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Let’s FACE it

A friend of mine gave a speech recently about how social media can cause depression.

I am depressed. Yup. I admit it. All those happy, perfectly well-adjusted, secure-in-their-own-skin types who post their selfies from sunrise to Leno are getting me down.

My friend’s speech research revealed that most people who post on Facebook are extroverts and narcissists. Well, I thought I fit snugly into that profile, but I can’t bring myself to selfie into the Guinness Book of the Clueless. Who cares how white your teeth are? Who cares if your dog got scared from the thunderstorm? Who cares if you broke your nail during a brown out? Everyone knows that those professional photos of your toothless kids are air brushed. Was it really worth an $873 sitting fee just to post your offspring for all other narcissists to see?

But what does this have to do with my depression? And who told that woman that my ex looks like a movie star? Is she kidding? Yes, he was gorgeous at 23, but come on. “I love him so much. He is the man of my dreams,” she boast posts. Thank goodness, her dreams came true. Guess what? So did mine.

When I think about posting something, it seems so lame. I thought about posting a photo of our new hardwood floors the other day. They are so shiny and beautiful (and so friggin’ expensive). Who really cares? How is my floor photo going to make someone feel? Frustrated that they can’t afford to pay Mario to put slivers under their feet? Thrilled that some woman of a certain age gets her jollies from a piece of oak?

The posts that make me feel sad are the ones that show family reunions, trips to South Africa and former students having their eighth kid. My family has reunions without me because I live far away. I would love to go to South Africa, but I can’t sit still long enough to get there. My students having children makes me feel old and out of the mainstream.

Poor me. Hmm. That has a narcissistic ring to it.

I have noticed that many people (somehow they snuck onto my friends’ list) use profanity in their posts. I was brought up in a genteel home where I was taught that people who swear are ignorant; they are too lazy to get out their Thesaurus to find an intelligent word to express how pissed off they are. The “F” word is now considered a verb, an adjective, an adverb and a noun. These “friends” don’t even try to disguise it —they spell it out. They don’t even put it in caps, because no one under 40 considers it a “bad” word. I like to say it because it makes me feel young and naughty, but I can’t bring myself to actually write it. In some pathetic way, it sets me apart from the ignorant masses.

The only comfort I find in feeling bad when I read posts on social media is that I am guilty of the same offense when I write my holiday letter.

Do I tell all my friends whom I haven’t seen for nine years that our equity loan is maxed out, my face looks like a Shar-Pei and I am spending my children’s inheritance faster than I can pull up my Macy’s coupons?

Of course not. I send such messages as, “We are planning a six-week trip out West in our new sports car. I have no idea how I will fit my Ivanka Trumps into my Louis Vuitton roll-on. Oh, and my daughter and the kids have rented a penthouse in San Diego for a week. Hope we get the king bed.”

So sad.

— Sandra Moulin

Sandra Moulin, a freelance writer from Wilmington, N.C., is a retired master French and humanities high school and college teacher. She has self-published two volumes of humorous essays, Before and Laughter and Laughterwards. She writes for four local publications and gives humorous workshops and presentations.

And here’s the kicker

And Here's the KickerMike Sacks has re-released a longer version of his 2009 book, And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers, complete with an extra 200 pages and never-before-seen interviews. In June, Viking/Penquin published his fourth book, Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers. He has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Radar, Funny or Die, MAD, New York Observer, Premiere, Believer, Vice, Maxim, Women’s Health and Salon. He has worked at The Washington Post, and is currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair.

Darcy Perdu

A Darcy SMILING BIG Original (Shelly 7.5.13)Darcy Perdu has won three national writing awards in the past year for her humorous take on family life on her blog, So Then…Stories. Her real-life stories of running a business, wrangling two kids, traveling hither and yon and navigating relationships are universally funny. She recently won first place in the 2014 National Society of Newspaper Columnists competition in the blog and multimedia category (100,000 monthly visitors or less) after winning Voices of the Year awards in humor writing for 2013 and 2014 from BlogHer.

It’s a book!

Kin We're Not Related ToWanda M. Argersinger and Jody Worsham credit the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop for bringing them together to collaborate on the newly published Kin We’re Not Related To As Told By Mabel and Maybelle. Even though Jody claims, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthing no book,” the two have sent out a “birth” announcement. Congrats to the proud authors!

Say what??? 12 stupid things people say

We’ve all heard them. We might have even said them from time to time. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.” “It’s for the best.” “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” We pepper our daily conversations with a lengthy list of cliches and sayings that, regardless of our best intentions, may or may not actually make sense.

There are a few popular expressions that I hear almost daily that never fail to make me wince. Depending on the amount of wine I’ve had, I can usually resist the overwhelming temptation to say “Whut??” (Although not always, often sparking spontaneous verbal sparring matches with drunk party guests, longsuffering parents and self-proclaimed-but-idiot religious experts). On a recent evening rant about expressions that make me crazy, Hubs commented that he was surprised I hadn’t written a blog post about them.

So I did.

The Top 12 Stupidest Things People Say:

1. “There but by the grace of God go I.” Seriously, dude? So what you’re telling me is that God loves you and therefore is gracious in His forgiveness of your screw-ups, but that poor sot must have pissed the Big Guy off because his life sucks. Your God sounds a tad vindictive. Best haul your fortunate butt to church, pronto, and say thanks, before He decides you’re a loser and He takes his grace elsewhere.

2. “Do you want an honest answer?” No. Actually, I prefer that you continue to lie to me every time you open your mouth, as you’ve obviously been doing, since you suddenly seem compelled to offer honesty as an heretofore unexplored option.

3. “I don’t mean to be critical, but…” But BOOM, you’re going to be. Whenever someone starts a sentence with “I don’t mean to be critical/judgmental/mean/fill-in-the-blank-with-something-negative,” that’s exactly what they’re going to be. If you don’t mean to be critical, don’t be. Otherwise, just spit out your criticism or judgment without preamble. You’re not any less of a bitch just because you say you don’t mean to be one.

4. “It just happened.” Often offered up as an excuse for an affair. So let me get this straight. You were standing there feeding the homeless and a huge tornado ripped through the building, ripping your clothes off and blowing you on top of the inexplicably also-naked woman standing next to you? You’re right. It wasn’t your fault. Damn tornadoes.

5. “All things in moderation.” Well, that’s boring. Where’s the passion, the energy, the future blog post?? Moderation may be fine for some things, but moderation doesn’t make memories. “Here lies Vikki. Beloved wife and mother. She did all things in moderation. She was the most boring person on the planet.” Yeah, no. I’m thinking ”Here lies Vikki. Full Steam Ahead, Damn the Consequences. She was crazy, but damn, she was fun.”

6. “Good things come to those who wait.” Then the world is full of lazy freeloaders who are about to strike it rich, because they’ve waited for years. Good things come to those who go out and make it happen. I would never tell my child to wait for what he wants. Worst. Advice. Ever.

7. “Money is not important.” Almost always pretentiously stated by someone who has a butt-load of it. I’ve never heard a poor person say this. But if it’s not important to you, feel free to give me your banking information.

8. “God never gives you more than you can handle.” So what you’re saying is that if God determines that I’m a strong person, He just might heap all sorts of tragedy upon me simply because “I can take it”? Wow. I think I’d prefer God thought I was a total wuss, so He’d never give me anything bad and my life would be all unicorns and rainbows forever. Seriously, people. Y’all need to consider a different church, where God is a little kinder to His flock.

9. “My bad.” In the old days, we used to say “I’m sorry,” which was classier and less flippant. “My bad” is juvenile and patronizing. No one over the age of 20 should use this as an apology for a mistake. Ever.

10. “It was in the last place I looked.” Well, duh. We’re assuming that once you found said lost item, you quit looking, because, well, you found it.

11. “I could care less.” Let’s clear this one up for all time. This means you could care less. As in, “I don’t care much, but it is possible to care less than I do right now.” What most people are trying to say is “I couldn’t care less,” meaning “It’s not possible for me to care less about this.” I’m a grammar buff. You can shoot me now.

12. “That’s just the way I am.” Rarely used to excuse one’s better traits. (“I give $1,000 every year to the Food Bank because that’s just the way I am.” Never heard at a bar.) This one is usually reserved to justify behaviors we should change but have no current plans to do so, and is often offered up by people who believe that all negative behavior is an uncontrollable and incurable disease. If you’re happy and your life is working for you, rock on with your rebel self. But if no one wants to be around you because you’re, well, a total jackass, you might consider being a little less “just the way you are.”

So there you have it. I feel so much better now. If you like this list, add yours in the comment section in my blog. If I’ve offended you in any way, my bad. STOP THAT. I’m sorry. Are we still friends?

— Vikki Claflin

Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reels — Hilarious Writes and Wrongs: Take 26.

Death of a grandchild

“Granny!” she would shriek as she leaped with abandon into what she trustingly assumed would be my waiting embrace. Her eyes would shine with joy as she anticipated playtime, Granny-style. We would collapse on the floor, surrounded by dolls and other such girlish accoutrements.

Sometimes I got to be the Mommy and she the Daddy, and when she grew tired of parenthood, she would dump her “children” in a box, and we’d dance to the rhythm of Old McDonald, joined by her two brothers (one of whom was her twin). Sibling rivalry would fade into the background as story time began.

Could there be any greater joy?

My beloved granddaughter, Tal  (affectionately called Tali) was just four years old when she died on Aug. 26, 2007. A stunningly beautiful child, she exuded both childlike joy and astounding maturity throughout the ten months of her suffering.  Diagnosed at age three with a rare form of brain cancer, her chances of survival were slim. Nevertheless — as she endured the unspeakable horrors of chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation — we convinced ourselves that she would beat the odds.

There was simply no other way to think.

With heartwarming compassion, the oncologists devised an aggressive treatment regime involving chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation and would require Tali to be hospitalized for the better part of six months.  Since stem cell transplantation carried with it a significant risk of infection (due to the immune system being severely compromised by the treatment), only Tali’s parents were allowed in — one at a time.  If one parent wasn’t well, I became the overnight alternate.

After sanitizing everything and anything in my possession, I would peek in — only to be greeted with an excited “Granny!” — sending my heart soaring to the moon. When she displayed typical 3-year-old silliness, my heart would dance with happiness, and when she was ready for sleep my heart, would melt as she lay quietly, her huge dark eyes locked with mine as I sang to her.

From this child — not yet four — I learned about the capacity of the human psyche to experience joy — and yes, to laugh — even amid unimaginable circumstances.

Discharged home after the last cycle of treatment, she flourished, quickly gaining weight and looking healthy and robust. We dared to be cautiously optimistic, but soon after her fourth birthday came the catastrophic news of a relapse from which she would not recover.

It was unfathomable to imagine a world without this remarkable child.

Words couldn’t possibly capture the depth and breadth of our grief.

Her devastated and devoted parents cared for her at home, where I, too, stayed day and night, terrified to leave. I remember singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her…until I reached “Please don’t take my sunshine away.” I could not go on.

She died two days later.

As I tried to articulate my sorrow, I found myself trying to brush aside my grief, since t was a mere drop in the vast ocean of suffocating agony into which her parents had been plunged. Of what importance could my grief be when the parents were facing a future forever darkened by this inconceivable loss?

Yet I could not ignore the screaming voice inside of me, and I had to keep reminding myself that loss cannot be measured — that my pain, although markedly different than that of Tali’s parents — was real.

Six years have passed since Tali’s death. Time gradually softened the edges of my grief, allowing me to remember with loving tenderness precious moments we had shared — how she would give me Dora stickers for ‘good behavior,’ make up nonsense syllables or declare her love for me (arms outstretched to show me just how much). She loved “chicken muggets” and “pupcakes” but needed “mapkins” to clean her face.  She offered adult-like encouragement when I exaggerated my struggle to master a task (“Good job, Granny!” or “I know you can do it, Granny!”). And she was so proud of her very long string of ‘bravery beads ’ — one for each painful and frightening procedure she endured.

Tali’s surviving twin is now 10 years old. His parents, who never stop grieving for their little girl, must make his birthdays special for him, while simultaneously taking time to remember Tali.  And so, each year the family gets together to carry out a ritual in which we write messages to Tali, paste them onto helium balloons and release the balloons  to drift towards the sky.

Tali’s twin never lets us see what he has written.

— Adele Gould

Originally from South Africa, Adele Gould is a retired social worker who’s passionate about writing. Her blog includes several pieces that have been published in the Globe and Mail in Canada. Adele and her second husband, together 27 years, have eight children and four grandchildren between them. Besides a writer, she’s a woodcarver, avid photographer and volunteer.

Confessions of a born-again nag, or funny, you don’t look shrewish

He was sitting on the couch, peacefully watching the reruns of highlights of an instant replay from a previously shown football game.  Except for the furtive glance aimed at me, he seemed content.

I waded through the empty cans casually strewn on the floor, occasionally slipping on a loose, salted peanut . . . and then it happened.  Slowly at first, I barely noticed its presence.  But the crescendo rose and pulsed through my entire being.  It released its energy through my small, delicate mouth, and I screamed, “Damn it all!  When the hell are you gonna get off that couch and do something around the house?”

Hallelujah!  I was a born-again nag.

The tears came pouring down my cheeks.  He looked at me, and I could tell he was relieved.  He had known with his infinite wisdom that I could not go on with my unnatural silent ways.  He rose to embrace me, his legs a little wobbly.  (He had not used them in several hours.)

“I feel treasured and guilty once again,” he exclaimed. “Thank you for returning to your usual, pestering self, darling.”

How could I have forgotten?  The small print on our marriage contract stated that I was to bug him and the kids whenever I deemed it necessary.  It was my job to do so, always for their own good.

But I had strayed far from my constructive purpose of sweetly informing my family that their actions needed reevaluation.  They thought I didn’t care anymore.

Of course I cared, but I had been brainwashed by lectures, articles and books that told me to let them be. They were free to be who they were without any interference from me.

If a child did not want to do his homework, I was not to reprimand him.  It was his total responsibility.  So if he ended up in jail like a bum, I was not to say a word, but just accept him, and of course visit him every third Thursday.

If he did not care to clean his room, that was his choice.  But if it were necessary for him to wear thigh high boots in order to wade through the debris, he was to pay for them from his own allowance.

I had become so serene that once when we had gone on a trip, I had refrained from telling my husband to slow down, turn right or keep his eyes off the blonde in the tight sweater, so he thought he had left me at home and promptly drove back seven miles before he realized I was sitting quietly beside him.

My conversion inspired me to return to my old (and real) wonderful self.  I informed one son that if he did not get his hair cut, I would legally change his name to Mary Ellen Theresa, and we’d see how the guys on his football team would receive him.  I told my daughter that if the clothes she had borrowed from me were not returned, she would have to repay me for all of them at retail prices, too.

I yelled and harassed and heckled like the old days, and you never saw a happier family.  Joyfully, they shouted, “You care, you care!  Oh, thank you, Mommy.  We were so worried that you were simply too liberated and well adjusted.  We thought it didn’t matter to you what we did.”

I had been saved, and I felt clean and pure.

The final recognition of my salvation came when the children presented me with a sheet of paper and said, “We know you can do it.  You are the best.  You are sure to win, Mom.”

I knew I had been born again.  It was an entry blank for the annual PILLSBURY’S INTERNATIONAL NAG-OFF!

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall is a humor columnist, certified clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.  Her latest book is Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What!

Dan Zevin and
Jerry Zezima

AUTHOR-PHOTO-FINAL-320x400Dan Zevin‘s “laugh-eliciting” pieces in The New York Times and Jerry Zezima‘s conversational, whimsical columns in The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) took first-place honors in humor writing in large and small newspapers, respectively, at the 2014 annual column contest sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma