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The gift of the magi – a dog’s tale

The following story is based on actual events, retold in the spirit of a beloved Christmas classic—with apologies to O. Henry.

Three entire bowls. Three entire bowls full of dog food. Dog food that was completely untouched by the three hungry hounds looking expectantly through the patio door.

Laura sighed as she looked out. She scrimped and saved and pinched pennies where she could, but still there was no room in the budget for gourmet dog food.

Hal stopped off at the Farmer’s Co-op every Friday on his way home from work to pick up a bag of Happy Hound, along with feed for the livestock. It wasn’t that he skimped. After all, he loved those dogs as much as Laura did, but they ran a farm. They had to be practical. So co-op dog food it was.

Of course, Laura understood. Still, as she looked out at those three adorable, hungry faces and back again at their bowls full of uneaten dog food, she knew she had to do something.

Suddenly, she had an idea! Her eyes shone brightly as she rushed to the refrigerator. There it was, way in the back—the stainless steel can, the one that had belonged to her grandmother.

Just a dab she thought. Just enough to add a little flavor. Gently Laura scooped out a glob of the rich, smokey goodness. The dogs stood at the patio door watching eagerly as she carefully poured the melted bacon grease over their dry food, stirring it gently until every bite was coated.

When she opened the door they dogs rushed in and devoured their delectable treat. Laura laughed out loud as they licked their bowls clean.

Each day for weeks she repeated this loving ritual. When she ran low on bacon grease, Laura simply made more. Hal was delighted when he woke up to the smell of bacon frying—and on a Tuesday, no less! He was pleased a few nights later when they had BLTs for supper. “How clever of Laura!” he thought when she served bacon wrapped asparagus at their church Christmas party.

Hal was still remembering this particular delicacy when, few days before Christmas, he came home early from work, a new bag of dog food tucked under his arm. There in the kitchen stood his bride, spoon in hand, stirring. Oh what culinary delights awaited?

“What in the world are you doing?” he exclaimed! For try as he might, Hal could not figure out why Laura would be cooking with dog food.

“Oh Hal! Guess what I’ve done? I’m getting the dogs to eat their food again. They had stopped, but look! Hal! It’s bacon grease—leftover from cooking. They love it! Wasn’t that a brilliant of me!”

Hal smiled and sat down at the table. He pulled Laura down to his lap and kissed her. “I’ve been brilliant too,” he chuckled, showing her the bag of dog food. “I noticed a few weeks ago that the dogs were getting fat, so I decided to ‘splurge’ on something healthier for them. For weeks now, I’ve been buying diet dog food.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men. And being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones. And here I have told you the story of two dog lovers who were not wise. Even so, they loved their dogs, and they loved each other. And that is a great gift indeed.

-Laura Hudgens

Laura is a freelance writer and a part-time high school teacher. She lives on a buffalo farm in the Ozark Hills with her husband and four kids. Her writing career began when she started a farming blog, but she soon realized that she doesn’t really know anything about farming. So she writes about education, family, faith, and food. Her work has also appeared on The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Parent.co, Grown and Flown, and elsewhere. You can read more here.

The benefits of the doubt

When it comes to health care, the most important question facing the American people is this: Is the pain reliever you need to get rid of the headache caused by your employer’s open enrollment covered under medical insurance or do you have to spend thousands of dollars in deductibles before you can write off a bottle of aspirin?

That’s what I asked a very nice and very knowledgeable human resources coordinator named Luann, who recently helped me navigate the process because my 4-year-old granddaughter, who is more technologically advanced than I am, isn’t on the payroll and is already covered under her father’s plan.

“My niece is better on the computer than I am, although I’m an online shopper, so I’m really good at this,” said Luann, who had been on the job for only three weeks before the rollout.

“Too bad the company isn’t rolling out the barrel,” I said.

“That would help,” Luann replied as we sat at a monitor in the HR department and she showed me how to log on to the program.

There were four categories: benefits, health, money and protection.

“Is there a Powerball option?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Luann replied. “If there was, I wouldn’t be here.”

Then we hit the initials: HSA (health savings account), FSA (flexible spending account) and, the one that really stunned me, STD.

“Please tell me it doesn’t stand for what I think it does,” I spluttered.

“It stands for short-term disability,” Luann assured me. “Why?” she added with a smile. “What did you think it stands for?”

“Something that I’m sure isn’t covered,” I said.

I was already signed up for the company’s dental and vision plans, but for the past two years I have been on my wife’s medical plan because it’s less expensive.

“Her deductible isn’t as high as ours,” I explained. “But no matter what plan you’re on, with deductibles these days, you pretty much have to be in a train wreck for them to take effect.”

“There’s a simple solution,” Luann said. “Don’t take the train.”

“Good advice,” I said. “But if something happened, I’d have to pay out of my own pocket. And my pocket isn’t big enough to hold all that money.”

“So what’s the answer?” Luann asked.

I told her the absolutely true story of my three unsuccessful campaigns for vice president of the United States, in 1992, 1996 and 2000, when my running mate, media prankster Alan Abel, was the presidential candidate.

“He ran under the name of Porky,” I told Luann. “I used my nickname, Zez. We were the Gershwin-inspired ticket of Porky and Zez. We ran under the banner of the Cocktail Party. We came up with our health-care plan in New York City, so we called it Big Apple Coverage. Since an apple a day keeps the doctor away, we proposed a 10-cent co-pay on every apple. That way, everyone could afford medical care.”

“I would have voted for you,” Luann said.

“Some people did,” I told her. “They probably couldn’t afford their prescription medications.”

“So there still isn’t an answer to the health-care problem,” Luann said.

“Yes, there is,” I responded. “Porky and I had another proposal: Everybody in America becomes a member of Congress. That way, we’d have the same plan they do and we’re all covered. Either that or kick Congress off their plan and make them shop for insurance like the rest of us.”

“It’s too bad you didn’t run again last year,” Luann said.

“I’m old now, so if I ran, I’d sprain an ankle or blow out a knee,” I said. “And I wouldn’t meet the deductible.”

I thanked Luann for her help and good humor but said I was going to stick with my wife’s medical plan.

“Stay healthy,” Luann said, though after dealing with me, she no doubt needed a pain reliever. I hope it’s covered.

— Jerry Zezima

Stamford Advocate humor columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of three books. Visit his blog at www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net

40 writers selected for EBWW humor anthology

We’re bringing to life a book filled with funny coming-of-age essays from 40 women humorists.

More than 100 writers answered the call for submissions for a proposed humor anthology, edited by prolific writer Allia Zobel Nolan and a team from the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Tentatively titled Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, the book will feature a mixture of Zobel Nolan’s essays and “fall-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-in-stitches” humorous, eclectic contributions from these talented writers:

Amy McVay Abbott
Elaine Ambrose
Karen G. Anderson
Karla Araujo
Leslie Bamford
Jennifer Bryne
Tracy Roberts Buckner
Michele Poston Combs
Kaye Curren
Fritzy Dean
Janene Dutt
Lori B. Duff
Cindy Eastman
Janie Emaus
Christy Heitger-Ewing
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
Sharon Gerger
Tassie Hewitt
Georgia A. Hubley
Carolyn Anderson Jones
Sharon M. Kennedy
Sheri Kuhn
Sandy Lingo
Lisa Marlin
Kelly McKenzie
Amy Mullis
Alice Muschany
Risa Nye
Anne Elise O’Connor
Lucia Paul
Yvonne Ransel
Lorraine Ray
Joanne Salemink
Amy Hartl Sherman
Barbara I. Smith
DC Stanfa
Sherry Stanfa-Stanley
Janine V. Talbot
Denise Thiery
Pamela Wright

“Wow, it sure is great to hear those three little words, ‘You can write!,’ and that certainly applied to the more than 100 submissions we received for our EBWW humor anthology,” said Zobel Nolan, a former senior editor at Reader’s Digest who has published close to 200 books. “To a one, the submissions were all sterling. Of course, that made our job harder. But in the end, the team chose those essays that best spoke to the themes of aging and ‘the way we were’ with originality and clarity. These are unique essays that painted a visual portrait of those particular time frames — essays that made the reader shake her head in agreement and/or laugh until her sides hurt.”

The book is one of two new initiatives launched by the workshop this year. More than 400 writers competed for “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.”

“It’s our mission to encourage and support writers,” said Teri Rizvi, founder and director. “This book provides a creative avenue for some very funny, gifted writers.”

Fat lies

I had just announced to my Love God that I was going to join that famous weight-loss program for my second go-around. You know, the triumph of hope over experience.

My lost weight had crept back, as it often does. So it was time to sign up again, pay my monthly dues and waddle into the weekly meetings.

I went to my first meeting, version 2.0, and weighed in. I cringed as I saw my weight in my record book. How did it get to this, I wondered? I used to weigh far less. Well, OK, that was two years ago. Fat returns when you aren’t paying attention.

With a straight face, my Love God then asked the forbidden question: “So what do you weigh?”— as if that were a normal marital question, like “Have you seen my sunglasses, dear?”

Did I hear that man correctly? Has he learned nothing after 30 years with me and 14 with his first wife? If he insisted on asking a dumb question, I’d give him a dumb answer.

“I weigh 114 pounds,” I replied. That ought to stop him in his tracks. Let him prove I’m wrong.

“114 — really?” he said, eyebrows raised. “That’s very interesting.”

I’d lied, and we both knew it. Game on.

I wanted to dress as lightly as possible for my second weigh-in a week later, so I took my kitchen food scales into the bathroom to weigh various bras and panties. As I was leaving the bathroom, I was startled to meet my Love God in the doorway. I was like a deer caught in the headlights.

“What in heaven’s name are you doing?” he asked.

I  braved the truth.

“I was weighing my underwear to see which pieces weighed the least.”

He rolled his eyes, trying to ignore this Lucy moment.

When I arrived home from the meeting, my Love God was waiting for me. “So how did the meeting go?” he asked. In Honey-speak that meant, “Did you lose any weight?”

“The meeting went well — I was down two and a half pounds.”

“So what do you weigh now?”

Jeepers, did he think I was a mathematician? Lying is so complicated. I had to quickly recalculate my fake weight, subtracting 2.5 from 114, with him staring at me. My weigh-in record book told the truth, but this conversation was not about the truth.

Honey asks every week what my new weight is. I recalibrate my fake weight to correspond with my true weight loss. Apparently, I now weigh 87 pounds, with a final weight goal of 64 pounds.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

— Diane Pascoe is the author of the newly published collection of hilarious essays, Life Isn’t Perfect, But My Lipstick IsHer funny memoir “collects the mental musings of a wife, mother and (sometimes) gracefully aging woman.” She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Eric (also known in these stories as “Honey” and “Love God”) and their two dogs.

 

Sickness does make you the best mommy

I’m lying in bed, half worried to death because I cannot fix breakfast for my family.

I feel like the Salvation Army is doing a street march in my head. I also have a bout of diarrhea that came knocking minutes after going to bed.

In the meantime, my 7-year-old triplets are downstairs, simulating a war zone in the living room.  I quickly grab my phone to check what time it is. Sh*t, it’s 11 a.m.. I’d planned to call my GP at 7.  The last time I checked the time was 6:57 a.m.

I call Dr. Cy, then I call out to the trio. They come rushing to my bedroom, and my son blurts out, “Mom, I’m hungry.”  I direct Liz, the eldest, to go to the kitchen and get soda and cookies. They hug me for being such a nice mom, for allowing them to have an unhealthy breakfast without them begging.

I call a cab and then pick a dress because I only have the strength to wear one piece of clothing. Then I slip my feet into sandals and use the last ounce of strength remaining to brush my teeth and comb my hair.  As I leave, they call out, “Mom, don’t forget ice cream. You promised.”  I nod and slip out.

I must look like Bloody Mary because my GP takes me in quickly. He tests for malaria and I test positive. He immediately puts me on a drip and gives me a shot.

“You should be glad it hit your stomach and not your brain,” my GP tells me.

“It must have known I need a working brain to raise three young children,” I retort.  I don’t allow my mind to think what would have happened if I had cerebral malaria. I probably would’ve been chasing my children with a water gun in the living room.

He keeps me for another half hour, after which he sends me home recommending long rest and lots of fluids. I can take care of the fluids part; the long rest part, I’m not sure.

I am back at the war zone. “Mom, did you bring us ice cream?”

“I will buy ice cream when you tidy up the living room.”

Oops, its 1 p.m., time for lunch. I call the pizza delivery guy, requesting five boxes.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

We shall live on pizza and French fries until I gain enough strength to be the bad momma again — the one who feeds her children half-cooked vegetables and bland oatmeal. Pizza arrives. They eat it with relish.

“Mom, you are the best in the whole wide world.”

“Until I get better,” I muse.

— Florence Kimani

Florence Kimani is a humor writer and blogger from Kenya. She writes satire, parodies and self-deprecating humor.

The other Grandmom

She is Mimi. I am Gigi.

She is short. I am tall. She loves to make oodles of Christmas cookies. I bake mini-muffins. She excels in the small details. I’ve never even met a detail. Her nails are always done beautifully. My ring finger nail has a piece of mulch sticking out right now. She travels internationally and has tons of travel points. I have no travel points. She has a pleasant singing voice. You probably don’t need to hear me sing.

Mimi stands short at just under 5.’ I tower over her at 5’7.” When we visit together, she offers to take the very back row of seats in the van, past the kids’ car seats, because she can walk down the aisle easily. If I try that, I am hunched and get leg spasms. I say bad words.

Every Christmas Mimi and her daughter, Nikki, make enough cookies in one day to serve the entire state of Texas. None of them are burnt, and they decorate them, too. In the pictures they post, she is always smiling. This qualifies her for a halo in my book. I may make one batch and eat most of them before the sprinkles and icing even get out of the cabinet. Who am I kidding? I don’t even have cookie décor.

Mimi is detail oriented. She’ll take the time to fluff that bow to make it look special. She’ll add the little touches of flair to make a dining table enticing. I add a candle wreath to a table and call it a holiday.

Mimi is responsible for my first set of pink and white acrylic nails. Her nails always looked so polished and professional. Mine looked like they needed a good coat of polish.

We went to a nail salon with my daughter, Erika, and all got our nails done. I tapped them on every hard surface just to hear the “click-click-click” noise.

Mimi is always dashing off to Europe for business. I work writing in my sunroom; therefore, no travel points. This is not something she brags about. She has fun stories to share about her travels. I write humor, so we’re pretty alike in the funny story department.

On our last visit together, I caught a tender moment with Mimi and our four-year-old granddaughter, Riley. We were finishing up our tea party, in our jammies, when Riley mentioned “Beauty and the Beast.” Mimi started to sing the song. Her voice is beautiful, even first thing in the morning. Riley’s eyes popped wide open and she giggled, “You know the words, Mimi?” Riley sat on her lap while I filmed the two of them singing

“Tale as old as time
True as it can
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends unexpectedly”

I had tears streaming down my face. They rocked together singing the words. What a sweet, keepsake moment!

So while Mimi can sing, I make one hell of a tea party. It’s very fancy as you would imagine. The very moment the girls’ eyes open, “Tea Party” is the chant. They run to find the basket of little metal teacups. There are two designs. One has hummingbirds with yellow and green little stripes. The other has purple dots and butterflies. A battle usually ensues choosing cups while I make the tea.

Before I came to my senses, we had what one might call “a sugar party.” When I placed the tea on the little tray, I made room for a small sugar bowl. There was a flurry of excitement to add that sugar to the tiny cups of tea. One bowl of sugar sweetened exactly four half mini-cups of tea. Gigi got smart and began to add the sugar to the tea in the pitcher. Otherwise, there was way too much energy for Gigi at that hour of the morning.

Mimi is the grandmom who finds the most beautiful dresses for dance recitals. I don’t know where she finds them, but she has an eye for cuteness. Our granddaughter, Kaylee, wore a flowing lavender dress which looked elegant when she spun in circles.

She should seriously open a children’s boutique. I would shop there!

While Mimi and I are different, we are very alike in many ways. We both laugh at simple things, like dieting. We both love our family. We are both totally over-the-moon in love with our grandkids. We both roll our eyes, which are both blue…not both eyes specifically. We both have blue eyes. (I’m getting detail oriented!!!)

I especially love that Mimi treats my daughter like a daughter. Erika is blessed.

There can never be enough people in our lives who love our children and grandchildren, just like we do.

I am very blessed, too. I love you, Mimi.

— Anne Bardsley

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

Because nothing says romance like a bread maker

The tree was dead. Completely dead. Brown, crispy, surrounded-by-a-circle-of-needles-half-naked dead. And under it was a bread maker, that he swears to this day had no ulterior motive.

Three weeks earlier, we had lugged the booty from a bridal shower in the backroom of Breadeaux up the steps to our new apartment, having just signed the lease on the second story space above the weekly newspaper where my fiancé had recently been named editor. It was $250 per month and had one leg of the city’s water tower sprouting from its roof, but it was going to be ours, together. He had moved in two days before and, after the altar, I was going to migrate the 90 miles south to join him.

His mother had very thoughtfully planned a small shower for me, but then had to change venues when word got out in the tiny town. I knew something was amiss when she mentioned I should go select more stuff because my very rational and reasonable registry had already been run through. Hmmm.

So, my soon to be spouse had dutifully driven me around to every venue in the vicinity to choose any checklist affordable I-don’t-really-know-you-but-I’m-dying-to-see-who-he’s-marrying-while-still-being-very-thoughtful-and-generous-about-it suggestions for our newly extended registry. Economical essentials like tea towels and toothbrushes. And then…
For some reason, that still escapes me to this day, I don’t know why I did it, but I did. I threw in a bread maker.

In the winter of 1994, bread makers were the new novelty marketed to the masses, especially…brides. Which means they came close to the cost of our entire rent and were the fantastical, fantasy fad people threw on their registries, but rarely received. Especially people like us. People who had completely forgone registering for China because the pricey porcelain patterns were far too impractical. People who were grateful for every last gift they had already gotten. People who felt gigantic guilt at the thought of going out to get more.
But nevertheless, the bread maker made the list. Just to prove it could. Just because I’d never actually get one. Just because anyone who knew anything about me, anything at all, could plainly see that I wasn’t very domestic and wouldn’t dare.
But mostly because that bread maker made this bride mad. It was somehow taunting me. With everything I wasn’t and couldn’t have. So, right on the registry it went.

And on the day of the shower, to my shock, I got every item I had registered for but the bread maker. From the 89 women, most of whom I had never met, who had come that afternoon to catch a glimpse of the girl who would be moving to Wayne county after the wedding. My mother-in-law hadn’t even sent that many invitations. Many of them had just shown up; gifts, potluck, and plated cream cheese mints in hand.

And as we hoisted our haul into our new home, there was one more gift…from him. A Christmas tree, set up and ready to decorate with the lights and ornaments he already knew we were going to be gifted.  My husband had a way of making the most minimal gift magical with just a few romantic words. It was his habit and he had done this from the very beginning with everything from journals, to love letters, to three simple carnations because they were all he could afford. His gifts were the best because each one had meaning and said something about us.

And this was no exception. So, we decorated and delighted and dreamed of sharing our first Christmas morning under that tree as a married couple only three weeks later.

But now…the honeymoon was over.

I sat under a tree that had died while we were away, staring down at a bread maker in a box where my romantic gesture should have been, wondering what exactly he was trying to tell me about “us.”

And that was it. No card. No note. No cute little words or romantic ideals. A bread maker. You know, for all of the bread he expected me to bake him…now that I was his wife.

Fear struck me right in my shellfish little soul. What had I done to deserve this? Or rather what kind of man had I married that would buy me a bread maker?
And the cost! We didn’t have this kind of money! Here we were only eight days into our marriage, breaking the bank on bread makers! What kind of spendthrift was he?
My God, what kind of life was this going to be? What was I thinking? Was I thinking? Obviously not! He didn’t know me at all! And really I didn’t know him either! When it all boiled down, we were little more than strangers…BOUND FOR LIFE! I was now bound to a bread maker buyer for the rest of my life!

Maybe I had missed something. Surely that was it. I looked up into his expectant face and…

“It’s a bread maker!” He beamed.

He was happy about this. Proud of it. And obviously expected me to be too.

“Thank you.” I said as I sat and stewed in my nightmare visions of future giftings of crockpots and blenders as I thanked him in my apron and pearls just before vacuuming up the debris with my brand new Hoover.

I have made a horrible mistake! What have I done? My God, what have I done?!?

“I thought you put one on your registry. Didn’t you put one on the registry?”

“Mhmmm,” I nodded biting my lower lip.

But Christmas as a married woman was well underway and we had places to be. So I tucked the bread maker back under the brown tree and thanked him again as we headed out to house hop and spend Christmas with family.

“So what did you get?”

“A bread maker.”

“Wow! That was nice.” And I knew that she knew. My mother-in-law is not one of those naggy or nosey ones. She’s actually quite nice. So, if she already knew, there was something I didn’t.

It turns out that when my husband saw that bread maker on the registry, he got quite a jolt. Not only because it was completely out of our reach, but because he couldn’t possibly imagine me as a bread maker. But if I wanted it, somehow, he would make it so!

There had been 50. 50 that would be available for $50 over 60 miles away. And he had solicited her help in preplanning and plotting to procure one through the hellacious herds of Black Friday humanity. And even though $50 was still a stretch, there it miraculously sat, under my dead tree on Christmas morning. Because this bride had requested it.

That silly bread maker said so much more about “us” than any words or whimsy ever could. And I have learned over the years to be very selective when soliciting what I might like to have. Because he will remember it and do everything in his power to make it so. No matter how odd or out of character or out of the way, there it will be.
Because it has been my husband’s habit and he has done it from the very beginning. He has a way of making the most “minimal” gift magical.

— Laura Becker

Laura Becker is an essayist who currently resides in Redondo Beach with her screenwriting partner/husband. Born in Missouri. Raised in Kansas. Adolescence/young adulthood in Iowa, which, according to Walter Neft in Double Indemnity, makes her a native Californian. She writes, quips, muses and laughs about almost anything…almost.

In. Bam.

In the first 20 minutes alone, 150 writers registered for the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, paving the way for a sellout in record time — just shy of five hours.

(Actually four hours and 42 minutes, but who’s keeping track?)

Writers are flocking to Dayton from 41 states, three provinces in Canada, and Madrid (yes, the one in Spain). We have big contingents from Ohio and California. Nearly half — 167 registrants — are first timers. Five are mother-daughter duos.

If you’d like to add your name to our wait list, click here. The workshop runs April 5-7 at the University of Dayton.

Several writers likened the opening of registration for the workshop to standing in line for concert tickets. “Anyone remember back in the day when you would camp out overnight outside the mall waiting for concert tickets to go on sale? That feeling of we are willing to do whatever it takes, and we are all in this together?’ That is what this feels like. Good luck, fellow Ermites. I’ll meet you in the front row,” wrote Lisa Packer of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Others described their elation after receiving confirmation: “I’m feeling like that kid in first grade who’s wound up and can’t sit in his seat and can’t hold his pencil because he’s so tense with excitement, so he’s poking his desk mate and singing songs and bouncing in his chair, and the teacher is all, ‘Jimmy, if you don’t settle down you’re going to the principal’s office,’ when in reality Jimmy is just happier than he’s been in a while and doesn’t know what to do with all of the emotion coursing through his veins. Yeah, that’s what Erma registration day feels like,” said Joanne Brokaw of East Rochester, New York, who developed a “happiness overdose headache.”

Lela Davidson, of Rogers, Ohio, expressed her joy in two words: “In. Bam.”

One writer humorously detailed her pre-registration preparation: “For weeks beforehand, I did hand and finger calisthenics ensuring that my digits were as nimble and fast as can be. Then, I went online and ordered a bunch of things I didn’t need to test how fast I could put in an order for “stuff.” The day of registration, I got up early, did my hand exercises for two hours, ate plenty of protein, set up my computer to open on humorwriters.org, set up three back-up computers, just in case, closed the cats out of my office, (despite the mewing and scratching at the door), took the phone off the hook, and prayed. One minute to registration, I was poised and at the ready. I was fortunate enough to get straight in on the first try, but because I have a double last name, had trouble. So I did the only thing I could, I deleted my husband’s name and went with my maiden name. It worked. I exhaled YUGELY after I got my confirmation, let the cats back in, and ordered a pizza,” said Allia Zobel Nolan of Norwalk, Connecticut.

Ann Morrow, of Custer, South Dakota, shared her game plan, too: “I marked it on my calendar. Told Siri to remind. Set the timer on the stove. Had my credit card ready and my hands poised over the keyboard like a NASA launch conductor waiting to send the shuttle into orbit. Other than that, I didn’t stress out about it at all.”

Two writers registered despite adversity. “With power down here for hundreds of miles due to nearby fires, I caught a momentary wink of electricity, allowing my registration to go thru, and got in! See you in April!” tweeted Margaux Hession, of Santa Barbara, California, one of the 10 finalists for the inaugural A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.

First-time attendee Julie Burton, of Overland Park, Kansas, registered on her smart phone “completely nude and feet still comfortably in stirrups” because she booked her annual pap smear at the exact time registration opened. “I’m finally going to meet some of the best humor writers in the world. I’m going to learn from them and laugh with them,” she wrote after landing a spot.

Christy Heitger-Ewing, of Avon, Indiana, noted one of the hallmarks of the workshop, its supportive atmosphere. “I think it’s beyond awesome how we all freak out about getting registered but even after registering cannot rest easy until we know all our friends got in, too. It’s like being on the Titanic and making sure our loved ones are in a lifeboat!” she posted on Facebook.

Welcome to the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder and director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. By day, she works as the executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton.

Reflections of Erma