In case you didn’t know, March is Women’s History Month. Personally, I think we should celebrate women every single day, not just one month out of the year, and I make sure to remind my husband of that as often as I can.
Anyway, there are so many women who are recognized for their contributions throughout history, but there are a few, sadly, who go unmentioned even though they made a HUGE impact on society.
Take Marion Donovan. In 1946, after three kids, Marion had had it with washing out their dirty cloth diapers, clothes and bed linens, and decided to take matters into her own hands, or rather, her own sewing machine. Using just a shower curtain and some heavy-duty thread, Marion fashioned a waterproof diaper cover, and then later, the first disposable diaper. In 1961, her design was used to help create Pampers®, the first mass-produced disposable diaper. But it was Donovan who we should thank for all those diapers we no longer have to wash by hand.
Then there was Mary Phelps Jacob, a young New York socialite in 1914 who decided corsets were both uncomfortable and unattractive under her clothing. Determined to create a better alternative, Jacob took two silk handkerchiefs and, with help from her maid, sewed them together to make the first bra. As an aside, I have to imagine that women of that day must have been significantly smaller in the bosom area than we are today because if someone my (generously endowed) size tried to get away with a bra made from two silk handkerchiefs, the weight around my neck would probably cause my head to snap off.
Ann Moore was a Peace Corps nurse during the 1960s in Togo, West Africa, when she noticed how African mothers carried their babies in slings on their backs. Moore saw that this way of toting around their babies not only made life a lot easier for the mothers, but also seemed to make the infants feel more secure.
When Moore came back home she decided to try creating something similar to carry around her own child and thus, the Snugli® was born. As mothers, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Moore for this invention, and I’m sure Moore owes a debt of gratitude to Marion Donovan for creating that disposable diaper, because the one thing worse than having a wet baby is having a wet baby in a Snugli® on your chest.
In 1930, Ruth Wakefield was mixing a batch of chocolate cookies for her guests at her lodge, The Toll House Inn, when she discovered that she was out of baking chocolate. All she had were some Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels. So, expecting the morsels to get absorbed into the dough like the baking chocolate, she used them instead. But as we now know, Nestle’s Morsels don’t ever fully melt when you bake them, and the resulting cookie launched Ruth Wakefield into fame as the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie.
Clearly, these women have had a profound effect on our lives, but I have to say, as a humor writer, the woman who probably influenced me the most, aside from my mother, was Erma Bombeck.
Most people don’t realize that Erma Bombeck was almost 38 when she started writing her humor column for the Dayton Journal Herald. By today’s work standards, that is practically old enough to retire to a senior community called “Journey’s End” in Florida and start stealing sugar packets at the Early Bird Special. Like Erma, I was also nearly 40 when I started writing my column. Like Erma, my column grew out of the experience of becoming a mother. It was not something I could have written in my 20s. I actually don’t even think I really hit my writing stride until my 40s. With age, they say, comes wisdom — but also, sometimes, children. That kind of blows that whole wisdom theory to heck. But with children come hemorrhoids. And with children and hemorrhoids come a humor column.
Erma Bombeck wrote about children and hemorrhoids and other familial things that annoy and inconvenience us in more than 4,000 columns that appeared in over 900 newspapers. She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Best Sellers List. Considering she didn’t start writing until she was almost 40 and she passed away, sadly, when she was 69, that is a heck of a body of work for such a short time.
So what did Erma Bombeck really achieve aside from all these books and columns? What makes her someone worth celebrating during Women’s History Month? Well, she made people laugh. She made us forget our financial struggles and health issues and parenting challenges for a short time by helping us see the humor in life. She helped us feel less alone with our problems by letting us share in hers. She opened a window into the challenges of child rearing and let us know it was okay to laugh at our mistakes. Most importantly, she taught us the healing power of humor and the fundamental need we have, as humans, to connect through laughter.
Interestingly enough, although she was undoubtedly one of the most gifted columnists of our time, Erma Bombeck was incredibly humble about her achievements and defined herself as a wife and mother first, and a writer second.
As for me, I define myself as a writer first, a wife second, and a mother third because my kids really annoyed me this morning, and if my husband doesn’t come home with flowers today to make up for all the hell the kids put me through, he’s definitely dropping into third place.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I’m taking the time to remember some women in history who did so much to improve the quality of our lives. But I think we should also take a moment to celebrate ourselves. Everyday we simply make someone else smile, we are doing something that makes a difference. For me, that is writing a humor column, but it can also be as simple as just telling someone how much I appreciate them.
I think a lot of the time we are way, way too critical of ourselves. My husband says if anyone else talked about me the way I talk about myself, he’d deck them, which isn’t saying much because even I can bench press more than my husband.
But this is the time of year when the media tells us we should start feeling bad about the weight we gained over the winter, or the book we didn’t write, or the kids we forgot to feed (and by the way, I only did that last one once). It’s hard to feel good about yourself when it feels like everyone else is telling you you’re not thin enough or working hard enough or a good enough mother. However, if history is any indication, our foremothers did not have perfect bodies or perfect careers or perfect children, either. They did the best they could and sometimes they had amazing results and sometimes they had so-so results, just like us.
So instead, let’s celebrate what we do achieve, not what we don’t, and everyday just be the amazing, authentic individuals that we are.
We might not get our house on the National Register of Historic Places like Erma just did, but we are certainly likely to make someone’s day.
— Tracy Beckerman
Tracy Beckerman, who served on the faculty at the 2014 EBWW, writes the syndicated humor column and blog, “Lost in Suburbia,” which is carried by more than 400 newspapers in 25 states and on 250 websites to approximately 10 million readers. She’s also the author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir and Rebel Without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs. In 2014, she was the global humor winner in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library in Centerville, Ohio.
At the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last spring, Martha Boice approached Erma Bombeck’s children and asked if they’d be comfortable if she pursued nominating their childhood home — a modest 1959 ranch house in Centerville, Ohio — for the National Register of Historic Places.
“It was one of my pipe dreams,” conceded Boice, who helped found the Landmarks Foundation of Centerville-Washington Twp. “Few communities can claim so cherished a person.”
With the approval of the current owners — University of Dayton psychology professor Roger Reeb and his wife Tracy — the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board in December recommended that the suburban home of America’s most beloved humorist and one of the University of Dayton’s greatest graduates be nominated. Earlier this month, it was listed.
“It’s a nice honor for my mom,” said Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles. “It was a great place to grow up and we really have fond memories of our neighbors and the neighborhood. The nice thing about the neighborhood is that it really hasn’t changed that much since we were there — except the trees are bigger.”
In 1959, the Bombecks built the 1,392-square-foot three-bedroom ranch home at 162 Cushwa Drive and lived there until 1968, when Erma’s career began to rocket with her popular nationally syndicated column and the release of her first book, At Wit’s End.
“Erma frequently referred to those years of occupancy as our family’s maturity. She would always include our hamster and dog, Harry,” quipped husband Bill Bombeck, who taught at Centerville High School.
Typing on an IBM Selectric, Erma wrote her columns in a cramped bedroom on a makeshift desk — a plank between cinder blocks. Phil Donahue, who became a legendary TV talk show host, lived across the street.
“We would entertain each other in our homes,” Donahue eulogized at Erma’s memorial service in 1996. “We all had the same house. It was a plat house — $15,500 — three bedrooms, two bathrooms and the fireplace was $700 extra. …The Bombecks had beams in the ceiling. I mean real wood Early American beams, perfectly mitered. You kept looking for Martha Washington. Bill Bombeck made those beams all by himself. I envied those beams so much.”
Current homeowner Reeb says those seven ceiling beams still help distinguish the house from other prototypical homes on the suburban street. According to the National Register of Historic Places application, the L-shaped home with its gabled roof has retained its historic integrity. It “still reflects its era of construction” and “maintains its sense of scale, time and place, and setting.”
“A lot of family living has taken place on this property. I have a sentimental feeling for this house,” said Reeb, who serves as the Roesch Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences at the University of Dayton. He often sits in the Florida room and writes papers about service-learning and his work with homeless shelters.
“Knowing that she did her writing in this house has been inspirational to me in my career,” he said.
The Reebs moved into the house 20 years ago with their young sons. They built a family room over the back porch’s concrete slab and converted the garage into an extra room.
“We were looking for a good house to buy with good schools and a big back yard for the kids to play in,” he recalled. “For a little kid, that backyard was like a football or a soccer field. We’d have cookouts, put up tents and all their friends would come over. It was a nightly event. We have very fond memories of the house because this is where our kids grew up.”
The house, which will remain a private residence, turned out to be a perfect setting for Bombeck’s humorous musings about family foibles that appealed universally, especially to housewives.
“The columns spoke to her neighbors, both literal and figurative,” according to the nomination, which was prepared by historic consultant Nathalie Wright. “Erma’s frustration with the notion that homemaking was an artistic pursuit that would forever fulfill women was the touchstone of her writing. She shined a spotlight on the pressures of social convention, covertly telling women that the notion of a perfect home was not realistic. Her sly insights struck a chord, and readers instantly connected to her in droves.”
The Reebs didn’t hesitate when asked if their home could be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
“This was Erma’s roots,” Roger Reeb said. “Why not honor her in this way?”
— Teri Rizvi
Teri Rizvi is the founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she also serves as executive director of strategic communications.
To my friends of EBWW,
At last year’s conference, I loved sharing the journey of my mother’s God Box from page to stage. And in just nine days, I will be onstage at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theater to perform the show to benefit EBWW, building an endowment so that more deserving writers can attend this incredible event.
But before I do, I wanted to share another way that I am hoping to give back…on my feet. I accepted an invitation to compete in a charity version of “Dancing with the Stars.” “Dancing for our Future Stars” pairs professional ballroom dancers with amateurs who’ve built careers doing anything but. The competition is a fundraiser to support the Independence Mission Schools in Philadelphia. These schools support children in the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods. (My own grade school is one of them.)
I’ve spent four months learning the rumba, cha cha, swing and waltz, honing my spray tan, pumping my sparkle and dancing backwards in stilettos and tonight, I am put to the test.
Can you be partner from afar? If you go to www.dancingforourfuturestars.com and vote for me between noon and 8 p.m. EST today (Saturday, March 21), your tax-deductible donation of $10 or more will count, first for the kids but also as votes for my dance. I promise I will rock it and if I dare to share, video will follow. Thanks so much for anything you can do.
And soon, I will pay it forward in Dayton for our beloved Erma Workshop! Hope to see you there!
Your fellow writer,
Mary Lou Quinlan
— Mary Lou Quinlan
Mary Lou Quinlan is the New York Times’ best-selling author of The God Box, Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go, a marketing expert, actress, speaker and advocate for women. The God Box Project has become a global movement, including a vibrant online community, series of short films, mobile app and a one-woman play written and performed by Ms. Quinlan. All proceeds go to various charities around the U.S., mostly to benefit women’s health and educational causes.
In Major League Baseball news this morning, I felt swept away, my heart warmed, by one of those quick eye-locking glances at Dunkin’ Donuts. I engaged in this with the women with whom I order my Dunkin’ Donuts cream, sugar and extra pumpkin sauce coffee every morning.
The glance lasted about 1.7 seconds before she, as is typical of women but not men, looked away and grabbed a donut for another customer. I would have kept staring as long as she did.
This women knows me. As I stroll towards the counter each day, she smiles and places my order without me saying anything. It’s like when Norm walks into the Cheers bar and Sam pours him a beer automatically.
During our eye contact I had that feeling, you know that feeling, when you think maybe you’re in love and this is the beginning of a torrid romance written about in a trashy novel that women read on the beach during the summer. I remember having a similar glance at a girl in seventh grade. When this man-to-woman chemistry erupts, it feels better than when the relationship progresses and you get to know and dislike each other, which always happens.
On her left nostril rested a ring 1/5th the size of a thumbtack. My guess is she’s from Mumbai, India, a country gushing with stunningly beautiful women. Her eyes and skin color remind me of the color of a UPS truck. American runs on Dunkin’ and UPS trucks.
If she and I started a romance, our first date would be to a New York Mets game. On the way we would stop by the same Dunkin’ Donuts where we would re-enact the crime. I would order the same thing, our eyes would glue on each other except this time for 11.7 seconds to make more lasting the arm and head tingles. I’m a blissfully married man, but man.
She likes me. I can tell. You just know. But wait until she gets to know me. She will fall out of love. Guaranteed. This is the circle of life.
Sure I’m about 30 years older, and it would be inappropriate for me to delve any further into this story. But I will because it’s Happy Friday and within 30 years I will have dementia and pumpkin sauce will have lost its grip on my life.
That 1.7 seconds. Let me tell you, it was like hitting a baseball out of a major league park. The contact was so quick and crisp and pure that the eye joy felt like a weightless baseball bat cracking a ball. Yes. Felt real good, like a soft breeze on a sunburned face.
At the Mets game she would ask what I do for a living. I would tell her I’m a sports blogger. She would ask me why I do such a loser thing. I would tell her I’m not a loser, that only other people think so. As for me, I believe pumpkin sauce is lifting my career into the stratosphere, which is why I feel loose and able to take her to a Mets game where hot dogs cost $20 and Nachos with Cheese $25.
“I’m living large,” I would tell her. “And I’m getting large because of the coffee you serve me every day. At some point this all has to stop because I have a career to get back to.”
I ask: “What’s that nose ring all about?”
“It’s to attract men like you into Dunkin’ Donuts,” she says. “It’s good for business, a competitive differentiator.”
“I can relate,” I say. “My competitive differentiator is writing to no readers about questionable flings with an Indian woman at a pro baseball game.”
— Charles Hartley
Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.
If you are Christian and not living under a rock, then you know Ash Wednesday was last month. It’s the beginning of 40 days and 40 nights of the religious season known as Lent, culminating eight long weeks later on Easter Sunday.
During Lent, all Christians are supposed to give up and deny themselves of certain luxuries as a form of penance or punishment for what Christ went through dying on the cross.
Simply put, it is that time of the year to give up your bad habits!
Raising my hand in the air as a Christian mom, I struggle each year with what to give up for Lent.
My ever-so-thoughtful husband cleverly suggested NO NAGGING for the next eight weeks, while I countered with having him give up not losing his cool over things that he has no control over. I’m dying to see him keep his cool with the two little princesses, who have a penchant for making that large vein in his head throb and want to explode before most days have barely begun.
Even though I have what I am giving up (thank you, dear husband), I thought there might still be some undecided moms out there.
Here are 10 surefire ideas:
1. Eating a cold meal with each and every daily food intake, because cold must mean amazingly tasty.
2. Replacing the toilet paper roll every time the last person to use it chooses to ignore the need to replace it.
3. Cleaning up all sorts of catastrophic messes or taking out the garbage, because a mom equals garbage person.
4. Waking up early every morning whether you have to or not, because mornings are the best part of the day if you are under 4 feet tall.
5. Enduring long drawn-out bedtimes that last until the wee hours of the morning with all sorts of excuses why the little tyrants kids won’t go to bed.
6. Being interrupted while doing anything, especially once you are holding a phone in your hand.
7. Being the keeper to lost items, because if it is lost, then mom must know where it is.
8. Being the on-call chauffeur to all 24-7, no matter the time of the day, month or year.
9. Mediating fights over anything you could possibly imagine under the moon and stars.
10. Battling homework getting done, because homework is cruel and unusual punishment for little people, and moms just don’t seem to understand that.
I know you are thinking, how on earth are you going to give up these most amazing, daily treasures that you so enjoy?
But wait, hang on, she must be kidding and it isn’t even April Fool’s Day yet!
OK, never mind. This is called being mom and if we were to give up any of these, we might lose our “mommy cards.”
Happy Lenten season, one and all! Now, where is spring? This mom is so over illnesses, ice, freakishly cold weather and snow that has left my kids being home from school more then they actually have attended.
If I make to Easter Sunday in one piece, I think I deserve a medal or at least a little hug.
— Janine Huldie
Janine Huldie was a certified professional middle school math teacher who became a stay-at-home mom after having her second daughter. She blogs at Confessions of A Mommyaholic and runs her own graphic design company at J9 Designs. Find Janine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
When my charismatic, fun-loving friend from college invited me to be in her wedding, wild horses couldn’t have kept me away, despite the trip across the continent to get there. Years later, when I married, she brought her husband and kids to visit us. And thus began a series of cross-country trips, allowing us to maintain our friendship.
But toddlers turn to teens, and the pace of life quickens with each passing year, and those sweet vacations ended. In what seemed no time, 10 years had passed. One afternoon, I called to tell her I was flying into her town and wanted to see her. I asked how she was doing, and in a shaking voice she replied, “Oh, hon. Not well.”
Six months earlier, her 19-year-old son, suffering from deep depression, had taken his own life. She hadn’t contacted me. How do you call your old friend to say, “Oh, by the way, my son committed suicide”?
I had called hoping to reconnect. I had no idea the heart I would be reconnecting to was broken.
When I arrived, I had the luxury of spending several days with her. I asked her to tell me about her son.
She brought out the video of the funeral, and a movie the family had edited together, made from footage taken throughout her son’s life.
We spent hours watching these and crying together. I grieved the loss of not having known him better. I mourned the pain that my friend had endured. She gave way to the luxury of pouring out her heart, without trying to act like she was doing better than she was, six months after his death.
Wiping her swollen eyes, she said, “I want people to remember that he was SO MUCH MORE than the way that he chose to end his life!”
After I left, she told me she felt like she had been visited by an angel from heaven. But any of us who gives the gift of listening, who allows a broken heart to feel what it feels, out loud, and unmasked, really can be an angel.
What ARE angels, but ministering spirits?
So each of us can be an angel, if only we are willing to give someone the gift of allowing them to tell their story.
We don’t have to rush in with the answers, or “say the right thing.”
I had no answers to give her.
But if “all” we can do is listen? Listening IS “saying” the right thing.
If “all” we can do is bear witness to someone’s pain, then that is a gift indeed.
And we ourselves become angels, unaware.
— Susan Williams
Susan Williams is the author of the blog *That* Susan Williams, where she writes about food, faith and fun. She is a born storyteller, who loves to share her observations about life. Her blog name was chosen when she realized that she was #27 of more than 50 different Susan Williams in her insurance system. She is also the food columnist for a national emagazine, Midlife Boulevard. Stop by and visit *That* Susan Williams when you need a dynamite recipe, or a little encouragement. Because she’s that kind of friend. She’s that Susan Williams.
They have super sonic hearing. You can open a candy bar wrapper while hiding in the bathroom with the shower on and they can hear it, come running and be banging on the door before your first bite.
They wear cloaks of invisibility. They can vanish into thin air at the sound of you pulling a full bag of trash out of the can.
They wander aimlessly through a house overflowing with toys, electronics and art supplies complaining of boredom. Yet, at the mention of chores, they can entertain themselves outside for hours with a stick and an old coffee can. Nothing grosses them out. They eat boogers, chew gum that has been dropped on the ground and share toothbrushes. (But green peas? Even superheroes have their limits.)
They know the name and story behind every stuffed animal, but they can’t remember where they left their homework. (Lucky for them, moms are superheroes, too, and have the ability to locate anything, anywhere, at anytime.)
They have the power to make you do the most ridiculous things like rush to their school in your pajamas because they forgot some very important something that you told them to put in their bag the night before. With a sad little whimper, they have you crawling on your stomach under a stranger’s car in the Walmart parking lot because they dropped their very-favorite-can-not-live-without-it toy. (Also known as a plastic piece of garbage that came in a happy meal that they will lose in the car before you even make it home.)
They flash a sweet smile and, before you know it, you are scratching their bellies and sharing your Starbucks. (Stop the madness!)
You give up sleep, showers and sanity. They cause gray hair, weight gain and stretch marks but are so thoroughly enjoyable that you have another. )And another and another and another — maybe that was just me.)
Without any effort at all, they teach you humility, sacrifice and a crazy, unconditional, will-walk-over-a-floor-littered-with-legos-and-Barbie-shoes kind of love.
It’s true. Children are superheroes. They can solve puzzles, climb trees and hear an adult conversation a mile away. Now, if they could just figure out how to keep their room clean.
— Stacy Edwards
Stacy Edwards is a trucker’s daughter and a pastor’s wife. She is a writer, speaker and homeschooling mom to five fabulous little girls. If you need her, she’s probably hiding in the bathroom.
If you weren’t nodding your head while reading that sentence, trust me, you were in the minority. Like waaay small minority.
Don’t feel bad about yourself, but let’s try being more supportive next time. Especially if you want to be in my upcoming infomercial. I’m going to need you to work on enthusiasm and big hand/facial gestures (appropriate gestures, people!! I can’t believe I have to say that to you. What are we, 13-year-old boys around here? Antlers and flipping the bird=not ok.)
Back to my new fitness gimmick…or I mean plan. For three days now my abs (or the place where people have told me abs should be) have been really sore. I think it’s due to the slip-n-slide. I’m pretty sure I have developed a six-pack from my one hour on the slip-n-slide. I haven’t checked to make sure (I don’t take disappointment well.) I am going purely based on my gut feeling.
(Get it? You got it, right? That’s the kind of joke you can practice courtesy laughing at for our TV debut.)
Now for the exciting part for all you folks at home: I am going to create a workout based on my slip-n-slide signature moves. They will have inspirational names such as “The Shamoo,” “The Stop, Drop and Topple,” and the award-winning “God Help Me, I’m Going For It…Wait, No…Ok, For Real This Time.”
I will provide you with a comprehensive guide with a step-by-step video in order to ensure you have the proper form. Also included: A pie chart showing the order to do the exercises for max results.
Upgrade your order right now and receive additional earth-shattering moves like the “I’ll Show You How It’s Done,” “Am I Flying? No, No, I Am Not,” and the “No, I Swear That’s Mud.” I’m not going to sugarcoat this and say it’s going to be easy. It isn’t.
And when the weather turns cold, you might try to talk yourself out of going outside, unfreezing the pipes and hose, shoveling off your tarp, and starting this workout in the freezing cold — but you gotta want it! Also it wouldn’t hurt to try to grow some more body hair to keep yourself warm during that time (I mean for real. Does Rogaine work on arms/and legs? You really are going to feel it out there.).
Recap: No one said it was going to be easy or fun. Your neighbors might laugh, point and mock you. You know what? Who’s going to be pointing, laughing and mocking 15 years from now when you’ve worked to achieve your goal of losing two inches, and you no longer need a coat because you have managed to grow your own. That’s right! I said two inches in 15 years!!! Hold on to something, people, because it just got real here. (If this were the infomercial, this is where you would stand up and clap/cheer/look amazed.)
Update: During a conversation with my mother it was pointed out that the sensation in my abs might be something else entirely. I believe she threw out the term “bruised ribs.” More market research is required before I can, with clear conscience, begin to sell my product. I pledge to you, the public, to spend at least one additional hour to verify safety and figure out appropriate warning labels. Stay tuned.
— Mandy Waysman
Mandy Waysman is a mother of two daughters in the Midwest who enjoys margaritas. Her “real” job: a reconciliation analyst at a bank. “Those two facts seem like they belong next to each other. I’m not sure why,” she says. “I try to write the funnies that make the world sing, er, laugh.” She blogs at Oh, Mandelynn.