“Would you like fresh-ground pepper?”  Why do waiters act like they’re bestowing God’s gift upon you when they ask that question?  “Oh, yes,” I always say with what I hope is the proper amount of appreciativeness.  Gosh, if only I had one of those thingamajigs at home – oh, wait, I do!  I think got it at Wal-Mart.  Then, if they do it for more than two seconds, I feel greedy and also guilty for making the waitstaff grind pepper when I’m perfectly capable of grinding my own pepper.  Also, don’t want to take more than my fair share of the fresh-ground pepper.  It’s the days of the Silk Road and some poor camel carried this, along with cardamom, maybe some ginger and turmeric, through the Indian subcontinent to get it here to this mid-priced restaurant.  Geez.

Also:  there’s salt and pepper already on the table, in plain old shakers.  Why is there pepper?  Does this mean that the pepper in the grinder is the good stuff, and if we don’t avail ourselves of it, our only recourse is to use the crap pepper on the table?  Is anyone else ever reminded of the old skit from Saturday Night Live, where Dana Carvey is the pepper-grinding waiter?  “Grinda-the pepper!”   I wonder if this personal, table-to-table pepper-grinding service phenomenon is universal, or just an American thing?   What if — hold on, here’s a radical idea — what if they put a pepper grinder on every table?  Would there be rampant theft?  “I’m takin’ this baby home!  Hoo-wee, one of them grinders like the genuine French people have!”  Would patrons feel aggrieved, like, “I’m paying six bucks for a glass of wine AND I have to grind my own pepper?”  With great power comes great responsibility.  Maybe we can’t be trusted with it.  We are still a young country.

In honor of pepper grinders and those who wield them, I’ve made a couple haikus.  You may feel moved to write one, also.  Please send it in and I’ll post it.


Freshly ground pepper

Not the crap in the shaker

Classes up my food.



Fresh pepper for you?

Only the best for you, ma’am.

Like our cloth napkins.


This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.





It’s Day 3 since we got Wii Fit.  If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, there’s this annoying fake-friendly talking animated Wii board that appears on your TV screen, and you check in with him/her/it every day, and you get a “Wii age” based on how well you do.  I think the thing is a guy, I can’t tell.  He is one snarky bastard, let me tell you.  The Wii Fit games themselves are pretty fun.  Josh and I have been playing a lot, and laughing a lot as we stand on the actual Wii board and jump on a virtual trampoline or take off on ski jumps, so that part is worth it.

It’s the daily check-ins and body tests that have messed with my head.  It’s that little Wii dude.

Day One, I did the balance test.  My balance was ever so slightly on my right foot, and the Wii dude said, “It looks like balance games are not your forte.  Do you trip a lot?”  Actually, no, you little turd.  Then, at its recommendation, I played this game where you dodge soccer balls, and I kept getting hit in the head with soccer cleats as I was trying to dodge the balls.   What kind of sick crap is this?

Day Two, I put on the pedometer and ran a mile just to suck up to the Wii, so I could transfer all that data and get cheap praise.  I’m not proud, cheap praise works for me.  No praise, except for some calories burned in my Wii “piggy bank,” which I now realize is a subtle insult, i.e., I’m a piggy!  For my weigh-in, I was holding the Wii handheld device, which I hadn’t done the day before, so that added nearly a pound.  The Wii guy added 7 more years to my arbitrary “Wii age” as punishment.  For my new balance test, I had to anticipate obstacles and lean the other way.  I hit a wall and the game abruptly ended.  Only after the fact did it say that you can’t hit the wall.  Who knew?  I was trying to dodge the bricklike obstacles.  If I’d known about hitting the wall, I wouldn’t have hit it, duh.  More snark from the Wii dude, who talks in a high-pitched voice.  “It’s Japanese,” Mark said. “Humiliation is a big thing over there, I’m just saying.”

Today, Day Three, I got up early and did the body check-in, before food or drink ever crossed my lips.  For the balance test, I overcompensated and put more weight on my left foot.  “Do you trip a lot?”  Argh!  Then when I weighed in, it said that I had lost 2.2 pounds, and I’m well on my way to meeting my goal, which is to lose four pounds.  Just as I was feeling all happy about that, the Wii dude added, “Yesterday, you weighed yourself at 1 p.m.  Most people’s weight fluctuates around 2 pounds a day.  Just thought I’d mention it  You should weigh yourself at the same time every day.”  Argh!  “Just thought I’d mention it!”  Picture the catty stewardess played by David Spade on “Saturday Night Live,” saying, “buh-bye.”  Snarky Wii!  And yet, today my Wii age dropped 27 years, from a ridiculous and offensive 57 down to a more appropriate 30.

Mark said, “That thing owns you.”

“Yeah,” I said.


This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

Well, it’s Monday.  That’s about the only reason I can find for why annoying people, and even an annoying animal, seem to be coming out of the woodwork today — and it’s still morning!  There’s plenty of time for more of them to show up!  For example:  I went to Starbucks to get coffee for Mark, who was so tired when he left for work that he forgot to take his travel mug.  He needs his coffee.  He’s also allergic to milk, so I ordered a Pike’s Place with soy. “One Pike’s Place with cream, anything else?” said the girl. Yes, I said, it needs to be soy, not cream, and explained why. “And did you want another drink?” No, I said. “Well, when you kept talking, I thought you wanted another drink.” What the heck!  No, I just didn’t want to give my husband something that would make him sick…  To quote Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon!”  When I kept talking — who says stuff like that?

Then, I went to Fry’s, the West Coast version of Kroger.  I had just started to unload my cart, and the guy said, “Fry’s card?”  I was behind my cart, trying to get my groceries up on the conveyor belt as fast as I could, because there were people behind me.  I said, “Yes, just a minute.”  The man folded his hands.  Let’s just pause for a moment to reflect on how supremely annoying this was.  He refused to ring me up until I handed him my card.  He said it was store policy.  I know it’s not, because I shop there all the time, and they usually just start scanning away as soon as the groceries start rolling along toward the cash register.   And yet, there he was, with his hands primly folded in front of him like — I don’t know, a schoolmarm or something.  So I pushed my cart up a few feet, handed him my card, then went back to loading up.  What the heck!  

And then, the icing on the cake,  I pulled into my driveway, and just standing there, basically blocking the entrance, was a coyote.  He looked right at me, brazen as anything.  Such contempt!  Such sass!  If he’d had a middle finger, he would have flipped me off.  I moved my car closer, and he finally moved away and peeled off into the woods, but I’m even getting attitude from wildlife today…  What the heck!

Now, the refrigerator repairman is here.  So far, so good.  He seems to be pretty nice, and the only good thing about having so many failing appliances is that at least I know the guy, because he’s been here for the dishwasher and garbage disposal — both of which, like the refrigerator, turned out to be 13 years old, from when the previous owners rehabbed their kitchen.

Now, I realize that the actions of other people are their problem, not mine.  I know, I know … be the change you wish to see, I can’t change the world but I can change myself, poop happens, deal with it, turn the other cheek, look for the good.  But it’s hard to act like Jesus or Gandhi when I’m feeling more like Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners,” muttering, “One of these days, pow!  Right in the kisser!”  Or Moe Howard of “The Three Stooges” … “why, I oughta…”   I guess that’s the point.  It is hard, but I don’t want to sit around muttering all day.  So this is me, officially letting it go and moving on with what I hope will be a better day.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.


Boy, am I cranky.  Oh, didn’t you sleep well?  No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t sleep at all.

The great physician, Sir William Osler, once said, “The man who is well wears a crown that only the sick can see.”  I have always been struck by that quote, because it just goes to show that whatever you don’t have, you can find somebody who has it and envy the heck out of him or her, because you have just identified the luckiest person in the world.

The man who sleeps in bed next to me looks like freaking royalty.  Every night, my husband rolls onto his right side and instantly it’s lights out for a good five hours, at which point — usually between 4 and 5 in the morning — he rolls over onto his left side and sleeps equally well.  I know this, because I have lost the ability to sleep.  I used to be one of the great sleepers.  Anytime was potentially nap time for me.  I could drop right off and be out like a light for hours — and still get a good night’s sleep that night.  I pitied the people in the Lunesta commercials.  Even now, I know people who can’t sleep without medication, and I have vowed I will never be one of them.  I don’t want to be addicted to anything.

And yet, not sleeping gets real old, real fast.  At 5:15 this morning, I officially thumbed my nose at the night and gave it up, figuring that sleep was not going to be happening for me.  The good news, by the time everybody else got up, I had washed a load of dishes and was on my second load of laundry, so as Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, “I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.”  A big thumbs up there.
What have I done to cause this?  Was it the glass of wine I had last night?  Was it the coffee I had in the afternoon?  Yeah, sure, maybe.  I am so tired — so to speak — of wondering what particular rigid rule of “sleep hygiene” I have broken.   What one single thing I have done or not done that is keeping me from sleeping on this particular night.  Even when I do everything right — none of which I used to need to do, by the way, to be able to sleep — I’m still quite capable of not sleeping.  I can go for a three-hour hike, or run a couple miles on the treadmill, and be unfazed by the fresh air and/or physical activity later.
Melatonin?  I’ve tried it, I had terrible dreams, so I stopped.  But I’ve had terrible dreams without it, so maybe I should revisit it.  Menopause?  Uh, no, thanks for asking.  If it is, I’m being doubly screwed, because I’m still treated to that delight once a month.  Is it hereditary?  Well, if that’s the case, I’m screwed, too.  My dad is a terrible sleeper, has been for as long as I can remember, so that’s great.
As I lay there last night, I remember thinking, “well, this is it, and it’s going to be this way for the rest of my life, and then I’ll die.”  I have positive thoughts like that because I’m a people person.
I even listened to a hypnosis tape last night and it didn’t help.  Au contraire, it revved me up!  Instead of letting go of all my worries, as the hypnotist softly and creepily urged me to do, I started listing them and thinking about them.  My brain was going a mile a minute.  So, I failed that.  I’m going to try it again tonight, though, just in case some subliminal thing is happening and deep down I am learning to retrain my brain.
I don’t want medicine.  I just want what every child and teenager has — the ability to sleep and sleep and sleep.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently, it is.
This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

I have been meaning to write about procrastination for a while, but I kept putting it off. I’ve been procrastinating for years; one of these days I’m going to have to get some help for this problem. No, really, if it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done. As Mark Twain said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Or, as somebody else said, I like my work. It fascinates me; I can sit and look at it for hours. And drumroll…the best part about procrastination: You’re never bored, because there are all kinds of things that you could be doing!

For years, my writing method has been to think of a bunch of other stuff — doing laundry is a fine example — that’s suddenly very important.  Then I waste copious amounts of time, hours, days, or weeks, doing that, until the torment of not doing the actual work is so great that I just have to do it.  My friend, Scott Price (http://www.gladtobeyourdad.com) recently wrote about this in a newsletter:  “Procrastination is wanting or even having a plan, but not working it.”  It’s amazing, to one interested in words, how often the rear end figures into discussions of procrastination:  I need a good kick in the pants; to poop, figuratively, or get off the pot.  As Eliza Doolittle shouted at Ascot:  “Come on, Dover!  Move yer bloomin’ arse!”  And yet, as countless bathroom graffiti wits have written, “here I sit, broken-hearted… ”  Got work to do, can’t get started.

I blame spiritual attack.  I do.  Laziness — guilty; fear of success or failure — definitely; resentment that I have to do something I don’t want to do — yeah, there’s that, too….  But call it gremlins or the devil — the bad spirits in this world want us not to succeed.  Therefore, in administering myself this butt-kickin’ I think I am moving in the right direction.  Forward, even if it’s just one small, reluctant step at a time.   New goal:  Actual momentum.

P.S.  About the picture of my To Do list:  I don’t know why it’s sideways.  I have spent 20 minutes — wasting time is my destiny — taking that stupid picture and every time I upload it to this website, it goes sideways.  This pretty much sums up how things are going around here.

P.S.S.  The picture seems to be fixed now.


This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

It’s pretty sad when you’re watching a sporting event and your first reaction is, “Oh, God, make it stop,” and the game hasn’t even started yet! Anybody watch the Rose Bowl? I don’t know who the singers were, don’t want to know, but I just kept thinking, if someone could actually sing the National Anthem in a non-tortured, non-butchered way that didn’t suck, that would be good.

You may be the greatest singer in the world, but I don’t want to hear your vocal acrobatics if you’re singing the National Anthem.

Just sing the song. Sing it straight.

My son, Josh, like most school kids in Maryland, took a field trip with his second grade class to Fort McHenry, the military base where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I know it’s not easy to sing. Apparently, the melody was an old drinking song once. Not a real toe-tapper, not catchy, but it’s what we have. It deserves some respect.

”Amazing Grace,” similarly, has been repeatedly violated. This song, too, simple and beautiful, deserves more respect than it gets. But go to a funeral, and in the midst of your grief, you’re dealing with some singer’s big moment to interpret this perfect gem of a hymn. Once again, the focus is on the singer, on the interpretation, rather than on the message.

Don’t interpret it. Just sing the song.

I got sidetracked.

Anyway, Josh’s entire class learned all of the verses to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And they sang them right there at Fort McHenry, while we proud parents listened respectfully and took pictures. You know what? It was great. Because the focus was the song. They sang it straight.

It wasn’t about these kids, but about the place, and the actual rockets’ red glare that Francis Scott Key saw in 1814. On one very long night, while Key was being held captive on a British boat, on a diplomatic mission approved by President James Madison, he saw the huge American flag (sewn by Mary Pickersgill — the Flag House where she and some other ladies hand-sewed it in downtown Baltimore was on our school tour) flying triumphantly over the garrison at Fort McHenry, even though British warships were doing their best to bombard the crap out of the place. He was so inspired, he wrote the song. For better or worse, it’s ours.

It deserves to be sung straight. Please.

Isn’t there some singer out there who can just sing the damn song?


This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

Seems there was a treasure ship on its way back to port.  About
halfway there, it was approached by a pirate, skull and crossbones waving
in the breeze!

“Captain, captain, what do we do?” asked the first mate.

“First mate,” said the captain, “go to my cabin, open my sea
chest, and bring me my red shirt.”  The first mate did so.

Wearing his bright red shirt, the captain exhorted his crew to
fight.  So inspiring was he, in fact, that the pirate ship was repelled
without casualties.

A few days later, the ship was again approached, this time by two
pirate sloops!

“Captain, captain, what should we do?”

“First mate, bring me my red shirt!”

The crew, emboldened by their fearless captain, fought heroically, and
managed to defeat both boarding parties, though they took many
casualties.  That night, the survivors had a great celebration.  The
first mate asked the captain the secret of his bright red shirt.

“It’s simple, first mate.  If I am wounded, the blood does not
show, and the crew continues to fight without fear.”

A week passed, and they were nearing their home port, when
suddenly the lookout cried that ten ships of the enemy’s armada were

“Captain, captain, we’re in terrible trouble, what do we do?”
The first mate looked expectantly at the miracle worker.

Pale with fear, the captain commanded, “First mate…. bring me my
brown pants!”

This is my second-favorite joke.  My first-favorite doesn’t really apply to this inaugural blog, so I’ll save it for another time.  I’m starting a blog!  Bring me the brown pants!

A bit about me:  I’m a wife and mom.  My husband, Mark, and I have three kids, Blair, Andy, and Josh, ages 19, 16, and 9.  We have dogs and horses.  We used to have sheep, chickens, and a llama, but now we’re down to a career low of just the four animals.

Mark is a doctor, a gastroenterologist, and I am a health writer, former magazine editor, and former essayist on national public radio. For the last 19 years, I have worked from home, writing health books and writing publications for Johns Hopkins, so I could be with our kids.  I homeschooled Blair and Andy for five years, and may be homeschooling Josh when he hits middle school in two years.

I hope to have chickens again, and maybe another llama, although there was only one Nelson, who was a Katrina victim and a rescued llama.  We love to knit, love books, and adore our Labrador Retrievers.  We live in a small town in the mountains in Arizona.  That’s about it for now.


This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.