By Matilda Charles
Most of us don't need a single thing. We certainly don't want more cute knickknacks to add to whatever clutter we already have on the shelves. Yet this is the time of year when others think they need to give us presents. Sometimes they'll ask in advance what we'd like to have, and we can breathe a sigh of relief when they do.
So, what do we say when they ask? Here are some thoughts:
* Pay for our cable for a couple months. Or pay for our Netflix or newspaper for a whole year. Add a year to a subscription to our favorite magazine or maybe a new one for us to try out. Consider a subscription to a fruit of the month club, or one for coffee or tea.
* Spend the afternoon with us sorting a box of photos and scan them for us. Or make us a special photo album of family and grandchildren. Create a 2020 calendar or load a digital photo frame with family photos. Give us a copy of "The Book of Me," 2nd edition (Peter Pauper Press), an autobiographical journal we can fill out.
* Some things aren't fancy but can be very useful: a bathtub grab bar, a pill organizer, gift certificates to the places we go (such as movies and dinners out). Install some SnapPower Guidelights, which are wall outlets that double as nightlights -- very handy -- as well as a few of those closet lights.
* Load up our freezer with homemade single-meal dinners. Pay for a trip that the senior center will take, and if extra people are allowed, go with us.
The best gifts for seniors are those things that give us pleasure but are hard for us to afford, and those things that make our lives easier.
"It’s just the house settling,” the man says, barely looking up as the woman glances toward the creaking coming from the ceiling.
“It’s a new building, how much settling does it need to do?”
He doesn’t respond, engrossed in what he’s working on. With one last glance at the now quiet ceiling, she rolls over, pulls the covers up to her neck and closes her eyes.
“That’s definitely something scratching,” the woman says the next night, pulling back the covers of the bed.
“But there’s nothing up there,” argues the man, “No attic space.”
“There doesn’t need to be a lot of room for something to burrow in.”
The man shrugs and rolls over, “I think it’s just the house settling.”
The next night, books held aloft, the quiet falling around them, their eyes dart up at the sudden scratching. They look at each other. The woman raises her eyebrows and they both wait in silence, listening. The scratching takes on a more fully-formed sound and moves from one side of the house to the other.
“It's running around up there,” she whispers.
“I don't know, a raccoon or something? I've had squirrels get into attic spaces in old farmhouses before.”
It scratches again before once again scurrying across the floor and their eyes follow its progress.
“I think you're probably right,” he says.
“I know I am.”
“Guess we better call someone?”
“I'll call tomorrow.”
The next night he sighs as he pulls the covers back, the woman already dozing off, her book resting on her chest.
“You're sleeping,” he says.
“No, I'm not.” She lifts the book and sets it next to the bed, reaching for the light.
Then, it comes again.
“Our friend is back,” he says, pausing by the edge of the bed and looking up. She nods sleepily, trying to ignore the scratches and not lose the sleep she's already found.
“I called and left a message today,” she mumbles. Then her head shoots off the pillow and her eyes throw the last of sleep from them as the scurrying creature attempts to make itself known.
“What was that?” he asks.
She shakes her head. She doesn't know. The large bang was different than the sounds they were used to.
She jumps again as the thumps move along above them.
“Well, yea…” he's looking to the ceiling too, “but, all critters walk.”
“No, critters scurry. This doesn't sound like scurrying.”
“Well, it's not like it grew overnight.” He crawls into bed and kisses her cheek. “We'll just follow up with them tomorrow and get someone out here to get rid of it.”
“I left a message and filed a work report. They're new buildings, they've probably never had this happen before.”
“It's going to tear up any insulation that's up there.”
“Well, it's up to them to get it taken care of. But maybe you shouldn't put a hole in the ceiling while we wait.”
He's standing at the end of the bed holding a broom, watching the ceiling with interest.
“Maybe we'll scare it off. These animals are always more scared of us than we are of them.” He bangs the end of the broom against the ceiling, twice.
She feels her heartbeat in her throat as she stifles a gasp. From above, a response. Two identical bangs seem to shake the foundation around them.
Neither of them says anything as they wait, almost pray, for the scratching and scurrying of the nights before. It doesn't come. Instead, there is a moan from the wood above them, the house like the man originally thought, but its protesting under a heavy load, something that seems to be shifting its weight from a settled position to...standing?
“Put the broom away," she whispers. "Come to bed.”
He does. For some reason, he doesn't want to be standing out in the open but would rather be protected by the covers, somewhere warm...he's suddenly very cold.
He moves slowly and quietly though he doesn't know why and once he's in bed, he puts his arm around the woman's shoulder. She has goosebumps. She shifts closer to him, both watching the ceiling.
Then, he whispers, “It's moving.”
But he's right. No longer the quick, scratching movements of a small creature, these movements are deliberate, methodical...
His arm tightens around her shoulder as the noises, (they're footsteps, there's no denying that now) move from directly above them, to their left, toward their closet.
“Isn't there a crawl space door over there?” she asks, her whisper almost choked.
“It's fine, it can't open it.”
She nods. "I'll go to the office tomorrow. I'll make them come take a look."
He nods and they lean back in bed together, their eyes never falling from the space above them.
"Not sure what happened," he says as he unlocks the door for the carpet guy.
"They'd only just moved in. But they just up and left one day, left all their stuff, too."
The second man lifts an eyebrow and the landlord shakes his head. "Police ruled no foul play, buddy. No signs of forced entry, no struggle, no blood, nothing. Just gone." He shrugs. "It happens, I guess." He looks down at his hand, still resting on the door handle. "It's a little strange that all the doors were still locked from the inside, though…" he doesn't notice the man's eyes widen behind him and he again shrugs off any prickliness. "Come on, let's get started in the bedroom."
As the carpet cleaner plugs in his machine and the property manager inspects the area for any damage, a noise from above draws the gaze of both men. It's just scratching, a little bit of a scurry, but it's enough to make the manager swear under his breath.
The carpet cleaner shakes his head, "Sounds like you've got a pest problem."
One of Mid-Michigan's brightest authors, Spooner’s stories have been called “unique works of art,” “brilliant, disturbing, and thought-provoking,” and her latest book is a “truly fantastic collection of short stories.”
In her second collection, she offers something for both lovers of humanity and those who are entirely fed up. From deadly mistakes and crass crimes to the sweet moments that once again give us faith in humanity, the stories in this collection will both break your heart and make you smile.
HOLLYWOOD -- When Warner Brothers produced "Joker," the top-grossing R-rated film of all time, they were certain it was a one-shot film with no sequels. Even the producers admit, "Joker was not set up to have any sequels, so no sequels were in development." But after a month in release and well over $1 billion in box-office receipts, you'd better believe they're talking sequels. That clever guy, Bradley Cooper, produced the film with Todd Phillips (who wrote and directed) and Emma Tillinger Koskoff. Joaquin Phoenix, who is sure to receive his fourth Oscar nomination for his performance as the Joker, just began shooting an untitled Mike Mills project film, shrouded in secrecy, with Gaby Hoffmann.
In 1976, producer Leonard Goldberg (and Aaron Spelling) built the TV series "Charlie's Angels" around Kate Jackson, then cast Jaclyn Smith and finally an unknown unpolished actress/model, Farrah Fawcett. The three stars spent as much time in front of full-length mirrors on the set as they did with their scripts. The show hit big and ran for five years. In 2000, a film version was made with Drew Barrymore (also one of the producers with Leonard Goldberg), Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu as the "Angels" with Bill Murray as Bosley, Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry and John Forsythe (as "Charlie"). The film cost $93 million and earned $264 million. That prompted a sequel in 2003 with Barrymore, Diaz and Liu, along with Crispin Glover, Bernie Mac as Bosley, Demi Moore, Justin Theroux, Shia LaBeouf and John Forsythe (as "Charlie" again). The sequel cost $120 million and grossed $259 million.
Fast-forward to last month, when the new "Charlie's Angels" (without Leonard Goldberg as a producer) opened with Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska. Kristen Stewart became a star because of "The Twilight Saga" (2008-2012), however, her next 10 films, mostly low-budget, were box-office failures. Elizabeth Banks wrote/co-produced and directed the film, in addition to playing Bosley (the wife of John Bosley, played by Patrick Stewart). Since John Forsythe has passed away, the voice of Charlie is by Robert Clotworthy. Unfortunately Kristen Stewart and this no-star cast couldn't sell tickets and the film, which cost $75 million, has earned less than $50 million.
Also a disappointment at the box office was "Terminator: Dark Force," despite reteaming Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. It cost $196 million and only earned $234 million. "Doctor Sleep," the sequel to "The Shining," cost $55 million and earned $55 million. The good news is the "Downton Abbey" film, which cost $20 million, has already earned $184 million. There's now no doubt they're planning at least two more sequels, because the public has spoken!
* Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast before heading out to the airport. Pack a piece or two of whole fruit or a portion of nuts for snacking, and bring an empty water bottle so that you can make it through airport security and fill the bottle when you are at the gate. Being hydrated and having healthy snacks will make your travel experience more pleasant.
* "Print a physical copy of your travel itinerary, including flight numbers. Stow a copy inside a secure spot in your luggage so that if it gets lost, you'll be easy to find. I like to put mine inside the zippered net bag that's attached to my suitcase." -- E.L. in Ohio
* Pack a hanging luggage scale. This is especially helpful at the holidays, when you may be both taking gifts to give and returning with gifts given to you.
* When planning a vacation or even a visit home for the holidays, it's important to manage everyone's expectations. Imagine Mom expects her grown kids to spend most of their time seeing extended family, while they are making plans to see childhood friends while in town. Have a chat with parents, siblings and extended family so that everyone has a good idea of what the plan is.
* "For large gatherings, borrow what you need from local friends and family. That includes chairs, servingware, place settings, silverware and linens! Most people are happy to help." -- R.R. in Alabama
* "We have a large family, and when we all get together at the holidays -- or anytime -- we share a screenshot of our itinerary in a group text as we make plans. This way, we can try to group up for pickups from the airport or car rentals." -- C.A. in Oregon
By Chris Richcreek
1. Who was the first major-league player to hit a pair of home runs in an All-Star Game?
2. Name the last of the six major-league teams that longtime skipper (1967-88) Dick Williams managed.
3. Can you name two of the first three quarterbacks in SEC history to have at least 35 passing and 35 rushing touchdowns during their career?
4. LeBron James played in eight consecutive NBA Finals (2011-18). Name two of the three players who played in more.
5. An American has been drafted No. 1 overall eight times in the history of the NHL Entry Draft. How many of them were selected between 2000 and 2019?
6. Who was the last Cup driver before Chase Elliott in 2018-19 to win back-to-back races at Watkins Glen?
7. Who was the last female tennis player younger than Coco Gauff in 2019 (15 years old) to win her first WTA tournament?
1. Pittsburgh's Arky Vaughn, in 1941.
2. The Seattle Mariners, in 1988.
3. Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald.
4. Bill Russell (10 consecutive), Sam Jones (nine) and Tom Heinsohn (nine).
6. Marcos Ambrose, in 2011-12.
7. The Czech Republic's Nicole Vaidisova, who was a younger 15 when she won in 2004.
* On Dec. 28, 1793, British-born American revolutionary Thomas Paine, author of "Common Sense," is arrested in France for treason, having been tried in absentia and convicted. Paine was imprisoned in a former palace, where he had a large room with windows and catered meals.
* On Dec. 24, 1851, a fire sweeps through the Library of Congress and destroys two-thirds of Thomas Jefferson's personal literary collection. Jefferson had sold his personal library of 6,487 books to Congress after the British burned the Congressional library in 1814.
* On Dec. 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor. He later documented the event in a painting titled "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear."
* On Dec. 27, 1900, prohibitionist Carry Nation smashes up a bar in Wichita, Kansas, causing extensive damage and landing in jail. Nation became famous for carrying a hatchet and wrecking saloons, and sold souvenir hatchets to help fund her anti-alcohol activities.
* On Dec. 29, 1915, the French National Assembly passes a law formally ceding the land that holds the British war cemeteries to Great Britain, ensuring that its saddest and most sacred monuments would be forever protected.
* On Dec. 26, 1946, infamous gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel opens his Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. The grand opening was a flop, however, and the casino lost $300,000 in the first week. The hotel was named after Siegel's girlfriend, whose nickname was "The Flamingo" because of her red hair and long legs.
* On Dec. 25, 1962, "To Kill a Mockingbird," a film based on the novel by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young Alabama girl named Scout Finch.
This is a content preview space you can use to get your audience interested in what you have to say so they can’t wait to learn and read more. Pull out the most interesting detail that appears on the page and write it here.
By Healthy Exchanges
If ever there was a time of the year when plates of cookies are a "must," it's during the holiday season!
1 (8-ounce) can reduced-fat crescent rolls
1 (8-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
1 egg or equivalent in egg substitute
Sugar substitute to equal 1/3 cup sugar, suitable for baking
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-9-inch cake pan with butter-flavored cooking spray. Unroll and pat half of the crescent rolls into prepared cake pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir cream cheese with a spoon until soft. Add egg, sugar substitute and vanilla extract. Mix well to combine. Stir in walnuts. Pour mixture evenly into cake pan. Pat remaining crescent rolls flat, being sure to seal perforations and carefully arrange over top of filling.
3. Bake for 25 minutes. Evenly sprinkle chocolate chips over top and continue baking for 5 minutes. Place cake pan on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into 16 bars. Makes 8 (2 bars each) servings.
* Each serving equals: 160 calories, 8g fat, 7g protein, 15g carb., 41lmg sodium, 0g fiber; Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Starch, 1 Meat, 1 Fat.
By Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW'S CORNER: Every holiday, I try to take a nice photo of our two dogs that we can frame. And every holiday, I get a series of terrible, blurry pictures. The dogs move constantly. How do the pros do it? -- Jim H., via email
DEAR JIM: Pet photography really is a skill. I have the same problem myself -- often I've seen my pets sitting in just the right pose, framed by the window with the setting sun in the background. But before I can grab my smartphone to snap a photo, they've moved, the light has changed, and the magic is gone.
Here are a few tips on getting great, natural-looking photos of your pets, even with a smartphone camera:
-- Be patient: Getting the best shot takes practice. You may need to wait for your pet to sit or lie down in the right spot.
-- Go to their level: Get down on the floor with your pets and bring the camera lens even with their eyes and nose. You will get some intriguing shots.
-- Wait for pets to settle down, then surprise them: This works best with dogs who respond well to commands. Have them sit or lie down, and once they're in place and relaxed, call their name just as you take the photo.
-- Use natural light: Camera flashes reflect off the back of the eye to create the dreaded red-eye effect. Open the window shades to let in as much light as possible.
-- Be prepared for more than one session: Take photos over the span of a few days -- you'll get more practice, and your dogs may get more comfortable with the process.