The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

A chore thing

Jerry-Zezima1-219x300(This piece originally ran in the Stamford Advocate on Sept. 25, 2014. Reposted by permission of Jerry Zezima.)

The late, great humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “Housework, if you do it right, can kill you.”

Since I am still alive, thanks to my wife, Sue, who does most of the housework in our house, I guess I am not doing it right.

This does not come as a surprise to either me or Sue because of a startling statistic I read in the latest edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which states: “The average American woman will spend 6 years of her life doing housework; the average American man, 3 years, 8 months.”

Looking on the bright side, men die sooner. According to the Almanac, the average American man lives for 76.19 years; the average American woman, 81.17 years.

This means, I figured out when I should have been doing housework, that women live about five years longer than men but do housework only 2 years, 4 months longer. So men actually do housework for a greater percentage of their lives, 21.16 vs. 13.53, than women.

“That’s a stupid statistic,” Sue said when she heard this, resisting the urge to end my life about 16 years short of the average. “I’ve been doing housework for 36 years. I started the day we got married.”

“No, you didn’t, because we went on our honeymoon, remember?” I pointed out helpfully.

“OK, so I got a week off,” Sue said. “But I’ve been doing housework ever since.”

“You can’t say I haven’t helped,” I said.

“Yes, you have,” Sue acknowledged. “You do clean our bathroom, but I do the other two. So that means I clean twice as many bathrooms as you do.”

“One and a half,” I noted, reminding her that we have a half-bathroom downstairs.

Sue also acknowledged that I clean the litter boxes (for our two cats, not me, because I use the bathroom that I clean) and that I vacuum (the carpets, not the litter boxes).

“And I iron,” I said, “because I’m a member of the press.”

Sue ignored the remark, even though she was steamed, and added, “And you do fold clothes.”

This gave her a chance to air my dirty laundry. For the first 25 years of our marriage, I didn’t do the laundry. Then, finally, I learned how. But we recently got rid of our old washer and bought a new one, which Sue won’t let me use.

“I’m afraid you’ll break it,” she said.

“Does this mean I don’t have to do the laundry for the next 25 years?” I asked.

Sue looked at me as if to say, “If we’re still married 25 years from now, I’m going to stick my head in the oven.”

Speaking of which, she said, “You don’t cook. And you don’t empty the dishwasher. And you don’t dust.”

“You’re not supposed to dust dishes, are you?” I inquired.

“And,” Sue continued, “you don’t do windows.”

“That’s because they’re a pane,” I reasoned.

Sue reminded me that I don’t do yard work anymore because we hired a landscaper this year. “So you should have more time to do housework,” she said.

She was right, of course, so I said, “What do you want me to do?”

“The windows,” Sue responded. “They’re filthy.”

“Should I use ammonia and water?” I asked.

“You sound like you’re stuck in the 1950s,” Sue said. “Nobody uses ammonia and water anymore. Use Windex.”

“I use that on the bathroom mirror,” I said, though I was afraid to mention that I also use it to clean stains from the carpet when one of the cats coughs up a hairball.

I got a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex and proceeded to do the windows in the family room. I also cleaned the glass in the front storm door. For the first time in ages, sunshine streamed in.

“Nice job,” Sue said.

“Anything to help,” I replied. “Do you want me to make dinner?”

“No!” Sue shrieked. “You might burn the house down.”

“At least then,” I said, “we wouldn’t have to clean it.”

— 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 McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won five humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Clap, clap, clap

Tracy BucknerI spent an afternoon with a few girlfriends, and one of them asked me to help her load pictures from her camera onto her computer.

I said, “Don’t you have three kids at home who can upload, download, share and/or tag anything faster than you can say the word help?” “They have no patience for me,” she responded. Another girlfriend said, “They only want to show me something once.” Then, “they are always putting me off…too busy.”

Seriously? I thought. No patience? They’re too busy?

I’m wondering how these kids would have responded if their mothers had the same impatience when it was time for potty training. Can you imagine as they cried because they needed a diaper change if we rolled our eyes and said, “Really? Again?”

When it was time to teach them to ride a bike without training wheels, how about if we said, “Are you kidding me? Didn’t I just show you this yesterday? Don’t you have a friend you can ask?”

I’m sure you fondly remember making yourself available to teach them how to throw a baseball, a football, a frisbee, to ice skate, swing a racquet, a golf club, do a cartwheel, a forward roll. Just imagine their faces if we had said, “Does it have to be done right now?”

The list goes on and on of what we did with patience and smiles. We spent weeks explaining how to tie one’s shoelaces, sip from a cup and then when it was finally accomplished, we clapped like they had won the Pulitzer. You put your own socks on?! You pulled your pajama pants up?! YAY! Clap, clap, clap! I clapped so much I had calluses on my palms.

I can’t remember ever once rolling my eyes at my kids, can you?

I didn’t think so.

A friend had the best retort when her son complained about helping her with her iPod. “Look, she said, it took me months to potty train you. Sit down and show me this.”

Right on, girlfriend.

I admit, technology issues do need to be explained a few times before I understand enough to be proficient. But once I have it down, I’m pretty good at remembering how to do it. And sometimes, after getting impatient waiting to be shown how to do it, I figure it out on my own. Our kids must think that if they just ignore us, maybe we will have to figure it out on our own. Maybe it’s their way of showing us tough love?

Maybe we should have tried the tough love approach when they wanted us to teach them to parallel park.

But what a feeling when on my own, I do figure it out.

Hah! I want to shout, “I did it! I did it!”

Who needs those uber-busy, hyper-connected, impatient and oh so brilliant, incredibly fast-texting children anyway?

After realizing nobody was coming home from college or driving 900 miles from Michigan to show me how to make an online photo album, I researched, did a few trial-and-error uploads to my computer, Photoshopped all the photos so that nobody looked better than me, got rid of red-eye, tagged people, and I even added music! I cropped photos, made an album cover and allowed people to post and share comments. Then I sent all the photos out electronically for printing to Snapfish.

All on my own, thank you very much.

As I hit SEND, I secretly wait for someone to clap, to say “YAY,” to give me a prize, a ribbon, a trophy, anything as I had done for so many years.

So I called my mother.

And she clapped.

(Thank you, DL, for the inspiration and for my Mom who always clapped the loudest).

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.

When is a kitty not a cat?

Rosie SorensonEvery once in awhile you learn something that rocks your world, such as: there is no privacy on the Internet; Pluto is not a planet; chocolate is not at the top of the food pyramid.

Now another cold shock is reverberating throughout the universe: Hello Kitty is not a cat. Oh, my. For 40 years, billions of Hello Kitty fans, including moi, have cherished her, spent money on her, have loved her, and now it all feels like one long sucker punch of a bad date — deceived again! If Hello Kitty is not a cat, then there’s no such thing as gravity; pigs do fly; and Ted Cruz will become President.

Sanrio, the Japanese company that owns the $9 billion Hello Kitty empire, inadvertently launched this kerfuffle when it corrected the text for the upcoming Hello Kitty exhibit in Los Angeles written by anthropologist Christine Yano.

Dr. Yano stumbled into the kitty litter big time when she described Hello Kitty as a (gasp!) cat.  Even though Dr. Yano has spent 10 years researching and writing her definitive text,  Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and ought to know whether or not HK is a cat, Sanrio was quick to differ.

Here’s what Dr. Yano had to say in the Los Angeles Times (August 27, 2014):  “ . . . That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl.”

Oh, snap!

Sanrio continued the conversation by saying, “She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.”

Wasn’t it bad enough when, as a cat, Hello Kitty had no mouth? Now they have go and tell us that all this time she was really a little girl?  But still — no mouth. Doesn’t that give you the shivers? Why would they want a little girl with no mouth? Could it be because she might say things they don’t like? Because she might declare her contempt for Mr. Sanrio by screaming: “What’s up with the whiskers, dude?”

Seriously, this tells me they’re pretty messed up at Sanrio. What kind of psycho-social derangement is going on here? I doubt there are enough psychiatrists in all of Japan to unravel this riddle. Our DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition), the Bible for all psychotherapists in the U.S.A., would probably assign a diagnosis of  “gender identity disorder,” “delusional disorder,” or “body dysmorphic disorder” to the folks at Sanrio who deny HK is a cat.

I have a suggestion. Why not label it for what it really is: “Just Plain Stupid Disorder.”

Maybe it’s time to pack our Hello Kitty bags and leap from the Sanrio crazy train. 

— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster HollowHer work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

How to annoy your children

Marcia Kester DoyleFrom the moment they’re born, our children are a tremendous source of pride.

First words, first steps, the gold star on their progress reports, the lead role in a school play…we are always there, cheering them on, sharing their accomplishments with anyone willing to listen. Our children are a reflection of ourselves, and our parenting skills are often defined by their behavior.

When they’re a giggling toddler passing gas on a crowded elevator, everyone thinks they’re adorable.  A 16-year-old competing in a belching contest with his sibling in a five-star restaurant…not so much. The older they get, the more embarrassing they become.

They morph from the cute, cuddly puppy stage into a snapping, snarling beast that has been raised in the woods by wild boars. They curse like sailors and eat mass quantities of food that triple the grocery bill by the end of the month. Sweets and salty chips are the largest part of their food pyramid, while milk and juice are consumed at an alarming rate — usually a gallon a day.

Their vocabulary  reverts to their roots — as in the cave man days — limited to grunts, groans and the occasional “whatever” shrug. The parents they once adored and respected  are now a large source of their embarrassment, so it is with great pleasure (and a lack of conscience) that they choose to publicly annoy and embarrass adults. They will gleefully belch and fart in a crowded room and point a finger at the unsuspecting parent next to them. They will tell their grandparents that there are only three ingredients in their refrigerator at home — one grayish-looking egg, a carton of sour milk and a moldy brick of cheddar cheese that looks like last year’s school science fair project. The grandparents will take pity on their souls and drive them to the nearest McDonald’s.

Kids will spill tomato sauce on the white carpet and blame it on the dog; they’ll steal all the quarters out of the change jar and blame the younger sibling. They’ll use the last clean towel in the house so that you’re forced to dry yourself off after a shower with the wet towel that you used on the dog bathed earlier that day.

Every parent reaches a breaking point with their children — a time when they need to liberate themselves from the bonds of “politically correct” parenting.

Because sometimes you just have to get even. You can call it one of “life’s little lessons,” or refer to it for what it really is: Karma is a bitch.

The following is a payback list that has been especially effective in annoying our teenagers and will most likely be successful with yours:

1)  Crank up the lawn mower outside their bedroom window when they’re trying to sleep in late on a Saturday morning.

2)  Ask 20 questions about the TV show they’re watching, but wait until they’re immersed in the thickest part of the plot.

3)  During one of their house parties, run into the room with a wet plunger dripping in your hand and shout, “Okay, who clogged the toilet???”

4)  Pick up the six wet towels they left on the bathroom floor and deposit them on their unmade bed. Be sure to tuck the towels under the covers so they stay moist.

5)  Allow your youngest child to bang on his new drum set while his older sibling is trying to take a nap.

6)  Turn on the sprinklers while your daughter is sunbathing in the back yard.

7)  At a neighborhood block party, jump up on a table after a couple of beers and play air guitar to a Bon Jovi song.

8)  Call your son’s friends “Dude” and “Bro.”

9)  Write embarrassing messages on their Facebook wall:  “Did you eat that WHOLE package of Oreos I hid in the pantry?” “Why is all my underwear missing from the dryer?”

10)  Blast Barry Manilow on the car radio while driving your kids and their friends to school. Make sure all the windows are rolled down so that EVERYONE in the car loop can hear you belt out the lyrics to “Mandy.”

11)  At your son’s 16th birthday party, borrow his best friend’s BMX bike and show those young whippersnappers how to fly over a speed bump and rack yourself on the bicycle seat.

12) Write a blog about your family life and highlight all the personal stuff that will make your kids cringe and want to disown you.

Revenge has never been sweeter!

— 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.

Your guide to Internet writing riches
on the New New Grub Street

Con ChapmanIn New Grub Street, English novelist George Gissing depicted the literary life of 19th century London through two contrasting characters: Jasper Milvain, a cynical, ambitious writer of no particular literary talent, and Edwin Reardon, a sensitive artist with no commercial instincts.

A writer’s life back then was straightforward, if not easy. Write, then write some more for numerous print outlets that existed then and you could eke out a living from the miniscule payments you received for each piece. It was a life Gissing knew well, caught as he was between the demands of the marketplace and his desire to write fiction.

Grub Street was the center of 18th century journalism in London but was gone by Gissing’s day, and his novel thus characterized the frantic existence of the working writers of his time as the “new” Grub Street. The story ends in tragedy for Reardon. Buoyed by critical praise, he marries and fathers a child, but his wife leaves him when she cannot endure the poverty and social degradation that was the lot of a starving artist. Broken by depression, Reardon dies in misery.

On the whole, it doesn’t sound so bad to me.  After all, the Internet hadn’t been invented yet.

At least in Gissing’s day, if you wrote constantly you could get paid something for it. In the days since the development of blogging — approximately the middle of the first decade of this century to the present — you can write constantly and get nothing for it. Curiously, there aren’t even any jobs shipped overseas to India to explain this transformative shift. One hundred years of writing has driven wages down from little to nothing. Bloggers live and starve on the New New Grub Street.

I wrote my first post on — a spoof about curling — in 2005. Until recently, the biggest paycheck for online writing I’d ever received was $50, for a post about Jonathan Winters I wrote for a comedy site. I should mention that the site is now defunct, a victim of its own improvidence. Every now and then I get a check from Google Ads in the low four figures, but that’s counting the numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Still, like one of Gissing’s characters, I write and I write and I write — so far, 2,146 posts in seven years, an average of 238 a year. Blogging has become for me a form of mental potato chips — you start, and you can’t stop! But even a hopeless transfat addict has to consider the image in his mirror after a while; the Internet, you tell yourself, has you by the short hairs.

A few years ago I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and actually do something about this sad state of affairs.  I’d repackage my deathless online prose, and some deathless online poetry as well, as e-books on one of the various digital text platforms that have developed.

It wasn’t easy.  While other middle-aged guys were out playing golf in official Ryder Cup sportswear, I sat in my den, hunched over my computer, dividing my posts up by the topics that have held my interest over the years: philosophy, ballet, NASCAR, sex, animals, vegetables, minerals, sex, alien abductions, and potpourri for $200, Alex.  I packaged them into ebooks of 50 to 100 pages (or more), slapped a stock photo on the cover, and uploaded them to

“What are you doing?” my wife would ask from time to time.

“You’re witness to a revolution in publishing,” I’d say. “Like Gutenberg, dime novels, penny dreadfuls, paperbacks. I’m packaging my blog posts for sale!”

“I’m going to Starbucks,” she’d reply. I get choked up just thinking about how she’s been there for me, all the way, since the very beginning.

I have to admit, my story wasn’t very convincing; since I hadn’t made any money on the posts when I first wrote them, what made me think selling them in bundles would be any more rewarding?  As the old business joke goes, what we lose on each sale we make up in volume.

But then came my day to crow. My day to say to all the naysayers “Go ahead and say ‘nay,’ but I’m actually making money writing on the Internet!” I got the check for my last fiscal quarter in the blogging-for-bucks business, and even I was stunned at the results.

What’s important is not the top line, as business dweebs like to say, it’s the trend, the growth in sales, that startles you.  In three short months, my revenues increased 650 percent!  That’s not a typo.

Since I’m not a public company, you won’t find the figures at the Securities and Exchange Commission, so here they are:  April–seventy cents; May–$1.75; and June, $3.50, a whopping $4.55!

Like a lot of guys who hit it big, I could retire to Florida and pursue my dream of making the Senior Miniature Golf Tour, but I’ve decided it’s time to give back. That’s why for only $49.95 you can own “Your Guide to Internet Writing Riches” to enjoy in the comfort of your home.

Just play the tapes while you’re tapping away at your computer, hit the “publish” button and watch your blogging income grow from nothing to . . . well, something more than nothing.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Ration your fashion compassion

Stephanie D. LewisMy gal pals are throwing one of those clothing parties where you bring all your wardrobe faux pas from the back of your closet, then display them so everyone else can laugh, er, covet something you own. You earn credit for what they select and use it to trade/barter for their items, at which point you basically go home with more stuff to sell in your next garage sale. Now, doesn’t that sound like loads of fun to you? Or maybe I’ll see what my oral surgeon is up to.

Instead I enlisted my local “couture expert” (my 16-year-old daughter) for help (doesn’t that sound like even MORE fun?) so I wouldn’t accidentally give away a high-fashion item — highly improbable since I don’t own any. As I caressed my stack of swatch watches, we both surveyed my closet contents until she broke the long, sad silence, “Well, how many points can you get for your hangers? At least they’re the nice, satin-padded kind.”

“Now wait just a Gloria Vanderbilt minute, Missy. What are you saying? That I have bad taste? That there’s nothing here anyone would possibly want?”

“Not necessarily. I hear they’re doing a Flashdance revival show on 5th Avenue,” she replied.

“Gotta get footloose!”

“Oh fine,” I said. “What about all those gorgeous shoes over there?”

“Those Espadrilles?” she wrinkled her nose. “Don’t you have any Stella McCartney’s or Yves Saint Laurent’s?” She took a deep breath, “And no Gucci? Armani? Louboutin? Balenciaga? Zanotti? Or how about just some Fiorentini?”

“Yes I agree — Italian sounds great! Let’s go out for fettuccini or linguini.”

“Mom,” she said exasperatingly, “Not even one Jason Wu or Jimmy Choo!?”

“Gesundheit dear and bless you. Must be all the dust in here,” I said absentmindedly. “And I’ll have you know on that rack behind those legwarmers, you’ll find footloads of Targetellas and a special designer pair of PaylessaLobotomy. Now I’m tired of this subject. All I really know about shoes is ‘there once was a little old woman who lived in one!’”

“Okay, okay, don’t get so touchy,” she grimaced, placing her hand on my thickly padded shoulder. “Let’s have a look at your skinny jeans. What brand name are they?”

“Ugh,” I responded.

“No, mom. Uggs are footwear again. Stay focused.”

“I meant Ugh, as in my only pair of skinny jeans exploded the last time I sneezed,” I confessed.

“Cash in on this fashion? I think not!”

“Alright, we’re not making much progress. Let’s take a peek at your belts.”

“If God wanted fruit to cinch their middles, he would’ve given ‘Granny Smith and Gala’ a waist,” I said, recalling Glamour magazine claiming I was an apple instead of a pear. I also read and discovered it’s best for me to stick with things that lightly graze my breasts, while skimming my hips and hugging my thighs. Kinda like the hungry, drunk guy at my last Super Bowl party.

“Alright, I can see my work here is nearly done.” My daughter impatiently tapped her Fendi heel, obviously eager to chalk this experience up to having a square mother who was beyond help and needed to get back to what she probably imagined was my boring record collection. “Let’s look at something even YOU can’t get wrong. Your aunt with the purse addiction always gives you a designer clutch for your birthday every year, right? So show me all your bags.”

“Do we have to point out my under-eye wrinkles at this very moment?” I grimaced.

“Yep. We’re sure getting closer to our goal,” she said exhaustedly, picking up my car keys. “We’ll continue this fun treasure hunt after I go pick up some Juicy Couture.”

“Okay, but take lots of napkins,” I shouted after her, “I don’t want you drooling or dripping on the driver’s seat.”

“Do as I say and not as I wear!”

My daughter continued to roll her eyes all the way to the clothing swap party the next night. But once there, she happily traded all her gently worn last year’s summer styles for brand-new (at least new to her) back-to-school designer duds. Meanwhile, I sat in the back of the room, played my 8-tracks, and held a bake sale where the money will soon benefit poor confused, fashion-challenged women who still Jazzercise, wear mood rings and sleep in waterbeds.

As for being a Fashionista? Let’s just say I’m scrutinizing consignment stores and am hopeful that next year at this time, I will be a Cheryl Tiegs lookalike model. A clothing designer? How about seated in the audience at a fashion show? Using the bathroom in the local Nordstroms? Okay, okay, I’ll settle for “coming out of my closet” with my head held nice and high — and that’s only because I will no longer be wearing those large, clunky, ’80s style earrings that currently weigh it down.

— Stephanie D. Lewis

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

Now what?

Jill VeldhouseI dropped my youngest child off at preschool today for the first time. A lot of mixed emotions on my part, but not so much for him.

It went something like this, “Bye Mom.”

Heartless? Maybe, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He clearly got caught up in the excitement of the moment and didn’t fully understand the reality of the situation. The fact that he would soon be abandoned by his mother and left to fend for himself in a room full of complete strangers had escaped his tiny little mind. I can’t blame him for being ignorant. He’s just an innocent child.

Regardless, I was willing to give him a second chance, you know, to offer his mother a proper good-bye.

My goal was simple. Explain the seriousness of the situation and graciously offer my son an opportunity to re-write recent historical events. “This is going down on my terms!”

I walked up to him with confidence, fully prepared to set the record straight and thereby redeem some sort of self worth and maybe (hopefully) even take him home with me.

“Mom, you need to leave now.”

“Come again?”

Did I want him to create a scene that involved him wailing uncontrollably as he clutched my leg for dear life while hysterically sobbing? Of course (i.e., probably) not.  That said, he could’ve at least fake cried or something, like he did this morning when I didn’t give him chocolate chips for breakfast.

“Do you see these tears in my eyes, Buddy? They are real, and they are for you. Mommy is sad and quite frankly more than a little bit offended by your nonchalant attitude right now. It’s rude.” 

He didn’t hear me. He was too busy sucking up to the pretty teacher across the room who was quite obviously attempting to steal my son’s affection away from the very woman who gave birth to him and mistakenly signed him up for this ridiculous and non-refundable class.

Whatever. I know when I’m not wanted. I took what little was left of my pride, gave my son the tightest hug humanly possible (composed of 95 percent love, 3 percent annoyance/irritation, and 2 percent pure rage) and exited the building bewildered and completely confused by my lack of enthusiasm given the current situation.

I came home to an empty house for the first time in nine years, four of which have been spent at home full-time with my children. “Today is a new beginning. Seize the day, Jill!”  Two days a week for 2.5 whole hours, I get “me time.” That’s five hours per week and 260 hours per year that I will be all alone.

What if I have a heart attack? No one will care and/or notify the authorities because no one else will be here. Just me and my thoughts (God help me!). I haven’t had a lucid thought for over nine years. What if I actually start thinking real thoughts and the unused portion of my brain completely shuts down from shock and I have a stroke? Who will save me then?


Regardless, what the hell am I suppose to do now?

I guess I could watch TV, but I won’t because the guilt would be too much for me to handle.

I could do laundry, but that seems way too obvious.

I could work out, but then I’d have to shower and that just seems like a waste of quality alone time.

I could call someone and have a real conversation in peace, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give anyone the impression that I am bored in my quiet kid-free house (I am way more important than that, right?).

I could make a grocery list, or pack tomorrow’s lunch for the kids, or unload the dishwasher, but I function much better under stressful and extremely chaotic conditions, and it’s too quiet in here.

I could make myself a real breakfast, but why would I purposely make a meal if I didn’t have to?

I could turn on some music and dance, but I have absolutely no rhythm unless I’m slightly and/or heavily under the influence.

Eureka!  I could start drinking!  But it’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday and even I have standards (sigh).

I could call my mom, or write her a very heartfelt thank you note, and/or tell her that I am moving home because I’m sure she is still heartbroken that I selfishly left 20 years ago. “Why aren’t you answering your phone Mom?” 

Maybe I could read a book? Or write one? Well, there’s a thought and one worthy of some real consideration, but how the hell am I suppose to concentrate with that damn clock tic toc ticking across the room right now? “Seriously, why I have never noticed you before?  Shut the f*** up!”

Maybe I should put the clock in the cupboard, or take the batteries out, or throw that arrogant piece of garbage across the room in an effort to stop time completely?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

— Jill Veldhouse

Jill Veldhouse lives in Plymouth, Minn.  She is the mother of three young children and wife to a mad scientist. She holds a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy and practiced in this field for eight years before making the life-changing decision to leave it all behind and become a full-time mom. In a desperate attempt to achieve the highly regarded status of literary hero, and based on encouragement she received from a few people that she could write, she started a blog, which has saved her on multiple occasions from jumping off her imaginary mommy cliff. She also has been a contributor on “Scary Mommy” and can be found on Twitter as @veldhouse_jill.

Rooting for my root canal

Ann_Green“Why is it that when people want to avoid something,” I asked my dentist, “they always say, ‘I’d rather have a root canal than {fill in the blank}?’”  “Years ago it was tough,” he responded. “But these days it’s like getting a tooth filled.” Oh, yeah, I thought, and I suppose you believe in the Tooth Fairy.   

Dr. G had just told me I needed to have my first root canal. The procedure is a cliché substitute for the word “pain.” I had to sink my teeth into the whole idea.

He referred me to an endodontist.  I often wonder what compels a person to choose a certain specialty in the medical world. Proctology comes to mind, also podiatry. Endodontics is another. Endodontists specialize in the study and treatment of dental pulp. Does someone dream about this in childhood or become inspired while flossing?  “Dr. S is very good,” Dr. G assured me. “She’ll take care of you.”

I made an appointment with Dr. S for the following week at 8 a.m. I was hoping to get it over with before I woke up. As I waited for the dreaded day, I tried to shut out the noise of other people’s monologues about their root canals, all horror stories. Nothing inspires confidence like the look of terror on someone’s face when you tell her that a root canal looms over your horizon.

The day came. I arrived at Dr. S’s office and was escorted to The Chair.  As I was lowered into a comfy upside down position, I announced, “I usually need at least twice the normal amount of Novocain.” This is actually true. I have to get at least a couple of shots before I’m numb. Then I walk around the rest of the day looking like I’ve had a stroke.

“Are you anxious?” asked Dr. S. Why lie? “Yes,” I admitted, cowardly but unashamed. She proceeded to apply something to my gum to unsuccessfully make the Novocain shot less painful, then shot away. A few minutes later she asked, “Is it getting numb?” “Not really.” She tested the tooth with a piece of ice, which I could definitely feel. She gave me a second shot and allowed time for numbing. Then more ice. Which I could still feel. A third shot, ditto. A fourth shot, an encore performance. “Is your lip numb?”  she asked, disappointed.  “A little,” I said, “but I can feel the ice.” And I was seeing double, a whole new experience for me.

Dr. S. called it a day. She speculated that the tooth was infected and inflamed. Perhaps we could have ascertained that earlier, I thought. She wrote out prescriptions, including Amoxicillin and Valium, the latter to be taken an hour before the procedure. I was afraid to drive so I called a friend to pick me up.

For the next couple of weeks my jaw hurt where the four shots had bulls-eyed my gum. Dr. S’s office left a message about rescheduling. I waited a while before responding.

Returning once again to The Chair a few weeks later, I mentioned that the shot spot in my mouth still hurt. “Hmmm,” said Dr. S.,” maybe we should wait a while. I’ll write out another prescription in case it’s still infected.” Oh well, the Valium had proven useless anyway. We made yet another appointment. So the morning wouldn’t be a total loss, I wandered over to a nearby Chico’s and picked up some great bargains.

Back in The Chair two weeks and two prescriptions later, I was really feeling the Valium this time. At least something was working. After a few more shots and the comment that she’d never seen a tooth like this — a very encouraging remark indeed — Dr. S. got down to work to root out whatever needed to be rooted.

There followed some drilling, scraping and picking. And before you could say “How good is your dental insurance?” it was over. I assumed this was just Part I. “You’re all set,” announced the assistant. “That’s it?” I asked, surprised. “I’ve had a root canal?” I’d spent more than a month dreading this, and it turns out that having my gum pierced was the worst part.

There is the matter of four follow-up appointments with my dentist, but that should be a piece of cake.

“This is the way the world ends,” wrote T.S. Eliot, “Not with a bang but with a whimper.” And so my adventure in dental pulp. Now I get to tell everyone my horror story.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Reflections of Erma