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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 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 — 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

“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?


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.

Rooting for my root canal

Ann_Green“Why is it that when people want to avoid something,” I asked my dentist, “they always say, ‘I’d rather have a root canal than {fill in the blank}?’”  “Years ago it was tough,” he responded. “But these days it’s like getting a tooth filled.” Oh, yeah, I thought, and I suppose you believe in the Tooth Fairy.   

Dr. G had just told me I needed to have my first root canal. The procedure is a cliché substitute for the word “pain.” I had to sink my teeth into the whole idea.

He referred me to an endodontist.  I often wonder what compels a person to choose a certain specialty in the medical world. Proctology comes to mind, also podiatry. Endodontics is another. Endodontists specialize in the study and treatment of dental pulp. Does someone dream about this in childhood or become inspired while flossing?  “Dr. S is very good,” Dr. G assured me. “She’ll take care of you.”

I made an appointment with Dr. S for the following week at 8 a.m. I was hoping to get it over with before I woke up. As I waited for the dreaded day, I tried to shut out the noise of other people’s monologues about their root canals, all horror stories. Nothing inspires confidence like the look of terror on someone’s face when you tell her that a root canal looms over your horizon.

The day came. I arrived at Dr. S’s office and was escorted to The Chair.  As I was lowered into a comfy upside down position, I announced, “I usually need at least twice the normal amount of Novocain.” This is actually true. I have to get at least a couple of shots before I’m numb. Then I walk around the rest of the day looking like I’ve had a stroke.

“Are you anxious?” asked Dr. S. Why lie? “Yes,” I admitted, cowardly but unashamed. She proceeded to apply something to my gum to unsuccessfully make the Novocain shot less painful, then shot away. A few minutes later she asked, “Is it getting numb?” “Not really.” She tested the tooth with a piece of ice, which I could definitely feel. She gave me a second shot and allowed time for numbing. Then more ice. Which I could still feel. A third shot, ditto. A fourth shot, an encore performance. “Is your lip numb?”  she asked, disappointed.  “A little,” I said, “but I can feel the ice.” And I was seeing double, a whole new experience for me.

Dr. S. called it a day. She speculated that the tooth was infected and inflamed. Perhaps we could have ascertained that earlier, I thought. She wrote out prescriptions, including Amoxicillin and Valium, the latter to be taken an hour before the procedure. I was afraid to drive so I called a friend to pick me up.

For the next couple of weeks my jaw hurt where the four shots had bulls-eyed my gum. Dr. S’s office left a message about rescheduling. I waited a while before responding.

Returning once again to The Chair a few weeks later, I mentioned that the shot spot in my mouth still hurt. “Hmmm,” said Dr. S.,” maybe we should wait a while. I’ll write out another prescription in case it’s still infected.” Oh well, the Valium had proven useless anyway. We made yet another appointment. So the morning wouldn’t be a total loss, I wandered over to a nearby Chico’s and picked up some great bargains.

Back in The Chair two weeks and two prescriptions later, I was really feeling the Valium this time. At least something was working. After a few more shots and the comment that she’d never seen a tooth like this — a very encouraging remark indeed — Dr. S. got down to work to root out whatever needed to be rooted.

There followed some drilling, scraping and picking. And before you could say “How good is your dental insurance?” it was over. I assumed this was just Part I. “You’re all set,” announced the assistant. “That’s it?” I asked, surprised. “I’ve had a root canal?” I’d spent more than a month dreading this, and it turns out that having my gum pierced was the worst part.

There is the matter of four follow-up appointments with my dentist, but that should be a piece of cake.

“This is the way the world ends,” wrote T.S. Eliot, “Not with a bang but with a whimper.” And so my adventure in dental pulp. Now I get to tell everyone my horror story.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Watch out for flying objects

Kathy RadiganThroughout my life, in good times and challenging ones, I’ve always been comforted by signs.

Whether it’s hearing my favorite song come on when I’m feeling a little sad, or getting a call from an old friend at a particularly difficult point in my life, I’ve always seen these events as the way God or the universe communicates with me and lets me know I’m not alone.

About seven years ago, I was going through one of my lowest, or at least most stressful times in my life.

Our daughter Lizzy was going through a particularly difficult period.

Her special needs have never been clearly diagnosed despite taking her to every doctor and specialist imaginable. Several MRIs showed significant brain damage, but no one could tell us what the findings meant.

Sometimes it looked as if she might be okay and would be able to function in a typical classroom with just a little extra help. Other times it seemed as if she was getting worse and we would get tests results that suggested we were dealing with something far more serious, perhaps even life threatening.

Lizzy was in kindergarten, and her behaviors were stumping her doctors, the school district and her teachers. She was having a horrible time in her classroom, and I didn’t know where to turn, or what to do with her.

After some of her behaviors suggested she was having seizures, she was scheduled to have a 48-hour EEG in the hospital.

To make this time even more stressful, my father had a brain aneurism, and he was scheduled to have his surgery about a week after LIzzy’s stay in the hospital.

My father had become extremely important to me, not just as my dad. He was also my main support in helping me handle life with my kids.

We were not just dealing with Lizzy’s significant issues. I had therapists coming in and out of my house for two-year-old Peter, who was getting early intervention services for speech and developmental delays. Our oldest child, Tom, was getting vision and occupational therapy for his dyslexia and dysgraphia. It was very chaotic.

My husband has a long commute and is gone from 6 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night, and my mom’s work as a real estate broker keeps her very busy. My dad had become my most trusted support system.

I could always depend on him to watch one of the kids, lend me an extra hand or make me laugh.

His condition was very serious, and I was terrified that I could lose him.

I pride myself on being pretty strong, but how much more could I take?

It was the day before Lizzy’s test, and I was running around getting everything ready so that I could leave Joe and the boys home for the weekend while I stayed with Lizzy for the two nights she would be in the hospital.

In the midst of my rushing around, I stopped for a second to catch my breath and relax for a minute. I was looking out our front window when I started to sob.

Crying does not come easily for me. I can count on my hands the times I’ve had an ugly cry.

But here I was, in my living room crying like a baby.

Through my tears I started to pray, well actually beg, for answers and strength. I desperately needed a sign that I could handle all that was on my plate.

I continued to sob when all of sudden I heard a loud thump, almost a crash, that stunned me out of my tears.

The noise seemed to come from the bay window, but I could see nothing.

I went outside to find a bird lying dead on my front patio.

Yes, as I was sobbing and begging for a sign from God, a bird crashed into my window.

One minute I was sobbing, and an instant later I was laughing.

I called my dad and explained what had just happened.

Now we were both laughing.

“Kathy, that little bird gave up his life for you. You must give him a proper burial.”

Which I did, laughing the whole time. I even managed to get him buried before the kids came home from school and Peter woke up from his nap.

As it turned out, my dad’s surgery was a success. And though the EEG did not give us any more answers into what was wrong with Lizzy, I was able to get her into a program that worked much better for her.

And for the record, no bird has flown into that window again.

— Kathy Radigan

Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog,  My dishwasher’s possessed! and has had her writing featured in What to Expect, BlogHer, Mamapedia, and other publications. She is a contributing author to Sunshine After the Storm: a survival guide for the grieving mother and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google.

It’s a book!

This is a clever way to announce the “birth” of a book:

Kin We're Not Related ToIt took a bird, a photographer, a writer, an “I’ve never attended a writing workshop in my life and everyone’s going to know it” gal from Texas, EBWW 2010 and an alignment of the stars to bring these two writers together.

Two years later at EBWW 2012, a whine was added, some wine was consumed and Mabel and MayBelle were born.

It took less than a year for their story to be written, more than a year to edit it, a thousand or more e-mails back and forth, a couple of editors, an artistic daughter-in-law, more wine — and the book was born.

birth announcement

Jody Worsham and Wanda M. Argersinger, the proud parents, are shouting from the top of pine trees, selling from the tailgates of their vehicles, giving away bookmarks — and still drinking wine.

Help them celebrate their birth of their first joint book, Kin We’re Not Related To As Told By Mabel and Maybelle.

Never judge a person by their baggage

Holly Kelsey-HenryI haven’t always travelled light. The first time I went overseas I brought two large suitcases with me. I have no idea why I thought I needed to go abroad anchored down by 80 kilos of shoes, shirts, skirts, scarves and earrings. But nevertheless, I was prepared for everything from a flood to a gala at Parliament House.

It took me all of 12 minutes to realize this was a bad idea and I haven’t looked back since. Now I travel light. No matter where I go, I go with a backpack. My mom and sister-in-law and I went to London with backpacks and I just returned from a seven-states-in-nine-days’ journey with a backpack. Seriously, I wanted for nothing that wasn’t in my meager sidesaddle and have learned to be a really industrious packer.

Which is why, as you might have guessed, I am now a very judgmental  airport person. For instance, during my recent journey I was squished into a United Airlines Airbus with a guy who boarded with golf clubs, two infant seats and a trophy. I’m not making this up. How he got past Joan Crawford at the gate is totally beyond me, because she took my backpack away from me claiming it wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin.

Now what I know about golf you could stack on a postage stamp and still have room for what I know about baseball, but this guy had like 18 clubs. How many clubs does it take to hit a little ball around?

The real kicker was when a gal that resembled and talked just like Fran Drescher from “The Nanny” came on board with a pink bag the size of the District of Columbia and tried to jam it under the seat. The flight attendant graciously moved Fran over to an empty seat, next to . . . me. The lady across the aisle tucked her tiny wallet into the seat pocket in front of her and smirked.

With an exasperated sigh, Fran began telling me about her trip, how she left LA and missed another connecting flight because hers was delayed because they had to return to the gate so maintenance could fix an empty seat that would not recoil to the upright position. She  began her journey at 4 a.m. and would end it in Milwaukee at around midnight. She told me about a guy she fell in love with, her career aspirations, how she really wanted to be a wife and mother more than anything else and about her parents who had been together since they were 15.

For about the first 30 seconds I hated her for her big pink bag. I had categorized her as “Selfish Pink Bag Lady” who was filed in the same column as “Golf Buffoon with Clubs.”

As I listened  she finally told me that when she went to check her bag they decided she shouldn’t have her laptop and several other items in there and that really, she was trying NOT to bring stuff on board. They said it weighed too much and threatened to charge her $100, so she whipped out her big pink bag (everyone has one right?) and started jamming things in it to bring on board. The plane weighed exactly the same with her stuff split between cargo-hold and economy, but there are important rules made up by these people who won’t let you carry on a nail file, but allow scalding coffee to be served at 30,000 feet.

In the end I found myself liking Fran. She was young and sweet and funny and seemed to enjoy my oldness and wisdom. We hugged goodbye and I later received a lovely message from her thanking me for my encouragement and advice (even though she wasn’t going to take it.)

As I stood at the luggage carousel I noted a small older lady attempting to hoist her extra large suitcase off the belt. Instantly, I judged her, but offered to help anyway.

“Toys for the grandkids,” she muttered, almost embarrassed at the girth of her cargo. “I only see them once a year.”

I stood and took in my moment of shame and reminded myself that my habit of judging people by their luggage was rather silly. Some people have backpacks, some people have neat little wallets they can tuck in the seat pocket in front of them and others have jumbo American Touristers stashed in the cargo hold.

But this much is for sure, we all have baggage . . .

— Holly Kelsey-Henry

Holly Kelsey-Henry is the owner of DownWrite Creative in Wisconsin and makes her living as a writer — some days more profitably than others. She is a former award-winning journalist and still writes for newspapers and magazines.

Reflections of Erma