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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News from the Nervous Parents Gazette

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

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

I’m assuming he’s in danger. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Alexandra Rosas

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

To see or not to see

Judy ClarkeBack in my day, if a girl was wearing a sleeveless blouse and her bra strap happened to peek out, she would dash to the restroom in tears. A slipped slip strap was just as bad, but a half slip that slithered off in the hallway was the worst.  It happened.

Today’s young women wear tops that ensure that their straps do show, while at the same time, I’m told, they wear thongs instead of panties so so there are no panty lines to show. At least the brassieres of today are prettier than those of my long ago — we had a choice of white, black or flesh.

I’m not a prude, but I am a bit prudish.

A catalog I get regularly sells several things that make me giggle, while other things make me blush! I’ll only list those that relate to the part of the anatomy that teenagers in my era called “first base.”  That was when “hook up” meant to attach your stockings to your garter belt or one side of your bra to the other. For example:

• You can buy a flimsy triangle-shaped cover-up that attaches to your bra — assuming you wear one — to make a plunging neckline discreet or to create a layered look without adding actual layers. In the photos they look like thongs, and I don’t mean flip-flops!

• There’s a “boob tube” that is nothing like your father’s 1956 RCA console TV. These knit or lace bandeaus hide cleavage, too. Frankly, my cleavage has gone so far south that the waistband of my panties works for me.

• If your wraparound top doesn’t make it all the way around, Swarovski crystal and pearl cabochons serve as dainty buttons. No more safety pins and tape. I have to wonder, would buying the next size larger shirt alleviate the need for these things? Just askin’.

• Wrinkly decollete? There is a gen-u-ine, 100 percent, medical grade silicone pad that sticks to the cleavage area to smooth chest wrinkles caused by sun damage, aging or side-sleeping. And, get this, you can actually wear the thing under your clothes, perhaps with one of the above items to hide it.

• For side-sleepers, there’s a lightweight, slip-resistant plastic cylinder that, if I were so inclined, I could snuggle between my bosoms so they’re in a more natural resting position. Sorry, but for my money, “natural resting position” is wherever “the girls” want to rest, under my arm or over my shoulder!

• There’s a form-fitting band that’s really on the border between “first” and “second base.” Lace-edged, it fits over the waistband of your jeans, for example, and under your top. It gives the illusion of a cami without the bulk, and it helps smooth out a “muffin top,” too, all the while hiding butt cleavage!

Makes me think, there’s a new market to be tapped here: get rid of the lace, manufacture the band in denim or camo, and market it to plumbers!  You get the picture!

— Judy Clarke

Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self).

Post-Labor Day e-mail inbox cleanup

Con ChapmanThe week after Labor Day is traditionally considered “America Gets Back to Work Week!” by office managers and other spoilsports. Efficiency experts say the best way to “streamline” your work is to cut down on distractions, but many people return from vacation to find their email inboxes “jam-packed” with hundreds of distracting messages! Here’s how you can “cut through the clutter” of accumulated e-mails and annoying “random” quotation marks:

Set a cut-off date, then delete earlier messages: Some people use very recent cut-off dates (“Hi, Jen, I see you’re back from vacation!”) while others take the safe course and choose a date old enough to recapture all important messages (“We will be installing something called ‘E-mail’ over the weekend. How you are getting this message is beyond me.”) Once you’ve picked your date, stick to it and don’t listen to whining chain-letter sponsors who claim you will lose a finger in a lawn-mower accident if you don’t pass on their emails! Nobody cuts grass after Labor Day!

Delete all messages from people named “Steve” and “Michelle”: This may seem harsh, but you have to draw the line somewhere. If you respond to a message from one “Michelle,” pretty soon your whole first day back is shot listening to people complain about their shoes, their frost jobs and their pedicures. Let’s face it – Stevieness and Michellability are two of the greatest drags on productivity in the American workplace.  The U.S. economy didn’t emerge from the recession of 2002 until unemployment among Steves and Michelles hit double digits.

HR never has anything important to say: Let’s face it – people in Human Resources who send around mass emails are basically frustrated TV weather, people, always yammering on about fire drills, HMO “open enrollment” periods and other worthless trivia.Who died and left them boss? Delete all emails from H.R. Director Sue Ellen and her assistant Janie – if you need to know how many personal days you have left this year, ask Michelle in the copy center.

If it’s from “Corporate HQ,” it’s not important to you: What’s the point of working at a faceless corporation if you can’t be faceless? Do these people think just because they pay you money and give you health insurance they can run your life? Don’t let them! Search for “corporate policy,” “accounting” and “finance” in the subject line, then hit that “Delete” button ’til your finger screams.

Charity begins at home and ends at the office: Who knew that little Tiffany Marie’s U-12 softball team was going to Disney World?  Who cares? And how about those chocolate raisin bars Devin is selling so his junior high drum and bugle corps can go to the national finals? If your software doesn’t have a “block sender” function for these parents, send a “Reply to All” response to fund-raising emails that says you’ve adopted a sub-Saharan goatherd who helps you keep the affluent lifestyle of over-scheduled suburban brats in perspective.

Messages from “The Something-or-Other” don’t mean jack. Scroll down to the “t’s” in your in-box to find messages from phony-baloney organizations such as The Institute for Professional and Career Advancement and The Chamber’s List of Outstanding Assistant Compliance Officers, hold down the “shift” key and delete those suckers. Oh, wait – save any messages from “The Sugar Shack” with “Half-price Bucket o’ Chicken Wings Night!” in the subject line.

– Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works includeThe Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). He is the author of 30 plays, 10 of which are published. His articles and humor have appeared in national magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Boston Herald.

A day in the life of a spider spazing freak

Colleen Rankin-WheelerThere are few things in this life that I am sure of and know to be the absolute truth.

And since the list of what I DON’T know is so much greater than what I do know, that’s where I shall start.

First, what I do know. I know I don’t like spiders.

Second, I am a spaz.

When you combine these two winning attributes, you wind up with ME. A spider spazing freak! I know that I am not alone with this affliction because it has a name. Aracanaphobia. A word that, when shortened, can be used in such really cool sentences like, “Hand me my Raid please; this Spider is an aracnaphob’s worst nightmare!”

It’s not that I am saying spiders are bad. Never think it. It’s just that spiders and I don’t get along. They don’t like my music, I don’t like their webs, they spew silk, I spray Raid. It just gets ugly.  Over the course of my life I have encountered many spiders. Many of these encounters, unfortunately for me, have taken place in public places, such as the mall, at work or my yard while the neighbors watched.

Over the years I have written down, in detail, what I have come to call ” Spider Spazing Techniques.” You see, every spider is different. Therefore, every spaz is different, and you will find they take on a story all their own. Such is the case of the story, “A lovely spring day.”

It’s a lovely spring day. The sun is bright, the breeze is warm, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming. It’s a time for planting, gardening, BBQ with friends. All of nature is awake. And unfortunately for the woman writing this story, so are the spiders!

In my lifetime I have seen some spiders. Big ones, little ones, black ones, brown ones and the occasional white one. Today, however, I saw the King. No, NOT Elvis. The King of all spiders. A spider that could scare a pit bull off a meat wagon. If there were a spider underworld, HE would be “Scarface.”

I was planting flowers next to the house when out of the corner of my eye I saw a large dark mass moving slowly not more than 10 inches from my head. I turned and came face to face with HIM!  Here is where the different forms of  “spider spazing” happens. First, just for a moment, I went into “Spider Shock Syndrome.” It’s a little like “Toxic Shock Syndrome” without that time of the month. I felt feverish, light-headed and nauseated. Then a touch of the ” Holy S@#T” spaz kicked in. I sucked in mass quantities of air, fell backwards and a very obscene word flew out of my mouth.

This is when the “Crab Crawl spaz” took full effect. I started crab crawling backwards, never taking my eyes off of “IT.” All the while a steady stream of obscenities was flowing out of my mouth, bringing ME  to the attention of my neighbor and his  children. One big head and three little heads stood there watching as I continued to crab crawl across the yard spewing obscenities!

With my heart pounding, and the neighbors children traumatized, I declared YARD WORK FINISHED! As for the rest of this lovely spring day, I will be in the house watching “I Love Lucy,” and that is where THIS redhead plans on staying. (I will be heading to Home Depot for an assortment of pesticides tomorrow.)

— Colleen Rankin-Wheeler

Colleen Rankin-Wheeler is a licensed cosmetologist and a writer of humorous shorts. She is married to her high school sweetheart, David Wheeler, and is the mother of two sons, Dimitri and Christopher, both of whom she has lovingly passed along a generous dose of aracanaphobia. She was born in Crescent City, Calif.

So here’s the thing about walking…

Darla RichterIf you ever happen to be strolling down a walking path in Maine and come across a limping, weeping, zombie Darth Vader, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me.

It all started a few years ago when my podiatrist pointed to the tiny stress fracture on my X-ray and said, “See this? When your foot comes down on the pavement, it cracks, just like a pretzel.”

“Okay. I guess that’s not good?” I asked.

“No.”

“But I was only walking.”

“Yeah.”

“So what you’re saying is…I can’t walk anymore?”

“Oh, no. You can walk. But…well, pretend my fingers are your toes,” she pressed her hand onto the table and made a loud cracking noise.

I blinked.

“Tell you what,” she peered over her glasses at me. “Just keep walking using this orthotic insert and we’ll see what happens.”

“What will happen?”

“Oh, nothing, if it doesn’t work, we’ll just cut open your ankle here…” she tapped her finger on my ankle and made a zipping noise, “…yank your tendon up…”  she blew a raspberry, “insert it through the opening in your bones here…”  she made a series of popping noises, “and wrap it around there so it’s tighter and more stable,” she clicked her tongue. “No biggie!”

So my loose tendon and I went for a long walk to mull over the doc’s advice.

I walk five days a week for about 30 minutes. Funny thing about walking, I’ve been doing it all my life. Unfortunately, I’ve been cursed with one leg that’s a good few inches shorter than the other. When people ask me how tall I am, I tell them it depends on which leg I’m leaning on: 5′ 5″ on my right, 5′ 3″ on my left.

But I’m not too keen on the ankle-cutting thing, even with the cool sound effects. So I decided to take my chances, maybe stand mostly on my right foot. At least then I’d be taller and in less pain. Win-win.

So my orthopedic insert and I went for another long walk today. The local bike path is a busy place, lots of runners, joggers, bikers, sloggers.

I was the slogger.

Aside from the limping, I also tend to breathe heavily when I exercise. As I slogged beside a huge field of dandelions, the only sounds I heard were the sweet chirps of chickadees mixed with my ear-rattling breathing. Very unnerving. I imagined I was on a mission to destroy the Death Star, and Darth Vader was chasing after me in hot pursuit. Helped quickened my step, anyway.

And damn it all, it was also a breezy, sunny day. A blazing sun to someone with pale blue eyes is akin to having lasers beamed directly into the retinas. So as I walked, I cried, tears spilling down my cheeks. I was in a great mood, honest. In spite of my exercising.

I came upon my first fellow walker. She was a tiny dot in the distance, winding her way up the path toward me.  As we approached each other,  I tried in vain to wipe my Tammy Faye Bakker tears away and quiet my breathing. And the zombie dragging of my bad pretzel-foot only got worse.

So here’s the thing about walking: I hate when I pass someone on a path. The pressure of acceptable social interaction is too much.  I panic and questions flood my oxygen-deprived mind: How do I not appear crazy? Why, oh why didn’t I use waterproof mascara that day? What should I say or do?

1) “Hi!”

2) “Hey!”

3) “Nice day, huh?”

4) “So you too, huh? Exercise! Pfft! Ever have the sudden urge to go lie down in that field over there and pass out from the pain? No? Just me?”

5) Simply nod and grin through tears.

6) Do nothing, no eye contact, pretend to stare intently at a distant tree.

I should have gone with the last option.

As the silent power-walker woman and I approached each other, the only sounds were my Darth Vader breathing and the gentle slapping of my loose tendon. And those damned chirpy, happy birds mocking me in my time of need.

We made brief eye contact and she nodded, so I made the first move.

“Good!” I blurted while limping and wiping away tears, “Morning! Good morning!” I repeated with a ghastly gasp as we passed each other.  “Nice….” my voice trailed off as I took a nasty step to the side, my ankle twisting.  Searing pain shot up from my cursed pretzel-bones. “Ah! Gah!” I seethed, wincing at the Power Walker, my face twisted into a grotesque mascara-coated mask of agony.

My foot decided that was a good time to break free from my tendon and roll violently to the side, so I let out a strained cry of “Oof! Ahhhhh! Good God!” and stumbled off the path. “I’m okay, I’m fine, just fine,”  I continued to babble to myself to further add to my looking like a complete lunatic.

By then it was too late, our precious moment of Walker Solidarity over, culminating in the woman giving me nothing more than a few startled glares in return as she hurried on her way.

I suppose I was lucky she didn’t have mace.

Maybe it’s time to get that tendon tied up in a pretty little bow after all.

But only if the surgeon does those cool sound effects.

— Darla Richter

Darla Richter is a writer, blogger and mother of two. She lives in the deep woods of Maine, loves to laugh uproariously, and makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. She’s middle aged and her eyesight is failing at an alarming rate. Her ridiculously popular blog She’s a Maineiac is a WordPress Featured Family Blog and was Freshly Pressed five times. She also won third place in a baton competition in the fourth grade. Please visit her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

I was perfectly ok with turning 40

Marie MillardI was perfectly ok with turning 40. It happened last fall, and I didn’t need to dye my hair and try to look 24. I didn’t need to wear yoga pants and use text lingo out loud. I didn’t need to be the cool mom or know who the people on the front of tabloids were. Maybe I was a little proud of my lack of vanity. Maybe I needed to be tested. But could anyone have passed this vanity test?

I pulled into the parking lot of my beloved local grocery store and exclaimed “SMH, it’s senior discount day. I’ll never find a parking space.” It wasn’t easy, and more than one senior stole my space, but I persevered. In the checkout line, and wearing my blue sweatshirt and baseball cap, I chatted with the lady in front of me about whether or not the impulse-buy beef jerky was chocolate covered. “Well, there’s chocolate-covered bacon now, so you never know,” I said wisely.

She paid, and then it was my turn. And remember, I was perfectly ok with turning 40. I was ok with the fact that when “American Idol” started, I was already too old to audition. I was ok with the fact that I’ve probably missed my chance to be in the Olympics.

But here’s what I was not ok with.

The cashier, a woman about my age with a apologetic expression, said, “I’m sorry, I’m new – do you…qualify for the senior discount?”

It turns out I do have a teensy bit of vanity. While I simply said, “No I do not,” I thought, “Does being new make you incapable of guessing someone’s age within 15 years? Don’t you think I would have asked for my discount if I wanted it? Was my banter about the chocolate-covered bacon so full of elderly wisdom that you ignored my smooth skin and the ends of my hair which aren’t gray yet?”

And then I left, and I thought, “I should have said yes and gotten the 10 percent discount.” But I wasn’t old enough to be wise enough to do that. And then I got home and checked the store’s web site to make sure that the definition of a senior citizen was indeed 55. No, I was not old and wise enough to not do that.

It was 60.

And then I thought, “My husband’s going to leave me. I have one foot in the grave. I’m really not going to the Olympics, am I? Maybe I should have applied for the job of the grandma who advertises for Kozy Shack Pudding.”

So, a tip for cashiers everywhere. Let people ask you for the senior discount. Because it’s hard enough getting over being your real age.

— Marie Millard

Marie Millard taught elementary and junior high band for 10 years before turning, in desperation, to humor writing. One would think she would have plenty of material about trombone spit and shrieking clarinets, but it’s still too soon. She has published a children’s book, When I Grow Up, and is soon to publish a YA novel, Anaheim Tales, both under the name M.L. Millard.

Quoth the squirrel, nevermore

Samantha RodmanOnce upon a naptime dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious website filled with mommy lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my front door.
“Tis the UPS guy,” I muttered, tapping at my front door —
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
As my husband was traveling for work, my sanity was in pieces on the floor.
But a sitter was coming soon, giving me a break in the afternoon
And the minute she appeared I planned to run right out my door
A rare and radiant sitter whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.

And the polyester sad uncertain rustling of each Target curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“Tis the UPS guy entreating entrance at my front door —
Or possibly the FedEx guy entreating entrance at my front door;
Amazon and nothing more,”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam,” truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my front door,
Did you not see the baby asleep sign?’ — here I opened wide the door;
My overgrown shrubs, and nothing more.

Into those bushes deep, long I stood there half asleep,
Hallucinating due to fatigue?  It had certainly happened before;
Nobody seemed to be around, but I heard from near the ground
Some rustling and then suddenly the whispered word, “Lenore!”
“What?” I whispered, and again the voice murmured the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the house turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely what I hear is the Amazon box must be here
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;
Tis UPS and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the window, and then, with his paws akimbo,
In there stepped a stately squirrel of the normal furry type
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched beside my Diaper Genie
Perched upon a sleeve of diapers just beside my Diaper Genie
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this squirrel began beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the fuzzy face it bore,
“Though you are quite brown and furry,” I said, “art sure don’t seem in a hurry
Like the usual squirrels that are endearing —
Can you tell me why you’re leering?”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

I marveled but wasn’t fazed, as I hadn’t slept in days
And nothing fazes the mother of three children under four.
But I could not help but noting that it’s rare to get a rodent
Sitting on the Diaper Genie in the playroom on the floor —
Just sitting there and chilling by the toy pile on the floor,
And saying “Nevermore.”

But the squirrel sitting lonely on the changing table, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further did he share — and I started to get scared —
And I scarcely more than muttered “Soon the sitter will be here
At 4 o’clock she will come so I don’t lose my mind as I fear.”
Then the squirrel said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it’s stating has nothing to do with how I’m waiting
For the sitter who promised she would soon be arriving at my door
The texts were clear as a bell and she’ll be coming to my door
She seemed reliable to the core!”
The squirrel murmured, “Nevermore.”

“Now, squirrel,” I entreated, “The sitter’s sorely needed
Because I have to get my hair done and feel like a person once more
Although my children are adorable, their behavior is deplorable
And this sitter seemed more reliable than the other ones of yore.”
Still, the squirrel said, “Nevermore.”

Then I started to getting panicky and the squirrel laughed manically
And his fiery eyes now burned into my lactating bosom’s core;
And I sat there getting madder hearing my children’s pitter patter
Oh for God’s sake they had awoken. Where was the sitter?  Was she joking?
The squirrel whispered, “Nevermore.”

Then, methought, the air grew chilly; I tried to think, “I’m being silly!”
How could this squirrel know if the sitter wouldn’t show up anymore?’
“Wretch,” I cried, “you know so little! This is not some kind of riddle
We agreed she was going to show up on Wednesday just a little after four!
I really felt I trusted this babysitter named Lenore!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of doom!  Why are you spouting all this gloom?
What do you mean in telling me she’s going to no-show at four?
Desolate yet trying my best, I have kept it together with no rest
And now I was delighted just to go and get highlighted
Is there — is there a shot she will show up? — tell me — tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of horror! — tell me, what about tomorrow —
By that Heaven that bends above us — by the naptime we all adore —
Will she leave a message and cry and say that her car battery had died
And then I can reschedule with this sitter whom the angels name Lenore —
With this CPR certified sitter, whom the angels name Lenore?”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, demon!” I shrieked upstarting —
“Get thee back into the unmowed grass and trees outside my home!
Leave no rabies as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! — just scurry out my door!
Stop thy paws from ripping out my heart, and scurry out my door!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

And the squirrel, never moving, still is sitting, still is grooving
On the stupid Diaper Genie just inside my own front door;
And the sitter never came, never texted, really lame
And my roots stayed just as gray as heathered clouds upon the moor
Now my children have a pet, and I’m not dead from exhaustion yet,
But not getting a backup sitter?
Nevermore!

— Dr. Samantha Rodman

Dr. Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Maryland and a happily married mom of three kids under 5.  She blogs on Dr. Psych Mom and has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. Like her on Facebook, and tweet to her @DrPsychMom.

Reflections of Erma