store. And he’s acted that way ever since.

Rudy in his homemade Thunder Shirt 2013

Rudy in his homemade Thunder Shirt 2013

A Gift Like No Other

In Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Holidays, Humor on December 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm

In this season of giving and sharing, it’s easy to overlook the intangible presents: gifts that will last far longer than the season’s newest electronics or fashions.

For instance, the gift of the giver’s experience will be used again and again, but it’s usually less appreciated than a petrified fruitcake or a donation made in the recipient’s name.

That’s why it’s best to give a gift that your recipient wants — and accompany it with a cautionary tale. As an example, you could give your niece that Victoria’s Secret gift card that she asked you for. While she’s squealing in delight, you might say offhandedly, “They sell very nice cotton underwear there … the type a nice girl would wear. I had a friend who bought sexy underwear from that store. She ended up as a teenage mother with no child support. She had to clean offices at night to support her baby, while the baby’s father went off to college. Her parents were not happy that they had to watch the baby every night.” Your advice will probably be laughed off, but it will not be forgotten.

Before you start handing out unsolicited experience, you should make a list of things you’ve learned the hard way. You can also feel free to add lessons learned by your friends and family, but I wouldn’t use their names when relating their horror tales.

So far, I’ve come up with two life-lesson gifts that I will be bestowing on lucky family members or close friends:

Do not use chemical cleaners when you’re wearing a flimsy nightgown. Years ago, before ovens cleaned themselves, I was wearing a silk slip-like nightgown when I decided to spray the inside of the oven with an industrial cleaner. After the required amount of waiting time, I got a bucket of water and a sponge and began to wipe out the oven. Unfortunately, one of my mammary glands popped out of the top of my nightgown and came in contact with the oven-cleaning solution. As a result, the sensitive tip of this body part got burned. The phone call I made to Poison Control was extremely embarrassing … for both me and the young man who answered my call.

Take everything that a child under the age of 10 says with a grain of salt. My sister’s friend, Leslie,  got a call from her young son’s school. She was asked to come in as soon as possible. No other details were divulged. When she arrived, she was ushered into the school psychologist’s office. Her son, Joe, was in tears and was being comforted by the woman behind the desk. When Leslie asked what was wrong, the psychologist told her that Joe had been talking in class, so he was sent to see her. When she asked him why he was misbehaving, he said that his parents were out of money and that there was no food in the house.

“What?!” asked Leslie, in amazement. “We have money!”

Joe responded, “I heard Dad say that we were out of money and couldn’t spend any more.”

After thinking for a minute, realization struck. Leslie said, “He was talking about our renovation budget — the money we had to fix up the house. Dad meant that we couldn’t spend any more money on the house!”

“Well, I’m glad we’ve straightened that out,” said the psychologist, “but what about your not having any food in the house?”

Leslie responded, “We have plenty of food in the house!” They both looked at Joe for confirmation.

“Nothing that I like,” he said.


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding to this list of hard-won wisdom. But, I haven’t experienced what you have experienced, so I’d love to hear your stories. I promise that when I re-tell them, I’ll change your name. Let me know what you’ve learned the hard way, in the comments section.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays! There are several days left of Hanukkah, so there’s still time to add unasked-for advice to every present you give this year.

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