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Our rained-out family vacations

myron.kuklaIt’s summer. The weather is lousy. Gas prices are the highest in the history of the world. So obviously, it’s time to go on the annual family summer vacation.

Usually, I can accurately predict our vacation will be a disaster before we go.

For one thing, our vacations always involve lots of water even though we almost never go to the lake or beach. The water on our vacations comes in the form of rain, hail, sleet, tornadoes, hurricanes, and on alternate years, flooding.

Over the years, the Kukla family has taken a variety of vacations to any number of interesting places where we’ve been rained on. I’ve kept a journal of the jaunts and I would like to share the highlights from my vacation journals for you.

July, something (date washed away by rainwater).

We’ve gone on our first camping trip. So far, it’s rained all week. Kids are complaining that we brought them.

What’s worse is we forgot to put our collie “Jo” in the kennel again. Can’t get the smell of wet dog off us.

July something, something.

Bright sunny weather all the way to Myrtle Beach.  Spent the afternoon on the beach getting sun until the hurricane rolled in. North Carolina Governor has evacuated the coast. Spent the rest of our vacation at a tacky amusement park called “South of the Border” trying to toss waterlogged softballs into sombreros to win a prize.

(Everything but the number “11” obliterated by water)

We’ve gone off to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky, to explore the grandeur of these underground natural wonders.  As usual for our vacation, it’s rained the whole time in Kentucky, but for once, we were underground so no one cared.

The Mammoth Caves tour guide took us on enthralling walk through the wondrous caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites. Whenever the guide stopped and asked for questions, our son Jason asked, “Does Batman live here?” He asks the question 47 times and got the answer “No” 47 times.  For fun, Jason starts asking, “Where’s Robin?”

Our son Matthew disappears during the tour. After an hour search, we find him sleeping in one of the tunnels. Nathan pretended to fall down a “bottomless sinkhole” for laughs.  We become the first family ever banned from Mammoth Caves.

Rest of trip washed out by flooding.

(“A” something and a “t” still visible. Rest of entry destroyed) Here’s a summary.

Took family on fishing trip. Rained buckets. Fish drowned.

Roadtrip 2006

Went on a road trip to national historic sights on East coast. Plan to see Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., someplace where everyone wears colonial clothes and build things by hand, and also Busch Gardens.

We drove all night to avoid traffic. We have three drivers. Nate took the midnight to 3 a.m. shift on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while we sleep in the back of the van.

About 2 a.m. we wake to the sound of tires screeching and Nathan shouting, “Oh, my God, we’re going to die” as the van swerved back and forth on two wheels.

“What’s happening?” I scream.  He laughed. “Nothing. Just go back to sleep.”

No one sleeps the rest of the night.

July 14-20, 2014

Have come to Disney World in Orlando. Experienced no earthquakes or tidal waves along the way.  Weather is beautiful. Found free passes to the park and there are almost no crowds. We’re all enjoying ourselves thoroughly.

I think I’ve come with the wrong family.

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is a professional journalist, writer and owner of the West Michigan-based marketing company WriteStuff.  Kukla is the author of two books of humor, Confessions of a Baby Boomer: Memories of Things I Haven’t Forgotten Yet and Guide to Surviving Life. He has also just published two ebooks on, Chomp and Something in the Blood.

Sharknado 2 still bites

Cavanaugh-donna-230x275Twitter was a flutter with Sharknado 2. And again, I have to say the film did deliver. I’m not sure what it delivered, but my guess would be comedy.

Let’s look at some of the highlights of this shark attack film.  If you didn’t yet watch the film, turn your eyes from this page as I will be revealing the plot and some of its finer points.

Ian Ziering returns in the hero role as does Tara Reid as his romantic and brave sidekick. We begin with the couple (divorced but the last sharknado — shark/tornado combo — romp brought them closer together and now they are trying to work things out. She is sporting her wedding rings again). Hey, I get that. He got swallowed by a shark last time and fortunately, he had a chain saw in his hands and was able to cut his way out of the belly. If that doesn’t inspire a couple to reconcile, I don’t know what will.

The movie begins with them on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The flight is experiencing major turbulence as it flies through a thunderstorm. And as it was with the classic “Twilight Zone” episode where William Shatner sees a monster on the wing of his plane,  Ziering sees sharks spinning outside his window.  He thinks he is imagining them at first, but when one of the sharks gets caught in the engine of the plane and all hell breaks loose, he knows the flight is in danger. My first clue that there might  trouble was when a shark crashed through the plane at 30,000 feet causing a gaping hole which sucked people out and then proceeded to chomp the head off the flight attendant. Hey, subtlety is not lost on me.

Tara Reid is almost sucked out, too. As she is holding on to some kind of strap inside the plane, sharks start coming after her from the air because as we surmise, it’s another Sharknado. This couple cannot get a break!  A guy on the plane, who was either an air marshal or terrorist (I had to go to the bathroom so missed his ID), hands her his gun, and she is able to shoot the sharks while flapping in the wind and holding on with one hand to the aforementioned strap. Unfortunately, a shark bites off her gun hand, but luckily Ziering is in the cockpit and is landing the plane. I guess I should mention that the pilots are dead, too — victims of the flying fish.  I hope the Pilot’s Union pays attention to this. The plane lands, Tara Reid is rushed into surgery and do you know the most miraculous aspect of this experience? Her eyeliner remained totally unsmudged and her diamond earrings stayed in her ears.

Anyway, I am in awe of this flick as it had everything a moviegoer is looking for: family conflict, tons of cameo appearances by famous stars, special effects that include everything from the Statue of Liberty’s head flying through the streets of New York to Ziering being sucked up through a Sharknado where he is able to reel in a chain saw he sees fly by him. What are the chances of him finding two chain saws in two different movies?   With unbelievable presence of mind,  he jumps into a shark’s mouth and rips it to shreds with that chain saw all while spinning at 200 MPH. I almost wept at that scene. It was so poignant.

Remember Tara Reid’s missing hand? Well, after Ziering implodes the Sharknado with propane and Vivica Fox’s help (see below),  one of the killing fish bastards drops to the ground with Ziering and what does Ziering pull out of that shark’s body?  Are you ready? Tara Reid’s missing hand, and it still had her engagement ring on its little lifeless finger. Talk about gut-wrenching emotion. He  pulls the ring off the dead finger and gets down on one knee and places that ring on Tara’s right hand — you know the one still attached. Of course, they kiss and well, the people of NYC applaud with glee. So romantic, right?

Obviously, I have omitted quite a few scenes such as a shark attack at Citipark during a Mets’ game, the entire family conflict subplot, Vivica Fox’s role, which was pretty lame as the chick who pines for Ziering but finds comfort in the fact he is in love with someone else (Vivica was a little off in this flick. I wouldn’t peg her as a worship-from-afar type of gal. She’s more of a “I’ll make you disappear for messing with my man” type of gal), and last but not least, the incredible acting performances of Al Roker, Matt Lauer, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan.

Those who like sharks flying through the air and decapitating people will love this flick. I have to wonder if this movie is supposed to be just another shark flick or are there lessons to be learned such as:

• Lend a hand — you’ll probably get one back in the end.

• Take it from the guy in Texas, chain saws are a good choice of weaponry.

• Good jewelry can survive anything; don’t buy the cheap stuff.

• News anchors should never do comedy.

• Sharks can even make a Mets game seem exciting.

— Donna Cavanagh

Donna Cavanagh, who was part of the 2014 EBWW faculty, is a humor entrepreneur and founder of, an online humor magazine that features the work of more than 100 writers, screenwriters, filmmakers, actors and stand up comics.  She is also founder of HumorOutcasts Press/Shorehouse Books and is co-host of Write Out Loud for the URBusiness Network.  A veteran journalist who detoured into humor writing, Donna considers humor as “our best weapon against the challenges of today’s world.” Her books include Life on the Off Ramp, which was a finalist in the USA Books Contest, Try and Avoid the Speed Bumps, and her latest, A Canine’s Guide to the Good Life.

Today I fired my BFF

Vikki ClaflinI recently read an interesting article about self-talk and the things we say to ourselves every day. Apparently, therapists generally agree that if Hubs or a friend spoke to us the way we speak to ourselves, we’d kick them to the curb right freaking now (okay, I paraphrased).

The writer pointed out that since the person we spend the most time with every day is, well, us, that’s where most of our personal feedback comes from. A co-worker who remarks, “Gee, that skirt is a little tight for the office, don’t you think?” doesn’t do near as much damage to our self-esteem as an all-day inner mantra, repeatedly chanting to ourselves, “Yep, you’re still fat.”

The brain believes what it’s told, so it’s critical that we become aware of the constant barrage of judgmental, belittling “truths” that we unconsciously tell ourselves all day long. In short, we should never talk to ourselves in a way we’d never tolerate from someone else. We need to be our own biggest cheerleaders. Our own best friends.

She suggested an experiment where you journal your conversations with yourself over the course of a day, to see what kind of a friend you are to you. Here’s what I found. (Meet my inner voice, “BBF,” or Bad Best Friend):

1. The morning weigh-in:
Me: “Staying down where it should. This isn’t so hard.”
BBF:  “Yeah, since you haven’t eaten dinner in a week. You won’t last. If you had that kind of control, you wouldn’t have been a Teletubby in the first place. Same time tomorrow, Porkchop.”

2. Out of the shower, naked inspection:
Me: “Not bad for 57. With the right clothes, a push-em-up bra and Spanx, I could still work it.”
BBF: “You’re kidding, right? Then what’s that on the back of your thighs? See it, right between your legs? That’s it, bend over and look upside down between your thighs, and tell me what you see. Yep, it’s your sagging butt cheeks. They evidently thought your boobs looked lonely, so they joined them on the Gravity Express. Still feel like ‘working it’?”

3. Blow-drying my hair:
Me (holding up blow dryer): “My triceps need a little toning. Maybe I’ll get one of those Shake Weights.”
BBF: “Yeah, that’ll work. If you’re 12. That wobbling skin under your arms is called ‘turkey waddle,’ and it’s only sexy on poultry. Now you’ll be wearing long sleeves in July, just like all the other middle-aged grandmothers in the park.”

4. Make-up:
Me: “My skin looks pretty good. Must be good genes. A little tinted moisturizer to smooth it out, and I’m ready to go.”
BBF: “Who are you kidding?? You’ve had an eye job and Botox, and you still have a L.A. road map around your eyes. And is that a chin hair I see??”

5. Getting dressed:
Me: “This dress would look better over Spanx, but it’s too hot, so not today. I look fine.”
BBF: “Yeah, if your definition of ‘fine’ is a middle-aged woman with ass-jiggle when she’s standing still. No Spanx, no dress, lady.”

6. Career:
Me: “Got to get to work. But someday I’m going to make a living by writing.”
BBF: “Dream on, baby. So far, you’ve only impressed your mother and an ex-boyfriend from high school, class of 1974. And if you ever do actually write a book, your mother is going to expect a free copy. Don’t quit your day job, you hack.”

7. Dieting:
Me: “I’m going to lose two pounds this week. I’m committed. Where’s the produce department?”
BBF: “Yeah, how would you know? You haven’t eaten a vegetable in, like, 57 years. And you might want to take the econo-size box of Milk Duds, three frozen pizzas, Brown Cow Diet (seriously??) ice cream sandwiches, Doritos Fire Chips, two cans of bean dip, and the six bottles of wine out of your cart. You on a diet?? Bahahahaha!”

8. Shopping:
Me: “That bikini in the boutique window is so cute. I remember those days.”
BBF: “Oh, please. You couldn’t wear that in high school. Why do you think your parents always called you the ‘wholesome one’? Get a clue, Blondie. That wasn’t a compliment.”
Me: “Fine, but look at that rockin’ black leather jacket. Ooh, I could definitely do that.”
BBF: “Absolutely, if you’re going for aging, rock band groupie. Why don’t you just buy a leopard print miniskirt and a T-shirt that says ‘I used to be hot’?”

9. Grandkids:
Me: “I wish we lived closer to the kids so I could see them more often.”
BBF: “Yeah, I’ll bet that’s what they’re thinking, too. ‘Gee, we wish Mom was here every day, so she could be all up our business and give us lots of advice on how we spend our money and how to raise our kids. That would be way cool.’”

10. Out and About:
Me: “That delightful young man behind the counter is smiling at me.”
BBF: (Snort) “Uh, look behind you. See that hot 20-something blonde gazelle in the cropped top? I’m betting it was her, not you. Besides, you could be that boy’s mother and not have been a child bride, if you get my drift. Guys that flirt with you aren’t called ‘guys.’ They’re called ‘seniors’ and they carry AARP cards, not backpacks.”

11. Dinner:
Me: “No, I’m not going to eat dinner tonight. If I have more than a Fruit Loop and a Diet Coke after 5 p.m., my weight goes up. But I’m disciplined. I’ll pass tonight.”
BBF: “Ha. By the second glass of wine, you’ll be hitting the Pringles hard. Admit defeat now, snarf down that pizza, and kick yourself in the morning, like every morning, Chubs.”

12. Writing:
Me: “Time to create a brand-new post. I can do this. I’m funny. Really, I am.”
BBF: “Maybe you were funny at one time, but that ship has sailed. You have no funny stories left. You’ve told them all. Face it. You’re not funny anymore. And you’re 57. Get out now. You need a new craft, and you’re not getting any younger.”

It seems that my inner best friend is kind of a bitch.

That night, I sent her a text. “Dear Bad Best Friend, You know this friendship thing? You suck at it. So get on down the road with your judgmental, mean-girl self, because I’m dumping your ass. When you can say “Good morning, Gorgeous” without rolling your eyes and snorting, we’ll discuss reconciliation possibilities. Until then, I will no longer consult you on any matters pertaining to my worth.”

I feel more confident already. And now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a fabulous black leather jacket that’s calling my name.

— Vikki Claflin

Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reels — Hilarious Writes and Wrongs: Take 26. In 2014, she received a BlogHer Voice of the Year award for humor.

How to keep a husband happy

Marcia Kester DoyleWith my husband’s birthday just weeks away, I found myself wondering what to do for him on his special day. An early Oktoberfest in the backyard? A competitive spot next to Adam Richman on “Man v. Food” at an all-you-can-eat-ribs diner? Probably not a good idea since our toilet is temperamental.

When I was finally able to grab my husband’s attention from the NBA playoffs for a nanosecond, I asked him what it would take to make him happy on his birthday — other than the obvious. I’m talking BEER, people. Get your minds out of the gutter.

After our little chat during the five-minute commercial break, I came to the conclusion that my husband’s needs go far beyond a single day of recognition. He deserves to be happy all year ’round and to feel appreciated on a daily basis.

Actions speak louder than words, so I’ve come up with a wish list of things I think wives should do that would make most husbands happy on their birthday:

•  Let him eat all the burgers, pizza and chicken wings he wants. Just remind him you’ve already set up his doctor’s appointment for a new heart stent.

•  Give him the badabing manual on “How To Help Your partner Reach The Big O in 2 Minutes Or Less When The Playoffs Are On.”

•  Install a mini fridge full of beer next to his La-Z-Boy recliner. Add a portable catheter so he never has to get out of his chair.

•  Let him take a nap for an hour every day. Longer if he’s hooked up to the catheter.

•  Convince him he needs a night out with his buddies Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble at the Water Buffalo Lodge. This is especially important if your husband is the Grand Poobah of the man cave.

•  Tell him not to strain and push so hard at the gym. Working toward a six pack just to be a trophy husband isn’t worth popping out a hemorrhoid.

•  Let him sit on the couch, scratch his nether region and channel surf all weekend long.

•  Keep the sex life interesting, even if it requires a nightly Viagra cocktail and a wife dressed in an Oscar Mayer Wiener costume.

•  Surprise him with VIP tickets to his favorite sporting event that include seats in the sky lounge, unlimited steak, beer and an adult diaper changing station.

•  Give him an HD television the size of a movie theatre screen.

•  Let him spend a weekend at a testosterone-infused camp where men are men and sheep are nervous. Hopefully he won’t have a b-a-a-a-a-d experience.

•  Buy him a large gift certificate to a hardware store. This allows him all the time necessary to roam the aisles for stupid trinkets. Don’t be surprised if he comes home with a paint sprayer that doubles as a margarita dispenser.

•  Tell him it’s perfectly acceptable to show off his talent of burping the alphabet for your guests. Farting the alphabet, not so much.

If none of these suggestions works to keep your husband happy, I have a Plan B. Send him off to a one-room cabin in the woods for a year where he can grow a long beard and commune with the tree frogs.

— 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 contributor to the Huffington Post, staff writer for In The Powder Room and 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. In 2014, she was named a Blogher Voice Of The Year.

Top comedians share their stand up success strategies

Berk-Nancy-230x287I recently had the opportunity to chat with some of the funniest women in stand up for my iTunes podcast Whine At 9 and Parade Magazine online column Showbiz Analysis. Wendy Liebman, Heather McDonald, Loni Love and Iliza Shlesinger shared plenty of hilarious stories as well as some valuable advice for anyone pursuing a comedy career — including those in the EBWW community (Let’s face it, EBWW stand up night is one of the most unique and fun features of the workshop!) Below are five stand up strategies that seem to have helped these talented women land on the biggest stages in show business and prove that women can rock the room as well as, or better than, the guys on the block.

1. Find your own unique voice.

In an industry where some might consider mimicking the style of other success stories, these comedians have made their mark and their money by being themselves and emphasizing their differences. Last Comic Standing winner Iliza Shlesinger believes that  connecting with audiences requires you to “give them something authentic.” Comic and Chelsea Lately’s Heather McDonald says, “I just never saw anyone that was like me up there.” Focusing on bringing her own personality to the stage, McDonald admits, “That is an exaggerated persona of myself, but it is really me.” Regarding her comedy image as a party-lover, McDonald laughs, “Sure I’ve gotten drunk at company functions — because my company’s Chelsea Lately, so it’s hard not to.”

2. It’s all about teamwork and being a team player.

From the home front to the stage and screen, all of these comedians have found the power in building a strong social support network and being team players. Their careers may appear to be solo acts, but there were plenty of people in the background who helped them make this happen. For most, women comedy mentors helped provide them with opportunities that have opened professional doors. Talk show favorite and author of Love Him or Leave Him, But Don’t Get Stuck With the Tab Loni Love credits women like Wendy Williams, Bethany Frankel, Chelsea Handler and Ellen Degeneres with giving her the opportunity to cut her comedy chops. Says Love, “They allowed me to get the training. And they’ve been very encouraging to me.”

When Heather McDonald’s not doing stand up, she’s busy collaborating with other comedy professionals. Notes E!’s After Lately actress, “When you’re able to collaborate with other people, it helps your ego be put to the side sometimes, because you just want to have fun and you want the funniest show. And so I do feel that it is great that I can do both and that I enjoy doing both.”

Of course behind every great and happy comedian, there’s usually an understanding partner or family member. “I have a great husband who doesn’t mind that I talk a lot about him in my act,” says McDonald about her spouse who has never discouraged her from tackling a gig. Because life on the comedy highway often takes you far from home, McDonald recognizes that her career involves a lot of external support. Says the comic whose first one-hour comedy special I Don’t Mean To Brag… will air on Showtime in August, “I am fortunate enough to have a great support system and that’s why I’m able to do what I do.”

3. Do your homework and put in your hours.

Stand up might look like fun, but success in the business comes to those who’ve honed their craft and clocked endless comedy hours on stage and off. Working different venues, analyzing audience reactions and testing out material are only some of the critical pieces of the puzzle. Creating new content is the other. Using the same joke sets over and over again might help you polish your work, but if you can’t create new material quickly, the game is over before it even begins. Perhaps no situation showcases this as well as NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” With respect to stand up on TV, “Last Comic Standing” winner and the woman behind the comedy special War Paint, Iliza Shlesinger says the tough part is “the ability to take a scalpel to your set, get your point across and be likable in 90 seconds or 30 seconds or a minute 20, however long your set is. There’s a lot of math that goes into it — a lot of math and a lot of skill. So it’s a lot of lightning in a bottle.”

Loni Love is proof that a comedy career doesn’t happen overnight. She’d done stand up in college, but her initial career took her in a different direction. Says Love, who, by day worked as an engineer and developed her comedy act at night before taking the leap into full time show business, “It’s been a long haul. It may seem to some people that have never heard of me, ‘Oh she just popped up on the scene,’ but I’ve been working on this for some time.” Adds the host of Fox’s The Real, “It’s taken a while, but you know it’s been that type of ride. I didn’t know anybody in the industry. I’ve learned. I’ve networked. I’ve worked hard. I’ve written material. I’ve traveled all across the United States.”

4. Get over the need to be liked.

Iliza Shlesinger may be the youngest comic to nab the title of “Last Comic Standing,” but she’s got the wisdom part down. What advice would she give those who hope to follow in her funny footsteps? Shlesinger says, “My only advice is to just put on blinders. And you can’t worry about when other comics aren’t nice to you, when other comics don’t like you, when bookers don’t like you. No one’s ever going to like you 100 percent because it’s comedy and it’s subjective.”

5. Be flexible and be ready for your opportunity.

Wendy Liebman has been rolling with her comedy career for nearly three decades and she’s always open to new opportunities. The busy wife, stepmom and star of the TV special Taller on TV notes, “I think personally I have been very safe — like holding onto something. Just figuring it out for 30 years — almost 30 years.” This summer she is a finalist headed for the stage at Radio City Music Hall for NBC’s America’s Got Talent live auditions. “I think I’m ready now to expand, to grow,” says Liebman, who would love to do a sitcom in the future.

Loni Love thinks the key to comedy success is being ready. “You know, eventually you get breaks and you try to be ready. And I just tell everybody, especially women, ‘Just be ready for your break.’”

How flexible should you be when you feel like you’re over 30 and time might not be on your side? Says Liebman, “I think it’s never too late to start anything except maybe being a ballerina.”

Listen to all of the comedy conversations on iTunes, and Stitcher Radio.

— Dr. Nancy Berk

Dr. Nancy Berk is a clinical psychologist who’s been on a creative roll since leaving full-time academia. An online columnist for Parade Magazine‘s “Showbiz Analysis” and host of the celebrity podcast “Whine At 9,” she also blogs for The Huffington Post and USA Today College. Nancy’s humor has landed her on stage at places like TEDx and her book, College Bound and Gagged, in the feature film Admission starring Tina Fey. She’s served on the faculty at the 2012 and 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Wine, whine, wine

Anne BardsleyThere are so many quizzes now on Facebook: “What kind of animal are you? What kind of animated character are you? How bitchy are you?”

So many choices! I don’t take those tests. I don’t care if I’m a lion, a tiger or a bear…oh my! I don’t care if I’m Miss Piggy or Doc McStuffins. I can save the time taking the bitchy quiz and tell you right off the bat that I can be bitchy, but that’s usually when I’m provoked. I’m working on that. I find my descriptions of myself elsewhere.

I like to read wine bottles. They intrigue me. I’m not a connoisseur to actually taste what they proclaim the vineyard produces, but I love the descriptions they use. I never taste the licorice, mint or aromatic flowers. The tannin escapes me as well. It seems if it’s wine, I drink it. I think I may find my own personal charming description on these labels, and it will suit me perfectly.

White Zinfandel combines crisp refreshment with bright fruit. It has flavors of fresh strawberry and hints of white peach. Now doesn’t that sound just like me at a garden party? I probably had woken up from a nap so I looked crisp. I must have worn an apple red sundress. And I probably had strawberry shortcake with a slice of white peach along with a goblet of White Zin. Call me Mrs. Zin. (not Sin)

Cabernet from Bordeaux professes the flavor is comparable to well, you decide. Imagine you filled a leather bag with a pound of black cherries and held it close to your chest while you rolled down a hill. Yum! Truthfully, after a few glasses of wine, I might be game to try this, providing it is a small hill. It is also best served with meats and high-fat food. What’s not to love?

The other night I enjoyed a Cabernet which read, “Enjoy while young and sassy.” At first I thought that was a horrible sales technique. What about all of us older people? I drank it anyway. I always feel young and sassy when I drink wine. My friend said they meant the wine was young and sassy, not the drinker. Who knew?

Merlot is full bodied and cheaper than the Cabernet, but it has a smoother finish. It is affordable and underrated, much like myself.

Riesling has a colorful German heritage that’s had a bad reputation in the ‘80s. My mother–in-law would love to discuss my reputation in that time period at length; however, she’s in Heaven now (I hope). We finally get along famously.

Unoaked Chardonnay has a brand named “Wine With No Pants.” They describe it as getting saucy without pants. No need for me to explain the comparison to moi.

There is also a Petet-Vidure that drinks well without food. Hello! Is this me or what?

I can finally describe myself to you.

I am a full-bodied, crisp, rolling-down-the-hill with a pound of cherries kind of girl. I’m smooth, colorful and had a bad reputation in the ‘80s (according my mother-in-law only). I’m affordable and underrated. I can get saucy with or without pants on. …and I drink well without food.

Take that, Facebook!

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of 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.”

I’m unqualified

View More: recently read a blog post about how important it is to teach toddlers about their body parts. Apparently, simply knowing the correct words for male and female genitals deters predators who know that these children will be more able to report being touched inappropriately.

Cut to me sweating profusely. My daughter is almost four, and unless ‘front hiney’ and ‘back hiney’ are the scientific words for the female anatomy, I think I might have failed here.

I took the recommendation from the article about a specific book geared toward small children called Amazing You! (by Dr. Gail Saltz) that teaches basics about private parts and reproduction.

I wanted to be one of those parents who was all “My kids can talk to me about ANYTHING,” but, apparently, the truth is they can talk to me about anything as long as it is not related to…. In my pre-read, I confirmed that this book was LOADED with ALL the parts, leaving nothing out, but hey, that’s what I wanted, right?

I quickly realized that I was not only unprepared, but unable (even with the help of a book), to effectively teach my daughter about private parts. After assessing my lacking skills, I was able to pinpoint several reasons for my ineptitude:

1. Time of Day Hinders Me.  I put off reading the book for several days telling myself that it was never the right time of day. I mean, who wants to have that talk first thing in the morning? I at least need to have coffee before I bring up scrotums with a 3-year-old girl, thank you. I usually read to the children before nap and bedtime, so I figured that would work, but then I felt weird about sending my daughter off to bed with visions of labias dancing in her head. It was just never the right time.

2. Boy Parts Make Me Giggle. On my first read aloud with my daughter, I began to rush, knowing that my husband would soon be making his way down the hall to join us after tucking our son in. I was uncomfortable enough reading it to her, but there was no way I could keep it together with him in the room reading sentences like “Inside the sac under your penis are soft balls called testicles.” First of all, since when is the sack just a sac? Where did the “K” go? Was it ever there? Why does the lack of a “K” make me want to laugh even more?

I had just finished with several pages of penis when I came to a page that had a baby, a small boy and a man all drawn anatomically correct and naked.My daughter points to one of the penis trifecta and says “nipple!”

Me: “No, it’s a penis.” (Please note that there was NO nipple talk in this entire book, so I have no idea where this was coming from.)

Girl: “Look at the little nipple!”

Me: “It’s a penis.”

Girl: (Her voice getting more delighted and pointing her finger at it): “He’s got a little nipple!!”

Me: (Flipping back a page to the penis stuff and starting to laugh): “Penis!”

Husband comes down the hall within earshot.

Girl: “Nipple. Nipple. Nipple.”

Me: (laughing now) “Penis. Penis. Penis.”

Husband: (Looks in the room, walks over and sees penis illustration. Quickly exits forever.)

3. Girl Parts Gross Me Out. There are certain words in the English language that gross me out. I don’t like to say them and avoid them whenever possible. They make my throat close a little and I feel queasy. Stool, clot, nugget…you get the picture. A large portion of these gag words are parts of the female anatomy including uterus, womb, falopian, etc. Once my daughter found out that the baby lives in there for nine months, I was forced to repeat uterus 356 times in response to her questions. I thought it might desensitize me. I was wrong.

4. I Am Hostile When It Comes To Childbirth Questions. I didn’t have the worst childbirth experience, but it wasn’t great, either.  A 30-hour induced labor, ending in a not quite emergency C-section with some nasty follow-up complications, gave me a bad taste for birthing babies. The book explains it as follows:

“The baby will come out of the mother’s vagina, which is very, very stretchy. It stretches wide enough for the baby to come out and then goes back to the way it was before.”

I was at a loss for words.  Since I had a C-section, I couldn’t speak to vajayjay elasticity, but I can assure you that nothing on your body is “like it was before” after childbirth, including  a vagina that has been stretched around the back of your head to allow for the child to exit.

Luckily, while I can’t talk vagina very well with my preschooler, I can lie.  I backed up this load of crap convincingly. She looked in the direction and then cast me a shifty look as if to say “there’s no way,” but we seemed to silently agree that it was just better to drop it for now.

5. I Live In Fear of Kitchen Table Testicle Talk (or KTTT). I think my final failure centers around my inability to really embrace this topic and make it acceptable discussion anywhere other than during the book reading. I am haunted by the possibility of sperm, urethras and penises rearing their ugly heads (pun totally intended) at the dinner table.  More specifically I am horrified that my daughter will speak of them anywhere in public, or where my parents (specifically Dad) might be present.  Although a wonderful man and in very good health, one ill-timed “scrotum” might be enough to end him.

Let’s reflect on how I can improve. Going forward, I will stifle my laughter and gag reflex. I will cover the appropriate places to talk about birds’ and bees’ equipment. I’ll get into the truth about childbirth when she gets older. As far as time of day, I think I will try to stick with the bedtime schedule for reading the book. Right before we hit the sac.

— Susan Maccarelli, is Susan Maccarelli’s humor blog, though occasionally she’ll author a poignant post revealing her soft underbelly  (euphemism AND literal description).  Susan also helps other bloggers get featured on the websites they aspire to, via her blog resource site, Features on BlogHerBlunt Moms, Bonbon Break and In The Powder Room help feed her attention-seeking behavior.

The catsitting dilemma

Mary Farr and NoahMadam rang this morning to report that she needed my advice. Truthfully, she probably just wanted to vent. It seemed that her First Born had embarked on an Alaskan tour a few days ago and left Madam in charge of two cats.

This might not sound like a tricky matter. However, Madam called to report that three days into the assignment, she had already locked herself out of the First Born’s house. No spare key stashed under the hostas. No friendly neighbor offering coffee and a box of burglary tools. It was just Madam and two domestic shorthairs staring at one another through the glass door. She paced up and down the front walk, while the cats batted at unsuspecting squirrels from behind a secured window.

Did I mention that the domestic shorthairs don’t particularly like one another? Actually, that’s an understatement. These two would rather share a litter box with a pit bull than nap together in the same house.

“So, do they have enough food and water?” I queried once Madam had shared the lockout details.

“Yes, yes, but they need their medicine,” she wailed. “I have strict orders to swipe their ears with a calming potion once daily. And that’s not all. The two need to be separated. The diminutive female hangs out in the bedroom with the door closed. The plump fellow lives under the dining room table, where he spends most of his time trying to figure out how to bust into the bedroom.”

“Why?” I inquired. If memory serves, these felines met two years ago. After a year of tearful veterinary calls, three animal behaviorist consultations, calming kitty cooking classes, and a Bose radio tuned to soothing music, one would think they could find their way to a truce.

“And, another thing,” fumed Madam, “pheromones. I can’t find the pheromone plug-in that goes in the wall outlet – that thingy that’s supposed to make Miss kitty feel more comfortable around the obese rabble-rouser.”

Oh dear, cat counseling is not exactly my forte. Then, just as Madam was about to dispatch her next kitty diatribe, a deafening shriek pierced the airways.

“ADT,” she reported evenly. “The cats have set off the house alarm. With any luck it will get somebody’s attention.”

No question, the alarm eliminated any need to call 911. My guess was it could be heard at the Wisconsin border.

“Now what,” I squeaked, holding the phone away from my ear. “Should I ask the Landlord to come help?”

“Naw, countered Madam. “Somebody will show up, and I’ll just let them break in.” It beats calling the First Born in Alaska, and State Farm will be happy to pay for the door just to avoid meeting these two cats. How about if you and I forget to mention this little caper to the rest of the family?”

“Good idea” I agreed. “Glad to have been of service.”

— 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 hereNever Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival.

Reflections of Erma