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copyright 2018, Susan DeLay

Shortly after Americans are reasonably sure there will be six more weeks of winter, regardless of what the groundhog says, we shell out the equivalent of a mortgage payment on guacamole, chips, wings and Budweiser, and gather for the second biggest food fest of the year—the Super Bowl.

Reasons to Watch to Super Bowl

Granted some fans go to the parties to watch the best-of-the-best in commercials. And some show up at the party for the spread and a few plates of the 1.35 billion wings (with ranch or blue cheese) served on Super Bowl Sunday.

Die-hard NSYNC fans will not want to miss Justin Timberlake’s halftime show. It’s his third. The last time was 14 years ago when the performance included Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. Hard to tell what might happen this year.

Pennsylvania-born singer/songwriter Pink, who is slated to sing the National Anthem before the coin toss, signed on to deliver one of the most musically challenging songs ever before she knew her favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles would be vying for the championship ring. Pink has a horse in this race.

And Then There’s the Football

AFC champions the New England Patriots return to the Super Bowl for the 10th time to try to capture their sixth ring. They’ll face the NFC’s champion team the Philadelphia Eagles who have won three national championships—the last one in 1960. So it’s fair to say the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl because the first Super Bowl was in 1967.

Gotta Love an Underdog

Despite the excitement around Philadelphia’s 2017 winning season, the Eagles are the underdogs. To be fair, any team facing quarterback Tom Brady is officially an underdog, unless it’s a game of trivia, where apparently he’s a loser. (Don’t feel badly for him. He’s a loser with a net worth of $180 million.)

The Eagles take their underdog status with a wink and a smile. Following their win against the Atlanta Falcons that locked them in as Super Bowl LII contenders, the Eagles players pulled on dog masks and let the barking begin. Dogs and barking—underdogs, get it? The crowd got it and they went crazy. Call me Polly Purebred, but I love a team with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

I Need a Horse in the Race

I think going to a Super Bowl party and saying I don’t care who wins sucks some of the fun out of the big day. The game is much more fun when you’re cheering for a particular team. I want a horse in the race, too—just like Pink.

So, this year, I decided my team is the Philadelphia Eagles. This isn’t a decision based on talent. Face it, no team gets to the Super Bowl gridiron without talent. I will be a Philly fan this year partly because I love an underdog. And partly because, as an unapologetic Christian, I have been moved by the number of Christ followers suiting up in the midnight green of the Eagles. May I hear an amen?

Carson Wentz: Born Leader (Born Again Leader)

The clear leader of the team is born leader Carson Wentz, the 24-year-old starting quarterback who leads Bible studies, goes to services at Connect Church in Cherry Hill, NJ with several of his teammates, and started a foundation called Audience of One (AO1). (I think Wentz is a born again leader.) The foundation provides service dogs to Philadelphia youth, outdoor opportunities for those with physical disabilities and military vets in the Midwest, and assistance for underprivileged youth living abroad. As Wentz says, the foundation was created to “demonstrate the love of God.”

The Eagles’ Biggest Cheerleader

Sadly, Wentz won’t be strapping on shoulder pads or a helmet for the big game. He tore an ACL in December and will be on the sidelines, but not as a spectator. He’ll be the team’s most ardent cheerleader.

Win or lose, it seems Wentz will take the game’s outcome with the same attitude he took following his injury. He’ll lean into God and trust Him regardless of who wins. Wentz backs that stance with the Scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

Path to the Trophy?

So amidst the commercials, the halftime entertainment, the innocent football pools and the wings (I’ll take mine with blue cheese, please.), I’ll be praying that the talented underdogs are on the path that leads to their first Vince Lombardi trophy.

Fly, Eagles, Fly—on a (hot) wing and a prayer.

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Copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

Election. When people hear the E word, they roll their eyes, groan, and engage in other melodramatic responses like crying or swearing. Or both. Yeah, I’m glad it’s over, too, but elections do have silver linings.

When elections end, so do the ads. Sure, it will take time to remove all the yard signs and billboards, but the TV ads that go bump in the night are outta here. Now we can relegate the name-calling, finger pointing and mudslinging to where it belongs—on the Jerry Springer Show. And wouldn’t it be a win for everyone if we could leave it there?

A lot of writers find gainful employment during campaign season. They’re hired to write slogans, ads, press releases, Facebook posts and tweets. When the election ends, they are out of work, but don’t feel sorry for them. After all that time honing their skills, they’re fully qualified to get jobs as scriptwriters on any of the Real Housewives franchises. Oh, you think reality television isn’t scripted? Hmm. Then perhaps you’ll believe I’m just one tanning session from looking like Beyoncé.

The campaign trail in the U.S. lasts about 597 days, which is only slightly shorter than the 22-month gestation period of the elephant. So between the time candidates officially announce they intend to seek the highest office in the land and the time concession speeches are over, a newborn has become a toddler, a student has framed a two-year degree, and a soldier has fulfilled his or her active duty requirement. In 597 days, Denmark, which restricts campaigning to three weeks, could have elected 28 presidents.

Countries all over the world look to America’s Constitution as a model. But no one seems interested in modeling their election system after ours. How can that be good news? For one thing, we get to know our candidates really, really well. Okay, so that may not be good news. But think of the economic stimulation. CBS News reported that in 2016, American candidates poured $6.8 billion into their campaigns. To put that into perspective, we spent $6 billion a year on cereal, $5.4 billion on pet grooming and $5.4 billion on legal marijuana. That’s a lot of cash flow.

We, as taxpayers can be part of that magic. We can direct three whole dollars of our federal taxes to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Every four years, the fund distributes the money to eligible candidates to use in their campaigns. So while we can’t deduct the contribution, at least we can contribute four dollars to the whole painful process. And that is what I call scraping the bottom of the silver linings bucket.

The best part of the election for me on Tuesday morning when I went to vote. I walked behind an elderly couple, slowly making their way to the door. They were holding hands. He wore a black ball cap with a triangle insignia in blue, red and yellow that said 6th Armored Division, WWII. Like my Dad, this military veteran served in Patton’s Third Army. As the couple approached the double doors of the building, a young couple wearing “I Voted” stickers pushed through, then stepped aside to hold open the door. I heard the young man thank the elderly veteran for his service. These two men—one old enough to have seen 18 or 19 presidential elections and one looking so young that he may have cast his very first ballot for president a few minutes earlier—looked at each other just long enough for a current of understanding and respect to pass between them.

Without another word, the young man straightened to his full height and saluted his elder. The man looked up at him, did his best to straighten his hunched frame and saluted back. These two men are among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought to protect our right to vote our conscience.

Even if it takes 597 days to get there.

 

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copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

After friends begged, cajoled, threatened and mocked me about my fear of haunted houses, I gave in and went with them. Naturally it was a dark and stormy night and a full moon made an appearance from behind the clouds. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill haunted house. It was the Basement of the Dead. Nothing good happens in a basement.

What was I thinking?

Dressed in comfortable clothing and running shoes, I tucked a flashlight, matches and a silver cross into my pockets. You can’t be too careful. When I noticed a few elementary school-age children in line, I felt better. How bad could it be if innocent children were there?

The ticket taker reminded us that once inside the Basement of Dead, we were on our own. We were lone wolves who could trust no one. I believe at that point he twirled his Snidely Whiplash mustache and I immediately started sizing up the people around me, looking for the best human shield.

While we waited to enter the basement, two zombies with chainsaws chased a couple of cocky teenaged boys through the yard. A bloody creature on stilts, who moved faster than I do in running shoes, terrorized a group of girls. Let the screaming begin.

Finally, it was our turn. We entered the house and began our descent down the creaky, wooden stairs and into the Basement of the Dead. (Cue organ music.) This was a time to remember a key lesson from kindergarten—hold hands and stick together.

As we made our way through the basement, we entered a round room with mirrors covering the walls. We’d been advised not to look into mirrors because they are gateways to another world. Vanity tempts most to look, but I had no problem obeying the rules. For decades, I’ve been avoiding mirrors the way I avoid cameras.

The basement hall of mirrors led into a dark room that was at least 10 degrees colder than the mirror room. It was a cross between an old-fashioned hospital or morgue, and equipped with every medical torture device known to man. Plus creepy creatures to operate them. More screaming.

From the hospital, we entered a maze filled with animatronics that flew out at us, startling noises and the occasional blinding light. We stayed the course, maneuvering through giant spiders the size of pumpkins. While I had become somewhat desensitized to the screaming, it didn’t mean I wasn’t looking for an escape route. Turning back wasn’t much of an option. People behind us seemed to be moving as one and clawing my way through the mass of terrified visitors seemed scarier than finishing the journey.

The young children of the misguided parents, who thought a visit to a place called Basement of Death was a good idea, started crying. Did I say crying? It was more like screeching. And I knew how they felt.

The haunted basement hires actors to portray bloodless zombies who have suffered a grizzly death and now wander the earth wielding axes and seeking revenge. Other actors dress as ghosts, goblins and ghouls. I’m not sure the difference between goblins and ghouls, but now was not the time to pull out my smart phone and look it up. The only thing that would make the Basement of Death worse was if there were marionettes, which are second only to clowns on my list of scary creatures.

As we reached the end of the basement maze, I relaxed a little. I thought we had made it to the end of the journey.

I thought wrong.

We were propelled toward a second house and handed blacklight flashlights, which would allow us to experience more terror, but this time in 3-D. When I say terror, I mean it. This house was the abode of evil clowns. Lots and lots of clowns. The live ones remained motionless so we couldn’t tell which ones were props in make-up and which ones were alive until it was too late. They quietly followed us, waiting to sneak up and shorten our lifespan.

The entire event took less than 30 minutes that I’ll never get back. As soon as I got home, I turned on all the lights, and left them on for two weeks. I turned television to Seventies’ sitcoms because if mysterious noises started coming from my basement, I wanted to be able to ignore them.

No more haunted houses for me. I’ll save my money and use it for therapy.

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Copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

My friend Mary has been a member of Weight Watchers since 1994. For 22 years, she has paid the organization’s monthly fees (more than $10,000+ over 22 years), recorded in her diet diary every single bite and laced up her sneaks to get in a 30-minute daily walk, accompanied by the family dog. Most recently that has been Sadie, her rambunctious terrier mix, who also gives Mary an upper body workout since Sadie does not know the meaning of the word “heel.”

Mary checks off the glasses of water she is supposed to drink in order to be in compliance with the rules; she counts points or points plus—whatever the calorie calculation du jour happens to be. When Oprah became a stakeholder in Weight Watchers World and declared her love affair with bread, Mary brought her long-standing affaire de coeur with 10-point Ding Dongs out of the closet and into the light.

 

She joined Weight Watchers with a desire to lose 31 pounds and get into the size three skinny jeans she was wearing when she met her husband. She was 19.

Even though she follows the rules with the devotion of a Pharisee and would no more miss a weekly weigh-in than a former prisoner would miss a meeting with his or her parole officer, Mary still has 31 pounds to lose. She says at this point, she’d settle for getting into a pair of size 10 relaxed fit Levis.

How can she be so devoted to dieting, exercising and weigh-ins, and not lose weight? Mary blames it on holidays. She’s never met a holiday she didn’t like. Whether it’s Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day, she loses control when it’s time to celebrate. I suspect there aren’t enough bonus points to keep up with all the holidays that populate the American calendar.

I sat next to her at a luncheon this week and accidentally knocked over her shopping bag. Scrambling to pick up the spilled contents, I noticed a two-pound box of assorted Godiva chocolates and kidded her that someone was getting a very thoughtful gift.

Turns out the candy was for her, but she wouldn’t be breaking the cellophane seal on the box until October 15, which is National I Love Lucy Day. Mary goes all out to celebrate with a nod to the show’s iconic episode where Lucy and Ethel go to work in a candy factory and end up eating the chocolates speeding along the conveyor belt.

August 30 was National Toasted Marshmallow Day. She married each gooey toasted marshmallow to a layer of chocolate and sandwiched them between graham crackers at a cost of six points each. She ate the whole bag. I didn’t want to suggest that it was not National S’mores Day. That was August 10.

When more than one holiday falls on the same day, it creates quite a conundrum. For instance, on July 29, Mary was faced with National Chicken Wing Day and National Lasagna Day. She sent her husband to KFC for chicken wings (five points each) and whipped up her world-famous homemade lasagna, which weighs in at 32 points per serving. No wonder it’s delicious.

On weeks when food isn’t a big part of holiday events, Mary does well at her weigh-ins. On National Hammock Day, which butted up against National Summer Leisure Day, she spent the afternoon enveloped in the comfort of a backyard hammock, and enjoyed reading Girl on a Train and drinking a gin and tonic. On Global Running Day (June 1), she and Sadie jogged on their morning walk. Mary lost two pounds that week.

Weight Watchers says you can have anything you want, but you can’t have it all at once. I think Mary missed that last part.

On her March 20 birthday, which wouldn’t be a birthday without chocolate cake, she also honors National Alien Abduction Day, National Ravioli Day, and National French Language Day. Mary indulges in ravioli, thanks the waiter with a polite “merci” while she accepts a glass of French champagne and blows out the candles on her must-have cake as her family wishes her “Joyeux Anniversaire!” I didn’t bother asking what festivities accompany alien abductions. I didn’t want to know.

Mary writes a blog about national holidays and says she has to experience them in all their fullness in order to do serve  readers of her blog–all three of them.  She says she celebrates every possible holiday because she wants her two daughters to grow up celebrating life.

Even if she has to do it in size 16 pull-on jeans with an elastic waist.

 

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Copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

Which is scarier?

  1. A) ISIS throwing a pillowcase over your head, putting a revolver to your temple and shoving you into the backseat of a 1994 Ford Pinto.
  2. B) The Gestapo jackbooting their way onto your front porch in the middle of the night and demanding to see your papers.
  3. C) A phone call from the IRS threatening to sue you.

The ISIS threat is unsettling, especially the part about the ride in a 22-year-old Pinto. But it’s unlikely. The Gestapo disappeared 70+ years ago and left their jackboots behind because what kind of a fashion statement do jackboots make?

The scariest threat is a phone call from the IRS. I know because I got one. A woman with a heavy accent left a message saying this was the seventh time and last time the Internal Revenue Service would try to reach me. They were filing a law suit against me in federal court. Yikes.

The call made me a little queasy even though I was 90% sure the call was a scam. The IRS does not connect with tax payers via telephone. They’re kinda old-fashioned and prefer snail mail. I did the right thing and reported the incident on the IRS.gov website. Then I tried to forget the whole thing.

But I couldn’t.

Since 2013, Americans have been scammed out of more than $44 million by these ruthless criminals who aren’t choosey about their victims. They cast a wide net and many of their prey are senior citizens, which makes my blood boil, or at least simmer.

A couple of hours later, still stirred but not shaken, I decided to call back and see how this multi-million dollar scam worked. A woman answered and immediately confirmed my phone number—and my name. (A little unsettling.) She said she had dispatched the authorities to my home to arrest me and they were on their way. (Oh my. Were they going to tie my hands behind my back and throw a pillow case over my head?) In a shaky voice, I played the part of a pigeon and told her I didn’t want to go to jail. Wasn’t there something I could do?

Well, as a matter of fact….

She told me I owed the government $7,054.19 in underpaid taxes and penalties. I don’t, but I offered to write a check and send it immediately. But no. It was too late for that. Once the police arrested me, I would be thrown into prison for seven years. No lawyer. No trial. No reading of my Miranda rights. No passing GO. No collecting $200 ever again. The fake IRS does not have to abide by the court system. They have the power to lock me up and throw away the key.

But wait. There’s more.

Because she said she could tell I was an honest, law-abiding citizen, as big favor, she would call off the cops, even though it could get her into trouble. (What a pal!) I wondered if a strong-armed pitch to buy a timeshare or a used Ford Pinto would come next, but what I got was her simple solution to my dilemma.

She would stay on the phone with me while I drove to the bank and withdrew $7,054.19. Once I had the cash, I was to go to the nearest drug store and purchase iTunes gift cards and load them in increments of $500 each. It appears the fake IRS is not authorized to accept cash, checks or money orders. They want to be paid in iTunes gift cards.Believe it or not, this scam has bilked unsuspecting people out of millions.

At that point, I told her I knew this was a scam and I had already reported her to the real IRS. That’s when things got ugly. She again threatened me with prison, which automatically comes with an orange jump suit. I would lose my job. My bank accounts would be frozen. My family would be humiliated. My children would grow up without me because I would be warming a cot in Cell Block D. Never mind that I don’t have children. I was about to become a real-life character in Les Miserables and would probably be bitten by a rat and die of the Bubonic Plague.

Please say it isn’t so. Especially the part about the orange jump suit. I do not look good in orange. It’s why I did not go to college at the University of Tennessee.

When she’d hurled the last threat, I thanked her, told her to have a nice day, and said I’d wait for the police to arrive.

With or without jackboots.

###

 

 

 

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Copyright 2016, Susan DeLay

I binge watched Downton Abbey over Labor Day weekend. PBS aired all six seasons of their most popular series EVER and I just couldn’t resist. Although to be honest, I did record them so I could fast forward through the interminably long 15-minute commercial breaks PBS is famous for.

After the first 10 hours, I started to speak with an English accent. Not that it was recognizable, but in my head, I sounded more refined. Face it, an English accent elevates anyone at least two rungs on the food chain of humanity.

By the time I got to Season Two, I started thinking the flapper dress and cloche hat might not be such a bad look. By Season Three, I was ready to make nightcaps a permanent part of my evening ritual. Scotch. Neat.

And by Season Four, I wanted a butler. Doesn’t everyone? He would reside in my basement until I summoned him with a bell. Then, appropriately clad in a tuxedo with tails and pin-striped trousers, he’d come running to do my bidding. Of course, he’d call me M’lady and say things like, “As you wish.” I would request a glass of chilled champagne. Ask that draw my bath. And clean out the garage.

Do butlers draw baths and clean garages?

The International Guild of Professional Butlers handbook says a butler is responsible for answering the telephone and greeting guests at the door. That would make him the one to turn away door-to-door sales people. And seeing as how door-to-door sales people have upgraded to telemarketing, I would have to find other chores for my butler. He could polish my silverware and measure the requisite 18 inches of space between my dining room chair and my dining room table. Then he could scoop the Kung Pao chicken from the carry-out box to a plate and set it on the table.

The butler guild is quite clear on what butlers should and should not do. They may maintain the household budget and make sure the larder is well stocked with essential inventory items…like toilet paper, toothpaste, and popcorn. Hey, it’s my larder, so I get to decide what goes in there.

Living the life of nobility can be complicated. One of the Downton Abbey heirs said they focused on studying French, ballet and snobbery, so no wonder they needed butlers. I think I could get away with a part time butler seeing as the care of my fine china, silver, crystal, art collection, and antiques could be accomplished in the span of 10 minutes.

Butlers aren’t high on the list of American modern conveniences. Believe it or not, the formal service standards of a Royal Palace or traditional British culture are upheld in some US homes today. Just not in the homes of anyone I know.

The closest I can think of is my friend Amy who pays her seven-year old son Rick a dollar to stand at the front door and ask people to remove their shoes before coming into the living room for a party. To be fair, she does call her son Jeeves for the evening, but he does not have to wear a tuxedo. During the summer, he wears a Cubs shirt and in the winter, he switches to Bulls attire.

Amy’s second-grade part time butler might decide being a full time butler might not be the worst career choice as the typical starting salary is around $75,000/year. He’ll need to pay careful attention in his English classes and get his grammar into proper working order. Little Jeeves currently has a tendency to high five guests and call them dude—something a butler would never do.

Because butlering isn’t as much in demand as computer programmers or registered nurses, fewer people are going into the industry. This makes it hard to find the right person to polish the silver and mix the nightcaps. So, naturally, someone has come up with an app—a mobile butler that promises to get users anything they need with the click of a button on their smartphone.

Okay, so you probably might have to mix your own drink or switch to plasticware, but if you need to book a flight, return an impulse buy to QVC, make a dinner reservation, or order Chinese food, butler.com is your man.

Just don’t call him Jeeves. Call him Mr. Jeeves.

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copyright 2015, Susan DeLay

When my friends Bethany and Steve were shopping for their first home, they were peppered with all the usual questions: Where do you want to live? What kind of house do you want? How much do you want to spend?

Their house-hunting adventure reminded me of my search for a home of my own. I followed the advice of a wise friend who suggested I make a list of everything I wanted: a moat with a drawbridge and a comes-with-the-house maid. A cook would be welcome, too. Sommelier optional. From there, I needed to decide what was non-negotiable and what I’d compromise on. I crossed off the moat and drawbridge fairly quickly since I wasn’t quite ready to move to Scotland and settle on a feudal estate. Plus I’d have to stock the moat with alligators, which means hiring someone to feed them. A moat without alligators wouldn’t keep the vacuum cleaner salesmen away, so what’s the point?

It’s All About Compromise

It took a lot of arm-twisting (mostly from the realtor) to persuade me to give up a few of the other items on my wish list. She encouraged me to forget about finding a house that required no maintenance (like painting or reroofing), and an adjustable floor plan so I could enlarge or contract the living room as needed, say for a party or pep rally. I focused on the non-negotiables like a fireplace, a garage, and hardwood floors. My realtor breathed a sigh of relief and I reluctantly relinquished my dream of owning a home that was heated and cooled without a furnace or central air.

A few weeks ago, I learned that my dream home may have been possible after all.

dymaxionhouse1The Dymaxion House is born

An American architect named R. Buckminster Fuller (The R stands for Richard) designed a home that would have satisfied my wish list—minus the moat. Bucky to his friends, he invented the geodesic dome that captured the imagination of scientists, environmentalists, and sci-fi authors. His passion for efficient energy led him to apply those principles to his chosen field of architecture. And the Dymaxion House was born.

He came up with the idea in the 1920s and named it Dymaxion by compiling his three favorite words: DYnamic, MAXimum, and tensION. He added a ventilation system that forced dust down to the baseboards and through filters, so dusting and vacuuming could be done once a month or less. A rotation system built into closets meant no more digging through racks to find that pair of black trousers. Dymaxion house closets would bring the clothes to you. The house generated its own power without reliance on Nicor or ComEd.

And get this…if you really did need a bigger room for a special occasion, like a family Thanksgiving dinner or a class reunion, you could actually squeeze the bedrooms and make them smaller. Be still my heart.

Fireproof, Floodproof, Earthquakeproof…and Self-Cleaning

Designed to use materials that required no maintenance, his house was fireproof, floodproof, and earthquakeproof. Its round shape would resist tornadoes that got within a hundred yards of home-sweet-home. Homeowner’s insurance on the Dymaxion abode would be a bargain.

And if you loved the insurance rates, you’d have been ecstatic about the price of the house. He designed it to cost no more than a Cadillac because he believed a mortgage should last no longer than five years. Investors with serious bank balances lined up to be a part of this phenomenon. Had these houses come to market, the banking crisis that led to the 2008 recession may not have happened because houses would have been affordable.

Unfortunately, the houses never came to be. The official story is that Bucky was a control freak and no one was ever strong enough to pry the project from his grasp. He wanted it to be perfect and wouldn’t let go until it was. Perfectionism, One. Homeowners, Zero.

I think there’s more to it. I think insurance and utility companies got nervous. Bankers, accustomed to mortgages that were three times higher than the price of a luxury vehicle, started to sweat. And I think somewhere someone applied pressure to Bucky and he caved.

There is a replica of the Dymaxion House on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It looks a little like a space ship, but who cares? The house dusts and vacuums itself.

 

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