The writer Stephen King says that everybody has a filter and that his filter is terror. He sees the world through terror-colored lenses. He can’t help but see everything as terrifying, or how it can be. It’s just how he rolls.
My filter is commentary.
I can’t help it. I notice stuff.
If I could turn my filter off, I would. It’s somewhat excruciating to grow up a “noticer.” Sure, old ladies call you precious and wise when you’re 10. But what 10-year-old wants to be wise? Ten-year-olds want to be cute and jolly and popular. We don’t want to be the 4th grader who notices Susie’s parents seem distant five years before they announce their divorce.
It took me until this late age to stop trying to be a non-noticer. Now, I just accept it and make some cash off of my noticing. Writing’s a great career for noticers. There’s only one job requirement of a writer and that’s to notice.
So here we are.
Often times we noticers are mistaken for our good friends, critcizers. Technically, we’re different. Noticers just report back. Criticizers attach judgment. Noticers let you attach judgment when you criticize the bad behavior we’ve noticed.
Like most noticers, I grew up feeling like a square peg in a round hole. This is a polite way of saying noticers grow up feeling crazy. No one else seems to notice, or be bothered by, what a noticer notices. But when was the last time you wanted to watch a TV show about someone whose filter is “Happy go lucky?” Hollywood is the land of noticers, all relieved to find out they’re not nuts. At least about what they notice.
But as good as writers are with words, we tend to be bad with criticism. Me, personally, I dish it out so I’m happy to take it. I’ve had a lifetime of criticism preparing me for my career as a writer starting with the normal growing-up crap, then my move to LA — a city that serves as a graduate course in self-loathing.
In my 10-year career as the world’s worst actress, I put on my thick skin to endure comments like, “You were the most talented actress we saw, but you just weren’t pretty enough,” “Your eyes are too close together” (which they are) and “You don’t have a strong voice. Not your point of view, the one you speak with.” I’ve been told my hips are too wide, but my face is too thin. I’ve been told girls aren’t funny right before I’m told how funny I am. I’ve been told that at a size 6, I should consider full-figure modeling. And on and on and on.
So I’m technically really good at criticism, unless it comes from someone who can’t spell. Then, I tend to “notice” you’re a moron and not take your criticism to heart.
So when I received my first mean and personal comment on my blog the other day, I was torn. On one hand, I’m thrilled. Criticism means controversy and controversy means ratings/interest/readers. I’m also a bit grateful when anyone reads my stuff, much less takes the time to comment on it — good or bad. And I’m also a firm believer in dishing it out AND taking it. Not just dishing it out.
So when I received this comment the other day on my post about the see-through Lululemons I wore to the gym, I couldn’t help but notice a certain grammatical error. (You can read the whole post if you’d like to judge whether or not I don’t have a real job as suggested by the writer).
From Justin (Not my husband. Trust me, I checked.): “You need someone to tell you if your clothes are see-through? I’m guessing your an idiot who does not have a real job or brain?”
I was at first touched. Someone took the time to read and comment on my work. He doesn’t have to like it.
But since I’m a professional noticer, I couldn’t help but notice that the kind gentleman, who called me a moron, did not know how to spell. I thought we all knew that rule: criticizers lose all credibility if they don’t know how to spell.
So in effort to help I thought I’d explain my own personal rules of criticism. You’re welcome to adopt them, even when criticizing me.
1) Never comment on personal appearance. Criticism should be earned by bad behavior. No one can control how they look. Lord knows if we could, my hips would be smaller and my eyes would be further apart. Criticize people for what they can control, like their crappy behavior and bad personality. Leave the looks commentary to a plastic surgeon or mother-in-law.
2) Criticize differently than a third-grader. Little kids like to tease others with cute phrases like “Stinky-head” or “Doo-doo mouth.” These things don’t make sense, but they do hurt other’s feelings. It’s best a grown-up not comment in way that makes them sound like they are in elementary school. If you’re not sure if your comment makes you sound like you are in elementary school, take the “Neener neener neener” off the end and see if it still holds up.
3) Don’t get personal. If you don’t like someone’s writing or you think the writer doesn’t make valid points, comment away. But if you end a comment with the phrase, “Take that” or “That’ll show ‘em,” you’ve probably gotten a little mean.
4) Remember we’re just writers. We’re not responsible for genocide or mass graves. There’s often a “who do you think you are?” face that’s met when someone says she is a writer. Doctors don’t get this and they amputate real live body parts. Astronauts don’t get this and they defy gravity. But if you think you have something to say and the words to say it, the world wants to say “ F*** you.” But do remember, a writer is just a writer. We haven’t say…killed anyone, nor can we control hurricanes. What’s the big deal?
5) Know the difference between “you’re” and “your.” You don’t have to be smarter than me to comment on my writing, but you should know your credibility is lost if my 6-year-old has a better command of the English language than you do. And these days, you don’t even need a thesaurus (that’s a book with big words); you just need “Google.” (The thing you currently use as a dictionary.)
My response to Justin on the Lululemon post? You’ll just have to read it.
— Meredith Gordon
Meredith Gordon is a recovered actress and stand-up comic who has always been a “glass is half annoying” kind of girl. She write movies, blogs and ad copy, and you can find her innermost snarky thoughts at Bad Sandy. She is married to the world’s most stylish straight man and they raise their children in Los Angeles.
I just happened across an article written by an expert. I love these. They give us ways to enrich our lives in “10 easy steps.” This one was about how to deepen the connection with your partner. I have been with the same partner for 43 years, and I am not sure how much deeper I want to go, but I thought, “Hell, why not? Let’s just see if these experts know what they are talking about.”
This particular article provided 10 questions you can ask your partner every day (well, that will get old) in order to plumb the depths and connect on some sort of cosmic level. Yeah. So here it went:
How was your day today? “Well, it was kind of cold in the basement. You know that one of the cats is peeing in the corner by the water heater?
What do you need from me right now? “Huh?”
What are you looking forward to today, this week and this month? “Huh?”
Am I being a good spouse to you? “Huh?”
If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be and why? “Huh?”
Describe your perfect day. “That’s easy. Coffee, golf, accordion practice, and that stuff you make with sauerkraut and sausage.”
What is your greatest fear? “That you will keep asking me these questions. I have to poop.”
I feel so completely in tune with my husband. And it only took eight questions! We are way ahead of the curve on this! Our marriage is so full of meaning and depth. We are one. And I realize just how in tune we actually are. Because now I have to poop.
— Molly D. Campbell
Molly D. Campbell writes a blog from her pantry, often in pajamas. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award winner, winning honorable mentions in both the humor and human interest categories in 2010 and 2012. She recently self-published Characters in search of a novel, her first book.
Somehow, I managed to avoid getting the chicken pox during my childhood. Never thought much about it, since I’d suffered through measles, mumps, appendicitis, tonsillitis, head lice, two broken arms, pneumonia, allergy shots and a few hard knocks on the head. I thought I’d caught a break.
One day, my 3-year-old daughter came home from preschool with some red itchy spots that quickly spread all over her body. I was home with a baby, living in a new neighborhood where I didn’t know anyone very well, and my husband was out of town on a business trip. My sister hadn’t had chicken pox either, so she couldn’t come over to help me. I polled other local family members and the couple of neighbors I’d just met to ask if they would go to the store for me, since I was under quarantine and out of milk. After a few days of baking soda baths and medicine for the itchies, my daughter started to recover. But I had clearly been exposed. I noticed something that looked like a blister on my shin. Just a tiny little blister…
Oh. My. God. Within hours, I was covered with a crazy itching rash that found its way into every nook and cranny and covered my scalp. And I was nursing a baby! Did I mention that my husband was NOT AT HOME?!
He finally returned to find a murderously irritated wife who spent hours up to her neck in the bathtub, running through boxes of baking soda by the dozen. No looking in mirrors, no catching my reflection in a window. Just a quick slide into the tub with eyes closed, praying for the misery to end.
When things had reached a sort of pox plateau, I asked my husband if I looked really terrible. He paused just a little too long before he answered. Oh, it was bad.
And then I found a tiny little blister on the baby’s bottom while I was changing his diaper. Well, what did I expect? Here, a gift from Mom — chicken pox! No need to thank me.
My son had the lightest case of all, thankfully. I don’t think he even noticed, but I still felt terrible about passing it on to the little guy.
The advice nurse at the pediatrician’s office stifled a laugh when I told her I had the chicken pox — at age 30. She tried to make me feel better by telling me that she’d just heard from a boy who’d missed his senior prom because he had them. This did not make me feel better. Not at all. You should not laugh at anyone who has the chicken pox. Ever.
The following week, I got a call from a dad whose daughter went to the same preschool as ours. His wife had just come down with the chicken pox. “Can you help her?” he whispered into the phone. “I think she’s ready to jump off the roof.” The story of my plight had apparently made its way through the preschool grapevine. I was the expert on this now.
“Let me talk to her,” I said.
I don’t remember exactly what I told her, but I heard that she followed my advice. I believe she spent the next few days in the bathtub with a box of baking soda and a nice bottle of Cabernet.
— Risa Nye
The essays and articles of Risa Nye have appeared in local and national publications, and in several anthologies. She’s currently writing about cocktails under the name of Ms Barstool for www.berkeleyside.com. She co-edited an anthology called Writin’ on Empty: Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything in Between When Children Leave the Nest. Her next book, she promises, will have a shorter subtitle.
As a pale and winter-weary East coaster who escaped the latest snowpocalypse by just one day, I felt like I had landed in Shangri-la when I stepped off the plane in San Diego last week.
My oversize suitcase and I shuffled past the baggage claim carousels and through the sliding glass doors. Outside, I gasped. I felt like Dorothy opening the door of her house after it had landed in the technicolor Land of Oz.
My friend Lois, who picked me up, probably thought I was a little wacko as I waxed poetic over the palm trees while stripping off layers of sweaters. “You can’t imagine what it’s like back home,” I babbled as Lois nodded politely.
A different world.
Ahh, California. The Land of Sunshine and Up Talk. Where orange is pronounced aw-range and every sentence is a question. Where people shiver if the temperature drops below 60 degrees.
Given the numbing cold we’ve had this season, it was the best winter ever for an East coaster to visit California. Every day was a golden, sun-dappled gift.
I texted my family. “We need to move here. Who’s in?” I got four little thumbs up icons in response.
The week ended too soon. As I flew home to reality, I contemplated the ways a temperate climate affects human behavior. Here are some of my observations.
Californians are not fixated on the weather forecast.
Here in the East, the weather forecast rules our lives. I watch it on morning TV, sometimes at noon and definitely at night. I switch on our news and weather radio station when I’m driving the car. The weather forecast governs my agenda, my plans for the week and my emotional status.
It also provides an excellent foray to small talk when you’re standing in line buying your milk and bread. In the summer we’ve got “How ’bout those Phillies?’ In the winter, it’s “How many days were you out of power?’
I don’t mean to minimize the weather issues Californians face: earthquakes, fires and mud slides, all terrible. But for the most part, it is blue skies and sunshine. Every day.
No one listens to the forecast in California. It’s not necessary. Chances are excellent that the weather will be some kind of fabulous every day.
Meteorologists just might be superfluous.
Sorry, California weather people, but you’ve got the cushiest job ever? I mean, like, ever? Just look out the window.
East coast meteorologists have to be on their toes. What with the weather maps to draw arrows on, the Nor’Easters from the south and the Polar Vortexes from the north, they’ve got their hands full. And just let them miscall a storm. That frays our collective nerves like you can’t imagine.
Just listening to the five-day forecast can be traumatic.
“Sleet and freezing rain, followed by snow and back to freezing rain, with temperatures dipping into the single digits by tonight. Predicted snowfall could be a few inches or up to a foot, depending on the track of the storm. Icy conditions will make driving hazardous. And we’re watching another system headed our way.”
In California, you’ve got something like this.
“We’ve got a sunny day on tap here in the valley, followed by sunshine tomorrow and Wednesday. Thursday, look for sunshine that should last through Friday. The weekend is looking good, with sunshine likely both days.”
Californians are really, really nice.
Here in the East, we are snotty, aloof and sometimes outright hostile. In California it seems that everyone woke up on the right side of the bed and is having an awesome day. Plus, they want to make sure your day is awesome. So they might tell you more than once to have a good day.
Bus drivers. Restaurant workers. Airline personnel. They’re all so damn cheerful.
Here on the East coast, crankiness is the norm. I didn’t come across a cranky Californian my entire stay.
I concluded that this all makes perfect sense. What’s there to kvetch about when a good portion of your state looks like this.
And this is what I came home to.
I am dreaming of you, California. I can’t wait to come back.
— Helene Cohen Bludman
Helene Cohen Bludman blogs at Books is Wonderful about the quirks of midlife, parenting adult children, modern culture and, or course, books. She left a career in marketing to become a full-time writer.
The subject was bound to come up sooner or later. When we die, what do we want done with our remains?
My husband decided he would prefer a cremation. I should get a nice urn and have his ashes sprinkled over water. I should rent a small plane and when the pilot is low and slow over the Gulf of Mexico, I am to release his ashes.
The problem I have with that plan is that when Scott used to take me flying, I was not the best passenger. He loved to take steep turns as I held on, leaning in the opposite direction in pure fear. I actually believed that if I leaned far enough, I could somehow level out the plane. It never worked. He also loved aerobatic flying. I was so grateful that the Pitts Special aerobatic plane was never mentioned for his release. The thought no sooner entered my mind and I heard him say, “I think I’d prefer being in a Pitts special doing a tail slide.”
Once we had his plan established and I stopped crying, he asked, “What shall I do with you?” His eyes looked sad. Neither of us enjoyed talking about these plans of our demise.
“I’d prefer to be stuffed,” I told him as I blew my nose.
He shook his head, “What did you say?”
I repeated, “I want to be stuffed. I want you to find a taxidermist who will make me look marvelous. I’m hoping they’ll have some sort of gel so you can pose me.”
“Why in God’s name would I want to pose you? You’ll be dead!”
This man is totally clueless! “If I die first and you bring women home, I want to be looking like serious competition in the bedroom. You know that Lifestyle Lift I want? Get me one with my insurance money.”
I’m hoping that by the time I die, there will be scientific methods to keep me limber. I could be like a female Gumby. He put his head in his hands.
“Seriously, you could move me from room to room. Since I’ll just have new stuffing, I won’t be heavy. If you’re sitting on the deck, just bring me out. Put a glass of wine in front of me and party on!”
I was feeling much better now. Death didn’t seem so final and sad. I could still light up his life, so to speak, like a dim bulb. Scott mentioned this idea to my brother-in-law and he suggested having a bag made to fit over my head so women think I’m just a clotheshorse.
“Now that is just disrespectful!” I growled.
The more I think of this plan, the more ideas I come up with. He could dress me to match the seasons and holidays. Since I’d be pliable, it would be easy to change my outfits. I could even be a decoration on our front porch. I could be Mrs. Claus at Christmas and be a witch at Halloween. The possibilities are endless!
He always wondered what I’d look like with brown eyes. This would be his big chance. He could purchase removable eyes on Amazon and a few wigs and I could be the woman of his dreams. The after world is looking pretty bright now.
Scott is calling me to go have a glass of wine with him on the deck now. I wonder if I should wait to see if he comes to carry me out. He’s going to need the practice!
— Anne Bardsley
Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of the soon-to-be-published ANZ World…How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”
There was a time when I took pride in the fact that my house was one of the busiest (and noisiest) on the street. I had four children of my own, took care of five others during the after-school hours and maintained a revolving door for all the neighborhood kids to come over whenever they chose.
On one particular rainy afternoon, I counted 17 kids (ranging in age from 10 to 17) in my matchbox-sized home. I’m convinced that this is when my love for margaritas began.
My house was always LOUD. Music blasting, televisions blaring, giggling, squealing and raucous games of basketball in the driveway — this was the norm. The chaos never bothered me. I loved my role as the entertaining “cool” mom and was happy to provide enough calorie-ladened snacks to feed an army brigade.
I was also 10 years younger with an endless supply of energy that could rival the stamina of the Energizer bunny.
Three of my four children have grown and flown the coop. The last one still at home is 18 and he’d rather have a root canal than spend an evening at home with dear old Mom and Dad. This allows us quite a bit of wiggle room for privacy and a glimpse of what life will be like when the last one packs his bags and heads off to college (hopefully to a school on the other side of the continent). This is why I know I’m going to LOVE being an empty nester:
* A lower grocery bill. My supermarket expenses will finally be lower than my monthly mortgage payment. I will no longer need to buy stock in toilet paper, milk or Axe body spray.
* My car insurance rates will drop, but so will my tax deductions. Perhaps the IRS will count fostering male dogs with bathroom handicaps as a tax deduction.
* My house will stay clean. No more hazardous waste piles of laundry or a bathroom requiring a Hazmat team to scrub it clean.
* We can travel spontaneously anywhere in the world — or maybe just to Walmart — without needing to hire a babysitter.
* No more math homework (Y=mx+b… HUH?), erupting volcanoes in the kitchen (science experiment) or 30-page term papers on the Civil War that create tears of frustration (and several shots of tequila for mom).
* My husband and I can finally have a REAL adult conversation instead of the usual: “Has he pooped today? “Did she eat her greens?” “Make sure he brushes his teeth before bed.” “Does she want fries with that?”
* No more detailed school supply lists from teachers (what do you mean you need a specific brand of environmentally safe markers made in China by three-fingered panda bears?). And no more expensive school uniforms (Honey, you’re NOT wearing a plaid mini skirt and heels to school in a reckless attempt to imitate Jenna Jameson in an adult movie!).
* I don’t have to cook for a crowd every night. The Hubs and I will be perfectly content to snarf down a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for dinner while watching an episode of “Hoarders.”
* No more part-time job as a taxi driver chauffeuring kids in a beat-up mini van to choir, gymnastics, karate, dance, soccer, cheerleading or band. It also signifies the end of chaperoning school field trips to the zoo and getting parrot poop on my head.
* Sex 24/7. Every night can be a date night, and every moment is a Cialis moment. The only thing that’s missing is matching bathtubs in a wildly inappropriate place, like the tool aisle at Sears.
As I revel in my thoughts of newfound freedom, my 18-year-old son informs me he has picked the college he’d like to attend — and it’s only 10 minutes from our home. Looks like my empty-nester plans will have to be put on hold a little bit longer. But I can still dream, can’t I?
— 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.
It is T-12 hours, and I am outside digging around in the trash can. This might not be how most wives prepare for their husband’s return from a business trip, but it works for me. T-12 hours is when I start hiding the evidence of the single lifestyle I’ve been enjoying while he is gone.
Two hours earlier, I am on Skype with a friend. I am trying to tell her about my long, crazy day, but I can barely get a word in between the mouthfuls of pizza I’m cramming down my throat. “Did you chew that last bite? Slow down already, what’s the big hurry?” she asks. Duh. It is ticking towards T-12 hours and my window for living on the wild side is quickly closing.
It is the next evening, and all is back to normal in our house. Vegetables steam on the stove. Fresh pasta is slurped off of plates. Fruit is the main ingredient in dessert. Papa is back home and all evidence of our poor food choices is sitting at the bottom of the local landfill.
Today I ran a very unscientific office poll to see if anyone else does the same thing. I had no idea that the question was going to spark off 20 minutes of reminiscing over the pieces of toast they’d been caught eating at 11 p.m. British people, apparently, really like toast. We waxed poetically about saying no to seconds and then sneaking away at midnight for toast with nutella. We bonded over the mortification of being caught fishing the toast out of the opening. “Toast at 11 p.m.? Why don’t be silly! I’m just getting a jump start on the morning.” We all agreed that the absolute worst is when the wine glasses clink together when you are trying to sneak one out of the cabinet at 10 p.m. DARN YOU GLASSES!
I learned today that everyone sneaks around. Everyone has some behavior that they don’t want their other half to know about. For many of us, it is the three cookies and the glass of wine we guzzle in the dark corner of the kitchen. For others, it may be a sister-wife in the house next door or a cross-dressing fetish. Whatever works, I say!
These little acts of rebellion play a big role in my happy marriage. They help remind me of who I was before I became a we. They give me a healthy outlet when the vexation of him leaving his dirty socks on my side of the bed AGAIN might otherwise send me looking for a gun or a gallon of poison. They certainly help fill the large gap that his absence creates.
That is why, no matter what anyone else says to me, I will never regret my midnight dumpster dives where I bury the pizza boxes and beer bottles. If that is the worst thing that middle-age marriage throws my way, I think I am doing pretty darn well.
— Lynn Morrison
Lynn Morrison is the author of the award-winning humor blog The Nomad Mom Diary. An American mom, she is raising two prim little girls in England along with her Italian husband. She is a regular contributor to BLUNTmoms and will be included in the 2014 blogger anthology I Just Want to Be Alone.
My head is cloudy. My body aches. I’m a drippy, stuffy mess, but as mom, there’s no time for that, no time at all. Children must be corralled, lunches made, activities organized. So even though I’d like to lie down, close my eyes and nap, I’m moving and shaking, although the shaking might just be from the chills.
My husband comes downstairs, a look of exhaustion fixed on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, busy doing what needs to be done.
“I can’t breathe,” he says. Can you hand me a tissue?” He looks at me pleadingly, like a little boy.
“Here,” I say annoyed and hand him the tissue box. Can’t I have this sick day? Can’t being sick even be about me? “Would you like a sticker now?” I ask sarcastically.
“Maybe some juice?” He makes puppy eyes, but at the moment, I just think he’s a dog.
I try to take a deep calming breath but my nose is stuffed, so I just swallow a little mucus and choke, but no one notices. If I wasn’t so weary, I might have something snarky to say. Instead I just hand him a cup of juice, but I do it with a scowl.
Because if he has a cold, it seems like pneumonia.
If he’s nauseous, he’s hacking in the bathroom some inhuman sound reserved for dying animals.
If he’s under the weather, it’s a blizzard in Minnesota.
So while there’s definitely something wrong with my husband, mainly he just sucks at being sick. And if I’m not feeling well, his symptoms somehow worsen. Not that I think he does it consciously, but…
Me: I don’t feel so well.
Him: Me either.
Me: My head hurts.
Him: Mine, too. And my throat.
Me: That’s weird.
Him: Yeah, I’m really achy.
Him: Yeah. In fact, I think I need to lie down. Could you make me soup?”
Apparently, women aren’t allowed to be sick. Ever.
And it’s not just my husband. I’m prepared to throw all men under the bus here. According to women everywhere, men just can’t handle the pain. They wheeze and whine, they moan and complain, they need lollipops and cool compresses, while the wives nurse the baby while standing up, cooking dinner and overseeing homework, all with a 103 temperature, a broken leg and three broken arms. Yeah, three.
It makes me re-think some of the turns of phrase I randomly use without thinking, like “Take it like a man” or “Man up.”
How did these become part of the vernacular? I think ‘Take it like woman’ is more appropriate and from now on I’m telling my boys to ‘Mom up,’ because if there’s something we know how to do, it’s suffer.
Don’t bother passing me the tissues, I’ll just get them myself.
Marital Disclaimer: Just to be clear and not because he’s reading this, my husband is very manly. He’s the coach of everything, he kills spiders, climbs ladders, fixes stuff and likes nothing more than chips on the couch and sports on the TV. In fact, my husband can beat up your husband, unless of course he’s sick.
— Alisa Schindler
Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog www.icescreammama.com. Her essays have been featured on Mamapedia.com and Bonbonbreak.com as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest. She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.