In the last year my little princess, who is all of 8 years old, has griped about the the clothing I have purchased for her. It started small — “this shirt is scratchy” or “these pants are not soft enough.”
Did you catch the part where I made the error? That I purchased … without her being with me.
I noticed the clothes not being worn, the same outfits making the rounds. The arguments every morning over “Not having anything to wear!” (Please say this in the most whiny manner possible). And then I realized, I had become my own mother. I remember my mother purchasing things for me as a kid that I hated but I was given no choice.
Enter the shopping trip this weekend. We hit Lands End — the epicenter of all things innocent. She selected one dress and one shirt — that was it. I sang the praises of various shirts, the sensibility of a pair of pants. Her brow furrowed, her gaze darted away from me. I realized I had to accept reality. My little girl was coming into her own and should wear things that reflect her personality and who she is, not who I want her to be.
I made some rules — I get final veto, nothing inappropriate, modesty first. And I let her go. Something I wish my own mother had done when I was a kid.
The realization hit home when we walked past my favorite store to shop for her, Gymboree. We stopped, I asked her if she wanted to go in. She looked at me — on a precipice. Not wanting to hurt my feelings but the reality was that she no longer identified herself with their cute and adorable outfits (sob). The look that flashed across her face gave me pause. I sighed…it was time to close the door on an era. We kept walking.
We entered the overcrowded, overrun, sensory-overloaded store Justice. The store I swore we would never enter. The store I was standing in watching my child’s eyes light up. Her hands touching the shirts, her head tilted to the side as she searched for just the right outfits. To me the store is like the “Saved by the Bell” costume designer had an affair with the 1980s and this was their love child. But to her it was heaven.
I vetoed a lot, but let a lot go. She now has more glitter, rhinestones, lace and macramé than Madonna did when she sang “Holiday” in 1983.
I washed her new wardrobe last night, along with some of the rest of the house’s clothing. When I opened the dryer, you would think a stripper lived at our house by the amount glitter that fell to the floor. I started removing her items, folding them and putting them in her basket. As I reached in to grab another I pulled out my son’s sweatshirt, covered in glitter. Then my husband’s shirt awash with sparkly little flecks. I shook their clothes out hoping to rid them of their infestation, but I couldn’t get all the sparkles off. I did, however, spread the herpes of the craft world all over the laundry room.
So if you see any of us out and notice glitter on our clothes, please realize The Hubs is not hitting the sex club, I am not moonlighting on the corner, and the 10-year-old has not all of a sudden decided to take on crafts. Nope…we just have a little girl who loves all things bling, or I should say a soon-to-be tween who loves all things sparkly.
— Alyson Herzig
Originally from New Jersey, Alyson now lives in the Midwest but has kept her sarcastic, cynical Jersey attitude. You can find her blogging about the perpetual shit storm of her life at TheShitastrophy.com. She also has more to offer the world than just humorous observations and can be found flexing her brain at LeftyPop.com where she is a weekly contributor. Alyson’s other works have been published at Mamapedia.com, WhatTheFlicka.com, InThePowderRoom.com, BonBonBreak.com. She is also working on a collection of humorous essays in hopes of proving to others they really could have it worse – they could be her.
My daughter convinced me to watch The Rachel Zoe Project on the cable network, and as I’m staring at these 21-year-olds, anorexic-looking models, I’m thinking two thoughts: 1) Someone should tie these girls down and force-feed them doughnuts, and 2) Was I ever that young? Right now I feel more like something an anthropologist unearthed from King Tut’s tomb. My brain is still stuck in 1981 but my body has fast-forwarded into a new century populated by people with graying hair, pot bellies and elephant skin. Is this really the generation I was born into? What happened to disco balls, leather pants and Boy George? If someone had told me thirty years ago I’d be spending my weekends in the backyard using a pooper scooper, I would have laughed in their face. My husband feels the same way every time he gets behind the wheel of our prehistoric minivan that should have been shot years ago to be put out of its misery.
For the most part, I’m young at heart. But some days I feel like it’s time my kids wheel me into a nursing home and spoon-feed me soup. I’m already getting flyers in the mail pestering me to buy burial plots and to join AARP. Just the other day I was on the walking trail with my husband when I noticed a vulture following us overhead. He circled for a mile or two, just waiting to see which one of us was going to croak first. My husband raised his fist to the bird and shouted, “We’re not dead yet!!”
And what’s up with the age spots? I never had spots on my skin, then suddenly I woke up one morning looking like a leopard. I rushed over to the dermatologist, convinced that I had some weird skin disease. She just chuckled and said, “Welcome to middle age!” Now the spots are all over me—enough that if I get bored, I can play connect-a-dot on my skin. Some dots are larger, some smaller, some are lighter while others are darker. Some are the size of Africa. By the time I’m eighty, I’ll look like one giant, brown, age spot, because all of the dots will have connected. Then I’ll just look like I have a great tan without even trying.
My eyes have also gone to hell. My mother promised me when I was little that if I ate my carrots, I’d have good eyesight. She lied. I’m blind as a bat, and if I’m not careful, I may end up hanging upside-down in a tree with my new, furry, winged friends.
The lack of energy is what kills me. I used to be like the Energizer bunny until my batteries corroded. I’ve heard that fatigue is common with menopause, but come on, my sleep patterns could rival that of Sleeping Beauty. Except I don’t wake up to a kiss from a prince…just dog slobber and the sound of toilets flushing. Mega doses of caffeine are the only reason I’m still standing on two feet at the end of the day. I am a human percolator.
The thing that really makes me feel old is the contents of my nightstand drawer. When I was newly married, that drawer contained candles, gels, lingerie and all sorts of naughty items geared for fun. Opening the drawer now, the first thing I see is a tube of cracked heel foot cream. Next to it, another colorful tube of anti-fungal cream. What else? A bottle of magnesium, aspirin, lip balm, a calorie counter and the crumpled wrapper from a chocolate bar. There’s also a container of foot pads and ear plugs, a broken pair of reading glasses, nose spray and a mouth guard. Sounds like a shopping list for a convalescence home. I suppose I could throw in a few pairs of Spanx, support hose and some high-heeled orthopedic shoes to make it more interesting…to an 80-year-old.
Time to embrace the vulture years!
— Marcia Kester Doyle
Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013.
My pack watches a lot of detective shows and courtroom dramas, so I have to be a bit more specific when I leave the seven of them home while I’m out of town than simply telling them to “Be good” and “Don’t burn the house down.”
In hopes of covering every technicality and loophole, I leave a list of instructions:
Call me only if there’s an emergency. An emergency is when someone or something is on fire, or someone is bleeding profusely from the head. Pimples are not emergencies. The Xbox dying is not an emergency. Any person or beast having flatulence, no matter how revolting, is not an emergency.
No one may make any flame of any kind in any way at any point for any reason. If there is a power outage, birthday or zombie apocalypse, just sit there in the dark until I get home.
Feed the dog only dog food. Yes, the dog likes ice cream, candy and pizza, but ice cream, candy and pizza do not like the dog, as evidenced by the projectile diarrhea he produced when I was out of town last month.
The dog having projectile diarrhea is not an emergency. Do not call me to tell me about it. Do not send me pictures. Do not send me a live action video. Again.
You must wear shoes to school every day, and they must be shoes that fit you, belong to you and were purchased by me for you. Do not tell your teacher that you have no shoes because “Mommy took them on her trip.” That only happened once. And, they looked a lot like mine.
Your dad is not allowed to play basketball with you while I’m gone. The last time he played basketball with you he broke his ankle. The time before that he dislocated his hip. If your dad is on crutches when I get back, you’re all grounded. Including your dad.
The babysitter feeding you jar spaghetti sauce is not an emergency. Do not call me to complain about it.
Stay out of my room. If you think you need to go in my room, stay out of my room. If you absolutely, positively must go in my room, stay out of my room.
Wanting to go in my room is not an emergency. Do not call to ask me if you may go in my room.
Lastly, if it involves the phrase, “Watch this, you guys!” don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing it.
In other words, be good.
And, don’t burn the house down.
— Gina Valley
Gina Valley is a humorist who lives in Los Angeles. Her husband (The Professor) and her 7 kids (The Pack) provide her with more inspiration than she needs for her blog Gina Valley – The Glamorous Life Of The Modern Day Soccer Mom. Gina was a humor cast member in Listen to Your Mother in San Francisco in 2013. Her work appears on Voiceboks, Dads’ Round Table, and Inspiring Women Magazine. Laugh with Gina on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
(Cathryn Michon, best-selling author, standup comic, actress and Hollywood screenwriter and director, talks to Teri Rizvi, EBWW founder, about adapting books into films, the writing process — and why she’s so passionate about a grassroots effort to bring her new movie, Muffin Top: A Love Story, to cities around the country. Cathryn is part of the faculty at the 2014 EBWW, along with her writing partner and husband, W. Bruce Cameron.)
You raised nearly $100,000 from a grassroots effort to give your new movie, Muffin Top: A Love Story, a red-carpet treatment in cities outside Hollywood. Why the passion for this movie?
In most of my writing, I’ve often been obsessed with the topic of low female self-esteem, in one way or another. We always write about what we need most to learn, so, yeah, I struggle with insecurity. I had Graves Disease as a teenager, which caused facial disfigurement in and around my eyes. You would never know it, because I had seven reconstructive surgeries and I look completely normal today (thanks to great surgeons and generous eye tissue organ donors). But as a teen, literally having people stop me on the street and say, “what happened to your face?” definitely set me on the path of examining how women limit themselves because of how they feel about their looks.
But I didn’t need the experience of being actually disfigured to feel inadequate, because I’m a woman in America, which means I see at least 400 photoshopped media images a day telling me I don’t look right. Of course, the model in the photo didn’t either; that’s why they photoshopped her. No one is good enough. That is the message, and I wanted to tell a story about a woman who lets that madness about appearance infect her life in really stupid ways, with hilarious consequences that lead her to grow out of her obsessions.
The movie is adapted from one of your own novels. What are the challenges of adapting a book into film?
I learned so much about the story from the time I wrote the novel until Bruce and I co-wrote the screenplay, and so the film is very, very different from the novel. At least in this instance, I’m one of those jerky Hollywood writers who ruined my perfect novel. And by the way, it wasn’t perfect. I would rewrite it today if I could, but I would also rewrite grocery lists if I could. I had a list last week that would have been BRILLIANT if only I had put the bell peppers before the paper towels. That would have been a kick-ass list. In short, I’m a perfectionist, and I do believe that writing is rewriting, so I was thrilled to have another shot to get the bones of this story right, but if I could, I’d rewrite the screenplay and reshoot the film, too. Is that madness or craft? Hard to say, but it’s how I am. I never get it exactly right, but I never stop trying to get it right.
What advice would you give other writers who believe their book can be brought to life on the screen?
Many of my personal favorite films are from books, such as Silver Linings Playbook. But on the other hand, that same filmmaker made a wonderful film from an original screenplay, American Hustle. Both methods work, and can make for great films. The biggest challenge with adapting your book is that, well…novels are longer than films. So you will have to, as in the famous phrase, kill your darlings. It can be painful. There is a reason a lot of very successful book authors want nothing to do with writing the screen adaptations of their books: they just can’t take the pain of throwing out very good material. As a filmmaker, my favorite part of the process is editing, paring it down in the edit bay, so I kind of love killing my darlings. Maybe I’m a bad person. It’s just so great when you realize that you didn’t need a sequence you thought was essential. Not great for the time wasted in getting it on film, but great for reducing a story down to its essential, elemental core. But that’s the difference between filmmaking and writing. If you’ve got great details you envision as belonging in your book, there’s no limit to how long and rich that book can be. You have to decide if, as an artist, you want some total stranger paring your book down, or if you can stand to do it yourself.
How did you get started as a writer? Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or an actress?
I always say I should refuse to answer this question for sexism reasons because I find it is more often asked of women than men. But I don’t think you’re being sexist, and I’m also terrible at refusing to do things (I love to say yes!) so here goes: The truth is, I want to be like Albert Brooks, or Lena Dunham: people who write and direct films in which they also act. I figure for one thing, it’s convenient, as I always have at least one actress who won’t drop out of the project. I really found out who I was creatively at The Second City in Chicago, where we did live improv in front of audiences. So basically you are writing, acting and directing yourself in real time. That’s where I learned to do everything. That’s still one of my favorite creative outlets, and why I just simply refuse to pick between any of my artistic disciplines. It’s all good, I’m grateful to do all of it and want to continue to do all of it.
What drives you to write? Do you have a routine, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
If I’m writing for someone else, for hire, I procrastinate until my stomach hurts and then I write. If I’m writing something for free that I plan to try and make…oh wait, I do the same thing, but the stomach ache takes longer to show up. That’s not admirable. If you want a process that’s admirable you should ask my husband. We’re like the writer versions of those cartoon characters Goofus and Gallant in Highlights for Children Magazine. I’m Goofus, so don’t do what I do, do what Bruce does.
Your husband, W. Bruce Cameron, is your writing partner — and your life partner. Together, you’re turning a number of books into movies. Why do the two of you collaborate so well on projects?
Well, neither of us likes to commute. We live in L.A., so that’s only partly a joke; you simply cannot underestimate the value of having your commute consist of walking to the dining room table.
We met on book tour, when we were both published authors, so we came to the partnership with established voices and skill sets. I think that’s the main thing. We liked each other’s books before we even liked each other, so we each respect the other’s talent. Even on projects we don’t partner on, we are each other’s primary first read and edit staff. If the answers in this Q & A are poorly written, it’s his fault, he had the last pass.
This is your first time on the faculty at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Why did you say yes?
Because they asked me and I love to say yes! Well, that and the fact that Erma Bombeck was a pioneer who I so admire; she wrote an astonishing word count in a medium I wouldn’t dream of tackling. Bruce was a syndicated columnist for years, so I know what it’s like to have that “Sword of Damocles” of a deadline hanging over your head. Bruce wrote one newspaper column a week; Erma wrote three columns a week. I cannot imagine that. If she whined three times more than Bruce, I feel a little sorry for her husband.
And her columns (and also books) were funny, smart, and honest. I think Erma gets dismissed by some critics because her topics are considered women’s topics, and, therefore, less important. My hero Nora Ephron was another funny woman writer like that. In my opinion, these ladies did not get the acclaim they deserved.
That’s why I’m so glad that this workshop has become like a shrine to her point of view, and is encouraging others to write in her genre, because her topics were interesting, important and even profound. Certainly other columnists, my husband included, felt that domestic concerns of family were worthy topics, and so I’m glad that there are also men who come here to celebrate the genre. I couldn’t begin to do what she did, but I’m honored to be even a small part of a program that honors her wonderful writing.
Gabe and I were enjoying a friendly round of cribbage this morning when Madam pulled up a chair and sighed.
“It’s time for some resolutions,” she muttered.
“You’re late,” replied Gabe without looking up. He continued to deal me a new hand. “We celebrated the new year three months ago,” he added. “Besides that, we horses are kind of averse to a bunch of tedious rules that begin with no.”
”Perhaps you should be conducting this conversation with Henri le Chat Noire,” I offered delicately. “Now there’s a cat who has parlayed tedium and ennui into a fine career.”
“No, no, that’s not it,” exclaimed Madam. “I’m talking about my wardrobe, and my weight,” she snorted. “And what about this hairdo that just spent a long winter under a Carhartt hat? Good grief, if we intend to go to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop next month, I’ll need a serious fashion tune-up,” she groaned.
She made a good point.
“And how would you like to begin your trend-setting makeover?” I asked this woman who still operates a 1975 Lady Kenmore washer and dryer.
“That’s why I’m here,” she retorted, “I need your advice.”
Gabe folded his cards and waited for something brilliant to spring from my lips.
“… Um, maybe we should add a cheery twist to this plan of yours,” I proposed.
She surveyed the filthy Muck Boots on her feet and shot me a disbelieving glance.
“Let’s plan that Happiness Project we’ve been talking about for months,” I offered. “It calls for resolutions of a more pleasant nature. So, for example, you could whip up a slimming kale smoothie, while I enter my 24 Karat Cake in the Pillsbury Bakeoff. We’ll call it a Spread the Joy resolution.”
Gabe rolled his eyes and began perusing his Wall Street Journal.
“Next, you might consider donating all those stylish sweat pants of yours, and I’ll dump my Rambo blanket that Patrick shredded,” I soldiered on. “That sounds like a Lighten Up resolution to me.“
She was beginning to catch my drift.
So there I stood on the threshold of April Fools’ Day, fielding Madam’s style worries. It’s true I’ve morphed from a first-class racehorse to a life coach for a woman of a certain age — traded glamor and speed for a role of attentive husband or hairdresser. Yet, as good as I’m getting at this tony tutoring business, even I will never convince Madam to take her spurs off before grocery shopping.
— Noah Vail
Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on a book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy” blogs here. Never Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival.
My daughter and I flew in from our separate cities to Miami last weekend to celebrate her birthday.
My first clue that I was going to be even less “South Beachish” than previously feared came when my cabdriver asked, “Are you here for music festival?”
One look at me should have been enough to indicate that, unless it was Captain and Tennille headlining, I was not here for the music festival.
“No, but what festival?” I asked casually while fighting a rising panic.
“Is Ultra! Most famous techno DJ festival in world!”
I don’t get out much, but as the mother of one person who has been a teen and another person who still is a teen, I know what techno music is. Let me do my on-paper imitation now: “Unsuh, unsuh, beep, beep, zip, zeeep, unsuh, zeep, unsuh, yeep.” But scream that really, really loudly. And scratch your fingernails against a chalkboard. Please also grab a dentist drill and just pulsate the on/off button. That, my friends, is what techno music sounds like to me.
At the hotel, the check-in person gingerly offered me a letter.
“We’re giving this to all our guests. You probably know it’s “Ultra” this weekend and noise ordinances are lifted in the city of Miami. The hotel can’t control the many DJ events occurring all around the hotel.” Wanting to be thought of as a good sport, I assured her that I knew the hotel could only control its own grounds. But I was praying that wasn’t really true.
My daughter didn’t arrive for a few hours, so I went up to the room. Could it be my imagination or was there also a gathering of drum circle instructors staying at the hotel? The walls of the room seemed to swell and retract on their own. Just like the blood vessels in my brain. I stepped out onto the small balcony. Big mistake. I thought about immediately self-reporting to Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” because I was staring onto a rooftop of a neighboring hotel that was having a roof-top afternoon dance party. Everyone appeared to be very young and very much in their underwear. I went back into the room and shut the curtains.
I called the front desk. I won’t bore you with the entire contents of the conversation but the words “mom, Midwest, birthday, migraine” and “quieter room” were used.
Props (look at me with the terms!) to the hotel for helping me move to an interior facing room. Oh this one still pulsed, too. But more gently, and the dentist drill could not be heard.
My daughter arrived and practically fell into the room.
“Oh Mom, I’m so sorry! It’s Ultra. I had no idea. Some friends told me that it was in Miami this weekend. They said, ‘Your poor mom.’”
Again, in the spirit of her birthday weekend, and wanting to rise to the (loud) occasion, I hugged her and assured her it would be fine. And it was.
I got to see women in their bathing suits and high heels having dinner at a nice restaurant. I got to see every color of pastel pork pie hat ever made. I got to hear what sounded like a remix of ACDC’s Thunderstruck, the national anthem, and the time I got the basement pipes rotored.
You might say it was an ultra unusual weekend.
— Lucia Paul
Lucia Paul’s humor writing includes an award-winning sitcom script and essays that have appeared in numerous publications. Her parody, 50 Shades of Flannel, earned a cult following, and was an Entertainment Weekly online Editor’s Pick in 2012. She has been a regular humor contributor to MORE magazine’s online edition, writing on topics ranging from the financial crisis to parenting teens. She is a contributor to two Not Your Mother’s Book titles: NYMB…on Home Improvement (2013) and NYMB …on Moms (June 2014). She blogs at dysfunctionalscrapbooking.blogspot.com.
I cringe at the thought of my first (and only) date with Mr. Handsome. I had a HUGE crush on him and his chiseled features for years. He was several years older, so naturally, I wanted to wear something special. That was my first mistake.
I was going to pull out all the stops. I was going to WOW him…which I’m pretty sure I did, just not in the way I had hoped.
I wore black satin puffy gauchos with gold flecks that caught the light in such a way it could blind you, like the sun, if you stared directly at it. To complete the look, I wore the matching fitted jacket because nothing says sexy better than looking half matador/half court jester. The cherry on the icing was the pair of shoulder pads that made me resemble an NFL linebacker. The only thing wider was my hair. I thought I looked, like totally, cool. I shudder at the memory.
Even though he kissed me at the end of our date (actually, it was more like a hit and run), he never called again. Was I just too young or did the fact I had broader shoulders scare him away? I will never know.
When I look back on my years in high school, there were those girls who didn’t succumb to the latest fashion trend. They had long, smooth, shiny hair and wore simple body-skimming wrap dresses with nary a shoulder pad in site. They had style and classic beauty and wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pair of jodhpurs.
I, on the other hand, would wear the latest fad no matter how big, puffy, neon, shiny or unflattering. The glitzier the better. My hair was thick, kinky and curly, and wouldn’t know a modicum of control until decades later, when women would start to use nuclear strength varnish to tame their mane. I was under the false impression that once I got rid of the braces and the training bra I was home free. What did I know?! Admittedly, it was not my best look.
You think I would have learned something from the many fashion mistakes of my teen years. But, sadly not. Decades would pass before I would even have an inkling that some of my choices in clothes were less than awesome.
In fact, there was a little black velvet number with a fuchsia ruffle that Carmen Miranda would have killed for, that I just had to have for my engagement party. Did I mention the giant flower the size of a Thanksgiving turkey flanking my hip? Oh yes, I was a show-stopper that night — probably a traffic stopper, too. Blame it on youth.
It’s good to know I have learned a thing or two over the years. I no longer wear anything puffy or with shoulder pads or that could double as reflective safety apparel. According to my teenage daughter, I play it too safe. I say, better safe than sorry. Been there, worn that — I have the photos to prove it.
— Linda Wolff
Linda Wolff writes the blog Carpool Goddess where she shares her adventures from carpool to empty nest. She no longer drives carpool, but that’s our little secret. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, Scary Mommy, Better After 50, Generation Fabulous and others. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
1. I woke up this morning.
2. I arrived at work safely and only almost hit two cars on the way, but they deserved it.
3. I have a check to deposit in the bank meaning my banker will love me again and lift the block on my account.
4. I had an idea for a great story.
5. No laxative needed today. Pooped au natural.
6. My one knee-high stocking is still at knee level.
7. My one thigh-high orthopedic stocking is at knee level and has not rolled down to the ankle and then launched itself at anyone, anything, or any animal killing or wounding them in the process.
8. I survived yesterday.
9. I didn’t have to wear clothes when I went to the kitchen this morning because no one else was home.
10. Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is less than one month away.
Wanda is the author of Y-Mee’s A B C Book of Emotions, a contributor to Bare Elements with a novella about Southern Women, co-author with Clay Mercer ofThe Education of Joe Willy, and the co-author with another EBWW alumni Jody Worsham of the soon to be released Kin We Aren’t Related To whose idea was conceived at the 2012 EBWW. (For those of you who want to know, this is the Mabel & MayBelle book. Look for it soon in paperback and Kindle). She writes from her hurricane ravaged home located on the Florida Panhandle where huge quantities of margaritas are consumed.