We have decided that we need to lose some weight, and when I say we I of course mean my wife. I get dragged along with the same enthusiasm the Japanese-Americans had when they jumped on the trains to go to the internment camps during World War Two. I think my wife looks fine, and I checked on-line, and I am at the exact weight I should be for a guy my height and age who eats everything he wants. I’m happy with my weight, but I’ll go along to humor her, and because I really don’t have a choice.

I’ve often said that losing weight is ninety per cent mental. You have to adjust your mind and fool your brain into believing you’re not dieting. It makes the whole thing less of a struggle. And it’s not that hard, because in my case anyway, the brain ain’t all that bright. I’ll share a few diet tips I’ve learned over the years to make that dummy brain believe you aren’t dieting.

The biggest problem with diet food is it is not aesthetically appealing. Take celery for instance. Celery is so low in calories that you burn more calories eating and digesting it than it contains. It’s a minus calorie food! But your brain takes one look at it and says, “Hey, wait a minute. This is diet food!” It knows that because celery doesn’t even look like food. It looks like some kind of tiny flume you would send tiny logs down to get them to a tiny sawmill. And the color is disgusting. It is a sickly pale green color like something that comes out of your nose when you have a bad cold. To remedy that and give it more eye appeal, I fill the concave part of a stalk of celery with bright orange Cheez Whiz. The look is far more appealing, and my brain hardly realizes its eating diet food. Just that simple change in color allows me to easily scarf down ten or twelve stalks without my brain complaining. The weight should be falling off me.
Dessert is another problem when you’re dieting. Everyone likes that little sweet at the end of a meal to finish it off and cleanse the palate. The problem is, most desserts have calorie counts that are higher than the audience at a Willie Nelson concert in Colorado. You could eat a piece of fruit—okay I’m joking. Nobody eats fruit for dessert—or you could eat one of those commercial low-calorie desserts. My wife bought some high-fiber, low-calorie bars. I have to admit that even right out of the box, they are tastier than the box. But I have found a little trick that improves the flavor  tremendously. Take one and put it in the microwave for just ten to fifteen seconds. It will come out warm, soft, toasty and sweet smelling. Toss on a couple scoops of ice cream and some chocolate sauce, and your brain will think it’s some high-calorie, decadent dessert with far more calories than the measly ninety it says on the front of the box. Stupid brain.
There are other little tricks, such as pounding a steak down and stretching it out with a mallet. Your brain will think it’s a huge twenty-ounce sirloin instead of the skimpy sixteen ounce one you’re actually eating. Remember, it’s all about convincing your brain that you’re not on a diet. I’m thinking about doing a book with all these little diet tips, but first I need to run up town and get a new belt. My wife must have washed this one because it seems to be shrinking.


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My wife talks to the TV. (And not in a way you can understand such as when your football team is on the three-yard line with their butts in the end zone, and the dufus coach calls an end sweep when any fool knows you need to pound it up the gut to gain a few yards and get some breathing room. So of course when the tailback gets buried in the end zone for a touchback, you scream at the TV, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, YOU MORON!!??” Because you know the coach is there at the game, right now in real time, and maybe he can’t hear you, but at least he can feel the love.) She talks to people on programs that are recorded. The other night on American Pickers, one of the hosts, Frank, bought a Texaco oil can for a hundred dollars. A graphic appeared on the screen:

Texaco oil can
Picked $100
Valued $300
+ $200

“Do you really think someone is going to pay you three hundred bucks for an old oil can?” my wife asks Frank in disbelief. Frank ignores her.
Now setting aside the first rule of antiquing: Old things are worth more than new things—except for people, this is on the History Channel, so the can must have some huge historical significance, such as it was one of the cans General George Armstrong Custer used to lubricate his horse before the Battle at the Little Big Horn. But even setting that aside, the show was recorded months ago, maybe years ago because it might have been a rerun. Currently Frank is off slamming down a Flame Thrower Grill Burger, cheese curds and a Jurassic Chomp Blizzard Treat at some Dairy Queen. He can’t hear her, and even if he could, he’s either sold the oil can for a huge profit or taken a bath on it and that’s why he’s eating at Dairy Queen instead of some snooty five-star restaurant, but my wife doesn’t care. Frank needs to know how stupid he is for paying that kind of money for an old oil can, and she’s going to tell him.
My wife talks to detective shows, too. “Don’t go in there by yourself!!” she will scream at the TV screen as the female investigator enters an abandoned warehouse where a homicidal manic with a machine gun, chainsaw and a Texaco oil can, that could leave a nasty welt if he threw it at her, is hiding. “Why would you do that, you idiot!!??”
“Because the writer wants to build tension,” I’ll say. “If she had backup with her, it wouldn’t be as dramatic and scary.”
Her head will snap around, and she’ll glare at me as if I’m the one who’s crazy.
My wife is not the only one in our household who acts strange sometimes. She often accuses me of talking to myself. It’s a ridiculous misconception she has developed over the years from the numerous times she has heard me carrying on a conversation with someone when I was the only one in the room. Normally I explain it as going over dialogue for a novel, and how I have to say it out loud to get the emphasis and speech pattern right, but normally I’m just talking to myself. Sometimes I’m the only one I can find who is smart enough, or dumb enough, to agree with me.
When we catch each other doing weird things, my wife and I have this running joke about how the other one needs Nutso Pills. If I ever find where I can order some, I hope they come in five-gallon buckets.
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I’m going to jail—federal prison to be exact. I got a call from the IRS the other day. The very stern and serious guy on the phone said they had issued a warrant for my arrest for unpaid taxes, and officers were already on the way to arrest me. He said I needed to go buy a gift card then call a number and give them the information from the card to stop the officers from showing up at my front door. I certainly didn’t want to go to prison. I can’t imagine taking showers with other guys at my age. I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court would consider it cruel and unusual punishment for anyone to have to see me naked. I told the guy to hold on for a minute while I got a pencil and paper to write down the number to call, but he wouldn’t listen and just kept droning on about how rough federal prison is and how many years I would be locked up. I put down the phone and ran and got the pencil and paper, but when I got back, he had hung up. I didn’t know what to do, so I packed a suitcase and some cigarettes to trade so I wouldn’t have to be someone’s play toy in the pen. (I only brought a pack because thinking a play toy my age was worth even that much was more the result of an inflated ego than anything else.) Then I waited for the FBI to come and get me. They haven’t showed up yet, and I wish they would hurry because I have to pee.
A few days later the IRS called me again. This time it was a serious woman who informed me that they had mistakenly given me a tax return I wasn’t supposed to get, and if I would just call another number and give them my bank account information, they could straighten this all out, and they wouldn’t have to issue a warrant for my arrest. I tried to tell her that I hadn’t received a refund, and there were already officers coming to pick me up on the other warrant. I suggested they just have the same officers pick me up on both warrants instead of having to make two trips, and maybe they could save the government a couple bucks that way. She didn’t seem to be interested—this is why the federal budget is so bloated—in fact, she didn’t seem to even hear me, just like the first guy. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is some kind of affirmative action program where they hire the disabled for government jobs. It’s a good idea, but I really don’t think people with hearing disabilities should be making phone calls.
So I’m still here with my suitcase, waiting for the FBI or the US Marshall’s to show up and get me. I just had a nice young man with a foreign accent call me from Microsoft to let me know my computer has been hacked. I’ll need to run downstairs for a minute to give him access to my computer so he can fix the problem. I hope the officers don’t show up while I’m down there, because I still need to pee before they take me.

Joel Jurrens author’s page at Amazon

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I went to the movies the other night and was all excited because I got the seniors’ discount and only had to pay half-price for admission. (There is no surer sign of getting old than being thrilled rather than offended when a clerk offers you the seniors’ discount.) The seniors’ discount is actually a fair trade practice. The really old and decrepit farts dose off halfway through the show anyway and have to pay to see it a second time to find out how it ended. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow night I’ll go back and find out who the murderer is.

My fading memory is what I hate the most about getting old. It’s not the fact that I have to go downstairs three times before I remember what I needed to get out of the storeroom. It’s that it takes me the first two times just to remember it had anything to do with the storeroom. Usually I’ll stand in one place like a lost wildebeest that has been separated from the herd, glancing around and wondering why I’m down there. I’ll check the washing machine to see if there is anything in it my wife wants me to put in the clothes dryer. Then I’ll check the clothes dryer to see if I was supposed to take clothes out and fold them. I’ll check the furnace and the water heater then go back upstairs before I remember I was supposed to get something out of the storeroom. I’ll go back downstairs, and of course there still aren’t any clothes in the washer or dryer. It’s an endless cycle.
Just to prove how old I am, we recently bought one of those robot vacuums that cleans the floors and spreads dog poop all over the carpet while we’re gone. (See YouTube videos.) I named it Hazel–which really dates me. most people don’t know who Hazel was. It is one of those modern conveniences I would have laughed at wasting the money on just ten years ago when I was young enough to vacuum without feeling worn out the next day. Out dog hates it. She is positive it is the evil love child of her arch enemies the vacuum cleaner and the lawn mower. And it has to be possessed as it doesn’t even need a human attached to it to chase her around the house.
Since I’m getting older, I find myself talking to myself more now than I used to—probably because I keep forgetting there’s nobody around. I’ve always talked to myself. For years my wife would walk into a room and ask, “Who are you talking to?” I used to tell her I was going over dialogue for a book, and I had to say it out loud to get the rhythm and speech pattern right, but usually I was just talking to myself. Sometimes you need to tell the World something even if there is nobody there to hear it.
I sometimes think my wife talks to herself, but she doesn’t. I’ll be down in the family room, and I’ll hear her talking upstairs in the kitchen very animated for long periods of time, and not just mumbling but speaking loudly. About the time I’m getting ready to dig out my cell phone to see if I can get her some help. She’ll come down the stairs.

My wife: So what do you think?

Me: About what?

My wife (giving a disgusted snort.): I just spent a half-hour explaining where we should go for vacation this year, and you weren’t even listening. It’s just like you to block me out when you’re watching TV.

I think I have a crazy person living in my house. I’m just not sure which one of us it is. Now excuse me, I have to run downstairs and get something. I think it has something to do with the washing machine.
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There are two sets of qualities that make a good leader. One is to be tall with wavy hair, and the other is to be short with an attitude. The latter is called a Napoleon Complex, e.g. Valdimir Putin, Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and of course Napoleon. I’m of average height with very little attitude and hair that will never be mistaken for a wig, only because nobody would ever believe someone would be stupid enough to spend money on a wig that looks that bad.
When I worked in law enforcement I was the sergeant of the department. The reason I was the sergeant had nothing to do with my leadership abilities. I simply had the highest score on the sergeant’s test—that I had the highest score made me firmly believe law enforcement personnel were paid from the neck down.
It doesn’t take much leadership skills to be a sergeant in an ultra-small department. Normally I was the only deputy working at night so there wasn’t anyone to boss around. Occasionally on a slow night when I was feeling overly arrogant, I would become drunk with the puissance of my position and give myself absurd orders just to flaunt my power. But by nature I have an aversion to authority, and I would ignore the orders. (I was convinced my sergeant was an incompetent Bozo with no leadership abilities whatsoever. I mean come on, have you seen that hair? I was convinced he had attained his position by ingratiating himself to the boss in some degrading bootlicking manner rather than being rewarded on any kind of merit or ability). I was definitely a trouble maker, and several times I threatened to suspend myself for my insubordination, but not having the height—or lack of it—to be a true leader, I never followed through on my threats. I guess in the long run I’m fortunate that I’m a poor leader or I never would have made it to retirement.
Growing up most of my friends were poor leaders. They were neither tall nor short, and we all had bad hair. General George Patton is credited with saying: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” We had trouble just getting out of the way. Whenever we got together, we milled around with none of us willing to take charge, and all of us waiting for someone else to generate incentive.
Friend One: So, what do you guys want to do?
Me: Maybe we could go for a hike?
Friend Two: Where are you going to take us?
Me: I’m not taking us anywhere. I was just asking a question.
Friend One: I’m allergic to poison ivy so don’t lead us through any of that, or I’ll break out, and it won’t go away for weeks.
Me: I’m not leading us anywhere. I just sugg—
Friend Two: Well, I’m allergic to bees. So if you take us by any bees and I get stung, I could die.
Me: I’m not taking you anywhere. I—
Friend One: If he dies, his parents will sue you.
Friend Two (nodding): Probably. I take out the garbage every night after supper. If I die they would have to hire someone to do it. I’m sure they’d at least want the money to pay someone.
Me (shouting): We’re not going for a hike! And I’m sure not taking you if we do!
Friend One: It’s the sign of a poor leader to shout at people.
Friend Two: What do you expect with that hair?
We stand milling around for a while in a tense silence.
Friend One: So, what do you guys want to do?

All of my books are available at Amazon

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I’ve never been much on haggling. My wife on the other hand loves a good haggle. (I think it’s genetic, because her father was a master haggler. I won’t tell you how much I had to cough up to get his permission to marry my wife, and that’s not even counting the deal I had to cut with her–I still have to clean the stools for five more years.) If someone offers me something for a certain price, I either take it or leave it—usually I take it and tell my wife I talked them down—but my wife sees a price as nothing more than a suggestion, an opening gambit for a larger game that she plays really well. When we go looking for a new car, the salespeople see my wife get out of the car, and they throw the CLOSED sign on the door and cower under their desks until she gets tired of waiting and leaves.
I’ve told the story before about the last time we went shopping for a new boat. After an hour of my wife trying to squeeze down the price to below what the boat cost the dealership and getting them to throw in every option ever made, the salesman finally threw up his hands in surrender and called the owner over to deal with her.
After another hour of haggling, the owner threw up his hands. In frustration he asked my wife, “Do you want a job?”
“Do you want a job?” he repeated. “Because I would certainly rather have you working for me than against me.”

My wife once took a trip to Ecuador with her church. She brought a lot of religion to the country. Street vendors who weren’t religious before now get down on their knees every night and pray she never comes back. When we retire we’re going to take a trip to Mexico where they expect you to haggle. I can hardly wait to watch her in action. It’ll be sort of like the haggler Olympics. Now that’s entertainment. My wife will haggle over anything.

Sample lady at Sam’s Club (smiling broadly): Excuse me ma’am, would you like to try a sample of our new Braunschweiger spread on a cracker?

My wife: Just one?

Sample lady (still smiling): We have two different kinds, regular and with cheese. So you can have one of each.

My wife (looking indignant): So my husband here doesn’t get any?

Sample lady (hesitantly and the smile not as wide.): He can have one of each, too.

My wife: You’re going to have to do better than that.

Sample lady (no longer smiling.): What do you mean?

My wife (nodding toward another sample stand across the aisle): Weiner Boy over there is offering a cheese dog and a Dixie cup of butter rum ice cream.

Sample lady (looking confused now): But this is all they gave me.

My wife: If you’ll throw in that bag of chips you have under your display table, maybe we can talk.

Sample lady (in a confused whisper): But … that’s my lunch.

My wife: You want to do this deal or not? (She looks over at Weiner Boy) I have other offers.

Sample lady (looking ready to cry): What do you want?

My wife: Has that bottle of Pepsi beside the chips been opened yet?

(Fast forward half an hour)

My wife: Okay, so let’s see if I have this straight. I get the whole plate of Braunschweiger and crackers, the Pepsi, the chips, the egg salad sandwich on whole wheat, the three sticks of gum left in your purse, and you’re throwing in a coupon for a free McDonald’s ice cream cone? Right?

Sample lady (nodding enthusiastically and looking as if she’s willing to write her a personal check just to get rid of her): Right.

My wife hands me the plate of Braunschweiger and crackers. I take a bite.

Me: Hey, these are pretty good. Especially the cheese ones. (I hold the plate out to her) Try one.

My wife: You know I hate Braunschweiger.
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“So what are your plans for the day,” my wife often asks.
I have to have plans. She does things, which normally consist of going to her friends to have coffee or talking to them on the phone. But I need to have something scheduled for the day or she’s afraid there’s a chance I’ll waste it on the computer or watching TV. Maybe my plans are being on the computer or watching TV, but she never thinks of that.
My wife wants me to get a hobby I can do in the winter. I actually have a hobby: I putter, as in “I’m going out in the backyard to putter around.” I’m not exactly sure what you are supposed to do when you putter. Usually I just stand on the patio staring at our fence, wondering why the heck I came out there. The problem is, I have two doors I have to open and close to get out in the backyard. At my age, the combination of having to turn the doorknobs and make sure the doors are pulled closed behind me taxes my ancient brain cells and doesn’t leave room for the reason I had come outside to begin with. So I don’t do much puttering, whatever that is. I just stand for a while looking stupid, before I walk over and check the birdfeeder—I figure if my neighbors are watching, it will dissuade them from calling the authorities on the poor old man in the neighborhood who wanders around aimlessly in his backyard—before I go back inside to get on the computer or watch TV. After a little bit, I’ll remember I have some serious puttering to do, and again I’ll head for the backyard. But of course there are those two complicated devil doors to go through … It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.
I have hobbies I do in the summer. I garden, fish, and do things to the yard—most people would call it landscaping, but that has the connotation of some artistic talent of which I have none. I used to have winter hobbies. I snowmobiled and ice fished. I was fanatical about ice fishing. In my garage I have a power auger, two portable fish houses and countless containers of ice fishing lures and equipment, including tiny ice fishing rods that look as if they were made for Munchkins. I can remember sitting on a plastic bucket out on the lake ice in a blizzard. I sat there for hours in near zero temperatures with the wind blowing so hard I couldn’t see more than a few yards through the blowing snow. I didn’t have a clue in which direction the shore was or how I was going to find it, and I kept on fishing until darkness came and made everything even more difficult. And I didn’t do this just once, I did it numerous times. The comedian Stephen Wright once said, “There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot.” Sometimes in ice fishing that line is completely obliterated.
My wife has suggested we take up cross country skiing as a hobby. Sometimes when she watches the Olympics, the athletes make everything look so easy that she doesn’t realize the muscle pain the next day alone would put people our age in the hospital. Maybe I can talk her into waiting until this summer when it’s not so cold to try cross country skiing. Until then I guess I’ll just keep working on the computer and watching TV and puttering of course. Which reminds me, I need to go out in the backyard and do a little puttering.
All of my books are available at my author’s page on Amazon.
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