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Channeling Erma

Lynda ZielinksiDear Erma,

It’s that time again. The Erma Bombeck Contest. I’ve got nothing.

I need your help. No, you don’t know me, but we were practically neighbors. You were cranking out columns in Dayton; I was devouring them in Columbus. Close enough. I had your words magnetized to my refrigerator door:

In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.

Funny! Then. I hate to say it, but these days a joke like that could get you slammed. Is she making light of yo-yo dieting? A heavy topic. (Yes, I’m not above using puns.) Let me tell you, it’s hard being a humor writer now. I’m wondering if I should even enter the contest. This would be my third shot at it.

I am qualified. I read everything you ever wrote. Back when the kids were little and napping I’d grab a soup-sized cup of oolong tea, plop on the sofa and read. That was afternoon delight. I remember:

The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again.

Funny! I had to swallow hard to keep tea from squirting out my nose.

If only the members of my writers group had the same problem. They sip with complete composure when reading my offering. One little chortle would be balm to the wound inflicted by that grim bunch, those mirthless uber-critics. (Most of them unpublished, let me add.)  I run the gauntlet of their verbal blows:

“Tense shifts. Confusing pronouns. Too many hyphens.” And finally: “Is this a story? It doesn’t have a plot!”

I respond with the most humiliating words a humor writer can utter:

It’s supposed to be funny.”

Writing can be unnerving. You know. You almost gave up writing once when some “academia nut” didn’t get you. But we did. You understood us. You kept us sane. You said:

Housework done right will kill you.

“Ain’t that the truth,” we answered.

Writers don’t go in for plain truth telling. They go for spin and glitz. Shock and sensation. At most, they want to be “compelling.”

I’m learning. There’s no excuse not to, with all the Internet programs, magazines and how-to-books out there. They make it sound easy. “We’ve helped thousands stand out from the crowd, get their unique voices heard!” (Huh?) “Unleash the muse! Push the boundaries! Stretch the envelope!” (How about avoiding the cliché?)

I found a book that promised to take the mystery out of grammar. Why not? Strunk and White are dead, after all. They won’t be asking: “Mystery? What?”

Publishers encourage writers to join critique groups. I understand. What better way to create a need for those how-to books? I’ve bought a few myself. Some are helpful. But why are the humor books so morose? Now there’s a mystery.

I joined an elite writers group, all MFA’s. These are the erudite elbows I need to rub, I figured. A young man read his story. It’s about rubbing a toe. No, it doesn’t lead to anything risqué. Sorry. It’s about a father and young son. The pair are chatting amicably in the bathroom, when suddenly, inexplicably, the father implodes, leaving nothing behind but his big toe. (I think it was the right. Not sure.)

The toe lies on the bathroom floor. The son picks it up. He sticks it in his pant pocket and, without telling anyone, carries it everywhere, perhaps as a good luck memento, like a rabbit’s foot. As the tale continues the boy not only carries the toe he conceals, he also clutches, cuddles, claws and caresses it. Maybe the kid carried around a thesaurus, too. I don’t know. I stopped listening.

Everyone loved it.

“Fresh.” “Evocative.” “Powerful.” And, of course: “Compelling!”

I got distracted, Erma. I mean, where was the boy’s mother? I could understand not noticing a missing father. But a bloody stain on a kid’s pocket! Who wouldn’t notice that?

Didn’t the boy leave the nasty thing lying around sometimes? Maybe on his dresser or under the bed? You know how kids are.

I dropped out.

I know you stopped writing once, too, but then that special man came along, someone you admired and respected, who said the three magic words you longed to hear. (No, not those words.)

“You can write!”

That’s all it took. You wrote 15 books and received numerous honorary degrees.  Plus you traveled coast to coast promoting the Equal Rights Amendment.

There’s something you couldn’t get away with now, not in these times. Your agent wouldn’t let you. He’d wail: “Erma Bombeck, you’re a brand name! You’re an icon. Don’t do this to me! It’s bad enough you won’t endorse products.”

Yes, you were a class act. These days it’s all about money. They’d make you promote grass seeds and septic tanks. But now to the point: Please send some good vibes my way. There’s still time. I’ll come up with something compellingly funny. Maybe I’ll win, get published, get a byline or make enough to buy more how-to books.

Thanks Erma — for everything.

— Lynda Zielinski

Lynda Zielinksi has switched careers frequently in what may appear to be a determined effort to spiral downward in remuneration. A former teacher, social worker and antiques dealer, she has finally hit bottom — a free-lancer. This year she is taking a stab at the Erma Bombeck writing contest. Her third. Poor thing, she just keeps at it. Wish her luck.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight

Linda WolffSitting at 36,000 feet above ground is not my favorite place to be. It takes a lot to get me airborne. The 24 hours before any flight is filled with tremendous anxiety and a need to finish every project ever imagined. I’m like a whirling dervish, coordinating and packing my tiny carry-on at the very last possible minute, because only that kind of frenzy can take my mind off the F word — Flying.

Don’t get me wrong — I love to travel. I just hate the crowds and commotion of airports, and flying in general. Long lines, stripping down and unpacking for TSA, and finding my “terminal” add to my already heightened anxiety. Terminal? Couldn’t they have thought that one out just a minute or two longer and used a more life-affirming word instead?

Before I board the plane I have my rituals. I kiss the finger tips on my right hand and press them to the outside of the plane as I cross the threshold. It looks like I’m petting the plane. Once inside, I give a quick peek into the cockpit to make sure the pilots look busy, fit and sober.

Then, I find my seat and immediately take out my stash of glossy magazines, snack bag and my low-dose Xanax, which I break into teeny-tiny pieces so I can pop them into my mouth like Tic-Tacs at the first sign of turbulence. I take my first one before takeoff as a preemptive strike. I do this until I’m feeling good — not Kristin Wiig in “Bridesmaids” feeling good — but just enough to take the edge off. Of course, I’m still in control, because you never know, they might need me to help fly the plane.

When the pilot comes on PA system and says “Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight,” I almost laugh out loud. Yeah, right! Just get me there in one piece I whisper under my breath. Years ago, I didn’t self medicate. I would sit there crying silently, paralyzed with fear, with a death grip on the armrests or the unlucky person next to me. Naturally, I did not want my kids to see me like this or pass my fear onto them or have a heart attack from the stress. Xanax became my trusty travel companion.

So as soon as the flight attendant says it’s safe to do so, I plug the iPod into my ears, listen to soothing music and I pray — especially if there is turbulence — because at this point, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt. I also keep an eye on the flight attendants’ faces to judge how we’re faring.

When we hit the halfway mark on a flight, something inside me signals we’re home-free, because any flight that’s half over means they’ve pretty much got a handle (no pun intended) on what they’re doing by now. (I’m sure you can understand the deep logic in that.) You can almost hear me squeal, “Yay, we’re going to make it!” I become positively giddy. If I’m listening to music, there may actually be some shoulder bobbing at this point. I might even look out the window and marvel at the fluffy clouds and clear blue sky and wonder if this is what heaven looks like. I blame the euphoria on the fact I’m still alive. (And clearly, the Xanax has kicked in.)

Like a lot of women, I didn’t become afraid of flying until I became a mom. Yes, I know statistics show that flying is safer than driving, and air travel is currently the safest it’s ever been, but somehow that is lost on me while trapped in a small space at 36,000 feet.

If flying is so safe, then why are people always saying “Safe travels!”? Just say “See ya” or give me a wave, and pass me the Xanax.

— Linda Wolff

Linda Wolff writes the blog Carpool Goddess where she shares her adventures from carpool to empty nest. She no longer drives carpool, but that’s our little secret. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, Scary Mommy, Better After 50, Generation Fabulous and others. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Glow sticks

Stacia EllermeierOne day after daycare/work/school there was a package at our door for the kids. They get all kinds of goodies, but nana got super points that day for the glow sticks. Kids love this crap. A tube that glows. Who thinks of this stuff?!

The kids were stinking up something fierce so I thought it would be fun to do something I found on Pinterest, interwebs or somewhere I can’t remember where. You take the glow sticks into the bath and turn out the lights.

Water + glow sticks = SUPA FUN TIMES!

I threw Ava and EZ in the bathtub in the bathroom that we never use because all the crap is upstairs — like towels and soap. I wasn’t thinking, man. I was going on autopilot because “THEY ARE GOING TO LOOOOVE THIS. THIS IS THE COOLEST IDEA EVER!!! LOOK AT ME BEING SPONTANEOUS!”

EZ bumped the faucet handle while I was helping Ava got undressed, and he started screaming. Ice cold water was pouring into the tub and EZ was hauling ass out by himself. He was only two and couldn’t get out without flinging water all over. Freezing cold water was everywhere.

I finally get the water right and throw gently place them back in the tub. EZ was still screaming to get out but “YOU ARE GOING TO LOOOVE THIS… so stay in kid.” I gave them the glow sticks and warned them that I’m turning out the lights.

I warned them! Do they listen? Sigh.

EZ started to scream even louder, which made Ava scream. Both were trying to get out of the tub, and there was even more water on the floor. I convinced Ava to stay in because “I PROMISE TO NOT TURN OFF THE LIGHTS AGAIN… JEEZ!”

I dried EZ off with a hand towel and let him roam naked while I went to get him a diaper and pajamas. I’m gone for maybe 10 seconds and find that EZ peed on the floor in the hallway. Are you serious?

That is exactly when Ava decided she wanted out of the tub because she bit into one of the glow sticks and it was leaking everywhere. “Mother of ?%@*!”

I had to run back upstairs to get her a towel and clothes, run back down, throw her the towel, wrangle EZ into a diaper. So help me, God, if you poop on the floor…

That’s when I checked out of being a parent for the night. We had popcorn for dinner and watched a movie. THAT is why I’m not a spontaneous person. It wrecks my damn nerves. I am a planner and proud of it!

— Stacia Ellermeier

Stacia Ellermeier is a self-awarded mother-of-the-year and Target-aholic, who regularly writes on her blog Dried-on Milk. She is a graphic designer, mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister and is one crazy chick who likes to find humor in the most mundane things in life. Stacia was a 2013 Blogger Idol Top 4 finalist. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Resolutions vs. reality

Janene DuttSo, last year I actually wrote a New Year’s Resolutions list for 2013.  I just came across it and decided to share a few of them along with updates on how well I fared.

Resolution #1: I will begin an exercise regimen that includes aerobic activity 5x per week and strength training 3x per week. Right. On second and more realistic thought, perhaps I will just stop circling parking lots to try and get the space next to the handicapped stall so I don’t have to walk as far. And does trying to move the dead weight of a sleeping 75-pound Labrador from my space on the couch every night over to the next cushion count as strength training?  I vote yes.

UPDATE: I signed up to run a half-marathon last spring.  Paid the fee and everything. Unfortunately, I did not actually run the half-marathon, nor show up at all.  But it was months of great fun pretending and imagining I was going to do it. In November of 2013 I did go on a walk. There was a hill and I got tired. That’s about it for 2013. And we got a new couch, which the dog is not allowed on, so my strength training program also went out the window. Damn.

Resolution #2: I will force each of my three children to have one serving of a fruit OR vegetable every day. That’s right, pediatricians and supermoms, I said one serving per kid. I’m sick of throwing away peas. Don’t judge.

UPDATE: Success!  My 5-year old added carrots to her approved food list in 2013.  Perhaps they are cooked and smothered in butter and brown sugar, but underneath all the sweet goo they are still carrots. It counts. Again, don’t judge.

Resolution #3: I will finally part with my maternity underwear even though it is comfy and stretchy and is the only article of clothing I own that used to be too small and is now too big. Sigh.

UPDATE: They’re gone. It was bittersweet. However, my paper-thin, soft, 12-year-old stretchy maternity pajama pants were not part of the deal. Those stayed and will stay until they cause me physical harm.  I say this because I was wearing them yesterday morning and the bottoms are all ripped and somehow they got caught in part of the vacuum cleaner and I kind of had to fight my way out of a crazy situation.  But I escaped unscathed and we’re still good, me and my shredded pajama pants.  Just got to be a little more careful around appliances in the future, I guess.

Resolution #4: Just once, I will go to Costco and buy ONLY the items on my list. Note to self: add Giant Churro to list.

UPDATE:  I totally did it!  In October I went to Costco and purchased only a tub of mini coffee cakes. I know, you’d think my one item would’ve been something more essential, like toilet paper, but truly, I needed those mini coffee cakes more. And I’m not counting the 14 samples I scarfed down while proudly strolling through Costco with my one item because those were all FREE.

Resolution #5: I will throw away every mate-less sock in my laundry room instead of constantly being convinced the other one has GOT to turn up in the next load.  Reminder to Google “scientific theories on where the hell the other sock goes.”

UPDATE: I can’t do it.  There are currently 13 mate-less socks in my laundry room. What can I say? I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to this conundrum. I just cannot give up on those poor missing socks. I vote we give the damn Nobel Prize to whatever genius can figure this one out.

Resolution #6: I will conquer my fear of spiders, lice, sharks, vomiting, public restroom door handles (honestly, I find it INCREDIBLE that fully functioning adult women do not wash their hands after using a public restroom. And turning the water on for two seconds and then grabbing a paper towel does NOT count as hand washing.  I can hear you from my stall and you’re not foolin’ anyone). I will also conquer my fear of having to purchase something at the grocery store from the top shelf, which I cannot reach without a full-scale climbing mission, paying full-price for something because I forgot my coupon…. On second thought, this list is getting a bit overwhelming so perhaps just enlist the help of a therapist to determine why I have so many neuroses.

UPDATE: I have conquered nothing. I am still terrified of every single thing on that list plus let’s now add giant raccoons to the mix thanks to our new locale in the creepy woods.  Screw hiring a therapist. I may now have enough issues to actually BECOME one.

Resolution #7: I will stop playing the “how far can I REALLY go when my gas light is on?” game even though I hate getting gas. Where else do people wait in line to buy something you can’t see, touch or wear, that smells bad, is hazardous and supports either the destruction of natural resources or imperialistic rich nations? Getting gas just sucks.

UPDATE: This was an easy fix. We bought an all-electric car. We just plug it into the wall every night — it has no engine, no tailpipe, no gas tank.  Sure, we can only drive 60 miles before it has to be charged again and actually only half that if you put the heat or a/c on.  But so what? We literally live on an island.  And it does take 24 hours to charge. And it’s really, really, small. So small it might look like a clown car when all 5 of us stumble out of it. But I don’t care. Because not getting gas is awesome.

Resolution #8: I will not charge anything on my credit card that costs less than $3. Except when in the vicinity of a Krispy Kreme doughnut store or trapped in a parking garage at my doctor’s (“sorry, we don’t validate”) office.

UPDATE: I am discarding this resolution. I hate using cash. I hate cashiers giving me a handful of potentially virus-ridden coins and dollar bills that were just stuffed in somebody else’s pants. Background: my grandfather washed his money. Literally like laundry, with the bills hung up on a clothesline to dry. When I was a kid and went into the basement and saw the crisp money hanging there drying, I thought, “wow, that’s so cool” Then, as I got older, I thought, “wow, that’s really weird.”  But now I think he was on to something. Money is dirty and gross, and so I’m sticking with my shiny clean credit card that only I touch, end of story.

Resolution #9: I will stop making excuses to justify buying Groupons that I will never use.  Am I really going to go on a Segway tour of my local beach city, which upon further thought would involve a RENTAL helmet and a high-risk lice situation? Hell, no. Half price at a paint-your-own ceramics studio?  Sure, the kids had fun for 15 minutes, and I paid $45 for three little random ceramic animals. What a steal. 95% off tattoo removal? SUCH a great deal but first I would have to A) get a tattoo and B) grow to hate my tattoo. 75% off a storage unit rental?  Fabulous, I can use it to store all my unused Groupons.

UPDATE: In January of 2013 I simply clicked “Unsubscribe” and kicked this resolution’s ass!

— Janene Dutt

Janene Dutt is brand-new blogger who has no legitimate writing experience to speak of and was, therefore, panicked when asked to write this bio. She recently relocated from Southern California to a small island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Her mother said her blog was funny so she now has grandiose and delusional dreams of becoming the next Erma Bombeck. You can read about her experiences at

It’s there. Somewhere.

Maggie MillusI haven’t written for a week.  Is it because the ideas, the creativity, just aren’t there?

It would be nice if I could squeeze ideas out of my head like toothpaste. I just can’t think of anything, and when I do, it’s at the most inopportune time. Like in the middle of the night, when I have insomnia.

I lie there, staring at the ceiling, and then the creativity hits.  In bits and pieces. If I look hard enough, I might actually see sentence fragments on the ceiling, in a sea of darkness.

I gotta get up and write something down, even if it’s only one thing at a time. Let’s see…where is that piece of paper?  Oh, I know, out on the dining room table. If only I can make it out there without waking my husband, Howard. Turn on the lights? Not going to happen. Breaking my toes on the corner of the bed frame? Making that loud phalangeal crunch? Stifling a bone-chilling  yell? Yes, yes, yes. But that’s not writing. Yet.

Sometimes I get an inspiration for which I don’t have words.  I want to write something that I can’t articulate. It’s probably deep inside the non-verbal side of my brain, the right side according to neurological experts.

Right side?  What a misnomer.  Seems to me that it can’t be right if I can’t write about it. This must be the kiss of death for a writer. If I can’t describe it, how can it possibly even be there?  Does the idea or inspiration really even exist? Like a one-handed cap in the woods, who can sense it?  I can feel my left brain’s frustration. It’s as if it wants to reach  into my right brain for a good chokehold on what I should be saying.

Maybe it’s my writing environment. It should be conducive to writing, right?  For me that would be orderly, organized and aesthetic. Maybe I need a good view of the ocean, or a garden with lots of flowers and trees. Not! I write at our dining room table.

In better times, I cranked out two books on that table. But back then, it wasn’t so cluttered. Now I could spend a whole week clearing off its clutter.  I guess I would have a good excuse for not writing — for that one week anyway.

I could consult the supernatural for inspiration. Maybe I should go to a séance. But Halloween is over and besides, I might run into my deceased mother who would tell me to go get a real job. Nothing like family disapproval  to squelch inspiration.

I know. I’ll find an astrology website for writers. I can hardly wait. But what if It tells me I’m too indecisive to decide on a topic, that I’m just  an insecure Libran who needs help because she can’t decide what to write about.  But that’s not me. I mean, how can you be indecisive about your writing if you are not writing?

Creativity comes in so many forms. What to do? I know. I think  I’ll get my laptop out and just type whatever comes out of my mind. If it has syntax and makes sense, maybe I can call it writing.

— Maggie Millus

Maggie Millus writes humor and blogs at Barmy Bottom Hollow. She lives in South Florida, where she has taught high school science for more than two decades.  She left teaching to write full time and regain her sanity.

My mom is red hot. Your mom ain’t diddly squat.

Alisa SchindlerEvery day, I look at my reflection and think, I remember that girl’s younger sister. Every day, I see small little changes. Laugh lines that aren’t funny. Freckles that have turned to the dark side.

Every day I look at my mom and wonder how the hey she’s aging in reverse while I’m speeding light years ahead.

Why is she rolling up her shorts, while I won’t even wear a pair?

How does she go to the gym every day, play tennis and go dancing at night, while I’m exhausted just running away from my children?

I honestly don’t know if there’s ever been a 65-year-old woman so…cute.

Even as she registered herself for Medicare, the woman behind the counter, probably 20 years her junior, gushed, “Stop it! You’re not 65 years old! You’re just the cutest thing.”

My mother smiled coyly and showed her license. Yeah, she’s sexy, too.Mom

Having an adorable, sexy mom is not an easy thing for a girl starting middle age. Okay, fine, it wasn’t easy for a girl starting high school, either.

Everywhere we go, people are always assuming we’re sisters. That would be fine if I could at least be the hot one, but it’s no guarantee. Because while I may be younger, she’s still MaryAnn with a side of Ginger from Gilligan’s Island, and I’m, uh, the Professor? It’s just how it is.

Still, she continues to try to ‘hotten’ me up.

For as long as I can remember, she’s been unbuttoning my blouse to show off a little more, reminding me to put on lipstick and fixing my hair.

I, of course, decided to never wear lipstick, or brush my hair, and for a while took to wearing large prairie dresses. I still kind of like them. Sue me.

She brings me white strips for my teeth every three months and sexy low-cut tops to wear going out.

She is no longer allowed near me with a tweezer.

Not too long ago, she took one of her pretty manicured nails and pointed at the crease between my brows. “I can have that fixed,” she said with the cutest giggle.

“Mom!” I said, a little too defensively, gnawing on an unpolished nail, “Maybe I don’t want to be fixed.”

She giggled again. “Okay. You let me know.”

Sigh. I will.

Because even though I naturally try to resist her wily ways, her hotness is a blessing. It makes me try a little harder. Run a little farther. Without her, my teeth wouldn’t be as gleaming. and my cleavage would never come out to say hi.

So today, I honor my forever young mom who’s helping me to age the best I can.

— Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog Her essays have been featured on and as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest.  She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.

I can see your dirty pillows

Lisa PackerIt’s finally time to face a hard truth.

My dog has an addiction that has gotten out of control. I’m ready to admit we need help. Help from Pillows-Anon.

I’m not sure when the problem started, but I know it started off fairly innocently. Sure, he’d comfort himself  with the occasional stuffed animal or decorative throw pillow. Who doesn’t? But then, he started  stealing the pillows off our beds, and that’s when it got real.

VP walked into the bedroom  the other day and spied the dog having his way with one of the pillows from our bed. “Aaaagghh! Don’t let him do that to my pillow! My face touches that!”

“What do you want me to do about it?” I grumbled, bored with the conversation already and eager to get back to perusing unattainable hairstyles on Pinterest.

“I don’t know, but this…this is your fault! You’re an enabler!” he shouted, pulling the slobber-covered pillow from the dog’s maw.

“It’ll be fine,” I countered. “Just change the pillow case, and it’ll be good as new.”

I looked at the dog and murmured, “Take it easy on the pillows, buddy. You’re one step away from…from…being busted down to a lower-priced gourmet dog food! Yeah, that’s right. There’s grain meal in your future if you don’t cut this out.”

See, all of the human members of the family take their sleep, and, thus, their pillows very seriously.  VP and Magpie sleep with two apiece. I require a squashy down pillow. The Boy prefers a pillow that stays fluffy after it’s plumped. And Lucy has her special full-body pillow with her name embroidered on the case, a gift from my sister.

All of which is thrown into chaos, chaos I tell you, when someone’s pillow gets stolen off their bed by a weak-willed Weimaraner. And since we never know exactly where he’s hidden his stolen stash, it’s like a domino effect.

At bedtime, the first person to realize they are sans pillow steals one from someone else’s room. And so it goes. Until the poor sap who is last in bed (Okay, it’s me. I’m usually the poor sap)  resorts to attempting to steal one from under a sleeping child’s head, reasoning that “He won’t even notice! This kid could sleep through a playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium!” Which only works until said child wakes up and gives me an accusing glare, causing me to slink out of the room in shame.

To say nothing of settling in for the night, putting your head on your pillow, and finding it wet and stained with dog slobber. In the beginning, it was nothing really. It started off as more  of a social thing, like how he would grab a pillow as soon as company came in the door, you know, to help him relax. Or maybe a Webkinz to help him unwind at the end of a long day.When he was a puppy, it was kind of cute, actually. Now he’s a full-blown addict, sneaking off the minute our backs are turned to snag a down-alternative side sleeper or even a Symphonic Harmony 600 thread count in Luxury King.

He’s even sunken to stealing from his own grandparents. You heard that  right. My parents were packing their car for a trip, and he snuck into the back of the car and stole a pillow, running laps around the house with it until he was finally caught. We tried to have an intervention, but he just yawned and started licking his own naughty bits.

He’s obviously in deep denial.  He thinks he doesn’t have a problem, but when he’s violating his latest fluffy conquest, the look in his glazed-over eyes whispers, “I can’t quit you!” How long before he hits rock bottom? How long before we find him passed out in a pile of feathers and shredded but Supremely Soft 100% Breathable Egyptian Cotton?

I’d ask him, but he just wandered off for some foreplay with my daughter’s Pillow Pet.  Not to worry, though. I’ve got Dr. Phil on speed dial.

— Lisa Packer

Lisa Packer is a humor writer, freelance copywriter and blogger. Her blog, Notes from the Shallow End, was a Top Ten finalist for Blogger Idol 2013. She lives with her husband and three children in Cincinnati.

All shook up

Connie BerryIt was the late 1970s and I was dabbling with wearing a scarf on my head like Rhoda Morgenstern. I was into “Dust in the Wind” and “Slip Slidin’ Away,” but my older sister, my aunts and my mom were all caught up in the great Elvis impersonator craze of 1978. Try as they might they couldn’t bring Elvis back, but they sure had a great time trying.

We lived outside of St. Louis, which is — and I don’t know if you are aware of this — home to one of the best Elvis impersonators of all time. He played at area dinner theatres and theme parks and I’m pretty sure he still does, which is an obvious testament to his skill. The female members of my family ate this up like gooey butter cake on Easter Sunday.

I went along one night when he played at a dinner theatre near where we lived. I should have been the designated driver because I was of driving age and too young to drink, but this was long before we worried about such things. As I remember it, I went along for the dinner part of the dinner theatre.

The grownups were having a blast. I’m pretty sure Tom Collins and the Whiskey Sours were the warm-up act. None of them were feeling any pain by the time “Elvis” took the stage.

He was a consummate performer and managed to nail all of Elvis’s moves, including the sexy way he pulled his scarf off and tossed it to his adoring fans. The ladies in our group determined after the first scarf came off that by God, they were going to get one. My sister was especially anxious to get one. She took Elvis’s death particularly hard. My Aunt Cookie —never one to back down from a challenge — said to my sister, “Come on, Carol. I’ll go down there with you.” And off they went.

Well, once they got down there Aunt Cookie had a change of heart and they returned to the table unable to score. Now, my mom, Doris, was the older of the two sisters and she and my Aunt Cookie could have gone by the name “Double Trouble” (Elvis film, 1967).

“Don’t worry, Carol,” our dutiful mother said, pulling my Aunt Cookie along. “I’ll get you one of those damn scarfs.”

The rest of us followed their dissent from our table shouting encouragement as they made their way through the crowd of hot, messy women.

We cheered when we saw that they had gotten as far as the steps to the round revolving stage. Our Elvis was belting out “Hound Dog” and they were this close. It was incredible.

Then, all of a sudden to our complete amazement, we saw my mom and Aunt Cookie take to the stage. We couldn’t believe it. And by the looks on their faces they couldn’t either. They looked terrified. The stage was spinning around slowly, but spinning it was. They held onto each other for dear life, as if their seat restraints had just come off on the roller coaster.

It didn’t take long before a couple of security guards headed towards them. The guards waited for them to make it around again, while Mom and Aunt Cookie clung to each other until they could coordinate their footwork well enough to get off the stage without falling.

Somehow they managed to climb off the musical merry-go-round, holding hands the whole time like a couple of second graders. The guards pointed them in the direction of our table and they made it back none the worse for wear and waving a white scarf over their heads.  Thankfully, they didn’t come back empty-handed this time. My sister kept that scarf for years.

I Googled Elvis impersonators the other day and found our man. In fact, there’s a picture taken right around the time we saw him. The caption reads, “Performs patented switch kick during karate moves.”

— Connie Berry

Connie Berry grew up reading and loving Erma Bombeck. She is former editor of The Catholic Sun newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and a new resident of Martha’s Vineyard where she is copy editor for the Vineyard Gazette. Connie has been writing for nearly 30 years and has won journalism awards from the Catholic Press Association, the Syracuse Press Club and the New York Press Association. She also received a 2011 Eileen Egan Award for Journalistic Excellence from Catholic Relief Services. She lives in Vineyard Haven, Mass., with her husband and youngest son. Her two older children read her blog,, from Syracuse.

Reflections of Erma