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New face behind the workshop

img_1413Madeleine Eiting, a senior University of Dayton marketing major from Minster, Ohio, has joined the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop as an intern.

“Given my love for both comedy and writing, I knew this position would be a perfect fit,” said Eiting, who will edit and post essays on the workshop’s blog, explore ways to improve the workshop’s social media presence and help implement a matching gift campaign.

“Two summers ago, while backpacking through the Philippines, I was fortunate enough to share my travel experiences on my personal travel blog. Writing about my adventures not only encouraged me to develop my own comedic voice, but also allowed me to find humor in the smallest of events,” she said. “As I have continued to study comedy and comedic writing, I’ve learned that the greatest comedians are so popular because they are able to transform the smallest, most insignificant events into hilarious and relatable stories.

“As an intern for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop I will capitalize on this understanding to connect with both the newsletter subscribers and website visitors,” said Eiting, who is minoring in English.

At the University of Dayton, she serves as president of Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 2015, she won $2,500 for “Best Social Enterprise” in the University’s Business Plan competition. She designed a company that helps meet the needs of American youth while providing educational funding for children in developing countries.

This is her fourth internship. Last summer, she worked as a market research analyst for C+R Research in Chicago. In 2015, she served as a social media marketing intern for Bleu Market Group in Mason, Ohio. In 2014, she interned for Martha’s Table in Washington, D.C., where she distributed fresh produce and non-perishables to underprivileged children and families.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communication.

Ode to my father and the NY Mets

Tracy BucknerThe only time in my life that I ever saw my father seriously worried for my future was when I threw a baseball with the wrong foot forward. Horrified, he made a quick adjustment and all was well in the Roberts household.

Whether they were winning or losing, my Dad and I have been lifelong Mets fans. Being an awesome father with high priorities, he suggested I skip school to watch them clinch the 1969 World Series. While I was living in Boston, a highlight of my life was getting us tickets to every game of the 1986 Mets-Red Sox World Series at Fenway Park. Surrounded by grieving and oh so silent Red Sox fans, we celebrated the Mets win being neither silent nor grieving. When Bill Buckner (no relation), first baseman for the Red Sox, watched that ball go through his legs he became, and will remain, my favorite baseball player of all time.

It has become our tradition that every year I take my father to a home game. Sitting with my Dad, a starting pitcher for Rutgers Newark ‘53-‘56, I learned there is more to the game than meets the eye and the past 2 years were particularly fun because the Mets were a winning team.

This year, for the first time in a long time, sadly, there was no plan to get to a game. My 85-year old father was very unsteady due to a bad fall and needed a cane. So instead, we watched the games on his big-screen TV.

I’m not sure if it was because the Mets were killing it this year with a rag-tag team of triple A players to make up for a bruised and battered starting line-up, or the fact that there were no kosher hotdogs, but he turned to me and said, “You only live once. Let’s go to a game.” In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”

Off we went to Citi Field.

Arriving at the stadium, I opened the door to where my Dad sat and tried to calm my nerves. The long walk to the stadium mixed with the impatient, rowdy, and jostling NY crowd unnerved me. Ok, I thought, Ya Gotta Believe!

Into the crowd we went and almost immediately, we were met by a Citi Field representative who said, “Sir, what can I help you with?” I looked behind us. Was he speaking to my Dad? He was, and I almost hugged him out of gratitude. Showing him our tickets he escorted us to a private elevator. I felt like Kim Kardashian without the add-ons.

The elevator opened and another Citi Field rep led us to the restaurant where 2 fans offered my father and I their seats. I hadn’t met so many smiling, wonderful people in one place since Kindergarten.

Off to our seats where soon into the game another Citi Field rep asked if we wanted to move to cushioned seats and I started to think having a senior with a cane had its advantages. Perhaps I would start an agency… Rent-a-Senior! Avoid all lines by hiring my Dad to be a stand-in at the DMV or Shop-Rite before a storm. He was a walking goldmine! But I digress, back to the Mets and my Dad.

It was a completely wonderful night capped off with a 10th run homer by Yo Céspedes, which gave our Mets a win. When the game ended it was back to the star treatment and the private elevator. I offered the elevator operator my autograph, as I was now a legend, if only in my own mind.

You need a sense of humor to be a Mets fan.

That night my father set an example for me, (one of many in my lifetime): live and enjoy your life. Persevere, even if it takes time, patience, fear, and some pain to do it. But do it.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” ~ Yogi Berra

LET’S GO METS!

A special shout out to Mike G. and Elise P. who were sitting next to me during every game, even when they weren’t. Wait till next year!

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner writes for The Observer Tribune 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 read more from Tracy on her blog: Aging, kids, and why we self-medicate. http://tracy buckner.com

Heel thyself

Laura BeckerIt is a constant crust that cannot be cut away. The loser piece of the loaf. The beginning that must be gotten through and the end that must be endured. The heel. And I will not have it!

As the oldest of five, I was guaranteed to get it. There was always someone younger who wasn’t up to crust, and it was just easier to serve the last slice to the oldest sibling. And it had to be eaten because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough to go around. On top of that, if we had company or cousins…I would wind up with both toasted tips!

And though I was grateful for my daily bread, because I was regularly reminded when I complained that there are people with no bread at all, my elementary-aged incisors would struggle through its extra dryness from its position of outer exposure as I squeezed my bologna and Velveeta between these counterfeit crusts and imagined I was eating the inner-most slice. The prized position in the pan.

Sometimes I would flip my food upside down, good side up so I couldn’t see it. If the mayonnaise had been smeared on the standard slice, I would restructure my sandwich, tucking the obscene brown bit within, so only soft surface was showing, but I knew. And with every bite, I was less chewing and more gnashing my teeth against a texture I just couldn’t tolerate.

In adulthood I avoided sandwiches and toast, thoroughly convinced that I did not like bread. But once I was married, the loaves were suddenly back on the grocery list and I soon discovered that it was not bread itself that I despised but the heel!

So I would use the bread, reaching around the heel to the rest. But eventually, I wound up with a bunch of moldy heels. So, I started tucking them away in the freezer. Until one day my husband confronted me about my heel hording.

He had opened the freezer to get some ice but had been blindsided by bread. A glut of gluten, all frozen solid and falling on his face. There were at least 40 little plastic twist-tied leftover loaf bits all stored up and saved for someday.

“Why is our freezer full of frozen bread heels?”

“I thought I would use them for stuffing.”

“You know there are only two of us, right?”

“But I hate the heel!”

“Then throw it away.”

Throw it away? Just throw it away?!? This bit of daily bread I had so generously been given when there were people out there who didn’t have any bread at all…as I had so often been reminded. But what was I going to do? Send them all of my heels? That’s not really giving, that’s garbage. And saving it up for someday wasn’t gratitude, it was guilt.

Guilt over having enough to go around, even without the heel. Guilt over no longer struggling to get by. Guilt over doing better. Guilt over gluten I was no longer going to give in to.

I don’t force myself to eat the heel anymore. I rarely save it either. I don’t have to. And I am grateful.

— 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.

When old age knocks, HIDE!

Mari' EmeraudeI decided a long time ago when the time came, I would refuse to enter my twilight years with any sort of dignity and grace. If I had to go in, I would go in kicking and screaming all the way. Now I just wanna be carried!

It’s not that I’ve given up on my youth; it’s just that I’ve become more comfortable in my middle age. It’s the little things like talking to myself that bring me the most pleasure. I rather enjoy talking to myself in the mornings. I’ve found I’m a pretty interesting person. I just never gave myself a chance to listen to me!

Oh, I suppose the hardest things about aging are the physical changes we all must endure. I remember as a young girl the vanity we put ourselves through spending hours primping, preening and shaving. Today I don’t see the need to shave anything above my ankles, which is just as well because my TOES seem to need it the most. As for my eyebrows, I don’t even know what happened here. They have all but vanished. I try drawing them on like some of the trendy teenagers seem to be doing, but my hands shake so badly they look like they were applied with a jackhammer.

When I part my hair, my comb tends to find an even BIGGER part on the other side. In order to be freed from the ever dreaded “comb over,” I must pull my hair back into a sporty ponytail. The only thing about that is one has to literally stand behind me to see that I indeed have hair. Perhaps the hardest reality check was that I kept thinking these lines and wrinkles were just due to me sleeping on my face all night and that they’d dissipate as the day wore on.

Unfortunately that was in March — it’s now November.

— Mari’ Emeraude

Mari’ Emeraude is a writer and poet from Denver, Colorado. This essay is an excerpt from her book, Even God Hates Spinach.

If I had a nickel for every Twinkie

Laurie OienMrs. Bell was my first grade teacher in 1969 and I remember about a handful of things. I remember reading Dick and Jane books, square dancing in gym class, my crush on Tommy and the unforgettable era with the Twinkie.

I looked forward to lunch time. We’d line up at our classroom door and while clutching my metal Archies lunchbox, I would wiggle in line to get close to Tommy. Somewhere between Dick and Jane stories and doing the dosey doe in gym class, he never noticed my adoration for his 6-year-old baby face and big brown eyes.

I always looked forward to lunch time. Not sure if it was because we were getting a break from Dick and Jane or the anticipation of flipping open the lid of my lunchbox to reveal the goodies inside. Every school day I’d flip open my lunchbox to survey inside a sandwich, some kind of fruit or veggie, milk and a pack of Twinkies.

It all started out pretty exciting. As soon as I saw that twin pack of yellow sponge cake with the cream peeking out of the inside, I knew I had arrived to lunch time euphoria. I didn’t even notice brown-eyed Tommy sitting at the next table.

Every single school day I’d line up at the classroom door for lunch, flash a smile at Tommy and flip the lid to my lunchbox. I was never disappointed. There they were, beaming their golden glow, day after day and lunch after lunch.

It was at the end of the school year that I started to realize that all of Dick and Jane’s adventures were sucking the life right out of me. Not to mention, the dosey doe and my Twinkie lunches were starting to lose their golden charm. Then to make matters worse, I found out Tommy was moving away.

I sulked on the last day of school as I knew it would be my last time smiling at sweet brown-eyed Tommy. I certainly wasn’t going to miss Dick and Jane and I knew it was time to take a break from the Twinkie lunches.

Summer break went by quickly and I started the second grade in Mrs. Johnson’s class. It didn’t take long for me to scan the classroom hoping that Tommy had had a change of plans, but no such luck. It wasn’t until Mrs. Johnson announced that it was lunch time that I felt a switch in my focus. We lined up at the classroom door and with my new Scooby Doo lunchbox in my clutches, I knew this was the best time of the day.

We single-filed down to the cafeteria, and I plopped down at the lunch table anticipating to see those chocolate cupcakes with the white swirly loops on top. I flipped the lid and to my surprise there snuggled behind a bologna sandwich was a pack of…you got it…stinkin’ TWINKIES!

All I could do was sit and stare pitifully into my lunchbox. Honestly, there just may have been a tear forming and a gagging reflex thwarting in the back of my throat.

It didn’t take long for the cafeteria lady with her blonde bouffant hairdo to notice that I had a disturbed look on my face. Her tall thin frame sauntered over to me and she asked, “Sweetie, is there a problem with your lunch?”

“Oh, no,” I sadly responded. “I was just thinking…if I had a nickel for every Twinkie I’ve gotten, maybe I’d have enough to hop a bus outta here to go see Tommy!”

I have NOT had a Twinkie since.

— Laurie Oien is a wife and mother living in Minnesota and determined to uncover the second half of life with zest and zeal. She has a background in marketing and accounting for the last 25 years and recently discovered that one can’t live by adding machines and numbers alone. Therefore, she created a humorous lifestyle blog. Laurie has been a contributor to Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Midlife Boulevard. She’s also a featured author in the anthology, Feisty After 45, released by Mills Park Publishing. Laurie blogs at A Square of Chocolate.

The chips fight

 

Sarah EstimeI just had a moment, but I’m okay now. Still, I’d like to vent.

My husband eats everything. I feel like I’m always hungry because he not only wipes out our fridge, he also likes to do clean sweeps and is constantly pitching soggy salad I really don’t mind eating. I mean.. what else am I gonna eat, right? I always expect the one thing I look forward to at the end of the day to not be there when I get home, but I have yet to become inured by my everlasting disappointment.

Since we conceived this crying one-year-old, I’ve been very controlled about what I eat. I’m not a big meat eater, so I force-fed myself protein the entire 41 weeks. I’m also in the service, so I had to prepare for a PT test in which salad and more protein were my best friends for a year. I get chips here and there, but not a one piece touches my lips due my husband’s apparent need for them.

Whatever. Who needs chips when trying to attain pre-baby weight anyway? Two nights ago, I discovered (again) that my chips were gone. I made a joke about it, which prompted him to get a new bag. Fast forward to today. On this day, I had broccoli and a protein bar. On my way home, I was getting a hunger headache so I thought, “Hmph, I kinda want some dip.” I wanted creamy, cheesy, jalapeño dip a neighbor of mine made one Super Bowl, which I skulked her Pinterest for, salivating over the sinfully smooth recipe snapshots.

I get home with our son, who seems to also have a black hole of a tummy and just cries to be fed nonstop. I decide I’m gonna let him cry because I’m sick of eating convenient things like protein bars or gross things like soggy salad in order to tend to everyone else. I very carefully prepare my dip so it could bake in the oven while I try to satiate our insatiable son.

My ears were ringing but I’m thinking, At least I’ll have dip! The boy was fed, my dip was done, and I look in the cupboard to.. NO CHIPS. I just about lost it. Husband is still at work, so I’ve already cleaned up the Diet Cokes I smashed open in our backyard (that shut the baby up). I rushed to the BX and grabbed $50 worth of junk food I’ve stored in my trunk. The baby pooped up his back, so he got a wonderfully soothing bath, although he cried all the way through it. I finally sat down and had my dip.

Plus, now I have a secret stash.

— Sarah Estime

Sarah Estime is an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force. When she’s not working her day job, she’s composing  literary fiction. She’s been published by the African American Review, O-Dark-Thirty, Burner Magazine  and Pif Magazine. She currently writes for Blogcritics and Litro Magazine.

Tooth or Consequences

 

Jerry ZezimaIn one of my favorite Three Stooges shorts, the boys are dentists. When their first patient comes in, Shemp puts on a pair of Coke bottle glasses that render him practically sightless. Then he pries open the hapless man’s mouth, grabs a pair of pliers and, while Moe reads instructions from a book titled Carpentry Made Easy, proceeds to extract a tooth in a painfully funny scene that makes me glad I don’t have a dentist like that.

So you can imagine how I felt recently when I walked into my new dentist’s office for my initial appointment and saw, on the TV in the waiting area, an episode of — you guessed it — the Three Stooges.

“They are my heroes,” said Dr. Anthony Fazio, who was not, thank God, wielding pliers, a hammer or any other tool the Stooges might have used to treat a patient on his very first visit.

“I save those for subsequent visits,” added Dr. Fazio, who doesn’t need to use laughing gas because his delightfully skewed sense of humor puts patients at ease and actually makes it fun to go to the dentist.

Dr. Fazio, who wears glasses (“Where are you?” he joked after I had settled into the chair), has been clowning with patients since he opened his practice in Medford, New York, in 1998.

“I took over from Dr. William J. Tinkler, who’s 88 and is a funny guy himself,” said Dr. Fazio, adding that Dr. Tinkler was his dental school teacher at Stony Brook University, where Dr. Fazio now teaches. “We put on a show every year at the school and Dr. Tinkler gets up and tells jokes. He’s another one of my heroes.”

Dr. Fazio, 46, is married to Dr. Lynn Travis, herself a Stony Brook dental school graduate.

“We put down roots in the community,” he deadpanned.

“You know the drill,” I responded.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” countered Dr. Fazio, who, fortunately for me, didn’t need to use one.

But he did need to regale me with stories of his dental adventures, such as the one he called “The Ventriloquist and His Wife.”

“The patient was this very stately gentleman,” Dr. Fazio recalled. “I asked him what I could do for him and, without missing a beat, his wife said, ‘He hates his teeth and needs new dentures.’ I asked the man what he didn’t like about them and his wife said, ‘He doesn’t like the color. And he can’t chew with them.’ Whatever I asked the man, his wife answered. Then I said to him, ‘That’s amazing.’ He was puzzled. I said, ‘You are the best ventriloquist I’ve ever seen.’ There was a hint of a smile on his face.

“I priced a new set of dentures at $2,000. Then I asked the wife if she would be in the room during the treatment and she said, ‘Of course.’ So I said in that case, the dentures would be $4,000. I said, ‘If I have to talk with your husband and you, it will cost double.’ She got huffy and said, ‘I never!’ On the way out, her husband said to me, ‘Have a nice day.’ It was the only time I heard him speak.”

Then there was the young woman who practically did a burlesque routine in the office.

“She was very attractive,” Dr. Fazio said. “I had to check out her occlusion, so I took a piece of typing paper, placed it between her teeth and said, ‘Would you please grind for me?’ She started to gyrate in the chair. I said, ‘No, no, no! I meant that you should grind your teeth from side to side.’ She started to laugh and said, ‘Sorry, I thought it was an odd request, but you’re kind of cute and I figured, what the hell, why not?’ She’s still one of my best patients.”

I could never compete with her, but Dr. Fazio said I’m now a good patient, too.

“You’re memorable,” he noted.

Maybe it’s because I share his appreciation for old movies, posters for which fill the walls. One of the films is “Dial M for Murder.”

“The M doesn’t also stand for molar, does it?” I asked tremulously.

“No,” Dr. Fazio said after hygienist Margaret Skladanek had done a terrific job of cleaning my teeth and office manager Lisa Rugen had set up my next appointment. “But it could stand for Moe.”

As I left the office, the Three Stooges were still on.

“At least you don’t have any carpentry books in here,” I said.

“I’ll get one in time for your next visit,” Dr. Fazio replied. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

— 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 BestLeave 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.

Don’t lock your in-laws in the closet

Anne BardsleyThe holidays will be upon us shortly. I know first hand how stressful things can be when the in-laws come to visit.

If they mention that they’d like to stay for a few days, take a deep breath, smile and grab a bottle of wine. This is not the time to tidy up the attic. You can’t just stuff them away. Do not put them in the basement either. Remember, holidays are about family, although they do seem to bring out the absolute worst in people. I know this because I watch the Hallmark channel and not a single episode resembles our family.

Father-in-laws seem to be more agreeable. They have learned to go with the flow. If the flow is calm, they can emotionally float down the lazy river. If times are tense, they can surf the currents. Oh, to be a father-in-law!

Mother-in-laws have the ability to create a fast moving whirlpool of emotions within seconds with a single statement. “That’s not how I make my award-winning stuffing,” she might say, while smirking. Father-in-laws can sense that the lazy river is turning into a cesspool. This is when they usually decide to check the football score. It’s a universal thing.

Your mother-in-law can be a great friend or a miserable foe. Now that mine is gone, we get along famously. Ten years into our marriage, I realized I just didn’t understand her. When we first met, I thought she was very snooty. She gasped when I plucked a small, ripe strawberry from my dessert glass. When I popped it in my mouth, she almost fell off her chair. Her face said, “Son, this girl has no manners!”

What I learned later was that she was poor growing up and her dad raised her. He sent her to etiquette class so she would know how to be a proper lady. She did act like the queen on many occasions. I was more like Cinderella.

She wanted to be close with me. She told me so. A week after our honeymoon, she came over to help me garden. Pitchfork in hand, she told me, “We will be friends. We will be close. My mother-in-law was horrible. You and I will be close,” she repeated. She scared me. I like to keep peace and this looked like a demanding friendship. I smiled at her and nodded.

I later realized that in her mind, she was losing him to a woman she didn’t think was a perfect fit for her, or her son. She wrote him a letter telling him so before we were married. I never saw it. Scott burned it.

She needed a higher-class woman to maintain her need for proper family. Money was very important. I didn’t have money, but I did have two sons, ages three and six. The three-year-old had just learned the word “damn” and used it as often. It did not make a great first impression on the queen.

I also learned that she never felt pretty growing up. She thought she was the ugly duckling. She was a very attractive woman, but this belief burned deep. I learned that she needed attention to feel good about herself. Once I understood her, we got closer. Compliments filled up that empty space in her soul.

I am not Mary Poppins, and it was not always a nice relationship. In retrospect, I couldn’t be myself around her. I always had to step it up. My house was never clean enough. Five kids, a huge dog and running our business from our dining room equals some mess. Get over it! Take the white gloves off now! (There’s a little spark of the real Anne coming through.)

Like children, I believe mother-in-laws should come with a mandatory manual, Mother-In-Law 101. It would make great reading on the honeymoon!!

Chapter one: How to make me happy.
Chapter two: Things you should never say or do in my presence.
Chapter three: I’m still his mother.
Chapter four: He can always come home to me.
Chapter five: How to get my family recipes, even though you are an in-law (yes she told me that). My father- in-law got me her family macaroni and cheese recipe.
Chapter six: We both love the same man. Accept it. Let’s have lunch.
Chapter seven: I will love you.
Chapter eight: You will love me.
Chapter nine: You aren’t so bad after all
Chapter ten: You will miss me when I’m gone.

I just realized I am a mother-in-law now. If my son-in-laws ever write a manual on me, I will lock them in my basement. I’ll feed them gourmet meals and make sure they have cable channels. I will bring them freshly, fluffed towels and expensive shaving cream. Naturally, I’ll give them my official manual.

After all, I want them to love me.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.

Reflections of Erma