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Mark your calendars! The next Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop takes place April 5-7, 2018, at the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater.

The gift

“That’s why you didn’t get chocolates! You got the gift of no longer being humiliated!”

Those were the exact words spoken by my nine-year-old daughter after I revealed the contents of the big box on my dresser on Valentine’s Day.
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t sting.

I thought I had done a good job of keeping my feelings to myself, but obviously, I failed.

Mothers know better than that. Well, the good ones do.
You probably want to know what was in the package.
Tucked carefully inside the cardboard box was a shiny new black folding mirror for my car.

You see, back in December, there was a single vehicle accident involving myself, a bag of peanut M&M’s and my garage wall.
But none of it would have happened if I hadn’t volunteered.
It was the perfect storm of paint, glitter, and asshattery.
As mothers under the influence of Pinterest do, I took an easy task and created a nightmare.

Impaired by a bizarre glitter injury, my body and soul needed chocolate. Over 48 hours had passed with no sleep or shower, but I would not be deterred.
With my disheveled hair covered by a baseball cap, pulled lower on my face than necessary, I double checked to make sure I was wearing a bra and set out for the store.

I was in line when I noticed the blood.

See, when you accidentally stab yourself with a screwdriver while opening a canister of glitter, it hemorrhages quite a bit. Blood was flowing from my hand down my forearm onto the crisp white tiles of the floor. The napkins at the register coupled with a Purell wipe from my purse were my only cleaning supplies. I was the Lady Macbeth of the Chevron Station on Highway 8. So much for staying low key.

By the time I got home, I just wanted to sleep.
As soon as my garage door opened, I attempted to navigate into my parking space carefully avoiding Santa’s workshop on the left and the glittered elves on the right.

I failed.

CRRRRUUNNNCHHH.

The exterior shell of the mirror was destroyed and my insurance agent husband, a more Scrooge than St. Nick, was infuriated.

There would be no claim.
We do not file claims.

By February the mirror was barely holding on.
Every wire and cable were exposed like the robotic assassin from the Terminator. To make matters worse, one of those wires made a screeching noise akin to primeval cat shriek every time I locked the doors.

That was embarrassing.

I felt it, but I guess I was saying it too.
Otherwise, my nine-year old’s reaction would’ve been more like my sixteen years old’s.

One look in the box and then over at me.
“Nothing says romance like car parts, right Mom?”

—Heather Burnett

Mother, Writer, Reluctant Housemaid, Overthinker

Creative Genius Behind Word to your Mother

Going old school

I was watching my brother’s kids for a week, and it was all going swimmingly. I stayed at their house in my hometown. The first day, I made breakfast and got the kids to school, the same one I had gone to. Dropping them off in the morning was no big deal, but to pick them up in the afternoon, I had to show a signed permission slip to a woman holding a clipboard at the door. She had a hard time letting go of her suspicions about me until the third day.

I got there early every afternoon and sat in the lobby with other people, waiting for the bell to ring. Once school let out and kids began streaming into the lobby, I noticed something about backpacks. Parents would reach into them immediately before they even get to their cars — sometimes before they’d even had a chance to say anything to their kids. Parents seemed a little frazzled as if there was a lot riding on the contents of those backpacks. There were questions right out of the shoot. And meaningful pointing to papers.

I pictured me in the last half of the 1950s, right here in this lobby, holding my book bag, walking down these steps with my friends. After a half-hour meander home — I’d say “hi” to my mother and eat a snack before going back outside to play. When she asked how school was I could say “Fine” without having to come up with any evidence.

There’s something transcendent about being in your old school after these many years have passed, and mostly it’s the universal school smell, which hasn’t changed one bit. Of course, everything looks smaller than you remember it, but not as disappointingly puny as the brontosaurus at the Museum of Natural History turns out to be, especially after you’ve told your kids, “You won’t believe how huge it is!”
For the first few days of picking up my niece and nephew in the afternoon, none of the other mothers said anything to me as I sat down. Mostly they stared as if I had Danger tattooed on my forehead and just spoke among themselves.

Then on the fourth day, when it seemed they were running out of things to talk about and the pauses between comments were getting longer, one of them looked up at the stately portrait hanging above us. She said, “Who was Raymond J. Lockhart anyway?” Before I could realize no one was looking in my direction, or that Dr. Lockhart had been dead for thirty years, I piped up helpfully, “He was Superintendent of Schools when I went here.”

Everything got quiet. All eyes averted from me. Luckily, the school day was over, and the bell rang, and soon backpacks were being unzipped, and papers were careening slightly through the air. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought questions would follow, questions like, “So . . . What was this school like then? What were kids like back then?” And it wouldn’t have killed any of them to tell me I looked good for my age. And I had some good stories about this school I loved. We had more in common than they would know, but I understood.

— Linda DeMers Hummel

Linda DeMers Hummel is a Baltimore-based freelancer. She recently completed a memoir, I Haven’t Got All Day, and blogs at www.lindadhummel.com.

We miss you, Erma!

Ninety. Wow, you would’ve been 90 today. Boy, Erma, we miss you.

Times are tough now. Humor has taken a nose dive. You know, when I was a kid, my best friend’s mom used to always ask me how things were at my house. “How’s the humor?” she said with a wry smile. I never really got it, but since she grew up with my dad, I think there was some tongue-in-cheek antics going on.

Well, Erma, the humor’s not so good these days. It’s the hyena kind of humor: the creepy, screechy laughing while they rip their prey to smithereens humor. Not very funny.  We still need you, Erma. We need some of your humor.

We need you to remind us of the silver lining of humor in our daily lives before we drown in the ridiculous ridicule being passed as humor these days. It’s good for us to be reminded of the idiosyncrasies of our ordinary lives — like raising kids.

Things My Mother Taught Me

LOGIC: If you fall off your bicycle and break your neck, you can’t go to the store with me.

MEDICINE: If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way. There is no cure, no telethon and no research program being funded at the moment for frozen eyes.

ESP: Put your sweater on. Don’t you think I know when YOU’RE cold?

FINANCE: I told you the tooth fairy is writing checks because computerized billing is easier for the IRS.

CHALLENGE: Where is your sister? And don’t talk to me with food in your mouth. Will you answer me?

HAPPINESS: You are going to have a good time on this vacation if we have to break every bone in your body.

HUMOR: When the lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me!

Fantasizing about Paul Newman

In Erma’s book, I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression, she writes about our fantasies. “I don’t know if I can explain it or not,” I said slowly, “but Paul Newman to a tired housewife is like finding a plate of bourbon cookies at a PTA open house. It’s putting on a girdle and having it hang loose. It’s having a car that you don’t have to park on a hill for it to start. It’s matched luggage, dishes that aren’t plastic and evenings when there’s something better to do than pick off your old nail polish.

“Paul Newman, lad, is not a mere mortal. He never carries out the garbage, has a fever blister, yawns, blows his nose, has dirty laundry, wears pajama tops, carries a thermos, or dozes in his chair or listens to the ball game.

“He’s your first pair of heels, your sophomore year, your engagement party, your first baby.”

We need more humor writers like you, Erma. We need someone to bring the cynical laughter out of the cultural boxing ring, purify it and bring it home. We really need to laugh because our societal discourse right now is very painful.

In Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits, she writes about universal family life: “An interviewer once asked what the Bombeck family was “really” like. Did we seem as we are in print? A composite of the Bradys, Waltons, Osmonds and Partridges sitting around cracking one-liners? The last time my family laughed was when my oven caught fire and we had to eat out for a week.

“I did not get these varicose veins of the neck from whispering. We shout at one another. We say hateful things. We cry, slam doors, goof off, make mistakes, experience disappointments, tragedies, sickness and traumas. When I last checked, we were members in good standing in your basic screw-up family.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. And how do you know laughter if there is no pain to compare it with.”

In the midst of all the pain going on, we should be laughing ourselves silly.

— Donna Fentanes

Blogger Donna Fentanes is a mother of 10 kids living in Pacifica. She mixes humor and philosophical musings with everyday life.

Victoria’s worst-kept secret

As Valentine’s Day approached this year, I was at a loss regarding how to surprise my eternally patient and positive wife of 26 years with a gift that would truly show my love and appreciation to her for not smothering me in my sleep or encouraging me to overdose on chips and salsa long ago.

My daughters had presented their Valentine’s wish lists (yes, wish lists) shortly after Christmas, so I had already financed their gifts. But my wife (who never asks for anything other than that I avoid playing with that app on my phone that makes 500 different bodily noises in church) was a harder nut to crack — an ironic metaphor coming from me, I know.

Then the clouds parted when I checked the mail recently to find, addressed to me, a special offer from Victoria’s Secret. Aha! I had done a little online shopping with this establishment before, and now my creepiness was being rewarded with a coupon for free underwear. When I first heard about Victoria’s Secret, I assumed the business was named after the legendary 19th-century English monarch, but once I realized what they sold, I knew I was wrong. Based on the historic images of Queen Victoria I’ve seen, she would have more likely done her shopping for the royal unmentionables at Sears — in the hardware section. Whoever this Victoria was, I owed her one for keeping her secret between us as I did my online shopping in the semi-privacy of my own bathroom (semi-privacy because I rarely manage to get the door shut and locked without interference from at least one child or pet.)

My internal rejoicing over my coupon was suddenly interrupted, however, when I read the horrifying phrase in fine print, “In-store only.”  I didn’t even think men were allowed in that place. In fact, whenever I go the mall, I risk contact with the mall kiosk salespeople selling bespangled phone cases, Turkish beauty cream and Dippin’ Dots as I veer away and avert my eyes from the Victoria’s Secret entrance, festooned with mannequins who forgot to put on their pants. This time, though, I was determined I wouldn’t let my self-respect keep me from making a romantic gesture at a discount.

As I entered the store, my mind was racing with “what if’s.” What if one of my college students sees me? What will they think, and how will it affect my instructor evaluations? “Well, Mr. Graves teaches a great lesson on Cavalier poetry, even if he is a creepy weirdo who snoops around in the clearance bras.” Worse yet, what if someone from church sees me? Would it endanger my third-grade Sunday school teaching position? Would I be relegated to boy’s bathroom monitor or parking lot duty in the senior adult area?

Pushing these thoughts aside, I pressed on to find the items pictured on my coupon. Apparently, underwear at Victoria’s Secret is categorized according to how much of it is missing. At any moment, I expected to see a table display with nothing but spools of thread. When I finally found something I could identify as human garments, I then had to find the correct size, which involved rifling though storage bins below the display table and constantly looking over my shoulder like some kind of maniac to see if anyone was watching. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for a sales associate (wearing all black-presumably for my funeral) to show up and ask, “May I help you, sir?” just loudly enough for mall security to hear.  I had no choice but to be completely honest, so I told her I was looking for house slippers and socks, to which she replied at full volume, “You’re in the wrong drawer. Those are the cheekies.”

Once I had finally made my selections with the help of the panty police and was making my way to check out, I did notice a few other men in the store with their wives. One appeared to be examining a hairline seam in the wallpaper while his wife browsed through the hiphuggers, and another was counting ceiling tiles while his wife demanded that he smell the glittered body sprays with her. One man who was there with his teenage daughters glanced at me with a defeated look of solidarity in his eyes, and I could have sworn he mouthed the words, “Please, help me!”

Unfortunately, I could offer no help to these fellow sufferers as my main goal at that point was to escape without further humiliation. Those hopes were dashed, though, when I saw the enormous checkout line. Of course, I was the only male in line, and I was determined to salvage what little masculinity I had left, which isn’t easy when you’ve got a handful of lingerie. I tried to be nonchalant and held them in my fist like a baseball, and not very convincingly since my little league baseball career mainly involved chewing on my glove in the outfield. While I stood there in disgrace, a woman behind me in line actually leaned forward to say, “Your wife certainly is lucky you shop for her here. My husband would never do that.” Of course he wouldn’t, I thought, it’s called dignity. She was probably just trying to convince herself that I wasn’t preparing for elective surgery so I could use my choice of bathrooms at Target.

The experience didn’t improve when I reached the cashier. I tried to conceal my embarrassment by making jokes. “Do you have a dressing room?  Do these match my eyes?” The cashier just raised her eyebrows and avoided making eye contact. She was probably reaching for a panic button under the counter. Her response to my humor was to hand me my merchandise in a ridiculously scorching-pink bag that was specifically designed to humiliate me as I walked through the mall and out to my car. This bag of shame, which was billowing with fuchsia tissue, made me look like I was on my way to a baby shower for Lady Gaga.

As I sat in my car to recover with “We are the Champions” playing on the radio, I felt a wave of satisfaction come over me. I had swallowed my pride (and a heavily-iced slice of Great American Cookie Company cookie cake), saved some money and purchased something special for my wife for Valentine’s Day. In fact, I’m already planning next year’s Valentine’s gift. I wonder what she would think of some Turkish beauty cream and a Dippin’ Dots gift card?​

— Jase Graves

Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of Longview, Texas, and a Texas A&M Aggie. He teaches English and serves as the department chair of language development at Kilgore College. Along with his professional teaching position, he teaches children’s Sunday school. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective in his blog, “What’s Wrong With Daddy?” Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.

Puppy Training 101 — Blame the husband

I had pulled in my driveway on a rainy September day and spotted large and small strips of brown cardboard, pink, black and white clothing, and clear plastic bags that had been ripped open and scattered across my back lawn.

It looked like someone had tossed debris in random directions as they rode on a merry-go-round. Closer inspection revealed that about 50 golf shirts littered my yard. Clear plastic bags protected most of them, but the rest were sopping and smeared with dirt.

I quickly bundled as many shirts as I could hold in my arms, and I hurried inside and dropped them on the Ping-Pong table. When I returned to collect more, I watched my giant Leonberger puppy hop among the clutter.

He grabbed a pink shirt, growled ferociously, and shook it side to side like he was playing Tug of War. Then he threw his head up and down and tossed it in the air. When it hit the ground, he pounced on it with muddy paws. I had to laugh, but I knew that these were the Adidas-golf shirts stitched with the company logo that my husband had ordered for his customers. I had heard that the company had paid about $2,000 for them. Unfortunately, he couldn’t give his customers shirts that took a spin in my washer, and I knew that we were in trouble.

After I picked up the rest of the shirts, I called my husband from my cell phone so that he wouldn’t know that I was home.

“You didn’t leave the dog out, did you?” I asked

“Yes, I left him out,” he said.

“Oh, did you forget that anything that the UPS truck drops off on the driveway belongs to him?”

“I didn’t think about that,” he said

“If he gets into anything, my conscience is clear, how’s yours? Have a great day and see you at dinner.”

This was the second or third time that my puppy had opened a UPS box. Previously, he had torn into canine heartworm pills and had eaten a six-month supply. I knew that the pills contained arsenic, and I had made a frantic call to the vet who assured me that his 120 pounds protected him from the poison.

Though I had never eaten one, heartworm medication smells and tastes like dog treats, and my dogs love them. Unfortunately, food and fun had rewarded my puppy for puncturing packages, and it was time to stop his behavior before he consumed his next carton.

After I picked up the rest of the shirts, I placed a cardboard box in my driveway and walked away watching him from nearby. When my puppy pounced on the box, I ran to him and grabbed his little black furry cheeks in my hands and put my face about two inches from his and screamed “NO!”

I yelled at him for about 15 seconds, and it worked. He never touched a box again.

It was a win-win. My puppy’s curiosity taught my husband pet-owner responsibility by making him consider the consequences of leaving him out without supervision, and our family and friends added to their wardrobe. Thank goodness we have that dog.

— Dottie Lopez

Dottie Lopez is a blogger who loves to travel and cook. She and her husband dine out weekly and travel to places like the Caribbean, Boca Raton, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Barcelona and Paris, collecting recipes on the way. She graduated from Loyola College with an English degree, and took a course at Towson University that emphasized writing restaurant reviews. The Baltimore Post Examiner published one of her reviews.

Social media aha moment

Mind you, I don’t know half of these people. They will never join me for a cup of tea or a glass of wine. I’ll never see most of them, except on social media. It dawned on after a conversation with my husband, Scott.

Me: This is terrible! Mary still has her migraine.

Scott: Mary who?

Me: I don’t remember her last name, but she has curly brown hair and an ugly dog.

Scott: Is she a neighbor?

Me: I don’t know where she lives.

Scott: So how do you know Mary?

Me: On social media. She’s just adorable. She has the best sense of humor.

Scott: So it’s sad news that Mary, who you don’t know, who has brown curly hair and an ugly dog, and lives somewhere, has a sense of humor, and a migraine, is worrying you?

Me: I think her car broke down, too. No wait…that was Jessica.

Scott: Who’s Jessica?

Me: She has short blonde hair, two cats and a parrot with a foul mouth.

Scott: Where does she live?

Me: I think she lives near the jungle. That’s where she got the bird.

Scott: So she just has a broken-down car, two cats and foul-mouth bird.

Me: And lots of mosquito bites from the jungle.

Scott: Which jungle? Is she in Africa?

Me: I might have her mixed up with Cary who likes to wash elephants in Tibet.

Scott: Are all of your friends animal lovers?

Me: I can’t be sure. There are thousands of friends. I can’t keep them straight.

Scott: So how are your local friends doing?

Me: I’m too busy to see them. Anything could happen on social media. I don’t want to miss anything. Last week while I grocery shopped, Miriam had a huge fight with her stupid husband.

Scott: How do you know he’s stupid? Maybe it was her fault.

Me: That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows not to mess with Miriam. She’ll chew you to pieces!

Scott: Why do you have a friend who chews people up?

Me: She has interesting political views. She posts them in Russian.

Scott: You don’t speak Russian. How do you know what she’s saying?

Me: I don’t, but I don’t want to get chewed up, so I always like what she says.

Scott: You have thousands of friends you don’t really know vs. local friends, who would love to spend time with you. Even if they don’t have foul-mouth birds, ugly dogs, speak Russian or chew up their husbands, I seem to remember they are your closest friends.

Me: Hmmmmmm … My social media friends will have to do without me for a while. I’m making time for my “real life” friends. You can find us in our beach chairs at Passa-Grille. We’ll be the loud ones laughing and sipping wine, while we watch for dolphins jumping the surf.

Me: Who knew I missed my real life friends so much!

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. Her latest book, Angel Bumps, will be published by Mill House Publishing this spring. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.

Nutty but nice

I work for peanuts. This may explain why I recently did two very important things:

(a) I bought a Powerball ticket.

(b) I made my own peanut butter.

My love of money, which I don’t have much of because I had to take a vow of poverty when I went into journalism, is exceeded only by my love of peanut butter, which doesn’t cost much and tastes a lot better, especially if you are the kind of person who puts his money where his mouth is.

I got the idea to make my own peanut butter when I read an online article about various uses for the stuff, which are not, apparently, limited to eating.

For instance, it can be used as shaving cream. I had never thought of this, mainly because I would rather eat peanut butter and save my shaving cream for pies, just like the Three Stooges did when they started pie fights.

Hungry for knowledge, I tried it. I got a knife and spread the peanut butter on my face, then I grabbed my trusty razor and, cheek by jowl, carefully smoothed out the situation. It worked like a charm. I didn’t have razor stubble. And I didn’t cut myself, though I’m sure the peanut butter would have stanched the blood.

Best of all, I smelled good, which is another use for peanut butter. According to the article, it is an odor eliminator. In addition, it’s a squeak eliminator that can be used in place of WD-40 on hinges and drawers. It’s also a squeak eliminator because it can be used as mouse trap bait.

Other peanut butter uses: windshield cleaner (it removes bug carcasses, which would make creamy peanut butter chunky); hair moisturizer (if you leave it in, I guess it would get rid of the gray, too); and leather cleaner (too kinky to think about).

But since the best use for peanut butter is eating, I decided to make my own.

Following a recipe I also got online, I bought a bag of raw peanuts and a bottle of peanut oil, which are the main ingredients, along with kosher salt, a box of which was already in a kitchen cabinet.

According to the instructions, I needed a food processor, a baking sheet, a spatula and a container with a lid.

My wife, Sue, also a peanut butter fan (she likes chunky, while I prefer creamy), set up the food processor and said, “Good luck. And don’t forget to clean everything up when you’re done.”

The most labor-intensive part of the process was shelling two cups of peanuts, some of which I ate, which is why it took about half an hour.

Then I spread them on the baking sheet, set the oven at 350 degrees and put them in for 10 minutes, after which I dumped them into the food processor and checked out the instructions, which said, “If you toasted your nuts, do this while they are still warm. Pulse a few times until chopped.”

It hurt just reading this.

Next, I ran the food processor for one minute, stopped and scraped the sides and the bottom of the bowl, and repeated the process twice. Then I put in half a teaspoon of kosher salt and two tablespoons of peanut oil and ran the processor for two more minutes.

I carefully lifted the lid, hoping my peanut butter wouldn’t be like Spackle. To my amazement, it had a perfectly creamy consistency. I dipped in a spoon, which I like to use when I eat the store-bought stuff straight from the jar, and lifted it to my mouth.

My taste buds did backflips. I didn’t because I figured I would break something, like the food processor or my leg, but I can honestly say it was the best peanut butter I have ever tasted.

“Wow!” Sue exclaimed when I gave her some. “This is really good.”

Even Maggie the dog loved it, though she had a tough time getting it off the roof of her mouth.

I spooned the peanut butter into a container and put it in the refrigerator, proud that it is too good to use as a windshield cleaner or a hair moisturizer. I won’t even shave with it.

I’ll just be happy that I have won the culinary equivalent of Powerball and put my peanut butter where my mouth is.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Small minds talk about people living in tiny houses

There are several programs on cable dedicated to the “tiny house” movement. Indicative of the creative forces involved with these shows, all feature the word “tiny” in their titles:

• Tiny House, Tiny Nation
• Tiny House Builders
• Tiny House, Big Living
• Tiny Hands, Tiny House
• It’s Not “Tiny,” Doctor, It’s “Ticonderoga, New York”

Whenever my wife forces encourages me to watch one of these programs, we always marvel at the ingenuity involved with the design and construction of these shrunken abodes. A bed folds into the wall and has artwork buckled to its underside; a hibachi is retro-fitted for propane and serves as the stove; the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator doubles as a sock drawer.

Fad aside, “Tiny” isn’t even the smallest acknowledged house size. According to one industry website, “right-sized” homes are broken down into these categories, from smallest to largest: Micro, Compact, Miniature, Tiny, Little, Small, Efficiency, Reduced and Downsized. These distinctions undoubtedly lead to conversations like this: “Oh, what a darling ‘Tiny’ house you have! Of course, we gave ours up years ago in order to reduce our carbon footprint down to pinky-toe level, when we moved into our ‘Micro’ home. It has everything you could possibly need — the only accommodations we’ve had to make are to take all our meals at Burger King, and Nash showers at his office so the triplets can get ready for school in the morning.”

During the big reveal, the homeowners see their completed domicile for the first time — usually with an unexpected flourish like a skylight, or a red wagon from childhood fashioned into a coffee table, or when they now learn for space considerations the kitchen sink and bassinet have been placed outside. My wife watches rapturously from her vantage point on our couch (a couch which could not possibly fit into any of these tiny houses and would be replaced by a reclaimed park bench — or perhaps, as an example of multi-function ingenuity, by a pair of toilets set side-by-side facing the media center). She’ll turn toward me (which would be tough from her perch on the toilet, so scotch that idea) and express her desire to design, build and move into a tiny house of our very own. While I hate to harsh her buzz, it becomes my responsibility to point out we already live in a “tiny” house, since our dining room table also serves as a file cabinet, bookshelf, cat bed and ironing board.

If she’s looking for a small space within which to carry out the functions of daily living, I remind her we already thrive in one, known as our bedroom. We eat, sleep and watch TV within its four walls and can even enjoy the outdoors from an adjoining deck. Out of discretion I don’t include “… and occasionally use it as a bathroom” so as not to remind her of those times when, settling in for the evening, she starts laughing so uncontrollably while watching random Facebook videos on her phone that she pees right through to the mattress.

Why hasn’t someone developed a series about long-time married couples living in reasonably-sized housing and yet every single thing belonging to the husband is shoved to the back of the guest room closet? They could call it I Live Here Too, You Know. I’d watch that show. As long as a certain somebody stretched out next to me on the bed promises not to laugh.

— John Branning

This essay is adapted from John Branning’s e-book Selfie-Facing: Analog Musings in a Digital World — a collection of his funniest pieces, along with a few clunkers thrown in for comparison. His work (if you can call humor blogging “work”) has appeared in The Hilario, Defenestration and the Bangor Daily News in Maine. You can find more of John’s writing at FactsOptional.com, along with some annoying pop-up ads.

Reflections of Erma