Kim Bongiorno, author, freelance writer and award-winning blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying, is best known for her parenting humor, from 140 characters on Twitter to essay form in The New York Times bestseller, I Just Want to Pee Alone. She has had more than 1,000 articles published online and in print, appeared in eight humor anthologies, self-published a collection of short fiction, wrote a young adult novel, taught writing and online presence at conferences, received praise for her social media presence from the likes of Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and The Today Show, and creates something new every day. Kim lives in New Jersey with her handsome husband and two charmingly loud kids, who she pretends to listen to while playing on Facebook and Twitter.
A young reporter requested an interview about what advice I would give to younger women. I assumed my wisdom was needed because I’m older and still dress myself and use the toilet unassisted. Picking my brain through the cobwebs required the gumption of a valiant explorer, so I agreed to the conversation and scheduled a meeting at my favorite coffee shop.
In the olden days of my early journalism career, I conducted interviews using a legal pad and pen. I always carried a dozen extra pens because they would consistently run out of ink the moment my subject started to cry about the pending book or government plot or non-fat recipe that would change the world. After the in-depth investigative reporting, I would hurry back to my jobs at the TV station or magazine office to type the story on a manual typewriter. I am a dinosaur.
The interviewer appeared to be only 12-years-old and cheerfully ordered a grande, iced, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla macchiato with soy milk. My hazelnut latte suddenly seemed boring and old-fashioned. She opened her laptop and said, “Let’s begin.” I sipped my coffee with feigned sophistication.
“What is the most important bit of advice you would give to a young woman today?” Her fingers arched, ready to pounce on the keyboard.
“Run,” I answered.
She stopped mid-peck, slightly irritated, and looked at me. “Could you elaborate?”
A certain smugness bounced through my aging brain. I had all day. She was on deadline.
I settled into my chair and assumed the mindset of a revered guru leading the fresh fledglings to the mountaintop. I imagined being the blind master giving instructions to David Carradine in the 1970s show “Kung Fu.”
“Ah, watch and learn, Grasshopper.”
Again her finger stopped and I received the look of confused pity. I decided to elaborate in a more conventional way. Here is the summary of my remarks.
Young women need to run. They should rush to take advantage of every opportunity, and if they can’t find what they want, they should create their own. Youth provides energy and risk-taking ability that diminish through the decades.
Young women should run away from negative influences. They can’t allow their amateur exuberance and desire to please everyone to cloud their common sense. There are awful people in the world who want to hurt them, steal their resources and leave them wounded. It took me too long to discover that fact.
Young women should run together. Other female friends can share the load, join in life’s celebrations and bring dessert after a calamity. Some young women will be fortunate to have comrades that last for several decades. I have a core group of college friends, and we have shared the important events of our lives: weddings, births of our children, births of our grandchildren and the deaths of our parents. We’ll probably end up playing poker together at some senior citizen center.
Young women should run alone. I can’t run anymore due to a knee injury and because I don’t want to run. But, in a symbolic way, running alone means a woman can survive using her own talents, resources and determination. When times get tough, and they will, she must pick up a sword and slay the dragons on her own.
I finished my dissertation and coffee at the same time. The interviewer raced to add the last sentence and save her article. Suddenly she gasped with alarm. Her computer froze, and her work was lost. I handed her some paper and a pen.
“Shall we order more coffee?” I asked.
— Elaine Ambrose
Elaine Ambrose is an author, syndicated blogger and humorist from Eagle, Idaho. She writes for several sites including The Huffington Post, BlogHer and Midlife Boulevard. One of her viral posts on The Huffington Post became one of the most-read posts in the site’s 10-year history. Another blog won a 2015 BlogHer “Voices of the Year” writing competition. Her book, Midlife Cabernet, won two national humor awards, and Publishers Weekly wrote that the book is “laugh-out-loud funny.” She is the author of eight other books, including Menopause Sucks. Elaine will present two workshops at the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Preview her books, blogs, events and writing retreats at www.elaineambrose.com.
It started innocently enough — a contribution toward the campaign of my favorite presidential candidate.
I made a small donation through PayPal and was feeling pretty righteous. Little did I know that I had opened a can of worms that now wiggle into my Outlook inbox almost hourly.
I’m going to leave names out of this, but you may be able to guess who I’m supporting before I’m finished here. I’m not asking for discussion about who might best serve our country, so just zip it if you figure it out and disagree. That’s not the point, okay? I’ll bet you’re getting similar emails from the various groups supporting your candidate and cause, too, right?
Dear Kate –
Wall Street is terrified of our campaign, Kate. We don’t want their money (the billionaire class) and we don’t want their super PACs. So this is your chance to contribute to help us win.
Oh, dear. Well, who likes Wall Street? Or billionaires, right? This is my chance to stand up to the corrupting influence of corporate greed, so I pull out the credit card I only use for online purchases and send them a few bucks.
I’m sorry to bother you this morning, but we just got some AWFUL news.
The Koch Brothers are planning to host a MASSIVE fundraiser this weekend with hundreds of their anonymous right-wing allies. If we’re going to fight back against their flood of corporate cash, we need to go on the offense.
Crap. The dreaded Koch Brothers? How can I help? Lucky for me, the website remembers my credit card information and, with a sigh, I contribute a little more. But wait. Another email just arrived urging me to stand behind gun-control initiatives.
Dear Kate –
Blah blah blah . . .
• Protecting the gains we’ve made under President Obama
• Electing a gun violence prevention majority in the United States Senate
• Flipping state legislatures and winning ballot initiatives to increase the number of states that have expanded background checks since Sandy Hook
With elections just about underway, it’s time for you to renew your commitment to…
Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am pro-gun control, and I hope this will be an important issue to whoever governs the country next, so I make another donation. I know the next Capital One bill isn’t going to be pretty, what with all the donations and after-Christmas sales at Coldwater Creek and Wayfair.com., but it’s worth it.
It’s the official start to all of the 2016 elections and the stakes couldn’t be higher for those of us fighting to make our communities safer from gun violence.
Uh oh. I really, really care about gun control. What if this group is better at achieving the objective than the other one and really warrants my support? Will it kill me to send, oh, another 20 bucks? I think I can manage.
Big news in the fight to protect bees: The Environmental Protection Agency just released a stunning new report admitting that popular neonicotinoid pesticides are partially to blame for the massive bee colony collapse.
Wait. Bees? How did I get on the EPA list to protect the bees? Is my email address now on some soft-hearted, green-loving liberals list, or do they know my favorite breakfast is a wheat bagel thin with a smear of chunky peanut butter and a little honey on top? Even the NRA has to like bees. If you haven’t read up on the bee problem, please do so the minute you finish reading this. And please sign the petition and contribute to the cause — like I did.
Blah blah, we make history by electing pro-choice women, and we’re ready to do it again in 2016. We’re committed to making sure a woman is at the top of the ticket, and we’re already recruiting women to run for office up and down the ballot — from Senate to city council.
Yes, you guessed it. I like bees, am in favor of gun control and am pro-choice. How can I not support women running for office who share my beliefs? Now, where did I put that credit card…?
And let’s not even start with Soi Dogs and the American Heart Association and my local food bank. I thought I would retire next year, but frankly, my social security benefits won’t begin to cover the causes that need me, let alone pay the bills.
I’m starting to the feel the pressure and while it’s just a thought, do you suppose the Koch Brothers could be persuaded to make a handful of donations in my name for a few of my favorites? They’d hardly miss the cash.
— Kate Mahar
After years of writing everything from trade journal articles on fork lifts to executive speech copy, Kate Mahar is semi-retired from her freelance writing and event planning business. She’s finally spinning stories for the sheer joy of it, writing her first novel and creating humorous posts for her blog, www.katemahar.com. Kate and her two dogs, Mick Jagger and Little Richard, are living happily ever after in beautiful Willoughby, Ohio.
It was my seventh grade year, and fall had cast its spell on everyone in the booming metropolis of Pope, Mississippi (population 246).
At school we were busy planning our annual Halloween carnival. A cakewalk, games, pony rides and even a marriage booth had all been planned, but the most anticipated attraction every year was the haunted house.
Usually the excitement that surrounded this carnival staple was prompted by the idea of being scared out of our minds, but this year there was a different sort of electricity associated with it. This was the year the “power couples” in eighth grade issued an edict: you must enter the haunted house with your boyfriend/girlfriend, and you must kiss.
This wasn’t a big deal for the couples of eighth grade. Most of them had been locking lips for quite some time. Actually, it didn’t really affect most of the lovebirds in seventh grade, either. The majority of them had kissed at least once and had moved on to practice makes perfect. There was only one couple left who had yet to cross that threshold: my boyfriend and me.
The only practice I had ever had at kissing was with the mirror at home; so needless to say, I was petrified. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had kissed a girl in first grade, so he was experienced. Feeling that communication was key in our relationship, I confessed my apprehension about my lack of skills to my dearly beloved. He was quick to console me.
“I got this,” he said with an upward nod.
Young and in love, I trusted him. After all, he was my man.
The day of the carnival the excitement was palpable. Consumed by a tidal wave of dread and teenage angst, my mind raced. What if I don’t do it right? What if he doesn’t like the way I kiss? What if… And then it was too late. The bell rang dismissing us for the carnival.
I got caught in the mad dash like a salmon swimming upstream and before I knew it, I found myself in the gym. There was my boyfriend, standing right in front of the haunted house. I took my place in line next to him behind five other couples, and before I could chew the flavor out of my Wrigley’s spearmint gum, it was our turn.
Holding hands, we stepped into the netherworld of the transformed locker room. Before the doors even shut, he went in for the kill. Right there between dead prom girl and teenage wreck victim, with the love song of the chainsaw playing sweetly in the background, and perfect strobe lighting, he kissed me… and missed. The kiss he had intended to land right in the center of my lips glanced off the corner of my mouth and slid down my face.
Relieved, I followed him through the depths of hell until we emerged once again into the gym. Avoiding eye contact, we stood in silence.
Then he spoke, “Darn strobe light.”
Sparked by the passion with which my man delivered this heartfelt diatribe, I was reminded of something Momma always told me.“If at first you don’t succeed, dust ya tail off and try it again.”
Without even looking his direction, I asked, “Wanna try again?”
“Yep,” he replied.
And off we went.
The second time, we got it right.
— Mary Roberson Wiygul
A Mississippi native, Mary Roberson Wiygul has taught in the public school system for more than 20 years. When not teaching, traveling or spending time with her family, she loves to write personal essays, short memoir pieces and poetry. She is currently a feature writer for Southern Sass Magazine, and her work has also been featured in Southern Roots Magazine and Magnolia Quarterly.
Cam Newton will toss 500 footballs into the Levi’s Stadium grandstands during next week’s Super Bowl.
While his Carolina Panthers teammates play defense, the team’s quarterback will heave the official NFL footballs, priced at $500 each, into the stadium crowd.
The balls will be housed along the Panthers sideline in a yellow moon bounce. So throughout the game fans can watch the 500 footballs bounce up and down like popcorn in a popcorn popper, view Newton sticking his head into the bounce, grab one ball at a time, and throw them short and low and far and high into the night. He will toss about half into the lower deck and attempt to rifle the rest into the upper deck, though that may be unrealistic because NFL football stadiums are big.
“I figure during those defensive possessions I have time to spin about 25 balls into the stands,” he said this morning while flying to San Francisco, the site of this year’s annual Freak Show. “With all the commercials during the Super Bowl taking up much more time than action on the field, I figure I can get most of them out of the moon bounce and into fans’ hands by halftime.”
The novel idea was hatched this week in the NFL’s headquarters office, which sits atop Manhattan’s skyline. Newton has been handing a football to one person in the stands after every touchdown he has scored this season and it’s being well received by the public at large.
“We figure the Super Bowl is going to be a snore so wanted to do something different to make the fan experience worth the $25,000 we charge per ticket,” the league said in a prepared statement.
On conference calls this week with Newton and NFL suits, there has been quite a bit of discussion about where Newton should throw the balls so that as many fans throughout the stadium can have a chance to catch one.
They settled on this scenario. From the Panthers sideline he will throw a hundred or so to fans on that side of the field.
But this is where it gets tricky. From the sideline while the Panthers are hitting Peyton Manning as he heaves fluttering ducks, Newton plans to chuck the ball across the field, over the heads of the Broncos players and, if he has enough arm power, into the lower deck of fans behind their bench.
There are two challenges with this that have yet to be resolved. The first is that receivers and defensive backs may get distracted by two balls flying through the air at the same time in perpendicular directions. This will create confusion in the passing game.
The second challenge is that if Cam doesn’t throw the ball far enough he may hit Broncos players — or even coaches — standing on the sideline. Or his throws might be so short they would hit Peyton Manning in the head or back or something like that.
However this gets resolved, Newton’s goal of 500 passes will be achieved because the league and Newton have committed to do this and don’t want to stain their credibility. They have an overwhelming desire to bring novelty and less boredom to the Super Bowl.
Being fair to everyone, Newton will save the last 100 balls for special purposes. He will show respect to fans in the end zones by firing 25 at each of the two sides of the field.
The end zone hurls will be timed either for when the action is taking place on the opposite side of the field so as:
a) not disrupt action;
b) to give fans something to watch besides commercials and dull and disruptive football; or
c) during extra point kicks that are made 93 percent of the time so lack dramatic tension.
During the half-time show, Newton will fire 50 at the featured band, “Cold Play.” At least half of them will be aimed at the drummer’s biggest drum because he may be able to puncture it and mess up the concert.
“It will be a cold play on my part,” Newton admits.
Priced at $500 each, the total outlays to buy the 500 balls will be something like $50,000. The NFL insists Newton pay for the balls because it is a dictatorship more focused on gauging prices of this upcoming event’s 30-second ads, upping the price today from the usual $5 million to $10 million.
As long as it can display its logo, the NFL did agree to pay for the moon bounce rental cost of $100.
— Sammy Sportface
Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.
Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart among holidays. That’s because I learned some very important lessons about life one Valentine’s Day many years ago.
One was a lesson I’d never forget: girlfriends cost money.
You have to remember this happened in a time before political correctness, a time before the Equal Rights Amendment, a time before I had a job and money.
I was in the sixth grade and just coming out of that awkward stage where boys think it’s fun to show girls bugs and moving into that next stage where guys do other stupid things instead.
There was this girl, Rosemary, who used to wear her beautiful brown hair in ringlets that were popular in the days before orange hair. I had admired her from afar since we were in the fourth grade. Well, it wasn’t that far afar. We sat beside each other in class.
I actually had decided in the fourth grade to ask her out, but had waited a few years so as not to appear over-eager.
Our school that year was throwing this big Valentine’s Day dance in the gym. It was to be the social event of the season for all the sixth and seventh graders.
Somehow, I managed to talk to Rosemary without a bug in my hand and asked her to the dance. And with the faintest hint of blush on her cheeks, and a demure smile on her face, she agreed.
I was the happiest boy in St. John’s School that day. I literally floated home on air, carried by cherubs while Cupid tossed rose-petal hearts before me.
Sauntering into our house, I announced as casually as I could, that I would be going to the school dance on Saturday with Rosemary.
“You’re going to have to get her a corsage,” said my father, not looking up from his evening paper. “Girls like corsages.”
This was something I hadn’t planned on. Unwise as I was to the ways of the world, I didn’t realize the guy had to pay for the girl’s dance corsage. I just assumed corsages came with the girl. What a dumb system, I thought.
On the day of the dance, I pulled out my life savings of $5.78, which I had put away to buy a pocketknife. “Oh, well, this is for the love of your life,” I thought, stuffing the money into my pocket and heading out for the florist shop.
Now I have to say on a scale of 1 to 100 of the most useful things in the world, flowers hadn’t ever made my list. Entering the florist shop that day I had no idea of what kind of flower I should buy her. Luckily, the florist seemed to know something about flowers and recommended I buy a red-tinted chrysanthemum with my school’s letter on it.
“She will love it,” he advised me. It’s a good thing he was there to help, because, left to my own instincts, I probably would have bought her a flowering shrub.
The corsage cost $2, which was a lot cheaper than a flowering shrub, and I felt pretty good as I headed home with my tissue paper wrapped, red-tinted chrysanthemum in its heart-covered florist box.
Back at home, with all of the naive delight of a schoolboy, I showed my mother the corsage and she said: “Did you remember to get some candy for her mother. They like that, you know.”
It still amazes me that as wise as my parents were in the social graces of the day, it never occurred to them that I had no money to pay for these things.
Trudging down to the local corner store — with the remainder of my pocketknife fund — I bought not one but three boxes of candy — one for Rosemary, one for her mother and one for my mother. I wasn’t taking any chances this time, unless Rosemary’s father was also owed some sort of Valentine tribute. If so, he was out of luck.
My dad drove me to Rosemary’s home to pick her up. I have to say she was a dream in her organdy taffeta party dress, and with as much aplomb as I could muster, I distributed the gifts. I even pinned the corsage to the top shoulder of her dress without causing her any pain.
I’d like to say the evening was a huge romantic success. Actually, for most of the evening, the girls huddled on one side of the gym comparing chrysanthemums while the boys stood on the other side complaining about how much this dance had cost them. It was my guess that this one evening had thrown the pocketknife industry in our town into decline, if not outright collapse.
As the evening wound down to its final dance, I found myself at last alone with Rosemary, dancing to a slow song in a dimly lit corner of the gym. As the strains of the last dance came to an end, Rosemary looked up at me and said, “Thank you,” and gave me my first kiss.
And at that moment, I learned there were more important things in life than pocketknives.
— Myron Kukla
Myron Kukla, a Midwest freelance writer, is the author of several books of humor, including Guide To Surviving Life. He is also a regular contributor to the Erma Bombeck writing forum and has several humor pieces in Not Your Mother’s … books. Visit his webstore at squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks.
My household is completely without coffee or toilet paper this morning. I was going to dash off to the store, but then I decided to write about it instead.
When my husband wakes up in a few minutes, I may re-prioritize, as he will undoubtedly dust off his “Staples of Life” speech. It’s all about the things which, in his estimation, are essential to living, and as such, no Decent American Home should be without them. We have several friends and family members who have had the pleasure of listening to him rant on this topic. In fact, if I weren’t the target of said rant, I would probably find it as amusingly entertaining as everyone else does.
In my defense, the “Staples Of Life” speech contains a “floating list” that is subject to change based on his current unmet need. In the early days of our marriage, it was fairly succinct. As time marched on, however, it morphed and grew. Suffice it to say, coffee and toilet paper occupy premium real estate.
Things my husband thinks are the “Staples of Life” include, but are not limited to, the following:
Coffee , toilet paper (and its personal hygiene cousins, soap, toothpaste and deodorant) , bread , milk , eggs , lunch meat , Diet Coke — and anything else I am out of.
I prefer to view this as more of a semantics issue. Sometimes, when I forget to swing by the grocery store, I embrace a looser definition of the word “need.” (As in, do we really NEED coffee or toilet paper?) There are several alternate sources of caffeine in our home. One can always brew oneself a nice soothing cup of tea or guzzle down an energizing can of Cola. As for the toilet paper, it’s a proven fact that women use it more often than men, so if I can make do with a box of Kleenex, then he can, too.
With that said, I can’t deny that there are flaws in my system of procuring goods from the marketplace. I have stubbornly refused to adopt the method that my spouse has endorsed through the years, which involves “taking inventory,” using a “Master Build-To Sheet,” and “Par Levels” to aid in re-stocking with organized efficiency. I acknowledge that, while this model works in his business, it’s just not me.
I’m better suited to the browsing method, which entails meandering through the grocery store, sans list, searching for cues and inspiration from the shelves.
Admittedly, I can’t always remember if we are already “stocked up” on an item, so I just buy it again. That is why we have five bottles of mayonnaise, three bottles of Karo syrup, eight cans of refried beans, six boxes of Cap’n Crunch (all opened), an embarrassing amount of Ramen noodles and no coffee or toilet paper.
This system is far from foolproof, which prompted this rather glib text from the hubby the other day:
By the way, one of those bottles is “Miracle Whip,” which everyone knows is technically not mayonnaise.
I will probably swing by the grocery store today.
But with Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, remember that all we truly need is LOVE (sniff). …Pass the Kleenex.
— Leslie Blanchard
Leslie Blanchard is a wife of one and mother of five, who writes the blog, A Ginger Snapped: Facing The Music of Marriage And Motherhood. After she received a journalism degree, she became the “Wind Beneath My Husband’s Wings” and didn’t write anything for 27 years, except her family’s Christmas letter. All that changed with the invention of the iPad with a waterproof cover. Now, she lays in the bathtub all day, neglecting her other responsibilities, and writes about life outside the tub. Her essays are titled after songs because, as she and her hubby puzzle through a marriage or child-rearing problem, they sing the song that particular issue reminds them of (with a pertinent lyric change here or there).
When did we start naming winter storms, or more to the point, WHY are we naming winter storms? I can understand naming hurricanes and typhoons but naming a winter snow storm is a bit much.
Winter Storm Hercules was a case in point. I knew it was serious when Access Hollywood was pre-empted with a special report of the upcoming storm. Any time Kim Kardashian is pre-empted, you have to guess it’s pretty darn serious. I was surprised they didn’t have Snookie reporting from Belmar.
Naming a storm adds to the frenzy and the sudden extreme addiction to milk, juice, eggs and bread. I saw gals in ShopRite who hadn’t touched a piece of bread in five years with a ridiculous amount of bread in their carts. If I’m going down because of a snow storm, you can bet that it’s not milk and bread that I’m making sure I have available. The parking lot looked like the day before Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving, all rolled into one. Who knew so many drank milk?
The leading news story at 5, 5:30 and 6 was Hercules. The national news at 6:30 also ran it as their lead story. Two hundred fifty killed in Syria and the lead story was a winter storm…in the northeast….in January. Really?
I could understand all the commotion if this was happening in, let’s say — Arizona. But cold weather, dark and damp days coupled with snow and ice on the East coast in winter, the last time I checked., was normal. It’s why we choose to live here. Jersey Strong, baby.
Adding to the hysteria are the weather experts from Stanford, the weather specialists from the Weather Channel with their charts, graphs and markers, and let’s not forget the reporters trying to analyze while the snow and wind are blowing. “Look,” they shout, “snow and wind!” They highlight pictures of people sliding, falling and crashing. Do we really need experts with charts to tell us it’s a snow storm and to stay inside? Do you think they are such weenies in Fargo, North Dakota, or Omaha, Nebraska, every time it snows and gets cold?
While growing up, I can’t remember my parents ever caring very much about the weather. It’s New Jersey. It’s snowing. Big deal. What’s for dinner? Making a snowstorm in January major news? Fugetaboutit.
Back to Hercules. The experts were predicting it was going to begin snowing at 8 in the morning so many people, myself included, changed appointments, cancelled meetings and became unduly nervous about the driving we had to do. I found myself scanning the sky like I was looking for Santa. I checked the forecast on my weather app every hour. I was so obsessed I even checked the hourly weather in Detroit and Boston, where my kids were. It’s snowing in Detroit! No s— Sherlock! It’s January. I was ridiculous. But they made me ridiculous.
But with their Hercules forecast, they were wrong in their prediction as it didn’t start snowing until 7 p.m. that night and it was gone by the following morning. By the time it actually started snowing I had already eaten all the bread and drank all the juice. Now what, I wondered?
Don’t you wish you could be paid to be wrong as many times as they are? It would be like your doctor telling you that you have throat cancer only to find out it’s strep.
So now we are on to Winter Storm Janus, and I’ve decided I’m watching Netflix. I don’t need hourly updates; I can look out the window. I will NOT go to Shop Rite. I can make do with whatever I have available. There is always plenty of red wine and pasta in my house.
I will be OK.
I will avoid buying in to the hysteria.
We all should.
And as far as staying off the roads, I’m driving where I have to go, when I have to go. I’ll make the decision to drive on my own. I don’t need charts, graphs and newscasters reporting in a snowstorm outside to tell me it’s a snowstorm outside.
— Tracy Buckner
Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.