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Six people you see on a NYC playground

“I have a respect for manners as such, they are a way of dealing with people you don’t agree with or like.” – Margaret MeadLKD Head Shot

Before I was a mother who daily pounded the concrete playground jungles of New York City, I was a nanny. The playground is an excellent place for urban anthropology. After a certain number of years logged people-watching, I fancy myself the Margaret Mead of playgrounds.

For tourists with children, I’ve compiled a handy pocket guide to the types you will encounter most frequently on the NYC playground because it is important to know whom to ask for a spare diaper or Kleenex with which to wipe something biologically produced off your tot’s red nose or bottom.

1. The East Side Mother. They’re spreading out. You can now find them wandering west of the mid-line of Central Park, a whole cab-ride distance from their penthouses on Fifth or Madison Avenue. Some even live on Central Park West or in Soho, but they are still East Side mothers. There are a few ways to spot one. First, this woman is amazingly dirt-repellent. Her suede Prada boots or Burberry flats have a Teflon quality. Her hair, similarly, is immune to the winds of January or the humidity of July. Her makeup is impeccable, and her black Chanel sunglasses  convey her existential boredom. Her child wears a quilted jacket to match hers, and if it is a girl, she will have a grosgrain ribbon in her silky blond hair. Grab a snapshot of this urban legend (but not myth) while you can, because within half an hour she will look up from her phone, wave distractedly at her child, who will be swinging with the aid of her nanny, and briskly vanish. She is going somewhere very important. She must attend private sessions with her trainer, lunches with fellow Episcopal School PTA members and appointments with a personal shopper at Bergdorf’s. She is also forever in charge of school fundraisers and charity events. Do not attempt conversation with her; she will cut you like a serrated knife. She won’t have a diaper in her Hermes tote, anyway. Feel free to ask her nanny for supplies if you are desperate.

2. The Hipster Father. Just as many birds have distinctive tail colors that make them easy to spot, the Hipster Father is instantly recognizable from his bright orange sneakers. I don’t know who started this orange thing, but it isn’t going anywhere among fathers who play in Brooklyn-based bands and have penchants for vegan cuisine and home-brewed beer. The hipster father loves to give you a Kleenex. He wants to demonstrate that he is every bit as much a caregiver as a mother, and you know what? He is. I have no beef (so to speak) with the Hipster Father, except that this species tends to call male offspring “buddy.” This semantic tic reveals the Hipster Father’s refusal to acknowledge a difference between childhood and adulthood. Still, the Hipster Father will help you with the iron latch gate, he will ask you if it is okay to catch your falling daughter (because many parents think letting girls fall face-down on asphalt gives them a leg up in life and the Hipster Father wants to establish his feminist credentials) and he will offer your child Cheerios or whatever other form of snack he has in his grungy jeans. He is usually a very nice guy. Please note: he will not, under any circumstances, talk to you. It’s tricky for any father on the playground. How can he be nice without seeming like a single, or worse, married dad who might be hitting up the playground for dates? This problem is compounded by being a hipster: he usually looks like a college kid and, therefore, like someone perpetually seeking some action. Be kind to the Hipster Dad; he is shy and doing his best. Offer him a Kleenex if you can.

3. The Artist Part-Time Nanny. You can tell she is not a mother because she is too young to be one in Manhattan. Manhattan dwellers don’t start reproducing until their mid- to late-30s, and the Artist Part-Time Nanny is most definitely in her mid 20s. She is pretty, she uses a canvas backpack, she is on high alert when her charge is climbing any structure: one fall and it could be curtains for her. She rarely uses her cell phone except to talk to her boss. She is well spoken (having just graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts), and her eyes will widen with surprise when a mother chats with her as though she were a person. Her hair is very long or daringly short, she looks like the tomboy sister who blossoms into a  swan and steals the heart of the nerdy star of a mumblecore movie. She has her makeup bag and her script for her audition tucked at the bottom of her backpack, so if you unexpectedly need some blush or sheet music or a leotard while on the playground, she is your woman

4. The West Side Mother. She’s a tricky one. She might be in jeans and stylish boots, but she is usually in her Old Navy leggings and Easy Spirit sneakers. The West Side Mother is nicer than the East Side Mother, but she is usually involved in a conversation with other mothers she made previous arrangements to meet. Her son is named “Hudson” instead of the East Side Mother’s “Spencer” or “Brantley.” She might work part-time, or try to, and she might have a nanny and be heavily pregnant with a sibling for Hudson. She might be just as sparkling with diamonds as her East Side counterpart, but she usually attempts to be down to earth. She and her spouse are discussing leaving the city even as they renovate the kitchen in their co-op. If you need a diaper or directions to a bathroom, she is happy to help you. The Upper West Side Mother is neither friend nor foe. She will not be quick to exchange numbers for a play date, but if you find one who is happy, she might chat with you for a bit.

5. Grandparents. Oh boy. They came in for a few days to help out. They live about an hour or two away from NYC. They are obsessive about every step their grand-offspring make. If your child so much as steps in their grandson’s direction, they will mumble something about what is wrong with parenting today. No child need trespass another before a vague, often accented speech can be heard at the back of their throats. You will hear these phrases coming from Grandparents: “There is no such thing as the terrible twos, only terrible parenting.” “I didn’t even know he knew what a menorah was, and suddenly, this little genius is reciting the Hebrew blessing,” and “How about some ice cream? Come on, aren’t we tired of the sandbox?” Beware of engaging in conversations with Grandparents. You might take to them because their perfume reminds you of your own grandmother, but resist the urge. They are crazy, and they are not your family. They also have a tendency to make statements to which there are no appropriate responses, and you might get confused and lose track of your own child while trying to converse with a Grandparent. Before you know it, your daughter is dangling head first from a towering structure and Grandpa has wandered off for ice cream anyway.

6. The Full-Time Nanny. I’ve arrived at the third rail of Manhattan parenting topics. Here we have the most common type you’ll see on a NYC playground, but the least recognized or discussed. The Full-Time Nanny is easy to spot because she is the only grownup on the playground, grownups included.  She does not generally have patience for mothers. You might be typing creepy things into the website “I Saw Your Nanny.” (Some Manhattan mothers devote hours to stalking this site, expecting to find out that her nanny is the great-granddaughter of Jack the Ripper or worse, that she is giving her child non-organic bananas.) She may soften if you badger her with chit-chat. She is more confident in her choices than the Artist Part-Time Nanny: when she says it is time to leave the playground, her charge knows she means it. She is tired, commutes a long distance and works long hours so she will talk on her cell phone as much as she wants. She does not use baby talk; she has real conversations with children. They run into her welcoming arms when they need her because she does not hover. If you need a Kleenex, wipe, snack or diaper, she is your go-to source. She has every supply imaginable packed perfectly into the stroller, and she can find anything she needs in 2.5 seconds. She also knows the way to every playground and museum in the city.  She even knows what time story hour is at the nearest library branch. Go ahead, try to stump her.

And there you have it: the six types you see most frequently on a New York City playground. There are others, of course. You’ll see the chic Parisian Au Pair, the Parent-On-Her-Day-Off, the Wall Street Dad still dressed for work but pushing a swing on a Friday afternoon.  You will also see The Swedish Nanny. She’s the one who parks her bundled-up charge in a stroller by icy lakes in the dead of winter because that’s how they roll in Sweden; they think children sleep better frozen.

In fact, you’ll see it all here: a carnival of oddballs. The one thing you won’t spot is someone normal. Don’t let that trouble you. Most of us are happy to give you a diaper wipe or an apple slice. The other day I opened up a bag of peanuts and 20 toddlers clustered like pigeons at my ankles. Nothing breaks the ice like your toddler storming a stranger and demanding food. Every parent can relate to that.

New Yorkers are not exactly warm, but if you prod and push, they will give in and offer up some conversationat least about the weather. Welcome to the Big Apple, and happy playground people-watching!

— Leslie Kendall Dye 

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor and dancer in Manhattan. She was a nanny for years before having her own child. Her work has been featured on Mamalode, The Huffington Post, Nanny Magazine, Tipsy Lit, Mamapedia , Project Underblog, Off The Shelf and others. You can find her typing her weird little essays into hungrylittleanimal.blogspot.com when she is not trying to get her toddler to bed before 11 p.m.

A chore thing

Jerry-Zezima1-219x300(This piece originally ran in the Stamford Advocate on Sept. 25, 2014. Reposted by permission of Jerry Zezima.)

The late, great humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “Housework, if you do it right, can kill you.”

Since I am still alive, thanks to my wife, Sue, who does most of the housework in our house, I guess I am not doing it right.

This does not come as a surprise to either me or Sue because of a startling statistic I read in the latest edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which states: “The average American woman will spend 6 years of her life doing housework; the average American man, 3 years, 8 months.”

Looking on the bright side, men die sooner. According to the Almanac, the average American man lives for 76.19 years; the average American woman, 81.17 years.

This means, I figured out when I should have been doing housework, that women live about five years longer than men but do housework only 2 years, 4 months longer. So men actually do housework for a greater percentage of their lives, 21.16 vs. 13.53, than women.

“That’s a stupid statistic,” Sue said when she heard this, resisting the urge to end my life about 16 years short of the average. “I’ve been doing housework for 36 years. I started the day we got married.”

“No, you didn’t, because we went on our honeymoon, remember?” I pointed out helpfully.

“OK, so I got a week off,” Sue said. “But I’ve been doing housework ever since.”

“You can’t say I haven’t helped,” I said.

“Yes, you have,” Sue acknowledged. “You do clean our bathroom, but I do the other two. So that means I clean twice as many bathrooms as you do.”

“One and a half,” I noted, reminding her that we have a half-bathroom downstairs.

Sue also acknowledged that I clean the litter boxes (for our two cats, not me, because I use the bathroom that I clean) and that I vacuum (the carpets, not the litter boxes).

“And I iron,” I said, “because I’m a member of the press.”

Sue ignored the remark, even though she was steamed, and added, “And you do fold clothes.”

This gave her a chance to air my dirty laundry. For the first 25 years of our marriage, I didn’t do the laundry. Then, finally, I learned how. But we recently got rid of our old washer and bought a new one, which Sue won’t let me use.

“I’m afraid you’ll break it,” she said.

“Does this mean I don’t have to do the laundry for the next 25 years?” I asked.

Sue looked at me as if to say, “If we’re still married 25 years from now, I’m going to stick my head in the oven.”

Speaking of which, she said, “You don’t cook. And you don’t empty the dishwasher. And you don’t dust.”

“You’re not supposed to dust dishes, are you?” I inquired.

“And,” Sue continued, “you don’t do windows.”

“That’s because they’re a pane,” I reasoned.

Sue reminded me that I don’t do yard work anymore because we hired a landscaper this year. “So you should have more time to do housework,” she said.

She was right, of course, so I said, “What do you want me to do?”

“The windows,” Sue responded. “They’re filthy.”

“Should I use ammonia and water?” I asked.

“You sound like you’re stuck in the 1950s,” Sue said. “Nobody uses ammonia and water anymore. Use Windex.”

“I use that on the bathroom mirror,” I said, though I was afraid to mention that I also use it to clean stains from the carpet when one of the cats coughs up a hairball.

I got a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex and proceeded to do the windows in the family room. I also cleaned the glass in the front storm door. For the first time in ages, sunshine streamed in.

“Nice job,” Sue said.

“Anything to help,” I replied. “Do you want me to make dinner?”

“No!” Sue shrieked. “You might burn the house down.”

“At least then,” I said, “we wouldn’t have to clean it.”

— 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 McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won five humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Clap, clap, clap

Tracy BucknerI spent an afternoon with a few girlfriends, and one of them asked me to help her load pictures from her camera onto her computer.

I said, “Don’t you have three kids at home who can upload, download, share and/or tag anything faster than you can say the word help?” “They have no patience for me,” she responded. Another girlfriend said, “They only want to show me something once.” Then, “they are always putting me off…too busy.”

Seriously? I thought. No patience? They’re too busy?

I’m wondering how these kids would have responded if their mothers had the same impatience when it was time for potty training. Can you imagine as they cried because they needed a diaper change if we rolled our eyes and said, “Really? Again?”

When it was time to teach them to ride a bike without training wheels, how about if we said, “Are you kidding me? Didn’t I just show you this yesterday? Don’t you have a friend you can ask?”

I’m sure you fondly remember making yourself available to teach them how to throw a baseball, a football, a frisbee, to ice skate, swing a racquet, a golf club, do a cartwheel, a forward roll. Just imagine their faces if we had said, “Does it have to be done right now?”

The list goes on and on of what we did with patience and smiles. We spent weeks explaining how to tie one’s shoelaces, sip from a cup and then when it was finally accomplished, we clapped like they had won the Pulitzer. You put your own socks on?! You pulled your pajama pants up?! YAY! Clap, clap, clap! I clapped so much I had calluses on my palms.

I can’t remember ever once rolling my eyes at my kids, can you?

I didn’t think so.

A friend had the best retort when her son complained about helping her with her iPod. “Look, she said, it took me months to potty train you. Sit down and show me this.”

Right on, girlfriend.

I admit, technology issues do need to be explained a few times before I understand enough to be proficient. But once I have it down, I’m pretty good at remembering how to do it. And sometimes, after getting impatient waiting to be shown how to do it, I figure it out on my own. Our kids must think that if they just ignore us, maybe we will have to figure it out on our own. Maybe it’s their way of showing us tough love?

Maybe we should have tried the tough love approach when they wanted us to teach them to parallel park.

But what a feeling when on my own, I do figure it out.

Hah! I want to shout, “I did it! I did it!”

Who needs those uber-busy, hyper-connected, impatient and oh so brilliant, incredibly fast-texting children anyway?

After realizing nobody was coming home from college or driving 900 miles from Michigan to show me how to make an online photo album, I researched, did a few trial-and-error uploads to my computer, Photoshopped all the photos so that nobody looked better than me, got rid of red-eye, tagged people, and I even added music! I cropped photos, made an album cover and allowed people to post and share comments. Then I sent all the photos out electronically for printing to Snapfish.

All on my own, thank you very much.

As I hit SEND, I secretly wait for someone to clap, to say “YAY,” to give me a prize, a ribbon, a trophy, anything as I had done for so many years.

So I called my mother.

And she clapped.

(Thank you, DL, for the inspiration and for my Mom who always clapped the loudest).

— 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.

When is a kitty not a cat?

Rosie SorensonEvery once in awhile you learn something that rocks your world, such as: there is no privacy on the Internet; Pluto is not a planet; chocolate is not at the top of the food pyramid.

Now another cold shock is reverberating throughout the universe: Hello Kitty is not a cat. Oh, my. For 40 years, billions of Hello Kitty fans, including moi, have cherished her, spent money on her, have loved her, and now it all feels like one long sucker punch of a bad date — deceived again! If Hello Kitty is not a cat, then there’s no such thing as gravity; pigs do fly; and Ted Cruz will become President.

Sanrio, the Japanese company that owns the $9 billion Hello Kitty empire, inadvertently launched this kerfuffle when it corrected the text for the upcoming Hello Kitty exhibit in Los Angeles written by anthropologist Christine Yano.

Dr. Yano stumbled into the kitty litter big time when she described Hello Kitty as a (gasp!) cat.  Even though Dr. Yano has spent 10 years researching and writing her definitive text,  Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and ought to know whether or not HK is a cat, Sanrio was quick to differ.

Here’s what Dr. Yano had to say in the Los Angeles Times (August 27, 2014):  “ . . . That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl.”

Oh, snap!

Sanrio continued the conversation by saying, “She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.”

Wasn’t it bad enough when, as a cat, Hello Kitty had no mouth? Now they have go and tell us that all this time she was really a little girl?  But still — no mouth. Doesn’t that give you the shivers? Why would they want a little girl with no mouth? Could it be because she might say things they don’t like? Because she might declare her contempt for Mr. Sanrio by screaming: “What’s up with the whiskers, dude?”

Seriously, this tells me they’re pretty messed up at Sanrio. What kind of psycho-social derangement is going on here? I doubt there are enough psychiatrists in all of Japan to unravel this riddle. Our DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition), the Bible for all psychotherapists in the U.S.A., would probably assign a diagnosis of  “gender identity disorder,” “delusional disorder,” or “body dysmorphic disorder” to the folks at Sanrio who deny HK is a cat.

I have a suggestion. Why not label it for what it really is: “Just Plain Stupid Disorder.”

Maybe it’s time to pack our Hello Kitty bags and leap from the Sanrio crazy train. 

— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster HollowHer work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

How to annoy your children

Marcia Kester DoyleFrom the moment they’re born, our children are a tremendous source of pride.

First words, first steps, the gold star on their progress reports, the lead role in a school play…we are always there, cheering them on, sharing their accomplishments with anyone willing to listen. Our children are a reflection of ourselves, and our parenting skills are often defined by their behavior.

When they’re a giggling toddler passing gas on a crowded elevator, everyone thinks they’re adorable.  A 16-year-old competing in a belching contest with his sibling in a five-star restaurant…not so much. The older they get, the more embarrassing they become.

They morph from the cute, cuddly puppy stage into a snapping, snarling beast that has been raised in the woods by wild boars. They curse like sailors and eat mass quantities of food that triple the grocery bill by the end of the month. Sweets and salty chips are the largest part of their food pyramid, while milk and juice are consumed at an alarming rate — usually a gallon a day.

Their vocabulary  reverts to their roots — as in the cave man days — limited to grunts, groans and the occasional “whatever” shrug. The parents they once adored and respected  are now a large source of their embarrassment, so it is with great pleasure (and a lack of conscience) that they choose to publicly annoy and embarrass adults. They will gleefully belch and fart in a crowded room and point a finger at the unsuspecting parent next to them. They will tell their grandparents that there are only three ingredients in their refrigerator at home — one grayish-looking egg, a carton of sour milk and a moldy brick of cheddar cheese that looks like last year’s school science fair project. The grandparents will take pity on their souls and drive them to the nearest McDonald’s.

Kids will spill tomato sauce on the white carpet and blame it on the dog; they’ll steal all the quarters out of the change jar and blame the younger sibling. They’ll use the last clean towel in the house so that you’re forced to dry yourself off after a shower with the wet towel that you used on the dog bathed earlier that day.

Every parent reaches a breaking point with their children — a time when they need to liberate themselves from the bonds of “politically correct” parenting.

Because sometimes you just have to get even. You can call it one of “life’s little lessons,” or refer to it for what it really is: Karma is a bitch.

The following is a payback list that has been especially effective in annoying our teenagers and will most likely be successful with yours:

1)  Crank up the lawn mower outside their bedroom window when they’re trying to sleep in late on a Saturday morning.

2)  Ask 20 questions about the TV show they’re watching, but wait until they’re immersed in the thickest part of the plot.

3)  During one of their house parties, run into the room with a wet plunger dripping in your hand and shout, “Okay, who clogged the toilet???”

4)  Pick up the six wet towels they left on the bathroom floor and deposit them on their unmade bed. Be sure to tuck the towels under the covers so they stay moist.

5)  Allow your youngest child to bang on his new drum set while his older sibling is trying to take a nap.

6)  Turn on the sprinklers while your daughter is sunbathing in the back yard.

7)  At a neighborhood block party, jump up on a table after a couple of beers and play air guitar to a Bon Jovi song.

8)  Call your son’s friends “Dude” and “Bro.”

9)  Write embarrassing messages on their Facebook wall:  ”Did you eat that WHOLE package of Oreos I hid in the pantry?” “Why is all my underwear missing from the dryer?”

10)  Blast Barry Manilow on the car radio while driving your kids and their friends to school. Make sure all the windows are rolled down so that EVERYONE in the car loop can hear you belt out the lyrics to “Mandy.”

11)  At your son’s 16th birthday party, borrow his best friend’s BMX bike and show those young whippersnappers how to fly over a speed bump and rack yourself on the bicycle seat.

12) Write a blog about your family life and highlight all the personal stuff that will make your kids cringe and want to disown you.

Revenge has never been sweeter!

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013. In 2014, she was named a Blogher Voice Of The Year.

Your guide to Internet writing riches
on the New New Grub Street

Con ChapmanIn New Grub Street, English novelist George Gissing depicted the literary life of 19th century London through two contrasting characters: Jasper Milvain, a cynical, ambitious writer of no particular literary talent, and Edwin Reardon, a sensitive artist with no commercial instincts.

A writer’s life back then was straightforward, if not easy. Write, then write some more for numerous print outlets that existed then and you could eke out a living from the miniscule payments you received for each piece. It was a life Gissing knew well, caught as he was between the demands of the marketplace and his desire to write fiction.

Grub Street was the center of 18th century journalism in London but was gone by Gissing’s day, and his novel thus characterized the frantic existence of the working writers of his time as the “new” Grub Street. The story ends in tragedy for Reardon. Buoyed by critical praise, he marries and fathers a child, but his wife leaves him when she cannot endure the poverty and social degradation that was the lot of a starving artist. Broken by depression, Reardon dies in misery.

On the whole, it doesn’t sound so bad to me.  After all, the Internet hadn’t been invented yet.

At least in Gissing’s day, if you wrote constantly you could get paid something for it. In the days since the development of blogging — approximately the middle of the first decade of this century to the present — you can write constantly and get nothing for it. Curiously, there aren’t even any jobs shipped overseas to India to explain this transformative shift. One hundred years of writing has driven wages down from little to nothing. Bloggers live and starve on the New New Grub Street.

I wrote my first post on foxsports.com — a spoof about curling — in 2005. Until recently, the biggest paycheck for online writing I’d ever received was $50, for a post about Jonathan Winters I wrote for a comedy site. I should mention that the site is now defunct, a victim of its own improvidence. Every now and then I get a check from Google Ads in the low four figures, but that’s counting the numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Still, like one of Gissing’s characters, I write and I write and I write — so far, 2,146 posts in seven years, an average of 238 a year. Blogging has become for me a form of mental potato chips — you start, and you can’t stop! But even a hopeless transfat addict has to consider the image in his mirror after a while; the Internet, you tell yourself, has you by the short hairs.

A few years ago I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and actually do something about this sad state of affairs.  I’d repackage my deathless online prose, and some deathless online poetry as well, as e-books on one of the various digital text platforms that have developed.

It wasn’t easy.  While other middle-aged guys were out playing golf in official Ryder Cup sportswear, I sat in my den, hunched over my computer, dividing my posts up by the topics that have held my interest over the years: philosophy, ballet, NASCAR, sex, animals, vegetables, minerals, sex, alien abductions, and potpourri for $200, Alex.  I packaged them into ebooks of 50 to 100 pages (or more), slapped a stock photo on the cover, and uploaded them to amazon.com.

“What are you doing?” my wife would ask from time to time.

“You’re witness to a revolution in publishing,” I’d say. “Like Gutenberg, dime novels, penny dreadfuls, paperbacks. I’m packaging my blog posts for sale!”

“I’m going to Starbucks,” she’d reply. I get choked up just thinking about how she’s been there for me, all the way, since the very beginning.

I have to admit, my story wasn’t very convincing; since I hadn’t made any money on the posts when I first wrote them, what made me think selling them in bundles would be any more rewarding?  As the old business joke goes, what we lose on each sale we make up in volume.

But then came my day to crow. My day to say to all the naysayers “Go ahead and say ‘nay,’ but I’m actually making money writing on the Internet!” I got the check for my last fiscal quarter in the blogging-for-bucks business, and even I was stunned at the results.

What’s important is not the top line, as business dweebs like to say, it’s the trend, the growth in sales, that startles you.  In three short months, my revenues increased 650 percent!  That’s not a typo.

Since I’m not a public company, you won’t find the figures at the Securities and Exchange Commission, so here they are:  April–seventy cents; May–$1.75; and June, $3.50, a whopping $4.55!

Like a lot of guys who hit it big, I could retire to Florida and pursue my dream of making the Senior Miniature Golf Tour, but I’ve decided it’s time to give back. That’s why for only $49.95 you can own “Your Guide to Internet Writing Riches” to enjoy in the comfort of your home.

Just play the tapes while you’re tapping away at your computer, hit the “publish” button and watch your blogging income grow from nothing to . . . well, something more than nothing.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Ration your fashion compassion

Stephanie D. LewisMy gal pals are throwing one of those clothing parties where you bring all your wardrobe faux pas from the back of your closet, then display them so everyone else can laugh, er, covet something you own. You earn credit for what they select and use it to trade/barter for their items, at which point you basically go home with more stuff to sell in your next garage sale. Now, doesn’t that sound like loads of fun to you? Or maybe I’ll see what my oral surgeon is up to.

Instead I enlisted my local “couture expert” (my 16-year-old daughter) for help (doesn’t that sound like even MORE fun?) so I wouldn’t accidentally give away a high-fashion item — highly improbable since I don’t own any. As I caressed my stack of swatch watches, we both surveyed my closet contents until she broke the long, sad silence, “Well, how many points can you get for your hangers? At least they’re the nice, satin-padded kind.”

“Now wait just a Gloria Vanderbilt minute, Missy. What are you saying? That I have bad taste? That there’s nothing here anyone would possibly want?”

“Not necessarily. I hear they’re doing a Flashdance revival show on 5th Avenue,” she replied.

“Gotta get footloose!”

“Oh fine,” I said. “What about all those gorgeous shoes over there?”

“Those Espadrilles?” she wrinkled her nose. “Don’t you have any Stella McCartney’s or Yves Saint Laurent’s?” She took a deep breath, “And no Gucci? Armani? Louboutin? Balenciaga? Zanotti? Or how about just some Fiorentini?”

“Yes I agree — Italian sounds great! Let’s go out for fettuccini or linguini.”

“Mom,” she said exasperatingly, “Not even one Jason Wu or Jimmy Choo!?”

“Gesundheit dear and bless you. Must be all the dust in here,” I said absentmindedly. “And I’ll have you know on that rack behind those legwarmers, you’ll find footloads of Targetellas and a special designer pair of PaylessaLobotomy. Now I’m tired of this subject. All I really know about shoes is ‘there once was a little old woman who lived in one!’”

“Okay, okay, don’t get so touchy,” she grimaced, placing her hand on my thickly padded shoulder. “Let’s have a look at your skinny jeans. What brand name are they?”

“Ugh,” I responded.

“No, mom. Uggs are footwear again. Stay focused.”

“I meant Ugh, as in my only pair of skinny jeans exploded the last time I sneezed,” I confessed.

“Cash in on this fashion? I think not!”

“Alright, we’re not making much progress. Let’s take a peek at your belts.”

“If God wanted fruit to cinch their middles, he would’ve given ‘Granny Smith and Gala’ a waist,” I said, recalling Glamour magazine claiming I was an apple instead of a pear. I also read and discovered it’s best for me to stick with things that lightly graze my breasts, while skimming my hips and hugging my thighs. Kinda like the hungry, drunk guy at my last Super Bowl party.

“Alright, I can see my work here is nearly done.” My daughter impatiently tapped her Fendi heel, obviously eager to chalk this experience up to having a square mother who was beyond help and needed to get back to what she probably imagined was my boring record collection. “Let’s look at something even YOU can’t get wrong. Your aunt with the purse addiction always gives you a designer clutch for your birthday every year, right? So show me all your bags.”

“Do we have to point out my under-eye wrinkles at this very moment?” I grimaced.

“Yep. We’re sure getting closer to our goal,” she said exhaustedly, picking up my car keys. “We’ll continue this fun treasure hunt after I go pick up some Juicy Couture.”

“Okay, but take lots of napkins,” I shouted after her, “I don’t want you drooling or dripping on the driver’s seat.”

“Do as I say and not as I wear!”

My daughter continued to roll her eyes all the way to the clothing swap party the next night. But once there, she happily traded all her gently worn last year’s summer styles for brand-new (at least new to her) back-to-school designer duds. Meanwhile, I sat in the back of the room, played my 8-tracks, and held a bake sale where the money will soon benefit poor confused, fashion-challenged women who still Jazzercise, wear mood rings and sleep in waterbeds.

As for being a Fashionista? Let’s just say I’m scrutinizing consignment stores and am hopeful that next year at this time, I will be a Cheryl Tiegs lookalike model. A clothing designer? How about seated in the audience at a fashion show? Using the bathroom in the local Nordstroms? Okay, okay, I’ll settle for “coming out of my closet” with my head held nice and high — and that’s only because I will no longer be wearing those large, clunky, ’80s style earrings that currently weigh it down.

— Stephanie D. Lewis

Stephanie D. Lewis regularly contributes to Huffington Post as well as pens a humor blog, “Once Upon Your Prime” where she tries to “Live Happily Ever Laughter.” She also writes an ongoing “Female Fun” column for North County Woman Magazine called Razzle, Dazzle & Frazzle and was recently named one of 2014 Voices of the Year by BlogHer. Her 2008 book, Lullabies & Alibis, is the tale of marriage, motherhood, mistakes and madness.  As a single mother of six, she knows a lot about the madness.  She’s supervised potty training and driver’s training simultaneously.  Too many accidents.  A live-in housekeeper?  Nah, she’ll take a live-in psychotherapist.

Now what?

Jill VeldhouseI dropped my youngest child off at preschool today for the first time. A lot of mixed emotions on my part, but not so much for him.

It went something like this, “Bye Mom.”

Heartless? Maybe, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He clearly got caught up in the excitement of the moment and didn’t fully understand the reality of the situation. The fact that he would soon be abandoned by his mother and left to fend for himself in a room full of complete strangers had escaped his tiny little mind. I can’t blame him for being ignorant. He’s just an innocent child.

Regardless, I was willing to give him a second chance, you know, to offer his mother a proper good-bye.

My goal was simple. Explain the seriousness of the situation and graciously offer my son an opportunity to re-write recent historical events. “This is going down on my terms!”

I walked up to him with confidence, fully prepared to set the record straight and thereby redeem some sort of self worth and maybe (hopefully) even take him home with me.

“Mom, you need to leave now.”

“Come again?”

Did I want him to create a scene that involved him wailing uncontrollably as he clutched my leg for dear life while hysterically sobbing? Of course (i.e., probably) not.  That said, he could’ve at least fake cried or something, like he did this morning when I didn’t give him chocolate chips for breakfast.

“Do you see these tears in my eyes, Buddy? They are real, and they are for you. Mommy is sad and quite frankly more than a little bit offended by your nonchalant attitude right now. It’s rude.” 

He didn’t hear me. He was too busy sucking up to the pretty teacher across the room who was quite obviously attempting to steal my son’s affection away from the very woman who gave birth to him and mistakenly signed him up for this ridiculous and non-refundable class.

Whatever. I know when I’m not wanted. I took what little was left of my pride, gave my son the tightest hug humanly possible (composed of 95 percent love, 3 percent annoyance/irritation, and 2 percent pure rage) and exited the building bewildered and completely confused by my lack of enthusiasm given the current situation.

I came home to an empty house for the first time in nine years, four of which have been spent at home full-time with my children. “Today is a new beginning. Seize the day, Jill!”  Two days a week for 2.5 whole hours, I get “me time.” That’s five hours per week and 260 hours per year that I will be all alone.

What if I have a heart attack? No one will care and/or notify the authorities because no one else will be here. Just me and my thoughts (God help me!). I haven’t had a lucid thought for over nine years. What if I actually start thinking real thoughts and the unused portion of my brain completely shuts down from shock and I have a stroke? Who will save me then?

Crickets…   

Regardless, what the hell am I suppose to do now?

I guess I could watch TV, but I won’t because the guilt would be too much for me to handle.

I could do laundry, but that seems way too obvious.

I could work out, but then I’d have to shower and that just seems like a waste of quality alone time.

I could call someone and have a real conversation in peace, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give anyone the impression that I am bored in my quiet kid-free house (I am way more important than that, right?).

I could make a grocery list, or pack tomorrow’s lunch for the kids, or unload the dishwasher, but I function much better under stressful and extremely chaotic conditions, and it’s too quiet in here.

I could make myself a real breakfast, but why would I purposely make a meal if I didn’t have to?

I could turn on some music and dance, but I have absolutely no rhythm unless I’m slightly and/or heavily under the influence.

Eureka!  I could start drinking!  But it’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday and even I have standards (sigh).

I could call my mom, or write her a very heartfelt thank you note, and/or tell her that I am moving home because I’m sure she is still heartbroken that I selfishly left 20 years ago. “Why aren’t you answering your phone Mom?” 

Maybe I could read a book? Or write one? Well, there’s a thought and one worthy of some real consideration, but how the hell am I suppose to concentrate with that damn clock tic toc ticking across the room right now? “Seriously, why I have never noticed you before?  Shut the f*** up!”

Maybe I should put the clock in the cupboard, or take the batteries out, or throw that arrogant piece of garbage across the room in an effort to stop time completely?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

— Jill Veldhouse

Jill Veldhouse lives in Plymouth, Minn.  She is the mother of three young children and wife to a mad scientist. She holds a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy and practiced in this field for eight years before making the life-changing decision to leave it all behind and become a full-time mom. In a desperate attempt to achieve the highly regarded status of literary hero, and based on encouragement she received from a few people that she could write, she started a blog, which has saved her on multiple occasions from jumping off her imaginary mommy cliff. She also has been a contributor on “Scary Mommy” and can be found on Twitter as @veldhouse_jill.

Reflections of Erma