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There are no sick days for mommies

Kathy RadiganEach time I dare to get sick, I’m plagued with a recurring dream.

I’m in bed with an extremely sore throat or a painful stomach bug. I can barely lift my head up, yet I keep trying to reach my office to let them know I won’t be in today. But whatever I do, I can’t seem to get through to a single person who can help me.

I’m in a full-blown panic because I’m sick as a dog and desperately need to go back to bed, but responsibility calls. I have to reach my office to let them know I need a sick day, and I can’t rest until I do.

Then I wake up, relieved to realize that I am a SAHM and have no office to check in with. Nobody I have to answer to.

The relief is very short lived.

I remember a time, about two years ago, when my throat was so sore that I could barely breathe, never mind talk, without it hurting. I woke up to find my youngest, Peter, standing over me.

It was 6:30 in the morning.

“Mommy, I want sushi.”

“Peter,” I croak in a voice that is better-suited for a 1-900 number and not a mom of three. “Mommy is sick, go downstairs, and watch Nick Jr.”

“Mommy, I want breakfast.”

“Mommy, I need food.”

“Go into the cabinet…and get some cereal. Daddy will… get some muffins in a minute.” Each word hurt more than the last. I was in agony.

I turn to my husband, my best friend, my parenting partner, the man who sleeps right next to me. I can tell that he is pretending to be asleep, and I am less than pleased.

“Joe. …Please. …muffins…for…kids. I’m sick.”

“Mommy, I don’t want Daddy’s breakfast. I want yours.”

I hear Joe’s muffled laughter and part of me wants to join in. The other, very sick part, wants to just cry. Since words are agony for me, I just sigh. The sigh that means I’m seriously considering single parenthood.

Knowing that he better do something fast, Joe adopts what the kids call his “mean-Daddy” voice: “Peter, Daddy will get some muffins from Dunkin’ Donuts. Let Mommy sleep.”

I slip into the abyss once again.

Sweet slumber.

But not for long.




“What… is…it…Peter?”

“Can I hold your hand?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you, too.”

Now I’m feeling guilty. The poor thing just wants his mother. He is also probably scared since my voice sounds so strange, and it’s obvious I’m in pain.

I remember feeling the same way when I was little, and my Mom was sick. Moms are Super Human. They can’t get sick. My heart melts a bit, and I make a mental note to call and thank my own mother for not eating her young. I know my sisters and I tortured her when she was sick, just as my son was torturing me now.


“Yes, baby.” I now use the sweetest Mommy voice I can croak out for my child, who only wants reassurance and a cuddle from his Mom.

“Come walk with me to the kitchen, and get me something to eat.”

“Joe. Get…up…now…and take him with you before…  sell him,” I croak out before I just pass out and go back to sleep.

I faced the hard truth that day. There is a reason why I have had the same dream for as long as I have had kids. Unlike when I worked in an office, when I get sick now, there is nobody to call to let them know I won’t be in.

Mommies don’t get sick days.

— 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.

Murphy loves me

Lenna WyattMurphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

In need of several food items I made a quick trip to a large food and department store. I found everything and was through the checkout in less than 15 minutes. I hurried to my car and just as I turned on the ignition, I realized I had forgotten to buy flour for a quiche I wanted to make. I went back into the store reluctantly, because of the frozen items in the car I had purchased and it being July in Arizona.

I quickly got the flour but found the checkout lines were much longer than before. After about five minutes a woman with a full cart in front of me told me that the man at the photo counter was taking people who had only one or two items. I thanked her, and hugging the bag of flour close to me, I got behind the two people ahead of me.

The photo clerk was a friendly, talkative man, which caused him to be very slow at ringing people up. The first lady had only one item, but he talked so incessantly she put her credit card in upside down once, then, the second time, backwards while listening to him. Ten minutes later she got it right. He bagged her items, and the elderly man in front of me moved forward. He placed three packages of meat on the counter.

While ringing up his items the photo clerk engaged him in cheerful conversation, too, the result being that in trying to keep in the conversation the customer forgot his pin number. After several minutes he was successful, but when the clerk picked up the meat to bag it, the counter was covered with red stains. He tried to bag the meat but had difficulty getting the plastic bag open. He pulled numerous times at the top, to no avail. Reluctantly, he licked his finger and got it open. Because of the leaking meat he decided to put the first bag into a second one and struggled to get that one open. Taking the man’s package with him, he mumbled something and disappeared. He returned, and the customer and I waited patiently as he cleaned off the counter, washed off the bag and handed the man his purchase. This had taken a total of 15 minutes.

I set my flour down on the counter, he rang it up, I paid him cash and as he was about to bag it, we noticed flour was squirting out of a hole in the bag on the wet counter. I looked down to see flour all over my black blouse.

The clerk struggled to open another plastic bag and told me to take the flour to customer service, and they would allow me to exchange it. In my hurry I forgot to get my receipt. I had now been in the store approximately 30 minutes. I kept thinking about the groceries in my car.

I waited in line at the service desk while the first of three customers in front of me returned several items. Questions were asked, prices checked and forms signed and 10 minutes later the next person moved up in line. Her problem had to do with a two-piece outfit she wanted to return. The clerk examined it and half way through the process for a refund the woman said, “I’ve changed my mind. I’d rather exchange it for another color instead.”

The clerk waited while she went to get another one and, upon returning, the woman told her that she could only find one half of the one she wanted and it wasn’t even the exact style as the first one. The original was put through the procedure again to get the amount for the refund.

The woman then decided to take the one piece of the second set, but because part of it was missing, this entailed more research as to what price to charge. Finally the clerk figured it out, rang it up and bagged it. By my watch another 20 minutes had passed. The woman got one foot away, turned and placed the bag on the counter saying she decided not to take the garment after all. The woman ahead of me turned and looked at me with eyes the size of a lemur. I could only duplicate her look back at her, in sympathy. The final refund took another seven minutes.

At this point I was ready to leave the leaky bag of flour on the counter, get another one and go home. But since I didn’t have a receipt or another bag to carry it in, I could just see Murphy, whom I was sure had been hovering around me, prompt the security guard at the door to ask me where my receipt was, and ask why I was taking a bag of flour?

I envisioned a policeman being called, handcuffs, and a drive to the nearest police station. I thought about what my children and my son-in-law, a former policeman, would say. Close to breaking out in a sweat, I was brought back to reality when the woman in front of me moved forward. Ten minutes later her items were processed and it was my turn. The clerk took the leaky bag of flour, gave me a receipt and told me to get another bag.

My first trip in for all my groceries, including check-out, took 15 minutes. The second time took over an hour for one bag of flour. Hopefully, after that, Murphy went off to bother someone else. I now keep a cooler in my car for perishables.

— Lenna C. Wyatt

Lenna C. Wyatt, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has written dozens of short stories, many with O. Henry-style endings. She’s nearly finished with a mystery and continues to work on an archaeological novel about the first 2,000 years of human history.


Rachel BarlowThing1 is going to hit high school next fall, and, even in out-of-the-way Arlington, Vermont, stories of adolescent bacchanals fill most parents with dread.

Thing1 and I have talked about booze and consequences, but every once in a while I get an unexpected bit of help helping him resist temptation.

On the TV, little yellow minions were shepherding a dozen kinds of fruit down a conveyor belt into a jam-making vat. When the fruit hit the vat, the stars of Despicable Me2 began stomping the grapes and apples into jam. One of the minions got stuck in a jar on the way to the next step, and 7-year-old Thing2’s curiosity crested.

“Is that why the jam tastes so bad?” he asked.

“Because there’s a million kinds of fruit in one jar?” Thing1 asked looking for clarification.

“No, because they’re stepping on the fruit with their feet.”

“Maybe,” said Thing1.

“I think it’s the conveyor belt residue,” I said. Then I added, “Anyway, that’s how they still make wine some places.” Thing2 gave me a funny look.cartoon

“They step on it?” he asked. “Is that why wine tastes so bad?”

I was quiet for a moment and then said, “Ye-e-e-ss.” Thing1 doesn’t really like the taste of wine, but he was dubious about the source of the bad taste. Thing2 was quiet as he mulled over the science of wine making.

“So basically wine is just foot jam with water,” he said after a few more minutes of watching the movie quietly.

“Wow,” groaned Thing1. “I’ll never be able to get that thought out of my head when I look at a bottle of wine again.”

When my own stomach finished doing back flips over the thought that I’ve been drinking glorified fermented fruity foot-jam-juice with my pasta all these years, I gave Thing2 a quiet kiss on the head as Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ began to play on the TV screen.

— Rachel Barlow

Blogger Rachel Barlow describes herself as “a midlife crisis waiting to happen, closet nomad and middle-aged work-at-home-mother of two.” Her life is “wrapped up in peanut butter sandwiches, fat (sometimes losing it), bills and blogging (her) way to sanity.”

My diet came in like a wrecking ball

Linda RoyI’m riding atop a thousand pound wrecking ball wearing nothing but a pair of ginormous granny panties, Doc Martens and the smile I was born with.

Oh, and I’m jamming a Mars bar into my mouth as I swing precariously to and fro. Did I mention I’m just a tad overweight perched on this implement of destruction? To further underscore my girth, the chain begins to slowly break, one link at a time.  This does nothing, however, to deter the progress of the Mars bar consumption as this task is seen to completion commencing in finger licking and then…


I’m jolted to consciousness in the wee hours of the morning, the only thought crossing my mind is the question of how I can possibly get my hands on a Mars bar this early in the morning.

Yeah, I’ll admit. Maybe I’m a little stressed about the extra pounds I’ve put on. And yeah, perhaps I’m ūber sensitive to my over-40 body image status, what with the constant parade of taut 20somethings gracing the media lately. How dare they remind me I’m aging and can’t drop the last of the stubborn baby weight — seven years later?

My dream is my subconscience egging me to put down the chips and reach for a bar bell. As I type this, I should be at the gym on the treadmill watching Food Network.

Why can I not commit to a diet/exercise regimen and stick to it? For the love of all that is holy (like Swiss cheese and that fresh baked bread that you find big holes in, but it’s okay because if the butter falls through, you can still catch it with your tongue).

The truth is, I know exactly why I can’t commit. I’m stressed. I’m bored. The last three years were really rough. I’m on anti-depressants, I’m going through menopause and I like food. Okay? There, I said it.

Oh, and I’m lazy. I also spend countless hours parked on my tush typing away. And as much as I want to fit into those new jeans that I bought in a size too small because “Hey, I’m going to lose weight soon,” as good as it felt four whole years ago to be only a pound above my target weight, able to wear anything in my closet with confidence and to hear compliments from my husband and children instead of little jabs like “Better get that Twinkie before Mom does,” I still rationalize it all away. I tell myself that it could be worse.

But the truth of the matter is that I’m on the last belt loop. I tore my favorite jeans a few months ago. I’m choking myself trying to do the last button on my pants. I’m tired and grumpy and lacking in confidence. I have the potential to look better at my age and I’m squandering it. For what? Some jalapeño potato chips and a French dip? Oh, that sounds so good.

This ends today! Starting now I will recognize that the salty/sugary contraband in the cupboard is for the kids and is nothing but poison to me. I will cut the bread, cut the sugar, cut the crap. Literally. And I will exercise. That’s right. Ho ho, ho ho, it’s to the gym I go. Salad will be my closest ally.

And because I’m really serious…no more Food Network on the treadmill.

— Linda Roy

Linda Roy is a humorist/writer/musician living in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. Her blog elleroy was here is a mix of humor and music she likes to refer to as “funny with a soundtrack.” She is managing partner and editor-in-chief at the politics and pop culture website Lefty Pop, and she also writes and records a musical humor column at Funny Not Slutty.  She’s contributed to Aiming Low,  Sprocket Ink, In the Powder RoomMamapediaBonbon BreakThe Weeklings and Earth Hertz Records.  She’s thrilled to have been selected as a BlogHer Voice Of the Year for 2014. When she’s not snarking and kvetching, she’s fronting the Indie/Americana band Jehova Waitresses and being social at TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+ and Bloglovin’.

Pomp in uncertain circumstances

Dan Zevin(Reposted by permission of author Dan Zevin. This piece appeared in The Huffington Post on May 22, 2014, and on Cognoscenti on May 21, 2014.)

Salutations and good tidings to the class of 2014. Today is a day to be met with youthful enthusiasm, steadfast commitment and powerful anti-anxiety medication. For today you stand poised on the precipice of Mount Tomorrow, searching for pomp in uncertain circumstances.

My friends, I feel your pain.

Long ago, I was much like you: a nervous young graduate forced to appear in public wearing a humiliating cap-and-gown ensemble. What the real world had in store for me, I did not know.

And yet, I persevered, learning the hard way the skills one needs to succeed. And now, as you approach the Starting Gate of Possibility, it is my honor to pass you the torch. Let the other commencement addressers puff you up with their pie-in-the-sky platitudes. I am here to dispense inspiration you will find far more useful.

As you set forth to negotiate the serpentine twists of your career path, you may occasionally find yourselves lost, confused, searching for a way to convince potential employers that your past jobs were vastly more professional than they actually were. It is at these junctures that I urge you to remember the impressive SAT words you memorized to get into college, and to apply them to your résumé.

Allow me to provide an uplifting yet fictionalized personal anecdote, a technique I have borrowed from my commencement-addressing colleagues. Many years ago, I spent an afternoon filing invoices at my father’s office. Here is how that career appears on my résumé: principal alphabetizing-systems-implementation liaison.

Another question you are asking yourselves as you come to the Crossroads of Potential is, “Where will I be after college?” To you I say this: you will be in an apartment with more roommates than rooms. But as you take that titan step from dorm to dump, do not settle for the first dump you see. Look at many dumps, and in time, you will find that special dump that suits your needs. This is because the more you look, the fewer needs you’ll realize you have. For here at the Tollbooth on Independence Turnpike, you do not need a microwave oven or a flat screen, internet-ready, high-definition television. You simply need a roommate who already owns these things.

Perhaps there is another question you are asking yourselves as you dive into the deep end of your destiny: “How will I adjust to life after college?” I will tell you how: by having a drink. Graduates, you heard that correctly. I said “a” drink. Singular. One. Of the myriad challenges that await you beyond these hallowed halls, the toughest of all will be that traumatic transition from keg to cocktail. I will not kid you by pretending it will be easy, for change never is. But I will assure you of this: in the years that lie ahead, the idea of drinking warm beer foam out a rubber hose connected to a garbage can will lose a certain amount of allure. And when it does, I am confident that you will rise to the occasion. For you are a generation of achievers.  Soon you’ll be achieving with one stiff cocktail what used to take half a keg to achieve.

In conclusion, I would not be doing my job as a commencement speaker if I did not leave you with some useful pearls of wisdom about the World That Is Your Oyster.

1.    When in doubt, choose a career the same way you chose your college major: according to which ones start latest in the afternoon.

2.    When reading classified apartment ads on Craigslist, remember that “fireplace” usually means “a place that was (or is) on fire.”

3.    Moving back into your parents’ house is an excellent idea as long as you move your parents out first.

4.    Treat your search for a perfect mate the same way you treat your search for a perfect job: lower your standards.

5.    Above all else, keep two very important words in mind as you leave the Sheltered Shores of Scholarship to enter this strange new world — a world where the calendar no longer revolves in cycles beginning in September and ending in May; a world where you are expected to wake up each day before the sun sets; a world where job attendance is mandatory. Those two words, my young friends, are these: graduate school.

— Dan Zevin

Dan Zevin, the 2013 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, served on the faculty at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. His latest book, Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, along with his previous one, The Day I Turned Uncool, have been optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. He has followed his readers through each phase of life, from post-college coping (Entry-Level Life) to tying the knot (The Nearly-wed Handbook) to developing a disturbing new interest in lawn care and wine tastings (Uncool). And that was all before he had kids.

I love not camping

Abby-Heugel-228x300Spring has sprung, which means many people will be packing up to go camping in the coming weeks. I will not be one of them, as I do not camp.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the outdoors and worship the sun and nature. And while I’m not high-maintenance, I don’t find appeal in sleeping on the ground in a tent pretending I’m homeless.

But despite the tent aversion, I do have a bit of camping experience.

When I was younger, we had a trailer up north that we spent a good deal of time at in the summer. It was a decent-sized rig with a shower, small kitchen, deck, etc., but it was still a trailer.

I fished, shot my bow and arrow (not at anything living, at least not on purpose), tore around on the 4-wheeler and hit the lake with the inflatable alligator before coming back to nighttime campfires, Cribbage games and attempts to attract bats by throwing random crap up in the air by the park lights.

I was young, and other than the fact that I rolled out of the top bunk of triple bunk beds — a bed rail was quickly installed — I had no real complaints. Now that I’m older and (questionably) wiser, I would have many complaints, which is why I don’t even attempt to pretend to want to camp.

Why someone would want to leave indoor plumbing and decent food and increase the likelihood of contracting mosquito malaria, dirt-covered food and being attacked by a baby deer in the woods is beyond me?*

*Of course, to each their own (disclaimer so campers don’t get pissed, although if they’re camping, they shouldn’t have access to Wi-Fi.)

But for those who enjoy camping and would like to recreate this experience at home, I have a few suggestions:

• Hang your clothes over a wood fire to get that signature smell, the one that will hopefully cover up the other signature smell of musty dampness.

• While you’re over the fire, singe your eyelashes and grab a hot poker to recreate the experience of starting the fire and attempting to roast anything with a metal stick.

• Scald the skin on the roof of your mouth in an attempt to eat whatever it is you were trying to roast that didn’t fall into the flame.

• Hover — a lot — and get used to swatting bugs with one hand while wiping with the other. This takes skill, which is why you will most likely find yourself pissing on your own leg (hey, you wanted to go camping.)

• Pour sand directly into the bottom of your bathing suit and any exposed crack or opening in your body. If a lake is nearby, also include seaweed.

• If you feel like getting fancy, spray yourself with a water bottle to recreate the (lack of) water pressure trailer showers provide. Forget about washing your hair (this is actually a positive in my book).

• Plant families of the loudest bugs on the planet in your backyard directly next to your window. If available, add in the mating calls of mystery creatures you’re sure are rabid and hunting you down.

• Roll your meals in damp dirt.

• Roll your clothes in damp dirt.

• Roll yourself in damp dirt.

So for those of you starting your camping season soon, may the force be with you. I plan on working in the yard a bit, reading and enjoying the luxury of warm showers, good food I didn’t have to catch and a few good baseball games.

I love not camping.

— Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal. She’s the author of Abby Has Issues and Abby Still Has Issues.

The importance of eyebrows

janie3-214x300So, the other day, I looked down and wondered whose hands were those attached to my wrists. They looked too dry and wrinkly to be mine. They reminded me of my grandmother. Well, she was a hard-working woman. Having her hands might not be such a bad thing.

Then I looked at myself in the mirror. And I realized that my teeth weren’t exactly in the same place as they were yesterday. But my smile is still a good one.

And my ears. Well, let’s just say, I knew from family photos, that this particular part of my body would someday get larger.

In fact, it seems that the entire landscape of my face is experiencing a shift in its foundation. From a geological point of view, I’m having eruptions (old age spots) floods (eye leakage) and quakes resulting in new fault lines everyday.

Most of these changes I expected and can deal with.

But the other day, I discovered something quite unexpected.

I took off my glasses. Something was missing. I leaned closer to the mirror. And closer still. Until my nose pressed against the cool surface. Yes, this particular part of my anatomy had vanished.

My eyebrows!

Where there should have been a nicely shaped arch covering the length of my eye and beyond, there was this little apostrophe. Just hanging there. Like it actually belonged on my face.

When did this happen? I have a ton of hair. On my head. Under my arms. Sneaking out from my bathing suit bottoms. Even some very unwanted hairs above my upper lip.

So why had my eyebrows gone missing?

I thought about all those wonderful adjectives associated with one’s brows, words used  to describe feelings and  emotions.

Sadness:  Her eyebrows dipped inward.

Confusion:  His bushy eyebrows crinkled.

Determination:  Her eyebrows, straight as a ruler, told me she played by the book.

Flirty:  He lifted one eyebrow and winked at me.

Eyebrows scrunch, gather, stray, lift, sag. They are an important part of our face.

I couldn’t help but stare at myself.

I was totally shocked.

But, of course, you couldn’t tell by looking at me. Because I no longer have eyebrows to raise in surprise.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website

Color me amused

Rosie SorensonJust when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes the New-New trend: Gray hair on 20-somethings. Put there not by Mother Nature but by hairdressers at the request of their young female clients. On purpose!

According to hairstylist, Amber Jahn, interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, “A gray streak is Cred — it’s exhilarating; it’s something new.” As my Midwestern grandmother would say, “Well, if that don’t beat all.”

This new fad sounds a tad ridiculous to us Boomers who have been forever coloring away the gray that kids now think is hot. I’ve had blonde highlights for many years and can tell you unequivocally, that even though there’s some gray in there, I’m not feeling the Cred.

Crud, perhaps, but definitely not Cred.

What’s next for these young people with too much money and too much free time?  Professionally applied, artificial wrinkles? Silicone turkey waddles? Spider vein tattoos? Have at it, kids.

And as long as you’re searching for Cred, how about tossing in a few faux night sweats, a bit of insomnia and some lovely bloating? Those would give you enough Cred to last a lifetime, or at least until you pass through menopause, at which time you can rail against your own daughter for wanting to be so different. So unique. So not.

And, as if that’s not ridiculous enough —

Researchers at Brigham Young University discovered that when shopping in high heels, women were less likely to overspend. The higher the heel, the more cautious the spender. The researchers reasoned that having to concentrate on one’s balance might trick the brain into making more “balanced” decisions. Indeed, participants who were asked to stand on one foot were more likely to buy a mid-priced TV.

I’m sure this has not been lost on the good folks at Best Buy. Soon, they will ban from their stores all women wearing high heels. Signs will be posted: “Sneakers Only! Violators Will Be Prosecuted.” Lawsuits claiming discrimination will follow. This must be covered somewhere in the Constitution. Surely our forefathers thought ahead to the time when our land would be dotted with women shod in Jimmy Choos.

But, the upside could be huge. Picture, if you will, all members of Congress wearing custom-fitted stilettos. Don’t you think John Boehner would look especially dapper in pink Kate Spades, standing on one foot on the floor of the House crying, “No, No! We can no longer afford those tax breaks for Exxon and the top 1% — we must be balanced!”?

Ah, research — it’s not just for scientists any more.

— Rosie Sorenson

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

Reflections of Erma