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Facing the tough questions

Kathy RadiganIn my 15 years of being a mom, I’ve had my share of tough questions.

The ones that induce the reddest blushes have to do with sex.

What is sex? Do you and daddy have sex? When do you ever find the time to have sex?  These are the tip of the iceberg in a long line of questions from my three kids that I’ve fielded over the years. Usually while we are all at the dinner table and my mouth is full of tea or pasta.

I will never, ever, forget the time our eldest child needed the complete, don’t-hold-anything-back, tell-me-right-now explanation of sex.

We had already dealt with the basics of where babies came from. I always answered every question that was brought to me.  But every time we would get to the nitty gritty part, Tom would change the subject.

This day was different. He wanted the truth, the whole truth. Nothing else would suffice.

Of course this was also on a day that my dad was over. I will spare you the details of our conversation, but let’s just say that six years later, I still haven’t completely recovered from having to explain ejaculation to my son IN FRONT of my father.

I give my dad extra points for remaining very calm and then patting me on the back for a job well done.

Some of the toughest questions I have had to answer have been about our beautiful 12-year-old daughter. Lizzy is beloved by her two brothers, but her brain disorder that still has no name stumps some of the top medical professionals in the world. How do I answer questions about what her future will be when I don’t know?

Being a mom means being prepared for anything. I get that. I am also fairly proud of my ability to appear calm and unfazed even when I’m laughing or dying inside.

But I have to admit that I was caught off guard last year when my then 8-year-old son, Peter, asked me if he really had to go to heaven one day, and if he did, could our whole family go at the same time.

“Can I at least go with Grandpa Warren?”

My beloved Aunt Fran, who died less than a year ago, was in the last stages of her illness. Peter loved Fran and he was really struggling with what it meant that she was dying.

What is heaven? Where is heaven? Can we all go at the same time?

Peter asked these questions as I was serving dinner.

I did my best to reassure him and let him know I believed heaven was a beautiful, peaceful place where we would be with God and all our loved ones that went before us. I stressed the fact that I felt it was a place where there was no pain or sadness.

I let him know that I loved the idea that we would all be together and that even if we didn’t all go at the same time, I believed we would ultimately be reunited with one another.

His face relaxed and he smiled as he asked for a hug.

I was relieved to know that my hugs still held their magical power.

It occurred to me that day that I am the filter that my children see the world through. Whether they are sad, scared, happy or not feeling well, I am the one they come to.

They adore their father. They love their grandparents, but I have been their constant from the day they each took their first breaths.

I am home.

All at once, I felt grateful, humbled and a little scared to be that important to not one, but three of the sweetest people on earth.

Motherhood is a strange job. The hours are crazy, the working conditions are not always optimal, and the people we work for can sometimes seem very demanding. I don’t always feel up to the job. Yet, on that day I was once again reminded that it is not so much what I do that means the most to my children. It is that I am there to do it. I may not be my ideal of the perfect mother, but I am theirs.

— 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.

Freelance your way to poverty

Con ChapmanThere is a charity in Boston that helps the homeless by publishing a newspaper for which they write articles. The thinking is that if a panhandler has a newspaper to sell, as opposed to merely asking for a handout, people will be more likely to give him or her money and he’ll evade anti-solicitation laws. As a happy byproduct, the theory goes, the downtrodden acquire valuable skills by cranking out content for the good sports who fork over cold, hard cash.

What a great idea; help people out of poverty by turning them into freelance writers. While we’re at it, why don’t we take away their deposit cans and bottles?

As someone who first sold a freelance article for $100 35 years ago (adjusted for inflation: $3.26), and worked the better part of a summer on it, all I can say is if you want to lift people out of poverty, freelance writing is as good a tool as any.  If by “any” you mean maypole dancing.

As a freelance writer, you deserve to be treated like a professional, although with pay-for-print articles being as low as it is, you may feel like you’re preserving your amateur status for some future Freelance Olympic Games.

I sold 32 freelance articles in 2013. At the everyday low prices that prevail in the marketplace for unsolicited non-fiction, my take-home pay averaged 20 cents a word. Not bad, you think. You’ve got plenty of words — you’re the Wal-Mart of words! The problem is, no one wants to buy the Big Gulp size; everyone wants to buy the little, teensy 430-word piece.

And then there’s the phenomenon of reverse literary panhandling. One editor to whom I sent the taboo-breaking article “How to Tell Your Teenaged Son From a Dead Rodent” told me how much he enjoyed it and that he wanted to run it in his suburban weekly. “Of course, I have no budget for freelance articles,” he added with a fraternal tone, as if an experienced writer like me would know that one doesn’t actually get paid for this sort of thing.

Mais oui, mon ami!” I replied with a blasé devil-may-care attitude, like Maurice Chevalier. “Why should you pay me for something that will mean so much to your readers, when it is but a trifle to me!”

The purchasers of freelance writing have a well-deserved reputation for responding as slowly as possible, thereby increasing your pleasure in much the same manner that the Pointer Sisters longed for a slow hand. I was surprised in 2007 by the jackrabbit response of a publishing company to an over-the-transom Hail Mary I sent them. “Thank you for your submission,” their friendly, personalized form letter read. “You should hear back from us in approximately six months.” I set my snooze alarm for January of 2008, and waited for the big check to arrive, Ed McMahon-style, at my front door.

Time passed. Buildings rose and fell outside my office window. The Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series, an African-American president was elected, the Arizona Cardinals played in the Super Bowl. We were surely in the end times predicted in the Book of Revelations, but I had to wait another year to get my official rejection letter. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I didn’t send them a live report from Pearl Harbor.

And then there are the unintended consequences of training the currently unemployed to become freelancers. My going rate for a 500-word article is $100. My “hit” rate for print articles last year wasn’t bad, around 95 percent, which was Larry Bird’s career-high free throw shooting average, so I’m in good company there. Online it was about the same, but the prices were a fraction — around 10 percent — of what newspapers pay. No wonder they’re going out of business.

So additional writing supply from panhandlers means prices will go down even further, leading to uncomfortable negotiations like this:

ME: So unless we rescind the Hungarian Toy Tariff right now, we face the collapse of the domestic Play-Doh market.

EDITOR: Um-hmm. What kind of fee were you looking for?

ME: Well, my usual.

EDITOR: I don’t know. There’s a guy sleeping in the vestibule who’ll do a three-part series on how the Pope controls his bladder — for a 50-ounce jug of Thunderbird wine!

ME: (Pause) Okay, I’ll do it for the 750 milliliter bottle.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). He is the author of 30 plays, 10 of which are published. His articles and humor have appeared in national magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Boston Herald.

Mom can text, sort of

Kelsey1008-266x400I have only myself to blame.

I honestly thought it was a good idea to introduce my mother to stuff like Facebook and text messaging. She’s a smart woman and besides, that way I could always find her when I needed her.

So several years ago we forced her to get a cell phone and then two years ago we gave her a laptop for Christmas. In all fairness to me, that was my sister-in-law’s idea.

The first time my mother’s cell phone actually rang she was with my nephews. “What’s that noise?” she asked. “Granny, it’s your cell phone,” my nephew informed her. “What do I do now?” she inquired. “Answer it,” my nephew instructed. “How?” came her reply. It was then we suspected this might have been a mistake.

Eventually, she learned to text. Sort of. Now I get cryptic messages like “Where u?” and “Cll me.” One time she asked me several questions in a row (again, sort of) and I finally answered her, to which she replied, “No text and drive.”

She also hasn’t quite figured out yet the difference between Facebook messaging and Facebook posting. Now everyone knows what’s for lunch on Sunday and that the bread she made for me is ready for pick up.

My mother can sew, change oil, and given the right staff, achieve world peace. But copy and paste is beyond her. I tried to walk her through it once on the phone. I told her to click on the document. “What document?” she asked. “The one you want to copy,” I instructed. “And then hit control A.”

Do you know what she said? “Why?” I restrained myself from saying “Because I told you so!” Eventually we agreed that copy and paste wasn’t really that important and I would do it myself when I came over to get the bread.

And then, just the other day, she lost her email icon, address book, saved messages – the whole shebang. Gone. She explained that the “whole thing” locked up on her and she started “poking buttons.” Did she remember the exact last button she poked? Well yes, she guessed it was “unpin.”

Remember the days when they used to tell you to go ahead and poke buttons, that you couldn’t possibly do any harm? Turns out those days are over. I left mom with the promise that I would get my sister-in-law, who is much smarter than I (or so I thought until she suggested we buy mom a laptop), to fix it for her. Twenty minutes later I got a text that read “Email me k.” I assume mom had stubbornly resumed poking buttons and wanted to know if she was making progress. This is, you understand, the same woman who had a colonoscopy at 8 a.m. and by 2 p.m. that same day had canned two dozen jars of apple butter. I know she is capable.

But none of our electronic challenges can compare to the time she opened an email that she admitted she thought was suspicious and in turn got a virus. That little incident earned me a phone call to Dell in Indonesia during which I said the F word in front of my mother for the first time and the customer service agent asked repeatedly “You plug in?”

Yes, I plug in. But I think it’s time to unplug mom.

— Holly Kelsey-Henry

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

10 reasons why you should go to a renaissance festival

Marcia Kester DoyleIf you’ve never been to a renaissance festival, you’re missing out on a chance to travel back in time to the 15th century. Where else will you experience an archaic privy, royal encampments, pirate raids and stout for breakfast?

I’m a 14-year veteran of the renaissance festival, and here are 10 reasons why you should lace up your boots, tighten your corset and visit the local faire:

1.  ROLE PLAYING:  Other than Halloween, this is the only time of year you can fly your freak flag by wearing a pirate hat, fairy wings, a king’s crown or a cat mask. There’s no social hierarchy among the attendees of a renaissance festival — CEOs dressed as saucy wenches rub elbows with middle school janitors in royal garb. No one cares about your net worth or your upbringing. The only thing you’ll be judged on at the faire is your swordsmanship and beer drinking skills.

2.  FOOD:  Turkey legs. Fried pickles. Chocolate-covered bacon on a stick. Did they have all of these delicacies during the renaissance era? No. Would they have wanted them? Heck yeah!

3.  GAMES:  This is a great place to test your skills in axe throwing, archery and jousting. A word of warning: the chances of you winning any of these tournaments is as likely as finding the Holy Grail under the tool shed in your backyard. If you’re lucky, you might win the consolation prize — a T-shirt that reads, “I RODE ON A UNICORN HORN AT THE FAIRE!”

4.  REN PORN:  There’s more exposed skin at the faire than you’ll find on a beach in Nice. Women wear gowns with necklines down to their navels and the men in tights leave little (or a LOT) to the imagination. You’ll see tattoos in places you never thought possible. The manly men in kilts will keep you guessing as to whether or not they’re wearing a boulder brace or going commando under their plaid skirts.

5.  LIBATIONS:  If you don’t have the taste buds for warm mead in a wooden mug, don’t worry. There are plenty of rum runners and frozen mojitos at the faire’s pub. If these wicked libations were available back in the 1400s, there would have been less wars and more napping.

6.  RIDES:  What sets the renaissance festival rides apart from carnival rides is the lack of electricity. When you climb into a spinning barrel or a giant, rocking horse, the ride is powered by sheer muscle. In other words, a burly man in tights will be in control of your mortality when you board the swinging pirate ship. Avoid any ride named “The Hurlinator.” This is especially important if you’ve consumed a large plate of sausage and peppers washed down with too many mugs of mead.

7.  PEOPLE WATCHING:  Where else can you find a parade of wenches, cardinals and knights? The costumes tend to alter the personalities of the people wearing them — especially if they’ve added rum floaters to a few of those frozen concoctions from the pub.  Just steer clear of the man dressed as a polka-dotted caterpillar.

8.  VENDORS:  There is an abundance of arts and crafts available if you like unusual souvenirs that you’ll never use again — such as a didgeridoo and a horned Viking helmet. DON’T take the didgeridoo to work to show your friends. Blowing into the large, wooden instrument to replicate the sound of an injured buffalo is NOT conducive to a happy work atmosphere — unless you buy a pipe for everyone in the office and break out into an impromptu didgeridoo concert during lunch hour.

9.  SHOWS:  If you’re looking for Disney-quality shows, you’re in the wrong century. There is nothing G-rated about the festival’s bawdy humor, musicals or daredevil acts. But you WILL laugh hard enough that a quick trip to a privy might be necessary. If you like men with long poles on horses, then the jousting show is for you.

10. ROMANCE:  Nothing is more romantic than being surrounded by people dressed like characters from the cover of a bodice-ripping, romance novel. Love is in the air — along with alcohol and revealing clothes. Welcome to 50 Shades Of Renaissance Grey.

At the end of the day when you leave with a big bag of kettle corn tucked under your arm, you’ll be thankful to return to your modern-day conveniences. Nothing beats air conditioning and indoor plumbing — except maybe a slow roasted turkey leg.

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013. In 2014, she was named a Blogher Voice Of The Year.

The monster under the bed

Jon ZieglerOne night, when I walked into 5-year-old Natalie’s room to tell her goodnight, I noticed that the child was crouching on the edge of her bed, looking down to the floor as if she were waiting for something to come out from under her.

“What on earth are you doing, baby girl?”

“There’s a robber under my bed,” she stated matter of factly.

With a chuckle, I assured her, “There is no robber under your bed. I don’t think anyone could even fit under . . .”

But before I could finish my sentence, I heard it. From under the bed, there came a faint rustling sound and then a “clunk.” I felt my eyes get big as I shot a look at Natalie, who returned it with an expression that clearly said, “I told you.”

In what must have been a brief moment of panic, I lost track of just how it came to be that I ended up crouched on the edge of the bed next to Natalie, looking down at the ground as if we were waiting for something to come out from under us.

After a few tense minutes and a few more noises from under the bed, my older daughter Hannah wandered into the room and looked at the two of us inquisitively.

“What are you guys doing?” she asked.

“There’s a robber under the bed,” my youngest answered.

Hannah looked at me for some clarification.

“Umm, I don’t think it’s a robber . . .” I started to explain cautiously.

“There’s a monster under the bed,” Natalie then added.

Again Hannah looked at me.

With a shrug of unsureness, I tried to prevent the situation from elevating to sheer terror, “Well, I’m not going to say that I think there’s a monster under the bed, but . . .”

The clunking noise once again came from underneath the bed. In a flash, Hannah took her crouching place next to me and Natalie on the edge of the bed, all three of us looking at the floor as if we were waiting for something to come out from under us.

Hannah turned to me and with a fearful voice said, “It’s a monster isn’t it?”

For a second I tried to formulate a less scary explanation for the noises that were emanating from under the bed, but I had nothing. The clunk was far too heavy to be a mouse.

“Yes, it might be a monster,” I was finally forced to admit to my daughter.

One of the unfortunate aspects of being a father in a situation such as this is that both of my daughters sat wide-eyed and silently staring at me, waiting for me to figure out how to save the three of us. My brain scrambled, trying desperately to come up with a solution, while simultaneously doing my best to suppress the rising sense of horror that I was beginning to succumb.

I realized that my cell phone was in my pocket, so I pulled it out and speed dialed my wife, who was downstairs watching American Idol completely unaware that her husband and two daughters were trapped upstairs facing certain death.

“Hello?” she answered in a somewhat bewildered tone, “aren’t you upstairs?”

“Yes, I am. I need you to go to the basement and get one of the softball bats and bring it up here . . . or a butcher knife, either one, and don’t ask!”

“What are you talking about?” she said, sounding curiously annoyed.

“Please just do it,” I plead without trying to sound frantic.

I could hear her moving around downstairs and grumbling about having to get off of the couch. I heard the kitchen drawer open and close, followed by the sound of my wife coming up the steps.

“What is going on up here?” she demanded as she entered the room.

“There’s a monster under the bed.” Natalie explained quite calmly.

My wife looked at Hannah, who nodded in agreement, and then at me.

“Well, I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s a monster under there, but there is something.”

Right on cue, the rustling and clunk sound started up again. My wife’s gaze focused on the underside of the bed.

Without a word, she walked over to the edge of the bed and squatted down to look underneath our perch. She then let out a disgusted snort and reached under the bed. The three of us on the bed gasped and hid our eyes. A mild scuffle could be heard, and then she pulled her arm back out and held up CeeCee, our large Persian cat.

With a sigh of relief, the three of us were able to get off the edge of the bed. In addition to relief, I also felt a bit of embarrassment over having been saved from a “monster” by my wife.

“So you thought there was something under the bed, and called ME to come up and deal with it?” my wife demanded. “Were you thinking that it would be better for me to get attacked by the monster instead of YOU?”

“That’s why I told you to bring up a weapon,” I answered pathetically. “I figured if you had a bat or a knife, you might fare better than the three of us who were unarmed!”

Ever since the whole monster under the bed incident, my wife seems to delight in telling the story, shedding a most unflattering light on my role in the situation. I have since vowed that no matter what type of horrible beast is haunting our house, I would much rather be eaten alive, than to give her any more ammunition for degrading stories such as this one she enjoys telling.

— Jon Ziegler

Jon Ziegler is a husband, father of two girls and a tree trimmer who started writing as an outlet for what he calls “creative madness.” He’s the author of The How-Not-To Guide to Parenting and Marriage and From Inside the Brain of a Dad Looking Out.

When we played tag, Dad drove

Bob NilesFather’s Day has to be the easiest celebration to plan for — a celebration, that if left up to Dads, would not go ahead at all because all Dads really want is just to be left alone.

Father’s Day was brought about to complement Mother’s Day as Wikipedia would have us believe. And it wasn’t a guy who brought it about, but a woman. A daughter who wanted to honor her Dad.  What’s he going to say after she had gone to all that work? “No thanks honey. If you really want to do something special, just leave me alone.” (The guy had raised six kids by himself! Of course, he wants to be alone.)

My Dad never wanted a fuss. Heck, he didn’t want kids! Us four boys would ask dear old Dad what he would like from us for Father’s Day and each year he would respond, “Get adopted by another family!” Ah, what a kidder.

Dad’s idea of a perfect Father’s Day would be getting off the couch and finding a perfect outline of himself in potato chips after watching an afternoon of golf.  That’s a day I would like to achieve. But every year we would try to do something special for him because that’s what Moms like. So why not Dads? Moms like to get dressed up and stand in line with a lot of other dressed-up Moms and wait for their names to be called in a restaurant on their special day. Why wouldn’t Dad like something special like that?

I guess we missed the subtle clues throughout the year that Dad wanted just to be left alone on his special day — like when we played tag and he drove away. Our first tubby toy was a plug-in radio. And Dad’s favorite game with us was “Hide-n-go…” No, it was just “Hide-n-go.” He never came looking for us.

He’d say little things like “I made three just like you. I can take you out and make another, and no one would miss you. Your mother is the only one stopping me.” What a kidder.

It’s not that he didn’t do things with us. He just had his own style of doing things. When it snowed, he’d take us out bumper hitching. For those unfamiliar with this, you’d grab hold of the rear bumper of the family Pontiac while squatting on your feet as Dad pulled you along the snowy road. It was big in the ’60s, but neighbors today would probably phone the cops on such a parent — especially my Dad, who  made us hold the front bumper! “Keep your arms real stiff!” he’d yell. What a kidder.

We were never a huggy-feely family who shared a lot of emotions to let old Dad know we loved him. I remember once hugging my Dad, which greatly surprised him.

My Dad was a kidder. He loved to laugh. Growing up, I really enjoyed his laughter. A house is so much better with laughter. My happiest childhood memories revolve around my Dad when he was happy. And he wasn’t happy that much. It’s not like he raised us in fear of punishment, but he carried the world on his shoulders and did more worrying than one human should possibly do. So, laughter was a welcome change.

If there was ever a time I had the chance to show my Dad how much I appreciated him, it wasn’t on a Father’s Day. It was when we drove up to Fort St. John in northern British Columbia together. I was doing a plumbing job there, and he came along for the two-day drive before I flew him back home. He more than once thanked me for the scenery and the one-on-one time we spent together for those two days. I was lucky he gave me the chance to do it before he passed away.

I’ve been blessed with several days in my life that I was so proud to be a father to each one of my kids. It wasn’t cards, gifts or dinners, but rather a special moment in each of their lives that made me proud and made me think this dad thing is all worthwhile. It’s alright.

I wasn’t the best son a Dad could have, and deserved the threat of being taken out and another one made just like me. Thank you, Mom! And my kids, at times, came close to that same threat. But, just like me, they came around before it was too late.

On Father’s Day, buy Dad dinner, play a round of golf, take him fishing or just tell him you understand and leave him alone. That’s what my kids do for me.

Father’s Day is not found in days paid for and expected, but in days that my kids have worked for and made sacrifices to achieve their desired goals. And then, hopefully, during your lifetime they make you so proud that you get the chance to stick out your chest and say, “THAT’S MY KID!” Do you know what he just did?” All the work, prayers, hopes and dreams a Dad puts into a kid suddenly sprouts. That’s Father’s Day.

— Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names), honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs here.

Women + horses = epicurean delight

Mary Farr and NoahA few new guests have arrived at my home sweet home — all females. And this usually means their human partners are female, too. Woman and the horses that manage them — it is a curious tradition that governs most stables.

Fortunately for us, the female attraction to horses begins at an early age and often lasts a lifetime. This is good because according to CNN breaking news airing in our poker room, we need lots of clever women to untangle the world’s snags. Now, I don’t know a greenhouse gas from a hothouse geranium, but the women I hang out with can figure out how to make things run properly.

In my experience, they resolve their conflicts without the use of a lot of foul language or firearms. Well, maybe an off-color joke or an uncouth burp now and then, but mostly I hear females settling their disagreements with cordial, law-abiding methods.

What’s more, women know how to get along with tricky horses. Show me a cow horse that’s bored with cattle, and I’ll find you a woman who can change his mind. Or, let me introduce a reluctant dressage prospect to a savvy female. In no time, this problem student is crazy about full bridles and performing pirouettes. Maybe it’s their innate knack for diplomacy that enables women to change a Clydesdale with a stinky attitude into a winning cribbage player.

These horse partnerships also provide women a perfect antidote to a midlife crisis. For those who can’t afford to travel the world seeking their bliss, or studying Hindu Sanskrit, a tactful horse makes a perfect midlife companion. We make dandy travel buddies and fine dinner dates as well.

Let me also mention the curious connection between our girlish mates and good food. In short, they know their way around the kitchen. That’s not to say they belong in the kitchen. Oh no. They belong anywhere they choose to be, whether it’s the Old Country Buffet salad line or the Supreme Court. I just happen to know that Madam and her horse chums turn out fabulous food, including fabulous birthday cakes and horse treats that magically appear in my room.

So, all this leads me to a food chat we visit daily at our house: When do I get to sign up for “Cooking with Chef Cal?” Not classes that feature Brussels sprouts quiche or kumquat casserole. I want to learn how to serve up the good stuff — kid-tested, horse-friendly party food. You never know, this could even land me a new career as Emeril Lagasse’s sous chef.

Yes, I know these inspirations of mine require a little assistance from my assistant. But remember, we’re talking about a woman. Not only is she sterling on the keyboard, Madam knows a thing or two about operating the KitchenAid mixer and all those attachments that go with it. It sounds like a winning recipe to me!

— Noah Vail

Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on a book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy,” blogs hereNever Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival.

Suburban haiku: pet peeves

Peyton PriceCAT NIPS

When company’s here
we shoo Kitty off tables
like she’s not allowed.

Why thank you, Kitty
for trotting right up to me
to vomit. Both times.

Ooh, look at the cat!
She’s got something in the hall.
That’s one dead oak leaf.

When the new couch comes
things are gonna be different.
I mean it, Kitty!

The cat licks her paw
and rubs it on my son’s head.
Can she pack his lunch?

He burps in my face
but says “God Bless you, Kitty”
at each tiny sneeze.

DOG HOUSE

When the dog’s pooping
the kids stop calling her name.
Unlike when I am.

Our dog is well trained
to stay off of the sofa
when I’m in the room.

In misty weather
trying to find the short leash
for toads’ protection.

The dog’s locked away
howling that the cable guy
might want to pet her.

I blurted out “S%*^!”
but the dog thought I said “SIT!”
quite fortunately.

I must stop the dog
from barking at that new kid.
He’ll think we’re racist!

The dog’s ears and mine
perk up at every car door
until he comes home.

— Peyton Price

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook or in the living room attempting to remove pet stains from the new rug.

Reflections of Erma