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 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'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 can I get them to shut up? Frantic, Altamount