Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Japanese Thumb Trap

You can get these at a carnival, or the variety store... you know what I'm talking about, those little straw tubes, you slip a pinky into each end. IF you try to pull out, it just tightens up, no go. You can't get the fingers out because the harder you pull, the skinnier the tube gets and the more you're trapped. Instead, here's the genius part...you have to push in, the tube scrunches up and gets wider, and bingo, your pinkies are free.

It's like that with the eyerolling inlaws. Don't resist, go with.

Sample conversation:
YOU: Pass the broccoli
In Laws: You really need to be careful of anemia,
YOU: I know, I know, you're so right.

The key to this is to say it while you are shoveling in the broccoli. Under no circumstances use sarcasm. Drip with sincerity. After a few times, they'll stop mentioning it. Trust me.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Story of My Life 3

Rudolpho was a mean mean boy. And I mean that. I still get the willies when I think about the cats whose ears he cut off. Seriously. In those days you didn't know that meant you were going to turn into Jack the Ripper or whatever. And he didn't. He became a Pella Window salesman and a Grand Dragon of the Knights of Columbus. So go figure. But when I was one, he was thirteen and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. I got beat from here to Sunday, but never straight out, and no one to run to. So I figured out how to make myself invisible. It's a good trick. The other thing I figured out is that funny is good, crazy is good, and funny crazy is better. So if you can't be invisible, make them laugh and be nervous at the same time.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Family Resemblances

Dear Madrone, Please help. What do you reply when someone asks you who the baby looks like, particularly if it does not look like anyone in particular, or worse, it does, but not someone that it would be polite to point out the resemblance, if you know what I'm saying. Sign me, the Milkman.

Dear Milk, There is only one response that I recommend in this case, no matter if the baby looks like the twin of the father, the mother the next door neighbor, even the family dog. You say, and in this case sincerity isn't even required, because the person who is asking already knows what they think, and just wants you to confirm or to pick a fight (it's what's known as a trick question) Oh, The baby is a perfect mix of -----here insert the name of the parents--------. Trust me this will be the end of the conversation, and you can move on to something less dangerous, like politics or religion. God bless, Donna

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Bone to Pick

Dear Madrone, My in laws eat meat. I don't. They make me special dishes, no meat at all, tasty things, lots of eggplant, lasagne all cheese, you name it. And yet, they still roll the eye and make it their business to inquire after my iron levels and blood pressure and other items that are none of their business, but they are trying to be helpful. I don't think they mean to be rude, but it feels that way. What do I do, my spouse is a vegetarian,too, but he loves his parents. As he should. I am beginning to become aggravated, but I feel I can't say anythng that would make things better not worse Veggie, Vegas

Dear Veg, You are subject to conflicting rules. You can't get in between someone and his mother, and you can't pretend things are nice when they are not. The first course of action is to talk to your spouse about how you feel, but the way you put it is crucial. You can't say I think your family is crazy, why do I have to put up with them? Because he is putting up with your family, trust me, I don't even have to know the details, that's how it is. If that doesn't bring you satisfaction, and you still are having agita, you can use the Japanese Thumbtrap approach, which I will explain in greater detail, tomorrow. God Bless, Donna

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Story of My Life 2

My father, who was not a bad man, even if he wasn't a particularly good one, remarried ASAP. Not like he had someone hiding under the bed, we don't think, but then in those days, no one talked much about that sort of thing. Raised eyebrows, knowing grunts, that's what you had to decode, but where was I, my father, may he rest, got himself another wife pronto, who took on the nine of us, and proceeded to have four of her own. Madonna! It was a mad house. Let's see how many were we?

Me (Donna)

Let me tell you, it was not worth your life to turn your back on either your food, your clothes, or your pride. Anything and all would be snatched before you could say hey, that was MY ... fill in the blank, pillow, dessert, friend, air.. it was one big scramble. Now here's the part where you expect me to say, it was tough but we had love and laughter. Well forget that. We didn't have all that much love, and the laughs were usually at someone's expense. But hey, I'm not complaining. I'm not in jail or in the looney bin, and I managed to stay alive without killing anyone. Not bad.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Story of My Life 1

I was born. It wasn't easy, not for anyone. Not for my mother, who swore on her mother's grave that if she lived she would take a knife to the privates of my father so as to never go through this torture again. (PS. she didn't, live that is) for me, who was slapped on the a** and sent to a strega of a nurse, who shoved formula down my throat and thought I was ugly, for my 8 siblings who now had no mother, and for my father who was left with nine children and no wife- who he never believed for a moment would have un manned him and of who he was fond, in his way, which was not much. Not the best start for a fairy tale, or maybe the best start, who knows. But let's put it this way, I learned about the rules of family from day one. I broke the first and main one, which is to never get in between someone and their mother, I got in the way of eight, big time. Hey, you do what you got to do, and I had to get born. Guilt, who needs it? Not me.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Awkward Moment

Dear Madrone, I was at the health club the other day and Rosie, my son's first girlfriend's mother was weeping and moaning over the retirement of her hairdresser, and her disatisfaction over the state of her highlights. The following conversation took place ME: Rosie, you look fine HER: you didn't say Rosie you look stunning. ME: uh uh
HER: Gotcha, didn't I. ME: uh uh. What should I have said? We were at our exercise place, just finished 30 minutes,and she looked fine, not stunning. But I meant it as a compliment not an insult which is how she took it. Unintentional Insulter, Half Moon Bay

Dear Un, This is her problem not yours. Let it go. God bless, Donna

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is Family Everything?

Dear Madrone, Is family everything? Isn't there something that isn't? Wondering, Missoula

Dear Wonder, Family is everything. And everything is family. Now, remember, what's family to you isn't family to someone else. For example, my cousin Alberto never married, and his mother and father died young, may they rest, but he belonged to the local garden club, and was well known for his prize hybrid teas. He had a garden as big as a football field, filled with every kind of rose you ever heard of and some you never did. He watched over those plants like they were children, which they were to him and his garden club buddies were their aunts and uncles. He was never lonely, in fact he did much better than my neighbor Frankie, who had seven brothers who teased him and a wife it was clear he couldn't stand, and ingrate children who took him for all he was worth and let the state pay his nursing home bills when he fell and broke his hip. Sad, but true. Just goes to show. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Japanese Thumb Trap

You can get these at a carnival, or order them through the computer- you know what I'm talking about, those little straw tubes, you slip a pinky into each one. IF you try to pull out, it just tightens up, no go. You have to push in, the tube scrunches up and gets wider, and bingo, your pinkies are free. It's like that with the eyerolling vegetarian inlaws. Don't resist, go with.
Sample conversation:
YOU: Pass the meatballs
VEGGIES: You really should be careful of that red meat, mad cow, all that.
YOU: I know, I know, you're so right.

The key to this is to say it while you are shoveling inthe meatballs. Under no circumstances use sarcasm. After a few times, they'll stop mentioning it. Trust me.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Vegetarian Smackdown

Dear Madrone, My in laws don't eat meat. I don't mind that. I make them special dishes, no meat at all, tasty things, lots of eggplant, lasagne all cheese, you name it. But that doesn't satisfy them, because they roll the eye and make it their business to inquire after my cholesterol and blood pressure and other items that are none of their business, but they are trying to be helpful. I don't think they mean to be rude, but it feels that way. What do I do, my spouse is not a vegetarian, but he loves his parents. As he should. I am beginning to become aggravated, but I feel I can't say anythng that would make things better not worse. Carnivorous, Carnarsie

Dear Carn, You are subject to conflicting rules. You can't get in between someone and his mother, and you can't pretend things are nice when they are not. The first course of action is to talk to your spouse about how you feel, but the way you put it is crucial. You can't say I think your family is crazy, why do I have to put up with them? Because he is putting up with your family, trust me, I don't even have to know the details, that's how it is. If that doesn't bring you satisfaction, and you still are having agita, you can use the Japanese Thumbtrap approach, which I will explain in greater detail, tomorrow. God Bless, Donna

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Money Problem

Dear Madrone, I have a good job, but never enough money. How can I save? Always behind, Littleton

Dear Behind,, Remember what I told you? It's never just about the money. Don't shake your head at me...you have some need to be in the hole. I have no idea what that is, either, since you don't say. Trust me on this one. Like my sister's mother in law's sister, who NEVER learned to drive, you'd feel sorry for her, but she got everyone and their uncle to take her to the Walgreens and the senior citizens. IT may be like that for you with money. Or not. God bless, Donna

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Silent Treatment

Dear Madrone, My last boyfriend talked me to death. I finally broke up with him because he would go on and on and on and on about every little thing, what we should eat, how well we got along,(only we didn't, he didn't notice me covering my ears in pain) whether or not it was worth spending the extra money for a car with six cylinders. You name it, everything was a federal case. My latest boyfriend is a mummy. I could run over his cat with a pick up truck (in fact I did, I told him it was an accident, but I wanted to see if he'd open his mouth) Not a word, just a nod, and a quick burial, and a shrug. He gives me the silent treatment at least once a day. Why can't I find someone in between? Is there anyone? SeeSawing, Salamanca

Dear See Saw, In answer to the question you asked, Yes. In answer to the unspoken question, which is why can't I find someone like me?? I don't think you'd want to.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How I got this way

Readers sometime ask me how I got this way. Here's how, I lived. Plenty of people live, but they might as well not get out of bed, for all the good it does them, they don't learn a thing. I made plenty of mistakes, I don't deny. But it also helps to have a good imagination, there's plenty of mistakes I don't make just because I can imagine EXACTLY what will happen. People know more than they let on, they just hate to admit to themselves what's what.

And what can I say, some of it I was just born with. Lucky me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Can you believe this?

Dear Madrone, A friend of mine from the old neighborhood moved to the middle of Pennsylvania or upstate NY, someplace you think it would be nice to visit, but never do because it's so far. She just sent me an invitation to the first communion of her grandchild, and I have no intention of going, especially since I haven't seen hide nor hair of her since her daughter was eight. What should I do about the gift.I don't think I can send one with a gracious heart. Concerned, Tribeca

Dear Con, Then don't. God bless, Donna

PS. If you are asking if you can stiff your friend without causing her aggravation, the answer is no.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Here's a question I get all the time.

Dear Madrone, what is attitude? How do I get some? Doormat, Lesterville

To ALL the Doormats: Attitude is related to savvy, but not the same thing. A person with attitude but no savvy often ends up in the emergency room of life, with things broken, hearts, noses, promises. A person with savvy, but no attitude might end up a professor or something, an egghead who knows what's going on, but can't do anything about it. Attitude comes in degrees, and you don 't have to say a word...it's how you look out of your eyes. BACK OFF! or DON'T START WITH ME! or I KNOW WHAT"S WHAT. In other words, MESS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Now, how do you get that? Some people are born with it, Even in the playpen the other babies steer clear, give over their pacifiers. But you can learn it by getting fed up with being a doormat, and saying ENOUGH. I don't give a rat's A** if you're upset. Here's how it's going to be. No one can talk anyone into having attitude. It's something you have to come into all on your own. Good luck. God bless, Donna

PS...A little attitude can go a long way.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Shy Boy

Dear Madrone, Please help. There is this boy in my class, he is smart and funny and thoughtful. I really like him. He asked a couple of other girls out, and they gave him the cold shoulder, so now he thinks no one would like him. I thought about making the first move, because with some guys, you can be all over them, but this one is old fashioned, I don't think he'd see it as a plus. . So how do I get him to ask me out?? Eager to please, Julian

Dear Eager,, You're waiting for the light to go on, but you don't want to pull the switch. Couple of things here. He may not like YOU, and is too polite to encourage. OR, as you suspect, he is down on himself because of a couple of bad outings. Cut this out and leave it where he will find it:

HEY YOU! Get over yourself, and take a look around. Luck can change. The person who cut this out and left it around thinks you should take a shot.

God Bless, Donna

Not malicious

Dear Madrone, there is this person on my block who thinks who she is. And we always have to hear it. I can't stand to hear one more word about what a good deal she got on this, or the fabulous the home of her car dealer son, god forbid she should admit that she ever had a problem or that someone else might have something good. And yet, she's not malicious. What can I do about this? I have read through your guidelines and I don't believe my family can take hers in a street fight. Sick and Tired, San Leandro

Dear Malish, With that attitude, there is nothing you can do. Avoid or suffer. That's it. God bless, Donna

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mustard Sandwiches

Dear Madrone, Rory, the youngest child of my oldest cousin's next door neighbor is notoriously fond of mustard sandwiches, which are made by slathering French's mustard on Wonderbread. I have personally seen him devour four of these at one sitting, and neighborhood legend has it that he eats little but. This can't be right. What's wrong with his parents, would it kill them to feed him pastini or a meatball once in a few? I am outraged,but my better half says I should mind my own beeswax, as said child is not my own and besides, is always smiling and is on target to grow tall enough to play center forward for the Knicks. But still.. Itching to hotline them, Ft. Drum

Dear Itching, The diet you describe is criminal, I agree. By all means hotline. I'm sure the smile is a cover up to hide the pain. OR worse, he may have no idea what eating is about, and so does not know any better than to be happy and thrive. BUT BE WARNED as a** backward as his parents may be in this matter, it's still between him and his mother. You may certainly interfere, but expect major paybacks heading your way. You will be reviled by the neighbors for sticking your nose into their business, because they WILL find out it's you, trust me, and your spouse will be disgusted and you, mark my words, will be the bad guy.
Just be sure your righteous feeling is worth all the grief you are going to get for being such a busybody. God bless, Donna

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I've been thinking about cheapskates lately. Listen to this

Dear Madrone, Last week I met my cousin in the city for lunch, and since I paid the last three times, it was her turn to pick up the tab. And she didn't. I ended up paying again. It's not like she doesn't have the money, she is paid very nicely at her company, this we all know, as she's mentioned it more than once. I can afford it, and up until this last time I had the gracious heart. No more. I am beginning to feel like a doormat. Should I insist she pay next time, or let it go?
Troubled, Hartland
Dear Hart,
Just how much is this cousin's company worth to you? For example, is she nose snorting funny? You have three choices. Insist she pay, keep paying, or avoid - make excuses- no need to lie, adjust your life. Any of these will work, but don't expect your cousin to either change or thank you for your honesty. Cheapskates don't think of themselves that way. God bless, Donna

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hang Dog Boy

Dear Madrone, I am concerned about my son. He is always so hang dog, moping around the house, you think that he just lost his best friend, but he couldn't due to the fact he has no friends at all. He's fourteen it isn't normal for him to keep his nose in a book, or glued to a screen. I've done everything, including spend hours and hours of time with mothers I don't particularly care for, in the hopes that he would show some signs of life and interact. I give up. It's his life, yes? or no? Should I keep trying? Fed up, Balboa

Dear Fed, Trying what? Pretending you like people so he can learn to have pretend friends, too? Leave him alone. There's no need for everybody to be a social butterfly. Unless of course, you suspect that instead of a placid pool, you are raising a time bomb with a very silent tick, what's the big deal?? There are worse things a 14 year old boy could be doing besides reading, unless of course he's reading about those things, which still isn't that much to write home about. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wild Girl

Dear Madrone, My mother's aunt's goddaughter Lena is wild. She's always running with the boys, and has a reputation. The father has tried locking her in her room but she is expert with a picklock and has no fear of heights. The mother prays constantly, and everyone berates her, but it does no good. Lena is the most defiant person I have ever met. What can anyone do? Concerned, Center Moriches

Dear Concerned, IF the child in question is under eighteen, berating, incarceration, deprivation and certain varieties of punishment are all worthy tools, as are heart to hearts, see how much we love yous and reverse psychologies. However the mistake is thinking that these are going to be effective in the short term. They are not.These are long term strategies. The truly wild child, if they survive, grows up and nine times out of ten, turns into a stricter parent than their parents ever dreamed of being. If you are talking about an over eighteen year old, there is nothing to be done. However,it is best to keep in mind that no rule of any sort requires that you fund activities that disturb you. God bless, Donna

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Back stabbing, Part 2

Dear Madrone, I wish to take out my betrayer. Please advise. Still Furious, Malaga

Dear Mal, , All you need is a heart of reinforced steel. Once you go down this road,the one who prevails is the one who shows no mercy. You must be willing to pursue your vengeance with a single minded determination, the kind that chews up asphalt, mows down any obstacle and pays no attention to weeping children or limping dogs along the way. IF you can summon up a no regrets resolve, then pretty much it doesn't matter what you do, you can ask your betrayer to pass the salt, and she will feel dread. She will know that you are willing to lie, steal, damage, poison anything of value to her and will be unable to have a completely peaceful moment until she breathes her last or makes amends, sobbing at your feet.
And yet this power is like acid, burns the container too. My uncle's best man Rolly was betrayed when his brother Lou told their mother that Rolly had, against her wishes, dated a person who was, shall we say, different. The mother cut Rolly dead. Rolly made it his business to make Lou's life after that a living hell. The two of them went to early graves, they died of heart attacks a week apart. The mother buried them both, and ended up living in an old age home that smelled of wet cats with no one to visit her. It wasn't pretty. God bless, Donna

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Family Health

Dear Madrone, How can I tell if my family is healthy? You hear so many stories of people thinking everything is OK, then Kaboom, this one does themself harm, or that one tells everyone off, then disappears. Like my cousin Rodella's son's girlfriend's aunt, who everyone thought was with the program, until one day, she came home with a tattoo displayed prominently over her left bazoomba stating YOU WISH and blew town with a biker boyfriend. No one saw it coming. Is this preventable? Was there anything anyone could have done? Anxious, Ocean City

Dear Anxious, Family health is not easy to determine because a family is composed of individuals, who for some reason known only to heaven, are not identical. The same family that is healthy for one is poison to another. The only answer I can give to your first question is the same one the dentist gave me, when I asked him if he thought my wisdom teeth might be impacted. He said, when they are you won't have to ask. As for the tattoed biker chick, who knows? People run off for all sorts of reasons, some of them good, some of them bad. God bless, Donna

Friday, May 12, 2006

Back Stabbing

Dear Madrone, My best friend from across the street, my so called I swear I'll never tell, on my mother's life, you can trust me,lying through her teeth is a complete back stabber. She told a dead secret of mine, and now my reputation is ruined, my marriage is in a shambles and mostly likely I will lose my job. The B*** excuse my French is looking to take my place all sympathy with my husband, and ready to talk me down at any chance. How can I make her pay? Furious, Malaga

Dear Mal, You have two choices. Forget it, and move on. I don't mean you ever have to talk to your betrayer, or even wish her well, I mean don't obsess. Or you can take her out. There is no in between. Consider very carefully before you take her out. How far are you willing to go? Jail time? Large amounts of payments that you may lose in a civil suit, the pity of your friends if it doesn't go well?
Even if it does go well, there can be blow back.Sympathy goes to the latest victim, and you might even discover you have a conscience which gives you remorse, although that's a waste, you still can be hamstrung by it. The other way is healthier all around. Think about it and let me know which way you want to handle this and we'll take it from there. God bless, Donna

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Can you believe this one?

Dear Madrone, My father's sister's husband's cousin's oldest daughter has four children, three of them are the spitting image of the father, like three dumplings, brown eyes, brown hair, the same schnozzola, which is sort of a pity for the girl, although it didn't keep her from making a good match, who is no prize himself in the looks department, but makes a nice living,and would walk through fire for her. However The fourth and youngest child looks like no one else. Blonde as can be,thin and fair, and legs three miles long. What do you think? Is it really their daughter? Suspicious, Coram

Dear Suspicious, Do they act like she is? Then she is, end of story. God bless, Donna

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Everything is crazy

Sometimes people say to me, Madrone, everything is crazy. By which they mean, somethings aren't the way they expect them to be. Like this lady who writes me from Floral Park: Dear Madrone, Everything is crazy. My son just graduated from nursing school and my daughter hauls bricks for a long distance trucking company. Where did I go wrong? Topsy Turvey.

Dear Turvey, Unless I am missing something, you haven't gone wrong. Unless you are hiding something, I don't know what your problem is. Are your children healthy? Do they support themselves? Are they jerks? If you can answer yes, yes, no, than you have done about a good a job as any mother living or dead. Get a grip. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What did I tell you?

What did I tell you a million times about getting in between a person and their mother? This person doesn't understand that there are no exceptions to this rule. I mean really.

Dear Madrone, My youngest brother is like a king in our home. He doesn't lift a finger and expects the world to be brought to him on a carpet. The rest of us slave like dogs, bring our mother to the doctors, run ourselves ragged, only to listen to what a pearl the no good is. When we speak up, our mother says we're jealous, he deserves the best. But he wouldn't walk across the street to pick her up even if she were lying in the gutter. Worse, she gives him everything we give her. Everything. Which he gladly takes like he's doing her a favor. How long can this go on? Despairing, Lost River

Dear Lost,
It will go on as long as your mother wants it to go on. What did I tell you? There is nothing you can do. Oh you probably want some magic formula, but there is none. Your mother is a doormat for her youngest son, who has no shame about walking on her. Good or bad she has her reasons. Short of declaring her legally incompetent, you have nothing to say about who she gives what, and that's that.
Interfere at your own peril. God bless, Donna

Monday, May 08, 2006

Nine Times Out of Ten...

Oh there's more:
Nine times out of ten,

the disaster that you think of ISN'T the disaster that happens.

the thing you worry that you forgot to do, you did, but you don't even think about the thing you actually forgot.

the person you bent over backwards for holds it against you

the money you spent trying to make someone love you makes them resent you

the bad thing that happens has unexpected good results

the good thing that you got also came with side effects you didn't count on and don't want

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nine Times Out of Ten....

Nine times out of ten, when people say they want you to be honest, they don't.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Nine Times Out of Ten

Nine times out of ten,

1.You don't get money back when you lend it to family.
2. The person you don't want to hear what you said behind their back hears it
3. The day you call in sick to go to the sales at National Liquidators even though you NEVER do it and probably won't again, is the day that the big boss comes around to inspect.
4. Your children will grow up and do all the things they swore they'd never do when they had children of their own.

There is more. This is just some of what you can count on.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Warning: Avoid the crepe hanger

Listen up.. crepe hangers are not worth your time. Avoid them.
Now you may ask me, Madrone, what if I am related to one, or married to one, or someone I am married to is related to one or someone I am related to is married to one? What do you suggest I do then? Well, one part is easy, nobody broke your arm to marry did they? If you'd listened to me in the first place and avoided the crepe hanger, you wouldn't be filing the joint tax return now. But if you're related to one, there are two options..Avoid, and take the heat from the others who do not understand, or Put up with, and be aggravated. When the aggravation you feel outweighs the heat you will get from other family, then you will act. Now there are ways of avoiding, some better than others, to be discussed later. God bless, Donna

PS- A crepe hanger is the kind of person who, even if you meet them on a sunny day with a $1000 from the lucky four scratch off instant lotto in your pocket, you end up going home thinking about skin cancer and the bite the government is going to take out of your winnings.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Dear Madrone, why do you have such a stake up your butt about pity? I pity you. Kind hearted, Los Angeles

Dear Los, I, however, do not pity you back. I will, after answering this letter, ignore you, and that's about that. What good does your pity do for me? Nothing. It only serves to make you feel good about yourself, but for nothing, which is why you are wasting your time. IF I put any stock in pity I would be sorry for you using up your precious minutes on this instead of knitting mittens or buying a lottery ticket. Something useful. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Big Shots...... I tell you #2

With big shots, it all depends, are these cousins, with a small c or Cousins with a capital C or COUSINS, all caps, which probabably means their mother and father are sister and brother to your father and mother.

Small c, you are free to insult or ignore- the only heat you'll get is from them, and that is only if they actually register your existence. People like that usually don't know other people breathe. Everyone else will understand.

Capital C means you have to see them every week at the barbecue, the only way you can avoid them is not going, but that's cutting off your nose to spite your face. Short of open warfare, which is sometimes called for, but not for this penny ante stuff, you can take measures. Under no circumstances try to do them one better, you can't. Instead confine yourself to this one comment, every time. : You are the luckiest, smartest, bravest, thriftiest- pick whatever adjective applies to the circumstance- people I have ever heard of. Madonna, I hope you are wearing a little red ribbon. Trust me, after a while they will stop. But you have to say it like you mean it. This will make them nervous.

ALL CAPITALS- You are stuck with these people, no matter what. The only way you can break from them is amputation. If they're gangrene, by any means, you cut them out of your life. Just be sure it's an arm or a leg your cutting out, not a heart or a liver. God bless, Donna

Monday, May 01, 2006

Big Shots........You tell me #2

Ok, what would you do with this one?

Dear Madrone, my cousins are always shooting off their mouths about this car they bought and that vacation they took, and how much their children give them and how great a deal they got on this or that high priced item. I have not the faintest idea how they afford all that, the husband works in a shirt factory, or so he says, but I don't see no shirts. Well he could work in a hundred shirt factories, if I have to listen to one more story, I will have to do damage...how can I get them to shut up? Frantic, Altamount

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beware of Onesy Onesy

Onesy Onesy is a dangerous game. It goes like this. Your wifey makes a comment about your mother's gravy, compares it unfavorably to the starchy crapola purchased at the local A&P. You take this without comment, but later that night, you mention in passing that the last time you had dinner at with your inlaws, you practically had to beg for helpings, they are so stingy with portions,how on earth could your family be so flabby. Then the wife hits you up with a comment about the water bill being paid late, just like the way your brother always returns the lawnmower needing gas. To which you reply at least he mows his lawn, which is a slap at her sister who the wife can't deny has a disgraceful amount of dandelions on her front lawn, only it isn't your place to point it out. AND SO IT GOES. Trust me, if you don't stop it, it ends with gunplay.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sticky Fingers....................I Tell You #1

Ok, If you said she should rat out the person in question you were right....
AND wrong. Because according to the rules of family, unless of course, she was stealing from yours, let's assume not, since nothing was said in the letter, you can go either way on this, it doesn't make any real difference to anyone but you. So you could just decide to MYOB, who asked you, you don't know the whole story, why get involved, let it be. Or you can confront directly and say, I know what you're up to quit it or I'm turning you in I don't recommend this, too complicated, and really namby pamby. Besides you can't talk people into being honest. Or if you bring in the heat, you can either play dumb when people wonder who called the gendarmes or say directly I called the cops, she's a disgrace bringing up my taxes. All of these options are equally fine: do whatever lets you sleep at night.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sticky Fingers..............You Tell Me #1

Ok all of you, I know what's what, but I can't be there all the time when this or that happens, and you need to rely on your own savvy, which some of you, we all admit, have in short supply. But hey, I'll be a big shot and lend you a hand. Here's the question, you think what you should do with it, and I'll tell you whether you know how to act like you were raised right. (Now I'm not saying you weren't, please this isn't about your mother, it's about you, I keep my own rules, at least most of the time.) How do you advise the poor schmoe who asks me this:

Dear Madrone, I am in a pickle.My girlfriend's best friend's cousin has sticky fingers. I mean we can't go to the store, to a restaurant that something doesn't walk out with her that didn't walk in. Now I'm not a saint, and I have been known to stash the odd packet of Equal from the diner and who doesn't take conditioner and shampoo from the motel, even if you didn't open it, everyone knows they throw those out if you don't.But this one's a real prize, I've seen her lift an entire wardrobe, include matching underwear and co-ordinating press ons. No one says boo to her, her father is on the job. But this can't be right. Should I rat her out? Honestly concerned, Philly.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Meaning of Trinacria

The Trinacria is the symbol of Sicily. It's Medusa in the middle, and for your information, Medusa has been given a bum rap- she's always the bad guy in the stories they tell the kids, but believe me she's not. Which isn't to say that she couldn't turn you to stone, but that's not the whole story. The legs stand for the three corners of the island, but also could stand for kick butt, kick up your heels, and alive and kicking. Or kick off, kick the bucket or kick in the slats. Take your pick.

PS- Medusa is just PO-ed, and she has a right to be. Look it up.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Trinacria

To Be Explained.

Move on.

Dear Madrone, I have done a terrible thing. My cousin's best friend was going out with someone I had my eye on. So I told him that said person was cheating on him. A nasty fight ensued, the relationship went in the dumper, they both married other people and the marriages, I must say were not happy.
One marrige was recently profiled on the front page of the Daily News and the other has given plenty of work to the reporters on Court TV. I am so sorry for what I did. Is there any way I can make up for it? Regretful, Regency Park

Dear Ful,
Forgeddaboudit. Nothing you can do. What did I tell you about regret, waste of time. Let me ask you, did you learn anything? Well you should have, even if it was just that lying is hardly ever the way to go, although sometimes it is. Not in this case. God bless, Donna

PS-Liars annoy me, but sometimes agita is just the price you have to pay.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Free Show

Dear Madrone, My next door neighbor's daughter wears the skimpiest dresses, you can practically see her hoosis, and her girls might as well be uncovered, for all the protection and support she gets from her clothes. This is disgusting. How can I suggest to her mother that she should cover up? Blushing in Flushing

Dear Blushing First off, you sound like someone whose son, or husband, why not, is enjoying the sights a little too much. Be that as it may, you suggest to the mother she cover up by going over and saying I think your daughter should cover up. What you really want to know is if there is any way to make this suggestion without making war with the family next door, well you can't. Because no matter if the mother says I know I know, you'll be breaking rule #1 by suggesting to a mother she doesn't know how to raise her own child. So decide which is more aggravating. The free show or bad blood with your neighbors. God bless, Donna

Monday, April 24, 2006

The big deal about sex

Dear Madrone, what's the big deal about sex? Bamboozled, Boise, Idaho

Dear Bamboozled, Idaho huh? Well first you do not say whether you have had any first hand aquaintaince with the topic, that's one answer. IF you HAVE any actual experience, and just didn't find it all that appealing, that's another. I will answer in general, since you do not indicate why you ask. As far as families are concerned, in the old days, sex was the only way you could make new people for the new families. So THAT was the big deal. These days, if people aren't growing on trees, they will be soon, so sex gets to be more of a hobby, like knitting or model railroads, and you know how crazy people can get about their model railroads. God bless, Donna

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Spare me!

Here's something I wish to be spared- listening to idiots complain about things that can't be helped. For example, it's raining. Can you help this? No. Or the sun is too hot. Can you help this? No. Either way, you get an umbrella, problem solved. Many things in life are like this. I woke up this morning, listening to some jamoke on the radio actually having a conversations with some other palooka talking about making laws to decree what is or what isn't a family. Look, I'm as traditional as the next person, more traditional. I'm so traditional you can set entire calendars by the rules I follow. But I know better than to beat my head against a wall. But here I am annoying myself, complaining about stupidity which has been around a long time, and doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Garter Belts and the perfect world

Something to consider: It will not be a perfect world until men can wear garter belts the same way women can wear pants: Which is to say if they feel like it.

Another thing that annoys me


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Life is not fair

Dear Madrone, I buy the lotto every week, faithfully since I was twelve. I play every lucky number, I pay attention to my dreams, and have promised half my winnings will go to the church. Nothing, Nada, I don't even come close. The lady down the street, who is not the nicest person in the world, plus her front lawn is scattered with the toys of her unruly children and the neighborhood stinks from the droppings of the dog she doesn't leash, SHE hits the powerball yesterday for 150 million. And I just saw on the TV that this is the only time she's ever played, "bought the ticket on a whim." I am gnashing my teeth. Is this fair? Shaking my fist, Port Jarvis

Dear Fist,
My advice is to unclench that fist, and go get yourself a cup of coffee and a nice anisette to dunk and let it go. The answer to the question you asked is no. The answer to the question you didn't ask is that nobody deserves anything, not the good stuff that happens to them, not the bad. It's just what happens. If you think that it actually MEANS something, that you can act a certain way to get a certain thing, good luck with that. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Dear Madrone, My boyfriend is a doll face. However, his family whines. All the time. As if the good Lord himself had added an eighth day to creation, just to invent aggravation for them alone. The weather, the cost of sausage, the quality of the plastic with which they protect the couches that they paid an arm and a leg for but weren't worth it. The doctors that prescribe them medicine that they take but does them no good. They don't complain, complaining would mean some backbone, which they do not possess. I love my boyfriend, but his family is already driving me out of my mind. Is this grounds for breaking up? Enough already, Marina Park

Dear Enough,
Tough one. It doesn't sound so good from here. I mean, you are already writing for advice, and he hasn't yet coughed up the ring. Unless you think he is sincerely ready to make a break with the old ways and form a new, more content family with you. In which case, it might be worth a shot. In that case, ask yourself , can you refrain from whining to him about his family? Because can either join in, or resent. Either way you're in a fix. And remember, you will never be free of his family, even if you live a thousand miles away. God bless, Donna

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Heat

Dear Madrone, you're always mentioning the heat. What exactly do you mean by it?? Curious, Santa Ana

Dear Curious,
It's whatever bothers you. Some people don't like being put in handcuffs and hauled away to do time. Other people can't stand it if their next door neighbor, who just moved in and they don't know them from Adam, gives them a look because of the dandelions on the front lawn going to seed. No matter what sets it off, it's ALWAYS better to face it up front, or it comes around later to bite you. God bless, Donna

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I repeat myself

Dear Readers, I have been given gas on the previous subject, but I repeat myself. It is a very common mistake to mix up families and religion. Most of you are thinking about going to church, or temple, or mosque, or whatever, with your kids. That is a good thing to do, helps with all the lessons you want them to learn like being nice to other people, and being honest, and in general cleaning up after yourself when you make a mess. If more families could follow that, then life would be simpler all around. This is an entirely different thing than believing a religion. Now I mean no disrespect to people who actually BELIEVE in a religion, whatever it is,and by believe I mean practice it,which if you're being honest at all, you can say that very few people do. Those people let gothe things of this earth, which means NOT putting food on the table for your babies, or having parties for your father when he turns 80, or driving a nice, safe car with air bags and a really good child seat, and making cookies for the PTA or working overtime to pay for the braces. Those things are what family is about...taking care of each other, as best you can. Religion is all about letting someone else worry about those things. Next time you're in church, look around see if anyone around you is dressed in lily petals, or eating worms. God bless, Donna

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Families and Religion

Let me tell you something right this minute... Whoever put together families and religion should get a medal for brilliant, if by medal you mean kick in the pants and brilliant you mean ridiculous. All the families that pray together stuff.. yeah, families that pray together stay together, but so do families that rob banks and families that win Olympic medals.. it's not what they're doing but THAT they're doing.

Religion is all about the next world, families are all about this one. Period. If you don't believe me, just check whatever holy book floats your boat. Just take one for example, somewhere in the Bible, I recall a bunch of men being told to stop fishing for fish, Ok then, just who do you think was back home waiting for some frigging fish to cook for dinner? and who had to tell hungry little kids that daddy wasn't coming back with any mackerel, or whatever, he was off "fishing for men", which is kind of a code for hanging out with the boys forever. And all this worshipping of virgins...if that isn't detrimental to families, I don't know what is.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have religions, in fact, if you don't have them, you cut out most of your bigger family holidays, but don't get confused by them.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Give me strength.

Dear Madrone, My middle daughter isn't a bad person, I see that she has friends and her own children are polite, and her husband, a real gentleman, even if his family has strange ideas, and a good provider, so no complaints there, even so, when I go visit her, it's like a ton of bricks weigh on my heart. They don't live right, I'm sorry. I don't recognize anything sensible in the way that they arrange their lives...nothing from the way WE do things has remained.
I try my best to hide my dismay, but it's hard to hold my tongue when I see salad being served at the beginning of the dinner, and no pie with the coffee. And don't get me started on the way she lets my granddaughter's hair hang in front of her eyes. How can I prevent myself from saying something harsh? Biting Tongue, Los Alamos

Dear Biting, Oh you can prevent yourself from saying something harsh by keeping your mouth shut, it's that simple. What you need to ask is how you can keep yourself from thinking these things. Because your daughter can read your mind, just the way you can read hers. God bless, Donna

A note to the rest of you: You know how sometimes you think you're getting along Ok, even if some things aren't quite right, and then all of a sudden someone treats you like you don't exist and you're completely stunned, what did you do that was so terrible. The above letter is what you did.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What about pets?

Dear Madrone, Are pets family? Allergic, Los Alamos

Dear Allergic, Pets are family the same way babies are, except that babies grow up, as they should. People who treat pets like family are looking to stop time, which they can't but with their pets they can pretend. IF a person regards a pet as family, and some do (remember, you can't tell anyone who is or isn't their family) then the rules apply. The thing about pets is that they can't give you gas about the way you treat them unless of course you treat them so bad they eventually run away or turn on you. In this way they are also similar to human family. God bless,Donna

PS. If you are the kind of bonehead who continues to treat a family member like pet, long after babyhood is over, you are in for it.
PPS.About the allergy. If you are really allergic and the person in question still keeps the pet around, it's a message. Get it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Three's a Crowd?

Dear Madrone, You always say that a family is whatever a person says it is.. so does this mean a husband can have more than one wife, or a wife have more than one husband, or there be two husbands, or two wives? HUH? What do you say about that?? Gotcha, Cedar Rapids

Dear Got CHA, Do you know the frigging difference between theory and practice?? For example, in theory, I could be a power forward for the NBA,in practice I can't. Right?? Right. SO it's like this. In theory, a family can start with any of the above mentioned combos..but ALL parties must be content, otherwise power is being used wrongly. And to be content, each party must feel like they are number one. Now in the case of the twosomes, it's simple, each is number one to the other. When you get to three or more, that's where the trouble starts. EVERYONE wants to be number one, and everyone can't be, so someone is either unhappy or lied to. In which case, there is no real family. That's how that goes. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What makes a family?

Dear Madrone, I am having a big argument with my daughter who is stubborn as a mule. She insists that without a man and without even the hint of a child, she can form a new family all her own. This world is crazy, where is she getting this idea? This has ruined more than one dinner. I can't make her see reason. Everyone is going insane, Chestnut Hill

Dear Insane, What have I told you one million thousand times? You can't tell anyone who is or isn't their family. My Aunt Lucia stayed her whole life alone and left all her money to her cat. Nobody was going to talk her out of that one, she said, the cat cleaned itself, and never said a harsh word, better than any man. And yes, I know what you're talking about, you think if you scream at your daughter, it will turn her back to something you can understand, or approve of, but it won't. She can't change your mind, and you won't change hers. Stubborn probably runs in the family. So you either let it go or continue screaming. Up to you. God bless, Donna

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Note to Anonymous

Listen don't feel bad it took you years to figure out what's going on. I've been around the block more than once and I'm just beginning to put all the pieces together!
My advice is now that you know, go buy yourself a nice dress, why not? OR have lunch with someone who doesn't give you agita. Life is too short for most of the stuff people waste their time on.

Let's get this straight.

Dear Madrone, How do I know the difference between who has what I want, and who wants what I have? Puzzled, Altoona

Dear Puzzled Sometimes it astounds me the things people have to ask, because you know what they say about there being no stupid question...well, don't make me laugh. This question is exhibit one. Anyhow, everybody knows this difference, what everybody doesn't want to do is admit it, because they want to be 'nice'. I'm not against nice, but not if it's fake. But let's assume you really have no clue...
WHO HAS WHAT YOU WANT- Is someone who can hurt your family if you don't bow to them.
WHO WANTS WHAT YOU HAVE- Is someone whose family you can hurt if you feel so inclined.

That's it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Rules (cont)

So, like I was saying, families agree on rules, inside and out, because in order for the family to run smoothly, power must only be used in the interests of justice and safety. When it gets used otherwise, like when a father grabs the newspaper out of the hand of a child peacefully reading it, because he can, no other reason, the child either harbors resentment, and plots to escape or get even, or accepts it and for the rest of his life thinks that he is the kind of person who gets a newspaper ripped from their hands and never says boo to ANYONE. Neither one of these makes for nice conversation at the Sunday barbecue.

These rules however,at times are better off broken. But only for good reasons. Believe me I don't know what those reasons are offhand...it always depends. If it didn't you wouldn't need me to help you out. But you do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let's talk about rules

People don't understand about rules. Some poor idiots think that just because there is a rule, you have to follow it. And this even includes the Rules of Family. (when you break them, you do get heat, what I'm saying is sometimes the heat is well worth it.) Someone ought to talk to them about what's what. Like I'm doing for you. Now I'm not saying you go breaking rules just to be a big shot, that's no good either. Rules exist for a good reason. Which I'll get to.

Back before there were rules, the person who everyone bowed to was the one who could break the most heads. Back then, muscle actually meant muscle. And that was the only rule. You don't like what I tell you, then kaboom, you had a tiger jaw bone brought down on your head. End of story. This went on for a while, until people got tired of being knocked around and figured out that numbers counted. And that you could persuade people with actual muscle that things wouldn't go so well for them if they continued to throw it around.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Let me tell you something

There is something desperate about people who call you on the phone to beg for money. What can I say. You can hang up. You can act crazy. You can agree with them completely about how wonderful and beautiful their cause is, but still say no, even though it breaks your heart. You can ask THEM for money to protect them from any "mishaps" that might occur if they keep up the calls. That's remarkably effective particularly if they don't realize that the local policia will investigate such statements, AH live and learn..

Monday, April 03, 2006

I take pity

Dear Friends,I will take pity on you and explain what exactly is a doormat, so you can judge for yourself.

A doormat is walked on, left in the rain, and smeared with mud and snow, and hardly ever washed. SO if you have been doing someone a favor,and they never pay back in any way shape or form, OR if you lend $1000 even after the last $1000 hasn't been returned, or you say yes, because you want to keep peace, even when you really mean let me first punch you in the nose before I say NO. OR if you don't have a gracious heart, and you resent whatever it is you're doing, maybe bringing the laundry up from the basement, or letting someone borrow your car for the fourteenth time but they don't replace the gas they use, or you smile when you'd rather frown. Once doesn't make you a doormat, but twice can, and after three times you might want to check to see what that is stamped across your face that makes people want to wipe their shoes on you. God bless, Donna

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Are you a doormat?

No one loves a doormat. Are you one? Probably, if you have to ask.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Dear Readers, People sometimes ask me, UNBELIEVABLE, what I mean by agita. I will take pity and explain. It's when someone gives you a royal pain, either by something they do or say, or don't do or don't say. Either way, it's something you want to have less of, either by eliminating the source of it from your life, or letting it go. And by eliminating, I don't mean like in those crazy movies where every one has machine guns and fat suits. Please.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Every family needs a garden, I don't care if you live in a little hole in the wall and no yard. You can get a pot of dirt and a cactus for the love of Pete!! And remember you can overwater them just as easily as you can underwater them.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Nag List

Dear Madrone, I worry about my boy Eddie. He lives a wild life, ok he's 21, when else is he going to do it? But still, no health benefits, smokes cigarettes, and who knows what else, rides a motorcycle without his helmet, and doesn't go to church. I can't even talk to him these days without bringing up one or another of these topics and then we fight, or worse, he ignores. You don't have to tell me that nagging is a waste, it hasn't done any good. and yet, what if he kills himself or someone else, how will I feel if I just let all that go without saying a word. I will feel guilty, which is another one of your wastes. HELP ME MADRONE!! I am going crazy. Worry Wart, North Pensacola

Dear Wart, You at least know you have a problem which I am going to solve for you. All things should be this simple. Eddy knows every single thing that bothers you. Trust me. This is your nag list. Next time, before you get into it, just say, Hey Eddie, you know the list of things I nag you about. Review them in your mind. Any progress to report? He will either say yes and report or say no. Then you can get on with whatever else you want to talk about.
NOW- If you have nothing else to say to him, then THAT's where your real problem is. God bless, Donna

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Here's the Family Knowledge Answer 1...
Ok.. so your mother says it's your brother who gets the picture you both want. IF you have a FNQ lesser than that of a piece of concrete, which by the way never talks and so has not that bad a FNQ, you cut dead all you believe have insulted you which includes bad mouthing them.

If your FNQ is cosi cosa, you accept the decision, but not really, and in your heart you harbor resentment toward both your brother and your mother and anyone else who sides with them. This makes for awkward silences at family barbecues and the occasional nasty crack that comes out of nowhere, but not really.

Here's the deal. RULE OF FAMILY #1 is that you can never get in between someone and their mother. Which means that your mother and brother have their own thing between them, and very possibly he has paid for the picture in ways you have not, and probably don't care to. You just don't know. So you keep the gracious heart and let it go. Your mother however may have broken Rule #1, since she got in between you and herself unless she had good reasons, which she could have.

There is something to keep in mind...you are under no obligation to be a doormat,so when it turns out that the picture is A. stolen property, B. worth quite a bit, so it means the government is taking a huge bite out in taxes, or C. Radioactive so it's making people who own it sick, you are under NO obligation whatsoever to post bail, contribute any money to the Feds, or pay hospital bills for your brother and his family who must take radiation therapy for ten years.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


What's your FNQ? Your family knowledge quotient. Hey, don't get on my case about the silent K, it doesn't exist in Sicily, therefore I have very little time for it. How much do you know about family? Your FNQ is directly related to your peace of mind, the agita produced by your daily encounters with jamokes and stand up good people. The higher your FNQ, the greater your well being. It's true.

Situation 1...Say, you and your brother are fighting over the gold framed landscape of horses and a haywagon, in a field framed by Lombardi poplars, and by fight I mean each of you is claiming rights to it after your mother, who is not yet passed, thank God, passes, and your mother decides it will go to your brother, not you. What do you do?

Answer tomorrow, you think about it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dealing with Liars

IF the liar is a child under your control, just sit them down and say you aren’t planning to move until you hear the truth, and you’ll know the truth when you hear it. Then get the kid a bowl of pastini, take out your knitting and make like you can sit for one hundred years. And mean it. Sooner or later they’ll crack.

IF the liar is an adult, or a child over whom you have no rights and you aren’t the State District Attorney, you have a bigger problem. If someone is lying behind your back, you can always make them say it to your face in front of witnesses. They’ll deny for sure, then you have the necessary means to label them a coward. If they are lying to your face, you need to decide if it’s the ditch you want to die in. If it isn’t.. well, they can either be dead to you or you never trust a single thing they say without checking. If it is, then you call them on it.. whatever it takes. Hire a detective, lay a trap, follow them yourself. The problem with all this is that you give them power over your peace of mind. Depends on how big the lie is and sometimes, knowing the truth has its downside.

My cousin Louella had an inkling that all was not on the up and up with her hubby and a certain co-worker. A large inkling related to the fact the co-worker’s husband called her to commiserate, and see if Louella was interested in revenge that came under the category of good for the goose, good for the gander, if you know what I mean. Louella confront her hubby, who denied. Now, Louella didn’t really want to know. She decided to believe her hubby, who decided to break it off with his lady friend. Which I believe had something to do with the difference is body fat to muscle ratio between him and the other guy. (The reason I know all this is that the co-worker lady in question spent three hours sobbing at my Formica table, asking what should she do.. but that’s another column) And Louella is very blissful, thinking that all is well. I’d tell her she was crazy, but she hasn’t asked.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Can't believe I forgot this one:


Liars really annoy me.

And this is how you deal with them:
FIRST,and this is key. You better be 100% convinced that they are lying. Because the really good liars lie to someone they know wants to believe them. I mean really. They'll look you in the eye and say, I can't believe you don't trust me. And YOU, palooka, will be doubting yourself, feeling all bad that you could have had suspicions.
Yeah, every one of you that's had a cheating boyfriend or a kid steal you blind knows exactly what I'm talking about.

More tomorrow on what you do next.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

As I was saying: Paybacks

Paybacks are what comes back around, so watch out what you do and say. Oddly enough, what you think, is your own business. Even if you think it really hard. You can't predict paybacks no way, and you can't control them. SO don't bother trying, you'll just make it worse.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

List of things that annoy me

Crepe Hangers

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paybacks Justice and Vengeance

Dear Readers, There is much confusion about paybacks, which are not to be confused with either justice, a good thing, or revenge, a bad. Now you may think it odd that I have issues with revenge, because many of my people have made quite a good living telling stories about vendettas and their bloody consequences. I'm not saying the stories aren't true, but that they don't have that much to do with how most people, mine or whoever , live.
Vengeance always comes back to bite you. Like the time that my next door neighbor's son Joey stole his best friend Lou's girlfriend,Neesa and Lou told everyone that Joey was a no good, and was cheating on Neesa with Arnie Leola's girl, which he wasn't. Arnie went and cleaned Joey's clock, Neesa who was about to go back to Lou, found out about Lou's lying, realized that Joey would take a hit for her, and married Joey three months later. Lou on the other hand ended up by himself. You see my point.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Dear Madrone, what exactly do you mean by savvy? Curious, Nesconset

Dear Curious, One of my cousin's nephews had a little boy, who as a baby always smiled...like when you brought him in a room full of strangers, complete unknowns, he'd look confused for a second, no more, then he'd smile at everyone, who then said, what a brilliant child and smiled back. This same cousin had another nephew, who had a little boy, the same age, who when faced with the same situation, would fall on the ground, hide his face and kick. One had savvy the other didn't. God bless, Donna

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Dear Readers, people ask me all the time what to do when someone stabs them in the back. Sometimes the knife is long and deep, aimed at the gut and twisted, like when my neighbor Louella (across the street) was sick, and her husband, Mel, who we thought was nice,but turned out to be a rat, had more than dinners with Zilla, the wife of the neighbor in the house next door, who we also thought was nice, but turned out to be a floozie. It wasn't pretty, there were scenes. And sometimes the stab is just a nick, like when your mother-in-law tells her cousin how much of a deal she got you on that used fur from the resale shop at Alexanders, where she works, when you didn't want it spread around that you bought your mink on the cheap.

When this happens, pull the knife out, wave it in their face, make them at least briefly consider the possibility that you are both willing AND able to disembowel them, then put the knife down and move on. And file their face away in the NOT TO BE TRUSTED folder in your mind. God Bless, Donna

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Dear Readers Often you ask me about loyalty. I don't understand how something so basic needs to be explained, but that's the world for you, people don't understand the simplest things.

Loyalty is glue. It keeps us from flying apart.

I'm not saying be an idiot about it, sometimes you gotta cut a person loose, but only under extreme circumstances, and the benefit of the doubt is not a bad thing to give. It's two way street, mind you. I'm not talking about the loyalty of a dog who gets kicked twice a day, and hasn't figured out he has sharper teeth, and 40 pounds on the guy with the shoe. Or that you shouldn't be careful about who rates your allegiance. There is no substitute in this world for savvy. God Bless, Donna

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Proof of Love

Dear Madrone Please settle this argument. My sister says she would rather see her husband happy, even if it was with another woman, and I say, no, I would rather see my dearie dead. Who loves more? No way is he getting away with that, White Plains

Dear No,This question had me puzzled until I realized what you are actually asking. This is not about loving your hubbies, it's about which sister bows to the other. There is no answer to the question you say you're asking, without knowing more. For example, is the dead husband dead after forty years of faithfulness, with grandchildren weeping PAPA PAPA at the bedside, or dead after a shot to the heart made by a 45 caliber gun carried by the loving spouse to the bedroom where she found him with his fancy woman?

In any case, the sister who rules is the one who didn't have to write to ask. God Bless, Donna

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A puzzle

Dear Madrone, I love my family, don't get me wrong, and they love me. If, for example, a dozen armed bandits came to the house I would fight to the death before I'd let them harm a hair on my mother's head, or if my brother needed a kidney and I had one that matched, I'd be at the hospital yesterday to donate. That being said, if I spend more than three nights in the same town with them, I break out in hives, get into car accidents, and on occasion, have said things I later regret. Can you explain this?
Confused, on occasion tormented, Old Forge

Dear Confused, It's simple, you are mixing up like with love. No one in a million years says you have to like your family. Like is having the same taste in music, or the same sense of humor or going to Macy's instead of Lord and Taylor's on the day after Thanksgiving. That has nothing to do with family, that's just finding people who are like you, so you feel good about yourself. You can like all kinds of people for this or that. Family, you don't have to like at all. I mean you can like your relatives, but it's not necessary. God bless, Donna

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Giving Away of Milk

Dear Madrone , I have been keeping company with a fine man, very nice family, makes good money. We are not spring chickens, that's for sure. Both of us have been around the block more than once, in vehicles, that I must admit were less than late model. But this time, I want to do it right, and he wants to do it now. This is a problem for would I not be giving the milk away, and thus preclude the buying of the cow? Not so sad, but not so wise either, Marathon

Dear Not Let me get this straight? Are you the cow? And if so, how did you get smart enough to talk? If you're that smart, you are probably also smart enough to know that by speaking of yourself in this manner, you've already answered the question. Which is to say that cows, milked or not, owned by whoever, are not ever consulted on who their milk goes to and at what price. They have no choice, and mostly just chew their cud, and let the farmers duke it out. God bless, Donna

PS. Which is to say the fact that you even had to ask me in such a way means that the price of milk is too high.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Perry Como, what a doll. You know I'm right. Frankie had the press, the smooth voice, the fancy friends and the playboy rep, but Perry, now there was a man. He knew the value of family, and he worked it. Dean was a lush, that was no act, Jerry Vale, he could sing, but that was it. Perry was the complete package,the real deal.
He married his sweetheart and stayed married for 65 years, you could watch his show with everyone no matter how young, and all he had to do his grin that boyish grin, and you knew the world was fine.

Ah Pierino! You live forever in our hearts, "til the end of time." God bless, Donna


Monday, February 06, 2006

What's a new family for?

Dear Madrone,
What's the point of new families, anyhow? I don't get it. Why do you keep harping on it? My family's the best, Mohegan

Dear Best, My cousin Alberta's loved her son Marko so much we worried she would have a heart attack if he ever got serious about a girl. And he did get serious, ok he was 43, the girl was a doll, who saw somethng in Marko that the rest of us didn't, and they were going to be married the last weekend in June, it was a while ago, when my father was still alive, may he rest. Alberta did everything she could to get inbetween them, none of it worked, and bingo she died, right at the rehearsal dinner. All because she didn't want her son to create a new family. Here's my point. New families are gonna happen, even dropping dead won't stop it. Marko and his bride got married a year later, had three kids, and Alberta missed it all. Probably did them a favor, but what a waste. God bless, Donna

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Dear Madrone
There's this guy, very sweet, who I have been seeing for quite some time. He's got the look, he's employed with a very reputable shirt factory, and my family approves. But how do I know if what I feel for him is love? Could it be me thinking I should be in love, or maybe that everyone thinks I should be? OR even a weird indigestion? Help me Madrone, he is even went ring shopping with my mother, even though I am not supposed to know that. How will I know what to say when he pops the question? Fizzy in the stomach, Cedar Rapids

Dear Fizzy-
You are fizzy in the head that's what you are. Did you read your own letter? This is what you tell him...NO. Unless of course, love is not one of your requirement for marriage, it isn't always. But if you loved the poor schmoe, you'd know the difference between what you're feeling and a belly ache.
God Bless, Donna

PS. You could marry him just the same, but it will be trouble down the road. But even if you did love him, there still could be trouble down the exact same road. Love is no guarantee of serenity, which is a good thing, otherwise there would be no reason for opera.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One Last Basic, before the questions start.

One last basic thing to always remember. Nobody deserves anythng. What you get you get, bad or good, and if you think it's either punishment or reward, forget it. That's the thing about the rules, you can follow them or break them, it might be a good or bad thing, who can say, not me. I'm not even trying. I'm just laying things out for you so you won't be completely surprised.

Monday, January 30, 2006

FBI- Family Brass Indicator

It is always good to be realistic. The Madrone’s FBI (Family Brass Indicator)
helps in this regard.
First determine numbers: Only include those relatives who would take one on the jaw for you.
For each qualified relative figure
How strong are they –
How many pounds of lasagna each can eat at one sitting?
How fast are they?
Assuming no traffic, how many exits of the LIE or some equivalent expressway can they cover in twenty minutes?
IF there is traffic, how willing are they to drive on the shoulder and cut in when it runs out?
How mentally tough are they?
When they curl their nose, how far do people back off?
How fiercely will they fight?
Like Al Pacino in Scarface?
Like Ray Liotta in Wiseguys?
Like Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents?

This will give you some idea of how much back up you can count on.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Take the heat up front

Let's say for example that your mother-in-law is a nudge, always with the remarks and the rolling of the eyes. Now, there's nothin you can say to her directly,that only makes it worse. If you've ever tried it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't please don't, save yourself the trouble. By the rules, however, you may talk to your husband about it,assuming you and he have really made a new family together in which case he cannot fault you. Of course there are ways to put it, some better than others. I don't recommend you saying Yknow something your mother is the burr on my ass. THis will not go over well. It won't kill you to use a little class. Anyhow, you know he's going to be aggravated, he worships his mother, as he should, but still, he's got to step in if you ask. If you decide not to speak to him, and keep it bottled up, because you don't want to rock the boat, the boat will rock none the less from your shaking with repressed agita every time she gets on your nerves, and you either get an ulcer, or throw a plate at her head. Then you will be the bad guy.

PS- If you speak to him with respect, and he tells you, that's my mother, watch it, you have a bigger problem, which may be what she's trying to tell you, in her own way. But in that case, better to know where you stand, sooner rather than later.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Favor Bank

Too many people out there do not understand the favor bank. So they either ask things they shouldn't...for example like when the neighbor asks you to take in the mail for the tenth time this year, and you haven't been away once, so you never asked back, and they don't bring you some fruit or a bottle of B and B to thank, so after the eleventh time you don't have the gracious heart, and you either have to tell them to get lost or be a doormat. Not good. OR- People don't ask when they have a perfect right to, like time after time you drop your cousin off at the train station each morning and you don't mind, because it's on your way, even if he doesn't pay gas, but then your
computer crashes, and you don't ask him to help you even though the job you are dropping him off to is with Circuit City where he works with people who have crashing computers because you don't want to impose. That is an error. Ask, it will even things out in a good way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Let me tell you a little something about money

It's never just about money, trust me.

Money stands in for things like muscle, respect, independence, love and revenge, sometimes all at once. It's nothing by itself. The sooner you learn this, the better off you're gonna be. Let's say you are a poor shmoe without, excuse my French, a pot to piss in which translates to a rustbucket for a car and clothes from St. Vincent de Paul. Therefore, no girls will give you the time of day. Or so you think. But then one day, your number comes up and you hit the lotto. Made in the shade? I think not. You'll have just as hard a time finding one who loves you even if you weren't rich, as you did finding one who would have loved you when you were poor. And it will be worse, because when you were broke, you could count somewhat on the sincerity of the person in question because what was in it for them?? It happened just that way to my sister's nephew Al, who won the tri state powerball, married an extremely well put together blonde who he met on the round the world cruise he took to celebrate and ended up six feet under three months after they tied the knot, under mysterious but
not indictable circumstances.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why we have families.

Every once in a while, some smart alec asks me this question...why do we have families, madrone? Don't they cause more trouble than they're worth?. This is crazy talk. Why do we have to breath oxygen? and why does sauce taste better when it's simmered for eight hours, and the onion is merely browned and then taken out, not chopped and left in as soggy little pieces? There are some things that are not worth even thinking about because they just are. Oh you can come up with what ifs and theories, and set up all the experimental lifestyle communes with swingers and anything goes that you want to but in the end, it always comes back to a family. Always. And by a family, I mean a group of people who lives by the rules I am telling you about. That's how it is.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Another thing to consider

If you could talk people out of being crazy, the looney bins would be empty.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Waste of Time Hall Of Fame

The following are not worth one second of ANYONE's precious minutes on this earth:

Guilt- Wallowing in it, either as a giver or a getter is pointless. Even dipping your pinky toe is worth niente, nada, zip, jack, bupkis... however you want to say it. Same difference.

Regret- Useless, learn and move on

Whining- Goes along with regret, no one want to hear it.

Pity- Insulting all around

Nagging- You can't care more than they do, believe me, it never works. Unless you do it because you love the sound of your own voice, in which case it's a sport, and I know some Olympians.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Gracious Heart

If you can't do something with a gracious heart, then don't. Better to take the heat up front because if you don't it comes around to bite you guarantee. This is always the case.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Something to consider:

Power should only be exercised in the interest of justice and safety.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Human History, what else about it?

Dear Readers,
You might be wondering what's up with human history these days, and what can I say, it's doing what it always does. All the families are figuring out how to get what's theirs, and then some.
Or they ought to be. It's a real shame when that doesn't happen. Now notice I said get what's theirs, not steal it.

Anyhow, you can trace any current fuss you want back to that. It's all about the big pie and who gets what size slice. All these new types of families popping up everywhere, the only real reason to fuss is that the slice gets smaller everytime you say another whole category of families has rights to a share.

But Madrone, I can see you thinking it, even if you don't say anything. What about Mother Teresa and Gandhi, and people like that?? They don't even have families, do they?? And I say, yeah they do..And you say how so?? And I say, they defined their family as everyone in the frigging world. That's what's called a saint. Look it up.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I Now Explain Human History

Friends, as I have said, there is a great deal of confusion out there, and it's too much for me to sit here and listen to it, when I can set you straight. So, here is all you need to know about human history.

There was the first cavewoman, because believe me, it was a woman, who put two and two together, or rather one and one together and figured out what was causing all the babies. That started the first families.

They caught on early that the strongest families got the most stuff, so families started trying to outmuscle each other. That went on for a long time, ended up with REALLY heavyweight families, the biggest shots were the kings and the emperors. Then there was a pecking order, down to the poor slobs who did all the dirty work, serfs and slaves, who weren't barely allowed to have any real families of their own, which was very savvy on the part of the big shots.

But the rulers got greedy, and savvy went by the wayside. They wanted more and more stuff and they got so much of it, they couldn't just go and knock the block off some joker who tried to take it away. And they still wanted more. SO they let some of the slobs become merchants, and have families of their own. That was an error, because those families, one by one, weren't all that much, but they started banding together. Not because they loved each other, but they caught on that if enough of them co-operated, then the kings were in the soup and the soup was tasty and the pot was big, and lots of families could have a spoon, even if it was tiny.

That's how we ended up with democracy. Which is basically all the little families saying to each other- look, we'll agree on some rules, my kids can get stuff, your kids can get stuff, and some kids will have more than others, but nobody's kid can get all the stuff, and everyone's kid has a fair shot at some of it.

But Madrone, you say, what about communism and socialism? If anyone had explained the rules of family to Karl Marx, he would have realized he was barking up the wrong tree. Communism is nuts- who is going to work and work and work, and not make their family better off?? Never happen. Socialism has a better shot, but it depends on the generosity of the better off families, who will only be generous as long as they're pretty sure their own kids will come out on top, no matter what.

Soon I will set you straight as to what human history is up to these days.

Friday, January 13, 2006

What I can do for you.

Sometimes people say to me Madrone, what do you offer that I can't get, say from my best friend, or even my worst enemy? Who died and left you boss? This is a good question, if by good you mean idiotic and question you mean insult. But I am a going to show you how much I love you and explain myself...this once.

The giving and getting of advice is either very simple or very complicated, depending. For example, you ask your best friend Santina whether the $400 number you want to wear to your cousin Magnolia's second wedding is the the right color. She can say yes or no. End of story, but not really. Because Magnolia is getting married to someone she must have had hiding under the bed, since the daisies have hardly had time to droop on the grave of her first husband. Now hubby number one was no prize, everyone knows this, but a reception for 300 at the Huntington Swan Club complete with open bar, cocktail hour and Venetian table is not generally part of the required year of mourning. So you might just want to know if the color is right, but only if you have the imagination of a stick, which does happen, but most likely you are also asking if you should attend at all, and if you do, how large should the envelope be. She however can say nothing except, you look fabulous, not everyone can carry off eggplant chiffon.

When Santina goes home, she will get on the phone with her sister Roselle, and tell Roselle that the dress, as great as the color is, makes you look like an elephant, and that Magnolia is in for it, as hubby number two is way too young and the inheritance from hubby number one is far too large to mean anything but trouble. But you'll never hear it , because Santina is not your blood relative and Magnolia is. Which is to say you would be aggravated the minute she starts telling you how to think about your own family

Here's what I can do for you...I will tell you what other people would tell you if they could, but they can't. What you do with it is your business.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Some basics

Friends, here are some basics, to save you the trouble of having to ask me.

  1. Never get in between someone and their mother. If you just followed only this rule you’d be better off then 90% of the mamalukes out there who have no sense.
  2. Never refuse family a favor.
  3. Never ask family for something you know they can’t give.
  4. Never believe it’s just about the money.
  5. Never pretend it’s nice when it’s not.
  6. Never expect thanks when you kick someone in the teeth
  7. Never mix up the people who have what you want with the people who want what you have.
  8. Never fight a battle you know you can’t win, except if your honor is involved, then always fight it.

There is more, but these are the main ones.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What is family?

I get tired of repeating myself, no one listens, but it can’t be helped. Madrone, you keep asking me , what do you mean by family? My neighbor’s cousin Dolly adopted a boy from one of those countries where terrible things happen…is that family? Or Sylvana treats her husband’s aunt like it was her mother... is that right? Well, first let me say for ME, family is blood. What can I say, in the village where my people came from, a stranger was someone you didn’t have blood ties with, and we didn’t marry strangers. Most people have eight great grandparents, I only have four. It’s true, my hand to god.

All I can tell you who is MY family and don’t try to tell me otherwise. Which is what I’m saying…no one can tell somebody else who is or isn’t their family. Oh you can try, but it doesn’t matter. It’s beyond both your understanding and your power to change. But once it’s decided, the rules are the rules. End of story. . So now where were we?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Why do I bother?

Lately, all of this talk about values and family, drives me up the wall. And it causes no end of trouble, because it gets everyone confused about what's what. And I know what's what. Listen, don't get me wrong, I won't be mad if you don't go along with what I tell you, what do I care? But I'm right, you know it in your heart. And I don't tell people what to do, what do I look like, a nut job? No, I just tell them how it is. IF they ask. And they always do. It's my way of helping out.

Monday, January 09, 2006



It’s January. Hop in de ass, as my grandfather, may he rest, used to say after a glass of two of home made muscatel. Time to remind you of the resolutions you should be keeping although you won’t, why should this year be any different?

1. Take stock of who has what you want, and how badly you want it. Kiss up accordingly.

2. Figure out who wants what you have. Decide whether or not you want to give it to them and what they have to do to get it.

Lots of times the same person ends up on list 1 AND 2. Then it depends which list they are higher on.

3. To hell with diets. Especially one that doesn’t know the difference between good bread and the crapola that most places pass off as the staff of frigging life. Please.

4. Don’t let me stop you from exercising, but don’t come crying to me when you find out you’ve jammed up your knee or given yourself a hernia.

5. Family first. Now this isn’t always possible, there are a lot of real crumbums out there and they have to be related to someone. In that case, you might be better off taking whatever heat comes from putting them second.

6. Screw guilt, and regret, too while you’re at it. In my book they are just barely above pity in the Waste of Time Hall of Fame. So you made a mistake, ok, you meant to do it, whatever, take your lumps, learn and move on. For the love of Pete spare everyone your whining about rigged juries or narcoleptic attorneys. No one wants to hear it.

God bless, Donna