Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Death of the Daytime Soaps

Get the defibrillator! Call the Priest! Warm up the fat lady!

daysofourlives  Facebook image
The Days of our Lives as we know it are heading down the path of conclusion... housewives have left the building and the shrinking audience of daytime television is draining the life of what my grandmother referred to as her “stories.”

After all, how many times can Erica Kane get married? How many times can you kill off Luke or Laura?

How many evil twins can one person have?

As a young, girl, I grew up with the soaps on NBC, CBS and then ABC. I suffered with Erica Kane in the early seventies and I married when Luke and Laura were married. I had crushes on Jackson Montgomery, swooned at Scorpio’s accent and was attracted to the Hoff when he was Dr. Snapper on the Young and the Restless well before he began running on the beach with Pamela Anderson.

Erica (last name De jour) from All My Children has been a part of my life for most of my life! Susan Lucci started playing her very young and continues playing her into retirement age. The Soap does not come on regular television screens anymore, it went into metamorphosis and is now a new fancy
‘smancy’ online version called, “Prospect Park.”


Ok, it's been changed back to All my Children and can be seen on Hula with new episodes and a guest appearance from Lucci here and there. 

New All My Children (Click to see trailer)
Known as the Queen of Daytime Television, Lucci began All My Children in January 1970 and after 12 marriages, some legal and some not, she bears the name Erica Kane Martin Brent Cudahy Chandler Montgomery Montgomery Chandler Marick Marick Montgomery and etc...She nearly was killed off when the show ended in 2011, but you know those soap opera characters, they never go away and they never die.

Erica has staged prison breaks, ran corporations, hosted talk shows, hunted down terrorists in Bosnia, and confronted a grizzly bear. Now that’s entertainment!

But the times, they are a changin’ and the serial dramas are fading fast. The tsunami began when after 72 years of marrying, killing, divorcing, and other dramatic activities, the Guiding Light turned off the lights.

I had no clue that Soap Operas could end?

A former Soap addict of the 70’s and 80’s, I had weaned myself off the daytime viewing by the mid-nineties. The main reason? I went back to school, to work, and by that time, I had seen thousands of plot lines that were starting to look alike — very predictable and ridiculous.

The casts began looking more like a soft porn calendar, too good looking! Too perfect.

The thing I enjoyed about Daytime drama…was the drama! The stories, the family struggles in real life events and enjoyable and interesting characters, not cardboard Paper Dolls that looked and talked good but lacked substance.

I moved on with my life which offered many servings of my personal daytime drama.

I feel sad the genre is dying out. I learned many life lessons watching the stories unfold with life and death issues. I saw how extramarital affairs could hurt a marriage, how out-of-child wedlock was tough, how doing evil was usually punished, and anytime someone with good character did anything wrong; it always came to the light of day and with consequences.

I guess I did not realize the seriousness of the soaps demise until I was on a treadmill at the gym, (my usual soap opera viewing stand) when I noticed the words, “The End” appeared on the screen. What? I had never seen that on a soap opera before.

You sometimes see credits, but a finale?

The Guiding Light was dead. Really dead, not soap opera dead where you know somewhere down the road the actor will return with amnesia, an evil twin, or amazingly never died at all because of some amazing survival feat!

All My Children died and has come back as an evil twin.

You have to be careful not to get hooked on Soaps.

While visiting the gym, the same screen that revealed the death of a soap opera began teasing me with Days of Our Lives. No sound, but close caption that lured me in. Before I knew it, I began timing my workout to finish a scene, then the realization that I wouldn't find out what happened the next day caused me to record on my DVR an episode.

All the while telling myself that it was just one episode.

Yep, you know what happens next. I keep up with Salem’s residence on a daily basis now.

It is like any addiction, one drink leads to two and before you know it you’re dancing naked with a lamp shade on your head.

The twins are outraged at my bad habit. They roll their eyes, they grumble out loud when I turn it on, and even have begged me to stop this insanity. I refuse and warn them that they watch hours of nature shows, with poop-eating guides and disgusting exterminator retrievals!
Bear Grylls eats gross stuff

Why couldn't I have my one guilty pleasure?

When they hid the remote one day I threaten to wipe out all their shows unless it was revealed!

It took me a few minutes before I realized the craziness of my actions. It was only a silly television show and my young impressionable boys were just trying to help me be a better person, to overcome my soap addiction. My twins love me enough to take the keys out of my hands! They had called a cab and I was not grateful at all!

Why was I upset? After all, I could watch it via the internet anyway!

Once you could peruse the daytime channels and find a Soap on every station.

Critics use to blast women for watching such trash, but if you see what has replaced the soap operas today those critics would welcome the vixens and villains back with open arms. Jerry Springer-like shows with fights, mud wrestling lesbians, confessions of adultery, fornication, and perversions with every kin, friend, and neighbor, plus, court television marathons and who’s your daddy theme shows that scrounge up the worse of humanity and display them for all of tvland.

Now, at the gym, unless its news or ESPN, I try to keep my eyes averted.

What killed our soaps? Why are we forced to have such junk replace them?

Housewives are not home any longer. Our lives are so fast paced who can afford the luxury of time to watch hours of daytime dramas?

Who can afford to pay real actors their salaries when Average Joe will work cheap for a 15 minute fame moment?

As strange as the plot lines can get on Soaps, they can’t be stranger than real life.

So, are the Days of our lives?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Long Good-bye

My dad in the last year of his life

The etiquette of dying and death

 If given the choice, would I prefer that the end of my life be instantaneous? Lengthy? Or drawn out over a few months?

These are some of the things I think about as I watch someone else go through the experience of dying or death.

What is better for me, for my family?

Not that I have a choice in the matter, so basically I am wasting time worrying over the inevitable happenings of mortality.

We all gonna die. 
It is the manner of death that may create the most fear.

Dealing with the etiquette of death is something I have witnessed firsthand. Immediately, a crowd forms.

At the time, you are not considering their motivation for attending, but later you might wonder, why was so-and-so here I barely know that person?

So is the dilemma, some folks just want to be a part of the drama, instead of an ambulance chaser, I call them the hearse chasers.

When tragedy strikes, they are on the scene, addicted to the breaking news of life. Thankfully, they do blend in with the crowd of actual do-gooders who are there to comfort, to minister, and to help the situation. Rarely do they cause trouble.

The community responds to the death of a loved one, sometimes the shock of the moment prevents loved ones to function normally, food is prepared, a broom is activated, dishes are washed and someone shepherds the stunned family into the reality of death.

It is the shock and awe of change.

I associate the smell of fried chicken with death. Someone always brings a bucket or a box of it. It's Southern comfort food.

Looking back at my personal experience when I lost my husband of nearly 17 years in a tragic car accident, I remember a collage of concerned faces standing and sitting in my home and a dirty floor that kept getting dirtier. It was the mud from a parade of folks mixed with a rainy and dark series of days.

All I wanted to do was sweep.

Gathering crowds and food are the etiquette of tending to a family in crisis mode, but if you are not truly associated with the family, then you probably should not show up.

Communication was limited in 1998, no Facebook, tweeting, or online email to pass along vital information, so the other thing I remember is the phone continuously ringing…for days.

Most people are sensitive to this fact and refrain from well wishful calling immediately after a tragedy, but as always, there are those who do not know the rules.

In every life situation, there are those who don’t know the rules or either choose to ignore them.

I am not discouraging calls, but if you barely know the person, it might be a good idea to send a card instead.

I had one strange individual, whom I only had met a couple of times in passing during my life, once when I was a teenager and another time in the grocery store, who continued to call right after the event of my husband’s death. I had phone screeners most of the time, but eventually his persistence earned him my ear. I like to think of myself as a warm and patient person, but eventually I had to just hand the phone off and allow a family member to end the call.

Yes, weirdos have been known to come out of the closet during a dramatic event.

As hard as losing one unexpectedly is, the equal trial of losing one to disease or injury that may take a period of time to complete, giving you notice of the impending doom has its own etiquette. The period of awkward interaction with well meaning friends and family really is tested during the process of dying.

We should always evaluate our motives when dealing with the long goodbye.

It seems the same issues come up with terminal etiquette: Who needs to visit and for how long? The same hearse chasers tend to show up, but now on a regular basis.

 What can you do?
How can you meet the needs of a situation that is ever evolving?

Every family dealing with this should first designate a spokesperson, a friend or family member who can keep the public notified of needs, visitation requests, and the mechanics of living. This person can act as liaison and coordinate responses, stress when its good and when it’s not good to call or visit.

In our age of technology, the representative can create a Facebook or Caring Bridge page or an email group that can update the public and relay valuable information quickly and in great number.

It is appropriate to create signs for the home or hospital that state in a nice manner the ‘do not disturb’ visitation, the keep it short visitation, or come on in and tell your life story visitation.

It is great if you could hire a bouncer for some guests, but that might be rude.

They are the ‘can’t take a hint’ folks who haven’t seen you in years, heard you were dying and thought they might drop by and catch you up on their life before you go!

Yes, bouncers are a good thought!

Families whether in the short or long of it, always have to put up with three annoying reoccurring subjects: although well meaning, the first one is the platitudes of trivializing the illness, second is the dismissing the reality of the disease and last is the making suggestions that a miracle cure is just around the corner.

 Well meaning logic, however, it may only aggravate the dying patient.

It is okay to tell someone healthy to live like you are dying which motivates us all to enjoy each day to the fullest, but the reality is dying mostly is filled with pain, medication, vomiting, dementia, and emotional turmoil. It isn’t always a pretty scene. That's only in Hollywood.

The other subject that gets on the nerves of grieving families is the death story. The first ten may not bother them, but after awhile of everyone telling you a similar tale of death, or how they have experienced the death of a loved one can begin to drill a hole in your patience. We all need to bond, and knowing others have gone through similar events can help, but keep it short and try not to have the grieving person consoling your past loss.

Can’t we talk about happy stuff?
My last time to see Dad.

I am guilty of both trivializing the situation and death stories. Confessing this is to help you think before you too recreate the same scenario.

The third taboo is don't take with you a sad spirit in visiting the dying or the loved ones of death. Respectful, reverent, but despair and depression should be held in check.

Remember, that if you feel compelled to go see someone in these situations, please go, don’t isolate the family, but try to use proper etiquette in the situations. The best rule is to be as normal as possible, if you are joker, and I am the silliest of them all, then tone it down, but by all means visit with a smile and know that humor in these situations can be helpful, --tasteful humor.

I deal with tense moments by using humor and I laugh when I am nervous. If you can make someone smile, no matter what they are going through then I think you have done a good deed.

Everyone likes a good story about the person who is in the process of leaving or has left, these are the words of comfort that heal. If you don’t know the person well enough to tell one, then you might be one of those who should send a card.

I have known folks dying that keep it a secret because they don’t want their last days to turn into a circus. Sometimes just having a normal routine, quietly fading away from people’s attention makes for a peaceful way to die. Plus, you don’t have to put up with a house full of fried chicken.

Although, I like fried chicken.

Will I document my long goodbye like Farah Fawcett? Only if I look as good, otherwise, I might document my end with an actress to play the role of me.

I will go out with humor and sour pusses will be banned. Life is too short and too precious to waste the last scraps on folks I don’t like or don’t know.

Please don’t hesitate to minister to a grief-stricken family, but just make sure you do it knowing what the right etiquette is for their situation.

In the words of unknown, whoever he is, “It's not that life is too short, it's just that you're dead for so long.”

If you don’t survive the week, see you in the afterlife!

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Hometown USA: National Lampoon’s William’s Family Vacation

My Hometown USA: National Lampoon’s William’s Family Vacation: We took a trip to Purgatory and rented a room at the base of Hades while wildfires burned nearby.  Yes, like Bilbo Baggins, we were re...

National Lampoon’s William’s Family Vacation

We took a trip to Purgatory and rented a room at the base of Hades while wildfires burned nearby. 

Yes, like Bilbo Baggins, we were ready for another adventure in the Williams Gang style.

 For the average family, summer means kids out of school and time for the family vacation. Typically, for our budget, that means a car vacation and another episode of torturous hours in a small space with two boys.

It’s a replay of Dumb and Dumber, what is the most annoying sound in the world? Repeat annoying sound, then add complaining, fighting, whining and start all over again!

However, we have been planning to save enough to expose our twins to the joys of flying out west and discover less smoky mountains and more rockier, so, when a really good deal on airline tickets popped up on my husband’s radar, we jumped.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more beautiful than my moisture ridden, humid Appalachian Mountains, but it was time for something a bit different. We had visited the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina on our Spring Break to experience 8 to 10 inches of snow and for my Mississippi bred boys that was awesome, even with our less experience driver trying to traverse the snow laden paths.

Unlike the Griswold gang, this time we took to flying rather than driving and if you work it right, the cost is less than driving 20 plus hours across Louisiana and Texas which has never thrilled me much.

The twins have logged hours of backseat driving, especially since we travel back home every two months which adds over ten to twelve hours total each trip. We wanted them to experience airline travel and with Southwest Airlines special, flying from Nashville to Albuquerque, New Mexico for two hundred a piece was a deal! Huntsville’s airport is known to be the most expensive in the country, so we drive the hour and twenty minutes to the music city’s terminal to fly.

Why Albuquerque? Two reasons, it was cheaper and since Carl has flown several times to that area for work, it is one that is familiar.

We booked a SUV for around 40 bucks a day with unlimited mileage so that we could drive northward thru the New Mexico arid region, a sight the boys have never seen, a sandy, brown environment.

Our destination? Durango, Colorado, and the beautiful rocky and aspen decorated peaks, to stay at a VRBO condo rental with two bedrooms, one with twin queens which meant thankfully the boys could have their own bed, no bed wars like in all hotel rooms! The condo was located at a ski-lodge, Durango Mountain Resort or known as Purgatory, and our new temporary home was on Sheol Street.

Did I feel superstitious about all the afterlife references?

So, we did our first flying vacation. Let’s just say, the shorter route is always the best route with 12 year old boys!

Clark Griswold answered the complaints of his two kids about driving with, “Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun!”

So my Carl answered, “Why aren't we driving? Because getting there would be NO fun!”

Well, for first time flyers, our boys would agree that flying is better than riding in our SUV for days.

My Carl
A National Lampoon movie is always filled with adventure and mishaps, and every Williams’s vacation meets similar obstacles. My Clark Griswold  is a 6’5, ruggedly handsome red head, named Carl and on the second leg of our flying trip we had to split up due to a fully booked flight.

My Carl was seated next to the ‘drunken-trouble-making couple.’

Barely mid-flight Mr. Personality who was nearly thrown off the plane pre-takeoff was in full form and that’s when the flight attendant decided to move Carl to the front, saving him from having to deck the small weasel of a guy. At least in her estimation, but he is a very patient, red head having been married to me all these years, so the guy was in no danger. But to say he was rude and disruptive was an understatement.

Happily we arrived at our destination with all our luggage, carryon’s and kids to discover our great rental car deal, prepaid and booked had been rented out, leaving the rental company, ADVANTAGE, with nothing to give us to drive.

I wish my redhead husband would have gone all ‘red’ but he is trying to set a good example for the twelve year olds, and Payless Rental Car, not the shoe store, was able to accommodate us.

Road bump averted!

That’s the first rule of family vacation, something will go wrong but never panic, a solution is just a few patient moments ahead.

We did not get our SUV and instead lost some cool points by renting a Chevy Impala, which by the way, rode very smoothly, except when we drove up mountain dirt roads that needed a truck or a Subaru.

As Clark Griswold, we like to embrace the land we travel so we rented the cheesy, Nativo Lodge, an overly styled Southwestern themed hotel for the first night, ate at the best Southwestern restaurant in Albuquerque, Sadie’s and off we went on our adventure.

We experienced beautiful hikes, although my Mississippi lungs struggled in the high altitude, dangerous scenic drives where Carl’s knuckles were white with tension. Thankfully our rental car’s tires were good because the shoulder of the road was a few thousand feet drop and no rails. 

Million Dollar Hwy video

We climbed up cliffs after viewing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, we hiked in the desert in Santa Fe and enjoyed our Southwest adventure. 
 To prove it, the trip was heavily documented with three cameras, videos, and souvenirs!

Maybe we are a bit old-fashion, but one highlight was the drive to the meadow where in 1969, John Wayne filmed the fight scene in True Grit. All I kept thinking was, I wish my dad, who died not too long ago, would have been there and seen it.

Then I flash back, to my own childhood, when my dad took me on my first family trip in our car to the Smokies and I rode up my first real mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee where I think I had my first real panic attack!

Boy, have I come along way baby, to ride the Million Dollar Highway, one of the top ten most dangerous mountain highways and all I could think of was how beautiful it was. No panic! Maybe I was a tidbit nervous, but no fear!

The whole point of the family vacation is to make memories, to bond, to survive and then when you are old, you can remember back at those special times.

The Williams family vacation was a success and thankfully, we did not run in to any Cousin Eddies.

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at or like at or read my blog at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The mysteries of a woman’s purse

Do not, I repeat, do NOT touch a woman’s handbag.
Not only will you have to defend yourself from an outraged female but you may encounter bacteria exposure like you have never been exposed to before.

Germy, cluttered, and packed with secrets are all a part of the ingredients that create the woman’s must have accessory --her purse.

What is in a woman’s purse? What does it say about the character or personality of the woman?

Do you trust a woman with a tiny bag?

I mean, how does she get everything she needs in there?

What about the suitcase woman, toting a Godzilla-sized skinned alligator stuffed with heaven knows what! You might find what’s left of her husband in there!

That isn't an original thought, if you have ever watched the quirky and funny movie, Crazy in Alabama with Melanie Griffith and Lucas Black then you watched her carry her dead husband’s head in her purse which was really a hatbox. Never fear, no one could smell the decaying corpse because the sealed tight Tupperware container kept all the gory stink in side.

So, especially in the South, you might be wary of what is truly in a woman’s purse. Just a sayin’.

Inside the mysterious compartments of a woman’s bag are the must haves such as money or a pocketbook; that is the spot where cash and credit cards are kept.

These days, the cash section is a bit thinner. But, the credit cards are fatter! Literally! Not because they are filled to the brim with Visa’s, but because our pocketbooks are filled with the new trend of “Store Cards” or “Reward Cards”. I have to have a separate pocketbook just for my: Panera Bread Card, Burke’s Outlet Card, Kroger Card, Best Buy Card, PetSmart Card, Sam’s Card, Goody’s 50 Club Card, and today, I added a Shoe Carnival card. That’s just the icing and there is a lot of cake beneath with normal cards like medical cards, licenses, and library cards.

Some of us still have antique checks for the times our debit cards are down or the rare find where a place only accepts written checks, cash and visa credit cards.

A crook might hit me over the head and steal my purse thinking I am loaded!

The other must have for a woman’s purse is beauty products, even if it’s a lip balm, mirror, or comb. We must update our faces all day long.

In the good ol’ days, we carried hankies, delicate little cloth to dab at our eyes like the ladies we were, however, today we have packets of tissues, sterilizing bottles, and sanitary wipes. Don’t tell the men folk, but women also keep female products which frighten the men away.

After these must haves, then come the technical gadgets such as cell phones, iPods, iPhones/smartphones, even iPads and netbooks. We are connected to the information highway everywhere we go.

I am waiting for the purse that just syncs up when you get to wi-fi automatically.

Other items inside a woman’s bag reveal the personalities. I may have a notebook for notes which is made of trees and a paper book to fill in time when I get stuck somewhere. I have seen women with knitting needles or embroidery. 

Frugal women have coupons to save money stuck in a specific container or compartment, while others have a whole extra bag for their coupons because they are the “extreme couponers”. They are great until you get behind them in the check out line.

I know of women who keep photos still in their purses, or what we use to refer to as ‘brag books.’ Older women keep hair covering in case they get caught in the rain, because they have it teased every Saturday and it must not get wet until the next Saturday or there will be trouble.

Women have to carry protection in or attached to their handbags such as pepper spray, mace, tazers and guns. Yet, you can’t walk ten feet in public without being searched, metal-detected or investigated because of the times we live in.

My mom began to keep a pistol in her purse decades ago when she had to walk half a block to the bank every day from the clothing store she managed. There had been armed robberies so she felt better carrying her armed purse, but the truth is, if a bad guy held her up she would have to excuse him for a moment while she dug and dug in her giant handbag to find the little gun.

She also would look down the barrel of the pistol to see if there were any bullets. Plus, her fake tooth got lodged in the barrel when she had to take it out to get it fixed. Of course, first rule of unclogging your pistol is to unload. I only hope she did, but thankfully she is still around and still packin’.

Diabetic women keep candy for low sugar moments, many other women carry a pharmacy in their bag in case of any ailment known to man rears its head, and some just keep four baby aspirin in case of stroke.

Mothers, besides having to carry the separate diaper bag, carry snacks, toys, distraction items for kids, and I have seen some carry a ruler or a switch for the unruly kid.

I have also seen women who needed to carry Tasers for their kids, but that may be a bit extreme.

Cleaning out our old purses to begin using our new purses yields many unpleasant and pleasant surprises. Petrified crumbs, mints, and sweet’n’low packets smashed into our handbag’s innards can prove stinky.

Cough drops that melted through the protective plastic make for a gummy mess and old receipts that could never be found when you needed to return an item frustrate us all. However, an extra bill stuck in a hidden cove can brighten the day, especially a $20.

Mementos of movies or concerts pop up in forgotten ticket stubs and make us smile as we recall the outing we had, a crayon colored picture from a small child that has grown a foot since you first saw the artwork make us sigh bittersweet. These are treasures.

We lose things in our purses that never come back. I have had those Twilight Zone handbags that ate up cash, jewelry and personal items that went in and never came out.

Sometimes I wonder if I put a pair of socks in those bags if two socks will come out?

The main thing we must remember is a woman’s purse is a private place and while some females may keep dark secrets, mostly, it’s just the principle of the thing. We teach our kids to not touch Mommy’s purse.

We teach our husbands that it’s “Hands off.”

My own husband treads lightly when he has to dig in mine for an item, and he always asks permission. He has a mother who taught him the rule of Mother’s Purses.

I have always wanted to rig my handbag with an alarm just for the fun of it, a loud siren that goes off when opened by anyone other than myself.

The only secret most of our handbags carry is that we just like having a spot that is all to ourselves, you know, since the bathroom area doesn't seem to cut it.

Yet, one day Jimmy Hoffa may be discovered in a woman’s purse, the cures to diseases, the date of the real end of the world day, or even who Carly Simon was really writing about in that “You’re so Vain” song.

Recent studies show that one in five handbags contain higher levels of bacteria than the average toilet.

Until then, don’t touch the purse!

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at or like my page at or read my blog at