On the day Martha Stewart was convicted, I volunteered to take her place as the design diva for millions of people who want to live in homes filled with style and elegance. My filling the breach, caused by Martha being out of the loop for a while, was the least that I could do. Someone needed to come forward to takeover on the outside of prison while she worked Martha's magic on the inside.

Therefore, I put together three dried arrangements for the outside of my home as my first installment as Mr. Martha. These arrangements joined several existing Martha-esque works that I have rendered prior to her fall from favor. (You can access them by clicking on Mr. Martha's Creations. In addition, I have spiced up my brick patio, flowerbeds, edging, and garage floor.)

All was going well as Martha's stand-in-until one morning while getting ready to leave the house to teach. The TV was on filling the ambient background milieu. However, I noticed that Oprah was on. Since my wife and daughters are unsuccessfully trying to get tickets for an upcoming show, I tuned into her introduction to the show for a possible way of securing the scarce as hen's teeth tickets. It happened that the program featured a segment, "What Ya Cookin'". Oprah rings the doorbell of an unsuspecting person and asks them what they are cooking for dinner. I watched enthralled about her just showing up to a person's front door with her camera crew. She would come into the person's kitchen and chat with the nervous homemaker about what and how the person was preparing a dinner.

Do you recall the feeling that you had when a teacher would begin a class for which you weren't prepared, "Okay, we are having a pop quiz"? Remember that cramping feeling in your stomach, the loss of blood pressure to your arms and legs, and the swirling feeling in your head? Well, that was just how I felt when I thought what it would be like if Oprah stopped at my home. I definitely wouldn't be as prepared as Martha would have been.

I fell back upon the bed in sheer terror. What if Oprah stopped at my place-especially since I volunteered to be Mr. Martha? While my head swirled around, I thought about the condition of my office-my creative clutter wouldn't have impressed Oprah at all. Then I recalled the condition of the kitchen and my stomach seizure intensified. I would have been mortified.

At that very moment, I had a conversion experience-I saw the light. From now on, I would change my lifestyle. I resolved to do my part to help keep the entire house like Martha would-nothing would be out of place. In addition, I decided to have my favorite beef stroganoff recipe already prepared and sitting in the freezer just in case Oprah would pop-in unannounced. If she did, I would graciously invite her in and while she was getting her crew instructions, I could quickly thaw the stroganoff and uncork my favorite bottle of wine, so that I could go into my Graham Kerr imitation.

Next, I planned to reorganize the kitchen cabinets so that they could be neater and more user-friendly. I also realized that I needed to pick up some garlic. I'm not a big garlic user, but from the show that day, I discovered that Oprah was. I need to have some garlic at hand in case she suggests that a ½ teaspoon of garlic might enhance the stroganoff. Besides, it would be good to include more garlic in my cooking, because it is good for ones heart, but I digress.

Before Oprah stops by, I also need to do something about my countertop space. It has become a convenient dumping-off spot for bills, keys, mail, and papers. That needs to change. After I finish writing this article, I will have a heart-to-heart with my wife. We are both guilty of using our lovely granite countertop as a staging area for future disposition-an often long delayed disposition of stuff.

Next, I looked into the laundry room that is off the kitchen. I installed shelves there to stockpile paper products, canned goods, and cleaning supplies. I nervously counted the reserve of paper towels and rolls of toilet paper. Much to my horror, I discovered that I had less than two dozen of each. I need to restock immediately. As I rounded up the garbage to take to the garage, I noticed the condition of the garage floor. Disgraceful. It needs to be painted before Oprah stops by with her greeting, "What Ya Cookin'". Filling Martha Stewart's shoes isn't going to be easy.

The article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on May 28, 2004.

This is a link to my article about volunteering to be Mr. Martha: