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Beach bag bell curve

Tracy BucknerShow me a bag anyone is bringing to the beach and I’ll tell you how old they are. It’s like looking at a bell curve of your life: the bag starts small, becomes larger until it’s bursting, then slowly tapers off.

Like your life.

During the teenage years I carried a very small beach bag. All I needed was a bikini, baby oil, a chair and Cousin Brucie on the radio. My Italian mother supplied lunch for the entire beach whether she knew you or not. Back then I wasn’t worrying about what I looked like from the side or behind. I sat upright in my chair because I could. Because when I looked down I wasn’t wondering, “how the heck did that happen?”

The dating years come; the bag gets larger. You are still in a bikini and haven’t yet had children, who destroy your life,

…I mean your body.

The chair remains upright.

My mother still supplied the lunch but only if she liked my boyfriend. No lunch delivered, I knew he was history. When I brought my future husband around, she delivered breakfast and lunch to the beach and my dad carried down gin and tonics.

…Subtle like a sledgehammer, my parents.

During the years I was raising children, getting to the beach required a large bag busting with shovels, pails, sunglasses, flip-flops, trucks, diapers, sun screen, hats and diapers along with strollers, small tents, umbrellas and chairs. Attempting to cross Ocean Avenue to the beach with two kids in tow required an act of God. By the time I had survived the crossing, unpacked, the cramp in my bicep finally subsiding, it never failed that one of my kids needed to go back to the house to use the bathroom. The bikini has been traded in for a mu-mu. And that chair? My sister, eight years my junior with a tight stomach and no kids yet now sits in it…upright.

Currently my bag is considerably smaller, my life quite different. This was apparent when I spent a few days with a girlfriend at the beach. She used to remind me to bring my ingredients for margaritas; now it’s my heart meds, gluten-free wraps, probiotics and vitamins. I used to remind her to bring sauvignon blanc, now it’s microwaveable quinoa, green tea pills and bee pollen for our metabolism. We lined everything up on the bar and took a picture of our “stash” to send to friends remembering how we used to send pictures of cosmopolitans. The sun is no longer our friend, so our hats are large enough to carry a small child.

I’ve ditched the mu-mu and am back in a 2-piece but that chair needs to be at a very specific back-angle so that it appears I have a flat stomach. One notch up in the wrong direction and it’s all over.

Now about that bag… Sometimes I forget the bag. Sometimes I forget the book. Sometimes I have the book but forget the glasses to read the book. I wish my kids were around so I could send them back to get whatever it is that I’ve left behind. It would make me feel like I had gotten my money’s worth for giving birth to them.

And when I finally make it to the beach, unpack, grab my hat, unfold the chair, put up the umbrella, get out the book, apply sunscreen, what’s the first thing I do?

I face the beautiful ocean.

Grab that small bag.

Turn around and head back for the bathroom.

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.

Dishes Your Life

Jerry ZezimaAs the very model of the modern mixed-up man, I have long been baffled by one of the great mysteries of domestic life: If a dishwasher washes dishes, why do you have to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

That is the question I have been asking my wife, Sue, for the past 37 years.

Her thoroughly convincing answer: “Because.”

It does no good to point out that in television commercials for dishwashers, or even for dishwashing detergent, dishes that are encrusted with food chunks the consistency of concrete always come out shiny and spotless.

That wasn’t the case in our house recently. In a spiteful act that would never be shown on TV, the dishwasher conked out. So I had to wash the dishes by hand.

Sometimes Sue washed them and I dried. Or I left them in the dish drainer to dry, which prompted Sue to ask, “Why aren’t you drying the dishes?”

My thoroughly unconvincing answer: “Because.”

One thing was clear (and it wasn’t the wine glass I streaked with a damp dish towel): You don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore.

That’s the way Sue and I felt about the dishwasher, which had served us well for about a dozen years before dying of what I can only assume was food poisoning.

This forced us to wash dishes the old-fashioned way. When doing so, you have to place a basin in the kitchen sink and fill it with water hot enough to scald the hide off a crocodile. First, however, you should squirt in a stream of dishwashing liquid, which will make enough bubbles to obscure the utensils and cause you to slice your thumb on a steak knife.

To prevent me from bleeding to death, which would have stained the counters, Sue bought — and forgive me for being too technical here — a dishwashing thingie. It has a long handle with a screw top on one end, so you can put in detergent, and a brush on the other, so you can scrub the dishes.

That way you don’t have to fill a basin. Instead, you can let the water run for such a long time that it would overflow Lake Superior, which isn’t a good place to wash dishes anyway.

But you have to get them clean because you need something to eat on. After a while, however, taking nourishment intravenously seems like an appealing alternative.

The situation, like the water, reached a boiling point. This happened after dinner one night when I seriously considered killing one of the actors in a dishwasher commercial and going to prison so I wouldn’t have to wash the dishes anymore. But then, I figured, I’d be assigned kitchen duty for the rest of my life.

Before I could say to Sue, “We really ought to buy a new dishwasher,” Sue said to me, “We really ought to buy a new dishwasher.”

So she went to an appliance store and bought one. But when it was delivered, it didn’t fit because the measurements were wrong. (The dishwasher’s, not Sue’s.)

Back to the store went Sue. And back to our house went another dishwasher.

The delivery guys, Tom and Anthony, sympathized with our plight.

“You don’t want to be without a dishwasher for too long,” Tom said.

“It’s bad when you have to wash the dishes yourself,” Anthony chimed in.

After much measuring, and maneuvering, and manpower, Tom and Anthony got the dishwasher to fit.

Then came the moment of truth: “I’m going to give it a test run,” Tom said.

Sue and I held our breath, collectively thinking, “Please, God, make it work. And don’t flood the kitchen.”

Tom pressed some buttons.

“It’s so quiet,” Sue noted.

“Unlike me,” I added.

The dishwasher ran, and the water drained, and, lo, there was no flood in the kitchen.

That evening, with spotless wine glasses, Sue and I toasted our new dishwasher.

“I’ll load it,” I said after dinner.

“Thanks,” Sue said. “And don’t forget to wash the dishes before you put them in.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Is your home tidy and serene?


Roz WarrenThe Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up is a wildly popular book by Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo about de-cluttering. Given how shallow and acquisitive our culture can be (Kardashians, anyone?), the fact that a book about getting rid of unnecessary stuff is on the New York Times bestseller list is probably a good sign.

Kondo promises to help transform your home from the chaotic mishmash it is now to “a place of serenity and inspiration.“ Essentially, you’re supposed to lighten your load by taking a good look at each item you own and asking yourself one question: “Does this item spark joy?”

If it does, you hang on to it. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it.

I went around my house recently with this question in mind.

Does this salt shaker give me joy? (Yes! I love salt.)

Does this bicycle bring me joy? (No, but  if I ever get around to dusting off the cobwebs and putting some air in the tires, it might.)

Does this lamp bring me joy? (Nope. But sitting in the dark doesn’t bring me joy either.)

Does this vacuum cleaner bring me joy? (Are you kidding me?)

I soon realized that, for me, this wasn’t the right question.

Nevertheless,  I’d like to move from this house to an apartment, which means that I definitely need to downsize, so I came up with my own version of this little mantra: “After I get hit by a bus, eaten on safari by a ravenous gnu or flattened by a falling anvil and my son inherits this object, will he keep it or throw it out?”

If he’d throw it out, I figure I can save him the trouble and get rid of it now.

The stuff that my son will undoubtedly want to get rid of includes most of my books, all of the dishes I inherited from Grandma Sadie and almost everything in the attic. It’s fabulous how freeing this has been. Employing this principle, I’ve given away, tossed or recycled:

A beautiful (and very expensive) pair of glasses that I no longer need now that I’ve had cataract surgery.

500 “Let’s Get Started” AOL discs.

A Steinway grand piano.

A crate for the Yorkie-poo that the Yorkie-poo refuses to go anywhere near.  (Being crated has never brought Captain joy.)

Hundreds of cassettes containing wonderful music that nobody will ever listen to again because let’s face it, it’s 2015 and who has a cassette player?

Half a dozen books about, ironically,  downsizing and clearing clutter.

And then there are the things I’m not sure about, like my son’s childhood toys, his kindergarten artwork and his baby clothes. For instance, my favorite of his onesies. Tom, at 27, no longer needs a onesie. (Which is a good thing.) But when he and my daughter-in-law have their first kid, maybe he’ll want to dress that child in his old onesie? And give him his  plush tigers to play with?

Throwing out my son’s baby clothes and plush tigers, I’ve decided,  is where I draw the line. Do they spark joy? Not exactly. But they do bring back loads of happy memories along with a touch of where-did-all-of-those-wonderful-years-go melancholy. (Cue the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” from Fiddler on the Roof.)

If, after I’m dead and gone, contemplating his childhood tigers doesn’t bring my son joy, he can throw them out himself.

I’ve given myself a year to clear out this house, put it on the market, find a terrific apartment and move there with only my Truly Necessary Items. Plus a bunch of plush tigers.

In the meantime, what about this fondue set?  And this spare fan? And what about the unflattering portrait of me that my Aunt Freida painted back in the ’80s which makes me look like a deranged serial killer?

Wish me luck.

— Roz Warrem

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

Hansel and Gretel to perform during World Series

Charles HartleyFor the first time in Major League Baseball history, two players from the same team have a last night name beginning with a lowercase “d” letter.

Travis d’Arnaud and Jacob deGrom are these “d”-men. To be precise, deGrom’s name has changed to deGrominator because he dominates with his 99-miles-per-hour fastball. But that’s a nuance. The theory holds because his last name, no matter what it is or was, begins with a small d.

He could change that small “d” to a capital one, “D,” and be named “DeGrominator.” On paper this looks like a guy who throws the ball hard whereas deGrominator feels less so. Small “ds” before big Gs lack visual punch.

Two Mets teammates share a similar last name kinship: Jeurys Familia and Yoenis Cespedes. They are not American names. When I when went to grade school during the Nixon administration, none of my classmates were name Jeurys or Yoenis. Each name has three syllabus. Both end in “s.” Neither conjures up images of anyone we know named Hank, Stan or Billy.

Jeurys either sounds like he’s on a jury in a New Jersey court case. Yoenis rhymes with Dennis from the 1960s TV show, Dennis the Menace.

My favorite Mets name is Hansel Robles because it reminds of me a famous kids’ fairy tale and/or book titled Hansel and Gretel.  I can see Hansel Robles having the last name of “Pan” to remind us of the Peter Pan fairytale.

Noah Syndergaard hung out on Noah’s Ark. There he fired 100 miles per hour fastballs to Hansel, Gretel and Peter Pan. None of the three could make contact with Noah’s Ark heater.

Which brings us to the World Series.

If there were a half-time show, Hansel, Gretel and Peter Pan would perform a dance number on Noah’s Ark. But there isn’t a half-time show in baseball.

The sport does, however, have a seventh inning stretch. That will be the time when all the smelly fans spray their necks and wrists with Bartolo Cologne, the new product being marketed by the Mets bullpen pitcher, Bartolo Colon.

The smell of the World Series is deJuerys.

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

Mayhem of motherhood

Barbara_ChisholmActress Barbara Chisholm turns an ironing board into a makeshift desk, complete with an electric typewriter.

As she plops on the bed behind it, she dispenses bits of Erma Bombeck’s wit and wisdom to a sold-out audience, many of whom grew up on a diet of her columns and books.

“If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?” she laments as she brings the celebrated humorist to life in the world premiere of “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

The stakes are high for Chisholm’s performance this night. The audience for the one-woman show includes Bombeck’s family, literary agent, longtime assistant, former “Good Morning America” producer and the playwrights, Margaret and Allison Engel.

“Erma is one of my heroes of all time,” Chisholm told the family after receiving a standing ovation. “Thank you for allowing me to introduce new people to her.”

At the height of her career, Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” column appeared in more than 900 newspapers, reaching 30 million readers. Her entertaining essays hung on refrigerator doors around the country because they captured so perfectly the foibles of family life. She’s arguably the most famous graduate of the University of Dayton, which honors her legacy through the popular biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

In an onstage discussion with the playwrights after the show, literary agent Aaron Priest talked about Bombeck’s popularity. “She was a voice for a generation of people who didn’t have a voice at that time. She touched a nerve,” he said. “She had a natural sense of humor. She was in many, many ways one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.”Bombeck_discussion

Bombeck drew on everyday family life for inspiration — and laughs.

“The mayhem in our house just happened,” said her son, Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles.“We never saw the connection between what we did and the column, he said. Pausing, he quipped, “We never made that connection because we never read the column.”

His brother, Andy Bombeck, remembered when their mother first appeared on “Johnny Carson.”

“The first night she got bumped, so we got to stay up late the next night, too,” he said, recalling his surprise at seeing his mother draw laughs on national television. “She was someone who worked at a typewriter all day long, and we couldn’t believe it.”

Bombeck poked fun at the joys of motherhood and housekeeping during a time of social change for women, drawing a legion of like-minded women as fans. On her own time and expense, she worked tirelessly for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which fell three states short of ratification.At Wit's End illustration

Playwright Margaret Engel called the play a “valentine to Erma and our mother and gave her “a greater sense of appreciation for the work women did in the home. …I felt a sense of sisterhood with her.”

To research “At Wit’s End,” the playwrights read much of Bombeck’s immense body of work — thousands of columns and a dozen books — and viewed “Good Morning America” clips from her 11 years on the show. They perused the University of Dayton’s online Erma museum for photographs, speeches and other material and interviewed Erma’s husband Bill, longtime assistant Norma Born and the three children, Matt, Betsy and Andy.

“I love that people love Erma,” said Chisholm, who most recently appeared in the Oscar-winning film “Boyhood.” “What I love about the show is that it’s an opportunity for her to receive some of the respect that is her due.”

Learn more about Chisholm’s admiration for Erma Bombeck in this interview.

“Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” runs through Nov. 8. For information and tickets, click here.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she also serves as executive director of strategic communications. (Photo of Barbara Chisholm by C. Stanley Photography. Illustration by Ed Fotheringham. Courtesy of Arena Stage.)

Men in trees

Roz WarrenI love to walk, and because I never drive when I can stroll, I walk for at least an hour a day. Happily, this lets me indulge in one of my other hobbies — ogling arborists.

I first acquired an appreciation of tree guys over a decade ago when my neighbors began warning me that the ailing birch in my backyard needed to be cut down before it decided to come down itself. On my roof.  So I phoned around and hired a tree service.

When I looked out the window of my home office the next morning, my backyard was full of muscular dudes!  Striding about, calling to each other,  zipping up lines into my tree, then wielding chain saws as branches came crashing down.

In a word? Yum!

Sure, I was losing a tree. And my wallet was taking a hit. But the silver lining? For a couple of hours my backyard was full of very attractive men. Fueling, of course, a favorite fantasy of single women everywhere — cute guys growing on trees!

With the song “It’s raining men” playing in my head, I abandoned any idea of getting work done. I sat at the window and enjoyed the view. Ever since my first crush, on Superman, I’ve had a soft spot for strong-looking dudes with a can-do attitude. Of course, most of these guys were considerably younger than I was. Plus, a writer who lives with her nose in a book and a hunk who works up a tree? I’m not sure that’s a match made in heaven. But I could look and enjoy. I even made up a little poem on the spot:

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as
A Buff-looking dude working in a tree.

Since that day, I’ve always paused on my walks to savor the spectacle of a tree coming down. Walking the dog in my tree-filled suburban neighborhood has given me countless opportunities to stop and gawk. And to chat, because over the years, I‘ve found that tree guys are easy to talk to.

“I always wanted this job,” one recently confided after I fell into conversation with him during his lunch break. “I used to watch guys doing this as a kid and all I wanted was to be up there with them.”

“And you still enjoy it?”

He smiled. “Oh yeah.”

Apparently, a certain kind of little boy starts climbing trees as a kid and never wants to come down.

“It’s both an art and a science,” another explained to me. “And each project is different. I plan to be doing this for a long time.”

Thankfully, he’ll be able to. Because luckily (for both of us)  taking care of trees is one job you can’t digitize or send overseas.

This morning I stopped to watch a dude in his forties, zipping up the trunk of a mammoth tree with the help of a rope and pulley system. Seeing me, he called down with a grin:  “Another day at the office!”

I’m sure there are bad days. I’m sure when it’s pouring rain or icy cold outside, they all wish they were inside, toiling in a warm, dry cubicle somewhere.

Actually, I’m pretty sure they don’t. And I’m glad.

— Roz Warrem

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

Roped in by technology

Eileen MitchellAll I know is just what I read on my gadget screen. They say prehistoric folks used stone tablets for the news. We modern folks use tablets, too. That’s progress for you.

But nobody can convince me that staring into a rock or a toy is the best way to read the news. It’s kinder cold. Nothing like the feel of papers in your hand, hot off the press as the newsboy shouts, “Extra, Extra!” Now the extra is what you pay for the wireless service.

It all started with those personal computer machines, but now it’s the modern telephone that is causing the biggest commotion. If Alexander Graham Bell had known what he was unleashing on the world, he never would have called Mr. Watson into the room to see his new invention. In his day, you had to holler into the contraption to be heard at the other end. Funny, that seems to be pretty much the case today. You can’t go anywhere in public without having to hear about someone’s dinner plans or X-ray results. You may not be able to tell if the liver is on the menu or the lab tests, but you just as soon not hear about it at all. Makes a fellow kinder nostalgic for phone booths. With the invention of portable phones, the whole world has been turned into one big phone booth.

And the noise and news is coming quicker than greased lightning. Used to be an in-depth newspaper story, spread out, would not only cover the furniture but the subject matter as well. Reading is now down to a nubbin called a “tweet.” Tweeting is for the birds. Anyhow it used to be. And still ought to be.

They say no news is good news and maybe that’s the idea behind tweeting. You can’t say much in just 140 letters. Most folks use that much just to clear their throats. Now the news is greeting card-sized without the best wishes.

And the terminology is a corker. Whether it’s “tweeting” or “texting,” it all comes down to something called a “sound byte.” I can remember when that phrase most likely had something to do with bad table manners and chewing too loud. One good thing to come of this new compact communication is it might make the politicians get to the point faster. Those political birds already know a thing or two about tweeting. It’s when they get to feathering their nests that the taxpayers ought to watch out.

But technology don’t make the news any easier to understand. I remember when “common core” referred to the apple passed around the schoolyard after lunch. Now I here tell it’s some fancy way of making arithmetic harder than it already is. Seems like a waste of effort to try and make kids hate arithmetic more than they already do. Just ask any kid with common sense about “common core,” and they’ll tell you it’s a lot of applesauce.

The topper is a thing called “social media.” You get a “news feed” on your computer, but the news is mostly for the dogs. You’ve never seen so many stories about dogs raising kittens or cats with puppies. It don’t make explaining the birds and the bees any easier. And the kids are already confused about multiplication.

Pictures on the news feed seems to be the main event. There’s a gag called a “selfie” where you take a snapshot of your face and paste it up on the screen so you can see yourself. That technology has been around for a long time. It’s called a mirror. Only now it seems folks are willing to pay for the privilege.

From what I can gather, social media is designed so you can find out that someone else is having a better time than you are, unless you work at it harder to make sure folks know you’re having a better time than they are. It’s the latest version of “Keeping up with the Joneses” only now you have to keep up with them every few seconds.

There’s a notion that all this new technology means progress, but I ain’t so sure. It seems that nowadays everybody is herded, corralled or planted in front of a picture screen all the time. Folks need to get outdoors more. And it’s no good just to take pictures of flowers if you’re not going to stop and smell the roses.

— Eileen Mitchell

Eileen Mitchell is the winner of the Will Rogers Writing Contest (2015) and the Thurber Treat Writing Contest (2007). She was a finalist for the Robert Benchley Society Humor Award (2015). Her humor novella Creature from the Public Domain has been described as “sly, smart and laugh-out-loud funny” by Michael J. Nelson, host/headwriter of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax. Theatrical adaptations of her book have received staged readings and performances from the West coast to the Midwestern coast. She is a freelance “Photoplasty” contributor to, and her spectacular film-making credits include a “Dishonorable Mention” in Joss Whedon’s Doctor Horrible DVD and an airing on the “Occupy Conan” episode of the Conan O’Brien Show. She is a contributing author to a variety of books and currently writes the Film Hound blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A world without chocolate

Hillary IbarraI once saved a Godiva Cheesecake from near certain annihilation and senseless waste.

My fridge had been turned off on a lark by my preschooler for several hours, and I had to quickly choose what to save. The pounds of meat? No caveman bonfire for me. The milk and eggs? Warm and hatching. The limp celery and dry carrots? Not even ranch dressing could help them now. The two-ton, 5,000-calories-per-slice cheesecake? I grabbed a fork and dug in, simultaneously congratulating and loathing myself, salivating and sweating.

It turns out my desperate binge was a good decision. I may not have such a delicious choice to make again, for the world will soon run out of chocolate. Pleasure doomed in about five years, give or take, or so goes the rumor.

And all because we’ve been told for years that moderate intake of concentrated chocolate is not only yummy but great for our sex lives, our heart health, our skin and our emotional stability. If moderate consumption was good for us, we figured overkill was even better. Now the demand for chocolate is spreading like some greedy super virus in places like China. China! The world’s most populated country! They have cookies that tell fortunes, for crying out loud. Isn’t that enough for them?

To us addicts this chocolate prediction is as dire as a Mayan or Nostradamos end-of-world prophesy. We’re skeptical that the world could really run out of our beloved cacao bean, but we’re also anxious when we pause from ingesting our daily five-pound candy bar to consider the possibility. Like build a doomsday bunker for our dark chocolate morsels and bury canisters of cocoa powder in the backyard kind of jumpy.  What will be the first pleasures to disappear? We fret. Chocolate fondue? It’s just wasteful, really. Café Mochas? Surely they don’t use that much. Smores? Say goodnight to campfire fun! The only Halloween candy worth swiping remorselessly from our kids’ bags? A heart-stopping fright! Fudge? Even Jolly Old St. Nick will lose the holiday spirit.

Don’t look at me like that. Yes, I know I could survive without chocolate, but we cacao addicts aren’t the only ones with dependency issues. We all — even those sad, misguided white chocolate advocates — have something in the foodie department that we think we must have to make life worth living.

For instance, my littlest boy has an unhealthy attraction to crackers. I had to regularly hide them from him when he was a toddler for fear his skin would dehydrate from all the salt, taking on a crumbly texture that would flake when I hugged him. But my efforts were for naught. Many times I entered my kitchen, investigating noises, to find the boy had scaled the counters and appliances and ransacked the pantry cupboards like Po in Kung Fu Panda, a buttery smile on his face. If the world ever ran out of crackers completely, he would likely go door to door, begging neighbors for stale bread and sea salt.

As for my dear husband, he loves beer. But he doesn’t love just any beer, no cheap domestic concoction in a can for him. He only drinks fancy stuff out of a bottle from specialty breweries, lovingly coddled in a beer cozy. If the world ever ran low on hops, I would not be one bit surprised to find my desperate husband standing on a street corner most weekends with a sign held high reading, “Will work 4 Craft Beer!” And he’s not even used to manual labor, poor guy.

But I worry most about my skinny oldest daughter. She’s our protein lover. Yogurt, beans and eggs are all fine, but what she really craves is the heavy-duty red stuff. While my other kids come home begging for ice cream after school, she walks in the door with hungry eyes, scrounging for leftover meat from last night’s dinner. What would we do if meat became too costly, reserved for the mega rich, and we were all forced into vegetarianism? Well, I know she would be alright. Though it would no doubt be an agonizing decision for her, she would eventually eat the rest of us.

We all have something. I just happen to be obsessed with chocolate. It got me through a period in my life while my kids were small when sleep was purely imaginary and meltdowns far too common. I owe it my life and sanity.

Everything’s better with chocolate. Sex, social occasions, breakfast. Except skin care products. I mean, really, people! Haven’t you heard the world’s running out of chocolate? We don’t need to be rubbing precious cocoa butter on our faces, lathering it into our tresses or massaging it into our flabby bums. After all, we don’t know how long we’ve got before things get really serious here. There’s no room for vanity. If you want to plump up your hair and skin and feel content with life, do it the old-fashioned way. Eat a candy bar.

But tell your Chinese friends chocolate is poisonous. It might buy us some time.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and and was recently published at Hahas for Hoohas. She is a mother of four who dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers, but can’t seem to find them in the laundry. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

Reflections of Erma