Airbnb Fail

My in-laws owned a weekend home in Highland County, Virginia. My mother-in-law was an avid birder. The property is a birding paradise.

One morning my husband and I were drinking coffee on the porch. Hundreds of hummingbirds hovered around the multiple feeders, the hum sounded like motorized wildlife.

A line of cars pulls into the driveway, the sound of tires on gravel drowns out the hummingbirds.

Twenty or thirty birders exit the cars, carrying binoculars and tripods. We wave hello. The birders march up the mountain. They gather around in silence. About an hour later they march back down. A lady says, “I came all the way from California. Now I can check golden-winged warbler off my list.”


One time my mother in-law, Margaret, invited her Audubon buddies to the house. Someone says, “Did you see the pileated woodpecker?” Someone else yells, “Do you see that rattlesnake?”

Margaret runs over and says, “All I see is that log right there.”

“That’s the snake.”

From there on out I stopped referring to Highland County as its nickname Little Switzerland. I called it BIG SNAKELAND.”

My mother in-law passed away a few years ago. She traveled the globe but the house in Highland County was her favorite place on the planet. She requested we spread her ashes in the flower beds.

My father in-law remodeled the house to rent on Airbnb. On the one year anniversary of Margaret’s death her friends and family gathered at the house for a memorial and the spreading of ashes.

My husband says, “Dad has been carrying Mom’s ashes in a ziplock baggy in his trunk for a year. What the hell?”

Each guest takes the giant ziplock bag and dumps a bit into the flower garden. I wonder if anyone is thinking what I’m thinking. “This is about as classy as the time my neighbor gave a wrapped up box of green stamps at the neighbor’s bridal shower.”

My father in-law is the last to leave the house. Two weeks later a couple rents the house on Airbnb. My husband reads their review. “Beautiful house and property but there was a ziplock baggy on the kitchen counter labeled Margaret’s Ashes.”

How does one respond to that review? “Sorry about the ashes on the counter.”

You don’t respond. It’s an Airbnb fail.

“Pickett’s Charge Had Around Twenty Thousand Confederate Soldiers”

My best friend is Thomas. I’ve known him for 35 years. Thomas and I were best friends at first sight. Our fathers were both professors at the same college. We were both the youngest children of large tight knit families. We were intellectually curious but academic misfits.

Thomas reminds me of the comedien Gallagher. Not because he’s into smashing watermelons with a mallet but because they resemble each other and they are total goofballs.

Thomas came to visit me. He takes a seat on the deck. “The Battle of Chickamauga was the first battle in Georgia in September 1863. The Confederates won. There were 18,454 Confederate casualties and 16,170 Union losses. It was the second highest loss after Gettysburg.”

A few moments of silence. Then he continues.

“There were one hundred and twenty generals at Gettysburg and nine of them were killed? Nine. That’s a lot.” 

“Pickett’s Charge had around twenty thousand Confederate soldiers but Gaines’ Mill had more than fifty thousand Confederate soldiers.”

I say, “If I was a soldier I’d run away and hide under a big log. I’d pull out my handy bottle of Elmer’s Glue and glue leaves all over myself.”

“They didn’t make Elmer’s Glue back then.”

“Well, they made some kind of adhesive. It may not have dried clear but it would have worked for my clever leaf disguise.”

Thomas brings up his junior and senior year in high school. “I went from straight A student to D’s and F’s.”

“One day I skipped school. I went to a park and smoked a joint. I pulled onto the main drive and my biology class was gathered under a tree. I pull up and say I THOUGHT I’D FIND YOU HERE. I helped them gather soil samples. It was a total buzz-kill.”

I love my best friend.

World Kindness Day

Today is World Kindness Day. The world could use a double shot of kindness. Top shelf.

If I used CNN as a kindness meter it would be a giant fail. So I look to my friends and Bradley Cooper to reassure myself that kindness is alive and well. And also sparkling blue eyes, talent and a kind face that melts my heart.

I am going to celebrate World Kindness Day by making sure my communication with my family is at an even volume of one.  No more, “WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN SHOOTING POTATOES ACROSS THE YARD? THAT’S WEIRD .”

“C’mon, Mom, you gotta admit you would like to launch a potato across the yard.”

And that is my gauge for my kindness factor. Yelling at my kid for launching potatoes. Man, I have a lot of work to do.

What Would Siddhartha Do?

Last Friday I inform my thirteen year old son, Charles, that we are going to DC for the day on Saturday. He wants to know why. I say, “because if I leave you home alone with your sister for ten hours I’m worried one or both of you may die.”

Saturday morning I tell Charles to get ready. He’s pacing around. I can tell he wants to ditch the trip and spend the day with internet friends trying to assassinate zombies or alien lizards. Or his sister.

Charles asks, “What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to an assault weapon museum, dinner and then a concert that will blow your mind like the zombies you annihilate everyday.”

We arrive to the Sackler Gallery, a Smithsonian Asian museum. We take our seats in the auditorium. Charles looks at the program. “Buddha Overcomes All Obstacles.”

“Mom, what about the assault weapon museum?”

“They’re closed, honey. Who knows? Maybe Siddhartha will use an uzi to overcome his obstacles.”

The performance of Cambodian dancers and musicians begins. It’s as visually stunning as fireworks on a Key West sunset over a sea of diamonds.

I’m prepared to overcome the obstacle of Charles sitting through the performance. He’s mesmerized. He may have even been enlightened about the peace that could come to him by giving up his Cyberpower Ultimate Gaming System. Doubtful. Maybe he’ll sit under the big oak tree in the backyard with his legs crossed to achieve an emotional state of calm. One can dream.

That night we arrive to the concert. Charles asks what we are seeing.

“A blasting banjo, a banging upright bass, a blaring tabla and a mind-blowing Indian flute. Music for your head, man.”

Charles is into it. After a solo by the master tabla musician he turns to me and says, “Oh my god, Mom, did you see what he just did? That was awesome!” Then he shifts around his seat like he’s embarrased by his enthusiasm.

I’m in parental ectasy. Then last night I request he hand over his computer and phone. He throws a fit. 

I say, “What would Siddhartha do?”

“Screw Siddhartha.”

I think that may be the only time in the history of mankind that the phrase Screw Siddhartha  was uttered.

More On Timing

My father played sax and clarinet in the navy band, a “fine and talented group of fellas” according to Dad.

Dad breaks his finger during a game of baseball. He’s ordered to withdraw from his spot on the U.S.S. Arizona. He’s disappointed. 

It’s the summer of 1941. Dad receives an envelope of notes from his best buds that are stationed on the Arizona.

Wendell is Dad’s best friend. He writes that Loretta Young (actress) came to see the band. The director works them to death and “bites our head off at the least little mistake”.

Wendell twirled for the crew several times on the quarterdeck. He signs his note, “Twirlingly yours, Wendell.”

Another friend writes, “Hello you old hep cat.” He signs off, “A brother cat.”

This: “Here it is a darkened ship and the general quarters. We have to stand condition and security watches when they have them out to sea. Condition watches are varied lengths of time and you can sit down while on watch and read or write letters, etc. Security watches are four hours in length and you patrol several decks.”


Four months later all of the authors  perished in Pearl Harbor.

Dad was forever changed. He couldn’t talk about it.

God bless them.

Screen Time

I discover that my fifteen year old cut the screens out of her bedroom windows. Big ol’ sheets of screen. 

I say, “Why did you cut the screens out of your windows?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you not like the way they look? Are they not aesthetically pleasing?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you have a boyfriend sneaking into the window and you want to reduce the number of steps it takes to sneak through?”

She stares me down.

“Did you start smoking pot and you want a lifetime supply of screens for your bowl?”


“This is one of your art projects, right? Like the time the stack of coffee filters went missing. I get it. Next time could you ask me to go to the screen store.”

The conversation ends with no closure about why this head-scratching incident occured. 

I say, “There’s many worse things than a screenless window. Like, um……….a screenless movie theatre. That would suck.”


There have been situations in my life where the timing made me think the universe is punking me.

My family traveled to Great Britain. My husband starts off driving the rental car. I start screaming when I think we are going to run over a bicyclist and a lovely stand of shrubbery.

My family is over the screaming after ten minutes. My husband hands me the keys.

I’m not exactly Miss Stellar Driver On The Left but I’m not screaming and it makes my family happy.

We drive onto Isle of Skye in Scotland which is like driving onto a Lord of the Rings movie set. Perhaps it was the enchanted beauty that caused me to run off the road into a gulley that immediately blew out a tire. Or maybe I’m a dumbass. Whatever the case we’re sitting in our B&B on the Lord of the Rings island with no car. We call a private tour service.

The driver, Angus, gives us a tour of the island.

When it comes time to leave my daughter discovers she left her bag in the tour van.

We call Angus. He says he will send over his brother right away with the bag.

We wait and wait. We have to leave. We’re driving down the road to the main drive. A car pulls up the road and stops next to our car.

My husband says, “Are you Angus’ brother?”

A blonde woman with a German accent says, “YES.”

“Do you have the bag?”

She says, “YES.”

Then the car speeds off, makes a fast u-turn and stops next to our car. The gentleman driver yells out in a German accent, “There’s been a terrible mistake!” and they speed away.

My family laughed so hard we all could have benefited from Depends.