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The pumpkin industrial complex

Nancy Davis KhoI recently received the October Trader Joe’s print circular, the one that is for some reason illustrated with drawings of Edwardian shoppers telling jokes. The pamphlet’s main purpose is to inform shoppers about all the latest additions to the grocery store’s shelves and, as I leafed through, I noticed a new and disturbing trend.

Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. In baked goods, yes, but also in ravioli, and yogurt, and in creamed cheese and in moisturizing body butter. There are even pumpkin-flavored dog treats.

Do you remember how it was with pumpkin, as recently as five years ago? You would go to the supermarket for that one can of pumpkin puree needed for your contribution to the Thanksgiving dessert buffet. Half the time, they only had the big 28 oz. can, and your recipe only needed a cup of the orange paste, so you’d have leftovers to throw away. Or, since the grocery stores didn’t want to stockpile it either, there would be a 2-for-1 deal on cans of pumpkin puree and you’d end up discovering that second can in the back of the kitchen pantry in July and wonder what else to do with it, besides a few quick bicep curls.

But those days are past. All of a sudden, pumpkin is as ubiquitous as open letters to Miley Cyrus. From the lattes at Starbucks to the Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses (just threw up in my mouth a little) to the pumpkin pyramid-shaped end caps at Trader Joe’s, Cucurbita pepo is everywhere.

How did this elevation of pumpkin’s status, from lowly cobweb-in-cupboard gatherer to Main Dish, occur? I’m highly suspicious. Maybe it’s because I’m finally reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now. It’s gotten me so shook up that I have no choice but to blame the pumpkinization of our culture on the Pumpkin Industrial Complex.

Pollan explains in stomach-churning detail how the human relationship with another vegetable, corn, has evolved with the help of technology, commerce and science so that, and I’m paraphrasing here, we are now basically corn’s bitch. We can barely keep up with the agricultural biomass monster we’ve created, so we breed things to eat corn and corn byproducts that normally wouldn’t (cows, pigs, toddlers) just to not get buried by the next year’s harvest. Who wins? Companies like ADM and Cargill, but mostly corn. Corn stopped reading the Farmer’s Almanac years ago. This arrogant sonafabitch grain knows that if it were to rain grasshoppers and straight hydrochloric acid, America would still find a way to save corn. Because America needs its high fructose corn syrup and trans fatty acids.

I’m sure some ambitious pumpkins looked across the farm field one moonlit night and thought, stupid corn. We could do that. We could become pervasive. The big misshapen supersize pumpkins that look like Jabba the Squash, the adorable baby pumpkins that are sent home with first graders on field trips, and all the orange globes in between: they put their gourds together and decided they needed to diversify, and the Pumpkin Lobby was born.

Of course, we made it exceptionally easy for them to proceed with their takeover. How?

Every October, we carve mouths into them. Even corn was never given the ability to openly communicate the details of its uprising.

So when you hear a spooky whisper on your front porch in the waning days of October, don’t automatically assume it’s a trick-or-treater, or the wind. It could very well be Liam’s pumpkin saying to Emma’s: “So we’re agreed. Next year: we conquer the potato chip flavoring aisle, with a flanking assault on the soda category. And in 2015: pumpkin wine.”

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

— Nancy Davis Kho

Nancy Davis Kho is a writer in Oakland whose work has appeared in has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, EContent Magazine, The Rumpus and anthologies including Moms Are Nuts and Knowing Pains. An avid music fan, she writes about the years between being hip and breaking one at, and was recently named a 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, as well as Oakland’s inaugural Literary Death Match champ. She’s currently finishing up a memoir about her midlife music crisis.

Food diary, my butt.
That’s a paper trail.

Vikki ClaflinResearching my weight loss program options for 2013, in yet another enthusiastic but short-lived attempt to lose the same 10 pounds I’ve been working on since 1974, I did a quick review of previous epic fails.

1. Jenny Craig. Tastes great, but portioned for a small gerbil. Jenny’s Fish & Chips dinner entree would be more aptly named “Fish & CHIP.” Kenny tried to take a bite of my breakfast sausage once and I burst into tears. This plan is not for couples who like to share.

2. Nutrisystem. Worst. Food. Ever. I should have clued in on the foil-wrapped entrees. Very space shuttle, with taste to match. Sorry Ms. Osmond, but I couldn’t get hungry enough to eat this food.

3. HCG Drops. Supposed to make your body think it’s pregnant (Who THINKS of this stuff??) Since I gained 65 pounds during my only pregnancy, this gets perilously close to what my son calls “Mom’s dark place.” Then I saw the 500 calories/day plan associated with the drops. 500 CALORIES PER DAY?? What do you do after breakfast? Sigh. Back on the shelf for you.

4. Low Carb. This one works, if you can live without bread. And rice. And wheat, potatoes, pasta, most fruits, ice cream, desserts, fried foods or alcohol. Yep, that’s right. NO RED WINE. Positively uncivilized. And three days into it, I would have cheerfully traded my beloved Paco for a bagel. Buh-bye, Dr. Atkins.

5. Weight Watchers. Undeniably successful, if you like to spend your days searching recipes, grocery shopping, planning, cooking, counting and charting your progress. Not for the uncommitted. Or for those with a job.

This was getting discouraging, until I discovered an online article that reported higher weight loss by people who wrote down everything they ate during the day. WTH. Even I can do that. Happily printed off the form and started my food diary the next morning.

Breakfast: 2 slices bacon, 2 eggs, large cinnamon roll. Lunch: Nachos, extra guacamole. Afternoon snack: Peanut M&M’s. (Hard to actually count, since they were in a bowl, but I did skip the nasty blue ones.) Dinner: Homemade lasagna, garlic bread. (No space provided for wine, so assuming they weren’t asking for that.) Bedtime snack: Bowl of Lucky Charms with milk (skim…not like I’m not trying).

Two days later… Well, this is stupid. All I got was hand cramps from writing, and I didn’t lose an ounce. I think I just have a slow metabolism.

— Vikki Claflin

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

The last laugh

I can see it now. A huge tufted nightclub booth, upholstered in spotless linen, floating on a cloud in the sky. A group of chuckling comedians is seated at the heavenly table, kibitzing over a bowl of perfectly salted cocktail peanuts. The comedians scoot over to make room, because one more has arrived.Lisa Smith Molinari

It’s Joan Rivers.

Their earthly mission to make other people smile complete, Rivers, Williams, Belushi, Radner, Candy, Farley and other comedic legends, lounge comfortably with each other. Their laughter echoes softly in the stratosphere.

Funny people who have made it their life’s work to make the rest of us laugh deserve a good seat in Heaven. Especially when you consider that, many of them did not have it so easy here on Earth.

Humor is a gift, but like the people who possess a good sense of it, it’s often complicated. With a few exceptions, funny people tend to be complex individuals with insecurities and internal struggles, prone to over analysis and deep thinking about their own significance in the world.

Even though my life’s work has been making sandwiches and cleaning toilets as a Navy housewife and mother of three, I can totally relate.

As a tubby little daydreamer, I discovered at a young age that humor was my ticket out of social mediocrity. Knowing that there was no way I was going to meet my parents’ expectations for a slim, sophisticated, charming daughter, I began to secretly experiment with humor.

I loved to watch comedians like Flip Wilson, Soupy Sales, Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, and my favorite, Jerry Lewis. I learned quickly that I could make people laugh by crossing my eyes, adopting a fake speech impediment, or using raisins to black out my teeth.

Self-deprecation seemed to be the most direct path to social acceptance, so I began poking fun at myself regularly. Initially, my parents did not find my new image funny at all, and made a last-ditch effort to get me back on the right track, signing me up for English horseback riding lessons and encouraging me to seek a serious career in business one day.

But it was already too late. By the end of my senior year in high school, I was elected 1984 Class Clown, making it official: I was the funny girl.

What I didn’t realize then, aside from the fact that my reputation as a clown would prevent me from getting a decent date to the prom, was that people would expect me to be funny for the rest of my life. Having a sense of humor became my job, and I had to punch the clock through good times and bad.

Thankfully, humor helped me find my husband, also a funny guy, and raise three funny kids. Through 20 years of military moves, it helped us all make new friends. And my own witty observations about military life, marriage and parenting helped me put this column in print over five years ago.

Comedians spend their lives making people laugh despite enormous tragedy and private personal struggles. We praise them when they are funny, and ignore them when they are not. Then, when they die, we finally become curious about who they really were.

Robin Williams, who committed suicide last month at the age of 63, was a thoughtful person who suffered from bouts of devastating depression. Before her untimely death from cancer at age 43, Gilda Radner had a tough childhood, teased for being overweight and suffering the death of her beloved father when she was only a teenager. Chris Farley’s need for attention from his 600-pound alcoholic father motivated his hilarious physical comedy. But despite his kind heart, Farley inherited his father’s self-destructive tendencies, dying of a drug overdose at the age of 33, the same age as John Belushi when he died.

Joan Rivers was a comedic pioneer who could dish out the zingers, and take them, especially when it came to her multiple plastic surgeries. But behind the scenes, Rivers suffered personal tragedy when her beloved husband of 22 years, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide in 1987.

And the list goes on.

Clever, sensitive, deep-thinking, warm-hearted and sometimes self-destructive, funny people are complicated.  We should not wait for them to die to appreciate that their multiple facets and personal struggles are exactly what make them interesting in the first place.

As Joan herself once said, “I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

— Lisa Smith Molinari

Lisa Smith Molinari won second place (under 100,000 monthly visitors) in the online/multimedia category of the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition. She was a finalist in the Robert Benchley Society Annual Humor Writing Contest that same year. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, several anthologies, various magazines, websites and other publications.  Her blog, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” is an expanded version of a weekly newspaper column that runs in military and civilian newspapers.

A hill of coffee beans

Linda RoyThe house, it is dusty and riddled with dog hair tumble weeds. The dogs themselves, they scootch on the floor as their anal glands must be expressed and the vet bill…oh…the vet bill — hence the incessant scootching. For alas, there are no spare funds for such frivolities as anal gland expression. Expressment?

Don’t ask me.

So, I drink. I drink of the sweet elixir of the Goddess Caffeina. Sweet, other worldly bitterness tempered by milky splendor.

The laundry, how its numbers grow exponentially. The dishes, how they stack up in an unrepentant sink.

I drink.

Grocery lists, teacher’s gifts, cards to send, emails to answer, calls to return…drinking all the while.

Housewifery is not rocket science and sure, I’m not workin’ in a coal mine…

Woop! About to sip down.

The job of a housewife is an oft thankless, tiresome one, though I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Okay, I’m lying. I wouldn’t trade my husband and kids or the dogs, but if you’re offering a record contract, I’ll gladly throw in the tea towel. After all…maids need jobs, too.

So, I have a drinking problem I guess.  Well actually…it’s not much of a problem.

But in the absence of Calgon, I choose caffeine to take me away from all this. To whisk me away to the Columbian Elysian Fields that promise my domestic freedom. If only for a moment.

Sweet, sweet serenity and lucidity…one sip at a time.

Fair Trade.

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

— Linda Roy

Linda Roy is a humorist/writer/musician living in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. Her blog elleroy was here is a mix of humor and music she likes to refer to as “funny with a soundtrack.” She’s managing partner and editor-in-chief at the political satire and pop culture website Lefty Pop and was named a 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year. Her work has appeared at The Huffington Post, Humor Outcasts, In the Powder Room, Aiming Low, Mamapedia, BonBon Break, Midlife Boulevard, Funny Not Slutty, Sprocket Ink and The Weeklings. When she’s not writing, she’s fronting the Indie/Americana band Jehova Waitresses.  Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, PinterestGoogle+ and Bloglovin’.

My selfie treasure

Anne BardsleyI was visiting my daughter and my grandkids when my first selfie fiasco took place. I’d had two glasses of wine before bedtime to relax from all the excitement of the day. I blame the wine for what happened next.

Have you seen the commercial where a husband is going away and his young daughters have colored paintings for Daddy? Mommy has her own special gift and sneaks daddy something to watch later. She winks and smiles. He looks confused, but then he smiles, as his eyebrows raise, understanding the gift. It captured my attention. When my daughter went to bed I sat, sipping my wine, thinking about that commercial. I decided I was going to take a sexy selfie and send it to my husband.

I giggled with excitement as I headed to the bathroom. I lifted up my top to expose my bodacious Ta-tas (that had to be the wine talking) as I smiled at my reflection and SNAP! I took the pic. I decided the first one was much too serious. It wasn’t as fun as I’d planned. So I hiked up my shirt again, gave my best sexy smile, took a sip of wine and SNAP! Once again, not the look I envisioned. I gulped more wine and pondered my choices for a seducing look.

I’d heard from friends that after fifty the camera is much kinder if you look up into the lens. I decided to try that. Again, my bodacious Ta-tas were bared as I cooed for the camera and SNAP! This one passed the test. I sent him the pic. “You are one sexy lady, Anne!” I told myself smiling in the mirror. “Cheers, Baby!”

Next morning my husband called and he didn’t mention my beautiful sexy pic so I asked him if he liked it. “What picture?” he asked seriously.

“My beautiful sexy pic I sent you last night,” I responded quietly so my daughter wouldn’t hear me.

“I didn’t get a pic of you.”

“Come on, check your phone. I sent it at midnight. Go look.”

He got back on the phone….”No pic,” he informed me.

Oh no! Where did I send it? I should have known better because I have not mastered all of the gizmos on my phone. In fact, we are enemies. All sorts of apps open and close, my ringer changes, Bluetooth goes on when it feels like it. I don’t even have a Bluetooth.  Now I was in a panic. Mental note to self: DO NOT mix wine and the phone, much less the camera again.

I was hoping I didn’t get the numbers confused (like that ever happens to me!…weekly) and send it to my son. Their phone numbers are very close.       “OMG you have to call him! NO! Don’t call him, he’ll look at his phone and he might see the message,” I rambled to my husband. “Go over to his house immediately.” I begged. Beads of sweat were forming all over my body.

Matters got worse. I had to ask my daughter to see if she could tell where the pic got sent. “Ummmm Erika, I kind of had fun last night and “just for fun” I sent Dad a pic of myself…like in that commercial.” I started slowly.

“What commercial?” she asked. I explained

When she got the gist of it she shrieked and screamed, “Mom, what did you do???”

“Well, it’s not so bad, really. I just took a bodacious Ta-ta selfie and sent it to your father, for fun. You know, just for fun.”

“OMG! What did he say when he saw it?”

“Well, there’s a smidge of a problem. It didn’t get to him. Can you look at my phone and see who I sent it to?” I begged. I tried to remain calm and not let my fear show.

She looked horrified. “What? You didn’t put it on Facebook did you?”

I assured her, “Of course not, but I’d taken my glasses off when I was cooing. I was sipping wine and having so much selfie fun, who knows where I sent it.”

“Cooing? You were cooing? In my bathroom at midnight?!?” She rolled her eyes like I was an unfit mother. “It was just for fun,” I repeated.

I jumped in the shower while she searched my phone. When I came out, she was on speaker phone with her sister. I overheard them talking about my selfie.

“She did what????  OMG, they’re too old for this!” Jamie shrieked.

“It gets worse. Did she send it to you?” she inquired. “Oh and mom coos.” She added.

“Why would she send it me? I don’t need to see her boobs! Mom coos?!?!?”

“She calls them her bodacious Ta-tas now, not boobs.” Jamie choked.

My 3-year-old granddaughter liked that word. She pranced around the room singing Ta-tas over and over again.

“Look,” I yelled, “Just make sure your brothers didn’t get it, okay? And you better  check Facebook!”

We never did find out where my beautiful sexy pic went. Someone probably got it and buried it in the yard, like a real treasure.

I am a treasure, you know. A bare chested, bodacious, cooing treasure! Yes I am! Anybody want a glass of wine?

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

Climb every mountain: Propositions and pick-up lines on the suburban party circuit

Brian RutterAs I walked across the room on a cool spring night, I looked at the action in progress. Scores of teenagers flew by me, clad in oversized sparkly glasses, hats and colorful socks. They sprinted from photo booths to the kid’s lounge, depositing their goods procured from hyped up, jacked-up DJ dancers hired to tantalize and titillate the crowd.

Around the room and on the dance floor, a phalanx of well-heeled, well dressed suburbanites gossiped, guffawed and gyrated. It was another Saturday night on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit when the cares of daily life could be easily tossed off like a suit jacket or highly embellished shawl. We were here to celebrate and inebriate.

I chuckled to myself. As a creative sort and closeted writer, I thought there may be a thousand stories in the naked city, but there are just as many here tonight. Couples on the verge of divorce canoodling like honeymooners. Backslapping and back-handed compliments from boozed-up carpoolers. My mind raced with the possibility of a surreal suburban sitcom in the making. Next stop… HBO.

I entered the line waiting at the bar. Bartenders feverishly filled martini orders. Bottle caps flew into trash cans. They shook and mixed to the beat of the music, plying the unwavering throng’s thirst. It was like the Roaring 20’s all over again, only with people pushing 50 fast.

Because the party ended in less than an hour, my wife and I had switched to diet and club sodas. The days of testing the speed limits and the law were long gone. Parents, homeowners, people liable and reliable, we knew when to turn the tap and spigot off. The buzz might be gone but the fuzz was not going to pull us over.

The couple in front of me teetered and tottered in unison. With no intent of slowing down as the night was coming to a close, they were bellying up to the bar for more booze, more banter. Throwing back the shots and one-liners in rapid-fire motion, they were all in until the very last song… or until the bar closed.

I knew them casually from my daughter’s school, having heard about their big-party ways. Friendly, loud, out there, I wondered how they managed to be themselves in the insular community in which we lived. Part of me wanted to join in, partaking in their reverie and irreverence; part of me just wanted to take the drinks, grab my keys and go.

Just as I was about to place my non-alcoholic order, the women spun toward me. Locking her eyes on mine with a searing focus, she pounced, grabbing my lapels in her hot, sweaty hands. With her hair extensions whipping my face, her body firmly pressed against mine, she whispered drunkenly and suggestively into my ear.

“I want to climb you like a mountain.”

And with that, she spun, grabbed her drink and was off.

I was transfixed, unable to move left or right, forward or back. What started as a temperance run was suddenly an invitation to debauchery. This Magic Mike moment was something unfathomable to me. Oy! I had been compromised at a Bat Mitzvah.

My college roommate would have jumped on this without hesitation, leading the woman to a dimly lit stairwell or a nearby utility closet. No remorse, only primal lust. I was not such a guy. I was happily married… plus, I was holding my wife’s Diet Coke in my wedding-band hand. What kind of guy was I?

And then a Cheshire smile erupted from ear to the ear she whispered in. I had been given the gift that keeps on giving. No, not the rekindling of lost youth or a shot of ego-inducing adrenaline. But rather the writer’s gift of a story for the ages.

At every cocktail party, funeral or school function, I could recount that moment. When that lady crossed the proverbial line between good and bad-girl behavior, making me the happy recipient of one of the greatest lines of my life. For years, it could make people laugh, pondering the different outcomes, the various interpretations. It would be relayed to others from cul-de-sac to cul-de-sac… a suburban myth for the ages.

“I want to climb you like a mountain.”

As I walked back to my table, I faced a dilemma worthy of Solomon. Should I keep this to myself or sing like a canary from the mountaintops? The woman’s reputation… was I putting that on the line? I took a moment to consider it all. The answer was clear.

“What took you so long? Did something happen?”

I looked longingly and lovingly at my wife.

“Honey, do I have a story for you!”

— Brian Rutter

Brian Rutter is a suburban work-at-home dad and husband who provides strategic and creative marketing services to companies around the world. His blog offers a unique perspective on living and surviving in the trenches of the American suburbs. You can find him at

Unlock your potential

LeighAnneJashewayDo you wish you could be as funny on the page as people say you are in person (even if they do say that behind your back)?

EBWW faculty member Leigh Anne Jasheway will offer an online humor-writing course through OnLiten, starting Sept. 11. The cost for the three-class series, which includes feedback, is $75. For details, click here.

Jasheway is the author of 21 funny books and books about funny, including 101 Comedy Games for Children and Grown-Ups, Not Guilty by Reason of Menopause, Confessions of a Semi-Natural Woman and Bedtime Stories for Dogs. She is the 2003 winner of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition for her true story on how her first mammogram caught on fire.

She teaches comedy writing, improv and grammar at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College, is a humor columnist for the Register Guard’s Weekend section, a blogger for multiple online sites and former host of The Giggle Spot on All Comedy 1450 AM.

EBWW faculty member and novelist Katrina Kittle will offer a series of online fiction-writing classes in September and October. Topics include “Inspiration and Motivation,” “FictionKatrinaKittle Writer’s Toolbox Series” and “Make It Exist! Laying Down a First Draft in One Month.” The latter is a prep class for writers interested in participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.

Kittle is the author of four books for adults: Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers and The Blessings of the Animals. And she’s the author of one published novel for tweens, Reasons to Be Happy, with another in the works. The Kindness of Strangers was the winner of the 2006 Great Lakes Book Award for Fiction. She teaches creative writing workshops from the third grade to universities to retirement communities. In the Dayton-Cincinnati area, she teaches regularly for Word’s Worth Writing Connections. She also offers manuscript consultations through Write Sisters Consulting.

To learn more about OnLiten’s workshops, click here.

News from the Nervous Parents Gazette

Alexandra RosasMy firstborn started college this week, and I am cycling through these phases of him being away like a pro.

After sending my son a text as soon as I woke up this morning, I haven’t heard back. Rather than busying myself with daily life until he responds, I’m going to do what I do best. What I gold star in. 

I’m assuming he’s in danger. 

I don’t play around with this Nervous Parent stuff. It’s my style. As a little girl, I would wring my hands over my baby Chihuahua, Pepe, whenever he’d shove the food around in his dish with his nose. I knew just what his actions meant — that this was the beginning of the end and that he was never going to eat again. 

Being on the homefront while the first of your baby birds has left the nest is no simple task for the nervous parent. We’re not like the rest of you, and either you’ll pick up when I’m puttin’ down here, or you’ll just send me links to articles from Psychology Today with titles like 50 Ways That Nervous Parents Destroy Their Children. And then you’ll sign your email, “I say this because I love you, have you sought professional help?”

I’ve heard it all. I’m no stranger to the nonsense that worry is. And yet, I’ve made it into a hobby, a pastime and a mental game of ping pong that bruises my brain into the size of The Great Gazoo.

This is how a day in the life of a nervous parent goes when their son’s first day away from home is today:

6:30 a.m. My eyes popped open. Had to text my son or I couldn’t sleep. He needed to save the receipts from the books he was going to buy today. Sent him text.

6:32 a.m. Lie back down. Await quick response back.

7 a.m. Unable to fall back asleep. Decide instead to imagine son slipped on water that roommate spilled on floor night before and now son has been lying unconscious since 3 a.m. with roommate snoring and unaware only two feet away.

7:39 a.m. Cursing myself for not telling son he needs to respond to texts with “Yes I’m alive.” It’s all I need, just a confirmation of being alive.

8:19 a.m. Try to eat a yogurt. Can’t. Yogurt triggers panic that son didn’t check expiration date on his yogurt so grabbed dairy botulised yogurt while sleepwalking and now lying unconscious from food poisoning, only two feet away from roommate.

8:42 a.m. Visualize son walking to breakfast this morning when man in white windowless van pulled up and asked him for directions. When polite son leaned in to answer, man grabbed son’s head by the neck and pulled him into said van and sped away. Enhance scene with details of van without license plates, making said perp unable to be identified. Like ever.

9:23 a.m. Sit on hands, thereby dis-enabling myself from calling campus police to check on son.

10:09 a.m. Thinking perhaps son played early morning game of basketball. When basket made, he disturbed a hornet’s nest with over 200 wasps inside. While running away to escape hornets, son tripped on untied shoe lace and is now in student health center, unable to give nurse in attendance my phone number so I can be alerted to son’s status.

10:56 a.m. Thinking how it’s almost 11 a.m. There is no text back. Reason must be that phone charger burst into flames like that story on FB this morning from China about the smoking phone charger.

11:16 a.m. Thinking son went to find a church, as I had suggested. Church was charming, but a charismatic cult. Now my son is being held until he speaks in tongues. Hoping son speaks in language that says “Call my mother!”

12:04 p.m. Thinking son was followed by a disoriented older woman who mistakenly believes my son is her son. He’s my son. I need to drive there and tell woman this important bit of information but first I need to find birth certificate for proof.

12:47 p.m. Thinking son accepted a FB friend request from someone’s hijacked account and now he’s on his way to meet who he thinks is someone from grade school but is actually this crazed woman who still believes my son is her son.

1:17 p.m. Thinking someone on son’s dorm floor brought in leftover fireworks from the Fourth of July. And they set them off in my son’s dorm room.

2:10 p.m. Positive son’s phone exploded in his pocket like that post about that kid in California that someone posted on FB this morning.

3:12 p.m. Son must be sleeping. He’s been sleeping all day because he has sleeping sickness from a tsetse fly. No matter that this hasn’t happened in America since 1966.

4:09 p.m. I call husband at work. Husband doesn’t have a chance to talk because I do all the talking. I talk-convince myself that if anything had happened, son’s school would have called me. Before hanging up the phone, I thank husband for wise advice.

5:05 p.m. No other explanation other than son must be lost. Due to amnesia from being hysterically blinded from homesickness. Chastise myself for encouraging and enabling strong mother/son bond that he misses me to this degree.

5:48 p.m. Try to eat dinner. Only able to take liquid nourishment. Sigh and accept loss of appetite. Wanted to lose 8-12 pounds anyway.

6:10 p.m. Decide to go for walk to relieve agitation. Halfway into walk, visual image assaults my brain of son falling out of loft bed due to nighttime confusion over new surroundings. Race home, heart pounding.

7:15 p.m. Hear husband’s phone ding. It’s text from son. Son says “busy day. bought books. went for 4 mile run. met with friends and on way to bonfire. having a great time. ”

7:17 p.m. I ask husband to text son back, tell him sorry I haven’t had a chance to call all day. Glad he’s having fun, if I have time, I’ll try to squeeze a call in tomorrow.

7:26 p.m. Doing dinner dishes, heart begins to race. Wishing I had discussed importance of bonfire safety before son left for college.

— Alexandra Rosas

Alexandra Rosas is a storyteller for the nationally acclaimed The Moth, as well as a contributor to several anthologies and weekly columns. You can follow her on twitter @gdrpempress and on her blog.

Reflections of Erma