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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. We are sold out.

I can’t help it;
I love my cats too much

I consider myself a forceful woman — not given to many crutches.

Allia Zobel NolanNo nightlight keeps vigil while I sleep; spiders don’t make me squeamish; and I know where the oil goes in my car. Still, I do have this one overwhelming Achilles heel (and it’s not from my Christian Louboutin’s). It’s because of my cats. I love them too much.

So, okay, I admit it: I’m cat codependent. It’s an addiction I’ve struggled with all my life. But happily, these days, I’m not alone. Women (and men) everywhere have caught on to what I’ve known for years. There’s no getting “enough” of cats, which is why an ailurophile like myself will spend hours on Facebook and YouTube pawing over cat videos. That is, when I’m not trolling the net for unusual cat paraphernalia. Just say “Cat,” and I’m online to buy “it,” whatever “it” is — clothing, jewelry, a tattoo and a coupon for a cat café. Why, I’m even contemplating plastic surgery to look more like my cat.

It wasn’t always like this.  In the days before Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, most people thought I was a joke, the image of the infamous cat lady gone over the edge.

“Did you notice her upper lip?” one of my business associates cackled one day, “It looks like she’s sprouting whiskers.”

“Yeah, and her briefcase stinks of salmon” another answered. “It’s horribly unprofessional.”

“What about those earrings?” yet another associate chimed in. “She makes them from her cats’ fur. Disgusting. She needs an intervention,” the gossip continued, “and fast.”

Yeah, but what did those naysayers know? Back then, the general populace thought a cat was, well, just a cat. They had no idea. It’s only now that cats are getting the respect they deserve. It’s only recently that people have come to see them as the loyal, loving, entertaining — not to mention gloriously regal and handsome — creatures they are. It’s only today that the cat reclaims the honored place she had back when pharaohs wore snakes on their heads and people rode to work on chariots.

And talk about being in synch! I’ve never met any human that could ever match my cats. Oh, my husband comes close. But even he has his limitations. In all the years I’ve known him, he’s never once run down the stairs and rubbed up against my legs the minute I walk in from shopping. Then, too, when I’m in the tub, he doesn’t sit quietly alongside, grooming himself. And if I fall asleep on the couch after a hard day’s work, you won’t catch him perched on my stomach, purring and kneading me, like they do. Oh sure, he has his attributes. It’s just that my cats are infinitely more “simpatico.”

Even in this era of the cat, though, some people still snicker that I go overboard. They don’t realize I’m in recovery, and things take time. However, I am getting better. Litter by litter. Why only last week, I bought scoopable on sale instead of the designer brand I’ve imported in the past. I saved two bucks, but I felt like a cad. True to their self-sacrificing nature, the little darlings took it on the chin. They only did their business twice on the rug.

Truth is, the recession hit us all hard.  So I have had to cut back in other ways, too. And it almost broke my heart. It isn’t easy explaining to fur children who’re used to having the air-conditioning and HDTV on all day that they have to sweat and look out the window. And when Sineady Cat, the Fraidy Cat, whined for an iPad so she could play “Whack the Mousie,” I couldn’t  refuse. In the end, I took a second job.

But I no longer open up tin after tin of cat food to find one they like. I’ve set a limit of nine. And I’ve canceled the cats’ animal enrichment classes with Ulma. They were catty about this for a while.  Until I explained it’s just so we can pay off the second mortgage we took for the addition to their all-weather screened-in catio, and to pay for the robo vacuums they play bumper cars on.

Besides, I have put my foot down.  No cats are eating from our plates anymore. I bought them their own bone china. And I don’t jump up each time they want to leave the room. All the doors now have cat flaps.

So I’m making some progress. And the fact is, with so many other women (and men) coming out of the box (bag) about their cat codependency these days, I feel much better. I don’t feel so alone…so ostracized. (Wait, do you hear a “meow?”)

Meantime,  I’ll just finish massaging Nolan Nolan’s  temples — he gets those awful sinus headaches when he stays up late. Then, maybe I’ll surprise the kitties with a real treat. I mean how hard can it be to give a cat a French manicure?

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is the author of nine cat humor books, including Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell All Book and her latest, Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much, with illustrations by “Sylvia” Cartoonist, Nicole Hollander.

Confessions of a former hoarder

EstellefinalI used to be a hoarder.

And by hoarder I mean someone who would surround herself with paper products. And by paper products I mean newspapers and magazines. And by magazines I mean any that featured cover lines like, “200 Fashion Tips for the Fashion Foolish,” “101 Great Canapes” or “The Sexless Marriage: You Decide.” All of which I was always this close to using in my writing and research as a journalist and magazine editor, which ultimately ended up being used. Not. At. All.

As a “perk” of my job, along with the seasonal makeup trend items from Chanel and Givenchy, I also received enormous comp piles of crap (thank you not-to-be-named manufacturer for the disposable “flushing” device, and cheers to the distributor who deemed me worthy of the health drinks made from the rarest of berries found in the rain forests of Costa Rica).

One time a guy I was dating came over for the first time to my meticulously clean home, and by clean I mean I tossed everything into my closet, even my dirty laundry that hadn’t been touched washed in months weeks days. As we were leaving to go out to dinner, I looked for my keys, and to my horror realized that I must have tossed them in the closet right when I was tossing everything else I own in there.

So, I opened the closet door and everything came tumbling out, bras, panties, blouses, socks, random ripped-out newspaper clippings, unopened boxes (I owe my doormen and the UPS man from 2002 many apologies — the packages WERE delivered), books and, of course, lots and lots of magazines.

Unperturbed I jumped into the pile, with the enthusiasm of a toddler throwing herself into a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, shifted around a few bras, packages, papers and magazines, and triumphantly held up the keys like I had won the lottery, shouting “I found them.” He looked at me as if I were holding up Lady Gaga from 2010’s Meat Dress and I knew he found me hot (or was it disgusting)? Or both. Because isn’t a Meat Dress both hot and disgusting?

Well, it took another boyfriend, he of the dour disposition coupled with the abilities of Mr. Fix It to avail me of my habit. As one day he forlornly watched me go through my piles of crap, his only sullen comment was, “Estelle, do you think you’d miss that?” in the tone of Henry Higgins trying to rein in an unruly Eliza Doolittle. My overly defensive response: “Yes, this 1995 Better Home and Gardens recipe for beef lasagna might be useful some day.”

Here is the gist of our conversation:

Him: You don’t cook, nor do you write about cooking, or edit a cooking magazine.
Me: I might one day.
Him: You never eat pasta.
Me: I might one day.
Him: Get rid of it.
Me: Um, ok.

And so it went.

Finally, my apartment was clean, about one year before I met my husband in 2003. And today, despite the presence of a very disorganized six-year-old, my home is clutter free.

And my subscriptions to magazines? They’ve all been cancelled. And by cancelled, I mean I read them, but at the manicure place. In fact I’m reading one now. And Lady Gaga is on the cover. But not in a Meat Dress. That would be messy.

— Estelle Erasmus

Estelle Erasmus is an award-winning journalist, writing coach, three-time BlogHer Voice of the Year award winner and former magazine editor. She writes the Practice in Parenting column for PsychologyToday.com. Find her writing on Salon, The Washington Post, Your Teen, Newsweek, Redbook and more. Follow her on twitter at @EstelleSErasmus and on Facebook. She shares publishing tips and tricks on her blog Musings on Motherhood & Midlife.

A mom’s prayer

Anjana AvinashThere are moments in life when we have no other recourse but prayer. I find this true especially in the case of moms.

Recently my 15-year-old daughter had exams while my 11-year-old was happily in a world sans examinations. I was reduced to an emotional wreck by their antics during this period, and this is the prayer that came straight from my heart:

 Dear Lord, please help me to hang on to what little shreds of sanity I’ve managed to retain in this very trying phase of life. Help me not to surrender to my baser instincts and howl like a banshee when I have a dire situation in hand, like the combination of a slightly stressed out teen, an impish 11-year-old in a world of her own and a spouse with mercurial mood shifts. Please cool my temper when I feel like clonking the spouse when he wildly swings from “Does our daughter have to study so much?” to “Why isn’t she studying?” Kindly help the poor man make up his mind as to what he wants her to do.

Let my children understand that there’s a four-year gap between them, and they have to behave accordingly. The 11-year-old acts like a 15-year-old and vice versa. Please, Lord, make the younger one understand that lazing around with a smirk in front of her sister and listening to music at a volume which can easily be heard in the next state is really not conducive to my peace of mind. Please make my teen aware that the time spent in conjuring elaborate schemes of revenge can be better utilized in studying.

I’m so thankful that my teen has created a timetable for her studies and is adhering to it. But you have to assist me here, in my efforts to pound it into her that it’s a timetable and not the Constitution. She can veer away from it once in a while to listen to my lectures. I’m a mother and I have the sacred right to deliver long monologues to my children. She needs to comprehend that “I’m studying !” is not sufficient reason to escape from my ramblings. Please help me gain some clarity on this issue.

Dear God, I wish to become a Tiger Mom, cracking the whip, barking instructions at my offspring, creating punishing schedules and frowning on rest and relaxation. Or maybe not, because I’m starting to scare myself!

Why does my teen think that during exams I become a fount of knowledge? The other day while I was peacefully crushing candies on my phone, my daughter approached me with a doubt. The sudden shift from the world of candies to the world of science was in itself a shock to my system. Then she asked me a question that had words like “evolution” and “generation shifts” in it. For a few seconds I gave a very creditable impression of a weak-headed goldfish — slack jaw, glazed eyes and an open mouth. Thankfully she quickly grasped the futility of the situation and quietly told me that she’d check with her grandmother, who’s an absolute whiz on such stuff. I couldn’t even send a plea your way, Lord, since my brain actually stopped functioning.

Dear Lord, is there a secret portal in washrooms that leads to an alternate universe? My teen’s visit to the washroom increases dramatically during exams. I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s just enjoying the peace and quiet in there with some of her favorite books for company.

Dear Lord, this is just the beginning of exams and already I’m a wreck. As the days progress, you’ll find me quite often on the hotline with you. Please bear with me.

Yours faithfully,

A Stressed-Out Mom

— Anjana Avinash

Blogger Anjana Avinash lives in Kerala, the southern-most tip of India otherwise known as “God’s own country.” She blogs at The Glass Bangle and The Greedy Reader. Another blog she started with her husband includes his photographs and her poetry.

Talk of the town

Isaac AlonyInstead of a keeping a food journal like fat people do, I decided to keep a speaking journal of my day. The words in parentheses are what I was thinking at the time.

Wake up:

7:30 “Ugh. Why am I so tired”? (Because I take like six different prescription medications that [a] don’t work, other than to kill my already subdued sex drive, and [b] don’t interact well with my self-medicating, overly excessive alcohol consumption.)

Morning Prayers:

8:00 “Eh, f*** it.” (Because I’m lazy and can rationalize my inaction in 70 different ways. Here’s a sampling: My religion teachers were douches/why do bad things happen to good people/I’m a badass/where was God when 6 million, blah blah blah. I’m lazy as hell and will likely be a full-fledged atheist in a year.)

Elevator:

9:15 “This must be the local.” (Trying to impress the ladies with my humor.)

9:16 “Why can’t they play normal music on elevators?” (Trying to impress the ladies with clever observation and strong opinion. In truth, I like this song.)

Work:

9:20 “So, looking forward to the weekend?” (I don’t have the confidence to speak my mind and feel safer using clichés.)

10:30 “It’s supposed to snow next week. So much for that global warming, huh?” (Safe weather comment and clever environmental analysis in one shot — trying to impress the ladies.)

10:36 “Did you catch the game last night?” (Trying to establish the macho, sports enthusiast side of me to show I’m a well-rounded individual despite being an Orthodox Jew.)

Starbucks:

1:20 “Why don’t they just call the sizes small, large and medium?” (Clever rant against a big company merely trying to express its individuality.)

1:21  “I remember when a cup of coffee was 50 cents.” (Trying to impress the ladies with my life experience while indirectly referencing inflation, which makes me seem concerned about the economy.)

1:22 “Excuse me, but I don’t see a sign that limits the amount of sugar packets I can take.” (I paid three bucks for your crappy Red-Bull coffee that gives me raging panic attacks, yet which I continue to drink because change gives me panic attacks, so I’ll stuff my backpack with those sugar in the raw packs if I want.)

2:00 “Excuse me, but I don’t see a time limit for the bathroom posted anywhere.” (I would have finished quicker, but your frequent knocking made it difficult to focus on completing that Su Doku.)

Train:

6:25 “Hey, let ‘em off first.” (Trying to appear like a responsible individual concerned with the efficient running of our transit system.)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:37 “Well missy, I don’t think that touch constitutes unlawful sexual misconduct.” (It does.)

6:37 “So, call the cops. Am I supposed to be scared?” (I’m absolutely terrified.)

Supermarket:

7:15 “That customer has more than five items. Why is he allowed in this express lane?” (I’m a whiny, impatient, craving-interaction-in-any-form ogre.)

7:16 “No, screw you a**hole. You have like nine things in your basket, and I’m not even counting your assorted apples improperly placed in a single bag as individual items.” (I think I can make up for being bullied as a child by being an aggressive, needlessly confrontational adult.)

7:24 “Credit.” (I think I qualify for Chase reward points this way.)

7:25 “Can you double bag those?” (See: Starbucks, sugar packets.)

7:27 “Thanks, have a good one.” (f*** you)

Home:

8:25 “It’s delicious, honey.” (It’s not.)

11:00 “The safeword is Rumpelteaser.” (Because I wasn’t breastfed properly.)

— Isaac Alony

Isaac Alony is a New York attorney and father of four who every day contemplates making a run for it. Every single  day.

Heartbreak hotel

Gianetta Palmer(Editor’s Note: This Valentine’s Day essay features the top 50 classic rock songs of all time. Author Gianetta Palmer has italicized the song titles. Instead of using the title Sultans of Swing, she used the band’s name — Dire Straits. Special thanks to Gina Barreca for the punch line.)

“Is that cocaine?” Officer Roxanne asked the quiet young man.

“I imagine so?” he replied.

“You’re fortunate, son, that I don’t arrest you now. What’s your name?” she asked.

Thomas Sawyer. But folks call me Tom.”

“Hmm. This photograph doesn’t look like you. Where you headed?” asked the officer.

He thought for a moment before answering, “I’m going to LA, woman!” he said sharply pounding his hands on the steering wheel.

“Calm down, son. LA? You better get on a rocket, man, because I’ve got more than a feeling that you aren’t headed for LA.”

“Haven’t you ever wanted to go your own way?” Tom asked.

All right now,” she said. I know school’s out for summer, but I wasn’t born to run around like you youngsters do these days. This job has a stranglehold on me. I know that I’m an African American woman and I carry a lot of sweet emotion around with me, but my heart got broke this morning. My son, that sweet child o’ mine told me point blank this morning that he wanted to move back to sweet home Alabama. Why would he want to do that?”

“Sometimes, you have to turn the page,” he said simply.

They were quiet for a moment, and Tom stroked the package lying on the front seat of the car. “What’s that?” asked the officer.

“It’s a Kashmir sweater for my girlfriend, Layla,” he said.

“Layla? Is that why you’re leaving La Grange? Is she in LA?”

“I think so. My home boys were back in town last week and said they saw her in some dive called Baba O’Riley’s singing after midnight. She was supposed to head home that day after her audition, but now I’m paranoid that’s she decided to stay,” Tom said.

Well, kid, don’t stop believing, you gotta live and let die and keep on like a rolling stone,” said Officer Roxanne.

That sounds like a day in the life of a rock star,” said the young man.

Nope. Just the daily crazy train I ride every day running after folks like you,” she said with a tight smile.

“I’m sorry, Officer. But, this Valentine’s Day sucks. Layla has me freefalling so hard that I feel I’m like smoke on the water. Just ready to float away…

They were quiet for a moment.

She’s a damn barracuda! I need some help,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“Is that why you had the cocaine?” she asked. “Were you going to sell it? Or get comfortably numb?”

“I was going to sell it,” he said. I figured everybody wants some.

“Sorry, son. You’re too young. Hell, you’re not even old enough to be back in black. You’ve got your whole life to rock and roll all night. Maybe you just need to forget about Layla?

“She was the first person to tell me I feel like makin’ love. She fills this space, oddly enough, that no one has been able to fill. I want you to want me is our favorite song. She liked Bohemian Rhapsody, but we heard it so often that it got on our nerves.”

“Now you’re rambling. Man, we have got to find you someone new. And closer.” She watched him yawn again for the hundredth time. “When was the last time you closed your blue eyes and let the black water of sleep flow over your troubled mind?”

“I don’t know,” said the young man.

“You’ve got to enter the Sandman,” she said. “And at my age, you can’t fear the reaper, either,” she said with a laugh.

“I’ve no place to go,” he said. “Can you give me shelter?

“You see up along the watchtower back by the prison gate?” she asked pointing to the far side of his car.

“No. Can you show me the way?” he asked looking in that direction.

“Are you sure, son? It is Valentine’s Day,” she said.

Realization began to sink in for the young man; he was in dire straits. He wouldn’t be rocking in the free world for a very long time. To hell with Layla, he knew he wasn’t going to the Hotel California. She definitely wasn’t the sunshine of his love.

“I’m ready, Officer. This is just what I needed. I’m sorry about your son.”

Officer Roxanne smiled at him as she placed the cuffs on him. “That’s okay, son. I think the both of us needed this conversation today. As a wise old friend told me, it might not be the Hotel California, but at least you tried, and didn’t end up in Heartbreak Hotel.”

— Gianetta Palmer

Gianetta Palmer is an author and blogger living in the North Georgia Mountains. She is the author of two collections of humorous essays and blogs regularly at her popular website www.middleagedfatwoman.com. Her upcoming novels introduce the reader to a fantasy adventure that offers the possibility for a do-over of the last 25 years. Jaguars, mood rings, cook books and horn-rimmed glasses are the key elements to new beginnings. But will they survive the journey? She can be reached at gianettapalmer@gmail.com.

Look, it’s not a bird or a plane…
It’s a blog about frequent flyers!

Stephanie LewisI’m petrified of airline travel, but instead of giving into the phobia (besides, flying is the only way I’m getting to Dayton, Ohio, for a certain writing conference!), I’m channeling my fears into something productive.

I’ve categorized the following types of airline passengers. Do you know any of them?

The Air Preparer: He’s the MacGyver at 40,000 miles. Need a bandage, cough syrup, earplugs or screwdriver? He’s your man.

The Air Armchairer: She makes a beeline to her seat so she can beat you out. Giving you an evil glare as you stagger innocently down the aisle, you notice her elbows hogging both armrests. Do you dare claim what’s rightfully yours?

The Air Barer: Is this a 747 or a hot yoga class? She’s so scantily dressed, her mother would make her put on a trench coat. Oh wait, that might be even more provocative!

The Air Scarer: This person makes your peanuts and pretzel packages stand on end with their tales of terror. On another flight they were recently on, the pilot had to release all the luggage to lighten the load. Still a different flight they had to drop all their fuel and ultimately all the passengers as well. Gasp. But the most horrific flight of all was when they ran out of Diet Coke.

The Air Prayer: This individual should never sit next to an Air Scarer. You can recognize one of these quite easily because their lips move silently in a constant state of prayer as they clutch their rosary beads until the plane touches back on ground.

The Air Affairer: The longing, seductive looks they give one another from business class to coach is their mark of distinction. They don’t dare sit in the same section lest someone knows them. Watch for synchronized bathroom trips. (Being crowned King/Queen of the Mile High Club would be their ultimate frequent flier reward.)

The Air Solitairer: Yes, this guy flies all by his lonesome self. But that deck of cards is in continuous motion. Look! That red Jack can go on the black Queen!

The Air Marryer: No sooner does the pilot point out Mt. St. Helens when he directs your attention to a passenger seated over the wing who is now going down on bended knee. Will she say yes?  Maybe he couldn’t do this on the ground because he’s counting on the diamond looking bigger under the little cabin book light?

The Air DayCarer: She has not just one, not just two, but three kids and she’s brought enough provisions to put a preschool to shame. Hey! Will she share a handful of cheerios and that etch-a-sketch with your own cranky child? No she will not, stupid — next time, fly more prepared.

The Air Pairer:  These two are lifelong friends going on a gal-pal weekend and they love to chit-chat with you seated in between them. Why didn’t they book seats right next to one another??  Because one needs a window and one needs an aisle and talking over you is a stimulating challenge. Just read your book and shut up, okay?

The Air Error: This guy flies planes for a hobby and he’s gonna run down the list of all the mistakes they’re making. Think you can do it better? Get in that cockpit and take contol!

The Air Swearer: Salty vocabulary is an understatement and if he’s seated next to The Air DayCarer, he better watch his language — she’s gonna have her kids paste his mouth shut with their gluesticks during art and craft hour.

The Air Comparer: “Jet Blue has far more leg room than this cracker jack plane. Did you know United baked oatmeal cookies on a flight once? Wonder if Virgin Airlines would hire flight attendants as ugly as these?” Thank you for sharing!

The Air Despairer: This individual is absolutely petrified to fly and you’ve got the nail marks in your arm to prove it. What was that noise? Did you see that little red light blinking on the wing? What if the pilot just found out his wife is leaving him and chooses today to fall off the wagon?

The Air DentalCarer: Flossing teeth in public is yucky. But traces of blue toothpaste left in that itty bitty sink can only mean one thing. . . Someone’s mouth is minty fresh during this flight for a good reason.

The Air Sharer: By the time you land, you’ve seen all their grandkids, know their favorite scene from The Wizard of Oz and split a hoagie with them. But you booked a red eye to sleep.

The Air Darer: He’ll scamper boldly off to the bathroom even if the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign just came on.

The Air NonFootWearer: Yes, we know they need to let their toes breathe. But do we need to breathe their toes?

The Air Starer and Awarer: A very nosy individual, scrutinizing every passenger on the flight, the wheels always turning. Hyper aware of subtle mannerisms and nuances, taking notes so she can write a blog about it and later submit it to Erma Bombeck’s humor site. Nah, those people don’t really exist!

— Stephanie D. Lewis

Stephanie D. Lewis regularly contributes to Huffington Post as well as pens a humor blog, “Once Upon Your Prime,” where she tries to “Live Happily Ever Laughter.” She also writes an ongoing “Female Fun” column for North County Woman Magazine called Razzle, Dazzle & Frazzle and was named one of 2014 Voices of the Year by BlogHer. Her 2008 book, Lullabies & Alibis, is the tale of marriage, motherhood, mistakes and madness.  As a single mother of six, she knows a lot about the madness. She’s supervised potty training and driver’s training simultaneously. Too many accidents. A live-in housekeeper?  Nah, she’ll take a live-in psychotherapist.

Valentine vixen

Steve EskewDue to a dramatic happening during my youth, I had always vehemently avoided celebrating Valentine’s Day. Until recently.

But, believe me, I didn’t exactly evolve into the patient, romantic, enchantic charmer I’ve become. After wedding my present ball and chain, I surprised myself by swiftly surrendering into the Valentine mushiness of wining and dining my woman. Why? Actually, I’m a little bit afraid of her.

I don’t understand how she could possibly have considered me unromantic in the first place. Having been quite the player over the years, I don’t recall a single woman complaining that I wasn’t romantic enough. (Full disclosure: most of my girlfriends were inflatable women).

My very first date happened on a Valentine’s Day when I was a 16-year-old incurable neurotic. My raging adolescent hormones were surpassed only by my impatient nature. Classmates nicknamed me Impatient Pete. Confound it, I was a busy boy. Out of my way, world!

My attention span was measured several times and never surpassed 44 nanoseconds. When at home, I couldn’t wait to join my friends at school. When in class, my daydreaming made it impossible to concentrate. Especially one day when a big girl named Fast Nancy made wicked eyes at me and insisted that I take her to a Valentine dance. How could I refuse? Actually, I was a little bit afraid of her.

Arriving at her house 20 minutes early, I was chagrined to learn that “Fast” Nancy wasn’t ready. Then, how the hell did she get that nickname? During the eternal wait with her parents, her dad inexplicably babbled on and on about his ability to knock a guy out on the first punch. Just as a heavy glaze crossed over my eyes, my date mercifully descended the staircase. Promising her parents to drive carefully, we slid into my red Studebaker and slowly drove out of their sight. I checked my watch and exclaimed: “Wow! Time’s a wasting!”

I burnt rubber.

At the dance, I wanted to burn up the carpet. Since I kept stepping on her feet, Fast Nancy soon nixed the idea of romantic (boring) slow dances. Instantly, a miracle was in the making as Fast Nancy finally lived up to her name. Turned out, she could dance faster than Chubby Checker. Looked a little like him, too. I was falling in love. With dancing. Having a ball. Dancing. In less than an hour, however, my antsy noggin was rushing me onto other things.

So, Impatient Pete soon danced Fast Nancy right out the door. We raced off to Nifty’s, a popular teenage eatery. Crafty cronies had told me that a movie and dinner was defined as “code for foreplay.” So what was a fast dance and fast food code for? And, just what was foreplay?

Wouldn’t ya know, Nifty’s was packed. As we waited in line, I demonstrated my impatience by pounding the palm of my hand upon my thigh.

Fast Nancy became annoyed: “What gives? Are you trying to make some invisible horsey go faster?”

“Well, my God already! What’s holding things up? We were in kindergarten when we got into this line.”

Complaining incessantly about the “sloooow” service, I hurried Fast Nancy through her french fries so that we could make a rapid run out to Make Out Point. After a few minutes there, I informed her that I wanted to wrap things up ASAP so I could get home and watch the late movie.

Fast Nancy blew her stack: “Expedite! Expedite! Expedite. That’s all you want to do, you dork! I have an idea: let’s see how fast you can drive me back home!” she yelled. “Yes, Ma’am!” I exclaimed. “Wow! Now I’ll even make it home in time to make popcorn before that movie begins.”

I burnt rubber.

Suffice it to say, Impatient Pete flunked Make Out 101. As a result of our momentary visit to Make Out Point, crafty cronies re-nicknamed Fast Nancy as Avenging Vixen. Worse, due to her tirade about our “nanosecond” night, Impatient Pete became known as “Eskew the Sexpediter” — promptly plunging me into eternal virginity.

Actually, I lost my virginity to my third wife who promptly redefined the word “foreplay” as code for two hours of begging.

As for my first Valentine? Clearly, we’ll never have Paris.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Pop quiz. Pop quiz. Pop quiz.

Paul_Lander(Editor’s Note: These pop quizzes originally appeared on Huff Post Comedy. Reposted by permission of the author.) 

Pop Quiz: T.S. Eliot or Missy Elliot

1. When it’s time to rhyme rhyme, I can get down for mine.
2. And there isn’t any call for me to shout it. For he will do, as he do do and there’s no doing anything about it!
3. Effanineffable
4. If you came to freak-a-leak you better bring your hat.
5. I got a cute face, chubby waist. Thick legs, in shape.
6. For a similar reason, when game is in season, he is found, not at Fox’s, but Blimpy’s.
7. Rum Tum Tugger
8. I’m like kak-a-rak-a-rak-rak-a-rak-a-rak.
9. Keep your eyes on my bum-bum-bum-bum-bum. And think you can handle this gadong-a-dong-dong.
10. Well I never! Did you ever, know a cat so clever.
11. Is it worth it, let me work it. I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it.
12. He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake and, when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

TS: 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12
Missy: 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11

Pop Quiz: Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” or Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

1. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.
2. Place your head on my beating heart. I’m thinking out loud that maybe we found love right where we are.
3. Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
4. And the rest is rust and stardust.
5. Maybe it’s all part of a plan, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes hoping that you’ll understand.
6. Look at this tangle of thorns.
7. Don’t cry, I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is.
8. Take me into your loving arms, kiss me under the light of a thousand stars.
9. Right now. Come just as you are. And we shall live happily ever after.
10. I talk in a daze. I walk in a maze.
11. Honey your soul can never grow old, it’s evergreen.

Vladimir: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10
Ed: 2, 3, 5, 8, 11

Pop Quiz: Our Gang Little Rascal or Alternative Rock Band

1. Fishbone
2. Buckwheat
3. Zebrahead
4. Alfalfa
5. Froggy
6. Weezer
7. Holly McNarland
8. Moose
9. Bonedust
10. Spanky
11. Saliva
12. Spud
13. Fatboy Slim
14. Sunshine Sammy
15. Farina
16. Breezie Brisbane
17. Snowcake
18. Skillet
19. Dinah the Mule

Our Gang Little Rascal: 2,4, 5,9, 10,12, 14,15, 19
Alternative Rock Band: 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 13, 17, 18
Both: 6

— Paul Lander

Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written stand-up material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in Huff Post Comedy, McSweeney’s, The New YorkerSanta Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. In 2015, he placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual column contest in the online/blog/multimedia category for his pieces in Humor Times and was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month” in April.

Reflections of Erma