It may come as a shock to you that I can’t get pregnant. The reason, of course, is that I am too old. But that did not stop a doctor from sending me for a sonogram.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t my first. It was my fifth. Or sixth. I have lost count, mostly under the influence of painkilling drugs, but I do know that I am a human quarry who manufactures these things at an alarming rate. If I could outsource this manufacturing to another person, I would. But I can’t, so I continue to have kidney stones.
The first time I had one, a nurse told me it was the male equivalent of childbirth. I told her that at least I wouldn’t have to put the stone through college.
This time, my urologist, Dr. Albert Kim, who has a practice in the appropriately named New York hamlet of Stony Brook, ordered a sonogram because I’d already had enough X-rays from my previous kidney stones to glow in the dark, which at least would reduce my electric bills.
When I arrived at Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology, I spoke with Amy, one of the nice people who work at the front desk.
“I’ve been here so often that I should have my own parking space,” I told her.
“Even I can’t get one,” Amy said with a smile. Then she handed me paperwork whose sheer volume rivaled that of “War and Peace” and asked me to fill it out.
“I’ve had to do this so many times that my right hand should be X-rayed,” I said.
Amy nodded sympathetically and replied, “You can keep the pen.”
Then I was called in by a nice technologist named Erin, who asked if I had been drinking.
“No,” I replied, “but I could go for a beer.”
“I mean water,” Erin said. “You have to have at least 24 ounces before we can do a sonogram.”
“I had a bottle on the way over,” I told her.
“Good,” said Erin, who asked me to lift my shirt so she could rub some jelly on my belly and watch it on the telly.
“Am I pregnant?” I asked.
“Sorry,” she responded, “but no.”
“Do you see my kidney stone?” I wondered.
“I’m not a doctor,” Erin explained, “so I’m not allowed to say.”
But she did say that a report would be sent to Dr. Kim, with whom I had an appointment the next day. That evening, however, someone from the radiology center called me at home to say I had to come back because part of the sonogram was blurred.
The next morning, I returned for another one. While I was waiting, I had a kidney stone attack. Fortunately, it was no worse than having hot tar injected into my right side. When the pain subsided, I had a second sonogram and then went to see Dr. Kim, who said the stone was probably dropping and that this, too, shall pass.
Sure enough, at home later that afternoon, it did. Dr. Kim ordered an X-ray, which I tried to avoid in the first place.
I had one a couple of days later from another nice technologist named Jenn, who said I could keep the blue paper pants I had to wear for the procedure. She also gave me a copy of the X-ray, which I had to bring to Dr. Kim a few days later.
I also brought him the stone, which looked to be the size of a bocce ball but was actually, according to Dr. Kim, five or six millimeters.
“It’s fairly big,” he said. “Did you have a tough time passing it?”
“It wasn’t pleasant, but it could have been worse,” I replied. “At least I didn’t have a baby.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Pulitizer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry will serve as the finalist judge in the humor writing category of the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, according to Debe Dockins, coordinator of the competition at the Washington-Centerville Public Library.
“Inviting writers to judge the Erma contest has become a science for me — who can turn a phrase just so? Does this judge’s writing style remind me of Erma? Is it funny, is it kind?” Dockins said. “I spend a lot of time reading humor and short stories and, over the years, Dave Barry has been sitting at the top of my Wish List for Judges (yes, I really have one).
“I am so excited for the contest, very honored for the opportunity to work with Dave Barry and thrilled for the writers whose essays will make it to the final round,” she said.
Barry has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City. He has also written a number of books with titles like Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland, which, he quips, “are technically classified as nonfiction, although they contain numerous lies.” In 2006, he served as the opening night keynote speaker at the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
The writing competition, held every two years in conjunction with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, pays tribute to hometown writer Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of the 20th century. The next contest opens Dec. 4, with previously unpublished 450-word entries in humor and human interest categories accepted until Jan. 3.
Four winners will receive $500 and a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, slated for April 5-7, 2018.
In 2016, 563 writers from around the world entered essays — roughly 253,350 words.
Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, and Daryn Kagan, syndicated columnist and former CNN anchor, served as the finalist judges for the humor and human interest categories, respectively. The nearly 50 preliminary judges included nationally known authors, columnists, screenwriters, stand-up comedians and a longtime writer for David Letterman.
— Teri Rizvi
Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communications. (Photo credit: Daniel Portnoy Photography)
According to a recent survey on Valentine’s Day shopping habits, men spend twice as much money buying Valentine’s Day gifts than women do, but men get their shopping in one-third the time. That says two things about the difference between men and women.
It says guys have a keen desire to express their commitment to the relationship based on buying hugely overpriced chocolates because they come in heart-shaped, red boxes that can be bought anywhere in under two minutes.
Women, on the other hand, want to find the perfect gift and card that expresses their love. Time is no object for women. They’ll take all day to find the perfect Valentine’s Day surprise, even while their special fellow is sitting out in the car wondering what’s taking her so long.
For guys, Valentine’s Day is an easier shopping experience than selecting Christmas gifts. Christmas you got a mall of stuff to chose from. Valentine’s Day you have candy, cards, flowers and expensive jewelry. A guy can get all his shopping done in five minutes with a Visa card.
Unlike Christmas shopping where everything gets cheaper the closer it gets to Dec. 25, Valentine’s Day gifts stay expensive up to the big day. That’s because guys usually forget Valentine’s Day is coming despite the barrage of Valentine’s Day ads that say, “Valentine’s Day is coming. It’s almost here. Buy something now. Oops, too late.”
Stores understand this, so that’s why Valentine costs don’t drop until after the holiday.
It’s a $20 billion day
I did a little research on Valentine’s Day, and here’s some interesting information on the holiday. First of all, Americans last year spent almost $20 billion on Valentine gifts, dining and other things, according to market research.com in an article on Valentine’s Day stats.
Of the $20 billion, $1.7 billion is spent on candy for Valentine’s Day, translating to more than 58 million pounds of candy. What’s really interesting is a recent marketresearch.com survey on what women want for Valentine’s Day found that only 1 percent of women surveyed want to get candy.
The top choice for the perfect Valentine’s gift for ladies last year was a romantic dinner. Flowers came in second, and jewelry came in third with over $2.2 billion in trinkets purchased.
A lot of that jewelry is being given as engagement rings as about 220,000 wedding proposals occur on this day, according to a Time Newsfeed story. Plus, lovers spend $1.9 billion for flowers on Valentine’s Day, according to NN.com.
Valentine cards were first produced in this country by New Englander Esther Howland back in 1789. She sold $5,000 worth of the one-penny cards the first year. Greeting card manufacturers now sell about $1 billion worth of Valentine’s Day cards each year.
There are a number of ideas of how Valentine’s Day and the heart and arrow symbols came about. One legend contends that Valentine’s Day started in Roman times when Emperor Claudius II prohibited young men of military age from getting married because he thought it made them better warriors. A Catholic priest named Valentine — an old romantic — kept performing marriages in secret until he was caught and killed with an arrow through his heart on Feb. 14.
That sounds more interesting than the other legend that Valentine’s Day comes from the ancient Roman holiday called Lupercalia Day where Roman men killed goats then — totally naked — and splashed the blood on young women with the belief it made them fertile.
Luckily for us, that Valentine’s Day custom never caught on.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone.
— Myron Kukla
Myron Kukla is a Midwest writer based in Holland, Michigan, Tulip capital of the world. He is the author of several books of humor including Guide to Surviving Life: A 3,487-step Guide to Self-Improvement and Confessions of a Baby Boomer available at www.squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks. Email him at myronkuklabooks.com.
Unlike the vacuum of space where no one can hear your scream, the mere mention of cookies reverberates from every surface in the household until it sparks a small stampede of toddler toes. Sometimes I think they’re just part of the required baking equipment like a spatula or measuring cups; I need only to set down the Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter and turn around to find two new attachments hopping excitedly on either side.
Accepting that this will not be the efficient task I originally imagined, we line up at the sink to remove a temporary layer of dirt from my volunteer assistants. I acknowledge that any attempts at full sanitation with be short lived, so we go through the motions mostly to encourage the concept of proper hygiene. We also have a rule regarding no touching and no coughing in or around the mixing bowl. Like Vegas, “What happens in your nose stays in your nose.”
The girls march back to their assigned step stools with hands raised in the air like surgeons ready for operation. This is an appropriate state of mind because in the spirit of fairness every task must be precisely divided between them to avoid malpractice claims and disruptive hissy fits. One holds the whisk, while the other scoops the flour. Trade off, and the other whisks the flour while the first takes a scoop. One unwraps a stick of butter, the other unwraps a stick of butter. Crack one egg, crack one egg.
I have specifically selected recipes with ingredients easily divisible by two. If your “Coco-loco Chocolate Chippo Cookie” calls for 1/3 cup of flour, it ain’t gonna happen in this kitchen, bucko! And so it goes with tag team pouring and measuring right down to an even division of labor where one will lower and lock the mixer, and the other will turn it on. As the plumes of flour settle about the kitchen so, too, do we settle into a predictable rhythm of sharing: taking turns fishing out egg shells and wiping off the sugar-coated counter surfaces to create the sugar-coated floor surface. Let it not be argued who was able to brush away more sugar.
As we near the end of the process, the real motivation behind my eager assistants becomes clear with our two important cooking concepts: “quality control” and “taster finger.” Quality control requires that key ingredients like chocolate chips and marshmallows be carefully scrutinized for taste and freshness. This requires a random sampling of say three to 30 pieces to ensure proper consistency. The “taster finger” is a related quality check on our resulting batter to prevent fingers (which are predictably dirty at this point) from plunging outright into the bowl. No sooner is the paddle attachment removed from the mixer than eager fingers descend upon it like a swarm of hungry piranha cleaning the carcass down to the bone.
As lips and fingers are licked clean (or dirty) and I prepare to start scooping out the cookies, we proudly admire our shared creation. The grease-smeared grins that spread across their faces more than makes up for the added hassle of managing these little cookie monsters. It was all worth it in the end. And just as I’m filled with a sense of fulfillment, there comes the abrupt inevitable sneeze directly into the batter. Time to start again.
“Who wants to be the first flour scooper?”
— Robert Hoffman
Robert Hoffman delights in being a struggling writer and artist. He’s illustrated the children’s book A Different Kind of Day and worked as staff cartoonist at the Sacramento State Hornet. When he’s not struggling creatively, he works as a code monkey specializing in educational software and works with such fancy clients as Disney and Nickelodeon. Robert lives in Rocklin, California, where he also struggles with writing short author bios.
I’m a prepared and practical person. So I put it there in permanent marker, in case I needed it. In case I lost my identification. In case I lost my phone. In case I got separated from the woman I went to the march with.
And, of course, as with most things in life, I prepared for the worst so I wouldn’t need it. And I didn’t. But I knew that if I had. No matter the obstacle, my emergency contact would come running. Because I needed help.
And after I finally made it home at the end of a worthwhile day shared with women around the world, I washed with soap and water. But it wouldn’t come off.
So, I scrubbed a little harder. But the Sharpie stayed.
Then I loofahed a little. And came out silky smooth and exfoliated, but my felt-tipped forearm still screamed for assistance.
So, I surrendered, slipped on my pajamas and went about the rest of my bedtime ritual. But every time I moved my arm to brush my teeth or pull back the bedding or turn a page, the big black lettering would slide from my sleeve just enough to remind me that if I needed help, someone would answer the call.
So I folded back the felt and stared down at the broad-tipped, bold helping hand that refused to relinquish its grip on my forearm.
I considered using rubbing alcohol, but I was already in bed. Plus I wasn’t in the mood to lie there, all night long, stewing in the smell of sterile hospital stays gone by. This was not a day for that.
And I contemplated lemon oil. That would smell a lot better. Besides, when life gives you lemons…
You drive to LA.
Exercise your right to assemble.
And your right to free speech.
Then come home.
Crush the crap out of those lemons.
And rub their oil on your forearm!
I liked it! I like it a lot! But, I didn’t have any lemon oil or literal lemons, so I decided to just sleep on it.
And when I woke, my contact conundrum was slightly faded but still there. Still legible. Still promising to come when I called.
And as I pulled the cotton balls from the cupboard, I stopped myself. And stared. Stared hard at the options that I had. Right there. Just an arm’s length away.
A promise, there in permanent marker. In case I was in danger of losing my identity. Or losing my voice. Or becoming separated from society and shoved to the fringes.
In case, for some unforeseeable reason I was unable to do it myself. Help was on the way.
A boldfaced reminder that I, too, have a responsibility. Not just to walk or march. But to come running. Because I am that emergency contact who during that march, was just an arm’s length away. And I cannot fade. I must remain that helping hand that refuses to let go.
I put the cotton balls back. I closed the cupboard. I rolled up my sleeves.
I may truly remember the women’s march forever because my Sharpie-markered emergency contact info…is still on my forearm!
— Laura Becker
Laura Becker is an essayist who currently resides in Redondo Beach with her screenwriting partner/husband. Born in Missouri. Raised in Kansas. Adolescence/young adulthood in Iowa, which, according to Walter Neft in Double Indemnity, makes her a native Californian. She writes, quips, muses and laughs about almost anything…almost.
As an actress, mother, wife, friend, colleague (very part time-professor who teaches half a course), new blogger/writer and retired physician, I am an amazing multi-tasker — as are all the women and many of the men I know.
I am not always a paid actress (read almost never paid and when she is, she loses money on accommodations and meals), but I am an actress. I am almost 60 years old. I actually practice saying that so it won’t come as such a shock next month when I turn 60. Acting is a second career for me, and it is way more fun than being a doctor, my first career — much as I loved my patients who I really hope are reading this.
I decided to become an actress after retiring as a physician. I figured if you meet people and want to chat and you tell them you are a retired physician, you get “oh really” or “wow” or “you are so lucky” and the conversation pretty much ends there, while they look around for someone more interesting. But when you tell them you are an actress, you get everyone’s attention and you become the life of the party. So, I am an actress, and I have actually made movies and been in plays. My first movie will be shown at the SoCal film festival in February. You better believe we are all going to that one. I look “interesting” enough in little photos, but I cannot wait to see me on a big screen.
I wish I looked like my headshot every day. Actually, I do look like my headshot if I have a makeup artist, a stylist, great lighting, spectacular undergarments and a wonderful photographer. That is the most fun thing about being an actress — with make up and great lighting you can look like anyone you want. And you can drop 20 years like magic!
I am married (same man for 33 years — you need a sense of humor to accomplish this). Actually my husband needs the sense of humor. I am high maintenance; after all I am an actress. My two grown children wish to remain anonymous. In deference to Dr. Seuss, I will call them Kid 1 and Kid 2. I must say I am very proud of both of them and their choices in life — so far. If they are still doing this well when they are 35 years old, I will write the one and only How to Raise your Children book by someone who can document she actually did it successfully. We have a few years to go before I can claim that, but it is looking really good right now.
I will offer one piece of child-raising advice now, though. Never trust a book or article titled, “How to have fun with your children under 16 on vacation.” There is no way to do this. They are just trying to suck you in, wanting you to have the same miserable time they did.
In fairness to the kids, they hate it, too. Once they could drive their own cars and pack their own suitcases, we would let them follow us to our vacation destination. We even let them stay in the condo with us. Now that was a fun vacation, and the only way to travel, peacefully, with children.
— Mandy Gennaro
Mandy Gennaro is a retired physician, actress and new blogger, whose musings appear at A Day in the Life of a NE Actress.
“Let’s go to the fitness room.”
“Do you feel the need to get fit?”
“I feel the need to go to the fitness room.”
“Not the same thing.”
“At all,” she agreed.
So they changed into their sweats. Mostly because it seemed the thing to do.
“Ready?” Dylan asked.
“Ready,” Rev replied, brimming with good fitness intentions, and led the way into the closet.
“It’s always door number three.”
They found the elevator, pressed the buttons, and got in when the doors opened. It was easier that way, they’d discovered.
They both stared at the grid of numbers and letters.
“Do you know what floor the fitness room is on?” Rev finally asked.
“No. Do you?”
They stared at the grid of numbers and letters a bit longer.
“If you were a fitness room, where would you be?” Dylan asked.
“Near a bunch of fit people. Otherwise I’d be called an unfitness room.”
“And where would we find a bunch of fit people?”
“Near a fitness room.”
“That wasn’t very helpful, was it?” she said after several moments.
“There’s a phone,” she observed. “That could be helpful.”
“But it’s an elevator phone. Isn’t it just for emergencies? Like when you’re stuck?”
“Right. Okay. But. Aren’t we stuck?”
“Wow,” Rev said, half an hour later when they stepped into the room. “Both sides of the room are set up exactly the same way!”
“That’s a mirror.”
“First one to do five steps on the treadmill wins,” Dylan says.
“Nothing. Just wins. That’s why so many people watch sports. And then beat each other up when ‘their’ team doesn’t win.”
“Didn’t that study actually say that people beat each other up when their team does win?”
“You’re right.” He paused on the way to the treadmill machine.
“What were we going to do?” Rev said after a moment.
“Five steps on the treadmill.” Dylan remembered.
“Oh yeah. I can do that.” She walked over to it and was about to board.
“When it’s on,” he qualified, turning it on.
She stood at an angle to it and got into a rhythmic rocking, forward and back, forward and back, like she was trying to enter a double dutch.
“Can’t do it,” she gave up and stepped away. “You try.”
“Okay. New strategy.” He turned it off, stepped on, and then turned it on.
“Maybe if you’d grabbed on first,” Rev said, looking at him splattered against the wall behind it.
She stepped on, grabbed the handlebars, then turned it on. And was almost immediately hanging on for dear life, her feet dangling off the end, her body making the hypotenuse of a triangle.
“Let go!” Dylan cried out as the hypotenuse sagged, perhaps painfully.
“No!” She cried back, confirming the painful part. “Turn it off!”
He hurried to the switch and turned it off.
Rev made various parts of several other polygons before she managed to get off.
“I have an idea,” Dylan said. And grinned, momentarily happy with just that realization.
He approached the treadmill, threw one leg over, and sat down. “Remember Pickle?” He and Rev had ridden horses at Dim’s farm. It was something Dylan had never done before. And until this moment, something he intended never to do again. He wiggled his bottom a bit and made sure his feet were firmly on the floor on each side, ready to walk along.
“Ready!” he said to Rev. She turned it on.
“Okay, that didn’t work.” Once again, she managed to state the obvious.
“No,” he said from the floor at the end of the treadmill. “I got confused as to which part would be moving.”
— Jass Richards
Jass Richards has a master’s degree in philosophy and for a (very) brief time was a stand-up comic (now she’s more of a sprawled-on-the-couch comic). Despite these attributes, she has received four Ontario Arts Council grants. In addition to her Rev and Dylan series (The Road Trip Dialogues, The Blasphemy Tour and License to Do That), which has reportedly made people snort root beer out their noses, she has written This Will Not Look Good on My Resume, a collection of short stories described as “a bit of quirky fun that slaps you upside the head,” and its sequel, Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun (“… terrifically funny and ingeniously acerbic…” Dr. Patricia Bloom, My Magic Dog). All of her books, including her most recent, TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God, can be purchased (in print and various e-formats) at all the usual online places. “In the Fitness Room” is excerpted from The Blasphemy Tour.
When it became fashionable for males to sport jeweled earrings, I declined to participate in the craze. Next, tattoos stained some people’s skin. Ew!
But, being exquisitely masculine, I do so adore rugged individuality. This year I’ve reinvented myself by sporting ear clothespins. How butch is that?
Blame Michael J. Fox’s father-in-law, Stephen Pollan. As I absorbed his inspirational book, Second Acts, in 2002, I discovered a passage that reaffirmed the special lifelong goal that really makes me tick. The author/life coach told us readers to “… constantly reinvent (yourselves). Make it your lifestyle.”
Indeed, in my case, Mr. Pollan was preaching to the choir. Resolutions be damned. Unlike many others, I’ve never waited until a new year greeted me to revamp myself. I’ve been in a perpetual state of reinvention since I was six. I’m the guy who gave Madonna the nerve to try.
I’ve always resisted becoming a clone of my peer group. I call it clone-aphobia. Not made of rags, tags, bags nor sugar and spice, I thrive on morphing into as many aspects of Myselves as I can muster.
As an adolescent, I became the innocent recipient of pointed remarks when I decided to wear a cape. Confound it all, it made my exits more dramatic. Sometimes it simply gave a lot of laughs to lots of folks. I pity teenagers who fail to appreciate class.
My hairstyles were labeled legendary in some circles. Kind of like the circles that you’d find in the windmills of my mind. I’ve been known to go into the bathroom during a party and come out wearing a different hairdo.
Gay? Nope. Just a heterosexual experimenter unafraid of public censure in my efforts to fight boredom. I’m bolstered by the words of my hero, Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
I live my reinventions. I’m a “method” re-inventor. For example, once when I adopted a new persona of sophistication, I bowed from the waist when I was introduced to anyone. Even the garbage man. I not only fancied myself as a VIP, I “became” distinguished, and demanded r-e-s-p-e-c-t. On the other hand, another time I had just reinvented myself into an earthy, Falstaff-like person. When someone addressed me as “Mr. Eskew,” I respond with “Gesundheit!” Then I belched.
Some people reinvent themselves with face lifts. But beware: sometimes that can backfire into scary consequences.
Case in point: a know-it-all neighbor had his nose altered. Sounded reasonable at the time. Granted, his nose was indeed long, huge, crooked, ugly, distorted and totally revolting. On the other hand, it also happened to be his very best feature. Yikes!
Since I’m regarded as a fabulously strapping vat of virility in those same circles where I’m considered a legend, I was recently dumbstruck. An acquaintance suggested that I engage in what he referred to as “super self-actualization.”
“If you’re so keen on reinventing yourself, why not consider gender reassignment procedures?” he smirked.
A manly stud such as I? Hardly. I would look like the warning label on a bottle of hormones.
But it’s nice to realize that even I have a line I shan’t cross. Ever. Though it might be fun to see how my teenaged grandchildren would react. They do so love the clothespins on my ears.
My ex-wife hates them and, sticking to her nature, she spoke frankly: “Those clothespins on your ears simply underscore the one big Truth about you. You’ve got no class.”
Hey lady, unique is not another word for wrong. Her insults only spur me on. No class? Come on. I’m lousy with class. Why I’ve got class I ain’t even used yet. Watch me, woman: I’ll reinvent class.
— Steve Eskew
Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.