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Erma 101

Ohio HumanitiesWho was the great humorist Erma Bombeck, and why has her writing stood the test of time? What’s her place in literary history? What can we learn today from her approach?

Thanks to support from Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the general public will be able to join writers at “Erma 101” at the sold-out March 31-April 2 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton.

In these workshops, best-selling author, syndicated columnist, humorist and feminist scholar Gina Barreca will talk about Bombeck’s enduring appeal and entertain participants at two 75-minute sessions: 3:30 p.m., Friday, April 1, and 10:30 a.m., Saturday, April 2, in the Auditorium in the 1700 South Patterson Building on River Campus. A book signing will follow the Saturday talk. Visitor parking is available.

Barreca is a professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut and a popular speaker at past workshops. Gina_BarrecaThe author of the upcoming If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times, Barreca told Parade.com that Bombeck “captured the imagination of several generations of women, not just the generation she was writing for.”

In a Huffington Post essay, Barreca said she has “worshipped at the Bombeck altar” since she first started reading Erma’s newspaper columns as a child.

“Erma Bombeck wrote humor challenging the underlying assumptions of traditional domesticity,” she wrote. “While some of it can be placed in the self-effacing tradition (‘After marriage, I added thirty pounds in nine months, which seemed to indicate that I was either pregnant or going a little heavy on the gravy’), her essays often contained less sympathy and more bite than the conventional ‘good mother’ was meant to possess (‘So you swallowed the plastic dinosaur out of the cereal box. What do you want me to do, call a vet?’).”

The $2,000 Ohio Humanities grant will be used for programming, marketing and promotional expenses affiliated with opening the sessions up to the public, according to Teri Rizvi, founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. The times for the workshops will be set soon.

“Erma Bombeck’s writing encompasses a variety of humanities disciplines — from literature to the social sciences. The general public, as well as contemporary writers of humor and human interest essays and books, need to understand Erma’s enduring appeal and why she continues to inspire millions of devoted readers even today,” Rizvi said.

Bombeck, a 1949 University of Dayton graduate, credited her alma mater with launching her writing career. Her syndicated column, “At Wit’s End,” appeared in more than 900 newspapers. She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Bestsellers List. Bombeck also appeared regularly ABC-TV’s Good Morning America for 11 years. She was still writing her column for Universal Press Syndicate and developing a new book for HarperCollins Publishers when she died from complications of a kidney transplant on April 22, 1996. This year marks the 20thanniversary of her death.

Launched in 2000, the wildly popular workshop attracts 350 writers from around the nation and always sells out. The 2016 workshop sold out in less than six hours.

The 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities; Writer’s Digest; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Books & Co.; Dayton Marriott Hotel; Dayton Mailing Services; 91.3 WYSO; Washington Centerville Public Library; and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment.

For more on the workshop, click here.

Surviving women’s health news

Myron KuklaI have some wonderful medical news for women who are worried about the bone loss disease osteoporosis that tends to affect women as they mature. This is also very important news for men who love their spouses and want to see them stay strong and healthy.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have discovered that doing strenuous yard work is one of the best exercises women can do to build and maintain healthy bones.

The study — done by lady researchers I might add — found that women who worked in gardens had healthier bones than women who did almost any other exercise.

This, of course, is wonderful news for women and also great news for their husbands who right now are cheering loudly and giving each other high fives.

I mentioned this new discovery to my wife, Madeline, the other day as I danced around the kitchen waving the article around like it was a freshly minted pardon from the governor.

“Let me see that,” she said grabbing the pardon, I mean the article, from my hands.

“This is just the icing on the cake,” she said after reading it. “Not only do we women have to bear the children, do the majority of the housework, hold full time jobs, but now yard work is healthy for us.”

“I thought you’d be pleased,” I said innocently.

“How come they never do studies that find doing housework is beneficial to men?”

Builds strong bones

The University of Arkansas study found that women who did “heavy and arduous work” in the garden achieved greater bone density than through any other activity. Mowing the grass, clipping hedges, spading the garden, weeding and even digging fence holes are evidently just the ticket to build strong bones as women get older.

In fact, yard work as an exercise ranked higher than dancing, aerobics, swimming or bungee jumping. It’s right up there with weight lifting for building strong bones and doesn’t produce those unsightly muscle bulges on women.

“Hon, just think about how blessed you are to be living in four season Michigan where you can not only do all the gardening and lawn care in summer, but also rake up all the leaves in the fall, clean the gutters, trim tree branches, chop firewood and shovel the snow off the roof,” I offered.

“Wait a minute,” she objected. “It doesn’t say anything about all that other stuff,” she protested. “You’re making that up.”

“Well, I’m just offering some healthy suggestions to keep your bones strong all year round,” I said. “I’m even thinking cleaning the garage and painting the house might also fall under beneficial yard work.”

She eyed me suspiciously.

“Why the sudden urge for me to do things you said were backbreaking work?” she asked.

“That’s just the point. It’s hard and arduous work. And now you can do it because it’s scientifically beneficial for you,” I said.

“By the way, what color wheel barrel and shovel should I get you?” I asked. “How about work boots? Do you want flowers on them?”

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is the author of several books of humor including Guide to Surviving Life available at www.squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks. He is a regular contributor to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop blog.

They were found in a snowdrift

Jan WilbergIs this foolhardy? That was my first thought. My second thought was that he’d left his cellphone in the car and so wouldn’t be able to text me if he fell over with a heart attack where I couldn’t see him.

How long would I wait before I’d go look? And when I went to look, what would I do? Assuming I could find him in the white out, would I start chest compressions or do a quick wrap-up of our 32 years together, bid adieu and head for the house?

These are the questions one contemplates when one is sitting in a car in a whited-out road at the base of one’s very long driveway that is drifted with snow too deep to jam a truck through. We’re here by choice. We could be in the city where there are trucks that plow streets and people who shovel driveways rather than in Grand Marais where a driveway could be plowed and completely drifted over an hour later. The wind off Lake Superior is fierce.IMG_4187

Now that I’m inside, sitting in my favorite very old chair, which was my husband’s cousin’s mother’s chair before it became ours, and I’m looking at our fire and our sleeping dog, listening to the blowing outside, the dark hiding the night’s white out, I asked myself a really tough question.

Am I getting too old for this?

It’s a fair question.

I’m 67. I’m fairly fit. I can walk and swim well and pretty far. But when I finally made it into the house slogging through drifts up to my knees (there have been deeper drifts, believe me) and keeping my head tucked down and my mittens over my face to stave off the wind and avoid frostbite, I was breathing so loud the dogs were scared. One sat shivering and the other paced around me like an anxious relative at an old aunt’s deathbed.

Maybe this isn’t a good idea anymore. Maybe it’s too risky. If he doesn’t have a heart attack and keel over in the snow, maybe I will. He’ll probably remember how to do chest compressions, but he won’t remember to do it to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive.” He’d have to Google the song to which one should coordinate chest compressions thus wasting valuable time and ensuring my brain death. Then again, it’s incredibly cold so maybe he’d have more time to search. If he was so inclined. Which is a whole other question.

Mitigating against the notion that I am getting too old for this is the fact that once I stopped breathing like an exhausted dray horse, I strapped on my snowshoes and made my way back down the driveway to unload stuff from our car, which we’d left running on the side of the road with the flashers on, hoping no one would ram into it because of the white out. But my husband had already driven the car down the road to the marina to park it overnight. So I trudged back to the house in my snowshoes, my mittens over my face, head down.

When I got near the back door, I started wondering, what if the door somehow locked and I can’t get back in? How long can I last out here? How long does it take to freeze to death? What if he simultaneously has a heart attack walking back through the snow from the marina? Neither of us would be in a position to save each other or ourselves. The obit would read “they died within a quarter mile of each other, neither knowing the other had already succumbed, thus avoiding the agony of a broken heart.” Weather can make one’s imagination run wild.

Safely indoors, warmed by the fire and the love of a fine, small, somewhat traumatized dog, I postpone the answer to the tough question: Am I getting too old for this? And I think about whether I should use the bigger snowshoes tomorrow morning because we will most certainly have to hike into town if we are to have any donuts to go with our coffee, snow drifts and wind chill notwithstanding.

— Jan Wilberg

Jan Wilberg writes about everything from national politics to outwitting rats in the basement with the help of her two sons. She is a mother, grandmother and a formerly hearing impaired person rejoicing in the miracle of her new cochlear implant. Her blog Red’s Wrap has a tagline that says it all: Happiness. It’s relative.

Lewd in the library

Roz WarrenSports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue just came out, and all over America  librarians are flipping through its pages and rolling their eyes.

The swimsuit issue, which isn’t actually about swimwear at all, but, is, instead, about young, beautifully shaped female bodies, is the single most stolen item in any public library. Shelve it in your magazine section like any other periodical?  It’ll vanish. Like magic. Always. But hide it behind the Reference Desk and make your patrons sign it out?

Is that just good sense? Or is it censorship?

Every year, the swimsuit issue gets a bit more lascivious — the bikinis skimpier, the poses more provocative, the expressions on the models’ faces less about “Look at my strong, healthy body!“ and more about “Do me! Now! Right here on the beach!”

Of course, the collection of my suburban Philadelphia library contains all three books in the Shades of Grey trilogy, and numerous other examples of sexy contemporary “literature.” (And the sex scenes in the romances we circulate are hot hot hot.)

We librarians tend to be fans of the First Amendment. I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU myself. I even subscribe to Playboy — for the articles and interviews, of course.

What I’m saying is that I’m all for pornography.

But there’s a time and a place for porn. I wasn’t this was the time or the place. I’m in charge of processing and then shelving incoming magazines. Before putting this one out on the floor, I decided to consult my supervisor.

Carol and I perused the issue together.

“OMG!“ “Would you look at that?” “Yikes!” “Do you even SEE a swimsuit in this picture?“ “Gosh!” “I hope her mother never sees that shot.”

This was pretty hot stuff.

We were inclined to stash it behind the reference desk, along with the other stuff that patrons like to steal. The Tuesday “Science” section of The New York Times. The Morningstar weekly stock market updates.

But first, we brought the issue to the head of the library.

Our boss took a look, then said, “Just shelve it. Don’t treat it differently than any other magazine. It’s no worse than what they can see every day on television.”

That woman sure loves the First Amendment.

And, of course, the truth is that we’re living in an era where anyone, of any age, can view all the naked tushies they want, whenever they want, online.

Before I shelved it, my co-workers passed it around. The consensus? We weren’t exactly shocked. But we weren’t exactly thrilled either.

We’re all middle-aged women. Many of us are grandmas. Still, in our heyday, we too were hot chicks. But you can be a hot chick and not want to share that aspect of yourself with the entire world. The kind of young woman who is drawn to library work is rarely the kind of young woman who ends up spilling out of her bikini on the cover of a magazine.

We librarians don’t tend to let it all hang out.

Which means that we are, increasingly, at odds with our culture. Modesty? How retro is that? Dignity? Forget about it.

Still, we proudly stand behind the First Amendment. Perhaps, to a fault.  And while I wasn’t exactly elated about adding that little touch of yowza  to our quiet reading room, I went ahead and shelved the swimsuit issue, just like any other magazine.

Within 24 hours, it was gone.

— Roz Warren

Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor. This essay first appeared in www.womensvoicesforchange.org.

7 classes I wish Adult Ed offered

Flipping through our local adult education organization’s latest catalogue, I must admit it offers a decent assortment of classes, some of which Hubs and I have taken.

For example, together we learned how to roll our own sushi, he took yoga for men (until he hurt his knee), and a friend and I took a belly-dancing class that made us laugh more than it helped us master our stomach muscles.

Roxanne JonesBut some other offerings hold no appeal: I don’t want to learn how to be a dental assistant, make collage resin coasters or attend bridal boot camp.

So that got me to thinking about other topics that adult ed could offer, particularly for us baby boomers. Here are a few I came up with:

Snappy Comebacks in the Face of Ageism

Tired of feeling dumbfounded when the 20-something bagger at the market asks if you want help getting your groceries to your car? Are you tempted to bitch-slap anyone who says how good you look — for your age? In this class, you’ll learn to deliver witty ripostes that simultaneously raise awareness of the offender’s ignorance and insensitivity, and cut him/her down to size. Example: “Don’t worry about me, honey. Worry about your eyebrows.” A set of pocket-sized cue cards is included in course fee.

How to Learn a Foreign Language When You’re Forgetting Words in English

Don’t let tip-of-the-tongue syndrome hold you back from learning another language! Research shows that adults are actually better language learners than kids — despite perceptions to the contrary. You’re never too old to become fluent, and this engaging class provides tips and techniques for doing so, including how to interact in your chosen language daily without traveling, mnemonics and a wealth of free online resources to help you succeed. You, too, can become a polyglot!

Entertaining in the Age of Dietary Restrictions

Having people over for dinner isn’t as simple as it used to be. Gluten sensitivity, nut and shellfish allergies, lactose intolerance, vegan/vegetarian and Paleo devotees, acid reflux issues — what’s a host/hostess to do? In this hands-on class, you’ll learn to prepare a meal that accommodates eight different types of dietary restrictions, along with appropriate wine pairings. Class fee includes cost of food and a discount on our “How to Make New Friends” class.

Boomer Grandparent Etiquette I: Among Friends

Yeah, we know that your grandchild is the cutest, smartest and most interesting kid to walk the face of the earth. But when does talking about his or her achievements cross the line and become boorish braggadocio? What is an acceptable number of photos to show someone at one time? How often should you post about your progeny on Facebook? Do people without grandchildren really care? This class will help you recognize cues such as glazed-over eyes and backing away that signal it’s time to change the subject. Class fee includes a set of magnets for mounting your little darlings’ artwork and/or photos on the fridge.

Boomer Grandparent Etiquette II: Understanding Your Role

When your kids have kids, it’s a wonderful thing. But it’s important to remember that you are the grandparent, not the parent. In this class, you’ll learn where you fit in the new family order along with essential peacekeeping tactics such as avoidance of: expecting your kids to parent the same way you did, nagging new moms about their baby weight, hopping kids up on sugar before sending them home, demanding holiday visits, and pumping grandkids for information about their parents. Fun exercises will test your ability to zip your lip in various scenarios. You’ll also receive a list of alternative names for “Nana” and “Grandpa.”

 How to Stay Sane When You’re Both Retired

If you’re one of the millions of married boomer couples approaching retirement age, you may be in for a rude awakening. For better or worse, retirement poses big challenges to couples who suddenly find themselves together all the time — especially if they haven’t really discussed their expectations. In this class, learn more effective coping strategies than starting to drink at breakfast, locking your spouse out of the house or running away from home — and avoid living unhappily ever after in retirement.

 How Not to Sound Like an Old Fart

If maintaining an image of relevant coolness balanced with the gravitas that comes with age maturity experience is important to you, then this class is legit. Avoid dating yourself with passé words and phrases like peachy keen, in the swim and da bomb, and advance your hipster cred by using (appropriately) such of-the-moment phraseology as hangry, on fleek and FOMO—without sounding like an idiot poser anachronism. An especially useful class for boomer guys who want to date 20-something women, or parents of teens who want to understand what the hell their kids are saying.

Okay, fellow boomers—what do you think? What adult ed classes would you like to see? While you’re thinking about it, here’s your Boomer Haiku:

Having lived this long
we think we’re smart, but we don’t
know what we don’t know.

— Roxanne Jones

Roxanne Jones blogs at boomerhaiku.com, a mostly lighthearted, often irreverent look at life as a baby boomer, 17 syllables at a time. When she’s not tapping out haikus, she’s a freelance medical copywriter, enjoys chardonnay and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.

Ending “at the end of the day”

Sammy Sportface“At the end of the day” is, at the end of the day, one of those phrases like “it is what it is” that we need to eradicate from our daily lives.

Pretentious people say at the end of the day as do people who want to sound impressive and definitive. In business, which is so focused on outcomes and the bottom line, people say at the end of the day often. At the end of the day is similar to the answer to a math problem. It’s like saying “after adding 10 + 10 you get a result, at the end of the computation, of 20.”

Why does “the start of the day” get less airtime? How come people don’t talk about it as much? It’s as if everything of importance happens at the end of the day. Reconsider.

At the start of the day people pour syrup on their pancakes, take warm showers and rub body wash on themselves, and drink sweet-flavored coffee. At the start of the day the sun rises, which is an embodiment of hope that revives the human spirit. At the start of the day people write up their To-Do lists and get energized to accomplish things which, at the end of the day, they don’t completely finish. Often they don’t even complete their first item on the list because they get interrupted all day long or lack discipline. At the end of the day, this is life.

At the start of the day we get to watch highlights of what insults Republican candidates unloaded at each other during the previous night’s debate and wonder what, at the end of the day, it all means. At the end of the day the debates mean it’s time to move on with our lives which, at the start of the day, revives hope. At the end of the day personal insults get us nowhere.

At the start of the day we eat bacon. At the start of the day our hair is combed and clean unless, at the end of the day, we don’t care how we look. At the start of the day we drive around noticing how nice the scenery is and fantasizing about the trees turning green again. But at the end of the day,we know that’s going to take longer than we hope. It always does.

At the end of the day, the start of the day is better than the end of the day. At the end of the day we have to decide something. Decisions go awry and build stress. They cause us to eat too many sweets. Often there are nuances to these decisions based on incomplete information, interpersonal politics and money pressures. Often our decisions are questioned and turn out to be wrong and ill-timed.

At the end of the day we have to think about what we need to do at the start of the next day. At the end of the day we post results that we have to live with until the start of the next day and sometimes long after that. These decisions carry weight, often day after day.

At the end of the day our minds tire. We can’t concentrate for as long as we could at the start of the day. At the end of the day it is dark outside so more difficult to see where we are going or who is walking down our streets. At the end of the day there is less to do other than watch presidential debates that are, at the end of the day, a bad way to end the day.

At the end of the day, this is how it all comes together.

And at the start of the day we do it all over again.

Every day.

— 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 Amazon.com.

Poppie goes to school

Jerry ZezimaWhen I was 3 years old, I knew my ABCs. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the rest of the alphabet until I was in high school.

Even now, my granddaughter, Chloe, who will turn 3 this month, is way ahead of me. So I was thrilled recently when I was asked to assume actual adult responsibilities and, for the first time, bring Chloe to school.

Because my younger daughter, Lauren (known to Chloe as Mommy), and her husband, Guillaume (aka Daddy), had an early morning appointment and would be gone before Chloe got up, I (Poppie) had to sleep over and get her ready for what promised to be an exciting day.

To facilitate matters, Lauren gave me a list of instructions. The first, written in her very neat cursive, was: “Wake up.”

This is extremely important, unless you are deceased, in which case the sleepover becomes permanent.

Instruction No. 2: “Change pull-up.”

“I don’t wear pull-ups. At least not yet,” I informed Lauren, who rolled her eyes (I rolled them back) and said, “Chloe does. Take her to the potty. I’ll leave her outfit in her bedroom. Bring it downstairs and get her dressed after breakfast.”

I perused the remaining instructions, which included what to give Chloe for breakfast (three-quarters of a cup of milk, microwaved for 30 seconds; one strawberry yogurt; and one slice of multigrain toast).

“I spoke with Mrs. Kramer,” said Lauren, referring to Chloe’s preschool teacher, “and told her you were dropping off Chloe and that you would pick her up after school. I gave her a description of you, but you may have to show her your driver’s license.”

I felt like an escaped felon, but I guess you can’t be too careful these days.

The next morning, I followed Instruction No. 1 to the letter and woke up.

“Do you know what to do?” Lauren asked as she put on her coat.

“Yes,” I replied confidently. “I have to go to the potty and then have breakfast.”

Lauren rolled her eyes again and said, “And don’t tell Mrs. Kramer any of your stupid jokes. She might call the cops.”

About 15 minutes after Lauren and Guillaume left, Chloe woke up. I went upstairs to her bedroom and opened the door.

“Poppie!” she exclaimed.

“Good morning, Honey!” I chirped.

I followed the remaining instructions (potty, check; pull-up, check; breakfast, check; outfit and hair bow, check; brown shoes, check; hat and coat, check; backpack and sippy cup, check; carseat, check) and drove Chloe to school.

I waited at the door with her as a bunch of other kids and their mothers showed up. The young women smiled at me, but I could tell what they were thinking: “Who the hell is this geezer?”

A few minutes later, Mrs. Kramer opened the door.

“Hi, Mrs. Kramer,” I said, introducing myself. “I’m Poppie.”

“Hi, Poppie,” said Mrs. Kramer, who greeted Chloe by saying, “Good morning, Chloe!”

“Good morning, Mrs. Kramer!” said Chloe.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license?” I asked Mrs. Kramer.

“No,” she responded pleasantly. “Lauren gave me a description of you. I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, Chloe,” I said.

“Bye, Poppie!” said Chloe, who went inside with her little friends.

I smiled at the mommies and drove back to Lauren and Guillaume’s house, where I made myself useless for a couple of hours before returning to pick up Chloe.

As the door opened and the children exited, Mrs. Kramer held up a bag and said, “Here you go, grandpa!”

I thought she was talking to me, but she was referring to Mike, a fellow grandfather who was picking up his grandson, Mason.

“We’re the only grandpas here,” I said.

“I know,” said Mike. “But I’ve done this before. Mrs. Kramer knows me.”

“No one would mistake us for mommies,” I said.

Mike nodded and said goodbye. I took Chloe’s hand and said goodbye to Mrs. Kramer, who smiled and said, “You did a good job.”

“Did I pass the test?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Kramer. “You can tell Chloe that Poppie got a gold star.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

I want a man for my birthday

Kate MaharI have a few chores around the house that I’ve been avoiding. Things that require me to stand on a ladder or dig up substitutes for tools I don’t own. I may go into a nursing home before the two new smoke alarms get installed.

It got me to thinking (especially since my birthday is coming up) that a really nice present for a single woman would be an afternoon or morning of manly services. No, not that kind. Don’t send me a gigolo when it’s a handyman I’m hankering for. Here’s how it would work.

Do you have a husband or father or son who can perform basic manly tasks around your house? I’m not talking about a certified plumber or anything. But maybe a guy who can carry lawn chairs up from the basement to get ready for the coming season, or clean leaves out of the gutters? Install those damned smoke alarms? (It’s not that I’m some frilly, helpless girlie-girl, but I am only 5’2 and am chubby and old; ladders scare me a little bit.)

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’d appreciate some help once in a while. Someone I’m not paying $20+ an hour to do a lot of things I could probably do myself if were younger and taller. I’ll bet you know someone like me who would appreciate the help as much as I would. Or maybe your friend is a single mom with little kids running her ragged who would give her left nut (if nuts she had) to have a few hours of complimentary babysitting service.

Oh – and here’s another one for the single mom. If she doesn’t have family around who thinks of doing this, offer to take her kids to the store to buy her a birthday or Christmas gift. She’ll even gladly give you the money. It’s just sad all around when mommy doesn’t have anything to open Christmas morning and the kids feel bad that they couldn’t get her a present. I’ve been there. This is a big deal and the friend and her kids will be so grateful to you for the help.

But back to me, me, me . . .

I don’t expect your husband/father/son to come over for the afternoon to help me because he’s just so kind and thoughtful. No. This is where you come in.

Instead of buying me a birthday dinner or a scarf or some other very nice gift, pay off your husband so he’ll feel like he’s getting something out of the deal. Make him chocolate chip cookies or offer one sex-on-demand certificate in exchange for his services. (Stick to the cookies for your father or son, of course.) I mean, putting out is the least you could do for a good friend, right?

In a world where most of us don’t need more “stuff,” I think it makes sense to consider how we can show our love to family and friends in more creative ways.

So there you go. My birthday is April 14 if any of my BFFs want to consider going this route. It’s a big birthday this year, so you’re probably already wondering what to get me. Here’s the answer. And if you don’t know me but just read my blog (thank you for THAT, by the way!), then I hope you will consider this for one of your dear friends who lives alone. Tell her Kate sent you.

UPDATE!

Wouldn’t you know it, but I no sooner wrote this when I urgently needed manly help! My dear friend Carol and her beau, Bob, came to my rescue Sunday morning when a skunk was hiding under the new addition to my house. I knew this because my miniature hound dog, Mick, was sniffing and digging maniacally at a hole leading under the house (the addition, my bedroom, is built on top of what was a deck and is now filled with insulation). When I reached down to drag him away, I could smell skunk residue. Not a full-fledged, gruesome spray, thank goodness.

Carol and Bob drove over in a flash and helped move a large railroad trestle-type length of wood over to block Mick from the hole. I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but I’m afraid there may be more to share before this is done. Tomorrow the wildlife exterminators are coming over to build a wire mesh barrier to prevent Pepe le Pew and his smelly little paramour from making sweet love and birthing babies under my bedroom.

So thank you, Carol and Bob, and an early happy birthday to me! I hope Carol showed her gratitude to Bob in some appropriate manner.

— Kate Mahar

After years of writing everything from trade journal articles on fork lifts to executive speech copy, Kate Mahar is semi-retired from her freelance writing and event planning business. She’s finally spinning stories for the sheer joy of it, writing her first novel and creating humorous posts for her blog, www.katemahar.com. Kate and her two dogs, Mick Jagger and Little Richard, are living happily ever after in beautiful Willoughby, Ohio.

Reflections of Erma