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Mindless meditation

I just read an article on mindfulness meditation. The idea is to spend time to oneself focusing only on the moment and one single thing, like breathing.  The author described how the she spent five days in this state by not talking to anyone, including her family. It was an inner revival, an opportunity “to gain clarity, wisdom, and freedom…” by paying attention to “moment experiences.”

I thought about this. Could I do this? Me? And then I thought about it again. And again. Could I do this for five days?  An entire week?  Not likely. That’s a long time for me to keep my mouth shut.  And as for mindless??  For me it would be mindless alright.  Because I would probably lose my mind or what’s left of it. Then I’d have to spend another seven days looking for it.

I can see it now.  I’m scrounging around  the house, rummaging through everything I  see.  My husband, Howard, just stands there, watching it all. And then he says:

“What are you looking for?”

“I’m mindless and I can’t find my mind,” I reply.

“It wouldn’t be the first time. … Try looking under the couch.”

As for paying attention to moment experiences? Ha! I do pay attention to momentous experiences, the big events that grab your attention by the tail. The cat just threw up on the dining room table? I won’t forget that for awhile.  The additional momentous experience of clean up would also grab my rapt attention as my intestines galloped up and down  my esophagus.

Mindfulness?? I don’t think so. Maybe mindless. Senseless would be a better word for it. Not speaking to anyone would clear my mind. But if I didn’t speak to Howard for that long a time, I’d get to do it just once — and it would be over. There would be no second time.  Howard would repay the week of silence with three months of silent sulking. I would complain:

“Why aren’t you speaking to me?”

Hours later he still isn’t talking. I hear only silence and indignation.

“Is this because I spent last week mindfully meditating?”

He ignores me. The silence burrows through my eardrums.

“Well, I wasn’t being spiteful.”

“Sure you were,” he replies.

“I was meditating.  I wasn’t oblivious to you.”

“You should have thought of that in the first place.”

And so it would go. An exchange of acrimony and inner  peace. As for our daughter,  Jennifer,  If I didn’t speak to her, she would cry for two days straight.

Even If I was single, I wouldn’t do it. No sense talking to just me.  I know.  Lots of people talk to themselves. They make verbal conversations inside and outside their heads, no listeners in sight. Sometimes we call that disturbed.   And as for keeping my mind on one thing?? No way. Because that’s when the mental cockroaches — worries — come out.  I call worries cockroaches. They scurry and skitter through my subconscious all day and come out at night. It’s a Florida thing. Florida has big cockroaches and I have big worries. And they are very busy at night.

When Howard doesn’t speak, it’s not because he is meditating. It means he is real mad, angry. Some thing, maybe something I have done, has made him unhappy. When he gets into this kind of “meditation,” he can “meditate” for a long time.  And while he’s doing that, I’ll meditate myself into a good case of hives. On the other hand, I should maybe meditate on how better to avoid him when he’s “meditating.”

Not speaking could have real repercussions around this household, especially since I don’t cook.  It probably wouldn’t result in a divorce, but I could end up eating hot dogs for a week.

— Maggie Millus

A published writer of several science textbooks, Maggie Millus writes humor and blogs at Barmy Bottom Hollow.  “My humor is a hyperextension of my reality.  I hate housework, heat and humidity.  But I cope, anyway, thanks to friends and family who think I’m normal — some of the time,” says the South Florida writer.

Life’s little instruction book (of sorts)

Teen 1 is ready to leave for university and I’m a bit panicked wondering if he will ever give us our car back is ready.  I’ve been lying awake at night asking myself why I chose Wheatgrass as our bedroom color  if there’s anything  we forgot to tell him. To remedy this, I decided to write him some last-minute advice to help him  navigate life on his own: Don’t throw away your clothes when they get dirty.

• Look for a washing machine (Google it) and pretend you’ve used one before follow the instructions.

• When it’s winter, you will notice white flakes in the sky and on the ground. This means you should just skip classes like I did and stay warm it is very very cold.  Wear a jacket (Google it).

• Bedding (Google it) needs to be washed before bed bugs open a strip mall on your mattress weekly.

• Aim high. Your father and I are drowning in debt and are counting on your future neurosurgeon salary  want the best for you.

• If you call to say a textbook costs more than $500, please know I already spent it on Botox injections.  I look amazing Sorry.

• Inserting your bank card into your ‘H’ drive won’t work.

• Drinking hard liquor is a total blast not advised. Stick with beer milk.

• Eat vending machine crap at all hours while you have the chance your vegetables.

• Sleep alone lots.

I think that about covers it.  For good measure, I also tattooed our home address and code word for ‘stranger danger’ on his wrist. Honestly, I think I’m about to fall off the wagon he’s going to be just fine. I’ve done stuff in university I’m not proud of the best I could. He’s never going to make it without me on his own.

— Colleen Landry

Colleen Landry has been writing since she was a beautiful and precocious child weaving tales of magic mushrooms turtles and princesses.  Now a fully grown (ish) adult, her writing offers very little magic but lots of laughs. Colleen thinks laughing at others life’s stages is healing and infectious.  She has been published in Canadian Living magazine and the Globe and Mail, as well as various local newspapers.  Colleen also teaches high school writing in an online environment where discipline is as simple as ‘Ctrl’ ‘Alt’ ‘Delete.’  She is married and has two teenage sons who eat even while asleep.  Follow her on Twitter @LandryColleen and enjoy her blog.

Why parents invented the stork story

“Grandma, are you Daddy’s Mom?”

I looked down at my 6-year-old grandson’s beautiful eyes staring up at me, his little brow slightly furrowed as he tried to get his family tree sorted out in his mind. “Yes,” I smiled, while silently praying “Dear God, please, don’t let this question go any further.” But God was apparently taking another call, because my little guy thought for a moment and said, “If Daddy was in your tummy, how did he get out?” Oh, crap.

Time stood still as my brain replayed my experience of bringing young grasshopper’s daddy into the world, and the movie highlights included a few indelible moments:

- I gained 65 pounds. And I’m 5’3″ tall. My baby hump was so big, I was ultrasounded twice for twins. Doc said there simply had to be two babies in there. Nope. I was just fat. Of course, to be fair, I hoovered frosted brownies like they were life support, obviously thinking I was going to have a 65-pound baby, so it was a 9-month eating free-for-all. (My size-2 sister took one horrified look at my pre-birthing photo and asked, “Were you really that hungry or is this some kind of freaky hormonal thing??” My mother still blames me for Sissy opting not to have children.)

- At my Lamaze class, the instructor was speaking about birth control after the first few months post-birth. I raised my hand and asked, “What about the first three months?” which promptly sent seasoned birthers into peals of group laughter. “Oh, honey,” one woman replied, wiping her eyes, “this must be your first. For six months, birth control is ‘Get off me.’” Good to know.

- At a New Year’s Eve party, when I was 7 months into a what felt like a 2-year pregnancy (elephants give birth in less time…true story), we ran smack into Hubs’ ex-girlfriend, a perky, annoying aerobics instructor with a killer body. She was wearing a skirt almost longer than her woo-hoo, with a midriff baring top, and 4-inch stilettos (seriously, girl, put some clothes on), while I was wearing a pup tent with matching flats. And since my hair wouldn’t take a color from day one of my pregnancy, it had returned to its natural rodent-brown shade, so I was in a pup tent with matching flats and rodent-colored hair. We left early, with me bawling all the way home.

- My due date came and went, and I was getting so depressed, my mom suggested pedicures to help pass the time. Upon arrival, the nail tech announced, “Are you sure? You look like you’re going to have that baby now.” “I’m never going to have this baby,” I replied. “I’m going to be pregnant until I die. Let’s do this.” We happily got soaked, scrubbed, and polished, until I stood up and my water broke. Seriously?? All instructions to my OB/GYN to “mind the wet toes” were blithely ignored.

- Hubs finally showed up with my overnight bag and a copy of my birthing plan. Since I was only going to do this once, I wanted it to be perfect. Part of “perfect” meant no drugs. This was going to be a serene, life-changing, mystical event that bonded mother and child like the biblical Madonna and her baby. Yeah, no. I was in labor 45 hours. Again, not a typo. Forty. Five. Hours. The nurses had four shift changes while I was there, each time coming into the room with “What, girl?? You’re still here??” Well, not by choice, lady. This kid keeps changing his mind and crawling back up the chute. The birthing plan got “accidentally” shredded while I demanded, and got, enough drugs to induce endless hours of enthusiastic, but widely off-key renditions of “I met him on a Sunday and my heart stood still. Da doo run run run, da doo run run.” Yep, I sucked at parenting, and the kid wasn’t even born yet.

-  By the 45th hour, Doc was prepping to do a cesarean section, when one of the nurses shouted, “I can see his head!!” You don’t know humble until two doctors, eight nurses, your husband, AND your parents (and some guy I’m pretty sure was the night janitor) are all staring up your skirts, excitedly pointing to something trying to come out of your body, and you don’t care. I was exhausted, I had no dignity left, my throat was hoarse from days of singing, and I was done.

Besides the “no drugs” instruction in my now-defunct 3-page birthing plan, I’d also stipulated “no forceps.” Women have been popping kids out for centuries without help. How hard could it be? But Jake wasn’t budging. Finally, Doc takes my face in his hands and says, “If you don’t push, I’m going to have to use forceps.” I looked at him and mumbled sleepily, “I don’t care if you use an ice cream scooper. I’m done. Get him out yourself.”

Two days later, we proudly took home a beautiful, perfect, bouncing baby boy, and I was besotted for life. But as I looked down at my grandson’s trusting face, I smiled and said, “You know what? Let’s go read a book. Grandma knows a great story called ‘Hansel & Gretel.’” Yeah, it’s about a witch in the forest that kidnaps children, bakes them in an oven, and then eats them. But I figure it’ll require less childhood therapy than the story of how Daddy came to be.

— 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,” sold through

No pain, no gain

I joined a gym for the first time at the tender age of four score minus 21.

“Okay!” I told myself, “I did it.”  “Wait a minute,” said another voice from the same head, “you have to come back and use it.”  I had thought I could get credit for good intentions, like when people buy an exercise bike, fully intending to ride themselves into shape, but wind up using it as a clothes hanger.  “No,” said my inner masochist.

With my membership card firmly attached to my cat key ring, I walked in meekly for my first-ever appointment with a trainer.  The young man, barely out of diapers, politely showed me around and explained the various, nefarious machines.  He wrote out a schedule for my exercise routine.  Wearing my self-consciousness like an albatross necklace, I tried to remind myself that everyone was too busy working on their abs to pay attention to me.  I looked around for reassurance that there were others who might also be arrested for wearing spandex.  Then, because I’m a walker and was particularly interested in the treadmill, the trainer introduced me to it.  After showing me how to program it for speed, heart rate and weight loss, he left us to get acquainted.

I begin to tread.  I did my usual 45 minutes, at a more even pace than I’d be able to keep on my own.  Hmmm, not bad.  Then it was on to the machines, which for the life of me I couldn’t remember how to use or adjust. At a towering 5’2” I had a particular need to know how to move the seats.  Was my drawing a blank caused by senility or a faulty memory?  I can’t recall.

On my next visit, I did what any easily intimidated person would do — I avoided the confusing machines and stuck with the treadmill.  I couldn’t figure out how to plug in optimum heart rate but managed to program the time I wanted and the rate of speed.  It took me a few visits and a lot of peeking at people around me before I figured out where to hold on and that I really didn’t need to.

I was glad to see all the TV screens hanging above the treadmills and ellipticals — a nice distraction — but I couldn’t quite read the dialogue as it appeared on the screen. When I mentioned this to a friend she gently suggested that I could buy ear buds and probably just plug them in to the treadmill.  Who knew?  One trip to CVS later and I had both sight and sound.

A few weeks into my regimen I made an appointment with another trainer.  Miraculously, she was close to my age.  We focused on a few machines and she wrote out how many times I should do everything as well as the settings that were best for me

It’s been over a month now and I go a few days a week.  I still can’t help paying close attention to what other people are wearing.  Everyone looks so fashionably Lycraed.  On the other hand, some forms which might give one a fit are wearing form-fitting clothes. Mostly I wear capris from the “active” section of T.J.Maxx.  But as I treaded to the reality show “You’re Wearing That?” the fashion enforcers made fun of the episode’s victim for wearing capris. Being fashion-challenged, I panicked.  Once home I went straight to the Internet to make sure that someone on Planet Earth was still wearing capris.  (My thighs make shorts nonnegotiable.)  To my relief I discovered that men and women are wearing them in Paris. So it must be okay at the gym.

I still sneak peeks to see if I’m the slowest treader, but can’t really tell.  I do my 45 and work up a real sweat, so I guess I’m doing ok.  I still feel a bit awkward, but there is something about sweat running down my back that feels virtuous.  Of course once I leave I feel self-conscious about my need for an immediate shower, which I much prefer to take at home.  God forbid someone inhales while standing next to me.

No pain, no gain, will my discomfort ever wane?

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, tutor and self-described “crazy cat lady.” She gives a popular talk, “Religion and Humor: The Historical and the Hysterical,” to community groups in the Boston area.

Are the stars laughing behind your back?

Aries: The moment you’ve dreamed of will appear on Thursday. Unfortunately, you will be napping at your desk and miss it completely. There will be a moment available on Friday, but only if you have a coupon and the secret sales code from the Internet.

Taurus: Time heals all wounds, but tequila is the Band-Aid that keeps you from picking at it until the healing is done. It can also provide you with nifty new scars that will start conversations for years to come.

Gemini: Be ready to face your fears this week, and not the pretty, airheaded ones you tell people about; these inner demons are uglier than your spring break rash, and ready to pop from your psyche like a crazed jack in the box. A determined attitude and a box of Depends will help.

Cancer: Wednesday will be like the prize in your cereal; it looks nothing like you pictured it, but at least you’re getting something for free.

Leo: You know what they say: people who live in glass houses should really invest in some curtains. Hide a few of your own secrets behind the drapes so you can spare someone some bare-butt naked truth this week.

Virgo: You are a shining example to others, but you would be more fun if you took that giant glowstick out of your butt. Do it in private, though. Sometimes no one wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Libra: A smile can get you out of a lot of trouble, but some well-timed cleavage can get you out of even more. Use the power wisely, though, because trouble does love a good rack.

Scorpio: Take a good, long look in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, do some spring cleaning. That mirror’s so dirty, your reflection is sticking to the corners.

Sagittarius: If you’re overshadowed by someone else’s success, drag a few spotlights over to your side of the stage. You’ll either get applause or a tan. You can use both, so it’s a win/win.

Capricorn: Bad news: the security cameras will catch you dropping your pants in front of the time clock. Good news:  after you’re fired, you’ll receive an offer for a new career in adult entertainment. Stock up on penicillin and wet wipes.

Aquarius: After Saturday night, you will never be tempted to cover a body part in peanut butter again. You’ll also discover that cheese isn’t always a mouse’s first choice for a quick nibble.

Pisces: Don’t bother telling anyone you’ve turned over a new leaf. You’ve done it so often, your particular tree looks like a green whirling dervish. The bright side? Your indecision may one day provide a small city with clean, eco-friendly energy.

— Beth Bartlett

Beth Bartlett, a freelance writer by day, a humorist by night and a caffeinated procrastinator by mid-afternoon, won second place in the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition (under 50,000 circulation) for her irreverent “Wisecrack Zodiac” column. She blogs at

Leave me alone

I Just Want to Be AloneI Just Want to Be Alone (the second volume in the best-selling I Just Want to Pee Alone series) is a compilation of hilarious essays about the men in our lives. Stacey Hatton of Nurse Mommy Laughs, Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying, Nicole Leigh Shaw of Ninja Mom Blog and Michelle Newman of You’re My Favorite Today are a few of the co-authors attending Erma 2014 workshop.

Cabin glory

cover_web-681x1024Author and longtime columnist for Cabin Life magazine Christy Heitger-Ewing has published her first book, Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat. The book is the grand-prize winner in the Greyden Press 2013 Book Competition for non-fiction.

A corporate goddess

cover-MyLiveAsACorpGoddessScreenwriter and author Jane C. Rosen has published My Life as a Corporate Goddess, a refreshing and humorous look into the ongoing dialogue of women in leadership.

Reflections of Erma