In 1967, starting “big school” meant entering the first grade. It was an exciting time for a 6-year-old as entering the first grade represented experiencing many of life’s firsts: first book satchel, first pair of saddle oxfords, first fat pencils and lined tablets, reading with Dick & Jane, first lunch boxes (mine was “Twiggy”) and, most especially, experiencing first-time puppy love.
I attended Leslie Steele Elementary school in Decatur and I have vivid memories of visiting the school for the very first time. My mother escorted me down the large hallway that, regardless of how recently the floors had been waxed, had the distinct effervescent scent of new crayons, cupcakes and old vomit. Upon entering my classroom, my first grade teacher introduced herself. She was at least six months from retiring and her name was Mrs. Gross. Girl Scouts’ (Thin Mints) honor – her name was “Mrs. Gross.” (Cross my heart…)
I sat in the very first desk of the very middle row of Mrs. Gross’ first grade class. Right behind me sat the cutest boy in the entire, whole first grade. His name was David, and I had the most gushing crush on him.
I was beyond smitten.
He had a golden tan all year long and the Biggest. Brownest. Eyes. He was rather shy and didn’t talk very much, but that was okay — his cuteness spoke volumes and I could talk plenty for the both of us!
It was a Monday and I was still giddy from an all-day Saturday shopping spree with my grandmother at downtown Atlanta’s Rich’s department store. No amount of Bridge Mix and hot cashews from the candy counter or even lunch on the bridge could top my excitement over wearing a brand-new navy wool jumper ensemble to school that day.
The morning work had passed quickly; it was time for lunch followed by a quick run outside for recess. David had not seemed himself all day despite my best efforts to be my entertaining version of precious and chatty in my fabulous new outfit. After returning to the classroom, Mrs. Gross began the afternoon lesson on the chalkboard.
And that’s when IT happened.
I suddenly felt a warm and somewhat heavy sensation on the back of my head, down my neck and across my shoulders. Then, the aroma hit me.
My cherished first grade love — David — had thrown up his lunch all. over. the back of me.
The highly coveted position of front and center was now the focal point of David’s long withheld and unexpressed love in the form of dripping chunks of Monday’s cafeteria special. Needless to say, “Chatty” was ready to leave the building.
Mrs. Gross sent us both to the office — David to the first aid clinic… and me? I was sent to an outlying room of isolation UHway from everyone within gag-reflex distance. Meanwhile, a phone call had been made and my (former Marine) father was on his way to collect me and my condition.
Upon his arrival, his assessment, and the onset of the Eau de’ vomit fragrance wafting over him, I was immediately demoted to the rank of my father’s bird dogs and sentenced to ride home in the back of his truck, thus avoiding all retching possibilities.
Apparently, vomit stamina is not a priority of Semper Fi.
That would be the first and last time I would ever wear that outfit to school. Gushing crushes of love? Who’s to say how many times a person must suffer from love regurgitated before it’s the real thing?
—Harriette Keen Jacobs
Atlanta-born and Georgia-grown, Harriette Keen Jacobs writes everyday slices of life from rural Georgia on farmhood, familyhood, lifehood. Whatever is on her mind (and where it wanders), she’s sure to share it. Join her for “South of the Gnat Line.”
Inside me lives a skinny gal trying to get out. Usually I shut her up with a bowl of spaghetti or a chunk chocolate. Sometimes I don’t eat it but have to stuff my ears instead because she sure makes a lot of noise!
Let’s face it: I have never, ever met a bowl of pasta I did not like. And I am very friendly to many other foods. It is my nature to be accommodating. But I must declare that the weeks starting at Thanksgiving and ending on Valentine’s Day plus other celebrations and special occasions sporadically, are doing me in.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
2 open houses
1 yummy wedding
Please, no more food or toasts or “taste this as I made it especially for you!” In the past my philosophy has always been that life is fragile so eat dessert first. I just never thought I would live this long.
I mentioned previously that I thought I heard applause as I was jogging only to learn that it turned out to be my thighs hitting together? Well, now it is more like an auditorium of screaming rock aficionados giving a standing ovation to my jiggles and hanging participles.
Please, do not invite me to one more celebration. I cannot eat another thing till…till…dinner time. On the other hand, I just read recently in The New York Times that being overweight is not bad. The paper claims that the Body Mass Index (BMI) may not be an accurate measure of health. WHEW!
Oh, well. I am truly not worried. I do not want to brag and certainly, you should not compare yourself to me, but I can still fit into my earrings from high school, so there!
— Jan Marshall
Jan Marshall is the author of her second satirical survival book, Dancin, Schmancin with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! She’s a columnist, certified clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker. This piece, reposted by permission, appears on her blog.
Thing1 is being punished. He’s being really punished for the first time in recent memory.
For most of the last 12 years we’ve been pretty lucky. For most of that time, he’s been good-natured and willing to follow the rules we set down. Infractions occur, of course, but for the most part, they’ve been small enough that an empty, humorous threat to send him to military school puts a stop to restaurant antics or begging. When we do lay down the law, Thing1 usually plays the part of the gentle giant tolerating a well-meaning but misdirected mother and goes along. He seems to understand that — even when he thinks we’re totally nuts — we’re on his side.
That all changed today, as the fallout from a less-than-stellar report card caused the first serious fissure in his faith in our good intentions.
All kids have an Achilles heel as individual as their personalities, and Thing1′s is his love of all things computer. He has begun cracking open code on favorite games and spending hours Skyping with friends, gabbing about hardware and how to improve their favorite video game and which is the best OS for their purposes. It is a hobby and avocation that could be come a vocation. Now, however, it is bordering on addiction. So, 15 minutes after the Big Guy and I read the report card, we had an intervention and pulled the plug.
Our normally tolerant 12-year-old reacted like any addict who was being cut off would.
He denied. Then he rationalized — the report card, that is. Then he protested. And finally, grudgingly, he accepted the reality that his computer time would be restricted to school work.
Grudging acceptance has now taken the form of the silent treatment. He still obeys the easy rules without defiance. Gone, however, is the good-natured demeanor. Smiles are quickly extinguished when we make eye contact — even if we caused the smile. From his room, we can occasionally hear muted muttering that tells us we hit that heel with perfect aim.
At first, we did pat ourselves on the back for being such clever parents. We felt guilty for about 10 seconds after we shut down his favorite hobby, but, contrary to his belief, we’re not enjoying our victory. I know he needs the consequences, but I hate seeing him unhappy. I know there are things we can control in our own house, and there things we can’t. This is one of the things we’re supposed to control. And while it hasn’t lead to happiness, it is giving me a bit of serenity in a way that I would never have thought possible when I was a teenager.
As the bearer of numerous crappy report cards, I was also the recipient of many groundings (pointless and redundant for Thing1 who lives in the middle of the woods) and privilege losses. I remember the profound sense of betrayal when I lost a favorite social outlet. Now, walking this mile in my parents’ moccasins, I’m finding yet another new understanding of their perspectives. There’s no forgiveness, of course — there’s nothing to forgive when someone’s looking out for your future. Instead, this is one of those moments when my mom and dad are getting an unexplained warm feeling in the back of their necks as their daughter writes that they were right about many things — even when it wasn’t fun to be right.
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 mother has always advocated hiding away little piles of money for a rainy day or possibly a Disney vacation. Her vessel of choice is a small, white bucket that she places loose change in. After retiring, she began making and selling gourmet cupcakes to friends and family. The money earned from cupcake sales was placed in the bucket to wait for that rainy day, when it was needed.
I, too, have a bucket, but its contents have dwindled down to a partially filled tube of lip gloss and some quarters thrown in from doing laundry. My bucket quickly became a community bucket where everyone reached for lunch money, soda money, cigarette money for my husband and more. I realized that location is everything and that I might need to secure a different bucket and place it in an undisclosed location.
Around Thanksgiving, my mother asked me to count her bucket money (a favorite hobby of hers) and as I passed $3,000 and still had stacks of twenties to go, I realized that people must really like cupcakes. She suggested we pool our bucket money together and take a cruise. This was a grand plan, except for the fact that lip gloss and quarters won’t actually secure passage on a real ship. It was time for a better plan. The solution — The Vacation Fund.
This cute ceramic container came with dreams of Hawaiian vacations and trips to exotic lands. It was written on the outside, clear as day, “Vacation Fund.” How could I go wrong? While the first container I used was clearly labeled “Folgers Dark Roast Coffee,” I can see how it was easily mistaken for everyone else’s funds. I hid my new vacation fund container at the top of my china cabinet and tossed fives and twenties in as the days passed. Unable to see the contents in the jar, I knew it must be turning into quite the little nest egg.
Cruise tickets were purchased with my mother’s cupcake money and “my” vacation fund would be used to pay for the extras. After comparing notes with other sea-faring families, I discovered what those extras might actually be. One family spent $600 on pictures, and another had an $800 bar bill. I can understand the bar expense if I had just learned that I owed $600 for pictures.
Excursions are extra, and my mother insists that my daughter swim with the sharks. I’ve explained to her how that particular activity is usually free and not actually a tourist favorite. It’s swimming with the “dolphins” that costs $200 a person. Travel to and from the port is an additional expense and will include two vehicles on a nine-hour drive with several stops at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant where we all become nostalgic and buy toys from our youth. My son will procure a kazoo that will eventually be tossed out the window as we pass a semi and he has driven me to madness with kazoo tunes. My daughter will have some dancing monkey or paddle ball that will fly back and forth from three rows back, hitting me in the head and breaking my sunglasses. The cost for one trip to Cracker Barrel can be expensive when it includes emergency optometric support. All must be covered by the vacation fund. “Extras” will also include several stops at gas stations that are more like mini-amusement parks than fueling stops. We can easily drop $100 on gas, beef jerky, unnaturally colored drink products and foot-long strands of red licorice that will be hanging from our mouths before we hit the highway.
Afraid to calculate the true cost of the extras, I decided to bring down the vacation fund jar and see just what size vacation it would be. Surely those twenties had added up over the months. In an almost ceremonial fashion, we gathered at the table, and I allowed my daughter to count the funds. She pulled out a one-dollar bill, and I was certain it must have just been placed there on top of the stack of twenties. Then came a five-dollar bill. With one giant smile, she retrieved the first of the twenties. Unfortunately, it was also the last of the twenties. My vacation fund had $26! My daughter cheered at our new-found wealth. My mother laughed. It looked like we would be swimming with the sharks!
I secretly thanked God for the savings account at the Credit Union that could not be touched by those seeking theater tickets, nicotine or “Two Ball Screw Ball” frozen treats from the ice cream man. In less than a week, I will gather my funds and head south to lounge poolside. I’ve instructed the children not to smile at anyone’s camera but mine. If the ship photographer comes along, they are to instantly make scary faces. This will save me some money and allow the children to swim with docile mammals while their mother sits on the shore sipping tropical goodness through a straw.
It’s a good plan, I think!
— Melissa Brodnax
Melissa Brodnax, a closet blogger, is a full-time working mother who is often overwhelmed, but wouldn’t miss a minute of it. Her main goals in life include getting the kids to school on time, getting to work without stickers on her shirt, paying the bills before the shut-off notice arrives and avoiding hot gluing her hair to the counter again. “My children are my entire world,” she says.
(Jen Havice’s interview with author Mary Farr originally appeared on Studio30+, a social media site for writers. Reposted by permission.)
For anyone considering diving into the world of book publishing, there are so many issues to think about. These days an author can choose to go in one of several directions: traditional, self-publish or some combination of the two. It can be a minefield of questions that need to get answered even before beginning the process.
This is why I sought out a colleague and friend who recently published a book using a hybrid model, combining some of the best aspects of traditional and self-publishing. Mary Farr, author of Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and The Power of Yes, kindly agreed to answer some questions about how she published her third book outside of the traditional model.
Q: You have published books before traditionally. Why did you decide to go the self-published route?
A: I have published three books, and each has been with a “traditional” publisher, meaning the publisher purchased my manuscript outright. In each case, the publisher managed the design, editing, production, printing, sales and distribution of the book. In each case, I received a modest advance and a small royalty going forward.
My reason for choosing the self-publishing route was twofold:
One, it’s very time consuming and not particularly rewarding to research and query publishers who might or might not be interested in a book. In the case of Never Say Neigh, I have worked as a writer and marketing professional for years and felt reasonably confident that the content of this book would resonate with several audiences. Hence, I was prepared to take the risk to invest in myself.
Two, writing is labor intensive, hard work, and few authors enjoy grand financial success. In the interest of fairness it seemed to me that every author deserves reasonable remuneration for his or her work. Self-publishing can offer better financial rewards than the traditional route, provided authors carefully research their publishing partner and ask plenty of questions before setting out to produce a book.
Q: You ended up publishing Never Say Neigh using more of a hybrid model. Can you explain what that means and why you decided to use that model?
A: Like so many of our country’s institutions, the publishing world is churning with change. I chose to work with what I call a hybrid publisher, meaning this publisher provided a variety of publishing packages and individual services that included both traditional and self-directed tasks. By traditional, I’m referring to access to experienced book editors, designers, book sales and distribution systems, e-book conversion and distribution, and book reviewers. By self-directed, I’m referring to the expectation that I assumed a lot of responsibility for completing the production steps. We used online software to communicate throughout the entire process. This included a message center for ongoing questions and answers; an author coach to help with the process; questionnaires regarding audiences, book cover design, book interior design and layout, recommended retail price, and a book launch and marketing plan.
Q: After having published with the hybrid model, would you do it again?
A: A few questions remain about whether or not I would use this model of publishing again. It’s pretty clear the entire industry is testing new processes and standards. For example, the software program we used to communicate and complete production steps seemed like an excellent tool, though one that could use refining. Occasionally the task sequence felt a bit off, and in the end I was confused about who did the final proof reading. Having said that, I felt this group offered clear, straightforward advice and a broad range of important services. I’ll have a better answer to this question in six months.
Q: Do you have any advice for writers interested in self-publishing their first book?
A: On one hand, self-publishing throws the door open to virtually anybody who wants to write a book and is willing to invest a little (or a lot) of money. On the other hand, throwing the door wide open does not equate to success. There is no shortage of expensive and discouraging “pot holes” for an author to fall into. I am still learning, though can offer some well-tested advice:
Good editing is absolutely essential if an author wants to turn out a professional product. Spell check or a friend who majored in English cannot provide the level of editing a manuscript deserves.
A distribution plan is a must. Ask your publisher how they plan to help you distribute your book. Once friends and family have made their purchases, we need a well-oiled system of managing sales, distribution and book storage.
Interview publishers before signing a contract; ask detailed questions about their contracts; compare their contracts to other publisher’s; budget wisely, and don’t purchase more than you can comfortably afford; develop a comprehensive marketing plan, including a website, social media accounts, book reviews and other means of reaching your audiences.
Make it fun. Whether you intend to publish a memoir for your family reunion or hope to knock out a hot mystery novel, don’t forget the real joy of writing and sharing our ideas with others.
She may be a stereotype, but like the elusive Bigfoot, she does exist … the Little Old Lady in the Great Big Car. I encountered her in the parking lot at McDonald’s last week and, true to stereotype, she used a parking space and a half to dock her boat.
Here’s how we met:
I had an unusual half hour to myself one morning and decided to indulge in a characteristic Lynn-lapse: coffee and calories at Mickey Dee’s. I enjoyed my morning paper, gobbled the McMuffin and sipped my coffee. When I was done, I tidied up my table then headed out the door with a nearly full cup of coffee.
I am not a fast drinker of coffee. Under the right circumstances, a cup of coffee can last me for an hour or more. I don’t mind the gradual transition from hot to lukewarm to cold. The cooling process is part of my coffee ritual.
So, leaving McDonald’s I had a steaming styrofoam cup as my to-go treat.
When I walked outside, I noticed big blue boat of a car parked next to my modest tan sedan. I paused at the rear bumper of my car. Two reasons for the pause: 1) I could not go any farther and 2) I could not figure out what to do next.
As I get older, I find that it takes me longer to assimilate information and decide what to do next. I stared at the two cars: big blue boat … modest mid-size. Eventually, my brain put the pieces together. The space between my car and the big blue boat was so small that I could not squeeze into the space and open the door on the driver’s side of my car.
“Okay, what are you going to do now?” my brain asked itself. During the ensuing pause, my brain gathered more information … the driver of the big blue boat was exiting her vehicle. Sadly, she reinforced my stereotype.
Out of the driver’s door of the big blue boat stepped a very small, very old lady. Her hair was dyed red and curled tight. She had applied rouge and lipstick with happy abandon. The expression on her face reminded me of Aunt Clara on Bewitched, befuddled and content.
I watched her totter into McDonald’s, oblivious to the dilemma she had created for me.
My brain returned to assessing the situation and seeking solutions. Gradually it dawned on me that I would have to enter my car through the passenger’s side and crawl over the gear shift into the driver’s seat. This, I thought, should be easy.
I opened the passenger’s door, placed my coffee cup into the coffee holder and plopped into the passenger’s seat. From there, all I had to do was hoist my body over the center panel … gear shift, cup holders and various amenities provided by the savvy Saturn engineers.
I counted to three and hoisted … not quite past the center panel. Actually, I sat on my coffee cup. My verbal response to sitting on hot coffee was not socially acceptable.
From the hot, coffee-saturated center panel, I hoisted myself once again and landed in the driver’s seat. My coat was soaked; my pants were soaked; my center console was soaked; the passenger’s seat was soaked. Aunt Clara was enjoying her Egg McMuffin.
Perhaps that episode was payback for my believing that all little old ladies drive great big cars. Certainly there are many women, not unlike myself, who drive small and/or modest mid-size cars. We blend into traffic and into parking spaces. We travel unnoticed.
Maybe there is only one little old Aunt Clara in a big blue boat, stalking me and amusing herself by annoying me. I’m just not sure. I don’t think clearly after sitting in hot coffee.
Lynn Albright is a South Dakota author. Her career has included writing for newspapers and education organizations. Now sort-of-retired, she is working to overcome her distrust of technology and start blogging. In addition to wrestling with technology, Lynn is a proud member of the Baby Boom generation and is working on her first novel.
(This humorous essay by Nick Thomas originally appeared in the Mountain Democrat on Feb. 22. Reposted by permission of the author.)
When is a Footlong not a Foot Long?
The answer, apparently, is when it’s a Subway sandwich. It seems these tasty, elongated snacks haven’t been measuring up to vigilant customers’ expectations lately.
Armed with their trusty yardsticks, pernickety patrons around the country have resolutely sunk the Sub’s promotional promise of being one foot long (or exactly 12 inches for the dimensionally challenged). Many of the $5 Subway sandwiches have been “weighing in” at a stunted 11 inches.
Turning to social media, some disgruntled customers have been content to merely voice their outrage, while others hope to extract compensation through litigation. A class-action lawsuit against Subway seeks fast-food justice for the receding rolls.
For me, however, the revelation poses more evocative questions about the advertising claims of other fast food favorites.
For instance, does this mean for the past three decades Ronald McDonald has been peddling a Quarter Pounder that doesn’t contain exactly 0.25 lbs of hamburger meat?
And should we now have doubts about the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise? Perhaps Colonel Sanders’ Original Recipe of 11 herbs and spices has been covertly trimmed to a meager 10 to reduce costs. In fact, I’ve long been suspicious of KFC advertising ever since I learned that founder Harland Sanders wasn’t even a real military colonel. (It was an honorary title given by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.)
Don’t think Hardees can escape unscathed from this shameless parade of consumer swindle, either. Their Memphis BBQ Six Dollar Thickburger actually costs (depending on the state taxes) around $6.30. That’s fraud Hardees, pure fraud.
Better lawyer-up if you plan to visit an In-N-Out Burger, and have a hankering for their Double-Double cheeseburgers. Because here, two times two does not equal four meat patties. One “double” refers to the meat, while the other “double” refers to the cheese slices. That’s just plain wrong.
And what recourse does the consumer have if it turns out that the Dirty Rice side dish sold by the Bojangles’ chain is actually clean?
Along these lines, here’s a shocking revelation about the Denny’s breakfast menu: their Senior Omelette doesn’t contain any real seniors at all, just bacon!
Will the culinary cops ever investigate these apparent breaches of fast food marketing?
While we’re at it, let’s send the irony police to raid Dunkin’ Donuts for having a nutrition section on their web site.
And perhaps SWAT teams should probe a potential hazard at Burger King – specifically, the Whopper Jr. Sandwich Meal. Theoretically, the opposing terms “Whopper” and “Jr” could function dangerously like matter combining with antimatter, generating primal culinary forces that could cancel each other out violently, and detonate during digestion.
But returning to the mischief afoot at Subway.
The company has now publically addressed the Footlong fraud and expressed regret for “any instance where we did not fully deliver on our promise to our customers.”
Despite their contrite tone, Subway’s corporate penitence hasn’t quelled the wrath of customers accusing the company of selling them short.
In fact, when my last sandwich turned out to be a runt, I first considered tossing my Sub into the street in front of the store and publically protesting by smashing it with a two-by-four (which, by the way, are actually1½ by 3½ by inches – watch out Lowes, the lumber lawyers may be heading your way).
Fortunately, a cooler head prevailed. I resolved the shriveled sandwich issue without destroying a perfectly good lunch while still expressing my displeasure to Subway. Anticipating my $5 Footlong would only be 11 inches, I simply handed the salesperson $4, and headed for the door.
— Nick Thomas
Nick Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 270 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. Read more of his work on his blog, “Along These Lines: A Little Silly Seriousness, in a Seriously Silly World.”
The 2013 Paris Book Festival has issued a call for entries to its annual event honoring the best of international publishing.
The 2013 Paris Book Festival will consider non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, compilations/anthologies, young adult, how-to, e-books, cookbooks, audio/spoken word, wild card (anything goes), photography/art, poetry, unpublished, spiritual and romance works. There is no date of publication deadline and entries can be in French or English.
Grand prize is $1,500 cash and a flight to Paris for a gala awards ceremony in late May.
Submitted works will be judged by a panel of industry experts using the following criteria:
1) General excellence and the author’s passion for telling a good story.
2) The potential of the work to reach a wider audience.
FESTIVAL RULES: Paris Book Festival submissions cannot be returned. Each entry must contain the official entry form, including your e-mail address and contact telephone number. All shipping and handling costs must be borne by entrants.
NOTIFICATION AND DEADLINES: Each entry will be confirmed via e-mail and the winning entries will be announced on the competition’s web site. Because of the anticipated high volume of entries, the organizers can only respond to e-mail inquiries.
DEADLINE: Submissions in each category must be received by the close of business on April 25, 2013. Winners in each category will be notified by e-mail and on the web site. Please note that judges read and consider submissions on an ongoing basis, comparing early entries with later submissions at our meetings.
Entry forms are available online at parisbookfestival.com or may be faxed/e-mailed to you. Please send an e-mail for fax requests. Applications must be accompanied by a non-refundable entry fee of $50 in the form of a check, money order or PayPal online payment in U.S. dollars for each submission. Multiple submissions are permitted, but each entry must be accompanied by a separate form and entry fee.
For contest details and frequently asked questions, visit the festival’s website. more information, send an email to ParisBookFestival@sbcglobal.net or call 323-665-8080.