Is there a 12-step program for Facebook video suckers?

If you could just affix this mobile microscope to your mobile phone (only after you’ve downloaded the corresponding app) you would be able to tell that instructions and shipping label are in Chinese. Let this be your own warning label BEFORE clicking the BUY button at the end of a Facebook video ad.

The FedX and UPS delivery guys make enough stops at our house that they almost qualify as family. I just wish they delivered a Chinese translator with the packages.

Months before I married my husband, he saw my raised eyebrows and my attempts to hide grins as I watched the packages appear on the front porch swing. He confessed, sheepishly, that he was following the yellow brick road to the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes grand prize. Shortly after his late wife’s death, he had found that the hours passed more quickly when he was marking an X in a box or tearing out a perforated seal to affix to an order, assuring he would win an extra surprise. Like many Publisher’s players, he thought that buying the offered merchandise would improve his chances of hitting the jackpot.

Consequently, when I moved in, the house was full of mysterious white boxes, full of cheap electronics and back scratchers, tiny flashlights and gel pens in assorted colors. This from the man who was embarrassed by his late wife’s “magic closet” in the guest room. It was so full of bargains that she had found on her shopping trips—all planned as future Christmas and birthday gifts—that they filled that closet to the ceiling and came tumbling out on a guest one evening.

So, organizing-freak-of-a-new-wife moves in and tries to banish some of offensive Publisher’s House clutter to the basement. That helped . . . until the day a visitor wanted to tour the basement she remembered playing in as a child. Now that was embarrassing!

But now it’s time for organizing wife to confess to her own horrible addiction. While Hubby wins the Publisher’s Clearinghouse unofficial prize for volume of merchandise orders, I am the queen of Facebook video advertising suckers.

In the last year I have hit the “BUY” button on things that looked so appealing and practical in the videos. And it’s not just Facebook ads. Sometimes the “gotcha” comes from a slick, magazine-ish flyer that arrives in the mail with the PCH junk.

Is there a 12-step group for people like me who think they would actually use that little detachable lens that fits over an iPhone and will allow you to take better, wider-angle selfies?

And when I ordered those supplements that promised to do away with varicose vein pain and the feet that go numb every Monday night while standing for hours on risers with my chorus friends, I did not check with my doctor until after the little capsules arrived. I know she tried not to laugh at me when she said, “You realize that nitrous oxide is basically Viagra, don’t you?” Duh, no, I did not. I cancelled the standing monthly subscription the next day.

I have no excuse for falling victim to these campaigns

I am truly embarrassed by my propensity to be a victim of smooth advertising campaigns. Especially since I spent a career helping put print advertising together for local businesses. Besides falling for those slick ads for hemp gummy bears and Viagra-in-disguise, I am most mortified by my tendency to unwittingly order merchandise from China.

Why is this a problem? Try ordering an article of clothing that looks so cute on the model in the Facebook ad, but when it arrives it will only fit tiny Chinese models. Plus, it takes a month of Sundays to get through our customs, so that when it does arrive, you’ve forgotten you even ordered it.

And then, there is the problem of deciphering instructions. I thought the little detachable enlargement lens that I ordered for a Christmas gift would be a great device for my husband, who is always looking for serial numbers on lawn equipment and tools. The lens was supposed to allow you to do micro-photographs, enlarging things like flower pollen and a gnat’s you-know-what. It did not arrive in time for Christmas. When it did arrive, the lens was accompanied by an instruction booklet printed in Chinese. It also contained two laboratory glass slides. Then I looked at the front of the box and realized I had ordered a mobile microscope . . . for $125. Another OMG moment. Adding insult to injury, you have to download an app to run the dang thing. What a fool I have been!

Guess what will be joining more useless paraphernalia in the basement?

Our kids will kill us when they find this stuff

Our kids are going to jerk us from our graves and kill us again when they find all this stuff. But before that happens, I am swearing off Facebook advertising videos, following the example of my husband in throwing away the Publisher’s Clearinghouse mailings before opening.

Now the only problem we have is what to do with all those cute little, colorful, multiple-page ads that come in thick mail packets once a month. You know, the ones that make you feel obligated to go through each one. Just so you won’t miss out on a practical tool that will defoliate your cooking herbs, then chop them. I just ordered one. Along with a citrus zester. Oh, and a cute little tea set for my granddaughter.

Retirement holidays: Practical antiques and diminished expectations


Clap on!. . . Clap off!

Someone used a clapper on my holiday brain.

The career-years mode always clapped things on about Thanksgiving. Like an automaton, I followed its ON button to get the first batch of fudge and cookies made and in the freezer, holiday decorating accomplished that first weekend (with at least a little touch in every room) and Christmas cards addressed and mailed no later than Dec. 17. Somewhere in that manic month I managed to work in some solitude and peace, since that was the guilt-inducing admonition hanging over my head and urging me to wrap things up so I could enjoy the fruits of all that labor.

Enter retirement and a new set of self-expectations. Yep, the clapper done clapped off.

Here it is December 4. No cookies or fudge can be found in their collector tins in the freezer. I may not send out any Christmas cards for the first time in my adult life. And the decorating so far is confined to a wreath at the door, a lesser wreath on the back porch, a holiday lava lamp on a what-not shelf and, horror-of-horrors, one of those ceramic lighted Christmas trees on a table in the foyer.

You know the kind I mean. The same tree that’s been making the rounds on Facebook. You’re supposed to click “Like” if you remember them.

Like? Heck! We have one and we treasure it. Lemonade Man, the in-house artist, made it in a ceramics class, way-back-when. It’s always the holiday item that brings the most enjoyment when we haul it out of the basement. Lemonade Man says, “Why don’t we use that for our only Christmas tree this year?” I’m tempted, but reply that any presents we wrap to put under it may result in totally hiding the thing.

The Schwan’s man deflated our ceramic tree holiday spirit today when he stepped in the door and said, “Wow!  I feel like I’m in my Grandma’s house. She has a tree just like this.” She made hers in a ceramics class too.

But we no longer care about being embarrassed by our holiday antiques or that we are living in the dark ages of holiday decorating. We’re actually in the same category when it comes to kitchen cookware. Not only do I member cooking in white pyrex dishes with a blue corn flower design, I still use those puppies every day. That’s another Facebook post that keeps taunting me to like it.

Since the clapper clapped off this year, there is no little elf on a shelf whispering me to get a move on. So instead of going downstairs for another load of Ho-Ho, I watch a movie on Netflix in the middle of the day. Shame on me.

Lemonade Man sits at the kitchen table and watches a neighbor put lights on the outside of his house. I casually mention that we have the same kind of lights in a locker in the basement, but then make no protest when he replies, “Well, that’s a good place for them.”

Retirement clapper victims morph into down-sizers. This means that a mountain of unused holiday decorations made a trip to the Goodwill store last spring. Excess items from the linen closet and some kitchen cabinets met the same fate. And when I put away the Thanksgiving decor this week, the ceramic turkey soup tureen and a matching, but chipped platter, got added to the pile of clothing and bedding at the City Union Mission drop-off.

And all those holiday shopping flyers and catalogs that get stuffed in the daily paper or through the mail slot? Don’t tell the statisticians and media folks, but they no longer hold any allure . . . no longer entice us with their promise of the latest must-haves. Whenever we buy anything these days, it’s because it’s a replacement for something that broke. And all purchases are screened with the question, “Is it something that will have to go in an estate sale?”

Christmas will still come to the house of New Retirement Grinches. But it will be more modest and subdued. My daughter-in-law made a pointed comment last weekend about her anticipation of my fudge. And the artificial tree will be brought upstairs on the electric stair-lift that takes away any excuses for not toting heavy things. But even before retirement we learned to keep the lights and the unbreakable ornaments on it, cover it with a plastic bag, and thus save ourselves hours of work each year.

Call us grumpy grinches, but we’re not stressed this year. I’ll go get the tree as soon as we finish this movie. The holiday clapper clapped off and it sure is a relief.