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Look, it’s not a bird or a plane…
It’s a blog about frequent flyers!

Stephanie LewisI’m petrified of airline travel, but instead of giving into the phobia (besides, flying is the only way I’m getting to Dayton, Ohio, for a certain writing conference!), I’m channeling my fears into something productive.

I’ve categorized the following types of airline passengers. Do you know any of them?

The Air Preparer: He’s the MacGyver at 40,000 miles. Need a bandage, cough syrup, earplugs or screwdriver? He’s your man.

The Air Armchairer: She makes a beeline to her seat so she can beat you out. Giving you an evil glare as you stagger innocently down the aisle, you notice her elbows hogging both armrests. Do you dare claim what’s rightfully yours?

The Air Barer: Is this a 747 or a hot yoga class? She’s so scantily dressed, her mother would make her put on a trench coat. Oh wait, that might be even more provocative!

The Air Scarer: This person makes your peanuts and pretzel packages stand on end with their tales of terror. On another flight they were recently on, the pilot had to release all the luggage to lighten the load. Still a different flight they had to drop all their fuel and ultimately all the passengers as well. Gasp. But the most horrific flight of all was when they ran out of Diet Coke.

The Air Prayer: This individual should never sit next to an Air Scarer. You can recognize one of these quite easily because their lips move silently in a constant state of prayer as they clutch their rosary beads until the plane touches back on ground.

The Air Affairer: The longing, seductive looks they give one another from business class to coach is their mark of distinction. They don’t dare sit in the same section lest someone knows them. Watch for synchronized bathroom trips. (Being crowned King/Queen of the Mile High Club would be their ultimate frequent flier reward.)

The Air Solitairer: Yes, this guy flies all by his lonesome self. But that deck of cards is in continuous motion. Look! That red Jack can go on the black Queen!

The Air Marryer: No sooner does the pilot point out Mt. St. Helens when he directs your attention to a passenger seated over the wing who is now going down on bended knee. Will she say yes?  Maybe he couldn’t do this on the ground because he’s counting on the diamond looking bigger under the little cabin book light?

The Air DayCarer: She has not just one, not just two, but three kids and she’s brought enough provisions to put a preschool to shame. Hey! Will she share a handful of cheerios and that etch-a-sketch with your own cranky child? No she will not, stupid — next time, fly more prepared.

The Air Pairer:  These two are lifelong friends going on a gal-pal weekend and they love to chit-chat with you seated in between them. Why didn’t they book seats right next to one another??  Because one needs a window and one needs an aisle and talking over you is a stimulating challenge. Just read your book and shut up, okay?

The Air Error: This guy flies planes for a hobby and he’s gonna run down the list of all the mistakes they’re making. Think you can do it better? Get in that cockpit and take contol!

The Air Swearer: Salty vocabulary is an understatement and if he’s seated next to The Air DayCarer, he better watch his language — she’s gonna have her kids paste his mouth shut with their gluesticks during art and craft hour.

The Air Comparer: “Jet Blue has far more leg room than this cracker jack plane. Did you know United baked oatmeal cookies on a flight once? Wonder if Virgin Airlines would hire flight attendants as ugly as these?” Thank you for sharing!

The Air Despairer: This individual is absolutely petrified to fly and you’ve got the nail marks in your arm to prove it. What was that noise? Did you see that little red light blinking on the wing? What if the pilot just found out his wife is leaving him and chooses today to fall off the wagon?

The Air DentalCarer: Flossing teeth in public is yucky. But traces of blue toothpaste left in that itty bitty sink can only mean one thing. . . Someone’s mouth is minty fresh during this flight for a good reason.

The Air Sharer: By the time you land, you’ve seen all their grandkids, know their favorite scene from The Wizard of Oz and split a hoagie with them. But you booked a red eye to sleep.

The Air Darer: He’ll scamper boldly off to the bathroom even if the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign just came on.

The Air NonFootWearer: Yes, we know they need to let their toes breathe. But do we need to breathe their toes?

The Air Starer and Awarer: A very nosy individual, scrutinizing every passenger on the flight, the wheels always turning. Hyper aware of subtle mannerisms and nuances, taking notes so she can write a blog about it and later submit it to Erma Bombeck’s humor site. Nah, those people don’t really exist!

— 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 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.

Valentine vixen

Steve EskewDue to a dramatic happening during my youth, I had always vehemently avoided celebrating Valentine’s Day. Until recently.

But, believe me, I didn’t exactly evolve into the patient, romantic, enchantic charmer I’ve become. After wedding my present ball and chain, I surprised myself by swiftly surrendering into the Valentine mushiness of wining and dining my woman. Why? Actually, I’m a little bit afraid of her.

I don’t understand how she could possibly have considered me unromantic in the first place. Having been quite the player over the years, I don’t recall a single woman complaining that I wasn’t romantic enough. (Full disclosure: most of my girlfriends were inflatable women).

My very first date happened on a Valentine’s Day when I was a 16-year-old incurable neurotic. My raging adolescent hormones were surpassed only by my impatient nature. Classmates nicknamed me Impatient Pete. Confound it, I was a busy boy. Out of my way, world!

My attention span was measured several times and never surpassed 44 nanoseconds. When at home, I couldn’t wait to join my friends at school. When in class, my daydreaming made it impossible to concentrate. Especially one day when a big girl named Fast Nancy made wicked eyes at me and insisted that I take her to a Valentine dance. How could I refuse? Actually, I was a little bit afraid of her.

Arriving at her house 20 minutes early, I was chagrined to learn that “Fast” Nancy wasn’t ready. Then, how the hell did she get that nickname? During the eternal wait with her parents, her dad inexplicably babbled on and on about his ability to knock a guy out on the first punch. Just as a heavy glaze crossed over my eyes, my date mercifully descended the staircase. Promising her parents to drive carefully, we slid into my red Studebaker and slowly drove out of their sight. I checked my watch and exclaimed: “Wow! Time’s a wasting!”

I burnt rubber.

At the dance, I wanted to burn up the carpet. Since I kept stepping on her feet, Fast Nancy soon nixed the idea of romantic (boring) slow dances. Instantly, a miracle was in the making as Fast Nancy finally lived up to her name. Turned out, she could dance faster than Chubby Checker. Looked a little like him, too. I was falling in love. With dancing. Having a ball. Dancing. In less than an hour, however, my antsy noggin was rushing me onto other things.

So, Impatient Pete soon danced Fast Nancy right out the door. We raced off to Nifty’s, a popular teenage eatery. Crafty cronies had told me that a movie and dinner was defined as “code for foreplay.” So what was a fast dance and fast food code for? And, just what was foreplay?

Wouldn’t ya know, Nifty’s was packed. As we waited in line, I demonstrated my impatience by pounding the palm of my hand upon my thigh.

Fast Nancy became annoyed: “What gives? Are you trying to make some invisible horsey go faster?”

“Well, my God already! What’s holding things up? We were in kindergarten when we got into this line.”

Complaining incessantly about the “sloooow” service, I hurried Fast Nancy through her french fries so that we could make a rapid run out to Make Out Point. After a few minutes there, I informed her that I wanted to wrap things up ASAP so I could get home and watch the late movie.

Fast Nancy blew her stack: “Expedite! Expedite! Expedite. That’s all you want to do, you dork! I have an idea: let’s see how fast you can drive me back home!” she yelled. “Yes, Ma’am!” I exclaimed. “Wow! Now I’ll even make it home in time to make popcorn before that movie begins.”

I burnt rubber.

Suffice it to say, Impatient Pete flunked Make Out 101. As a result of our momentary visit to Make Out Point, crafty cronies re-nicknamed Fast Nancy as Avenging Vixen. Worse, due to her tirade about our “nanosecond” night, Impatient Pete became known as “Eskew the Sexpediter” — promptly plunging me into eternal virginity.

Actually, I lost my virginity to my third wife who promptly redefined the word “foreplay” as code for two hours of begging.

As for my first Valentine? Clearly, we’ll never have Paris.

— 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.

Pop quiz. Pop quiz. Pop quiz.

Paul_Lander(Editor’s Note: These pop quizzes originally appeared on Huff Post Comedy. Reposted by permission of the author.) 

Pop Quiz: T.S. Eliot or Missy Elliot

1. When it’s time to rhyme rhyme, I can get down for mine.
2. And there isn’t any call for me to shout it. For he will do, as he do do and there’s no doing anything about it!
3. Effanineffable
4. If you came to freak-a-leak you better bring your hat.
5. I got a cute face, chubby waist. Thick legs, in shape.
6. For a similar reason, when game is in season, he is found, not at Fox’s, but Blimpy’s.
7. Rum Tum Tugger
8. I’m like kak-a-rak-a-rak-rak-a-rak-a-rak.
9. Keep your eyes on my bum-bum-bum-bum-bum. And think you can handle this gadong-a-dong-dong.
10. Well I never! Did you ever, know a cat so clever.
11. Is it worth it, let me work it. I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it.
12. He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake and, when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

TS: 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12
Missy: 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11

Pop Quiz: Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” or Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

1. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.
2. Place your head on my beating heart. I’m thinking out loud that maybe we found love right where we are.
3. Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
4. And the rest is rust and stardust.
5. Maybe it’s all part of a plan, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes hoping that you’ll understand.
6. Look at this tangle of thorns.
7. Don’t cry, I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is.
8. Take me into your loving arms, kiss me under the light of a thousand stars.
9. Right now. Come just as you are. And we shall live happily ever after.
10. I talk in a daze. I walk in a maze.
11. Honey your soul can never grow old, it’s evergreen.

Vladimir: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10
Ed: 2, 3, 5, 8, 11

Pop Quiz: Our Gang Little Rascal or Alternative Rock Band

1. Fishbone
2. Buckwheat
3. Zebrahead
4. Alfalfa
5. Froggy
6. Weezer
7. Holly McNarland
8. Moose
9. Bonedust
10. Spanky
11. Saliva
12. Spud
13. Fatboy Slim
14. Sunshine Sammy
15. Farina
16. Breezie Brisbane
17. Snowcake
18. Skillet
19. Dinah the Mule

Our Gang Little Rascal: 2,4, 5,9, 10,12, 14,15, 19
Alternative Rock Band: 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 13, 17, 18
Both: 6

— Paul Lander

Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written stand-up material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in Huff Post Comedy, McSweeney’s, The New YorkerSanta Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. In 2015, he placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual column contest in the online/blog/multimedia category for his pieces in Humor Times and was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month” in April.

Peyton Manning for president

We need a trustworthy and admirable human being to be our next president. We need an expert at studying opponents, breaking down their weaknesses, and making them respect our great nation.

Sammy SportfaceWe need someone who is a proven winner who didn’t cheat to do so. We need a guy who people like. We need a tall person to be our president, someone like Abe Lincoln in stature and character.

We need six-foot-four-inch Peyton Manning to be the next president of the United States. He will retire this week after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday, his second during his Hall of Fame NFL career in which he became one of the best NFL quarterbacks ever. So with playing football in his past he will have time to focus on his next career.

“Peyton for President” is not such a preposterous idea if you really think it through. Who do you think is more likely to deceive Americans for personal gain, Hillary Clinton or Peyton Manning? Who do you think is more narcissistic, Donald Trump or Peyton Manning? Who is more practical, Bernie Sanders or Peyton Manning? Who would be a more charismatic host of “Saturday Night Live,” Jeb Bush or Peyton Manning?

Who has a better feel for capitalism and how to generate money through advertising, Bernie Sanders or Peyton Manning? Who is more likable, Hillary Clinton or Peyton Manning? Who is more gracious, classy and respectful in his interpersonal interactions, Chris Christie or Peyton Manning?

America’s political system is broken. Washington, D.C. is stagnant and inept. America’s political system has devolved into childish name-calling, negative advertising, half-truths and avoidance of tough questions.

Everything about this system reeks.

None of the candidates currently running for president is as likable and trustworthy as Peyton Manning. He is humble, smart, honest and the kind of guy most Americans would be proud to have as our national leader. He likes America and would say so. He wouldn’t blame this country for all that’s wrong with the world.

Peyton has mastered his craft through diligence. He is more of an American hero worthy of our respect than any politician running for president. It’s not that they’re inherently bad people; it’s that they’re part of a bad system that makes them behave in ways that are, too often, unbecoming and self-serving.

Peyton comes from one of America’s great families with values of hard work, sportsmanship and class at its core. Wouldn’t it be something special to have a president from outside our sordid political system take over?

We need to wipe the slate clean, clean house, flush the swamp of everything that our current political system has become. We need to start with somebody new, different and honorable.

It’s not Donald Trump. He’s a new kind of politician, but he’s a fraud and lacks civility. He would not make us proud if he became our president.

We need someone real who we can trust. We need Peyton Manning in the Oval Office in 2016.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

The path to redemption

Jan WilbergHow bad or how often does someone have to screw up to make them beyond redemption? What does it take to redeem oneself after showing really bad behavior? What do these questions have to do with a dog?

After years of happy strolls through our local dog park, Minnie, our beloved Beagle/Australian Shepherd mix, reclassified small dogs as wild game. As if she had been trained for months, she’d leap out of the car, cast a quick eye across the landscape and pick out the smallest, weakest and best groomed dog to chase, terrify and pin to the ground.

“Minnie! Minnie! MINNIE!,” we’d yell, my husband and I feigning expressions of surprise as if this was the very first time she’d ever shown such behavior. It made me remember the “oh dear, whatever are they thinking?” looks I’d conjure up when my toddler boys would be seen by the neighbor peeing in the bushes next to our house. “Stop it! Don’t pee in the bushes!” (Why are my sons peeing in the bushes? Why is my dog eating that frou-frou dog with the bow?)

I’m the third child, not the first, so I shouldn’t have this overblown sense of responsibility about everything. I should be carefree, used to being taken care of, enjoying the loveliness of low expectations and living life so clearly off the hook that nothing should bother me. That is so not the case. I worry about getting a flat tire when the tires are new, about running out of gas with a full tank and about my dog being charged with dogslaughter.

Anyway, so my husband announced yesterday that it was time to go back to the dog park. He said we needed to give Minnie a chance to be a great dog. He’s very much into dogs, communicating with dogs — or so he says, seeing meaning and purpose in dogs that the rest of us don’t see. He’s different. He was set on our taking Minnie back to the scene of her terrible behavior. He said that we needed to give Minnie a chance to redeem herself. I was sick with worry.

“I’ll stay in the car,” I said, figuring it the best way to avoid the inevitable bloodshed and keep a distant perch from which to second guess and criticize after the fact.

And then it occurred to me, the path to redemption could be paved with hot dogs!

We took a class at the Humane Society once where the instructor had us cutting hot dogs into tiny pieces, stuffing them in a little pouch that we were to keep hanging from our belts (who wears a belt?) and between holding the leash and using the clicker to signal various commands, we were to dole out the hot dogs.  It was nuts, requiring so much manual dexterity that I wanted to sit down and smoke a cigarette.

So we went to the grocery store where we bought the cheapest pack of hot dogs possible ($2.41), and then we drove to the dog park. Before we let Minnie out of the car, we showed her wonderment greater than any fluffy frou-frou dog with a bow. We each had a whole hot dog clutched in one fist. She took off. We called her back. Each time, she got a chunk of hot dog. Sometimes she just trotted along sniffing our hot dog hands. She’d run ahead and come back when we called. Chase a dog or two, sniff a little dog (scary!) and come barreling back down the trail when we yelled “Minnie.”

I’d wave my hand in front of her nose and she trotted alongside. Honestly, I felt like Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer, but with a little hot dog crutch. Now, I want hot dogs on me all the time, wherever I go with this dog. I want permanent hot dogs in my hand, in the glove compartment, in my coat pockets, hanging in links around my neck. The hot dogs made her a perfect dog.

Is this redemption? Would we call this redemption? Maybe it comes under the category of “assisted redemption.”  (HDAR — Hot Dog Assisted Redemption)

All I know is nothing terrible happened.  That’s good enough for me.

— Jan Wilberg

Jan Wilberg writes about everything from national politics to outwitting rats in the basement with the help of her two sons. She is a mother, grandmother and a formerly hearing impaired person rejoicing in the miracle of her new cochlear implant. Her blog Red’s Wrap has a tagline that says it all: Happiness. It’s relative.

5 things all moms should expect when toddler’s bestie is a dog

IMG_1020My son is an animal enthusiast.

At two-years-old, he loves listing off the names of animals, pointing out insects and squealing when he recognizes specific fish. He’s also slightly obsessed with our adopted chocolate lab. I know lots of mothers who wait until after their kids are older to get a pet, but in my case, we had our dog for two years before my son was born.

My dog is my son’s best friend and partner in crime. My family and friends always get a kick out of the photos I share on social media of their shenanigans, but there are five things all moms should expect when raising a toddler who has a dog as their bestie:

1) Sharing is very natural for both dog and child. 

When my son was a year old, I found him in the dog bed with the dog, chewing on a dog bone! At 18 months, my son routinely got down on all fours to drink out of the dog’s water bowl, refusing to drink from his own sippy cup. Most recently, I’ve found my dog and son covered in peanut butter! My son has unfortunately discovered how to stand on things to acquire items out of his reach. He’s especially fond of peanut butter and, apparently, so is the dog.

2) Your dog’s bowel movements are intriguing to toddlers.

I was really amused over the summer, as my son followed our dog all over the yard. He would get down on all fours and sniff flowers with her, participate in chasing the neighbor’s cat, and even pulled down his pants to pee on the tree a time or two. I was not so amused when I looked out my kitchen window to see my son squatting beside my dog. As the dog pooped, my son collected it in his hands and rubbed it all over himself! At his second birthday party later that summer, my son walked up to my dog, who was pooping, pulled his pants down and pooped with her…in front of all of our guests!

3) Don’t be surprised when your child starts licking you, instead of giving kisses.

My son has been displaying odd behavior lately. Instead of giving kisses, he licks you…more than once. It has been the topic of several awkward, unplanned conversations when he licks unsuspecting friends and family.

10462512_540671743284_1875713611027188503_n4) Prepare to be a referee between human and animal.

It’s rather embarrassing, but commonplace these days, to referee my child and dog who are fighting over a toy. My dog is very well behaved and never touches my son’s toys, but son is not so nice. If my son gets mad at the dog, he will take her stuffed animals and throw them in the trash! Sometimes, when my son is on the losing end of the argument, he will open our sliding glass door and try to send the dog outside. He tells the dog she’s bad and if he’s upset at her, he tells her she isn’t being very nice! I must admit, it’s quite difficult to keep a straight face when I try to calmly explain that the dog is sorry for her actions (like accidently knocking him over during play).

5) Trying to explain why the dog is treated differently will exhaust you.

For weeks, I’ve been having the same morning discussion with my son. Every morning, he wants to know why the dog doesn’t have to wear shoes. This is not just of great interest to him, but consistently, he has been using it as his defense for not wearing shoes. Lately, as winter progresses, his argument has evolved into why the dog doesn’t have to wear a coat. And yes, I’ve caught him putting his clothes on the dog. Since my son started daycare, he’s always questioned why he has to go to school, but the dog gets to stay home. Many times he’s begged to stay home with the dog instead of going to school and sometimes he even cries because he wants the dog to go to school with him. We’ve had a few feet of snow outside this past week, so we’ve kept our son indoors as much as possible. Obviously, our dog has a good reason for why she needs to go outside a few times every day. Try explaining to a two-year-old why it’s ok for the dog to go outside but not him. I’ll tell you, it’s a losing battle and it is exhausting trying to find something to say that will help him understand.

At first I was really worried about my selfish dog accepting the arrival of my infant son. However, I quickly discovered that my dog is incredibly caring, loyal and, most importantly, patient! She’s understanding when he pulls her tail, knows when to hide if my son has markers, and enjoys daily naps when the two get to cuddle.

I know my son adores and loves our dog and I’m so happy and thankful that they have each other. With that said, I am saving ALL of his embarrassing photos for when he hits the dating scene as a teenager!

— Debra Richardson

Debra Richardson lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, with her husband and two-year-old son. She’s a full-time English teacher, a public affairs specialist in the Army Reserves and writes a blog, The Blissful Overachiever.  Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Suburbia 5 a.m.

Nicole JohnsonSuburban bedroom, early a.m. —

A mother sleeps soundly — as soundly as any mother can sleep.

She feels the figure standing over her. She wonders which one it is — there are three, the fourth is still in a crib. She prays it isn’t him. If it is, that means a big-boy bed, which he will discover he can get out of.

“Mom,” it’s one of the big kids. The littles refer to her as “mommy.”

She speaks. “Whadda,” is all that comes out. Eloquence is reserved for daytime hours.

“I have a headache. Can I sleep with you?”

She fails to see how letting the nine-year-old sleep in her bed will cure her headache. “The bed is broken. It can barely stand the weight it holds now.”

“Daddy has been running,” the girl is hopeful. “And you’re so skinny, Mom.” Her attempts at flattery, while smart, are wasted at this early hour.

Finally, the nine-year-old leaves. The suburban hausfrau attempts to return to her dream. There is another figure — if it is the girl, she vows to threaten her with punishment.

“Mom,” it is the son, age 10. “Mom, mom, mom.”

As she sits up, she realizes both children, who have interrupted her semi-peaceful slumber, have passed by her sleeping husband, their sleeping father, without interrupting him. “What is it?”

“There’s a spider.” He is obviously upset.

“So, kill it.” She is obviously unmoved.

He won’t budge. “I hate spiders.”

She follows him downstairs, into the bathroom. The linoleum floor peels up in the corner. She notices this even in the dark.

He turns the light on and points, “There it is.”

“Get me a shoe.” She stares at the immobile arachnid.

“A what?” He only stares.

Maybe this is a dream. Maybe her life is nothing more than an offbeat television show.

“I need something to kill it.” Normally she would attempt to save it with the bug saver, a red cup — but it is too early in the morning to save anything. Besides, she saved a spider, possibly the brother or sister to this one, yesterday.

“I’m not giving you my shoe.” He stands firm.

She walks around him into the living room. She grabs a Dr. Seuss hoping she remembers to wipe the spider innards off it before the four-year-old sees it.

The woman prays that the spider is still in the sink. If not, the boy will never go back to sleep for the spider will be crawling somewhere in the house. He will grow and grow, plotting his revenge on the people who attempted to exterminate him.

“Mom, kill it.” The spider is so still, she wonders if he is alive at all. Maybe he can sense them and is playing dead. Do spiders do that?

Smack — she brings the book down hard on the porcelain. The spider is motionless, and then suddenly, in horror-movie fashion, it rises and scurries, with its misplaced legs dragging behind it, toward the drain. It is attempting to survive — the way all living creatures do. She feels awful. She does the only thing she can. Swalmp, she hits it again — at least twice. The spider is dead. The woman scoops it up with a tissue and throws it in the trash.

“I hate spiders,” the boy says as he returns to bed. She’s sure it’s his way of saying thank you.

Back in her own bed, she glances at the alarm clock — 5 a.m.

She stares at her husband, this man she’s had children with. He snores. Soon the alarm will sound, but that’s another story about suburbia — at 7 a.m.

— Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in literature from Hofstra University and a master’s degree in television/video production from Emerson College. Her short stories have been published in the Wilderness House Literary Review and Grub Street. Currently, she is a stay-at-home mom raising four children, a dog, a cat and a husband. She fear birds, anything with the potential to cause fire, and Disney World. Read her blog here.

I heart Erma

This month is Erma Bombeck’s birthday. She would be 89 if she were alive today. When I tell folks I write a column, they ask what kind. I say, kinda like Erma Bombeck’s.

This Valentine’s Day I will attempt to pay tribute to the woman whose typewriter ribbon I am not worthy to change, who inadvertently taught me how to write, laugh, parent and appreciate what was most important in life.

If you want a glimpse into the life of an ordinary American housewife in the ’60s and ’70s, crack open one of her many books. She covered it all: the mystery of the lost sock, leftovers, teenagers and growing old. The ’60s were hard times — families were in crisis, and we felt the generation gap. This woman stood in that gap and managed to appreciate the next generation with all their quirks and hang-ups. Our mothers and grandmothers read and related to Erma Bombeck. They appreciated that some woman out there was writing about their own experiences.

Erma was prolific. At its height, her column, “At Wit’s End,” was running three times a week in 900 newspapers around the country. Her column ran from 1965-1996, the year of her premature death. She wrote 15 books, many of them best sellers. She appeared on “Good Morning America” and other television shows.

Her humor is legendary, but many of her columns were poignant. In Motherhood — The Second Oldest Profession, one chapter is titled “Everybody Else’s Mother.” She wrote about that age when your kids compare you to “everybody else’s mother.” Someone is always doing something different (which your kid prefers). But in the end she wrote:

“Everybody else’s mother is very real and for a few years she’s a formidable opponent to mothers everywhere. Then one day she disappears. In her place is 90 pounds (give or take) of rebellion and independence, engaging in verbal combat, saying for themselves what Everybody Else’s Mother used to say for them.”

Unfortunately, I was that kid. I used “everybody else’s parent” all the time. I hope my mom got some comfort from Erma’s words. My kids, not so much. I am a veteran now of “verbal combat.”

Perhaps Erma’s most popular piece flying around the Internet is “If I Had My Life to Live Over.”  She did not write it when she was dying of cancer, but rather in 1979. I have come to appreciate this last part of the column:

“But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute…look at it and really see it… live it…and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff. Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what. Instead, let’s cherish the relationships we have with those who DO love us.”

I know I read her columns before I had kids, but it was after I became a mother that I really enjoyed her work. With so many kids literally climbing the walls when I was home, when times were very difficult and I did not think I was going to make it, this small paragraph from the end of her book, At Wit’s End, carried me through. When asked why she wrote this book, she cited many reasons, but credits author Faith Baldwin:

“To be honest, however, I will have to admit that I wrote the book for the original model — the one who was overkidsed, underpatienced, with four years of college and chapped hands all year around. I knew if I didn’t follow Faith’s advice and laugh a little at myself, then I would surely cry.”

These few lines helped me. When I wanted to cry over my circumstances, I picked up her books and laughed. Actually, I laughed and cried at the same time. You see, so many of us who are raising kids or caring for others feel totally overlooked and invisible. Erma, while just talking about her own experiences, shined a light on all of us who take care of others — whether we are moms, dads, caregivers, teachers, etc. She appreciated what she did, and it spilled over to all of us.

Erma once wrote a column about Edith Bunker, the longsuffering wife of that loudmouth Archie from “All My Family.” Erma was sad that there were few Edith Bunkers in the world — few folks who listen, who look you in the eyes, who care about what you are saying instead of thinking of what to say next, someone who really hears. I don’t know if Erma was that much like Edith Bunker. I can’t see her taking too much of Archie’s crap, but I do think she listened and was attentive to what her readers wanted.

Thank you, Erma, for all you did. I agree with your sentiment to your kids in the dedication in Aunt Erma’s Cope Book, “If I blow it raising them…nothing else I do will matter very much.” I think most of us raising kids would agree.

— Donna Fentanes

Blogger Donna Fentanes is a mother of 10 kids living in Pacifica. She mixes humor and philosophical musings with everyday life.

Reflections of Erma