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Is that a banana in your book drop?
Or are you just happy to see me?

Life holds plenty of surprises, especially when you work at a public library. Last week, for instance, we found a banana in the book drop.  Naturally, I logged onto my favorite librarian Facebook group to share the news.  Roz Warren

The first response?

Curious George strikes again!

Then: We once found a melted banana split in ours.

After which my fellow librarians began posting about the items they’d found over the years in their own book drops:

A full diaper.

A dead rabbit.

An empty wine bottle.

A used condom.

We found underpants in ours yesterday. At least they were clean.

A banana was beginning to sound like a relatively delightful book find. Reports of more discoveries poured in:

A slice of bacon.

A cell phone.

An empty soda can.

A live lobster.

A laptop.

An ice cream sandwich. Thankfully it was winter, so it hadn’t melted.

A coffee maker. People be crazy.

As the comments continued, I began to wonder. Was there anything that HADN’T been left in a library book drop?

A dead fish.

A live chicken!

A small tub of unopened cottage cheese.

A cat.

A bra.

A dirty love letter! (And yes, we all read it.)

In my own workplace, a lit joint in the book drop is not unheard of.

As librarians warmed to the topic, book drop discoveries came in fast and furious:

A frog!

Pancake syrup.

A lizard.

An unopened box of sanitary pads.

An open box of Bisquick.

A full bottle of Jim Beam.

A bag of grapes.

A carton of eggs.

One of my co-workers used to get gifts in the book drop from a secret admirer.

Think that working in a library is all sunshine and roses? Contemplate these book drop finds and think again:

A dead bird in a shoe box with a note threatening the life of our library mascot, a Cockatiel.

Seventeen snakes.

A finger. Yes, an actual finger. We never found out whose. And it was my first week on the job.

Gravel. And ground beef. We thought somebody had been murdered. We had to throw every book in the drop away.

A severed foot. Thankfully, plastic. Obviously someone’s idea of a joke.

Library patrons can be mysterious:

We once found a wrapped Subway sandwich in the book drop. Later that week, we also found one on the shelves. Weird.

Nothing odd in our book drop yet. But someone once put a hot dog in our suggestion box.

Somebody just left a deer head on our roof.

Last week somebody removed a garden gnome from a nearby house and put it in our book drop.

Some folks just don’t deserve a book drop:

My library got rid of our book drop the second time it was set on fire.

Some idiot poured gasoline in ours. Now we have security cameras.

Our book drop was destroyed. We don’t know who did it, but we came to work one morning to find that somebody had beat the living hell out of it.

We removed the book drop from our middle school library after the first wad of gum was deposited. Now the kids have to return books in the drop slot at the circ desk. #nasty. #notpaidenough #peoplecanbegross.

Finally? Librarians would like to remind you that Real Patriots don’t include the library book drop in their celebration of our nation’s birth:

If we don’t close our drop over July 4th weekend, people put fire crackers in it.

Library life is full of discovery. And when it comes to the book drop, it seems, anything is possible! Which is why I’m hoping that the next time I open ours, I’ll find it packed with hundred dollar bills. Or Oreo cookies. I’d even settle for that lit joint.

A librarian can dream, can’t she?

— Roz Warrem

Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor. This essay first appeared on www.zestnow.com.

Clear your throat and learn a new language

 

Judi VeoukasThere’s a popular radio commercial that asks listeners something like this: “Would you rather spend your money to acquire a new language or to acquire more stuff?”

At my age my ability to retain anything I learn is so low, I’d rather acquire more stuff.

However, I already know another language, one ingrained in me as a child: Yiddish.

My bubbe (grandmother), the one from the Old Country, spoke Yiddish to my mother and vice versa, particularly when they didn’t want me to understand their exchanges. I wouldn’t call it pure Yiddish, just sort of Yid-glish.

Bubbe didn’t have much to do. There were no goats to shoo out of our Chicago apartment as there had been in her Eastern European hovel, so she occupied herself by tattling on me. I’d often hear, “Julie is schlecht.” (Schlecht, with its guttural cht, means bad.)

Apparently, she had no idea my name was actually Judi. I ultimately understood, though, that whatever name she called me, I should run for cover if schlecht ended her sentence. Nine times out of ten, a spanking would follow schlecht. It wasn’t a great word for me.

However, I heard many great Yiddish words as a youngster.

One of my favorites is machatunim, pronounced mah-chah-too-neem. (The “chah” is enunciated like a cat hacking up a fur ball.) Machatunim are your in-laws’ extended family.

Here’s why I like the word. For example, a holiday is approaching and of course you have to invite your machatunim because how could you not? Perhaps some of them are insufferable bores. Instead of making up excuses for why they are present, all you need explain to your other company is that these people are machatunim. Your other company — well, those who know what the word machatunim means — will shake their heads in sad agreement.

Of course, most machatunim are perfectly lovely people, who, thanks to several of our own children, are now our ex-machatunim.

Machatunim should not be confused with mishpucha (mish-paw–cha). Note: the cat-fur-ball-hacked-up “cha” is back again. Mishpucha means your own extended family. Once upon a time mishpucha also meant those people who took care of all your needs. Now we have Amazon.

One of my not-so-favorite words, but still a great term, is shmutz (schmootz). Schmutz means not-serious dirt, but in my family it was often bandied about in this manner. Bubbe would announce to me, “You have schmutz on your punim (face), Julie.”

A specific ritual followed that statement. Bubbe would stick her index finger in her mouth, take the wet digit out, and use it to rub the shmutz off my face. This was especially embarrassing when she rose from her seat, wet her finger, and rubbed my face as I walked down the aisle into my first holy matrimony.

My final great Yiddish word is ongepotchket (oon-ga-potch-kit). It’s Yiddish for, among other things, a hodgepodge of ugly items you don’t need, or in today’s vernacular, a “hot mess.” My husband, who is not Jewish, loves this word more than any other I’ve taught him. Every time we hear the commercial that asks if we need to learn a new language or acquire more stuff, I shout, “More stuff!”

He just grins at me with an air of satisfaction, clears his throat and says, “Our house is already ongepotchket.”

I’m not teaching him any more words.

— Judi Veoukas

Judi Veoukas started writing at age nine, when she penned greeting cards and sold a few for a nickel at her grandpa’s shiva, much to the consternation of her mother. Sadly, counting inflation, she is not earning much more as a writer now. Still her love of writing is equaled only by her love of chocolate. When she isn’t downing chocolate, she writes a humor column for two Chicago suburban newspapers, Lake County Suburban Life and Barrington Life, and submits to Funny Times (and has actually appeared in it twice). Much to her delight, she won an Illinois Press Association prize three times.  She was also a writing tutor for seven years at a community college with a varied curriculum. However, she couldn’t resist the desire to have students add humor to their papers. Assuring a student in “Intro to Surgical Technology” that humor would spice up his paper proved to be her undoing. Now she mostly hides in her office at home.

Caitlyn Jenner joins crowded Republican field running for president

Charles HartleyMy Fellow Americans:

Today I announce my candidacy, as a member of the Republican Party, for President of the United States in 2016. I hereby join the 48 other Republicans who have announced they are running for the Oval Office this election cycle.

For most of my life I have been a Democrat. This has been my public persona. But I have been untruthful to who I am in my heart of hearts. I am a Republican and I can’t hold this inside myself any longer.

I feel an uncontrollable urge to come out now with this personal news about my political bent. It’s time to switch, come home to my inner being.

There are three reasons why I want to be President:

First, I want to be the first to be born as a man who wins the Olympic Gold Medal in the Decathlon and then — 43 years later — reveals he wants to be a woman and has since he was a grade schooler. Being the first to do anything is always a plus, and this switch from man to woman is one of my competitive differentiators in the political market place. If you don’t have anything to sell, even if it’s not worth anything to anyone but yourself, you shouldn’t be a politician.

There are too many dishonest people in this world who go around being someone they are not. This country needs a President who stands for something and lives that belief. In my case that just happens to be that I was born a man and have in recent months begun a full-blown transition to become a woman. Not a man without a cause as is the main affliction of all the other candidates, I believe in my cause. It feels true to me and that’s all that matters.

The second reason I want to be President is so I can bring a new type of celebrity status to the highest office in the land. Whereas most Presidents get boring cover stories written about them in Time magazine and U.S. News and World Report, as President I will reach deeper into the mainstream of Americana. You can already see evidence of my pursuit in the most recent edition of Vanity Fair magazine where I am pictured on the cover. Have you seen me in my white dress and woman’s hair-do? Considering I’m really a man, I’m a pretty attractive woman.

While campaigning for the office, my media plan is to get more pictures of myself on covers of other magazines particularly tabloids and others you can buy off the rack near the grocery store at your local supermarket. The more magazine covers I get on, the more exposure it will get me. Any press is good press even if it’s because you’re a former Olympic Decathlete Gold Medal winner who grew a pony tail while the ne’er-do-well father on the Kardashians reality TV show, which was inspired by Satan. Yes, I have come out now as a woman and the press is eating my story for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All the Republican candidates are thrashing about. They’re talking about mundane issues such as border control, health care, and global warming. Americans are bored by those guys. They want to elect a man who becomes a woman and poses on covers of magazines in provocative poses.

My third reason for wanting to be President is so I can influence global social policies. The world is a different place than it was when I won the Decathlon in 1972. Those were simpler times. Since then the world has become more complicated. We need a President who is complicated. Complex problems can only be solved by a President who stands above everyone else in psychological and emotional complexity. I am that guy.

In the upcoming Republican debates, tune in to watch me. I will stand out in my dresses compared with all the suits standing at the podiums. Don’t worry what I say. Just check out how I look.

Sincerely,
Caitlyn Bruce Jenner

— 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.

A new home

Tracy BeckermanNationally syndicated humor columnist and author Tracy Beckerman has joined TAPinto.net.

Tracy Beckerman writes the syndicated humor column, LOST IN SUBURBIA® which is carried by over 400 newspapers and more than 250 websites and reaches an audience of nearly 10 million readers in 25 states.  She is also the author of two books, “Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs” and “Rebel without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs.” In addition to her column, Beckerman writes for Huffington Post Comedy and is a contributing columnist for Blogher.com.

Tracy has made frequent TV appearances including The Today Show, Live From the Couch,The CBS Early Show, The Balancing Act on Lifetime, Good Day New York, LX New York, and CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, to name a few, as well as numerous radio and print interviews speaking about motherhood and life in the ‘burbs.  She also does stand-up comedy and has appeared at venues including The Comic Strip Live in NYC and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton.

In 2010 she was voted “America’s Top Blogger” by The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television, and in 2011, she won a National Society of Newspaper Columnists award for humor writing. In 2014, Tracy was the Global Humor Award Winner of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Additionally, she is a past recipient of a Writer’s Guild of America Award and won a New York EMMY® for writing. Tracy is a three-time faculty member of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and is the vice president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. She is also vice president of the education foundation of the NSNC and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Regarding her new alliance with TAPinto.net, Beckerman said, “I’m truly thrilled to join TAPinto, the premiere online local newspaper in New Jersey. As a longtime New Providence resident, which also happens to be the birthplace of TAP, I’m especially excited to call TAP my new home. I’m looking forward to finding all the funny, ironic and uniquely absurd parts of being Lost in Suburbia and sharing them with the TAP readers each week.”

Michael Shapiro, CEO and publisher of TAPinto.net, said, “We are honored to have Tracy Beckerman join the TAPinto family. Since TAPinto.net is a network of online local newspaper franchises which are primarily owned and operated by women, many of whom are stay-at-home moms, Beckerman’s writing about being a stay-at-home mom and reinventing oneself particularly resonates with us. Tracy has a genuine gift for writing, and we are excited that she will now be sharing that gift with our 3.6 million readers.”

TAPinto.net, formerly TheAlternativePress.com, was founded by New Providence, N.J., residents Michael and Lauryn Shapiro, is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association and currently has over 3.6 million readers. The all-online hyperlocal news site boasts more than 50 columnists, a full-service community calendar, business directory and local real estate listings. The public can friend TAPinto.net on Facebook at Facebook.com/tapintolocal and can follow TAPinto.net on Twitter at Twitter.com/tapintolocal.

In addition, TAPinto.net is currently offering franchise opportunities in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Anyone interested in starting an online newspaper in their town is invited to click here for more information.

 

Defending America’s back-up underwear supply

Con ChapmanIt was an offhand comment, really.  If my head had been turned, I probably wouldn’t have heard it, but it wasn’t, so I did.  During a break in a long business meeting, a guy sitting across the table from me happened to let slip that he keeps a complete set of backup underwear — boxers, socks and undershirt — in his office.

I looked at the guy, and he looked back at me.  It was like the scene in Casablanca when the Nazis start singing “Die Wacht am Rhein” and Victor Laszlo asks the band to play ”La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.  he bandleader looks to Humphrey Bogart, playing Rick Blaine, who gives him the nod. Beneath the cynical exterior, we know whose side Rick is on.

Nations at peace traditionally prepare for the inevitability of war by stockpiling assets of critical importance, or supporting their production. The United States, for example, maintains an emergency fuel store of oil, known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We also subsidize mohair, so our boys in uniform will never be embarrassed as they climb out of a muddy trench half a world away to find that their outfit is tragically unfashionable.

Either that, or face a fast-talking, slow-walking, good-looking Mohair Sam, as Charlie Rich sang about — unarmed.

Canada, you may be surprised to learn, maintains a strategic reserve of maple syrup, which reached a high-syrup mark of 60 million pounds in 2004. No sneak attack by Al Qaeda is ever going to leave Canadians’ waffles and pancakes dry — no sirree bob!

But underwear reserves have historically slipped beneath the fabric of American life, to put it both literally and figuratively. At least one mother I know — mine — used to carry an extra set on long airplane flights to Hawaii. You never know when you’re going to overshoot Oahu and end up on a South Pacific island where underwear consists of palm leaves, tastefully arranged.

My underwear reserve, and that of my newfound brother under the skin across the table, is maintained for similarly practical reasons.  We both work out in the morning, and when you pack your bag the night before it is sometimes easy to forget a pair of socks, an undershirt or underpants while you’re contemplating how cute your wife looks in her Chilly Penguin Footed Pajamas. When you do, you have to walk around the office showing bare ankles, for example, while you wait for the nearest department store to open at 10 a.m.

“What’s with the no socks?” your boss asks. “That’s the look the well-dressed gentleman will be wearing this spring,” you say blithely as you walk down the hall while making mental calculations of the amount you’ll save on taxes next year when your salary goes down!

No, in these perilous economic times, it behooves every American breadwinner to keep an extra set of underwear on hand at the office.  Even if you don’t work out in the morning, what if the liquid natural gas tanker outside your window explodes, leaving you stranded downtown at the same time that it destroys all available underwear reserves in the surrounding metropolitan statistical area? Then where would you be?

I think you know the answer to that question.

And in answer to your other question — no, you can’t borrow my underwear.

— 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.

Letter to Zambia

Teri RizviTen University of Dayton students today arrived in Lusaka, Zambia, without their baggage but with hearts filled with anticipation about the adventure ahead.

“This trip is one that will be filled with hardship and challenges, but all of those will be equaled by the beauty, joy, laughter and love which will inevitably come to them,” trip leader Toby Hills ’15 wrote to parents this spring. “Your child is going to come away from this experience feeling absolutely blessed.”

Hills, now on his third service-learning trip to Zambia, encouraged parents to write letters that he will hand-deliver to the students. Here’s mine:

Dear Ali,

I wasn’t wild about your idea to spend six weeks in Zambia this summer — even though I couldn’t place the country on a map.

I now know this sparsely populated, impoverished land about the size of Texas is rich in culture and natural beauty. It’s the home of one spectacular waterfall that most of us will only marvel at in photos. And it enjoys a reputation as one of the safest countries in Africa.

These are all reassuring facts for an anxious mother to embrace as her 18-year-old makes an 8,000-mile journey around the world to live in a wondrous, new culture.

Unlike other countries in the region, Zambia has avoided an Ebola outbreak, but it lives with an HIV/AIDS epidemic. The statistics are staggering. A reported one in seven adults lives with HIV, with AIDS orphans making up half of all orphans in the country. In the villages, you’ll see children whose growth and brain development have been stunted by malnutrition. Families mourn the death of loved ones all too often.

This enormous health crisis in the midst of overwhelming poverty will open up your eyes to a world few Americans will ever experience. In the words of activist actor Martin Sheen, “Remember this above all: One heart with courage is a majority.”

I admire your courage.

At your age, I boarded an airplane for the first time in my life — not to travel to a developing nation toZambia group shot teach youth but to visit my grandmother in Florida and enjoy a week of beach living. Your summer will not be a walk on the beach as you sacrifice so much of what we take for granted. Daily showers. Reliable electricity. Ridiculously expensive coffee. Tweeting. “I need a break from the First World,” you said.

I admire your selflessness.

You are unlike many of your peers, who are chasing after a college degree like a carousel’s brass ring. You want more in life than just a piece of parchment and the economic security it promises. You want a life with meaning.

I admire your perspective.

This spring, I introduced you to my favorite author, Anne Lamott, who writes simply and eloquently about what it means to live a life that matters. Remember her words from a commencement address at Berkeley a decade ago? She told graduates, “Every single spiritual tradition says the same three things:

1) Live in the now, as often as you can, a breath here, a moment there.

2) You reap exactly what you sow.

3) You must take care of the poor, or you are so doomed that we can’t help you.”

I admire your compassion.

You are ready to change the world, but this trip will change you. After traveling 14 hours from the capital city of Lusaka to a remote village to teach children, you will struggle to return to the life you left.

“Once you go overseas and experience life in a different way, you are changed. And you can’t really come back to the life you had. You look at everything differently. Even little things like why are there 64,000 brands of toothpaste or peanut butter and then there are places where food doesn’t get to the people who need it. It just makes no sense and is overwhelming,” says my friend Ann Hudock, senior vice president of international programs for Plan International USA, who recently returned from living and working in Zambia.

Encouraged and supported by the Marianists at the University of Dayton, Ann boarded a plane for Sierra Leone after graduation. Her journey to Africa 25 years ago set her on a career path in international development that led to living in Hanoi and Lusaka.

“The rural areas in Zambia with grinding poverty and dispersed population make it so hard to change things,” Ann observes. “Yet there are amazing people doing just that. …But in big ways, experiences like this can make you rethink what you want to do in life. And, that’s wonderful but daunting.”

In life, we’re only promised the moment. Use this moment to immerse yourself in Zambia. Make new friends. Be open. Ask questions. Reflect. Read. Pray.

Above all, be yourself.  You are a gift to the world.

With much love and prayers,
Mom

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton.

Vaguebook to a writer’s rescue

Kate MayerBeen struggling a bit with the writing. My writing. To do or not to do.

Not with content; this is not writer’s block. I’ve got content, believe me. Everywhere I look life is screaming to be heard, stories aching to be told. Laughed at. Exposed. Teased, tormented, loved, shared. Told.

There are stories everywhere; it’s just hard to be funny when Texas is drowning. Hard to push gun safety when we are literally shooting ourselves to death every single day and Sandy Hook is turning into a “where? oh, there” afterthought for those outside our very fragile yet beautiful bubble.

Black folks are being trivialized and beaten and killed, and cops are being shot or ignored of their good work or acquitted of their bad and there’s no accountability and how can I just be funny when Kid3 is going to college and I’m left with a Boy who grunts his disgust and that’s if-and-only-if I somehow entice him into my presence. But he’s 15 now and this is all totally normal — I know that, it’s not my first teenage circus — and what am I complaining about when he’s a white boy protected by his skin from a life of injustice he can only experience on the news and lives here, in quiet, safe, secure Newtown with good schools and safe streets and cops are our friends and saviors when they’re not selling drugs from the privacy of their cubicle?

Sigh. That’s the inside of my brain. Today.

So, I don’t know whether to post or not to post. To submit my writing elsewhere and if so, how, when, to whom? And after how many rejections is it time to say Uncle? Do people even say uncle anymore?

So on my Facebook writer’s page, I vague-booked my lament with an oh-so-brief, woe-is-me pity post. Nothing like this which mirrors a diary-under-a-pillow-with-heart-shaped-lock-and-key circa middle school mayhem, but I can’t stop myself.

It was quick: just a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am quickie (see below). I posted without fear of being discovered because Facebook has an algorithm so “professional pages or writer pages or business pages” get seen by few to no one, unless I pay to “boost” it. Which I don’t because well, the vast majority of “likes” recruited will most likely be at family reunion correcting my spelling and ridiculing my ungodly obsession with restricting their God-given right to bear arms.

So I put my vaguebook pity party of one on the Kathryn Mayer facebook page: Why bother? Any of it? The funny? The family? The activism? Why keep laughing/shouting/crying in an empty room? I hit post, then signed off. Here’s how it went:

Screen Shot

So imagine my surprise when I found out the room is not so empty after all. Notice the reach of 737 people. Those are real people. Facebook says so. And you can’t see the comments here, but they’re ingrained in my heart and soul. For real. (And I’m only related to one of them. Maybe two.)

The comments, support, laughs, kudos were more than my heart could hold — all so very kind, so very positive, reminding me, like the whos in Whoville, “we’re here, we’re here!” Just keep writing, making us laugh, blush, cry and think.

Nothing vague about that.

I can’t even begin to tell you, oh invisible readers, friends, neighbors, strangers and writing mentors, how much this means to me, because there’s hundreds of me. Thousands upon thousands of writers writing and wondering if we do indeed matter.

Thanks for letting this one know she does.

—Kate Mayer

Kate Mayer is a writer in limbo, trying to find that delicate spot between writing what she loves and paying the bills. An irreverent storyteller with a bad mouth and big heart, she was selected to read at the 2012 NYC Listen To Your Mother Show. Today Kate is a forever ambassador for her home of Newtown, Conn., and dedicated advocate for gun violence prevention. She attended EBWW 2014 in a desperate search for her funny, and yet discovered so much more.

I hate my stomach

Charles HartleyI hate my stomach. Most people hate their stomachs. Look it up on Google.

Mine protrudes and is soft like an underinflated beach ball or, if you like, a misadventure into a dense, tangled forest. It is the definition of what health exercise scientists say a stomach should not be. They get published articles about this. Read about it if you want to get bored and feel bad about your stomach.

My stomach bulges. When I look down while standing up, I can’t see my toes because my belly is in the way. When I touch it, it feels like a bulging pillow that if you pricked with a pin would pop and ooze candy much like an off-white, undecorated piñata. My stomach feels as if it would be more comfortable to sleep on than a thin and beaten up one. Anybody would sleep soundly for eight hours resting their head on my belly.

I wish I had a muscular stomach. We can wish for many things in life but many we will never attain. Take being a billionaire. Many of us would like to be billionaire, but almost none of us will be, which is depressing.

About six months ago I was able to get my stomach to shrink a little bit. But even though I lost lots of weight, the stomach remained plump. My legs and thighs shrunk more noticeably.

“It’s all those years of eating fast food that got your stomach so big,” said my nutritionist, who has since fired me as a client because, well, I’m not sure why. My gut tells me in our meetings I got too argumentative, psychological and off topic, and he tired of that. “It will take a long time to undo all the building up of your stomach.”

This was not inspiring.

Shrinking my belly would require patience and time. I’m running out of both of those. We all are. Don’t you watch the evening cable TV talk shows? There you can hear all about this.

The thing about a stomach is when it’s thin, on a woman, it’s eye-candy especially on a beach in a bathing suit. Thin stomachs, especially tan ones, are jewels, almost as delicious as boardwalk caramel corn.

This summer my plan is to shrink my stomach, make it look like I’m a body builder. My plan will fall apart this afternoon when I take a nap after going to McDonalds for a Big Mac and chocolate shake.

My stomach will get bigger. My life will get shorter. My psyche will be damaged. My ego will take a hit.

And I will never see my toes again.

That stinks.

— 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.

Reflections of Erma