An Excerpt from Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank: An Inspirational Collection of Essays from Humorous to Human by Leslie Handler

HOPress is so proud and excited to have published this wonderful book from syndicated columnist Leslie Handler.  Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank: An Inspirational Collection of Essays from Humorous to Simply Human not only allows you to find the humor in your life, but it helps you discover what it means to be human. Life isn’t easy but Leslie Handler shows us that it is those challenges that bring out the best in us.  A great book to read over and over again. Also if you are in Newtown, Bucks County, PA on Sunday March 11th, come join us at Papillon Cafe at 254 N. Sycamore Street for a book launch party from 2 to 4 PM for Leslie. Refreshments on us.  Follow Leslie on Facebook and Twitter and visit her blog

Chapter Nine: How’d I Get Old?

I went to the mall with Marty the other day.  While I stopped in a store to try something on, he went to grab a coffee.  Upon his return, I was still back in the dressing room.  He asked the sales clerk to please let me know that he was back and waiting for me.  She did come back to speak with me.  She told me that my son was waiting in the store for me.  My son!  Are you kidding me?  Marty and I are only a few months apart in age and have been married for over thirty years.  Now I know he’s a handsome guy, and I’m not winning any beauty contests, but really?  I wasn’t sure if I should be insulted because I’m in my fifties and must have looked to her as if I was in my seventies, or if I should consider it a compliment since I’m obviously attractive enough to be a cougar who’s got a young thing to wait on me.

So between that and my AARP card, I guess I got old.  I’m tech savvy, but I’m not.  I adapt, but I don’t.  I forget what I remember, and I remember what I forget.



 (This next essay uses a term called the “mix master.”  If you are not from Texas, you need to know that a mix master, aside from being a kitchen aide, is also what we call the huge highway entrances that loop up and over other highways.)


Oh God. I’m in the mix master.  The wire beaters are like the tentacles from a deep sea creature.  They’re wrapping themselves around my hands forcing me to tighten my grip on the steering wheel.  Maybe my white knuckled hands will grip it tightly enough that I rip it right off its axis and force the car to drive in the right direction.  Now I’m hysterical.  It’s that crazy woman on the highway hysterical.  I see my fellow Texas drivers evacuating the area.  I’ve seen it before.  It’s the only time I ever see them parting the hairs of the highway to leave bald spots between me and the other cars.  I’m lost.


I find an exit, a gas station, and a phone.  I call my husband.  I tell him I’m by that four story building with the blue stripe across the top.  I tell him that across the street there’s a Texaco station next to a McDonald’s.  He’s not recognizing the landmarks I’m giving him.  I’m shouting into the phone.  “I’m by the place we had lunch that day.  You know, the one with the good salads.”  My voice is shaky and my hands smell like the metal from the keys that have been melting in my sweaty palms.  “Just tell me how to get home.  Why can’t you just tell me how to get home?”  He asks me to go find another person, any other human being, and ask them to come to the phone to tell him where I am.

That was me.  That was fifteen years ago, and twenty years ago, and thirty years ago. I have spacial dyslexia.   Now admittedly this is a term I coined out of my own need to give credibility to my lifelong malady, but it seems a concise term to explain my legitimate handicap.  When I was sixteen, I got lost going to the DMV to get my first driver’s license.  I’ve been getting lost ever since.

In school, algebra was a breeze.  If you know the formula, you know how to solve the equation.  Trigonometry, that was another story.  ” Picture the triangle on a plane in space,” the teacher would say.  In my mind, picturing spaces and shapes in the air simply does not compute.  That would be like me trying to explain to my mom that the cloud is not a reference to a white fluffy thing in the sky, a mouse is not always a rodent, and that, on an iPhone, there is a difference between a swipe, a tap, and a push.  It simply doesn’t compute.

I used to carry those spiral bound laminated maps of the entire city displaying how to get from one neighborhood to the next, but I lacked the ability to read the maps.  They just collected my sweat drippings when I tried to read them.

But then a miracle came along. The internet was invented.   I punched in how to get from home to my first destination, from my first to my second, to my third, and back home.  I had turn by turn directions every day before I left my front door.  This worked well for me until the day came in which my need to get to point “B” was canceled.  I had to figure out how to get from point “A” to point “C”.  When people said you can’t get there from here, I took it literally.

Another miracle came along: GPS.  I was the first bozo standing in line to plunk down $700 of my hard earned money to purchase the first generation of one of these contraptions.  I don’t mind when the little lady in the box tells me “when possible, make a legal u-turn”.  I may have missed the turn, but at least now I know I missed it thirty seconds after I missed it.  All I have to do is make a “legal U-turn” and I’m home free.  Don’t ask me about the day last month when my old GPS died on me in the middle of a busy day.  Ok, you can ask me.  I felt that crazy woman on the highway hysteria welling up in my chest.  I pulled over and called my husband in that shaky voice of the late last century. Then I used my smart phone to jump start me home.  The very next day, I exuberantly plunked down $70 for my brand new GPS with all the bells and whistles.  When she whistles, it sounds like laughter to me.  Sometimes, when there’s a road block, she doesn’t know it’s there.  So she takes me around in a circle making me end up right back where I started, in front of the same road block.  I laugh at myself for following her.  Then I make a turn away from the road block.  I ignore her instructions for a bit, then she reroutes herself and gets me back on the path to my destination.  She makes me chuckle when she repeats herself and says “rerouting, rerouting.” I like that she makes me laugh because if she wasn’t rerouting, I’d be reverting, back to the days of being lost and hysterical. I had to pull off the road right after I got my newest version of her so that I could once again be hysterical. But this time, it was the funny ha ha kind of hysterical.

In 2018, some have resolved to limit their use of technology.  I will not be limiting mine.


Learning to Adapt


It started about a year ago, when I first noticed that words I wanted to use just wouldn’t come to me.  I knew the context in which I wanted to use them.  I knew the definition.  I just couldn’t think of the damn word.  I’ve never had a great memory, but this was frustrating.  It was also a little scary.  Was I getting the beginnings of Alzheimer’s?  But like everything else in life, I learned to cope.

I’ll admit, that I was a latecomer when it came to using a smart phone. Although first in line to ditch my landline way back in 2000, the smart phone had no appeal to me.  I just wanted to be able to make a call.  Then I just wanted to text.  But I certainly had my computer for everything else.  A few years ago, when my cell phone died, I went to the store and actually used the following words to describe to the salesman what I wanted.

“Can you just sell me the cheapest old lady phone?  I don’t need all the bells and whistles, I just want to be able to make calls and send a text now and then.”

Seriously, I used the words, “sell me the cheapest old lady phone.”  As it happens, the cheap old lady phone was $35, not including service of course.  The previous years’ iPhone, was .99 cents.  Being the frugal woman that I am, I took the iPhone home with me. Which brings me to the point of the story: how I learned to adapt.

Now when that word just won’t come to me, I Google the thesaurus, and voila, success.  I learned to adapt.  In a crowd of people some of whom are acquaintances, and some of whom I’ve never met, I can’t always remember which is which.  Therefore, I use the following catch phrase:

“Nice to see you.”

This way, if I’ve already met them-no problem.  If I am meeting them for the first time-no problem.  I’ve learned to adapt.

Introductions can get a little trickier, but I’ve got an adaptation for that one too.  When introducing someone who’s name I simply cannot remember to someone I’ve known for a long time, I simply introduce my old friend by name to the other party.  Etiquette wise, it’s not exactly proper, but somehow, I’m vain enough that I’d rather look ignorant of formal manners than appear missing a few marbles.  I pick my battles, and vanity wins.  I’ve learned to adapt.

I even took a class once on remembering people’s names.  I know you’ve heard of these classes before.  They instruct you to remember a new name by

  1. a) repeating it upon first hearing it, and
  2. b) associating it with something else.

What the twenty something instructor didn’t say was how to remember the name long enough to repeat it, and how to remember the association!  But that twenty something instructor’s got nothin’ on me because me, well I’ve learned to adapt.

I must say, I’m actually quite proud of myself for my preparations for the eventuality of hearing loss.  My dad just got his first hearing aids.  He was most concerned with either getting the tiny one that goes into your ear canal or at the very least, the kind that goes behind the ear in grey so that it blends in with his silver hair.  Not me, when I have to take the plunge I’m getting the biggest boldest blackest one I can find.  That way, when people see it, they’ll think I’m really hip because they’ll think it’s my blue tooth.  How many hip seniors do you know who can’t live without their blue tooth?  I’ve learned to adapt to that one, and I don’t even need it yet. Yea me!

As for aging height shrinkage, I’ve just about covered that one too.  I’ve learned to sew, so hemming will be a cinch, and let’s face it, by the time I have to face being altitude challenged, there’ll be an App for that.



Technology 2.0


I have a love hate relationship with technology.  I previously wrote about my malady of spacial dyslexia and how I have vowed to never give up my GPS.  But things are a little different when it comes to all other technical devices.  I’m not paranoid, but they’re all out to get me.

Personally, I think that all people over the age of fifty who know how to navigate a mouse, use a keyboard, and surf the net, should win a noble peace prize for the ability to communicate with the younger generation.  I thought I was pretty tech savvy, for a woman of my advanced years, for the sheer reason that I can’t live without e-mail, I use a Kindle, I own and use a smart phone, I text regularly, and I have my own face book page.  I was wrong.

I don’t Snapchat or Instagram.  I tried to pin things on Pinterest but the safety pin got stuck and wouldn’t budge.  I was ok with the world with these things being vacant in my life.  I was comfortable with my laptop software, my smart phone, and the Kindle.

But when the Kindle broke, I did the happy dance.  Now I can go back to the library for free and get a glue high every time I crack a new book.  There’s just nothing better than taking a whiff of that hypnotic euphoria. I was at peace with the laptop until the battery decided to die a long and painful death.  I knew enough to regularly back up my computer, but I still don’t know how to use my external hard drive.  Trying to save things in the clouds was creating too much fog in my brain.  Alas, I was forced to buy a new computer.  Since I don’t do any gaming, and don’t need much in the way of speed or storage space, I purchased an inexpensive laptop with the new Windows 8.  Now I was just fine with Windows 7 and Vista, but Windows 8 is a nightmare.  What little tech knowledge I did have went right out that eighth window.  When I finally figured out how to use it “the old way” from my desktop, I thought I’d do the happy dance yet again, but it was a very short dance, because I found out that all my old programs no longer worked on Windows 8.  After spending more money buying all the upgrades to all the programs I needed, I was in even more of a quandary.  Now I had to actually learn to use all that new software.  The manuals, that I printed off to read, are collecting dust bunnies on the shelf with the broken Kindle.

I accepted my fate in stride until last week when my phone kept demanding that I upgrade to the latest version. “No,” I said emphatically.  “NO, I will not do it! I like my old version, the one I know how to use!”  But wouldn’t you know, it made me do it?  It actually forced me to download the upgrade.  It actually gave me warnings saying that I could only use it three more times before I had to upgrade.  I’m not lying.  Of course, I could have anticipated the outcome.  My aps are gone, and every time I text my husband, he tells me he’s getting messages from me from the clouds.  I didn’t realize my last trip out of state took me that far. I thought I was only going to Jersey.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  I say you can. I just have a finite amount of space in my storage drive to learn.






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