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Suburban haiku: pet peeves

Peyton PriceCAT NIPS

When company’s here
we shoo Kitty off tables
like she’s not allowed.

Why thank you, Kitty
for trotting right up to me
to vomit. Both times.

Ooh, look at the cat!
She’s got something in the hall.
That’s one dead oak leaf.

When the new couch comes
things are gonna be different.
I mean it, Kitty!

The cat licks her paw
and rubs it on my son’s head.
Can she pack his lunch?

He burps in my face
but says “God Bless you, Kitty”
at each tiny sneeze.

DOG HOUSE

When the dog’s pooping
the kids stop calling her name.
Unlike when I am.

Our dog is well trained
to stay off of the sofa
when I’m in the room.

In misty weather
trying to find the short leash
for toads’ protection.

The dog’s locked away
howling that the cable guy
might want to pet her.

I blurted out “S%*^!”
but the dog thought I said “SIT!”
quite fortunately.

I must stop the dog
from barking at that new kid.
He’ll think we’re racist!

The dog’s ears and mine
perk up at every car door
until he comes home.

— Peyton Price

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook or in the living room attempting to remove pet stains from the new rug.

Corporate corsage

Lucia-1-11Name tags are corporate corsages. This is my big idea. Don’t steal it.

Think about it. You’ve chosen your outfit. You’re ready to go. Then someone slaps a big object on your shoulder that essentially brands you.

Just like a corsage back in prom days.

“Gee thanks, Billy. This large orange orchid strangled with baby’s breath does wonders for my lime green chiffon halter.”

During my time in corporate America, I attended a lot of business functions. I was a “creative” in advertising and counted among my clients some financial services giants.

I was split between the casual nature of advertising and the buttoned-down world of investment banking.

I was a copywriter, so I didn’t come from an investment background, and didn’t have an MBA.  In the early days, I used to simply carry on conversations at business functions complete with my own opinions. Silly me.

“Isn’t the stock market sort of like legalized gambling?” I asked once at a cocktail event.

The sawing motions being violently made by a sympathetic creative cohort weren’t lost on me, and I could see the collective eyes of everyone in pinstripes looking at my right shoulder.

The ivory name tag that was pinned to my jacket was ready to tattle on me.

“Remember this name,” it said quietly but firmly.

I’d like to briefly congratulate myself on some of my insights. This was pre-market meltdown. So maybe I was the brightest mind in the room.

I understand why we have name tags in business settings. Typically, one will include name and title, and possibly city or region, if it’s a company with multiple locations.

Who hasn’t been saved by quickly noting, “Carol Johnson. Human Resources. Chicago,” before saying, “Well, we have those dolts in Chicago to thank for that rotten quarter.”

Maybe an excavation will reveal they were part of the ancient world, too: A large collection of small chiseled tablets inscribed “Tut. Pharaoh. Thebes.”

No decent corporate corsage is complete without the current tagline of the company’s advertising campaign. If it is for an award trip, there might be a theme included.

“Fred Jones. Compliance. Quad Cities. Wishing On a Star in San Diego.”

Fred was probably wishing he could knock off the small talk and head back to the room for some SportsCenter and a beer.

After years on the periphery of financial services, I was in possession of a pretty impressive collection of name tags.

I had turned into someone who didn’t go to most dinners, cocktail parties, business trips or outings without a name tag. Their shapes were as varied as the events I had attended (ships, whistles, trees, chalkboards), I started bringing them home and putting them in a drawer.

One day I laid them out: dozens of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cocktail parties and dinners, memorialized in label form.

You know the ending of the story. The market bubble burst, and along with those soapy remains, went the lion share of corporate entertaining and travel.

My new business life is a lot more relaxed.

As often happens in life, I recently had to reverse my attitude about corporate corsages. I attended a writers’ conference where there were many attendees I already admired, and even more who, as I spoke with them, wanted to commit their names to memory. I was grateful for the lanyards with name tag attached we had all been issued at the start of the event.

I guess it goes to show; sometimes a gal really does need a corsage.

— Lucia Paul

Lucia Paul’s humor writing includes an award-winning sitcom script and essays that have appeared in numerous publications. She is a regular humor contributor to numerous online publications on topics ranging from the financial crisis to parenting teens. She has stories and essays in multiple anthologies including two Not Your Mother’s Book titles: NYMB…on Home Improvement (2013) and NYMB…on Being a Mom (June 2014).  She is also the creative mind behind names for some of America’s best loved consumer products. Find her at dysfunctionalscrapbooking.blogspot.com and Twitter @DFscrapbook.

Sore to the core

Steve EskewWhen I write plays, sometimes I base my characterizations on composites of various people. Other times, I simply cut out a portrait from a magazine or newspaper. As I develop the character, I usually place that image directly in front of me.

Today, that technique came to bite me or at least nibble on my noggin.

While walking down Seventh Avenue in the Big Apple, the sight of a familiar face flabbergasted me. A man in the maddening crowd bore more than an uncanny resemblance to a serial rapist from the days  when I lived in Omaha. There’s no mistake. Today’s guy in the crowd absolutely had to be the Omaha rapist. But that’s impossible. The Omaha man is considerably dead.

The guy’s mugshot had appeared in the Omaha World Herald in 1989 on the same day that his crime spree came to a screeching halt. The story detailed how he had attempted to rape a young woman who had unwittingly jogged into the wooded area where he had been waiting.

When I had seen his image staring at me from the front page back in ’89, I immediately cut it out and stuck it on my desktop. I knew this face would be a perfect inspiration for the barbaric but bumbling serial killer for my play titled Macho Man Murders. Indeed, the fiendish face inspired me to write every line for that character, even the lines for what other characters said about him.

Today’s mystery man, Manhattan’s dead ringer for the Omaha rapist, vanished into the crowd, leaving me strangely frustrated. I had studied that face much too intensely not to recognize it. There’s no mistake. It was the same face. Such unsolved mysteries make me crazy.

The Omaha lookalike killed himself for reasons we men can well understand. While this aspiring rapist was readying himself in position, his victim had the gall to land a significant kick directly to his cashews. Ouch! To add insult to injury, while he lay withering in pain, screaming unprintable epithets, the young woman grabbed her stun-gun and aimed it at his eyes. That enabled her to escape and call the cops.

Within minutes, the lecherous, (and now) visually impaired rogue was surrounded by police. There he crouched, half blind, in a losing battle with authorities, plus suffering excruciating pain from head to crotch. Such agony proved to be too much for him. The wannabe rapist ate his gun. Who wouldn’t kill himself?

There’s a dark comic tale in there somewhere that I need to start taking notes on. I hadn’t thought about the guy in years until today. Could the guy I saw today in Manhattan be that long-dead scoundrel’s son? Nah. Well, maybe.

All those years ago while writing my play, each time I glanced up at the rapist’s mugshot, a cramping sensation would land in the pit of my stomach. Images of our daughters leaped to mind. They were then roughly the same age as the rape victim cited above. We had taught them to avoid desolate areas, but I worried that they would become careless and venture into deserted paths.

We had also taught them to strike back at attackers just like the would-be victim in Omaha did. Still, after I saw that dead ringer on the street today, the first thing I did was contact my daughters. They’re fine. Me, too.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Laughter and light

Tedford, Michelle (This piece will appear in the summer issue of the University of Dayton Magazine.)

It was three days full of belly-laughing, donkey-snorting, mascara-running good times with 350 humor writers from around the country.

And there I was, sitting in Sears Recital Hall, trying not to cry.

A fellow attendee at UD’s biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had just stood up. Her name was Kate. She had come here from Newtown, Conn. “I was funny and lost my funny,” she told us as we rummaged our pockets for tissues. “I came here to find it again.”

We knew she hadn’t just lost it. This writer had her funny ripped from her in her own hometown by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. When would it be OK, she wondered, to laugh again?

It’s when life makes us ask such question that we need laughter the most.

At the workshop’s keynote dinner, Phil Donahue reminded us of the power of laughter as he talked about his good friend, the late Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49. The father of daytime talk shows and the mother of misadventures had been neighbors in Centerville, Ohio, each raising stair-step children while launching their careers.

In her writing, he said, was an honesty that touched the world. She popped balloons of pretense with daggers of laughter. Her humor was revolutionary.

“Motherhood was sacred,” Donahue said as he intoned popular sentiment: “‘Oh, how blessed you are. Oh, what a wonderful mother you are.’ Mothers were on pedestals. And Erma would do a column something like, ‘I am going to sell my children.’ She punctured that pretense, and she was speaking for millions of women.”

My own mother taped Bombeck’s words to our goldenrod-yellow refrigerator door — not the words about selling us, as far as I can remember, though I certainly would have deserved it for digging a pond in the backyard and filling it with frogs, which attracted crows from three counties.

Millions of women also taped Bombeck to their fridges, taking strength from the joys of an imperfect life with this sister who cautioned us to never have more children than we have car windows. It is a community that stretches through the miles and across the decades and that, every two years, materializes at UD, where a young Erma was told by her English professor, “You can write.”

This April, Donahue repeated the phrase, adding a charge to use our words to move mountains. “We have an assembly of people of conscience here … and you may just be the people who will make our lives better,” he said.

With their words and their support, the attendees embraced Kate from Newtown, who later wrote, “My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.”

— Michelle Tedford

Michelle Tedford is the editor of the University of Dayton Magazine.

How to compliment your wife

Vikki ClaflinIn an earlier conversation with Hubs:

Me: “Does this bra make my boobs look perkier?”

Hubs: “Perkier than what?”

Me: “Perkier than before.”

Hubs: “Before what?”

Me: “This isn’t a trick question.”

Hubs: “Okay. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think you should worry about it. We’re all getting older, you know, and I think you look great no matter what your boobs look like.”

Me: “What a horrible, mean thing to say!”

Hubs: “I was trying to give you a compliment!”

Me: “Well, you suck at it.”

Hubs: “For the love of God, woman, next time give me cue cards.”

I can do that.

Dashing down to my computer, I quickly typed up Hubs’ Guide for Complimenting His Wife.

Assuming we’ve moved past the construction site approach, including  the juvenile (“Nice rack, baby”) or the cheesy (“You have eyes a man could drown in”), neither of which is particularly effective on girls over 23 and who don’t work at Hooters, let’s begin with the basics.

1. Compliments should make us feel wanted, appreciated and absolutely gorgeous. Every now and then, we want to feel like you still see us the way you did when we were first in love. Before the kids, our jobs, the mortgage payments, the dogs, the bills, the laundry, our birthdays and gravity all piled up and we swapped our thongs and stilettos for yoga pants and t-shirts.

2. Be brief. Don’t ramble. A girlfriend once told me that the best compliment she ever received from her husband was a single word. She came out of the bedroom, dressed for date night and a bit self-conscious in her rarely worn strappy little black dress. He stopped, looked at her for a moment and said, “Wow.” (That night was the best sex they’d had for months. Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences.)

3. Be specific. “You’re pretty” is great, but “That dress makes your legs look a mile long” will be happily repeated to her BFF tomorrow morning over coffee, and you’ll look like a rock star.

4. Pay Attention. Assuming she at least occasionally does something that surprises or impresses you (if not, that’s another discussion entirely), mention it. “You’re so patient with your little niece. You handled it beautifully when she set your office on fire” or “You were great with my parents today.” And “thank you for not decking Uncle Buck when he pinched your ass at our wedding…twice” will go a long way towards making her feel special.

5.  Surprise her. A spontaneous “I’m glad I married you” while you’re watching TV will put an instant smile on her face. In other words, don’t save it for when you want to get laid or you’re trying to end an argument.

6. Try to make the compliment about her. “Great boots” is nice, but “You look hot in those boots” is much better.

7. Tell the truth. Unless you’ve been living in a shack in the Ozark mountains your entire life, with no cable or Internet service, “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” is going to sound phony to any woman but Angelina Jolie. She knows that’s not true, and now you have a credibility issue. It’s like parents who tell their child he’s the smartest person in the world. Sooner or later, little Billy is going to find out Mommy and Daddy were lying and now he doesn’t believe a word they say. Pick something that’s actually true about her. “You have a beautiful smile” (when, in fact, she does) is a better choice.

8. Avoid backhanded compliments. These are not compliments. They’re insults that start out slowly. “You can speak French?? Wow. I never would have guessed.” Bite me, jackass. “A woman should be curvy. You look healthy.” I guarantee you we just heard, “You’re fat, but I’m not stupid enough to say that.” Hope you like sleeping on the couch. “Love your new haircut, babe. Your face doesn’t look as round.” By now she’s thinking, “OMG. So all this time, I’ve been walking around with a pumpkin head, and only now you’re telling me??” This is where “Shoot the messenger” came to be. These are passive-aggressive shots and should be limited to no more than, well…none, if you want to stay married to this woman.

9. When in doubt, tell her she looks thinner than usual. Surveys report that 43% of women said that’s their favorite compliment ever. “You look so thin” will have us singing your praises all over town.

10. A few other tried and trues that men should always have in their Things I Should Say to My Wife More Often rolodex include: “You look gorgeous.” “I love your body.” “You’re the most beautiful woman here tonight.” “I’m proud to be seen with you.” “I like the way you think.” There are others, but consider this your starter set, which should keep you going for the next few weeks.

When my son, Jake, was young, I instructed him very carefully about what to say when a woman asks about her appearance. To this day, whenever he sees me dressed up or in something new, he smiles and says, “Mom, that outfit makes you look younger and thinner.” You’re going to go far, kid.

And now, in a recent conversation with Hubs:

Me: “I’m using a new cream. How does my skin look?”

Hubs: “Fine.

Me: “Fine??”

Hubs: “Oh, actually you look stunning, and I wish I could stay home and stare at you all day, repeatedly reminding myself what a lucky, lucky man I am.”

Me (with a bright smile, deliberately choosing to ignore the almost-imperceptible eye roll and snort-laugh that accompanied that statement): “Thank you, sweetie. I love you, too!”

Now, was that so hard??

— 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.

Sometimes, dreams do come true

ermine_cunningham(This was inspired by a news report of a 9-year-old boy who got past two security checkpoints, had no ticket and managed to fly to Las Vegas on his own.)

Last Friday morning, veteran Minneapolis teacher Giselle Schumacher thought it was too good to be true when she heard the news bulletin on her car radio.  This would be her last year of teaching — number 36 — and she didn’t know if she was going to make it to Thanksgiving, let alone to the end of the school year. But she believed with all her might that God works in mysterious ways.

Giselle wasn’t as energetic in the classroom as she had been 20 or 30 years ago, but she still ran a tight ship, and her students learned. She’d had her share of problem kids, and even they managed to turn their attitudes around because of the skillful classroom management and loving support of  “Mrs. S.”  Thankfully, the never-ending supply of hardheads from the Keister family, 11 kids total, every last one of them sullen and stubborn, had finally ended last year. Mrs. Schumacher’s fervent wish was that this final year would be a stellar one to cap her successful career.

This last class of fourth-graders was almost perfect: 24 polite, eager-to-learn 9-year-olds, so cooperative they almost made her reconsider the decision to retire. However, the diminutive, salt-and-pepper-haired Mrs. S. believed strongly in “quitting while you’re ahead.” Three weeks ago, however, Principal Wimple had thrown a huge fly in the ointment: Brendan Folts. The two of them appeared at her door one Friday afternoon, and it had been chaos in Room 214 ever since.

“Mrs. Schumacher, this is Brendan Folts. He’s having some difficulties in Ms. Pawnley’s room, so he’s being assigned to your class. He needs more structure, right, Brendan? Here’s his folder.”

This was nothing new to Mrs. S.; she worked magic, or so it seemed, with difficult children. This time, though, a chill ran down her spine when Brendan looked her squarely in the eye. He was a handsome child, fine-featured and dressed in the latest style, but it was clear a change was in the air — a big one.

The first week, Brendan disappeared from the classroom at random times; Mrs. S. would be teaching a lesson on homonyms or expanded form place value at the smartboard (still hard for her to get used to), and turn around to see his empty chair. “Where is Brendan?” she’d ask the class. No one ever knew. She would buzz the office to report him missing, and within a short time, he would reappear, explaining that he’d needed the bathroom and “didn’t want to interrupt the lesson” or “was afraid he’d have an accident.” By the end of the week, Mrs. S. was totally frazzled.

In the second week with Brendan, he went missing more frequently, and sometimes was found walking nonchalantly at the end of another teacher’s class on their way to gym or music. Once a cafeteria aide noticed him sitting with a kindergarten class eating a second lunch and returned him to Room 214.

Mrs. Schumacher set up a meeting with his parents, but they missed it; could they reschedule it to next week?

Although she tried her best to connect with Brendan, he reminded her of Eddie Haskell from “Leave It to Beaver,” sickeningly polite to her face, but bad to the bone in reality. She tried very hard to watch him at all times and began getting muscle spasms in her neck from whipping it around so quickly. When he disappeared just before lunch on Thursday, she shouted into the intercom for Mr. Wimple to cover the class. As soon as he rounded the corner, she took off down the hall to nab the little rascal, wherever he was. Mrs. S. finally located him in the basement custodian’s office, teaching a group of youngsters how to play blackjack.

Judging by the size of his pile of chips, Brendan obviously had excellent math skills.

Even though she wanted to escort him to the office by his ear, she refrained from touching him. He followed her like a little lamb and took a seat to wait for Mr. Wimple.

When she got home from school, Mrs. S. kicked off her shoes, poured herself a large glass of Chablis and collapsed onto the couch. There was no Mr. Schumacher to encourage her — he worked long hours at his plumbing business — so she gave herself a pep talk, reviewed her lesson plans for Friday and went to bed before nine.

She got an early start and was out the door by 6:45 a.m. Dreading the next disappearing act Brendan would pull, she switched on the 7 a.m. news as a distraction.

“A 9-year-old  boy from Minneapolis somehow got by three levels of security at the airport yesterday and flew to Las Vegas by himself. He had managed to get by TSA and gate agents onto the plane. After takeoff, flight attendants became suspicious of the child, who had no ticket and gave his name as, ‘Samson Knight.’ He stated that his parents were in the back of the plane. “Sam” will be handed over to authorities in Las Vegas for further questioning.”

A smile slowly grew on Mrs. Schumacher’s face, and she began to hum along with the radio. It would be a good day in Room 214.

— Ermine Cunningham

Ermine Cunningham taught English as a second language to refugee children in Syracuse, N.Y.,  and is now having a blast in the humor writer biz. She completed a two-year writing program in creative nonfiction at the Downtown Writers Center in 2013. She blogs at Odds & Ends from Ermigal and is putting the final touches on her soon-to-be-published book, Pretend You Know What You’re Doing — My Voyage from Teacher to Humor Writer.

Mr. Bojangles

Anne BardsleyJune 18, 1967, started out like any other Saturday morning. My alarm had buzzed twice, and I was still in bed. Herman’s Hermits were singing my favorite song on the clock radio, “Something tells me I’m into something good.”

My mother’s shrill voice interrupted my dream of Herman. “Get out of bed. Now! Candy stripers are important volunteers. You can’t be late on your first day.” Then she started the usual warnings, “Don’t talk to strangers. Be careful. Make sure you get bus number 142. Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you and Mariah?”

“Mom, no!” I protested. “We want to take the bus.”

Mariah was waiting for me at the corner of our old grade school. We’d be 14 and freshmen in the fall, so we felt very grown up. There we stood in our freshly starched red-and-white-striped uniforms. Sporting thick-soled shoes, we had more support on our feet than in our bras.

Right on time, old number 142 rattled to our stop. The bus was full, so we made our way to the very back, away from all the old people who were coughing and making disgusting noises.

At the next bus stop, an elderly man, looking worn and ragged, struggled up the steps. He banged his suitcase and an old crate against each row of seats. We snickered at the sight of him.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that this could be the stranger my mother had warned me about. My heart began to pound. I was in a state of panic when he sat down right next to me. I froze.

Before I could plan my escape, he let out a loud sigh, turned to me, and said, “Good morning,” rather pleasantly.

I could barely look at him. He smelled old, and his teeth were crooked. His hair hadn’t seen shampoo in quite some time. His tan plaid trousers were so worn that small holes dotted his pant leg.

As we reached the next stop, I heard a sharp yelping noise come from the rusty crate. A pair of brown, beady eyes stared at me.

The old man crooned softly to the creature. “Oh, so you want to meet the girls? Come on then.” He gingerly lifted out an adorable and equally ragged small mutt. He lifted her gently and introduced us to Gracie. The old stranger had come to life. His blue eyes sparkled, and his smile broadened. He handed Gracie to me and her warm body fit in the curve of my arm. She was a rumpled mess of grizzled blonde fur. Her eyes hid behind tufts of slightly matted hair, and her little paws were spreading specks of dirt onto my newly starched uniform. He grinned and asked me, “Would you like to dress her?”

Before I could answer, he lifted the suitcase onto his lap. It was brown, blotchy and covered with faded stickers from Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana. Inside, he had it neatly partitioned into two sections.

His part of the suitcase held a few plaid shirts and pants. Gracie, on the other hand, had a complete wardrobe of colorful dresses, bonnets and bows. I looked from the suitcase and back into his eyes. I heard myself ask, “Can I dress her?”

I chose a frilly pink-and-white dress with layers of worn crinoline underneath. It had a dainty pearl necklace sewn into the collar. Mariah handed me the matching white hat. Gracie sat ever so still, offering her paws, one at a time, as her thin legs slipped through the armholes. I buttoned the dress very carefully. She didn’t even flinch when I tied her bonnet. Her fuzzy ears poked through the slits, and she looked gorgeous!

As if on cue, she jumped off my lap and sat at the old man’s feet. He was lost in time now, leaning back, legs sprawled and smiling to himself. This little mutt charmed my friend and me, and the man knew it. He looked into our eyes, and with a twinkling smile, he reached into his ripped pocket and pulled out a weathered harmonica. He put the old harpoon to his lips, and with a wink of his eye, he started the show. A lively rendition of “Old Susannah” filled the back of the bus. Gracie was transformed into a showgirl. Ever so gracefully, her fur-balled little body twirled like a ballerina. Her front paws moved in the air as she spun to the music.

By now, everyone in the entire back of the bus was enjoying the show. We all clapped and laughed as they finished their performance. All too soon, our destination, the Bryn Mawr Hospital, came into view. I wanted to stay on the bus and let the show go on, but duty was calling.

The old man reached into his pocket and said, “Here’s something for your trouble. Buy yourselves a soda.”

“Oh, we couldn’t take your money, sir. Buy Gracie some bones with it,” I said, as I waved goodbye and stepped to the curb.

Every day for the rest of that summer, I would look for the two of them to get back on the bus, but they never did. I’m sure by now that he and Gracie are in heaven. I wonder how many lives they touched on their journey.

For a long time, I felt so guilty; my initial thoughts about him were so unkind. After 40 years, the memory of that silly little dog in a dress and that smiling old man still warms my heart. I keep them safely tucked away on a shelf in my heart. Maybe one day, I’ll make a similar lasting impression in someone else’s life.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

My boobs are full of surprises

Mary WiddicksThe other day, as I was getting ready for bed, I found a red M&M in my bra.

My 3-year-old had been throwing some up in the air trying to catch them in his mouth, and I guess his aim was worse than we thought. It had, as the ’80s commercials promised, not melted. It had, however, left a little red stain on my skin. I looked at it, confused for a moment how it had gotten there, shrugged my shoulders and ate it. After all, chocolate is chocolate no matter how long it has spent in my cleavage.

Since becoming a parent, I have been surprised by finding a number of unusual items tucked away in various places on my body. I’m not sure whether my boobs have gotten larger or my clothes have gotten baggier, but my bra appears to have become some sort of black hole, sucking in objects that drift too close to its enormous mass.

I once spent an entire day at a child’s birthday part with a matchbox car in the left cup of my bra, under my boob, and I didn’t even know it. I haven’t seen the underside of my bra without a mirror since I stopped wearing training bras, but I’m fairly sure that the outside world would have noticed the faint outline of a 2002 Volkswagen golf protruding from my breast. Even my boobs can’t afford luxury cars.

The worst part of the matchbox-car-in-the-bra incident was that it wasn’t even my son’s car. He had been driving his friend’s cars along my arms and chest while I desperately tried to ignore him and hold an adult conversation with another mother at the party. I’m not sure whether he did it to get my attention or whether the car just fell into the abyss in my shirt, but it was then lost for the rest of the party. I then had to send an email to the host of the party admitting that my son had smuggled toys across the border on my person. I felt like a drug mule.

In the last three years I’ve found the tips of crayons, caps of markers, Cheerios and, one very fine morning, I even found a quarter plastered to the inside of my boob. My bra seems to have replaced the sofa cushions as the catch-all for junk nobody wants in our house. So far, that quarter is the only contribution of value my bra has provided, but I’m still holding out hope that one day I’ll find a 20 lurking in there. I might be in the wrong profession for that, though.

This afternoon, my 9-month-old attempted to cram an entire chicken strip down my shirt to save for later, but unfortunately his efforts lacked subtlety. He looked at me as though to say, “What? I thought that’s where food came from.” I guess he was looking for some variety next time he nursed. I handed it back to him, and he promptly fed it to the dogs. What a waste of a perfectly good chicken strip. At least if he had left it in my bra, I could have eaten it later.

I’m considering contacting Stephen Hawking regarding my developing theory that my boobs are, in fact, the center of the universe. I’m not really sure how these things work, but I’ll be expecting my Nobel Prize to arrive in the mail shortly thereafter. Black holes don’t exist? Try doing my laundry for a few weeks. Now that I’ve solved that mystery of the universe, I’ll see what I can do about the missing socks.

Hang on, I’ll check my bra…

— Mary Widdicks

Mary Widdicks is a 31-year-old mother of two boys and two male dogs. Once a cognitive psychologist, she now spends the majority of her time trying to outsmart her kids (and failing!). She is the writer behind the humorous parenting blog Outmanned, where she turns for entertainment when she can’t take any more fart jokes or belching contests. Her writing has been featured on parenting sites such as Mamapedia, Mamalode and Scary Mommy.  She is a regular contributor on BLUNTmoms and has been honored as a 2014 Voice of the Year by BlogHer.

Reflections of Erma