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Menu at the college campus ice creamery

All Flavors Homemade from Momma’s Recipes

Freshman Freedom Swirl—Sprinkled with our hot salted tears.

Fudge Shui—Two scoops guarantee you’ll keep your dorm room clean.

Rum Raisin—You might be drinking, but are you pooping?

Virgin Vanilla Bean—Comes with a single cherry.

Ebony and Ivory—The yinyang since you’ve been gone. Are we happy for you? Are we sad?

Ginger-vite Ice with Candy Floss—So delicious in your mouth, where your teeth are. Speaking of which, did you brush?

Orange You Forgetting to Call Your Mother?—Special delivery at parent’s request, live streamed for proof of life.

Additional Toppings

Butterscotch kisses

M&M—Better on your ice cream than on your iPod!

Mixed Nuts—This best not describe your choice of new friends, thank you.

Peanut Butter Chips—Ha! Only a test, is your epi-pen with you?

— Peyton Price and Alexandra Rosas

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches From Behind the Picket Fence. You can find her at suburbanhaiku.com. 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.

The temptation to resist change

Mary Farr(This is an excerpt from Mary Farr’s newly published book, The Promise in Plan B: What We Bring to the Next Chapter of Our Lives. Posted by permission of the author.)

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

Lao Tzu

I’m convinced that few of us actually choose to change much. Instead, we tend to resist moving with the flow until all else fails. Rarely do we resist, like a woman I knew who simply said no to the altered life that stood before her when her husband died. Instead, she retreated to an empty farmhouse on a remote hilltop. At age 94 she had no intention of changing anything, including her cloistered lifestyle. Living with other people would have required more adjustments than she was willing to make. She chose isolation.

I met Florence Sedgwick in the hills of western Wisconsin. Over the decades following her husband’s death, she had withdrawn from her small farming community. Only an occasional bit of gossip reminded local residents that she ever lived there.

Jason Bauer in the Mondovi Co-Op Equity claimed she buried a fortune under her hay shed. A butcher from Bob’s IGA insisted that she was once committed to a mental institution. A World War II veteran in the local nursing home insisted that she set fire to a bunkhouse up the valley on the Werlein farm, a fire that killed her supposedly philandering husband.

PromiseinPlanBNevertheless, after years of speculation, nobody really knew much about Florence, or Flossie, as she chose to be called. All this struck me as curious, because the unpainted fortress she called home was only a few miles from town and within riding distance of the place where I kept my horse Dixie. Every time we rode through the hills, I wondered.

Flossie’s story was both troubling and seductive. I saw something deliciously alluring about the idea of vanishing, of casting off the complicated relationships, damage and responsibilities that sapped me of energy. That trip back to the drawing board to plot a new course for my children and myself had often felt daunting. Yet as she told her story, it was evident that Flossie bore the burden of estrangement and sadness that accompany a choice to retreat. Though she spoke with enthusiasm about her life on the forty, she clearly longed for human contact.

And so it happened that Flossie Sedgwick and I became unexpected friends.

— Mary I. Farr

Mary Farr is a retired pediatric hospital chaplain, teacher, motivational speaker and author who has devoted more than 30 years to exploring the worlds of hope, healing and humor. Her latest book, The Promise in Plan B: What We Bring to the Next Chapter of Our Lives, has been published by Shorehouse Books. In all, she has written five books, including the critically acclaimed If I could Mend Your Heart and Peace (Intersections Small Group Series).

I was young. I was foolish.

Ankur Mithal“It will improve your career prospects significantly,” they told me.

“But what good is a promotion without an increase in compensation?” I protested.

“When you meet someone, do you talk about your designation or your salary?” they posed.

“But when I am all by myself, I need money to live,” I countered.

“Your near and dear ones will be able to proudly proclaim that you are now a supervisor in this company and no longer a mere employee,” they suggested.

“To be proud, they will first need to stay alive, for which money is required,” I countered.

“You will have so much more responsibility,” they said.

“My personal responsibilities are also growing,” I beseeched. “Besides, more responsibility will mean more work.”

“Don’t be so self-centered, thinking only about yourself,” they said.

“Who else should I think about?” I asked.

“You don’t see the big picture, do you?” they sneered.

“I am not in a position where I can admire pictures of any kind, or any kind of artwork for that matter,” I confessed.

“You focus seems to be very short-term. You have a life ahead of you. Think of the higher value you will command in the long run by doing a higher level job,” they argued.

“Higher value will come from a higher compensation,” I persisted, “and anyway, like someone said, in the long run, we are all dead.”

 “You will get a lot of job satisfaction from the higher responsibilities,” they prophesised, while showing the light with, “People at your level beg for promotions.”

“I have no complaints about the job I am doing,” I insisted.

“You will have people at a lower level reporting to you, who will look up to you and seek your advice on important issues. Your workstation will be three inches longer than the employees and you will have a chair that swivels around. You will have the privilege of buying your own gas with your own money and driving in on your own, as the Transport will be withdrawn. From one amongst many cubicles in a row, we will move you right next to the toilet so that you are accessible to your people.”

Under this final fusillade of clinching arguments, I crumbled.

I accepted the promotion.

I was young. I was foolish.

My compensation became half of what I was getting earlier and I started doing the work of three people.

Shortly thereafter, the company was under severe financial stress. In order to save money the company promoted everyone to a supervisory role and halved their salary.

Now, not only is my salary half off what it was earlier and I do the work of three people, I am back on the lowermost rung in the hierarchy with nobody either reporting to me or looking up to me. But I get to keep my three-inch-longer workstation, the swivel chair, my own gas in my own car and a place right next to the toilet.

— Ankur Mithal

Ankur Mithal is the author of What Happens in the Office, Stays in the Office and Some Method Some Madness: Managing BPO in IndiaHe blogs at Dark Office Humor.

 

Big Foot, Brad Paisley and an honest man

Hillary IbarraWhile listening to Brad Paisley’s tune, “The Mona Lisa,” one evening in the car a few months back, I asked my husband, “Do you feel like the frame that gets to hold the Mona Lisa?”

As soon as he paused, I knew I was not going to get what I wanted from that question.

“Uh, I don’t know. …What does that mean?”

“It’s in this song by Brad Paisley. Haven’t you heard it?”

Of course he’d heard it. The man, not raised in the South as I was, loves country music nonetheless.

“Yeah, but I haven’t really listened to the lyrics. I don’t know if it’s good or bad.”

“It’s good, obviously!” I cried. “The Mona Lisa? One of the most beautiful paintings in the world?”

“Okay, but I don’t know the lyrics.”

Really? Humph.” I crossed my arms, disgusted.

“Mama, I feel like the frame that gets to hold the Mona Lisa,” my eldest boy said in sympathy and some fear.

“Thank you, Berto. I’m glad at least you do.” I threw a dirty look at my man. “Even he knows it’s a good thing.”

Of course I should know better. My husband is completely lacking in the ability to dissemble for the mere sake of romance. It’s a good thing, but there are times when I wish he would talk pretty to me like some hero in an Austen or Bronte novel. Or a Brad Paisley song.

Once when my husband and I were newly engaged, we had plans for a big date night, but when he arrived, I could tell by the look on his face he was too tired to go anywhere. So I decided to amuse myself the best way I knew how. I asked him a provoking question inspired, as we women sometimes are, by a foolish magazine article I had read.

“Which feature of mine do you like the best?” I asked him, eager to hear the reply.

I give him points now for not groaning aloud.

“I don’t know. What do you mean?” he responded wearily.

“Well, do you like my hair? My mouth? What?”

“I don’t know,” he repeated.

At this point, I became exasperated. “How about my eyes?” I asked, pointing him in the right direction. “My eyes are nice, right?”

His answer could only have come from a very, very weary man.

“You wear pretty eye make-up sometimes,” he said.

I’ll never forget the warm and fuzzy urge I had to hit him over the head with my makeup bag.

“You have got to be kidding me!” I fumed.

“I like all of you,” he responded hotly. “It’s not any one thing. It’s the whole package.”

My man may not know how to speak sweet nothings, but he has no problem having a little fun at my expense, like the time he pretended to get a running start in order to shove my gargantuan foot into a sneaker — at the shoe store.

Or the time when I was shopping for new socks after my third child, and I couldn’t find socks for my shoe size. Until I did. That’s when I discovered I was now wearing the extended sizes. That evening I laughingly asked my husband what I would have to do if my feet continued to grow with pregnancy — buy the extended plus sizes?

“No,” he said. “We’ll just cut the toes off.” Then he laughed himself silly.

“I am not a wicked stepsister!” I shouted after one of his little jokes.

“No, you’re my big-footed Cinderella,” he responded gallantly.

I can just picture how that fairytale might have played out if I had been in Cinderella’s shoes. The King would have adjured the Duke to find “the big-footed gal who wears these size 10s!” And my stepsisters would have been petite little things with size 6 1/2 feet. When the Duke showed up, they would be surreptitiously stuffing the toe of my slipper with tissue just so they could claim my Prince. But no dice. I’d have my other glass slipper stashed in a duffle bag over my shoulder.

I heard another Brad Paisley song recently. It has a beautiful chorus:

To the world/

You may be just another girl/

But to me/

Baby, you are the world!

I dare not ask Matthew if I am his world. He would likely reply, “You’re part of my world. Arizona. Maybe a slice of Texas.”

As for that whole Mona Lisa misunderstanding, my husband listened to the lyrics and later texted me this:

I am the frame that gets to hold the Mona Lisa, and I don’t care if that’s all I ever do. 😉

I texted back: That’s all I wanted to hear.

And I tried to ignore the wink at the end.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

I’m scrolling

Tracy BucknerWhen I first activated my Facebook account, I loved everything about it because it provided me with opportunities not otherwise available.

I could connect with relatives from Italy that I had heard about my whole life but hadn’t met, I could follow my brother as he travelled the world, see what my friends from high school had been up to for the past 30 years, and I could follow my kids in pictures wisely spending my tuition money.

Today, however, I think Facebook is so annoying that I find I am yelling at myself for even looking at it. I decided it was time to kick my ridiculous habit.

I had a plan.

I started off checking Facebook once a day and not every single time I had a down moment. I wondered if I would I miss out on useful information like “50 things lemons are good for,” (how come mixing with vodka wasn’t on the list?) and advice that I “should create something that inspires someone.” (Does making dinner suffice?). I’m now down to checking it every few days.

After a week there is quite a bit of useful information that I missed…said no one ever.

So I’m scrolling.

A lot.

Am I at a disadvantage because I don’t know what the color of my personality reveals, what the first letters of my name mean, if I’m a vocabulary genius, a medical savant, what my name means in German, what I would have been in a previous life, what the first word I see in a word gram means, who my sweetest friend is, (none of my friends are sweet; that’s why they’re my friends), and if I want to tell my brother he’s the best brother ever (I do, but I don’t need Facebook).

I’m scrolling.

Why is there so much food on Facebook? If you have cooked it yourself and are including the recipe, I’ll read it and sometimes prepare it. If you sipped an awesome drink and have the recipe (Hippie Juice was one of my favorites), I’ll print it out and try it. But if you’re taking a picture of food just served to you while sitting in a restaurant, I’m scrolling.

And then there are the incredible amount of selfies.

There’s a reason Disney has banned selfies-sticks from their theme parks.

Thankfully I have friends who post selfies that I LOVE: in a salon getting color put on their hair hoping for that natural look (hilarious), selfies with muddy and bruised bodies from an arduous bike race (love it), sweaty and sunburned from a workout (perfect), camping in the rain (not a good hair day, but brave because you look so bad!), bleary eyed from studying around the clock (brings back memories), a melt-down selfie after your favorite team has lost, again (priceless).

For these, I stop scrolling.

But when I see perfectly coiffed and made up selfies of only one person, and that’s YOU, I’m scrolling.

What exactly is the rule for posting your face everywhere on social media? If you like it on Facebook, do you also need to heart it on Instagram? If you get 55 likes on Facebook but only 15 on Instagram of the same picture, does that mean people changed their minds or does it just mean they find you annoying?

Why, I ask, do you need people to say that they love your face (stunning!), your make-up (so pretty!), your eyelashes (to die for!), your lipstick (amazing!), your hair (gorge), your brows (so full!), and your hair (I want that color!)?

I don’t know why!

I’m scrolling.

And those words of wisdom that I don’t know how I ever survived without? Did you know that a mother is always a mother, she never stops worrying? (Really?) Did you know you should treat someone like you want to be treated? (OK, I’m still working on that). Did you know that you shouldn’t take anything personally? (I’m Italian. I take EVERYTHING personally). Did you know that God is there for you in your darkest moments? I didn’t know any of this!

THANK YOU, Facebook!

I’m scrolling.

However…

If you’re posting pictures of your family and life events, grandchildren being born, graduations, engagements, weddings, first day of kindergarten, last day of high school, the college drop-off, first drive behind a wheel, flags on Veterans Day, a loved one remembered, vacations taken, sunsets, sunrises, how to do a proper plank, nature shots, pets, pictures of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, family reunions, weight loss, personal journeys, mountains climbed and conquered…

For this I will stop scrolling.

— Tracy Buckner

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

My realistic fall bucket list

Shannan Ball YoungerSchool is back in session, and football season has kicked off. My favorite time of year is here, and I couldn’t be happier.

As many do, I’ve made a fall bucket list to help identify some of the must-do activities that come with autumn, but instead of being overly aspirational, I’m keeping mine realistic

1. Visit an orchard and go apple picking. Have ethical conundrum about enjoying (read: eating) apples in the orchard. Opt for cider donuts at orchard.

2. Go on a hike once the leaves start to change. Make it a long hike to compensate for the donuts. Forget that the sun is setting much earlier now and hustle back to beat darkness, because the spooky movies this time of year make the dark woods seem even scarier than usual.

3. Visit a corn maze. But first, give my phone to a family member so I don’t panic and become one of those crazy people who makes headlines for calling 911 while lost in said maze.

4. Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Yell at Sally that she should not get roped into a boy’s delusions and should go out and do her own thing, especially if that involves friends and fun.

5. Bust out the sweaters, cardigans and anything else with long sleeves that allow me to hide the fact that I do not now, nor will I ever have, Michelle Obama’s arms. This alone is reason to rejoice, and makes it easier to enjoy #6.

6. Make pumpkin waffles on a weekend morning. Actually, go to restaurant that makes delicious pumpkin waffles. Remember that I’m supposed to be eating fewer carbs. Reconsider my order. Then decide that I’m also supposed to eat more vegetables and pumpkin is a vegetable, although pumpkins are related to the melon family. Wonder if pumpkins are actually a fruit. Decide that, either way, pumpkins are healthy, and so the waffles must be a healthy choice. Plan on pumpkin pancakes next weekend.

7. Carve pumpkins. Try really hard to not be a little grossed out by the insides of the pumpkin.Decide the mess-free, no-carve options are best. (I know, I’m weak.)

8. Watch others jump in leaves and be proud of myself for saving the co-pay that would be required for the resulting doctor’s office visit if I did it myself.

9. Decorate for autumn and Halloween and not feel lame that I opt for cute, not-scary decor.

10. Acknowledge that we are a family that loves sweets and accept that buying the Halloween candy early doesn’t mesh well with our efforts to eat healthy. Decide to wait until last minute. Cave a week before that.

11. Plant bulbs for spring, then curse silently when animals eat them. Again. Wonder if the fact that you’ve done this multiple times makes you insane.

12. Make soup, like corn chowder using corn from the farmer’s market. Make peace with fact that my daughter really doesn’t like soup and it just means more for me.

13. Ignore eye rolls from my family member when playing “Monster Mash” before Trick or Treat starts. Because it’s a great song — one day of the year.

14. Mutter under my breath about early holiday displays and wonder why retailers and others fails to appreciate the fabulousness of fall.

Happy autumn!

— Shannan Ball Younger

Shannan Ball Younger is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. She blogs about parenting at Mom Factually and about weathering the hormone hurricane at Tween Us on ChicagoNow. She grew up in Erma’s home state of Ohio and was thrilled to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2014. Her essays can be found in the anthologies, My Other Ex and The HerStories Project. She was part of the Listen to Your Mother Chicago 2013 cast, and her work has appeared on The Mid, In the Powder Room, Mamapedia and elsewhere. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m going where? (or ambivalent ambition…)

Maggie MillusWhen I was a teenager, I thought I wanted to be a biochemist.

I saw myself running around a lab in a white lab coat. I loved test tubes and mixing chemicals. But no one ever gave me a chemistry set. There was always that KABOOM! factor. So I made up for it. I mixed and burned household chemicals. Everywhere. The kitchen. The garage. The porch. Every chance I could. I guess I was subconsciously looking for that missing KABLOOEY! and a mushroom cloud.

My mother wanted a doctor in the family. She saw the white lab coat, too, but added a stethoscope. Test tubes, flasks and volatiles meant nothing to her. It was easy to disappoint her.

I considered being a veterinarian, but the dog had other ideas. I readjusted my goal to animal groomer. I trimmed the dog. There were chunks of fur everywhere. She looked like a bumfuzzled monkey with a buzz cut. Every time I approached her with scissors, her panicked brain told her to flee. And she did. She didn’t come out from under the bed for three days.

My grades were good, but they weren’t going to get me into MIT or Harvard. Why bother when you can’t afford it? I took all kinds of aptitude and standardized tests. I went to the school guidance counselors to find out what I didn’t know I wanted to do, but that got me nowhere.

I couldn’t see myself as an office manager, a secretary or any kind of office worker. I had no coffee-making skills. I hated water coolers. And I couldn’t type. I just couldn’t see myself in business, although I did like to give people the business.

My high school homeroom teacher thought I should put an end to all of this and just pick something, anything.  But nothing special, because I was a girl. He avoided this sexist label when he said, “Maggie, you’re good, but not that good.” I guess that was because I was worth only 77 cents on the dollar. So off to a state university I went. It certainly wasn’t any of those big-name, very expensive Ivy League schools.

When I was a college freshman, I majored in engineering. I was confused. I thought life’s problems could be solved with an equation or algorithm. I was on my way to class one day and as usual, I was late. As I approached the engineering building, a grounds custodian stabbed a piece of paper with his pointy trash picker upper and said, “Do youuu know where you are going?”

My first reaction was to huff and puff. I was running uphill. No easy feat on a hot, humid, Gainesville day. I stopped dead in my tracks. What the hell does he mean? Does he think I’m lost? Is his question a philosophical one — is he asking if I know where I am going in my life?

Then I looked him straight in the eye and replied, “Hey! You ought to get that thing a turbo charger!” He looked at me, puzzled. He had no idea what I was talking about. I said,” You know, for your pointy trash picker upper!”

He said again, “Do youuu know where you are going?”

How would I know? I was just a freshman. Did it really matter? I just kept going.

And I’m still going. With no special destination except for the usual one, six feet below and pushing daisies.

To quote Lewis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

— Maggie Millus

A published writer of several science textbooks, Maggie Millus writes humor and blogs at Barmy Bottom Hollow “Me? Issues? I don’t have any issues, but a lot of other people sure do!” When she’s not writing about neighbors, her husband, her mother, her daughter or her nocturnal, insomniac dog, she muddles  through the sweaty crankiness and  eccentricities of  life in the South  Florida heat and humidity.

Why don’t you speak American?

Gianetta PalmerThis doesn’t really have anything to do with Sarah Palin. I’m glad she’s still up north keeping an eye on the Russians, and I’m happy that she checks in periodically just to make sure that we know that she still hasn’t made the team.

She and Tim Tebow (whom I like very much) are pretty much the same: as hard as they try, they aren’t good enough to be the leader of the third string (according to some people) or even worse, actually make the third-string team. Ouch.

It’s been fun watching Donald Trump and his disciples irritate about 60 percent of the registered voters across the country while the brain surgeon just looks around and wonders, “Where do they find these idiots?” At least if Palin was thrown into the mix, it would give us something else to look at other than the pinched expression on Ted Cruz’s face or the ferret that crowns the Donald’s head and tries to keep his ego in check.

I discovered after doing a two-second Google search that Trump has the same answer for any possible question that he could be asked. Himself.

1. How will you fix the immigration problem? Donald Trump can fix anything.

2. How will you bring back the economy? Donald Trump will sell off everything.

3. How will you defeat ISIS? Donald Trump can defeat anyone.

4. How will you beat the other Republicans? Donald Trump will give everyone a cabinet position.

5. How will you defeat the Democrats? Donald Trump can buy anyone, and the Donald is really like most of them.

See what I mean? I think I’ve heard those answers before, but the ferret must be working because he hardly ever uses his name in the third person anymore.

I think that’s because he, like a lot of other Americans, have spoken proper American for so long that it actually now makes sense.

And that’s my problem, too: I speak proper American, and it has done nothing lately but get me into trouble.

Proper American is not the same as proper English. I use too much slang in my everyday vocabulary and after years of too many “had beens,” “fixin’ to’s” and “ain’t gonna’s,” my language (or lack thereof) has spilled over into my writing and is causing me and the people (Niamh!) (Gina!) around me needless amounts of headaches.

I think I can do better, but honestly I think I need a complete overhaul. I need to strip everything apart and start with the basic person, place or thing.

I’ve been advised to read several different books and that’s what I’m going to do. My pal, Gina Barreca, says that writing is serious business and until you treat it as such, you’re just wasting everybody’s time, including your own and that’s doing a disservice to everyone.

I was going to use the combination of improper words listed above in one last dramatic incorrect sentence, but my new habits are already beginning to take over.

Almost.

Just wait ’til all y’all get a looky-loo at my new book. Gianetta says it might just be the best thing she’s ever written…

— Gianetta Palmer

Gianetta Palmer lives in the North Georgia Mountains and is the author of Reflections On A Middle-Aged Fat Woman and Scrunchie-Fried. She recently finished her first novel and blogs regularly on her popular website. Visit her at www.middleagedfatwoman.com. Or on Twitter @mafatwoman.

 

Reflections of Erma