The next Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop will be March 31-April 2, 2016, on the campus of the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. Please check back for registration and program details.
(This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post on April 25, 2015. Reposted by permission of author Vincent O’Keefe.)
Entering the fog of Alzheimer’s, I speak slowly into the phone: “Your granddaughter wants to take guitar lessons. Got any tips?”
My 83-year-old mother, who took lessons decades ago, cackles: “She should do what I did — find the best-looking teacher she can!”
“Well, she’s 13, so that’s terrible advice. What kind of grandmother are you?”
We laugh together as she repeats her story about taking lessons to help her quit smoking while raising six children as a stay-at-home mother. She bypasses my daughter’s present situation because people with Alzheimer’s often have stronger command of their “deep” memories than more recent ones. Though in the disease’s early stages, she is starting to drift between time dimensions when I call the assisted-living facility.
My mother has always enjoyed humor, and since I became a stay-at-home father who writes parenting humor, our bond has grown stronger. Now our phone conversations often devolve into a cross-gender, cross-generational sitcom.
Out of curiosity, I recently decided to read a book my mother had always described as her favorite: Erma Bombeck’s If Life is a Bowl of Cherries — What Am I Doing in the Pits? From the opening line, I could see why Mom identified with Bombeck: “I’ve always worried a lot and frankly I’m good at it.” After joking that “I worry about scientists discovering someday that lettuce has been fattening all along,” Bombeck reveals the rub: “But mostly, I worry about surviving… That’s what this book is all about.”
Yes, humor is how my mother survived the worries of her life as well: raising six children, getting divorced after 28 years of marriage, suffering macular degeneration that ended her ability to read her beloved books and now enduring the onset of Alzheimer’s. By the end of the introduction, there was already a lump in my throat.
The book progresses via vignettes, and though some have lost relevance since their publication in 1971, many remain timely. Among the classics, Bombeck provides a Family Survival Manual on “Replacing [a] Toilet Tissue Spindle,” “Closing a Door,” “Turning Off a Light” and “Operating a Clothes Hamper.” Evergreen observations include “There, but for the grace of a babysitter go I,” and “There are some who say giving children responsibility makes them grow. There are others who contend it increases your insurance rates.”
Bombeck’s tone sobers, however, late in the book in a section about her own mother titled “When Did I Become the Mother and the Mother Become the Child?” She explains that the “transition comes slowly… The transferring of responsibility… As your own children grow strong and independent, the mother becomes more childlike.” The child “isn’t ready yet to carry the burden. But the course is set.”
It seemed my mother was speaking to me through the pages, only this time via pathos beside the humor, the pits beside the cherries. Alzheimer’s has certainly begun to take things away. My mother sometimes stops in the middle of our phone conversations and says simply: “I have no words.” She describes the “numbness” overcoming her and explains: “I can see what the disease is doing to me.” On the other end of the line, I have no words for a different reason.
In addition to words, Alzheimer’s has begun to take away the markers of time. My siblings and I now struggle with how to handle forgotten family birthdays. While we can acknowledge her grandchildren’s birthdays for her, our own birthdays are trickier: Out of respect for her dignity, do we remind her of our birthdays when she forgets, assuming she would want to know? Or do we spare her the guilt and pain she feels when reminded of a forgotten birthday? I have opted for the latter, though neither choice seems adequate.
On the other hand, the disease’s quality of timelessness sometimes bestows a blessing. In her lucid moments, Mom has confessed that her short-term memory loss enables her to worry less and laugh more. She speaks of the “gift” of being “suspended in time” with no pressure to remember things. Such moments of freedom — from time, worry, and the inhibitions of memory — are one of the cherries still left in her life.
Bombeck’s classic teaches that even late in life, the cherries are still there; we just have to dig deeper in the bowl. Indeed, such fruits are necessary for survival. A special way to reach them is by reading and sharing a loved one’s favorite book.
As I reread the lighter passages of my mother’s favorite to her over the phone, sometimes she was reminded of how she felt upon first reading them. Other times her changing brain processed them as if for the first time. In all cases, we shared a wonderful, funny, intimate experience: a perfect fruit for both of us.
— Vincent O’Keefe
Vincent O’Keefe is a writer and stay-at-home father with a Ph.D. in American literature. His writing has appeared in The New York Times ”Motherlode” blog, The Huffington Post, The Shriver Report, Brain, Child, The Good Men Project and Role/Reboot, among other venues. He is seeking an agent for a humorous memoir about a decade of at-home parenting. Watch/read/listen to more of his work at www.vincentokeefe.com, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @VincentAOKeefe.
The nice thing about a visit from Mom is that she doesn’t arrive with an expectation to be entertained. Visiting my family is a pseudo business trip for her, so there’s no need to wine and dine her. I’ve come to realize that, while Mom is resigned to the fact that her adult children live out in the world on their own, she really believes that she is the Chief Operating Officer of an organization called Our Family. She works so exhaustively while she is here evaluating our operation that she can probably write the trip off on her taxes.
She is content to ride alongside me as I run my daily errands offering an audible audit with suggestions on how to improve our overall functionality. We are assessed on categories ranging from primarily minor issues, such as profitability (“Why do you buy straws at the grocery store when you can simply grab a handful at Subway?”) to potentially major and life-threatening (“Good parents don’t let their children play football!!!”).
Here are just a few of the oversights from this week, in which we fell well below the expectations of the corporate office.
DRIVERS ED: FAIL
Just because YOU are behind the wheel of the car, and, at a glance, appear to be the driver, one must understand that if Mom is anywhere in the car, seniority prevails and SHE is the actual driver.
Doris is the original Siri. She doesn’t have to hide in your cell phone like a coward to tell you which way to turn. She tells you WHEN to turn your blinker on, WHEN to execute the turn, WHERE to park once you’ve mastered the turn sequence, and how close to get to the other cars around you. She expresses white-knuckles-on-the-dashboard concern each and every time I pull into my garage (a relatively unchallenging maneuver that I manage to perform successfully several times a day, even when she isn’t in town). As we are driving down the road, she will often shriek loudly if another car gets within several hundred feet of us; I’m sure that’s to check my responses and reflexes.
“Driving Miss Doris” is truly an interactive experience and definitely not for the easily intimidated.
CHILD PROTECTION/CHILD ENDANGERMENT: NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
In addition to our typical schedule of football practice and games, basketball practice and games, carpool, groceries and other Mother Minutia, this week provided the additional challenge of an MRI on my son’s recent football injury, along with the requisite orthopedic consultations and discussions about whether or not to have a surgery, which would allow him to continue to play football in his senior year.
This afforded Mom the opportunity to assess our competence during a real-life “parenting dilemma” and grade us on our overall handling of this situation. We seemed to score slightly better here than in the driving category, but that’s because my husband was involved, which falsely inflated my score. (Mom is enamored with my husband and it’s quite obvious that somewhere through the years, her memory has played a trick on her and she genuinely thinks she raised HIM and didn’t meet ME until our wedding).
Every conversation we had about the pros and cons of the shoulder surgery prompted Grandma to shake her head in disappointment and insert such Pearls of Wisdom as, “If he injures his shoulder again, he won’t do well on the ACT and get into a good college!” Rebuttals such as, “Grandma, his shoulder doesn’t affect his brain functioning,” were dismissed as flimsy excuses and further evidence of weak and inept parenting skills.
HOME SECURITY: SUBSTANDARD
There was a ton of controversy a while back over security at the White House, culminating with the resignation of Julia Pierson, director of the Secret Service. The administration simply had the wrong person in charge of security detail. If you really want to keep the White House safe, fire all those Secret Service agents and hire a widow in her 70s, like Mom.
She is positively convinced that someone is attempting to break into our home, all day, every day. To steal exactly what, she doesn’t say. She was appalled by our inexplicable security breeches. She kept telling me to lock the doors and finally I said (exasperated), “But Mom, Tommy is out on the driveway shooting baskets. Won’t we then be, in effect, locking him out there with all the Bad Guys???” (Can I get a few points added back into my Child Protection/Child Endangerment category for this vigilant maternal observation?)
Yesterday, I took the trash can out to the street and was literally locked out of my house when I attempted to re-enter just two short minutes later. I stood there knocking on my OWN door and ringing my OWN doorbell. Eventually, she came to the door and yelled in a terrified voice, “WHO IS IT?” To which I responded (admittedly agitated), “It’s me, Mom, your daughter, the homeowner.” Reluctantly, she let me in.
I can’t imagine how stressful it must’ve been for her to depart this morning and relinquish her own children and grandchildren to such an unacceptable level of reckless living standards. But, alas, she can’t spend all her time in Oklahoma. She’s got to get down to Texas and Louisiana, where my sister and brother are surely doing God only knows what to their kids, homes and cars.
I should probably warn my siblings to lock their doors.
— Leslie Blanchard
Leslie Blanchard is a wife of one and mother of five, who writes the blog, A Ginger Snapped: Facing The Music of Marriage And Motherhood. After she received a journalism degree, she became the “Wind Beneath My Husband’s Wings” and didn’t write anything for 27 years, except her family’s Christmas letter. All that changed with the invention of the iPad with a waterproof cover. Now, she lays in the bathtub all day, neglecting her other responsibilities, and writes about life outside the tub. Her essays are titled after songs because, as she and her hubby puzzle through a marriage or child-rearing problem, they sing the song that particular issue reminds them of (with a pertinent lyric change here or there).
It was the summer of 1998 and my mother, who was 83, was visiting. My son Matt, 20, was also home from college. Counting my wife Madeline and I, we had three generations living under one roof and that lead to some very interesting intergenerational, family discussions.
One day Matt came home from work and put the stereo on to blast out some of his favorite songs. I’m used to it, but the sudden wall of sound caused my mother to jump out of her chair, spin around three times, grab her heart and shout.
Mom: What’s that noise? Is it an earthquake? Is the world ending?
Matt: (lowering the stereo) That’s just the “Dead Presidents.”
Mom: The “deaf” presidents.
Matt: No, it’s the “Dead Presidents.”
Mom: Which ones?
Me: Probably Harding, Johnson and Millard Fillmore.
Matt: Who are they?
Mom: I think they’re presidents, Matt. Weren’t you saying something about presidents?
Matt: Yes, the Dead Presidents. They’re a musical group.
Mom: Well, if that’s music, they need more practice.
Matt: That’s their sound, grandma.
Mom: It sounds like noise to me. In my day, we had real songs like In the Mood and Moonlight Serenade. And good musicians like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo. They made beautiful music. Why don’t they make songs like that anymore?
Matt: I think it’s because they died.
Mom: I mean the music. No one writes pretty songs anymore.
Me: It’s probably because they wrote all the good songs back then and there’s none left to do.
Mom: You mean all the good songs have been written?
Me: Right, and so the musicians had to move on and create new music like rock and roll.
Me: Hey, I may agree with you about Matt’s music, but now you’re talking about my music. It was great stuff.
Mom: What great stuff? Elvis swiveling his hips (she does an imitation of Elvis swinging his hips) and singing, “I ain’t nothing but a hot dog.”
Me: That’s Hound Dog.
Matt: And, besides, he’s dead, too.
Me: We had some of the greatest musical groups of all times when I was growing up. We had the Beach Boys and the Beatles.
Mom: What did they sing that was so good?
Me: The Beach Boys sang Little Deuce Coup and Good Vibrations. The Beatles did I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Sgt. Pepper.
Matt: Elevator music.
Me: Top 40 Golden Oldies.
Matt: TV commercial jingles.
Me: Classic Oldies.
Mom: More noise.
Me: Look, I’m going to get my 45s and show you both.
Mom: What’s he doing?
Matt: He’s getting a 45. It’s a gun. Rock music has driven him crazy, grandma.
Me: No, mom. They’re records. Music used to come on 45 rpm records.
Mom: Ours came out of a Victrola.
Matt: What’s a Victrola?
Me: It’s a record player. You’ve seen the picture with the spotted dog listening to the machine with the cone on top. That’s a Victrola.
Matt: So how did it play music?
Me: They used these big records called 78s that played the music.
Matt: Oh, like CDs.
Mom: They play music on Certificates of Deposits? When we had CDs they just paid seven percent interest. We didn’t get any music with our CDs.
Me: No, mom. A CD stands for Compact Disc. It’s like a small record album that uses a laser to play the music.
Mom: Well, we didn’t have no lasers in my day. They played music the old-fashioned way, with instruments. Like Glen Miller and his band. I used to love their song Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Matt: Isn’t that where the presidents live?
Mom: Which ones?
Matt: All of them.
Me: That’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mom: No, I’m pretty sure it was “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”
Matt: Wasn’t there a movie by that name?
Me: That was “Transylvania 6-5000.”
Mom: Isn’t that where the White House is?
Matt: No, it’s in Washington D.C.
Mom: I could have sworn it was “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”
Me: That was a song.
Mom: I know it was a song.
Matt: How’d it go?
Mom: It went: “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”
Me: That was it, Matt, All they sang was a phone number. And she thinks Elvis lyrics were bad.
Mom: It was enough.
Matt: Who’s phone number was it anyway?
Mom: Probably the President’s number. He lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Matt and Me: Which president?
Mom: One of the dead ones.
— Myron Kukla
Myron Kukla is a Midwest freelance writer. He is the author of several books of humor, including Guide to Surviving Life, and is a regular contributor to Bestversionmedia and the Erma Bombeck blog. Email him at email@example.com or follow his blog, The Writings and Musings of Myron J. Kukla.
My granddaughter, Chloe, who just turned 2, doesn’t know yet that her Poppie is fishy. And it didn’t seem to bother her that I’m all wet, too, when we took a trip recently to see some fine finny, flippered, feathered, furry and flighty friends at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead, N.Y.
Accompanying us on this exciting excursion were my younger daughter, Lauren, known to Chloe as Mommy, and my son-in-law Guillaume, aka Daddy.
When we arrived on a weekday morning, a couple of seals were already up (they start work early) and looking for breakfast in their outdoor exhibit.
“They’re gray seals,” an aquarium staffer said.
“They should use Miss Clairol,” I replied. “It would make them look younger.”
“Do you know the difference between seals and sea lions?” she asked.
“The spelling?” I guessed.
“Well, yes,” the staffer answered. “But seals don’t have ear flaps.”
“I suppose that means they don’t wear earrings,” I said.
“No,” the staffer said.
“That’s OK,” I said. “They still have my seal of approval.”
Lauren rolled her eyes and said, “Come on, Dad. Let’s go inside.”
At the front desk, Lauren and Guillaume got in for free because they have an aquarium pass. Chloe also was admitted at no charge. My admission was $22.
“You could have gotten a senior citizen discount,” Lauren said after I had paid with a card.
“I already gave you one,” the young woman at the desk told me.
“Is it that obvious?” I asked.
“I do my job very well,” she said as she handed me a receipt for $20.
Chloe took me by the hand and we capered off. The exhibit she seemed to like best was the butterfly garden, where the colorful winged creatures flitted toward, past and all around us. From overhead pipes came an occasional spray of water to keep the humidity level just right.
“I should have brought soap,” I told another staffer. “Then I could take a shower.”
Next door was the aviary, where playful parrots perched.
“This is for the birds!” I said to Chloe.
She giggled and took me by the hand again so we could catch up to Mommy and Daddy, who had made their way to the shark tank, watery home to all kinds of fish, including — what were the chances? — sharks.
“These are nurse sharks,” I said. “There are no doctor sharks, but if you get bitten, you can sue and hire one of the sharks as your lawyer.”
I also pointed out a clownfish.
“Who’s a clownfish?” I asked Chloe.
“Poppie!” she answered correctly.
Then she led me through a couple of tunnels only big enough, supposedly, for kids. Outside, there was another tunnel, this one in the otter exhibit.
“There are two otters,” I told Chloe. “The first one and the otter one.”
Lauren and Guillaume groaned. Chloe giggled. Then she climbed into a child-size hot rod to pose for a picture.
Back inside, we saw stingrays, which were swimming in a pool.
“Do you know what all of them are named?” I asked.
“What?” said Guillaume.
“I’m going to throw you in there with them,” Lauren said.
“I would be shocked,” I retorted.
Chloe may not have understood the depth — we were, after all, in an aquarium — of Poppie’s puns, but she was endlessly amused.
Then it was time for lunch. Chloe had her favorite: chicken nuggets and French fries.
“No fish?” I asked. “There are plenty to choose from.”
When lunch was over, Chloe was tired, but she wasn’t ready to go home. She wanted to have more fun.
“Go to Poppie,” Guillaume told her.
“Poppie!” Chloe exclaimed as she jumped into my arms.
But it was, indeed, time to go, despite Chloe’s protests.
“We’ll come back,” I promised her as we walked out. “And Poppie will bring some Miss Clairol for the seals.”
— 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 McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won five 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.
Many benefits of breastfeeding have been recognized in the literature, although some benefits are not well known. For example, according to undocumented anecdotal reports from unidentified and highly questionable sources with top-secret conspiracy agendas, infants who are breastfed are:
• 48% more likely to appear in The New York Times (news pages, 17% for Sunday Magazine).
• 22% more likely to be supertasters.
• 31% more likely to use French phrases in conversation unnecessarily.
• 19% more likely to volunteer for interplanetary travel.
• 70% more likely to star in eponymous reality shows.
• 36% more likely to summit Mount Everest (1.9% without the assistance of Sherpa).
• 81% more likely to acquire impressive looking home libraries.
• 15% more likely to gain, then lose, incredible fortunes (12% more than once).
• 97% more likely to become Olympic competitors for hard-to-spell countries.
• 29% less likely to become Internet humorists.
— Peyton Price
Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches From Behind The Picket Fence, even though she was bottle fed. You can find the poor thing failing to live up to her potential on Facebook and at suburbanhaiku.com.
Is it wrong to be jealous of my 2-year-old? It really hits me while I’m sitting at work around 1 p.m. and I know at that moment she is taking a nap. Naps. That’s just one reason being a 2-year-old is way more fun that being a 32-year-old. It gets even worse when you consider being a 32-year-old with a 2-year-old.
When you’re two, it’s fun to learn. When you’re 32, you don’t have time to learn, and if you do, it costs a lot of money.
When you’re two, your books have fun words and lots of pictures. When you’re 32, you don’t have time to read books (with long words and no pictures.)
When you’re two, you get to do arts and crafts every day. When you’re 32, you don’t have time for arts and crafts, unless you’re an art teacher.
When you’re two, people buy you things all the time. When you’re 32, you get gifts on your birthday and Christmas.
When you’re two, your attitude is somewhat accepted because you’re in the “terrible twos.” When you’re 32, your attitude is known as “bitch.”
When you’re two, you get rewarded when you pee in the bathroom. When you’re 32, you can’t go pee in the bathroom alone. Ever.
When you’re two, you can fall asleep anywhere, in any position. When you’re 32, you just can’t do this. It actually may be illegal.
When you’re two, you get rocked to sleep. When you’re 32, you don’t sleep (and haven’t been able to sleep in for at least two years).
When you’re two, your weekends are full of fun play. When you’re 32, your weekends are full of endless event and party plans (in the midst of trying to run errands).
When you’re two, people think your rolls are cute. When you’re 32, you don’t want rolls, but they are turning up like never before.
When you’re two, you can wear whatever you want in public. Even dress up like Disney characters and no one says a thing. When you’re 32, if you do this, you may end up on a site like “People of Walmart.”
When you’re two, you have a stylist, hairdresser, chef and chauffeur. When you’re 32, you don’t have time or energy to make yourself look presentable or cook because you are too busy chauffeuring.
When you’re two, everything you say is cute. When you’re 32, you better watch what you say so you don’t offend someone.
When you’re two, everything is new, fun and exciting. When you’re 32, well, all that new, fun and exciting stuff is just rare.
When you’re two, you can go trick-or-treating. When you’re 32, you have to steal your 2-year-old’s candy to keep the sugar control.
Now to be fair, there are some things that are better about being 32: You have that adorable 2-year-old you get to see live a dream life!
— Christina Nicholson
Christina Nicholson is a former TV reporter and anchor who recently entered the public relations world. She spends her free time blogging and freelance writing for magazines and websites. She also works as a Younique presenter and volunteers as a wish granter with the Make A Wish Foundation. She lives in Florida with her husband and two children, a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old.
A simple Google search of “self-publishing companies” results in more than 10 million results. Even if you did have the time to sift through a couple pages worth, you still wouldn’t have any idea which ones really knew their stuff. Getting solid, clear answers in language that you can easily understand helps ensure that you will be able to proudly show your new book to people — even outside your immediate family.
Your old college buddy is standing there, shaking her head in disbelief.
“This YOUR book? You published a book that looks THIS good?,” she says. “It looks GREAT! Must have cost a fortune.”
And you know what? She’s right. It DOES look good, you knew that all along. And it didn’t cost a fortune.
“Didn’t you publish something, too?” you ask.
“What did you do with yours that I didn’t do with mine?” she asks.
Through research and talking with other colleagues who have published, you came up with a list of 10 questions. Those questions definitely helped you determine which publishing companies were the best fit to work with on your first book — and who would help you ensure it looked as good as it does.
Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Self Publisher:
1) Has the self-publishing company previously published books like yours, directed at the same market or reader?
2) Will this company complete all of the work in-house, or does it subcontract it out? (Local subcontractors? Overseas?)
3) Will you own all the rights to your book when working with this particular company? You had heard horror stories about self-published authors who found out (too late) that they had lost some of the rights to their work, allowing the less-than-ethical company they chose to work with to receive a percentage of every book sold.
4) Are there any minimum orders? What if you want just 100 books to start with?
5) Does the publisher offer packages or does it work under an a la carte system? Sometimes a package with everything from ISBN to printed books to marketing make sense. Some authors don’t need all of that, so why pay for it?
6) Will you have a single point of contact within the company at all times during the publishing process?
7) Does the company have any unusual requirements for preparing your files for publishing?
8) If this is a local publishing company, ask to see various samples of its work. When you see those samples, are you comfortable with the look and feel of them? And if you’re reviewing published work online, be sure to take advantage of features like Amazon’s “Look Inside.”
9) Who will handle the layout of the inside of the book? Of the cover? Do you need to do that yourself, or do they do that for you? You know that some publishers offer templates to use, so that you can cut down your costs upfront.
10) Will the publisher edit your book for you? Or do you have to hire your own? You know that despite thinking you’re a decent writer, that having a professionally edited book can have a huge impact on the sales of the book. After all, who recommends a poorly written book to a friend?
If you don’t feel completely comfortable that the company you’re going to work with knows its stuff, and has the experience and knowledge to help you through the process, then you need to find yourself another company to work with.
Don’t be like your college buddy with a self-published book that you would rather not talk about (aka, “the expensive learning opportunity.”) It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can successfully publish your own book and have results so spectacular that you can’t help but show it off to anyone you meet.
— David Braughler
David Braughler, publishing adviser at Greyden Press, helps authors, coaches, executives and organizations publish their stories and expertise. He served on the EBWW faculty in 2014 and 2012.
Yet it’s much more than that. It’s a powerful lesson on faith, letting go and not taking yourself too seriously.
Nearly 700 theatergoers laughed and cried — and celebrated the enduring bond between mothers and daughters — during two performances of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” March 30-31 in Boll Theatre at the University of Dayton.
Many even brought their mothers.
“I could feel that powerful connection of people, particularly women, who are reaching inside their own souls to recall, to smile, to cry or to simply recognize their own circle of life,” Quinlan said after the audience rose to its feet in appreciation following the final performance.
From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to Off Broadway, Quinlan’s show has touched thousands of lives over three years and raised more than $300,000 for charity, mostly for women’s health and education issues. After Quinlan served as a keynote speaker at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, she offered to bring the performance to campus to benefit the workshop’s endowment fund.
Through sponsorships, gifts and ticket sales, the event raised more than $33,000 for the endowment, which is used to keep the workshop affordable for writers. It was the first fundraiser for the popular workshop, which attracts such household names as Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, Nancy Cartwright and Phil Donahue.
On closing night, Quinlan shared the stage with Betsy Bombeck, the humorist’s daughter, in a “Talk Back” conversation with WHIO-TV anchor Cheryl McHenry. Talk about a poignant, powerful moment. View the YouTube clip here.
“It feels like forever, and it feels like yesterday,” said Quinlan, tears in her eyes, of her mother’s death nearly nine years ago.
“Mary Lou and I have made each other cry since we first saw each other. It’s just been a laughfest,” Bombeck quipped as the audience erupted in laughter.
What did the two want the audience to take away?
“There’s laughter everywhere,” Bombeck said. “Never take yourself so seriously. …Do what you want to do every day. (My mom) used to say to me, ‘Take it to the limit, so that when you end your day and put your head on the pillow, you can say you did everything you needed to do that day and you can sleep peacefully.’”
Quinlan added: “I never set out in any way to preach. Ever. My mom was not that way. Everyone in the box. (But) there is something in having a deep-seated faith and believing in whatever that is for you. And letting go. (My mom) might say, ‘Give it a shot. You might have a good night’s sleep.’”
The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop relies on the generosity of supporters who believe in its mission. To make a gift to the endowment, click here.
— Teri Rizvi
Teri Rizvi is founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communications.