The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

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

Fifty shades of pale

Camille DeFer ThompsonBelieve me, it wasn’t easy being a California blonde in the ’60s who couldn’t get her tan on no matter the countless hours I baked on a beach towel, greased from scalp to pedicure with iodine-laced baby oil. Once I hit puberty, I coveted my cinnamon-colored pantyhose, shielding me from indescribable humiliation and ridicule hurled from the Coppertoned mean girls roaming the halls of Skyline High.

Let’s be clear. My paleness is not akin to that of Gwyneth Porcelain Paltrow, or Julianne Ivory Moore. Picture the hideous translucent blue/pink pastiness resembling the glass of skim milk your granny forced you to finish before excusing you from the table after Thanksgiving dinner.

Years ago I resigned myself to the fact that somewhere between high school and the 21st century, stockings became passé for all but Barbara Walters and the assisted living set. How, then to cut the glare emanating from my albino-esque legs?

As luck would have it, one morning I switched on a daytime talk show and caught fellow pallid-skinned Lara Logan singing the praises of Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. Not a self-tanner, it’s more a leg make-up. A few squirts of the magic potion breathes life into frosty corpse-like gams. From then on, I stored a can in the master bath at all times.

The afternoon of my 40-year class reunion, I showered, brushed on eye shadow and feathered my lashes with mascara. I caked foundation over my un-botoxed forehead, hollow cheeks and humorless laugh lines.

I retrieved the container of faux tan from under the sink. After giving it a good shake, I propped my foot on the side of the tub, aimed at my freshly waxed leg and pressed the spray nozzle. Nothing.

What?!

I shook it again and pressed. Nada. Time was running out. I could not enter the banquet room baring it all. Even geeky Beth Coy would be bronze. She’d littered her Facebook timeline with photos of a recent cruise of the Greek Isles. Beads of sweat cracked my stuccoed-on makeup. I need my L’eggs.

I tipped the can upside down and squeezed the button one more time. Zip.

Time to call in reinforcements.

“Jerry, get in here.”

Hubby appeared, buckling his belt. “What’s up?”

I shoved the can in his face. “Nothing’s coming out.”

He pulled his head away and took a step backward. “Wait, what?”

“Honey,” I said, struggling to control my rant. I took a breath. “I need a fresh can.”

“We’re leaving in like 10 minutes. What’s that even for?”

No time for conversation. I grabbed his phone off the dresser and snapped a picture. “Show this to the CVS clerk and tell her you need a new one.”

He squinted at the image.

Flipping my hands at him, I said. “What are you waiting for? Go, go, go.”

“Gimme that,” he said, reaching for the uncooperative can.

He rifled through the vanity drawer, found a safety pin, bent it back and jammed it into the hole in the nozzle.

“Try it now,” he said, handing the container back.

I pointed it at my veiny blue limb and pressed the button.

At last a stream of latte-colored foam spewed from the container.

“Hallelujah,” I said, smoothing the lush liquid over my bare skin. Praying my luck wouldn’t run out, I aimed at the other leg and pressed the button again. Victory.

I admired the warm glow of my reflection in the mirror. The bottom half of my body no longer looked like it belonged to the bride of Frankenstein. It’s alive.

I planted a kiss on hubby’s cheek. “My hero.”

Eat your heart out, Gwynnie.

— Camille DeFer Thompson

After 30 years in local government, Camille DeFer Thompson gave it all up for the glitz and glamour of freelance journalism. Her work has been featured on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop blog and www.betterafter50.com, as well as in a number of collected works, including, Not Your Mother’s Book…On Working for a Living, Clash of the Couples and Feisty after 45. Camille lives in Northern California. Follow her humor blog at www.camilledeferthompson.com.

You have to hand it to him

Jerry ZezimaWhenever my wife asks me to tidy up the bathroom, I feel like throwing in the towel because I could never get it to look as nice as the porcelain convenience at a place like the Waldorf Astoria.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I met a guy whose job is to throw in the towel in the porcelain convenience at — you guessed it — the Waldorf Astoria.

I recently attended a dinner at the famed New York City hotel, which is ritzy enough to rival the Ritz but does not, to my knowledge, serve Ritz crackers, at least not in the bathroom, where I went to answer the call of nature, which called collect.

As I was washing up (according to some people, I have been washed up for years), I was handed a towel by a gentleman dressed to the tens, which is even better than the nines. He was nattily attired (if we were in the ladies’ room, he would have been Natalie Attired) in a white, pleated, wing-collar shirt; a black, crisply tied bow tie; a neat black vest; sharply creased black pants, and shiny black shoes.

I, dressed to the sevens in a wrinkled gray suit, took the perfectly folded paper towel, which was embossed with the Waldorf logo, and dried my hands, though not before dripping water all over my dull black shoes.

“Would you like another towel, sir?” washroom attendant Alex Giannikouris asked politely.

“Thank you,” I replied as he handed me one. “Now I can shine my shoes.”

I also took a shine to Alex, who has worked at the Waldorf for 32 years and, judging from the many visitors who stopped in to get tidied up themselves, is even more popular than the celebrities who frequent the premises.

“Alex!” exclaimed one gentleman (we were, after all, in a room marked “Gentlemen,” which made me wonder what I was doing there). “Como esta?”

“Muy bien,” responded Alex, a native of Greece who speaks about half a dozen languages.

The two men carried on a brief conversation in Spanish, at the end of which Alex said, “Adios!”

Another man, tall, handsome and bedecked in a tuxedo, greeted Alex with a handshake — after, of course, drying his hands on the towel Alex gave to him.

“Are you a regular?” I asked the visitor.

“What?” he replied indignantly.

“A regular,” I explained. “Not irregular.”

“Yes,” said the man, who seemed relieved. “I’ve known Alex for years. He’s a great guy.”

That was the consensus among the other visitors, one of whom spoke with Alex in French and another in Greek.

“I even know a little Korean,” Alex said, in perfect English.

Then he regaled me with stories of the celebrities who have stopped in to admire themselves in the mirror.

“The best,” Alex said, “was Frank Sinatra.”

“Did he do it his way?” I asked.

Alex smiled and said, “Yes. He was very nice and very generous. A big tipper.”

“How much money did he give you?” I wondered.

“I can’t say,” Alex replied. “The IRS might find out.”

At least Alex won’t get in trouble with the Social Security Administration. That’s because Bill Clinton, when he was president, signed Alex’s Social Security card. Alex pulled it out of his wallet and showed me the inscription: “To Alex: Thanks, Bill Clinton.”

“Are you going to vote for his wife?” I asked.

“I don’t talk politics in here,” said Alex, who was happy to talk about George Burns (“a funny guy”), Al Pacino (“he washed his face in the sink”) and Ingrid Bergman.

“Ingrid Bergman was in the men’s room?” I spluttered.

“No,” said Alex. “I saw her upstairs. She was very beautiful. One other time, I saw Pope John Paul II upstairs. As he walked past, he gave me a blessing.”

But Alex said he feels especially blessed to be married to Maria, his wife of 39 years.

“One woman for all that time? Why not?” Alex said with a broad smile.

“Do you show your appreciation by tidying up the bathroom at home?” I wondered.

“No, she does it,” admitted Alex, who leaves the tidying up at the Waldorf to a cleaning crew.

He and Maria have three grown children and two young grandchildren.

“I’m a grandpa, too,” I said. “My granddaughter calls me Poppie.”

“I’m called Papou, which is Greek for grandfather,” said Alex, who is 63 and plans to retire soon.

“I’ve had a good career at the Waldorf,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of nice people. But one of these days it will be time to go. And then,” he added, “I’ll really throw in the towel.”

— 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 currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Dating in a time warp

Debbie WeissOnline dating is like a time warp. I keep meeting the same guys over and over again; they just have different names. Here are six guys on “repeat.”

1. The Ravaged Romeo

He starts his dating profile by discussing his last failed relationship. Even if his profile’s okay, once we meet, I find he’s still pining over a lost love. And keeps talking about it, even as I back away.

I dated an Alec Baldwin lookalike with a brilliant sense of humor…except when he was lamenting about “The Blonde Who Ruined His Life.” I was ready for him to take his shirt off, but he thought I needed to hear more about the pain she’d caused him. I didn’t.

2. The (S)exihibitionist

His photos show a fabulous physique he’s willing to share, but he’s not great with words, offering sex early on “cuz it’d be kool.” But he has little to offer outside of hooking up. Even if he does use the word “sapiosexual” in this profile.

After a few emails, one guy sent me a nude photo (rear view) promising ecstasy. I texted back the blushing face emoji. When I met one of these much younger guys, we had little to say in person. It was awkward. I’m a failed cougar.

3. The Freudian Fool

He’s been in therapy for years, yet still hasn’t made any progress resolving his mother issues. He’s resentful towards his siblings. He’s uncertain how his cat feels about him.

He often doesn’t feel well, happily admitting he’s a hypochondriac. He’s uptight about sex, and has a limited diet, like a six-year-old. When I’ve dated these guys, I was charmed by their Woody Allen-ness, but couldn’t deal with their moodiness and need to over-analyze everything. I ended things; they probably told their shrinks about it.

4. The Outer Critic

Even though he doesn’t know you well, and you didn’t ask, this guy has so much advice for you. One man kept telling me I should get an apartment in Paris, adding that I wasn’t adventurous enough. I finally realized he wanted a free place to crash in Paris.

Another suggested that I was too sheltered; online dating would damage me. (He didn’t want me to date other people). Others critiqued my world views, my car and where I live. I find this unacceptable. Outer Critic usually has other serious faults. Why does he think he can fix you?

5. The Failed Artist

This guy usually has eccentric facial hair and/or peculiar, handmade clothing. If he’s a musician, he sends you many clips of his unproduced works. If he’s a writer, you’ll get numerous links to his unpublished masterpieces. He apparently thinks online dating will get him an audience.

When you meet, he’ll drone on about his work. I’ve never gone on a second date with this type since I couldn’t get a word in on the first. He can’t tell he’s boring.

6. The Aging Stoner

His profile starts with “4/20.” Photos include a stylized marijuana leaf. Early on, he’ll tell you about doing ecstasy or ‘shrooms.

I dated a cute stoner just like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Spicoli was often out of it so I ended things. I doubt he remembers since his short-term memory was trashed years ago.

Some types overlap. Ravaged Romeo and Freudian Fool both love over-analysis. Failed Artist and Aging Stoner overlap at “failed.”

Not all guys fall into these categories. I’ve met some unique ones, including the funny, quirky guy who became my boyfriend.

— Debbie Weiss

Debbie Weiss blogs at www.thehungoverwidow.com.  She’s had articles published in The Huffington PostGood HousekeepingWoman’s Day and Elle Decor, among others.  She is writing a memoir and anti-advice manual about widowhood.  She  lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she was a practicing attorney for 11  years.

The day I pretended to be Parisian

Dear Women of Paris,

Do you eat morphine for breakfast?

Christy Swagerty(Maybe it’s hidden in the cigarettes?)

Because your feet, legs, back and brain must be absolutely NUMB to wear those high-heeled shoes all day long.

I’ve never been much of a “heel girl.” I think I wore the same pair of high heels exactly twice during my four years of college; once for a ridiculous costume night on the town, and the second time was for a school skit. Clearly, I was serious about my fancy shoes. These high heels were from high school prom — and hot pink.

It all started with my bright idea to show off my gorgeous (and by gorgeous, yes, I do mean they are just all black and leather and there is really nothing that spectacular about them) Alberto Fermani black leather handmade high-heel boots. Ever since I bought them off a friend’s thrift store finds, I had wondered about their actual worth. When I finally Googled my way into the world of ritzy Italian leather boots, I found the current equivalent of the boots in my possession to be priced at $675.

The proper response was probably to lock them in the wall safe we don’t have, but instead I chose to wear them. All day. In Paris. Beating my feet to death.

I ventured out confidently on a free museum Sunday in January, feeling oh-so-chic in boots that someone once paid more for than my own wedding dress. I managed quite well; nobody else would have known I wanted nothing more than to walk around barefoot for the remainder of the day.

This is how I now know that Parisian women are the best liars in the world. I also now understand why all the women stare at the ground while they walk; their cramping feet must not misstep. And don’t you dare try to explain to me that you have “comfortable high heels” — NO. Not only is that an oxymoron, but it’s also another lie; just because a high heeled shoe is more comfortable than another high heeled shoe does NOT mean they are, in reality, comfortable shoes.

I began to adapt to my new needs and problems. Oh, a bench? DIBS! Do not battle a high-heeled woman for a seat. I was prepared to heel stab the elderly and/or children for those coveted resting points. I would try to stay seated as long as possible wherever I was planted, feigning a fully engrossed fascination with my notebook. And to know my boots are but a dream to the women who torture themselves with stilettos and four-plus inches of height!

A (very small) part of me feels sorry for the French ladies gingerly taking every path of least resistance all over the cobbled and uneven streets of Paris everyday. And then I remember — nobody forces them to wear those shoes, let alone buy them! It’s hard to have empathy for someone who knowingly chooses to inflict pain on themselves and their bank accounts ($675 for leather to put on your feet?!). The chic shoe issue definitely applies to what my uncle says: “The French are slaves to aesthetics.”

(Therefore, DO NOT feel sorry for me. This was MY idiot experiment. Just learn from my experience. I know I have.)

After the first hour, my feet were basically finito, but I stayed out another seven hours, balancing my way through two museums, church, dinner and dessert. Then I had to walk home from our train station. Normally eight minutes. Always uphill.

As I winced my way home, all I thought was: my feet do not feel like $675.

I don’t care how nice a pair of high heels looks on the outside. If you’re walking any actual distance, pack some slippers to wear until you arrive at whatever destination where spiked feet are an entry requirement. Flat women’s shoes were invented, like, a hundred years ago. I encourage you to try them and find out what you’ve been missing (enjoyable walks, views of beautiful high buildings and trees, comfort, endurance, happiness, joy…a good life).

And as for my darling Alberto Fermanis? No, they are not for sale. They have, however, been relegated to limited minutes and sedentary activities. For the time being, they will look and feel much nicer on the shoe rack.

— Christy Swagerty

Christy Swagerty, “Swags,” is a Californian expat volleyball player and travel writer who has lived in Belgium, France and Germany. You can check out Swags’ ebooks, Four Years in Paris and 8 Steps to Move Abroad Now, her expat adventures at www.whatupswags.com, and connect with her via @whatupswags on Twitter and Instagram.

A few holiday ideas

Matthew Pflaum1. National break-up-with-your-shi**y-abusive boyfriend day!
A day encouraging women to finally end that terribly masochistic relationship that brings them nothing but pain. There are lots of guys out there — some won’t destroy your life.

2. National why don’t you just clean up after yourself a bit more day?
The gym? Your own kitchen? Your room? Your work space? Just spend a few minutes cleaning it up — you’ll feel better and so will everybody else. Who knows, could be the beginning of a new habit.

3. National think-for-yourself day.
I know, I know. How can I think for myself? There are tons of television programs, pop stars, celebrities, politicians, aggressive men, colleagues and friends to tell me what and how to think about everything from diets to television shows to political ideals. On this day, you get to tune out all the white noise and just think about something all on your own. Try to spend the day coming up with an idea all your own.

4. National pretend all celebrities and pop stars don’t exist day.
Pop stars. Celebrities. Can we go 15 minutes without some inane article about them? What are they wearing? With whom are they sleeping? Where are they vacationing? What are they eating? What is the point of it all? On this day, there is a total ban on all celebrity-related news. You get to be the celebrity for once.

5. National help somebody else day.
Charity. Good will. We hear about these vague concepts, but what are they? And why should we care? This is your day to find out. Everybody in the nation must help somebody with something. Assist an elderly neighbor with cleaning or carrying things. Tutor a deprived child. Help your mom with the gardening. Just do something for somebody else. It will feel good, we promise.

6. National trigger warnings day.
Basically nobody can say anything. A little peace and quiet, for once.

7. National stay at home day.
Nobody leaves their house. It is quiet for once. There are no crowds, or traffic jams, or fights, or yelling. In other words, it’s nice.

8. National read a book day.
Remember those little events when you were a child to encourage reading? Well, on this day, you are required to read an entire book. There will be a test at the end.

9. National say sorry day.
Say sorry for something. Make somebody feel better and get rid of your guilt.

10. National prejudice is punishable by death day.
You can be racist all year. You can talk to your friends in a sexist way, objectifying women any time. You can say you hate minorities every other day. But on this day, you can’t. You can’t say or do anything prejudiced. You have to treat people as…humans.

— Matthew Pflaum

Matthew Pflaum is 31 and hails from Florida. He worked abroad in health and development for a number of years and now studies Africa and international development at the University of Edinburgh.

My pop: a pretty extraordinary
ordinary guy

Allia Zobel NolanMy father used to irritate the heck out of me. He was the kind of guy who’d talk to a busy signal. It didn’t matter who you were — a secretary in a doctor’s office, the mail lady, an axe murderer — should he happen to be next to you in line in the drugstore.

Now, he’d be terrified to get up in front of a crowd and give a speech. Yet, if he bumped into you on the steps of town hall (he preferred to pay his taxes in person, so he could yakkity-yak with the clerk), he’d perform like Chris Rock on the Jimmy Fallon show. He was a great kidder, my dad, a guy who spoke to anyone and everyone — whether they liked it or not. Most people liked it, though that took me a while to figure out.

For a long time, because his eyes were bad, I went with him everywhere. And, of course, when he’d start telling his stories, I’d get embarrassed, (try to) get him to stop and rush him along.

Then I began to notice people’s reactions. Everyone my dad chatted up walked away from us sporting a smile. So far from bothering people, in his own way, he had done two things: made a connection, and given away a bit of good cheer. Indeed, this was how he let folks know Al Zobel was here, a little older perhaps, a little frailer definitely, but still with enough of what he called “his marbles” to make you laugh, or give you the scoop on a two-for-one sale of Turkey Hill ice cream.

This pattern of reaching out with good cheer wasn’t developed overnight. My dad had it his whole life. But as time took away many of his other pleasures — working, driving, bowling and walking three miles a day — he held on to this one joy tenaciously, perfecting it to almost an art form. I finally got smart, one day, and put two and two together. I can’t say as I never complained again when he’d tell the same story over and over. But, thank God, I developed tolerance. And as soon as I did, I began to enjoy the whole taking-dad-shopping experience.

I even went so far as to be Dad’s “straight man,” adding to the fun by moaning about being his patient, long-suffering daughter, out for another errand with her crazy Popo. This made folks howl.

I started creating my own set of stories. At the supermarket, I’d tell folks how Dad was “just visiting” the food — not buying it; how he’d pick up an item, compare ounces and pounds and prices and labels, checked and cross-checked ingredients, hold it up to the light, then put it back on the shelf.

And when I’d ask him, “Why?” He’d say, “We don’t need it.”

Or I’d whine about having to take him from bank to bank to bank in an effort to get the best deals on certificates of deposit or one-ninth of a point more interest on an account that would make him a dollar or two. “You’d think he was managing Warren Buffet’s portfolio,” I’d quip, rolling my eyes up to heaven.

The guys at his men’s club gave Dad some fake business cards once. On them they had printed his name and the title, “Free, Unsolicited Advice Consultant.” He loved handing them out on our excursions and watching perfect strangers crack up.

It’s been 20 years since my dad succumbed to pneumonia. But I remember, even in his last days in the hospital, uncomfortable as all hell, he was still communicating with good cheer, telling stories, trying to make doctors, nurses, blood technicians, even the cleaning lady a little brighter for having come in his room.

He was an extraordinary man who lived an ordinary life. Pre-Uber, he owned a cab and drove it through the streets of New York. And while he did, he listened to people, and then he talked to them. He shied away from negativity at all costs and touched as many people as he could with joy. He celebrated life by always being of good humor.

Now my Pop never made a million dollars. And there was no Ph.D. after his name. Yet he was as much a success as if he’d been first man on the moon. That’s because he excelled at one thing that made his life and the life of all who met him better: He was expert at connecting.

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is the author of Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much and 200 other titles. Overachiever. Humorist.

Bumps in whose socks?

Kaye Curren Photo 6-11-16When my daughter Mary was five, she went to kindergarten. It was a big day for us all. Jenny, her sister in second grade, gave her tips about school.

“Kindergarten is really great, Mary, you’ll love it.”

Mary looked at Jenny. Should she trust her? Had her sister always told her the truth? Not always.

I bought Mary a new dress, socks and shoes, and a cute little jacket. She loved dresses so I could see she was excited — about the dress, anyway.

But Mary had had a recurring problem since she was three. She had bumps in her socks.

Today, there’s enough advice on what’s called sensory over-responsiveness, an anxiety condition in children, to bury a parent, but there was nothing when Mary was five. Many children had trouble with bumps in their socks, but parents understood little about them.

At first Jenny and I told Mary to get over the bumps. Not a good idea. Tears and stomping of feet. We would take the shoes off, smooth the socks, put the shoes back on — several times. We finally had to escort Mary out the door, whining and protesting. Apparently, once at school, she was either too shy or too occupied with survival to complain. I don’t recall hearing from the teachers about it. But each morning we went through the same thing. Again, not much help was available. Truth is, when you are going through these things, you don’t even know what to name it.

Mary’s father had left before she was born, and I was dealing with raising two children alone. We had little money, and I was an emotional wreck. Jenny and Mary were too young to understand their father leaving so we were in a situation, which I am sure, did not help our mental states.

The school psychologist, Mrs. Brown, called me in for a meeting about Mary.

“Ms. Curren, your daughter feels highly responsible for you.” I was embarrassed to hear that but, at the same time didn’t even know what that meant.

She called Mary into her office and I asked Mary, “Honey, do you feel responsible for me?”

“Oh yes, Mommy.” she said. I blanched. Mrs. Brown then sent Mary back to class so we could talk.

“Feeling responsibility for a parent can create anxiety in a child as young as Mary,” the counselor said.

“What should I do then?” I asked.

“You might share less of your pain with the kids.”

Uh-oh, I thought, I do that, don’t I?

“Find another adult to share your anxieties with. Talk to your children and give them assurance you will take care of them and not leave them.”

She went on. “It’s tough to be an abandoned parent and try to be adult when you just feel like pulling the covers over your head. I lived it myself so I know.”

I recall thinking at the time that I was not at all sure I could take care of me, let alone my children. The divorce had ripped my confidence from me. But I did my best from then on. I began to share my anxieties with a trustworthy counselor and sometimes with the bathroom mirror. And Mary began to get better.

“Mommy, I don’t think we can catch those bumps,” Mary said finally.  “I think they have little demons in them.”

“Well,” I said, “We will keep after them anyway. Maybe we can call ghost busters.”

“Yeah!” she said.

Only as I did some research for this story did I discover that many children have bumps in their socks. And their parents have just as much difficulty solving the problem as we did. Luckily, there are many more alternatives for parents and children today — such as therapy and socks with no bumps. Back when Mary was five, parents just got up in the morning and dealt with it. Luckily, as Mary did, many children grew out of the preoccupation with clothing issues.

Last year, I visited Mary and her husband in New York City where they live and work. I noticed on their feet were soft and smooth socks, a kind of madly current athletic sock. They seemed to be blessedly bump-free. As I watched them glide about the house in these socks, I asked, “Hey, where can I find some of those? I’m having a heck of time lately with bumps in my socks.”

— Kaye Curren

A retired event planner, Kaye Curren has returned to writing after 30 years of raising two husbands, two children, two teenage stepchildren, three horses, umpteen dogs and cats, and several non-speaking parakeets. She used to write computer manuals but now writes humor essays and memoir. Find her musings at her website and blog at www.writethatthang.com.

Par-ants

Heather NewmanYou shoo the bug with one swift swipe,

then spy another, what’s that type —

a carpenter ant, a termite, a bee?

The Winged Ant: it’s morphed all three.

This primeval creature bares its teeth

on your coveted floor of herringbone teak.

Once it spreads its wing-spanned frock

your subterranean world is rocked.

This show is not a solo act,

mighty offspring have got his back,

armies of aunts and uncles berserk,

that’s not dysfunction, it’s how ants work.

They outsmart Generation X and Y,

the hippies, yuppies, family guy,

like-minded carpenters foraging wood,

colonial loyalty for the greater good.

They build their commune on drops of dew,

a raisin, rice grain; their needs are few.

You must respect the ground ants seize,

they have no time for plasma TVs,

necessities trump a frivolous fate,

sons and daughters carry fifty times their weight.

Regarding invasions, it’s prudent to hone

the usage and damage that’s done to your home,

the years it took to build a foundation,

the four-year, full-funded, high education

that leads your charges toward unemployed quandary,

fraternity tattoos and take-home laundry,

loyalty that runs as far as the car

or at least the gasoline credit card.

Meanwhile you ponder the ramification

of leaving your pests for a weekend vacation,

invasions require extermination,

so what’s the solution: evacuation?

The spoils have gone to the victor askew

as your floorboards are tunneled away in the dew

by savvier parents who work through the night

to emerge for mating — a grand, nuptial flight.

Face it, tough-love’s not your parenting style,

your fate is to live and let live your ant pile.

— Heather Newman

Heather Newman is a member of the South Mountain Poets and has studied with Lisa Bellamy at The Writer’s Studio. Her work has been published in Two Hawks Quarterly and E-Chook.

Reflections of Erma