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Sideline coaches: nose-picking, plane-watching, dandelion-blowing dreamers

I was a t-ball coach for two seasons and quickly realized my child would benefit from me not being her coach.

We had fun, but I just didn’t have the fortitude to withstand what was ahead as she grew older and parents became increasingly more insane.

I made this mental note when I had a dad rush out to the batter’s box in the middle of a game, push me aside and correct my coaching of his 5-year-old daughter; a sweet little girl who wanted nothing to do with baseball, but loved dandelions. When she would bat, I would simply say, “Do you see the ball on the tee through that big helmet?” She would nod and I would ask, “What are you gonna do to it?” and she would yell, “Crush it!” That was our thing. That’s what you do to a ball on a tee when you’re a ferocious Tiger!

My style was simple, considering I had nose pickers, dreamers, plane watchers and dandelion blowers — my absolute favorite kind of people! My coaching strategy was to have fun, inspire them, and give lots of praise. We painted our faces to be fierce like the tigers we were. We had treasure hunts to try to learn the bases —  my one goal for the season. We caught water balloons. We learned songs to shout from the bench, and we cheered each other on, no matter what.

One of the best parts for the kids was whatever the snack was. The best part for me was watching them do something they didn’t think they could do and seeing their faces light up with pride and confidence. The fact that I witnessed that in all of them was a treasure I found and will never forget. It was all very simple, and for me, the ideal age and time to be a coach, because all too soon the sideline “coaches” step in with screaming, shouting, badgering and bullying that shatters the simplicity and joy out of it all.

I’m too emotional and mouthy to be able to withstand that. I’m too sensitive. Too stuck to my convictions, and I knew eventually I would cave to a lower level and be one of those people who ended up on the news with a bench-clearing brawl I started because I went after a sideline “coach” like a wild, cracked-out boar.

Therefore, I want to take a moment to give a nod to all the brave people who have continued coaching and volunteering their time, energy, passion, sweat and a little piece of their soul to organized sports. It’s not an easy gig. My husband is one of those people. He genuinely cares for every kid on his team. He’s not perfect, but he’s the one who volunteered and shows up for his team time and time again. He’s the one who calls the shots. Whether he blew it sending your kid home or not, he’s just trying his best after a full day of work, car trouble, trying to find pairs of baseball socks, stripping out of a full suit, stopping for gas, scarfing down a piece of cheese and coming in hot to the ballpark to inspire every kid to just have fun and try their best — win or lose.

As I sit on the sidelines amongst a smattering of sane and insane parents. I have constructed a playbook that I’d like to share with some of you sideline coaches that might help suppress or a least guide your next outburst.

(Everything you need to know you can learn from a t-ball player)

1. BLOW DANDELIONS: Before you move closer to the playing field to step in and offer advice, tips, tricks, or how you would have, could have, have, did when you were in high school, or any other sideline coaching tip, see if there is a dandelion nearby. Blow your hot air toward the dandelion and make a wish for your child to make it pro. Now, go find another one…

2. LOOK UP IN THE SKY: When you feel the need to stand behind the umpire to ensure the 80-pound 13-year-old boy who barely fits in the pads is making the right calls, look up in the sky for airplanes. If the bars of a facemask obstruct your view, you are an umpire. If not, you are an embarrassment.

3. PICK YOUR NOSE: You might feel the urge to pick the lineup, shout out what positions kids should play, or even step in and pitch for the coach who is trying to lob in strikes to a three-foot frightened 7-year-old. Instead, take a moment to shove your fingers up your nose, feel around up there and try to find your brains. If you reach them — wow. If not, keep searching until the game is over.

4. DREAM: If you feel the urge to scream, berate, embarrass, harass, demean or shame your child when they make a mistake, stop for just a moment and try to remember how much you dreamt of becoming a parent one day.

Thank you, coaches, for your time and effort in just trying to get a kid to see how much potential, possibility and magic they have inside — no matter what kind of curve ball comes from life’s sideline.

Play on…

— Courtney Kotoski

Courtney Kotoski is a professional writer and creative director. She’s the author of 16 children’s books in the Gnat & Corky series, a collection of universal stories that are based on the spirit of real kids (@gnatandcorky). You can follow her Keep Your Soul blog or visit her website to read her stories.

Rock and romance

(Reprinted with permission from SHADY Ave Magazine.)

When I’m not writing humor, I spend my time chatting with celebrities and sharing their stories. So heading off on a ’70s theme “Rock and Romance” cruise seemed like the perfect way to combine business with pleasure while fulfilling a teenage dream of hanging out with rock stars. But like everything else, the devil is always in the details…

Forty years ago, my idea of prepping for a rock star moment would have involved a search for the perfect lip gloss and mini dress. This time I was pondering more complex questions like, Can I lose 20 pounds in two weeks? How fast can I bleach my teeth without causing them to fall out? And can you brush off a hot flash moment by blaming it on the Mexican sunshine?

But in addition to my own extreme makeover, I had another fish to fry before setting sail. Unlike my life in the ’70s, I would have a date onboard, and he would need more than a life jacket to stay afloat in the sea of rock. I’m not complaining about my husband, because no one’s perfect and he’s pretty great. But throwing a guy who has never played air guitar onto a ship full of Grammy Award-winning rockers seemed like a recipe for disaster, especially when his suitcase was stuffed to capacity with khakis, striped polo shirts and a beloved fanny pack. Talk about man overboard. I was between rock and a hard place.

“Thank goodness there will be ’70s theme dress-up nights,” my friend reminded me, hopeful that donning bell bottoms or a leisure suit would level the playing field for my non-rocker.

Of course that would be a tricky tradeoff, given that any purchase of retro thrift store garments would reinforce his long-held belief that he should never have caved to my demands to toss the original polyester items in the first place.

Wardrobe aside, my partner of 29 years has never been in the music zone. He’s mistaken Elton John for Billy Joel. His karaoke rendition of “My Way” has been making everyone go the other way since 1980-something. His taste in music is more elevator than rock, and the only thing he’s ever smuggled into a concert is a set of ear plugs.

I took a deep breath and found comfort in the facts that my husband was game for the adventure and I had a humor column deadline. Surely there are going to be some laughs when a Barry Manilow fan gets on an elevator with Peter Frampton.

But then it happened — great music, magical memories, rock and romance. Wonderful flashbacks from the past have a way of making everyone embrace the moment and celebrate their lives. So how on earth did two musical opposites end up in the same boat? Because I get to pick all of the tunes and he is absolutely fine with that. It took a boatload of music icons to remind me that the easy-going, Docker-wearing guy in the corner was my real rock star.

Did my husband generate any chuckles when he rubbed elbows with rock legends? Were my oversized sunglasses enough to hide the lines from a life well-lived? Actually, we fit right in. Growing older has a way of putting everyone on the same stage of hits and misses, and when you’re lucky, chart-topping success. The best part of life is having something to sing about, even if you can’t hit the high notes.

In case you’re wondering, older rockers look a lot like older non-rockers, but without the khakis. And thanks to midlife, I can honestly say I was totally hot when I hung out with them.

— Dr. Nancy Berk

Nancy Berk, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, humorist and entertainment columnist for Parade Magazine’s Her next bucket list item involves tambourine lessons and a Fleetwood Mac reunion tour.

Moe, Larry and Poppie

There are many reasons for a man to be proud of his grandchildren, as I am of my three, who are beautiful, smart, loving and, even though the eldest is only 4 years old, more mature than their grandfather.

Now I can add one more reason: My grandson, Xavier, at the tender age of 4 months, is a Three Stooges fan.

I made this delightful discovery recently when my wife, Sue, and I took a road trip to visit Xavier, who lives with his mommy, Katie, and daddy, Dave.

The moment of revelation occurred on a sunny morning in Katie and Dave’s bedroom, where I was watching Xavier while everyone else got ready for a day of fun, frolic and, of course, infantile behavior. And I’m not talking about Xavier.

Anyway, I was upstairs with him, cooing and babbling (so was he), when Dave entered the room and said, “Having some guy time?”

“We sure are,” I answered.

As Dave left to go back downstairs, he said, “If I hear any Three Stooges noises, I’m rushing right back up.”

Answering the challenge, I did my award-winning Curly imitation, snapping my fingers and making funny faces as I exclaimed, “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” and “Woo, woo, woo!”

Xavier smiled and started to wave his arms and kick excitedly.

I told him that many years ago I was first runner-up in the National Curly Howard Sound-Alike Contest (I won $100 and some Stooge paraphernalia in the telephone competition, whose winner was never identified and must have been an inmate somewhere).

I also told him that I once attended a Three Stooges convention in Pennsylvania and again was first runner-up, this time in the Curly Shuffle Contest, which was won by a 4-year-old girl.

Xavier furrowed his brow as if to say, “Poor Poppie. What a knucklehead!”

Then I imitated my favorite Stooge, Shemp. I inhaled deeply and made the famous Shemp sound: “Ee-bee-bee-bee!”

Xavier — this is absolutely true — laughed out loud. I did it again. He giggled uncontrollably.

“I am so proud of him!” I said to Dave when he rushed back upstairs. “Xavier loves Shemp!”

Dave, a wonderful young man with a terrific sense of humor, kindly refrained from poking his father-in-law in the eyes.

“The surest sign of maturity in a man, if indeed it ever happens, is when he comes to appreciate Shemp,” I told Dave. “Xavier is starting at a young age.”

Just as the late, great original Stooge has a new fan, so does the new fan.

“Xavier is my little man,” said Junior Bush, who lives across the street and is known as the mayor of the neighborhood.

Junior, 73, a retired revenue collector, doesn’t have kids of his own, but he does have 10 nieces and nephews who look up to him as a father figure. Everyone on the block loves him.

I found out why when Junior knocked on Katie and Dave’s door to warn me that my car would get ticketed and towed if I didn’t move it for the street sweeper.

“I’ll give you my parking space,” Junior said.

I found the lone remaining spot across the street, so I didn’t have to take up Junior on his nice offer, but I appreciated it.

“I love Katie and Dave,” Junior told me. “And Xavier is just the cutest.”

“I’ve been teaching him about the Three Stooges,” I said.

Junior chuckled and replied, “You have to start them early.”

Despite Dave’s fears, I have. Every time I did my Shemp imitation, Xavier laughed. At least a dozen times over the next few days, whether he was in his car seat, on the changing table or in my arms, when I said, “Ee-bee-bee-bee,” he let out a baby guffaw.

The next time we get together, I am going to introduce Xavier to Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp and the other Stooges on video. Will he love them even more?

In the immortal words of Poppie doing his Curly imitation, “Soitenly! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

— 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 BestLeave 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 the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Let me play among the stars

(Editor’s Note: The following essay is an excerpt from Ritch Shydner’s book, Kicking Through the Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Boom. Posted by permission of the author.)

From 1984 to 1991, I was on The Tonight Show about a dozen times.

Even after getting to panel on my fourth appearance I wasn’t a lock to be called to the couch. That was okay. I wanted his approval but never felt as comfortable with Johnny Carson as I did with David Letterman. This was strictly my problem. Plenty of comics my age rolled with Johnny, but to me he was a father figure. Growing up, my Dad and I had an adversarial and sometimes violent relationship. Later he felt my choice of a career in comedy was a mistake. I just couldn’t get loose with Johnny.

My dad saw me perform a few times early in my career and never had anything to say. One night, I did the whole show about him and he left without saying a word. He never called after any of my Tonight Show shots. The only thing he ever said about my chosen profession was, “What you do is tough. If they don’t buy the insurance I sell, I can say they didn’t like that insurance, but if they don’t laugh, they didn’t buy you.” Not really a ringing endorsement, but in my family, acknowledging your existence was as close as you might ever get to a compliment.

I got sober in 1985 and made amends to my dad for a lot of things, including wrecking his cars, the fistfights, and shooting at him while hunting. Three years later he got sober and came to California to clean up his side of the street. Afterward, we hugged and cried but there remained a gap between us.

During a 1989 Tonight Show appearance, I was told right before walking onto the soundstage that there wasn’t enough time for panel. I tossed the disappointment and did my job. Feeling loose, I walked out and did a quick gunfighter pose before I started my set. It’s something I did in the clubs from time to time. Three people might get it, but that was fine. I guess it was my version of Don Rickles’ metaphor of the stand-up comic as bullfighter. The gunfighter, confrontational and suspicious, covered my relationship with the audience and the world at large.

After finishing my set, instead of acknowledging Johnny and walking for the curtain, I did a little more of the gunfighter. I pulled my jacket back with my right hand, assumed a gunfighter stance and backed slowly to the curtain, while scanning the audience for trouble.

A baffled Ed McMahon asked Johnny, “What’s he doing?”

Johnny laughed. He said, “He’s doing a gunfighter.”

The next day my dad called me. “That gunfighter thing you did really cracked Johnny up. You know what? You’re really good at this.”

No call ever meant more to me. There’s this old Southern expression, “You’re not a man until your daddy says you’re one.” When I was young, I saw my dad making people laugh and my friends even said he was funny, but I didn’t get it. He closed the gap that night. We’ve been laughing together ever since.

— Ritch Shydner

The author of Kicking Through the Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Boom, stand-up comedian Ritch Shydner has made numerous guest appearances on late-night TV, played Al Bundy’s co-worker on Married with Children and written for Roseanne, The Jeff Foxworthy Show and HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man. He was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop “Humor Writer of the Month” in August 2017.

How dare you do self-care!

The ’70s and ’80s commercial slogan, “Calgon take me away!” has nothing on today’s overused buzzword we know simply as “Self-Care.”

In fact, my six children do a fake vomiting impression whenever they hear those two little words, probably because they got so sick of its predecessor — that classic analogy meant to justify my taking a break that went like this, “Mommy has to put her own oxygen mask on first before she can help you put on yours.” So now they officially refuse to travel on an airplane with me. (By the way, these same kids also signed a petition to prevent my talking about myself in the third person, but that’s another blog entirely!)

So how did the pendulum swing so far in the other direction for females? You may recall not too long ago, most mothers put everyone else first, to the point of truly neglecting themselves, making motherhood synonymous with martyrdom. Gradually women learned it was okay to sometimes say, “No!” and that was kind of a nice, happy medium. Because sometimes we still said, “Yes!”

But now it’s gotten to the point where nobody shows up to help in an emergency because we can’t cope with any crisis until we’ve practiced good self-care. Imagine a horrible earthquake occurring, but before the American Red Cross sends assistance, they must slather a soothing beauty balm onto their skin!

The next time you hang up the phone or part ways with someone while casually saying, “Take care of yourself now!” be aware that you’ve just granted someone permission to go get a mani/pedi, watch a soap opera and eat chocolate bonbons. That’s because “Self-Care” is loosely defined to encompass anything from aromatherapy (using essential oils!) to literally running away from life.

Join me now as we listen in on a “Self-Care, Self-Help, Self-Realized, Do-It-Yourself Support Group” in progress. (And if you think that has too many “Self” words in it, congratulations you catch on fast!)

Leader: Take out your Self-Care journals and let’s make a list of what we need to have in our Self-Care kits. And then let’s take a Selfie holding them. Selma, please read your list?

Selma: I’m a Pisces so I gravitate to water. Ready? Bath Salts, Bath Bombs, Bath Oils, Bath Bubbles, Bath Gels, Bath Sponges, Bath Scrubs, Bath Soaps…oh and you should put an actual Bathtub in your kit if it can fit.

Leader: Definitely! Sonia, your list please?

Sonia: I went the Mindful route. Is that okay?

Leader: Oh goody! Mindfulness and Self-Care go together like bagel and cream cheese, which you should also have in your kit by the way. Please continue…

Sonia: Mindful Yoga mat, Mindful Meditation book, Mindful Crystal, Mindful Meditation CD, Mindful SunscreenMindful Money, Mindful Bra, Mindful Pillow, Mindful Birth Control, Mindful Michael Kors Purse, Mindful Nutella…

Leader: Terrific. You’ve discovered the main secret to Self-Care — just put the word “Mindful” in front of anything you desire and it’s automatically gonna be healthy and get our approval.

Sonia: Except “Mindful Children.” Somehow it doesn’t work with kids.

Leader: Whatever. Now let’s all recite the Self-Care first commandment together. Ready? “Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it IS self-preservation.”

Suzanne: What about, “I think, therefore I am?”

Leader: Definitely not. You’re in the wrong place. The Self-Aware Support Group meets in the room down the hall.

Stacey: How about, “You can’t love someone else until you can love yourself?”

Leader: Sorry, you don’t belong here either. You’ll find the Self-Esteem Support Group meets in this same room but on Thursdays.

Stephanie: I have a question. I keep a diary, light lots of candles, get hand massages, eat avocado toast, go cloud-watching (I once saw one shaped like Gwyneth Paltrow!), unplug my cellphone daily and breathe deeply while smelling roses, but still I’m completely miserable. Are some people just not good at this Self-Care stuff?

Leader: Security! Come quick! Code 5, I repeat Code 5! A Self-Sabotager has snuck into Self-Care! Calgon, take her away!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Self-Care is completely responsible for society’s narcissistic behavior or that we’re all returning to the “Me” generation, but perhaps “Self-Care” could include things like volunteering at a retirement center, adopting a homeless pet, buying the guy behind you a Starbucks, and leaving a comment on my blog. Now wouldn’t those things also make YOU feel good??

— Stephanie Lewis

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

Stranger of the bride

A little hint about remaining inconspicuous when crashing a wedding reception: It’s probably best not to catch the bridal bouquet.

The bouquet toss was the furthest thing from my mind when I cruised party hall parking lots on a Friday night. Seeking another experience for my year of new adventures, I simply anticipated a nice meal, a few drinks and the opportunity to celebrate the wedded bliss of a wonderful couple. Sure, I wasn’t invited, and I’d never met either of them. Minor details.

Crashing a wedding might have been more fathomable if I were 21, accompanied by a group of friends, and half-plastered. At 52, alone, and sober? Not so much.

I scored with a full parking lot at the third place I passed, one of the most upscale reception halls in town. Yet when I stepped into the lobby, the first thing I spotted was a poster with a huge photograph and the words, “Rest in Peace.”

Since when did a party hall host a wake on a Friday night? I stepped back, contemplating my next move. And then, I spied a bigger banner, reading “Congratulations,” along with a photo of a happy young couple. Apparently, the first poster was only their memoriam for a recently deceased loved one.

My shoulders drooped at this tearjerker tribute. But I was alive and on hand to take part in the celebration! It seemed so wrong, yet so right. I ignored my weak legs and wandered in. I’d morphed into a 10-year-old schoolgirl, wondering just how much I could get away with.

I made a beeline to the bar — a rational move. No plastic cups for my fabulous, newly wedded BFFs. This was a classy kind of gig. I was pretty certain I would fit right in — if I hadn’t been some freeloading stranger walking in off the street.

I wasn’t a true freeloader, though. I had brought a congratulatory card with a gift certificate enclosed. I dropped it ceremoniously on the gift table and slowly swiveled my head around, hoping people might note this validation of my attendance.

As I saw the line forming for the dessert table, I realized I missed dinner. If only I actually had been invited, I might have known when the event started.

I joined a group on the outdoor patio. No one questioned me or my relationship to the bride and groom. I was a tad disappointed I didn’t need to conjure up any of the pre-fabricated stories I’d prepared on the drive there.

While enjoying a conversation with a friendly guy, I turned to see the bride approaching us, looking eager to join the discussion. I backed away, avoiding her glance, and headed back inside.

As I watched people swinging it on the dance floor, I deliberated asking someone to dance. The thought terrified me, which made it all the more an obligatory move.

I hadn’t danced with a stranger in how long? A decade? As my stomach rolled, the DJ made the last call for all single women to join in the bouquet toss. I realized a shot of the backs of a group of unidentifiable women, lunging for the spray of flowers, would be a terrific photo op. I hurried over, stationing myself a good 20 yards behind the line of waiting women. I pulled out my iPhone just as I heard the DJ begin his countdown.

Before I could manage to find my new phone’s camera setting, I heard a collective rush of shouts, and then — silence. I looked up to see the crowd of single women, as well as every wedding guest in the room, staring at me.

I followed the direction of their glances. I looked down. Apparently, the bride was a former softball pitcher with a hell of an arm. Her throw landed the bouquet far past its intended aim. It was lying two inches from my right foot.

The room had fallen so quiet you could hear my chin drop. All eyes were focused on me. I had no choice, really. I picked up the bouquet, clutched it and smiled stupidly.

As cameras flashed, my heart rate quickened. If all went according to normal wedding reception protocol, I knew I’d soon find myself posing for more photos: with a garter-snatching stranger feeling his way up my thigh. It was a halfway appealing notion, but I was pretty sure I’d rather salvage the bit of anonymity I had left.

A little girl came to my rescue. She tugged at my blouse, pointed at the bouquet, and said, “Can I have that?”

I smiled down at my small savior and said, “Honey, it’s all yours.” I thrust the flowers in her hands and walked straight to the exit.

Although I didn’t remain inconspicuous, I figured I did stay anonymous, at least until a discovery the next day when I posted a story and a photo online. Here’s another little hint about wedding-crashing: It’s best to not inadvertently be Facebook friends with the owner of the reception hall.

My anonymity was completely blown after I agreed, months later, to be interviewed about my experience on the TV news show 20/20. When the episode aired, I found myself included with criminals and miscreants in a segment titled The Moochers. I was relieved that, mostly due to my gift, I appeared to be the moral of this story.

“If you must crash a wedding,” the voiceover advised, “crash with class.”

Feeling redeemed, I managed to connect with the bride and groom, Mike and Helen (who was indeed a former softball player). They proved to be a good-natured couple, who remembered my unsigned card and gift. I’d chosen that card very thoughtfully. The pre-printed text read: “A toast to good friends: To a great couple, to your love, your future, and your happiness… and to the friendship that will keep us close always.”

Below, I scrawled: “Thanks for an evening none of us will ever forget.”

Wasn’t that the truth.

— Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley is a writer, humorist and squeamish adventurer. She writes about her midlife escapades and other topics on Facebook (The 52 at 52 Project) and also blogs at Her memoir, Finding My Badass Self, debuts in August. By day, Sherry attempts to respectably represent her alma mater as a communication director at the University of Toledo.

I’d like to check you for ticks

Flea and tick season is officially upon us and reports claim that this is going to be the worst year ever.

That’s bad news for pet owners and anyone who loves the outdoors.

This is also extremely bad for me.

Somehow, I have managed to raise three boys who played with worms and snakes, yet are deathly afraid of ticks.

Last night, Marc let out a blood-curdling scream.

I rose from a deep sleep fearing for the worst, almost running head on into Rocky and Kevin in the hallway.

Marc was standing on his bed wearing nothing but his underwear.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Mom! There’s a tick!” Marc screamed.

Kevin and Rocky were right behind me.

“A TICK? Where?” Kevin yelled.

Rocky replied, “If we don’t find it, I am NOT sleeping here.”

“Good idea!” Marc said, “Let’s go to a hotel!”


“Okay, where was the last place that you saw it?” I asked.

Marc replied, “Near the bathroom.”

We all began to search for the tiny insect that was standing between us and a good night’s sleep.

“I don’t see any tick. Let’s all just go to bed.” I instructed.

“Are you kidding me?” Kevin bellowed.

Rocky chimed in, “This is totally gross!”

“Mom!” Marc cried, “We could all get Lyme Disease!”

I was longing for my pillow and dreading what seemed to be the beginning of a ludicrous all-nighter.

Suddenly, I blurted out the first thing that came into my mind.

“Okay, we’ll all sleep in the living room. I think I have some spray for ticks.”

My boys were a flurry of commotion… blankets, pillows and slamming bedroom doors.

I grabbed a bottle of Febreze from under the kitchen sink.

“Are you sure that kills ticks, Mom?” Marc asked.

“Positive.” I replied, (okay, I’m reaching here, but I like my sleep.) I vigorously doused every room in the house with Febreze.

We all settled in on the living room floor.

After much talk about the dreaded ticks, all three of my boys were fast asleep and I somehow managed to fall asleep myself.

Freezing and uncomfortable, I awoke to the overpowering smell of Febreze and the windows covered in condensation.

Kevin stirred and asked, “Mom, what are you doing?”

“Why is the air conditioning set for 40 degrees?” I inquired, as I turned it off completely.

“I was trying to kill the tick,” Kevin replied.

Still shivering and achy from the few hours of sleep that I managed to get on the living room floor, I prepared my morning coffee.

Better make it extra strong, this is going to be a long tick season… and I better stock up on more Febreze.

— Erin Cooper Reed

Erin Cooper Reed is a domestic violence writer and public speaker. She has written for six Domestic Violence organizations, including the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the Charlotte Court System in North Carolina. She has posted inspirational guest blogs at and been published in local newspapers. Her writing is often used in journals and websites, including the Connecticut Historical Society’s newsletter. Erin currently resides in Connecticut where she writes a humorous and inspirational blog about the trials of raising three teenage boys as a single mother. Her blog can be found at She can be reached at

Funny dog story

When I entered the kitchen around 7 a.m., my husband glared at me with bleary eyes marked with half-moon circles. I poured my coffee and said, “What’s wrong?”

“I was hoping to get a full night’s sleep last night because I have a busy day. Didn’t you hear the dog whine at 4:30 this morning?”

“No, I didn’t hear him or I would’ve gotten up.”

“He whimpered, whined, then he yelped and barked. He needed to go out.”

“So you’re angry that I didn’t hear him.”

“No, I threw on my white terry cloth robe and I couldn’t find my slippers so I put on my flip-flops. The dog tore down the steps to the front door and I followed him and grabbed his leash from the closet. When my flip flops hit the tile foyer, I slid on something slimy and my feet flew up; I landed on my back.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m bruised and tired.”

“What was on the tile?”

“Yellow dog vomit, a big puddle. Don’t worry about cleaning the floor. I had lain there a minute and my robe absorbed it. I rose, and when I opened the wooden entry door the dog pushed the storm door open and ran.”

“He slipped out? We never let that happen. Thank goodness no one was out driving.”

” I walked the neighborhood with nothing on except my robe, underwear and flip-flops. Clouds had blocked the moon, and I navigated using our floodlights and street lights. I couldn’t find our Labrador retriever, and when I returned home he was standing on the front lawn panting and wagging his tail so hard that his back shimmied. He had stolen six neighbors’ newspapers and scattered them across our front lawn.”

“So, training him to get the newspaper was a success. He must have felt euphoric when he had retrieved the first paper and didn’t know when to stop,” I said.

“I had walked our court with barf streaked down my back and I pitched papers to the homes without them. Some neighbors may be surprised to find a journal on their lawn that they hadn’t ordered.”

“At least the dog seems ok, so we don’t have to take him to the vet. Since we never let him out alone, he shouldn’t be able to nab any more papers.  I’m sorry that your day started at 4:30. On the bright side, the dog helped you relive your youth as a paperboy. But, next time wake me. ”

— Dottie Lopez

Dottie Lopez is a blogger who loves to travel and cook. She and her husband dine out weekly and travel to places like the Caribbean, Boca Raton, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Barcelona and Paris, collecting recipes on the way. She graduated from Loyola College with an English degree, and took a course at Towson University that emphasized writing restaurant reviews. The Baltimore Post Examiner published one of her reviews.

Reflections of Erma