Category Archives: Welcome to My Disordered World

You Might Be a Band Parent If…

12063727_1697752737122081_6648721571656694762_nFall is upon us. Time for corn mazes and jack o’ lanterns, flannel shirts and apple cider, football and marching bands. But let us not forget, ‘tis the season for band parents, too. In the spirit of identifying with the tireless role that they play in support of their music-loving, instrument-lugging progenies, I’ve made a handful of keen observations so that others might avoid entering the future ranks without first knowing what’s in store.

You might be a band parent if…

  • You shop for vehicles based primarily on their capacity for cramming large and unwieldy musical instruments within a given square footage—as well as additional band members of varying size who may need a ride home on occasion. Having the extra cargo space for a six-foot color guard flag also comes in handy when your daughter announces she’d rather flip a flag than march around on a football field while playing a clarinet. Hello…that’s marching band, dear.
  • You come to expect desperate phone calls and/or texts following drop offs, informing you that an item of vital importance was somehow forgotten (i.e. money, dot sheets, guard gloves, Under Armour, sweatshirt, socks, nude-colored strapless bra, etc.). Naturally, you’re expected to come to the rescue. Every. Single. 12038682_1697752563788765_3973938525418742640_oTime.
  • Your car knows the way to the band room, to every football stadium within 300-square miles and to the beloved concession stand—where you will spend an estimated quarter century of your life. Or maybe it just feels that way, since you emerge from each of your eternal shifts there totally spent, smelling much like a French fry and reflexively responding to dietary requests with, “Would you like cheese on that?”
  • Forget singing along like a banshee to Sam Smith tunes on the radio. Instead, you find yourself drumming out the beat of Seven Nation Army on your steering wheel and chanting its hypnotic mantra because you’ve heard the band play it roughly SEVEN MILLION TIMES. Why do you engage in such foolishness while cruising around town? Because it now inhabits your subconscious mind. And you love it. Almost as much as you love the marching band as an entity and the kids who embody its spirit.
  • On the eve of band competitions, you lose precious sleep and become all but consumed with performance anxiety—despite the fact that the performance in question isn’t even yours. Which makes no sense at all.
  • Never mind your career, hobby or favorite sitcom. You now spend the bulk of your days and nights either engaging in or thinking about fundraising for the marching band. If you could train your dog to help you achieve your financial goals for the season you’d do it in a sixteenth note (translation: almost instantaneously).
  • There have been great multitudes of discussions in your household that begin with the words, “One time, at band camp…” and not once have you freaked out. Well, maybe one time; but that’s because you couldn’t stop thinking about that line from American Pie and you were paralyzed with fear over the issue of having to discuss the topic of sex at the dinner table.
  • It’s barely October and already you’ve spent enough money on the concession stand to fund a mediocre political campaign. But if you’re the one running for office (based on your track record of providing hot, nutritious meals for your family during marching band season), don’t bother. Everyone’s grabbing dinner featuring soft pretzels and chili dogs an average of two nights a week. At least it’s hot. Probably.
  • You hate to admit it, but you don’t really care much about watching football anymore. The team is undoubtedly great, but now it’s all about THE BAND. And HALFTIME. Or the PREGAME SHOW that happens prior to kickoff. Heaven forbid you’re still in the parking lot loading up like a pack mule or stuck in line for cheese fries when your school performs. Your kid will NEVER forgive you. So if that happens, be sure to lie well and don’t miss it next time.
  • You witness something special every single day—namely the warmth and acceptance with which the band welcomes one and all into the fold. You recognize the band director and his associates as gifts from above and you look on with wonder as your child blossoms in an atmosphere of positivity and inspiration, ever so grateful that you heard the words, “Mom, I joined the marching band!”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, loving my experience as a second-year band parent at Loyalsock HS, despite all my whining. Visit me there at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. Photo credits to Bob Barrett. All rights reserved. Thank you so much, Bob!  😀

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, In the Trenches of Parentville, School Schmool, Welcome to My Disordered World

The Beauty of Mismanagement

www.melindawentzel.comAs I type this, it’s two-thirty in the afternoon on a weekday and everyone in my household is still wearing pajamas. No one has brushed their teeth, not one hair upon one solitary head has been coifed and thus far, exactly zero sit-down meals have been served. All concerned parties have opted to graze through the day like cattle, raiding the fridge and cupboards at will. Myself included. That being said, dishevelment abounds and lethargy has rained down upon us like a scourge.

Indeed, the Nanny would be horrified. And because I recognize the magnitude of my deplorableness, I can envision her disapproving glare—the way she’d scowl and shake her head at me. Like a taskmaster, she’d stand amidst my chaos with a big, fat marker in hand, fervently filling a white board with a host of solutions for dealing with the disorder and mismanagement that permeate my world. It’s likely that a complete overhaul of my parenting system and skills (or lack thereof) would be recommended if not demanded, necessitating the summoning of nanny reinforcements. Legions of them, quite possibly.

Naturally, we’d invite them in for imaginary tea—to be served within the confines of the not-so-imaginary blanket fort now consuming my living room. The one I allowed to be constructed. The one littered with Cheez-Its. The one from whence we viewed the antics of Tom & Jerry because I simply couldn’t bear to hear one more syllable emanating from Rush Limbaugh.

Granted, there is no school today, so the death of structure (which I condoned and perhaps orchestrated to my benefit) could, in fact, be deemed appropriate. Maybe even welcomed in some circles. Okay, tiny circles. Few in number. But quantifiable circles nonetheless. Even still, I ought to be ashamed of the sorry state of my domestic affairs. My ducks are undeniably in disarray. And that cannot be good.

I suppose it’s no secret that I don’t run a very tight ship. Admittedly, I pilot the Titanic most days—struggling to avoid the icebergs that pepper my hectic mornings. The women in the www.melindawentzel.comschool office could attest to that fact. The ones who see me traipsing in to deliver forgotten lunchboxes and misplaced jackets—telling indicators of my ineptitude as a parent. Helen knows the score, too. She drives the big, yellow bus that we race to meet each morning—backpacks bouncing, shoelaces flapping and bellies sloshing with breakfast as we dash through the wet grass, my mind flying through the anxiety-driven Mom Checklist at warp speed: Is everyone wearing shoes and clean underwear…did they brush their teeth…did they actually EAT something…did I remember to pack their snacks…their library books…their homework…and so on.

The high schoolers sitting at the back of the bus know the awful truth, too. The ones who’ve forever peered through the clouded panes and watched me schlepping around the same silly book, The Tale of Despereaux—a wonderful story, I’m sure, but one I’ve failed to finish reading aloud since Christmas. I planned to share this literary gem with my brood at the bus stop, where we’d sit together on the curb and devour page after page as the gray morning skies surrender to the sun. I suppose I lug it there because I’m holding out hope that somehow we’ll find time to move past Chapter Three.

For whatever reason, I think I managed mornings better when my charges were kindergarteners. Back then we actually finished books together and even had time to discuss colorful characters—proof that my time management skills were at least reasonable and my mornings, less hectic. I hardly ever had to deliver a lunchbox or a coat because someone forgot it and I honestly don’t remember racing across the lawn to catch the bus—ever.

Then again, my memories of blanket forts and lazy days in pajamas are a bit fuzzy. It’s possible I embraced the notion of disorder back then more than I’d care to admit. Perhaps that’s the beauty of mismanagement—we conveniently forget the less-than-perfect-looking stuff of parenthood, yet savor every delicious moment while we’re living it.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, Welcome to My Disordered World

Pottery Barn Lust

Stop it, Pottery Barn. Stop making my kids drool over that which I cannot afford and would never buy anyway. Have you no shame?! My children now hate me. Yes, HATE me—not for demanding that they close your four-color rag at eleven-fricking-fifteen in the evening and get ready for bed already, or for failing to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately as they flip through its pages delirious with wanton desire, but for not dropping everything to order this and that foolish bit of tripe splashed across the landscape of your wondrously opulent magazine. Grok!

Just so you know, I’m on to you. I am. I really am. I’m not even remotely beguiled by your clever little ruse: that of seducing domestically challenged moms everywhere with your pristine layouts, color-coordinated ensembles, outrageously organized living spaces and exquisitely charming patterns that make me weak with desire. Sheez, the uncluttered environment alone makes me shudder with unadulterated pleasure.

Further, you’ve seized upon every mom’s woeful lament: Oh how I long for everything to be in its place, which is utterly disgraceful, you despicable opportunists. And I find your agenda (hidden or otherwise) to be rather disturbing—one that smacks of trickery and the dastardly element of mind control. Your abundant use of muted hues, tasteful explosions of color and the artsy flair you brazenly display is likewise, contemptible, luring us deeper and deeper into your lair of deception. Indeed, your deliberate (yet smartly subtle) arrangement of children (i.e. the self-indulgent little twerps you commission to frolic hither and yon, dripping with good cheer, an obscene degree of decorum and perfectly coifed hair) is absolutely sinful. Sinful, I say!

Yea, page after page of gloriously bedecked bedrooms and bathrooms and play rooms, awash with extravagance to die for, makes me ill. Yes, physically ill—because I can’t quell the beast within that shouts, “You’re a horrible mother! If you really loved your kids, you’d buy that monstrosity of a bunk bed with its adorable little study carrel tucked beneath it, and those delicious-looking Adirondack chairs for the lawn and deck! OMG! Don’t deprive your dear children a minute more, you miserly hag! Order this instant, lest the world should stop revolving!”

That said, the ruinous voices inside my head are slowly but surely making me crazy—one insanely heinous syllable at a time. “Where, oh where will the madness end?” I beg of you. “Begone now, exorbitantly priced beach towels, backpacks and bedding! And take your foolish monograms with you! Don’t forget those pricey jungle-inspired, flower-power-ish, skateboard-esque, pretty-in-pink, ocean-and-surfboard-riddled bedroom themes either. I’ve seen enough already! My kids HATE me, remember?! They loathe the Wal-Mart-ish budget to which I am a slave and will soon be talking trash about me to their nose-mining cronies. Oh, the horror!”

“But before you go, dear Pottery Barn folk, please answer me this: what’s with the legions of baskets, buckets and boxes with which you festoon seemingly every page? Do you actually KNOW children who would willingly place their beloved schlock in a receptacle so intended simply because it is labeled as such?! Are you completely delusional—or do you just revel in your ability to make parents feel pitifully inadequate, as if they couldn’t train a dog to bark let alone instruct a child to put something away?!”

“Never mind,” said the pitifully inadequate mother. “I already know.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (amidst an abundance of clutter, chaos and cheapass décor). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Welcome to My Disordered World

The Island of Misfit Parents

I’m a poor tool when it comes to holiday décor. A mere handful of days remain on the calendar before Christmas and I have yet to string a single light on shrubbery or hang a solitary stocking from the banister, now cold and bare. Never mind erecting an oversized tree in our living room, one that may or may not stand entirely straight. That would require ambition, the ability to govern the impossible-to-govern and an exhaustive search for our less-than-functional tree stand. What’s more, its assembly would consume an inordinate chunk of time, devoted primarily to hauling the artificial wonder from the bowels of our attic (hopefully, without incident), dragging its dead weight down a narrow staircase and around impossibly tight corners and then piecing the beast together, branch by color-coded branch, all the while exercising civility and decorum.

A tall order, indeed. It’s no wonder I put it off each December. Although maybe it has something to do with the fact that my kids are far more interested in climbing inside and atop the monstrosity of a box and barreling down the staircase than in helping to build the cussed tree that said box has housed for nearly a decade and a half.

Every year, though, I vow to improve; to embrace the Yuletide more than ever before, to rouse a spirit of goodwill and cooperation among the elfin creatures who reside here, to deck the halls in a more timely fashion, to actually mail our Christmas cards before Groundhog Day. Of course, I make such a pledge so that my children might refrain from reinforcing my holiday-related ineptitude (i.e. Mom, I hope you know that PRACTICALLY EVERYONE ON THE PLANET has already put up their tree—except us—we’re misfits).

Ouch. It’s not as if I haven’t meant to do all those things, and more. Aside from attending 487 Christmas plays, holiday concerts and craft-making sessions involving pine-scented whateverness, I’ve compiled an impressive to-do list—one that spells out in great detail what I should be doing to prepare for this season of seasons. If nothing else, I am well-intentioned, as evidenced by my heartfelt promise to bake the giant Halloween House cookie that has mocked me since mid-October—the one I threw in my cart in a moment of deluded inspiration, never once believing that it might STILL be in my pantry two months later. I wish I were kidding.

Child: “We’re NEVER baking that cookie, are we, Mom?” Me: Hangs head in shame.

To add to the mélange of angst and discontent brewing beneath this roof, our tiny herd of reindeer has yet to be assembled in the lawn, an event that has come to symbolize a welcome committee for Santa, much like the gingerbread cookies and carrots we place in a tin made especially for that purpose. Naturally, I defend that which is indefensible. “There’s no snow on the ground! Plunking reindeer in the grass, not to mention, ‘…plunking reindeer in the grass WHILE IT RAINS,’ just seems wrong. And besides, one set of antlers is defective. And the lights are shoddy, at best. And the neck swivel thingy lurches and jerks as if it were a sprinkler head. On crack. Remember how your dad had to cobble the stupid thing together with wires and screws…and the hideous-looking tangle of lights he wound around its belly? At least we have a Christmas wreath hanging on our door…and a pumpkin on the stoop! How many people can say that in December?!” I foolishly boast.

Of course, commentary like that is never well-received, usually being met with a chorus of groans, a profusion of eye rolling and remarks that generally employ the word “lame.” As in: “Seriously, Mom? That’s so completely lame.”

She had a point.

Admittedly, I am a poor tool when it comes to holiday décor.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (on the Island of Misfit Parents). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, Welcome to My Disordered World

Necessity is the Mother of Clean Closets and Tidy Drawers

I used to be obsessed with neatness—a strange sort of child who, completely unprompted, would devote an entire Saturday to the rearrangement of my bedroom furniture, organizing drawers and eradicating dust with wild abandon. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I’d lug large and unwieldy dressers across the floor in fits and starts, nonplussed by the unremarkable nature of my progress, the uncooperative penchant of my carpeting and the very real possibility that the dozen or more wooden legs involved would weaken and eventually snap like Mom and Dad had warned so many times. But I was driven (read: impulsive), filled with an overwhelming desire to bring order to my world and a fresh, new look to my 10×10 foot haven of personal space—a canary yellow cube I called my very own.

What’s more, there was something deliciously liberating—perhaps, even cathartic—about wrestling with a chest of drawers that sought to undermine my every effort to muscle it, ever so deliberately and in embarrassingly small increments, without a bit of assistance. I was ambitious (read: daft) if nothing else.

Needless to say, untold hours were spent drafting floor plans and analyzing my decisions—as if the placement of each and every souvenir-inspired trinket, shoebox stuffed with collectibles and cumbersome piece of furniture mattered. Because it did. Never mind that I knew next to nothing about feng shui or its inherent wonderfulness. Apparently, I was born with an innate appreciation for the spatial relevance of objects that surrounded me. Or maybe my curious obsession with moving furniture and shuffling the contents of drawers in a quiet state of panic was fueled by an intolerable degree of boredom and/or a desire to avoid stubbing my toe on the way to the bathroom in the dead of night. I don’t pretend to know what spurred my impassioned efforts; however, I am wholly convinced that that industrious soul is nowhere to be found today.

Decades of amassing that which I clearly couldn’t live without (to include an irreplaceable, yet hoard-happy, family) has resulted in a hideously cluttered existence. That said, virtually every corner of my home has been sullied to some extent—a byproduct of living with people who are physically incapable of returning anything to its rightful place in the universe, much less, throwing it away. Lego villages, like clumps of crabgrass, creep into crevices and occupy tabletops for weeks on end as do legions of Barbie dolls that lie about the place, shamelessly nude. And let us not forget the shoes (oh, my hell, the SHOES!) and the train-wreck-of-a-dresser that a certain someone has refused to purge since kindergarten. Not to be outdone, my husband marks territory with coats and hats and, of course, the trappings of projects in various stages of completion, all of which I find patently unforgivable. Furthermore, the unsightly mass atop his dresser is only slightly less offensive than the one detailed above. I wish I were making this up.

No longer do my Saturdays involve frenzied cleaning missions, the reordering of an otherwise obscure set of drawers, or a compulsion to move my coffee table somewhere else…just because. I simply don’t have that kind of luxury, never mind the initiative required to act upon it. Instead, my days are rife with failed attempts to keep all the plates spinning (i.e. the psyches nurtured, the homework vanquished, the inexorable bickering at bay). That is not to say that tiny bursts of inspiration never occur; but my domestic priorities have shifted markedly since the advent of motherhood and my tolerance for household squalor has risen to an unprecedented (read: disturbing) level.

Basically I clean, purge and/or organize for three reasons: When someone spills something and that something is categorically vile, when the laws of nature regarding storage capacity have been irreparably breached, or when the arrival of guests is imminent. Indeed, necessity is the mother of clean closets and tidy drawers, while shame is the mother of purged refrigerators. It’s a far cry from my neatnik days, but for the most part, practicable.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not cleaning my refrigerator). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Value of Permanence

Lots of things in this world are disturbing to me. Greed, poverty and heinous crime. The demise of the planet and the pervasiveness of mediocrity. Mismatched socks and the death of Gilligan’s Island. Oddly enough, I include technology on that list, too—or more correctly, the alarming pace at which technological devices are mass produced, marketed to the public and propelled into the great abyss of planned obsolescence. It’s as if we’re cultivating a generation of people who care less and less about the enduring nature of things and more about the latest nugget of innovation that promises to improve society in some novel way. That said, I fear that my kids will grow to devalue the permanence of things—despite the fact that on this particular day the notion seems wholly inconceivable.

As I’ve described so many times before (occasionally in horrific detail) the hoarding tendencies of Thing One and Thing Two are beyond all comprehension—as is their love of sameness. Ostensibly, their mission in life is to avoid change at all possible costs and to amass virtually every molecule of that which is deemed worthy of collecting—heaping it upon dressers, shoving it beneath beds and stowing it into forgotten corners of our pitifully disordered garage. Of course, they’ve come by this trait honestly. Captain Clutter could, at any given time, produce the following: a receipt for a television we no longer own, a tool I have never once seen in my life, an impressive array of his artwork from the fifth grade, a prized stash of his baby teeth. Yes, baby teeth. I wish I were joking.

At any rate, the hoarding gene seems inextricably present within my brood, although to some extent this gives me comfort because it implies there is hope that my daughters will feel compelled to hold on to the remnants of life that truly matter—the tangible stuff that will trigger memories long after I’m gone, serving to moor them to their childhood.

Like any good cynic, I’m skeptical that an electronic record could preserve the past on par with that which I can hold in my hands. Further, bits and bytes seem inordinately complex and elusive to me. Ethereal almost. Not to mention, data stored in this fashion is far from safe in my charge, having managed to delete countless items to my utter dismay. My husband, too, has mourned the loss of infinitely dear morsels of remembrances, having inadvertently erased a snippet of speech from his cell phone not long ago—one that was placed there by a certain six-year-old who breathlessly told of some robins who had apparently “…lost their way, Daddy!” Her voice, filled impossibly with the exuberance of youth on that memorable January day, cannot be replicated.

Indeed, lapses in judgment happen. Computers crash. Files become corrupt or irretrievable. That which is irreplaceable can be woefully distorted or lost entirely. What’s more, the digital wonders of the 21st century, although truly wonderful, somehow lack the essential element of palpability in my mind—especially as keepsakes go. Pictures and even video clips of my family at the shore simply cannot compare with the sack full of shells we gathered together and hauled back to Pennsylvania because someone insisted that we “…take the beach home, Mom. It’ll help us remember.” Even still, the briny scent of the sea hits me squarely when I open the bag to finger our bounty once more and to poke at the grains of sand that have settled to the bottom. In an instant I am back at the beach, feeling the warmth beneath my feet and hearing the gulls shriek over the waves that pound without end.

Likewise, an email doesn’t possess near the charm that a handwritten letter does—especially if doodles have been scrawled in the margins or a violet has been carefully tucked within the folds of the paper. Nor can a digital photograph compete with the inherent brilliance of a grainy, black and white 35 mm print. Moreover, a text message is not remotely related to a lunchbox note, or one that awaits beneath a bed pillow at day’s end.

Color me old-fashioned, resistant-to-change—a dinosaur even. That aside, I feel connected to what’s real and right for me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (tethered forever to that which is tangible). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Twelfth of Never

www.melindawentzel.comMy refrigerator is the center of my universe, the heart and soul of my being and the hub of all that defines my world. Not because of the mince pie, Jack cheese and leftovers contained within. But because of the Almighty Calendar that hangs on its shiny surface—eye-level, next to the school lunch menu, surrounded by tiny scraps of paper upon which I scrawled phone numbers I need to know but will never remember. And like a lot of well-worn items in my household, it looks as though it belongs there—wedged comfortably between favorite photos, prized artwork and those all-important memos and appointment cards without which I would surely shrivel up and die.

Each perfect square on that grand and glorious grid of events represents a chunk of precious time. And it MUST have something scribbled within it. Someone’s birthday. A holiday mealtime. A veterinary appointment. A vacation destination. A reminder to return the kids’ library books. Something. Anything. Except nothingness—which would imply a sort of nothingness about me, I suppose; or perhaps that downtime actually exists in my harried world.

What a ludicrous notion.

There are swimming lessons, birthday parties and play rehearsals to attend. Soccer games, haircuts and doctors’ visits galore. Empty blocks simply do not reflect the reality that is mine. Besides, the voids make me feel guilty—as if I have nothing better to do than sit around and watch Play-Doh crumble and dry while the kids are at school. Calendars crammed to capacity with details of this or that planned affair give me a real sense of purpose, of direction, of connectedness with the outside world—linking me to all the goings-on I have chosen to include (willingly or not). And they provide a healthy dose of structure and predictability, too—both of which are sorely lacking here. In sum, calendars bring a smattering of order to my otherwise disordered world. I shudder to think where I’d be without mine.

That said, I love calendars, despite my personal limitations in dealing with them. I especially enjoy receiving a new one for Christmas and spending a lazy afternoon in January slathering its pristine little blocks with all sorts of important dates and times to remember. Every syllable precisely placed. I’m quite certain I fool a myriad of individuals into believing that I’m impeccably organized. Even I believe it for a time.

But by February the frenzied pace of the world returns and information starts spilling from those neat and tidy little squares into the narrow margins. Stuff gets scribbled out or transferred to other squares and big, ugly arrows are drawn across what was once an unsullied masterpiece of time management—which is a lot like life, I suppose.

It’s subject to change.

Remarkably, most of us manage to muddle through the madness with a few reroutings and derailments here and there, which builds character, I’m told. Maybe that’s what makes the month-by-month journey worth journeying—even if it’s just to the fridge.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

P.S. Now would be the PERFECT TIME to order one of those bad ass calendars by The Bloggess (aka Jenny Lawson). Click here and prepare to cackle until you cannot breathe or until you soil yourself. Possibly both. http://www.zazzle.com/bloggess_2012_calendar-158892766191191563

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel (Note: This column previously appeared in Life in Altamonte Springs City Magazine of central Florida, USA, January 2012)

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