“Kolak has four eyes!” Rob teases Laura by giving her blow-by-blow details of a horror movie plot. Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie in “It May Look Like a Walnut,” The Dick Van Dyke Show

It’s my conviction that Dick Van Dyke is the most gifted situation comedy actor ever. A singing, dancing and pantomiming creative genius who made Stan Laurel proud — he also draws caricatures, creates computer animation, and for many years built life-size monsters to unveil at Halloween. Every year, he invited his neighbors into his yard to check out his newest creatures.

I invite you to enjoy his performances in five eerie and very funny episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show that are perfect for Halloween. Like Alfred Hitchcock, DVD series creator and writer Carl Reiner knew the value of…


Let Me Be The One To Worry About Her

Mother and newborn. Image by the author’s grandfather.

From her, all blessings have flowed. I’m thankful for the parent who didn’t walk away, the quiet soul I could trust.

My mother is a worrier. A lifelong worrier. And unfortunately, I have inherited her anxiety.

I’ve always turned to her for comfort and advice. She was the only parent we could talk to. She was right about most things. And she was psychic, always knowing when something wasn’t going well even when we didn’t tell her.

So it made sense to confide in her and burden her with more reasons to worry. Because she’d find out anyway.

If only…


Responding to the Pandemic from Amish Country

An Amish farm in central Pennsylvania is pictured.
An Amish farm in central Pennsylvania is pictured.
An Amish farm in central Pennsylvania. Photo by the author.

Shortly after the warning came to wash hands frequently and stop shaking hands, I got “the flu” and was ordered to stay home. It was the fifth time I had been sick since the fall, and I was bitter.

I had made every effort to boost my immunity. I took a daily multivitamin and drank elderberry syrup. I sterilized my toothbrush in the dishwasher. I became hypervigilant at the office: frequently washing my hands (although never long enough, apparently), wearing disposable gloves to the restroom, sanitizing my keyboard and mouse daily.

And yet I was sick again at a time…


When is the last time you temporarily exited from the world?

Figure stands silhouetted in the darkness between two walls, facing a mural in the distance.
Figure stands silhouetted in the darkness between two walls, facing a mural in the distance.
Photo by the author.

When is the last time you were zoned?

I’m not talking about your comfort zone. Nor the zone where your concentration and focus are at their peak, when you’re on a creative roll, performing better than you thought possible, and making what you do look easy. Nor the endorphin zone where a vigorous workout or beautifully orchestrated music takes you.

I’m not talking about a meditative state, although this could be the prelude to one.

I’m not even talking about the auto-pilot zone.

I’m talking about the zone that is your temporary exit from the world. A moment when you…


Comfort in a Small Package

The seal pillow on the author’s bed.
The seal pillow on the author’s bed.
Photo by the author.

I love cuddling with my husband in bed, but when he rolls over and his breathing turns to deep sleep, I feel alone. So I’ve taken to cozying up to the “Blob Seal” pillow.

I was looking for neck support when I ordered my gray seal pillow. Soft and squeezable with a realistic face — modeled after actual seals at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in Japan — the seal pillow also comes in white.

Considering I paid $30 including shipping, I thought I was getting the body pillow size in the ad. Turns out I ordered the 30 cm seal…


We were right not to

“For those of us who knew the pain of valentines that never came” ~ Janis Ian, “At Seventeen”

Cover image of Janis Ian’s “Between the Lines” album featuring the song, “At Seventeen”
Cover image of Janis Ian’s “Between the Lines” album featuring the song, “At Seventeen”
Janis Ian’s Between the Lines album, featuring “At Seventeen”

For those of us who identified with Janis Ian, we learned long ago not to expect anything for Valentine’s Day. When in fact, every day should be Valentine’s Day, when we give and receive love freely, without expectation of a card, gift or flowers.

So many people I know, including my husband, hold Valentine’s Day in disdain because of those unmet expectations. …


I didn’t know I was waiting for him

The author and her husband. Photo by Debbie Markle Shelow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how time and patience work. For 4–1/2 years when my love and I were living 984 miles apart, there were weekends when I drove nine hours to steal three days with him. And cried when I had to leave him again and make that long drive home. I would go to him no matter how long it took. After all, I waited more than 38 years to find him.

Well, I didn’t actually know I was waiting for him. But I think now that he was always in the back of my mind.

I’d…


Find a good boss

Meme featuring a Buddha-like head: “If someone treats you badly, just remember that there is something wrong with them…
Meme featuring a Buddha-like head: “If someone treats you badly, just remember that there is something wrong with them…

How does one survive a bad boss? When the movie “Horrible Bosses” was released, I stopped watching after about five minutes. I wanted to laugh, but I had experienced bosses like them in three jobs. In two of those jobs, horrible bosses double-teamed to make my life miserable — or as one human resources staffer put it — to “manage me out” out of the workplace. For reasons that came out of the blue:

I was about to be vested in my retirement account.
I occasionally wore all black clothing.
The boss had stopped paying attention to my work and suddenly doubted my productivity.

Google “bad bosses” and you’ll come up with lists of the top five or 10 traits. The bottom line is, a bad boss doesn’t care about…


Danny Thomas plays piano for his daughter Linda, played by Angela Cartwright, seated on the piano.
Danny Thomas plays piano for his daughter Linda, played by Angela Cartwright, seated on the piano.
If we were able to watch the Danny Williams family, surely they were watching us? Credit: The Danny Thomas Show

What’s the weirdest belief you held as a child?

I believed the voice on the radio came from a little man inside the cabinet.

If we were able to watch the Danny Williams family on The Danny Thomas Show, it seemed to me that his TV family must be able to watch us.

And when I discovered The Dick Van Dyke Show, I got to see so much more of Rob than my father that I wished Rob were my Dad.


How to live with someone who is

Angelic Christie sleeps with the doll she loves, unaware the doll wants to murder her stepfather.
Angelic Christie sleeps with the doll she loves, unaware the doll wants to murder her stepfather.
Christie has the face of an angel, while her doll Talky Tina is plotting murder. Credit: The Twilight Zone

My closet has no skeletons, but it might as well, if you ask my husband, who knows my dolls are stored there. Were they on display, he’d be scared they were making mischief and trying to scare him. It’s not like these dolls resemble the homicidal Talky Tina from the “Living Doll” episode of Twilight Zone, a spirit sent to get rid of a man who doesn’t deserve his loving stepfamily. Their faces are cute! …

Walker Griffith

Tripping over my feelings forever.

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