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Finding your people

Helen Chibnik(Editor’s Note: Helen Chibnik responded to a call for observations from writers about how the EBWW changed their writing lives. Here’s her response, followed by her blog: “I cannot tell you how much I got from that workshop. You would think that the workshop content would be the best part but it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the content was worth five times the price, it was wonderful and I still use the timer that Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney gave us. I use it everyday. It reminds me of so much I loved about the pair of them. Anna Lefler’s session inspired me to work on a novel, to write more and care less about what other people might think. But, for me, that workshop provided a community of people who think like me, who understand what it means to be a mom, a professional, a daughter, lose a loved one, and to fail and to still find something to smile about. People who feed on humor for therapy, even for survival sometimes. I don’t think there is a another collection of smarter, happier and more insightful people than the Erma attendees.”)

I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last April and responded to a request for comments on successes attendees have had since that time.

If you know this particular group of people, you would know that successes are measured in many ways. “I finally found the courage to ask for what I want” or “I finished and published my novel” are both acceptable answers. I thought long and hard about my own answer to this call for success stories because I did not finish a novel, nor did I find the courage to speak up.

I found my people.

Every meeting, everyday, every meal, snack, session and after-hours moments led me to the most interesting, loving and funny people you could imagine — and not always in the knee-slapping belly-laughing kind of way.

I sat next to a woman who lost her 16-year-old daughter to suicide. She shared her story with me, how she came to terms and now was looking to find her “funny” again.  It’s as if  “funny” was a drug. Of course, there were outlandishly funny people there, including stand-up comics, humor bloggers, even TV personalities known for their funny side.  And there was no shortage of fiction and non-fiction writers of satire.  The most hilarious new greeting came from a  person who told me, “I don’t even know why I’m here! I’m not even a writer!” She was looking for something new.

Some of us find our people at Wal-Mart, some at Armani.

It’s important to find your people, no matter what age you are. I first found my people in college, where I learned how to party and realized the value of hard work. I found my people in my first “real job” where all of us post grads suffered under the hands of a boss who made Michael Scott (from The Office) seem average. I found my people when my twins were born, and a bunch of the moms of twins joined together in joy and misery. I found my people at Erma.

From every stage of my life I’ve found my people because I go out and be where we can find each other. I’m not always looking for them, I  don’t know who they are, what they look like or when they will show up. I know it when they come, however, because they fill up a space I didn’t know was open, and it just feels right.

The best piece of relationship advice I ever got was from a friend, a young professional version of myself. I will never forget what she said while I was despairing about meeting that someone. “Just do what you like to do,” she said. “You’ll find like-minded people who like to do what you like to do, and then you can do that together.” In fairness, my mother probably said that to me many times, but, let’s face it, a mom’s advice is usually only good in hindsight.

I spoke to my friend, the advice-giver, recently and even though it had been years since we last spoke, it was as if it was just the other day that we parted.

Once you find even one of your people, they will always be with you — despite distance and time. They will never leave. They’re your people after all, and you are theirs.

— Helen Chibnik

Helen Chibnik is a writer and part-time music teacher who lives in New Jersey with her husband and teenage daughters. Her work can be found in Working Mother Magazine, Your Teen for Parents and Family Fun.  Follow her blog, Instagram and Twitter as Helensgoodideas.

My love/hate relationship
with the county fair

laura-hanby-hudgensAnyone even remotely familiar with small towns knows that that the biggest event of the year (next to Friday Night Football) is the County Fair. For one week, normally sensible parents forego bedtimes, healthy eating, proper hygiene and a whole lot of money in favor of the carnival life. Every year I look forward to the fair. And every year I dread it.

I have a love/hate relationship with the County Fair.

The Rides

There is so much to hate about fair rides. For starters, I question their safely. Three-story mechanisms that whirl, twist, spin and gyrate while simultaneously defying gravity are assembled and disassembled every week like a fleet of Lego ships. This is terrifying. So, I think I’ll strap my kid on board and watch him rotate at g-force speed until he’s on the verge of vomiting. Here’s my 25 bucks for an armband so we can do this over and over. Now, that’s good parenting.

On the other hand, it is the terrifyingness of fair rides that makes me happy to let my kids ride them. It is a good and healthy thing for children to push the limits of their comfort from time to time. It’s empowering to do something scary. So go, Little Man, ride The Zipper and Power Surge and the Ferris Wheel (okay, maybe the Ferris Wheel is only scary for me). Be brave. Be fearless. Just please don’t vomit in the car on the way home.

The Filth

The County Fair is disgusting. My apologies for my continual references to vomit, but it’s a horrifying fact of fairs. People vomit on those rides. Best case scenario, the mess is contained on the ride. Worst case scenario… ya know, let’s not even go there. But it can be bad, like the opening scene from Pitch Perfect bad.

Not only that, but after leaving the fair, there is a layer of dust on everything — our bodies, our clothes, our cars, I think even our teeth. Of course. there are the flies, too. The fair is like Club Med for flies. I guess this is because of the 24-hour buffet of discarded fried pies and animal poop that is available to them. These flies are annoying mainly because after their horse poop fly orgies, they enjoy alighting upon food and people.

And yet, maybe it’s the farm girl in me, but one of the things I love about the fair is the smell of fresh manure. As far as filth goes, that’s about the only perk, but I do dearly love it. Horse manure mingled with the scent of hay and the faint smell of funnel cakes cooking in the distance. It almost makes the dust worth it. Almost.

The Food

Speaking of funnel cakes, I love fair food. Where else can one or would one ever eat a footlong corn dog with a side of cotton candy and a snow cone chaser? The fair is a veritable smorgasbord of all things fried, processed and sticky.

Which is why I also hate fair food. The food at the fair is basically poison, deep fried and/or on a stick. I feel horrible after eating it. My kids feel horrible after eating it. And it most definitely does not mix well with those whirling, spinning rides I mentioned earlier.

The Exhibits

Not being much of a rides person myself, I prefer to spend my time wandering through the exhibits. It’s enough to restore one’s faith in this great nation and in the next generation. There are rows upon rows of homemade jellies, canned green beans and homemade pies. There are handmade quilts, handcrafted bird houses, homegrown cucumbers, corn, tomatoes and pumpkins the size of a VW. This year someone even entered a pineapple she had grown in her living room using a solution of tap water and Epsom salt. The exhibits at the fair are a testament to American talent, ingenuity and craftsmanship.

I, on the other hand, once paid someone to sew a button on my husband’s shirt. This is why I also hate the fair exhibits. After walking through the exhibit hall, I am faced, once again, with the knowledge that I lack any sort of crafty, artistic or homesteading skills. This is a tough realization for anyone who grew up on Little House On the Prairie and who spent her childhood fancying herself a modern-day Laura Ingalls.

In fact, I have spent much of my adulthood comparing myself to Ma. Would Ma have let Laura and Mary watch this much TV? Would Ma ever stoop to store-bought Halloween costumes? Would Ma use a mix to make her margaritas? I can tell you one thing. Ma would darn sure never have eaten a footlong corn dog.

I guess I am glad the fair is only one week out of the year. On one hand, I wish my kids could have that kind of fun more often. On the other other hand, the fair is really gross and expensive. But it’s also wholesome and charming. See what I mean about the love/hate thing? Oh well, I can’t make the fair come around any sooner, but at least I have a whole year to perfect my canning skills.

— Laura Hanby Hudgen

Laura Hanby Hudgen’s work as appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy,, and elsewhere.  She blogs at Charming Farming.

My baby looks like Orson Welles

Ali Solomon“Does she have a big nose?”

My husband and I stared at the printed ultrasound photos from our 20-week scan to try and figure out what our baby would look like.

“That’s not her nose, that’s the umbilical cord.”

“Coming out of her face? I don’t think so.”

I spent the next 20 weeks waiting to see if my dulcet darling would emerge looking like a pint-sized Jimmy Durante.

We expect newborns to resemble gelatinous mushballs, with squishy, wrinkly faces and unfurled limbs. But as the months progress, their faces fill out, they get rounder, and by the three-month mark are downright cherubic, at least in the eyes of the beholder.

I did not expect my baby girl to look like Orson Welles. But there it was.

Let me be clear: my baby daughter was the most beautiful thing I’d ever laid eyes on. But there was no doubt that the person she resembled most was not me, nor my husband, nor any set of grandparents. It was Orson Welles. And not The Third Man Orson Welles, where he had roguish if slightly stocky good looks. My baby was Touch of Evil’s Hank Quinlan, complete with bad comb-over, portly chub and jowls. Really, really cute jowls.

My husband thought she looked more like an old Marlon Brando, which I found upsetting. “Can’t she at least resemble a young Marlon Brando, before he got fat?”

“Have you seen this baby?” he replied. “I tried to put a onesie on her, and it was like stuffing a sausage into a casing.” He saw the look on my face. “A really, really cute sausage.”

Hmmph. I put her to bed before she could make us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

If my husband and I, the doting parents, think our baby resembles an old-timey male actor, what do others think? When family members say she looks like my husband, do they mean she looks like a 40-year-old man? My friends claim that my daughter is cute, angelic, adorable…the same words that can be used to describe a French bulldog or an Oompa Loompa. When someone calls her “precious,” do they mean like in the movie Precious?

While out for a walk with our respective babies, I asked my friend Lori, “Does my baby look like Orson Welles?”

“Oh, no, he doesn’t! He’s adorable! Look at those cheeks, I just want to pinch them.”

SHE! I have a DAUGHTER!!!

Lori glanced into my stroller. “Lord Almighty, put a goddamn bow on her or something. It looks like you birthed ‘Citizen Kane.’”

Last week, my infant sat on the floor in her purple-footed pajamas, trying to wedge an entire stuffed bunny into her mouth. Her hair was wispy from static, and her big brown eyes widened when I entered the room. “She looks like Buddy Hackett,” I whispered to my visiting brother.

“I have no idea who that is. Was he in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

“That’s Bob Hoskins.”

“Wow, your daughter totally looks like Bob Hoskins. She even has a rabbit sidekick!”

Ugh. Really.

But the thing about babies is that no matter which fat middle-aged celebrity they resemble, they’re still adorable. Those cheeks! That tummy! That 5 o’clock shadow! And as time passes, my daughter may emerge from her chrysalis looking like a radiant Audrey Hepburn. Well, probably not Audrey Hepburn. Maybe Phyllis Diller. I’d even settle for a young Orson Welles.

And that’s fine. Orson Welles married Rita Hayworth and won an Oscar. My daughter could do worse.

— Ali Solomon

Ali Solomon is a cartoonist and art teacher who lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. Her work can be found on the Huffington Post, McSweeneys, Scary Mommy, Today Parents and other parenting sites. Read more of her ridiculous nonsense at and @Alicoaster.

Why my tennis instructor abandoned me

Usually after finishing our half-hour tennis lesson during the past several months, my instructor would ask me when I wanted to have another lesson.

Sammy Sportface

A few weeks ago he didn’t ask me that.

Our relationship has ended.

When it began, he sent me text messages asking about days and times when I could take a lesson. From the start we had been focused on fixing my forehand because it was, and still is, lame. I couldn’t stop launching the balls towards the ceiling and into the curtain some 20 feet behind the court’s baseline. When I did this, he made an unsettling noise sort of like a cat shrieking.

“You need to hit that forehand more consistently,” he said.

Those were his parting words.

For a while I thought it was the money he wanted out of me. Not improving, I figured, was good for him because that would mean I would pay him to have more lessons. But evidently not dealing with me anymore is worth more to him than what I pay him for lessons.

Mark this down as another relationship of mine that has gone south towards the equator. You know the scenario. Two people just stop talking to each other. There usually isn’t a big argument at the end. They just avoid each other, usually for the rest of their lives.

Whether my tennis game improves seems to be less important to him than not having to watch me mis-hit the ball dozens of times. Maybe he figured I will never get it right so it wasn’t worth his effort. Maybe he got tired of me talking all the time during the lessons and asking him vexing questions about the forehand swing.

Being abandoned by my instructors has become a trend. A few years ago I had a nutritionist who, suddenly, stopped calling and texting me even though I felt the need to come see him to confess about eating Big Macs and caramel sundaes when he told me I needed to eat carrots and green beans. He broke his silence a few months later saying he had gotten out of the nutritionist field. No more meetings.

Would any of us be surprised if my tennis instructor emails me soon saying he’s no longer a tennis instructor?

Tennis, anyone?

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to

Northerly Hills 6020D

Jass RichardsWorking part-time meant I often had more than one job.

One year, I worked the night shift at a residential program run by the Mental Health Association, wherein selected patients from the local psych hospital (those with potential!) were transferred, at some point in time, to 602 — so called because its address was 602 Bonkers Street (I kid you not) — where the staff would teach the residents life skills, help them find a job and an apartment, and generally provide support during their transition from institutionalized living to independent living. I also worked at the O & D (Observation & Detention), another residential program wherein young offenders were observed (O) while detained (D) prior to their court appearance — for trial, sentencing or whatever.

At the end of a week during which I was lucky enough to be staff escort for a trip to the grocery store with the 602s and a trip to an outdoor festival with the O & Ds, I had a great idea: why not pair a 602 with an O & D? I imagined a program that was a cross between those that paired juvenile delinquents with dogs and those that paired ex-cons with people in wheelchairs. I presented the idea — I called it “Northerly Hills 602OD” — to each place during the weekly staff meeting. Surprisingly enough, it was accepted. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was a disaster. Except for one pairing.

Lily was 602’s compulsive shopper. Luann was one of O & D’s shoplifters. The three of us headed out to a mall one day, the two of them delighted at discovering in common an enthusiasm for shopping. They made a bee-line for one of those sprawling economy department stores that have everything you could possible imagine but nothing you could actually want. Let alone need. I trailed behind, at a discreet distance that was supposed to make them feel independent, one of such a trip’s many purposes.

Lily grabbed a shopping cart and began to fill it at once — with socks, T-shirts, scarves, hats, jeans, sweaters, umbrellas — all the while maintaining a chatter that was part auctioneer and part shopping channel spokesperson. Luann followed, recognizing Lily as the perfect decoy, and stealthily secreted various items into various pockets.

By the time they left Ladies’ Wear, Lily was onto her second shopping cart. By the time they’d gotten through Kitchenwares, she’d enlisted Luann to push a third. She was in Shoppers’ Heaven. She’d never filled three shopping carts before.

Luann was feeling aggrieved — it was clear she was outdone. She’d never be able to lift more than Lily was accumulating. So she scored the next item when Lily was watching, and winked at her. Lily was confused for a moment, looking much like a puppy seeing for the first time an older dog calmly walk away with the just delivered pizza box. While stealing clearly had advantages over buying, she realized, as Luann had, that she couldn’t possibly take nearly as much that way. So she decided to stick with compulsive shopping. And that made Luann doubly aggrieved. So when Lily put shoehorns into that third cart — six of them, one of each color — Luann blew.

“YOU DON’T F***ING NEED ALL THIS SH*T!!” she yelled. So loudly she lost half her loot. Among the many items that fell clattering to the floor was a mini-shoeshine kit. Lily stared at this shoeshine kit. Luann stared at the shoeshine kit. Lily looked at her shoehorns. Luann looked at the shoehorns. I call it “the shoe moment.”

Then, wordlessly, they both left the scene. Unfortunately for me, through different exits. I eventually found them both, wandering in the parking lot, looking for my car. (I was doing the same thing.) We left the mall and neither one of them went “shopping” again.

Jass Richards has a master’s degree in philosophy and used to be a stand-up comic (now she’s more of a sprawled-on-the-couch comic). Despite these attributes, she has received four Ontario Arts Council grants. In addition to her Rev and Dylan series (The Road Trip Dialogues, The Blasphemy Tour and License to Do That), which has reportedly made people snort root beer out their noses, she has written This Will Not Look Good on My Resume, a collection of short stories described as “a bit of quirky fun that slaps you upside the head,” followed by its sequel Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun. Her most recent novel, TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of Godcan be purchased (in print and various e-formats) at all the usual online places.


What lies beneath

Laura BeckerLies have been the demise of many a relationship.

However, they are the firm foundation of one very near and dear to my derriere. And I’m not talking about those little white ones either. These are more full coverage and also come in beige, black or cocoa…shapewear.

Spanx aren’t exactly lying, they’re just…well…smoothing things over and enhancing the truth. Okay. Okay. Fine. They’re a bald face lie. Smoke and mirrors, up my skirt, where I typically don’t allow smoke and mirrors, but recently invited the TSA.

You see, seeking to be comfortable for the long journey ahead, I chose to forgo a waistband and wear a simple cotton dress for my return trip. I also decided, at the last minute, to throw on a pair of offbrand, shall we say, flesh colored biker shorts below the flouncy folds of fabric. You see, although the dress was loose fitting, should I find myself unexpectedly exposed by a quick gust while entering or exiting the plane, I wanted to cover my assets. I also knew that I would be flying through Minneapolis, which is a very large airport and I wanted to be able to stretch my legs without rubbing them together.

However, after entering and exiting the super-sonic-see-through scanner, twice, there was something alarming about my attire. The floral cotton fiber of my dress kept flopping over on itself, and it was suddenly necessary for security to lift the front of my frock. Thus exposing the fabrication under the fabric.

And as I stood there in that moment wondering why it felt far more revealing to share a sliver of spandex stretched across my thigh than a full-on peep at my purple panties, the truth hit me:

I’m showing far less, but revealing so much more! Panties are a naughty little secret. Shapewear is a despicable deceit.

Security was exposing my insecurities. And I suddenly understood the real reason Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Peter Parker his privacy. It’s because even though they emerge as the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way, they don’t want their stretchable subterfuge shown either!

That’s why we don’t see Bruce Wayne shaking his stuff, shimmying his booty into the Batsuit, struggling to stretch the crotch higher than his knees. Or on his back on the floor of the Batcave sucking it in as he tugs it on up over his tush. Or a sliver of a Supersuit showing through the a** of some pants or up a kilt at a TSA security checkpoint. Because bulletproof or not, it’s still bumping up that booty and that’s really nobody’s business!

And although mine was not a supersuit, and I didn’t always wear it, my shapewear was part of a secret identity. What “lies” beneath and girds my literal loins along with mental ones. Secret support, that was suddenly no longer secret. And so, rather than asking to step aside, I just lifted the skirt a bit further, exposed the front of my thigh and got on with it. They had already been unveiled. There was no point in pretending that we hadn’t seen them. I refused to be shamed as if I had done something wrong by being a woman and wearing them.

These were my Lycra locked legs and if anybody didn’t like them, they could kiss my spandex-smoothed backside!

And as I lowered my skirt and gathered my dignity along with my carryon, I suddenly felt lighter. So I had on a little help? Big deal! We can all use a little extra support from time to time, the only difference, now everybody knows it. Because the truth shall set you free. And you’ll be really free, just as soon as you make it home and peel off that under armor!

— 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.

Clinton and Trump reveal hairy problems

Maybe because I have unruly hair, I stay awake at night thinking about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I wonder if they struggle with their hair the way I do.  And what if they were to compare notes about their hair?

Mary StobieAt half past midnight Hillary Clinton’s cell phone rings. “I’m in bed!! Who has the nerve to call me so late and wake me up?”

“Donald Trump here. Would you rather I email you?”

“Oh God, no! No email!!!”

“Okay, Hillary. Calm down.”

“What do you want, Donald Trump?”

“Hillary dear, I look at myself on the TV news. My hair looks like a blur — and frizzy!. In one photo it blew straight up like a volcano and exposed my hairline. I didn’t look presidential. With all the campaigning you do, Hillary, flying here and there in different climates, how do you keep your hair looking so obedient, so under control? I’m thinking of using furniture shellac. “

“Donald!! Shellac would destroy what real hair you have left. I really do have to go back to sleep.”

“Sorry to bother you so late. But just before you hang up — please tell me what products you use?’

“I don’t use much, Donald. I wash my hair with Head and Shoulders.”

“Head and shoulders, Hillary? Isn’t that for dandruff?”

“No, I mean yes! But I’m not flaky!”

“Throw me a bone, Hillary. After you shampoo, how do you finish your hair off?”

“I let it air dry. No hairdryers.”

“Ah, maybe that’s why my comb-over looks like a brush fire. I’ve been drying it too much.”

“Donald, do you want to get your hair to look less like orange cotton candy?”


“Try sponge rollers.”

“Rollers! I’ll never stoop that low, Hillary.”

“But rollers give your hair definition. And your hair looks too brassy, Donald. What hair color do you use?”

“None, my dear lady.  My hair is completely natural.”

“But Donald, you used to be dark-haired. Dark hair turns gray, not dog-puke blonde.”

“Let’s keep this friendly. You used to be a brunette, too, Hillary, not a peroxide blonde.  Do you wear a wig?”

“A wig is tempting, Donald Trump. But I don’t want to wig out.”

“I thought of a rug, Hillary. But then people might think I’m a snake oil salesman. Not authentic.”

“But you are an authentic —”

“Authentic what?”

“An animal from the Bible that starts with an A.”

“Don’t say it, Hillary. We’re having such a pleasant chat.”

“Ok Donald, You’ve been open with me, even vulnerable. I’ll share one secret with you. Humidity makes my hair limp. I buy hairspray by the truckload.”

“Tell me, dear lady, what brand? I need a better hairspray.”

“It’s called Lock It by L’Oreal. Just don’t use shellac or varnish.”

“I’m writing this down, Hillary.”

“Okay, Donald, this has to end. I have a big day tomorrow.”

“Fair enough. Good night, Hillary.”

“Good night, Donald Trump.”

— Mary Stobie

Mary Stobie is the author of the humorous memoir You Fall Off, You Get Back On. She  writes syndicated newspaper columns for Colorado Community Media and Senior Wire, and is a professional entertainment speaker.

Vacuuming the sidewalk at 3 a.m.

steven_eskewDon’t call me Ishmael, call me a nerd’s nerd. For a kid who grew up in an era when drug subcultures were rapidly rising, I surely emerged into the ultimate square.

Pepsi, please!

Some of my friends, however, dabbled in mild recreational drugs. Mostly marijuana. Being politically inclined, I quickly embraced the idea that pot should be legalized and stocked at the supermarket. And, by all means, place it in proximity to a generous array of munchies to satisfy one of the drug’s major side effects — a craving for junk food.

Oh, the evils of side effects.

As a college kid, I became addicted to domineering females. Anyway, that’s how I perceived all of my girlfriends. Mostly inflatable women. The side effect? These would-be dominatrices bamboozled nerdy little me into gracing parties where the hosts served booze. Now you’re talkin’. Where had booze been all my life? Who needed drugs?

Booze, please!

But, guess what? Booze itself qualifies as a drug. Who knew? No warning label on a bottle of booze existed detailing the drug’s side effects. Had that been done, my two ultra-nerdy brothers and I certainly would have never been kicked out of an exclusive eatery one night for dancing together atop our dining table.

When it comes to side effects, however, prescription drugs beat out pot and alcohol big time. For a time, even me sweet little Irish mom became a user. Let me qualify: Due to her obsession to stay forever slim, Mom talked her doctor into a prescription for diet pills. Those were the days when doctors commonly issued amphetamines without a second thought about side effects.

Consequently, Mom became an irregular chatty Kathy. She never lost her sweetness, but she was known to chitchat at lightening speed, nonstop, for up to two hours. And ambitious? She busied herself with one activity or another from sunrise to sunset and beyond.

Once, during one of my Christmastime visits, I was sleeping off one-too-many beers. It was past 3 a.m. when out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.  And what to my wandering eyes should appear but a side effect that rarely accompanies beer.

Oh, hell no! There was Mom vacuuming the sidewalk. When Mom noticed my watching her, she waved maniacally. I shrieked in horror and pointed to the cop who was coming up the walk.

As we age, prescription drugs qualify as a blessing and a curse. Oldsters need these meds, but the drugs’ side effects can exceed even some of the hallucinatory frights that dear old dad encountered from smoking bananas in his reckless youth. (He still refuses to discuss the side effects of Viagra, but I digress.).

Worst of all are the commercials for prescription drugs. A holy terror. The FDA requires drug companies to list a drug’s evil side effects for TV ads. That simply means that most one-minute airtime ads use 45 seconds summarizing the drug’s side effects, which include everything from diarrhea to death. That leaves only 15 seconds to embellish the drug’s exciting benefits.

As I age ever so gracefully, even my beautiful body requires certain over-the-counter products, like multi-vitamins. They counteract the side effects of what is commonly known as Tired Blood. That’s when the iron in one’s blood turns to lead in one’s butt.

I especially recommend specially-labeled senior citizen vitamins. Even for you young people. But don’t be surprised if you suddenly experience a strange craving for horehound candy. We, of a certain age, do so love our  horehound fix. Shhhhhh!

But it’s easy to detect a horehound user. Especially one who overdoses. Yes, horehound candy conjures up wicked side effects: mostly fun secretions. What kind? you ask. Oh, like watery eyeballs, post nasal drip and, if you suck down too many horehounds, it can even cause outrageous leakages — in regions which shall remain nameless.

With my nerdy system, a horehound sugar kick rates worse than a caffein overdose, inducing direful insomnia. It’s nearly 3 a.m. and I’m wide awake. That sidewalk of mine looks like it could use a good vacuuming.

— 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,

Reflections of Erma