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Top 10 questions to ask before publishing your book

Braughler, David 2A simple Google search of “self-publishing companies” results in more than 10 million results. Even if you did have the time to sift through a couple pages worth, you still wouldn’t have any idea which ones really knew their stuff. Getting solid, clear answers in language that you can easily understand helps ensure that you will be able to proudly show your new book to people — even outside your immediate family.

Your old college buddy is standing there, shaking her head in disbelief.

“This YOUR book? You published a book that looks THIS good?,” she says. “It looks GREAT! Must have cost a fortune.”

And you know what? She’s right. It DOES look good, you knew that all along. And it didn’t cost a fortune.

“Didn’t you publish something, too?” you ask.

“Yeah, but let’s not talk about that. Pretty embarrassing effort, compared to THIS,” she says as she holds your book out in front of her.Braughler book

“What did you do with yours that I didn’t do with mine?” she asks.

Through research and talking with other colleagues who have published, you came up with a list of 10 questions. Those questions definitely helped you determine which publishing companies were the best fit to work with on your first book — and who would help you ensure it looked as good as it does.

Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Self Publisher:

1) Has the self-publishing company previously published books like yours, directed at the same market or reader?

2) Will this company complete all of the work in-house, or does it subcontract it out? (Local subcontractors? Overseas?)

3) Will you own all the rights to your book when working with this particular company? You had heard horror stories about self-published authors who found out (too late) that they had lost some of the rights to their work, allowing the less-than-ethical company they chose to work with to receive a percentage of every book sold.

4) Are there any minimum orders? What if you want just 100 books to start with?

5) Does the publisher offer packages or does it work under an a la carte system? Sometimes a package with everything from ISBN to printed books to marketing make sense. Some authors don’t need all of that, so why pay for it?

6) Will you have a single point of contact within the company at all times during the publishing process?

7) Does the company have any unusual requirements for preparing your files for publishing?

8) If this is a local publishing company, ask to see various samples of its work. When you see those samples, are you comfortable with the look and feel of them? And if you’re reviewing published work online, be sure to take advantage of features like Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

9) Who will handle the layout of the inside of the book? Of the cover? Do you need to do that yourself, or do they do that for you? You know that some publishers offer templates to use, so that you can cut down your costs upfront.

10) Will the publisher edit your book for you? Or do you have to hire your own? You know that despite thinking you’re a decent writer, that having a professionally edited book can have a huge impact on the sales of the book. After all, who recommends a poorly written book to a friend?

If you don’t feel completely comfortable that the company you’re going to work with knows its stuff, and has the experience and knowledge to help you through the process, then you need to find yourself another company to work with.

Don’t be like your college buddy with a self-published book that you would rather not talk about (aka, “the expensive learning opportunity.”) It doesn’t have to be that way.

You can successfully publish your own book and have results so spectacular that you can’t help but show it off to anyone you meet.

— David Braughler

David Braughler, publishing adviser at Greyden Press, helps authors, coaches, executives and organizations publish their stories and expertise. He served on the EBWW faculty in 2014 and 2012.

A mother’s bond

Mary Lou QuinlanMary Lou Quinlan describes her poignant one-woman show as a love letter.

Yet it’s much more than that. It’s a powerful lesson on faith, letting go and not taking yourself too seriously.

Nearly 700 theatergoers laughed and cried — and celebrated the enduring bond between mothers and daughters — during two performances of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” March 30-31 in Boll Theatre at the University of Dayton.

Many even brought their mothers.

“I could feel that powerful connection of people, particularly women, who are reaching inside their own souls to recall, to smile, to cry or to simply recognize their own circle of life,” Quinlan said after the audience rose to its feet in appreciation following the final performance.

From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to Off Broadway, Quinlan’s show has touched thousands of lives over three years and raised more than $300,000 for charity, mostly for women’s health and education issues. After Quinlan served as a keynote speaker at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, she offered to bring the performance to campus to benefit the workshop’s endowment fund.

Through sponsorships, gifts and ticket sales, the event raised nearly $33,000 for the endowment, which is used to keep the workshop affordable for writers. It was the first fundraiser for the popular workshop, which attracts such household names as Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, Nancy Cartwright and Phil Donahue.

Betsy Bombeck, Mary Lou Quinlan, Cheryl McHenryOn closing night, Quinlan shared the stage with Betsy Bombeck, the humorist’s  daughter, in a “Talk Back” conversation with WHIO-TV anchor Cheryl McHenry. Talk about a poignant, powerful moment. View the YouTube clip here.

“It feels like forever, and it feels like yesterday,” said Quinlan, tears in her eyes, of her mother’s death nearly nine years ago.

“Mary Lou and I have made each other cry since we first saw each other. It’s just been a laughfest,” Bombeck quipped as the audience erupted in laughter.

What did the two want the audience to take away?

“There’s laughter everywhere,” Bombeck said. “Never take yourself so seriously. …Do what you want to do every day. (My mom) used to say to me, ‘Take it to the limit, so that when you end your day and put your head on the pillow, you can say you did everything you needed to do that day and you can sleep peacefully.’”

Quinlan added: “I never set out in any way to preach.  Ever. My mom was not that way. Everyone in the box. (But) there is something in having a deep-seated faith and believing in whatever that is for you. And letting go. (My mom) might say, ‘Give it a shot. You might have a good night’s sleep.’”

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop relies on the generosity of supporters who believe in its mission. To make a gift to the endowment, click here.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communications.

It’s my body and I’ll cry if I want to

Cindy EastmanI can go days without looking in the mirror. And then, something drastic happens to force you to look at your image and terrible things start to happen. You start to notice things. Bad things. Like this…

Years ago, Barbara Walters suggested that if women raised their arms above their heads, it lifted the breasts and other, um, ample skin so it wouldn’t look saggy. I wondered, could I walk around with my arms in the air without looking silly? Nope. So I didn’t.

Fast forward to a month after my stepdaughter’s wedding. She sent the link to the entire 542-picture wedding album, all of which I could look at online at my leisure. Within minutes, I zeroed in on the reception pictures. Many shots, more than necessary really, showed us “older” ladies on the dance floor, clearly thinking we looked hip dancing to funky music that apparently required all of us to fling our arms into the air with abandon. That day I realized my arms looked like hams hanging in the butcher’s window.

These kinds of photos are important evidence, for example: we don’t really look as cool dancing as we think we do. Another thing, almost as important: Barbara Walters was wrong. Lifting one’s arms in the air does only this: the elasticity-less arm skin drapes down the humerus onto the radius and ulna in folds like melting wax. It was both a disturbing and fascinating observation.

Confronted with the droopy skin evidence, I looked in a mirror. And now I finally get what Nora Ephron was talking about — I feel horrible about my neck! When did this happen, this weird shift of fat and skin, this wrinkling, this discoloration? My head looks like one of those children’s books where you spin the wheel and exchange heads, like having a dragon head on an elephant body. (That’s just the first image that came to me.) There is a clear demarcation between the top of my neck under my chin and the bottom of it near my throat. Throw in a pair of metal bolts and the image is complete.

It surprised me to discover that my body was starting to look very different than the circa 1987 image I have in my head and that it obviously happened without my spotting it. I was also a little disturbed at how disturbed I was.I always felt that one of my better characteristics is that I have little to no vanity about my looks. (“No shock,” says everyone, “we’ve seen your clothes.”) I am slightly vain about my hair, and, oddly, my feet, but I never thought I’d be concerned about my aging appearance.

It happens, though, aging. And people age differently. I don’t think Michelle Pfieffer walks around with her arms up in the air, but I bet she’s just as concerned with her looks as the rest of us. My husband is the oldest of three and he has a head full of black hair, as compared to the all-gray and nearly bald of his two younger brothers. He also complained about his image in the wedding pictures; he said it just doesn’t look the same as when he sees himself in the mirror. To prove it, he took a picture of himself while looking in the bathroom mirror. It was 20 minutes before I stopped laughing.

We all have to come to terms with the roller coaster ride of aging that our bodies take us on. And we might as well enjoy it, right? As the saying goes, “It beats the alternative.”

— Cindy Eastman

Cindy Eastman’s first book, a collection of essays entitled Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts On Aging I Remembered To Write Downwas published by She Writes Press in April 2014.  She is a writer and an educator raised in Louisville, Ky., and attended undergraduate schools in Austin, Texas, and graduate school in Springfield, Mass. Cindy holds a master’s degree in education and has taught students from ages 5 to 85 in subjects including, but not limited to, poetry, English, creative writing and computer skills.  She currently lives in Connecticut with as much of her family as possible.

Mom’s the word for Kitty

Jerry-Zezima1-219x300At the risk of starting a scandal involving promiscuous sex and teenage pregnancy, I have been living in a cathouse for almost two decades. And the madam of the establishment was the mother of nine children.

I refer to Kitty, one of a quartet of felines that have resided in my humble and frequently fur-flown household over the years. At the ripe old age of 17, the notorious party girl has gone to that big litter box in the sky.

Kitty became a member of the family in 1998, when my wife, Sue, and I moved with our daughters, Katie and Lauren; our original cat, Ramona; and our dog, Lizzie, from our hometown of Stamford, Conn., to Long Island, NY.

Not long afterward, I started getting strange phone calls at work.

“Meow,” purred the voice on the other end.

“Who is this?” I said the first time it happened.

It was Lauren, who would have turned our home into Old MacDonald’s Farm if she could have and was primarily responsible for Ramona, Lizzie and the veritable menagerie of goldfish, frogs, hamsters and gerbils we have fed, supported and done everything for but put through college.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“A cat,” Lauren replied.

“You already have a cat,” I said.

“Ramona’s an idiot,” Lauren declared. “I want a real cat.”

This went on for a couple of weeks until I finally relented.

“OK,” I said. “Go get a real cat.”

Lauren went to a nearby store — it wasn’t a pet store — where the owner had placed in the front window a box that housed a litter of kittens. Lauren picked one and, at the cost of absolutely nothing, which was approximately what the cat was worth, brought her home. We tabbed her Kitty, even though she wasn’t a tabby, until we could think of a better name for her. We couldn’t, and Kitty started responding to it, so the name stuck.

Unfortunately, Kitty also started responding to cats of the opposite sex. Unlike Ramona, who was strictly a house cat — and probably too stupid to find her way home if we had let her out — Kitty was a nature lover.

One day, I got another call from Lauren, who had just turned 16.

“Guess what, Dad!” she said excitedly. “You’re going to be a grandfather!”

I dropped the phone. When I recovered sufficiently to pick it up, I found out that Kitty was pregnant. In cat years, she was even younger than Lauren.

Kitty had a litter of four, two of which we found good homes for. The other two — a female Lauren named Bernice and a male she named Henry — got to stay in our home.

Do you think motherhood ended Kitty’s wanton ways? Of course not. Shortly afterward, she was in a family way again. This time she had quintuplets, four of which were born one day under a bed. Kitty waited until the next day to have the fifth. I could have used a fifth myself.

We found good homes for all five kittens and took Kitty for a lady’s procedure, even though she was anything but a lady. As a precaution, we also arranged snip jobs for Henry and Bernice, who were starting to have a sibling revelry.

Thereafter, Kitty’s platonic affections were directed toward me, Sue and anyone else she encountered, including our real granddaughter, Chloe, who loved to pet her. Kitty was sweet, smart and small.

By contrast, Henry was practically the size of a mountain lion. He died a few years ago at age 12. Bernice, the sole surviving feline, eats like a mouse but is so fat she should have the word “Goodyear” emblazoned on her sides. She dwarfed Kitty, who ate constantly and wouldn’t have flinched if you had set off a string of firecrackers right next to her while she chowed down.

Now that Kitty is gone, we have cut down considerably on the food bills. Still, we miss the old girl. She was — pregnant pause — the cat’s meow.

— 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 five 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.

The tale of Sir Big Dad

Rachel BarlowNobility is often born, but it does not always happen the way you might think. Certainly one can be born into a noble house. (One can have nobility conferred upon oneself, but that’s not really being born is it?)  As I discovered this last week, however, there is another way nobility is created, and as in tales of old, mine involve cunning, dedication and even a dragon.

Once upon a time a few years ago, the Big Guy and I opened our oil bill and, after finding out no one wanted to buy our used body parts, designed a house that didn’t need oil or propane.  We ended up building a cave — a house buried on three sides, powered mostly by sun and heated by our Kitchen Queen.

To the casual observer, Kitchen Queen may look like an ordinary cast-iron wood cookstove, but she is really a dragon.  Now, you may not know this because dragons get a bad rap in a lot of books and movies, but most of them — such as Kitchen Queen’s black-and-chrome variety — are actually quite friendly.  Kitchen Queen, for example, keeps a fire burning in her belly, usually using it to heat our water and bake goodies.

Once in a while, however, the gremlins that live in our utility room get restless, and the water in Kitchen Queen’s heating box fails to circulate.  She builds up steam, and then (she’s a very lady-like dragon) she’ll blow off the steam in a long low squeal (she swears it’s a burp).

Last weekend the gremlins got restless.

The sun was setting when a few bubbly burps escaped Kitchen Queen. We figured she would blow off a little steam and then the water would circulate again and all would be well, so we went back to cartoons. Kitchen Queen burped again and then fell to grumbling about something. Suddenly she roared and blasted the wall with steam from her backside.

The Big Guy rose from the recliner, trying to soothe Kitchen Queen for a moment before arming himself with a screwdriver and charging into the utility room. An accomplished DIY-er, the Big Guy fearlessly flipped switches and pushed buttons on the machinery that converts sun to electricity and the gadgets that pull water from the well to the house.

Back he went to Kitchen Queen to see what was causing her to alternately circulate water and then hold it to convert to steam, but his close inspection offended her sensibilities, and instead of a burp, this time she wet her pants.  All over the kitchen floor. Seriously. There was a two-inch-deep puddle from one end of the kitchen to the other.illustration

Ironically, the gremlins had rendered us not powerless but waterless. Thus began a series of labors so terrifying even Hercules would have thought twice (the Big Guy even had to get out the owner’s manuals).  The pump in our well was disabled, but the Big Guy soon realized the real test would be keeping toilets flushing and family mentally sound as we waited for the parts for the repair to arrive.

For the better part of a week, he hauled wood with 14-year-old Thing1 and water from a neighbor’s house with the aid of 8-year-old Thing2. (Still hobbling with a cane, I offered little but financial support). Without complaint and surviving on rations of oatmeal and microwaved dinners on paper plates, the Big Guy nurtured the family spirits while navigating the logistics of waterlessness and getting up for work at the usual time.

It was near nightfall when the part arrived a week later, and the Big Guy and the plumber pulled out the well pump for a repair that took less than a couple hours. The plumber left, and the Big Guy pushed buttons and flipped switches until the gremlins were thoroughly vanquished. We fed and watered Kitchen Queen and celebrated victory with scalding showers.

In honor of Big Guy’s pluck last week, I created (birthed, if you will) a new noble rank:  Unholy Order of the Eternal Missing Sock.  I immediately indulged in a bit of nepotism and conferred the knightly (that’s a word, right?) title of ‘Sir Big Dad’ on the Big Guy. Now as we happily take hot showers for granted again, I’m more sure than ever that there is courage — and even nobility — in laughing through the everyday battles that keep a family going when they’re ready to tear out their very dirty hair.


As a great philosopher once said, “You might think I’m a nut case, but I’m not the only one.”  And, if your family, like a good candy bar, has one or two nuts in it that have kept you going through a domestic disaster, you might be ready to join us.  Mismatched socks optional.

— Rachel Barlow

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

Three things to do rather than watch
The Final Bore

Charles HartleyGo to your local convenience store and buy a bunch of food that everyone keeps reminding you should not eat. Start with Munchos. Augment those with a Family Pack of Twizzlers, Double Stuffed Oreos and Orange Sunkist Soda. Also get some Hostess Ho Hos and a five Mounds Candy Bars.

To kill time, have a chat with the cashier while you’re making your purchase.

“Hey, the weather’s getting better, isn’t it,” you say. “What a winter we had. I thought the world was ending. I thought we were going to freeze to death and meet on the other size in some heavenly igloo. At the event we would all drink frozen lemonade and suck on ice pops. Hey, you guys sell ice pops?”

This conversation won’t take too long and the Final Four lasts about six hours. So ask the cashier several questions. “So, when you were in sixth grade, did you prefer social studies over math? Depending on your answer, give three supporting reasons including an example for each.” The cashier should take about four or five minutes to answer this after, of course, asking you why you’re asking those types of questions of him and him explaining that there’s a line of people behind you he needs to serve and this isn’t really time to talk about it.

“Hey, buddy,” the gruff-smelly-in-faded- blue jeans man behind you will say. “Stop asking the cashier stupid questions. I need to get my Lime Flavored Tostitos and Chips Ahoy and get to my house to watch the Final Four. You’re holding me up. This is the biggest sporting event of the year if you don’t count the Super Bowl. I don’t have time to wait in line because some guy in front of me is asking a cashier essay questions about sixth grade academics.”

“You, sir, don’t get it,” you will say. “You will be more entertained by this conversation than watching the same teams and coaches that go to the Final Four all the time play again this year. The Final Four will be a bore, a big fat snore, shut the door. It always is when teams like Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State make it there. There is nothing that irks me more in sports than when these same schools, the same wives, the same coaches, the same alumni get to have big parties with chips and dips in Final Four hotels year after year. They get to go to a disproportionately high and unfair amount of partying compared with alumni from colleges such as mine. We never go to the Final Four. Partying at the Final Four should be spread around, not hoarded by the elite few.”

“Dude,” the guy behind you will say, “get out of my way. I am buying my junk food and you’re bugging me.”

He shoves you away from the front of the line. You will allow him to get his food and go to his house. This whole convenience store episode will have lasted 23 minutes.

To kill the rest of the five and half hours until the Final Bore is over, you will have to figure out two more things to do. These will have to each kill a lot more than 23 minutes. Otherwise you will have to figure out about 10 things to do to kill time until your March Madness dies its slow death.

Being ambitious, you should drive your car for two hours in any direction. Ideally someplace you have never been so when you try to get home you will get lost. Just drive. Meander in your car in the direction away from your house and the TV where those basketball games will be torturing you even as you don’t watch them.

You will wail in the car to yourself: “Oh, the parties I’m missing with my college friends because my college never makes the Final Four. Imagine the wine, women and song we never get to enjoy.”

Ideally, this aimless driving will take you to someplace where there is a good pulled pork barbecue sandwich to buy. Look around for such a restaurant. Maybe see if you can tell from the road if a convenience store seems like the type that would make you a pulled pork sandwich. Most of them don’t. So you are likely to fail in this pursuit but time will elapse, and that’s your main objective.

Just keep searching for a pork Sammy until two hours have passed into the history books. Then start driving back to where you think your house is. But don’t use a GPS or map. Don’t talk to Siri. Just drive. Guess which roads to take. Purposely take the turns that your gut tells you are wrong. This is bound to devour time and make your drive back home take even longer.

As you find yourself getting more lost, you will know you have completed your second task to kill time during the Final Four.

Plow on to step three: While on this drive, stop in at a hotel, preferably a seedy one where you suspect you might get mugged. Get a room for a few hours. Sit on the bed, grab the remote and turn on the TV. Whatever you do, don’t go to the Final Four channel. Watch Judge Judy if she’s on. Or search around for some cool Hawaii surfing competition. Or even better, fire up the “Weather Channel” and find out what’s going on with the weather around the country including your neck of the woods. This should mesmerize you for a few hours.

Fall asleep, by accident. Wake up whenever. Rub your sleepy eyes. Be discombobulated about where you are. Feel enriched you missed the Final Four.

Stand up and dance around the room singing, “Victory, victory, victory.”

You won the national championship.

— 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.

Me and my big head

Con ChapmanMy son once gave me as a present a “one-size fits all” New England Patriots throwback hat.

It was a nice gesture, but hopelessly misguided. I was able to use the occasion as a “teaching moment.” The three big lies of our time, I told him, are ”The check’s in the mail,” “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning,” and “One size fits all.” There is no way, I told him, a one-size-fits-all hat is going to fit me — because I’m one of the big-headed people.

I have a big head literally and, in some areas of expertise, such as the wisecracks by economist Thorstein Veblen and the lyrics of Johnny “Guitar” Watson, figuratively.

I measured my head before I returned the Patriots’ hat for a fitted one; my head measures 24″ — two feet! — in circumference. From head to toe, I’m only 5′11″ dripping wet, 5′10″ on a depressing day. A 34 percent head-to-height ratio has got to be right up there among the all-time leaders.

Spring is a season fraught with anxiety for men with big heads, for it recalls for us a time when the extraordinary bigness of our heads was objectively verified. When I played Little League baseball as a kid, I used to dread the day they’d hand out the caps.  The coach would take a gander at each kid and guess what size he needed, small, medium or large. No “L” hat ever fit me, so my hat would sit on top of my head like a cherry on a cupcake. The other kids would look away and kick at the dirt. One year, I just went out and bought an adult hat rather than subject myself to the embarrassment.

There is no direct correlation between head size and intellect. During the years when both were alive, Victor Hugo had one of the largest heads in France, and Anatole France one of the smallest, and each was a more than competent scribbler. In boxing, among other endeavors, size matters, but apparently not when it comes to (in the words of a late Boston sportswriter) putting one little word in front of another.

The popular conception is, of course, to the contrary. Highly evolved space aliens in science fiction are always depicted with massive crania to hold their super-sized brains. The flip side of the future, however, is that as the brain grows, the heart shrinks.  Aliens are typically portrayed as unfeeling, uncaring creatures, as if their emotions had been cauterized when they were young.

Well, what did you expect?  Their whole lives, they’ve had a universe of creatures sniggering behind their hands at them.

Ever since they went out for Little League.

— 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, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Restoring laughter

Abby L.My recent journey to restore crumbling mental health began a few weeks ago, when I hit the bottom and had an unforeseen nervous breakdown.

Exhausted from the anguish of life, low on hormones and cash, crippled with hopelessness, and worn down from around-the-clock care of a brain tumor patient, I reached a point, where I was certain I would go nuts, if didn’t change a damn thing in my pathetic existence.

I think it was in that very moment, that lightning struck me and I experienced a delirious flash of insight, an epiphany.

I believe that many of us have that life-changing instant, where you go from one second to another, and you feel like it’s the end but also a beginning. When your circumstances (be it illness, bad luck, loss of a loved one, or all at the same time) violently tear you down to the very core of your essence, when there’s nothing left, but the plain, naked Y-O-U.

Once you reach the deepest of all bottoms, everything else falls away, and nothing that’s left matters. It doesn’t matter that you have a loving family, an adoring husband, beautiful children and a handful of friends, who are there for you when stuff happens. Despite your deceased ovaries, extinct thyroid and erased adrenals, everything else in your body works to keep you alive despite the clear absence of good health. Not to mention that you still have a roof over your head, and enough money to buy the most necessary things.

But when the winds change, the winds change. And there’s not much you can do about it.

And one thing is sure, after your mental collapse, nothing will be the same as it was before (at least when it comes to your state of mind). Overnight you’ll change into a completely new person, at times even unrecognizable to yourself (a bit more courageous, a bit more adventurous and definitely more nuts).

It’s then, that you start shifting, that you start reorganizing your life, in a way that you never even dared to think of doing previously. Which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.

I sat down, created a website and started blogging — something I was putting off for less busy times (after the kids grow up, mom is back in shape, my hormone therapy kicks in, and I stop yelling like a crazy person).

And then, what a surprise, what a turn, what a ride!

I never figured, that it would bring me where I am right now, juggling the incomprehensible (at least to humans, but less so to search engines) language of HTML and five active social media channels — and still continuing to run a busy family life (including trying not to mix mom’s medicine and attempting to microwave frozen dinners in the correct amount of time).

Over past three weeks I’ve learned what a template is (seriously, don’t forget I’m older than the Internet) and how to rewrite it, what’s a domain name and how to manage a Webmaster’s account. I signed into Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter — media I only knew from Prince Harry hate comments or Kim Kardashian’s tweets sung by Bette Midler on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I’ve created a more or less organized blog with plenty of tiny little widgets (OMG how I love these), joined communities of bloggers and met virtual friends from all parts of the world.

But most importantly, I began doing something, that over the years I thought I forgot how to:


And that alone was worth all the rush.

So, for those of you who, like me, are about to have a nervous breakdown and collapse into a very deep existential coma, I can tell you one thing: There is hope! Because even if you have nothing left (no money, no health, no luck), you can still have laughter. And there’s nothing more uplifting than good humor when you’re feeling down (plus it’s totally free of charge, gluten free and absolutely suitable for vegetarians and nut allergy sufferers)!

And who knows, maybe in the end, hitting the ground will bring for all of us a brand-new beginning, a brand-new chapter.

Sooner or later life will have us find out.

— Abby L.

Abby L. is a former Ph.D. student and lecturer of European studies at the University of McGill, globetrotter and mom of 7, who is blogging at about (you’ve guessed it) midlife crisis, turning 40 and living as an expat in France. She’s contributed to Midlife,, and

Reflections of Erma