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When hell breaks loose,
blame it on the tooth fairy

Jhanis V.It is with a heavy heart today that I announce, the tooth fairy has been unmasked.

I’ve been busted.

You can hand me the cone of shame anytime now.

We all know who the tooth fairy is, right? Sometimes it’s the man of the house, sometimes it’s the one who thinks she’s always right. Ahem. Whut?!

In our house, it has always been me. Why? Because I think I make a better looking tooth fairy. And all these years, due to unexplainable sentimental hoarding, I have kept my son’s teeth in a tiny tin box. If somebody out there is doing the same thing, I implore you, get rid of them NOW! I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but little people are skilled at finding stuff you don’t want them to see. My kids have proven this so many times, but it looks like I have never learned my lesson.

I’ve held on to his choppers.

The kid found the secret box.

And I lied my way out.

“Huh? What do you mean you found your teeth? Those are mine! And you are not supposed to touch mom’s things!”

“Why do you still have those?”

“Because my mom never told me about the tooth fairy and had I known, I would have been rich by now considering the number I have left. Pfft. “

“They sure look like mine.”

“All teeth look the same.”

When I got home from work yesterday morning, I asked my son to remove my dandruff pluck my grey hairs while I try to get some sleep. So I was sprawled on the bed, reading blogs on my phone, waiting for sleep to take over when I chanced upon Cristina’s post (which you should read, btw) where she spoke about parenting, teeth and the tooth fairy. Now, even if commenting using my phone requires mad skills, I just HAD TO COMMENT and share my expertise in these departments, too.

I kept all my son’s teeth and one day he found my secret box and confronted me about it. I told him they were mine, when he said they look like his, I dropped the subject. I’m classy like that. LOL

Now because of the sensitivity of the topic, I didn’t want my son to see what I was reading or typing in the comments, so I was holding the phone very close to my face, as close as I could without crossing my eyes, about three inches away from my eyeballs, but the kid still managed to read what I wrote. Gawd! This kid should be a spy when he grows up!!

“MOM! So it was just you!

And my heart stopped.

IT WAS YOU ALL ALONG!” Imagine this coming from a boy with a smile that refused to conceal the disappointment in his heart.

“Mom, it was just you!” He was laughing but I knew better.

“WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!? What are you doing peeking on my phone! You are supposed to be looking for my dandruff grey hairs!”

Groan.  Mama, you are BUSTED.

“IT WAS JUST YOU! MOMMY!!!! No wonder I only got 20 pesos!

Okay, I get that. I’m cheap.

“And one time, there was money under the pillow, but my tooth was still there! AND THE LAST TIME, THERE WAS NO MONEY AT ALL!!!”

Chill, kid.

Now, I am not good with confrontations and issues and when hell breaks loose, I get disoriented. When that happens, I  laugh.

My son was laughing, too, but there was something in his eyes that broke my heart. Sweet baby Jesus. Get me out of this predicament. Puhlease!

“Are you mad at me?” I managed to ask when laughing became too painful to continue.

“A little.”

I just hugged him and kissed him and hugged him some more.

“It’s because the tooth fairy stopped coming for your teeth when you turned 3.” 

Where the f*** did that come from?

“and I didn’t want you to feel sad so I made sure to put money under your pillow each time you lost a tooth.” 

GAWD. Liar. Just. stop. talking.

“Can I go now? I don’t feel like getting your dandruff grey hairs anymore.”

“Sure honey, remember I LOVE YOU.”

Isn’t parenting sweet?

— Jhanis V.

Jhanis V. shares stories from her third-world kitchen that will make you laugh. Or cringe. You will find more of her writings at The Vanilla Housewife blog. She’s featured in 2014 Top 10 Voice Boks — Comedy Edition.

Meet my new best friends

Judi VeoukasMy dentist sent a “friendly” reminder informing me I have an appointment within the next two weeks.  The word “friendly” really got to me!

I like my dentist and her staff, and if they sent a friendly reminder that we were all going out for lunch, I would love this thoughtful gesture. To be reminded, though, that I will be poked, jabbed, and scaled — no doubt because I’m lousy at flossing — doesn’t seem friendly at all.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate mail other than bills, pleas for money from politicians, and half-off coupons for mobility scooters. It’s just that a note from the dentist need not be so chummy.

On the other hand, I don’t want the reminder to be a surly, “Judi, if you don’t show up on this date, you will be in danger of needing an endodontic root canal treatment sooner than later.” Nor do I want it to be buddy-buddy as in, “We’ve missed you so much, and we are all looking so forward to your teeth.”

Something in the middle would be fine. Perhaps, “Don’t forget to come on September 28th.” Even if it continued with, “Also, remember that if you have to cancel, even if you are on your deathbed, please do so 24 hours in advance. Failure to comply will force us to charge you (or your estate) $50 for your missed appointment.” They can draw a smiley face with a tooth missing along with their message if they still feel the need to be cordial.

Our veterinarian used to send postcard reminders addressed to our dog, Waffles. There would be a picture of a teary-eyed animal doctor accompanied by the text, “Dear Waffles Veoukas: We haven’t seen you for so long.” Because the card was meant for the dog, I’d toss it to him and he’d promptly tear it to shreds. That probably saved us a heck of a lot in vet bills. On the other hand, the dog did die early on, perhaps of paper ingestion.

Still, I suppose mail reminders are better than the “friendly” robotic phone call, the ones that go like this:

Robot Voice: “Hell-o, this is Merry Meadows Medical Center reminding Julie Venitianoukas that she has an appointment for a prostate exam tomorrow at 1 p.m.  Press 1 if you paid attention to this message.”

What the heck do I press to tell them I don’t have a prostate?

I suppose soon there will be email appointment reminder messages too, allowing the sender, if he or she desires, to wax poetically at a select audience without the scrutinizing eyes of the mail carrier. I envision receiving something along the lines of:

“Just a friendly reminder for your 4 p.m. appointment next Tuesday!

Hi, it’s me, your gynecologist!
I’ve teamed with a fine psychologist!
So if you come in early, say about 3
You’ll get two for one — Dr. Angst AND me!”

 And now we get these darn reminders via Facebook. All the medical professionals need do is “friend” me and then most of my contacts can also read, “Judi, This is a friendly reminder. Do not forget you have a toenail fungal infection which will be scraped out next week on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Chicago office. Please bring your insurance and a picture I.D.”

I don’t think I can stand any more friendliness.

— Judi Veoukas

Judi Veoukas started writing at age nine, when she penned greeting cards and sold a few for a nickel at her maternal grandmother’s funeral, much to the consternation of her mother. Sadly, counting inflation, she is not earning much more as a writer now. Still her love of writing is equaled only by her love of chocolate. When she isn’t downing chocolate, she writes a humor column for two Chicago suburban newspapers, Lake County Suburban Life and Barrington Life, and submits to Funny Times (and has actually appeared in it twice). Much to her delight, she won an Illinois Press Association prize three times.  She was also a writing tutor for seven years at a community college with a varied curriculum. However, she couldn’t resist the desire to have students add humor to their papers. Assuring a student in “Intro to Surgical Technology” that humor would spice up his paper proved to be her undoing. Now she mostly hides in her office at home.

12 steps, the new guide to parenting

Sarah HeadshotLike in any 12-step program there is a key to success. Each step builds on the one before and you have to master them all in order for them to be successful. You have to spend time patiently working each step and stage. Reflect on what you have learned, share your story and what you have learned and if you are really commit to the program. Only after completing it you will find success.

There is no difference in the 12-step parenting. However, I’m not sure if you ever graduate or enter “recovery.” Even when your kiddos grow up and leave the nest, you still worry about them and their lives. It is just part of the program

This program works best prior to conception. However, it can be started at anytime. Follow the 12-step guide to parenting! Now, work it, commit to it and enjoy every minute of it!

Step 1:

Learn how to live off of as little amount of sleep as possible. And no, just for the record you will not sleep again after the first three months. That is false, people. The fears, worries and sleepless night do not end ever!

Step 2:

Learn how to toilet quick!  You will never toilet in peace. Forget about reading the paper. Your child will be walking in on you, talking through the door and yelling “hurry up, mommy”!  Farewell privacy.  Bye bye!

Step 3:

Master the art of making “things” disappear!  Like Houdini.

Step 4:

Forget how to change the batteries!  Especially in those loud obnoxious toys that Grammy likes to give!  Or throw out all the screwdrivers.

Step 5:

Learn how to make peanut butter & jelly, grilled cheese, hot dogs, scrambled eggs and Mac & Cheese!  Forget about your gourmet meals.

Step 6:

Master the art of ignoring. It can come in handy with spouses, too!

Step 7:

Be prepared to accept any bodily fluid or solid in you hand!  Don’t be shocked to be handed a piece of poop or to catch puke in you hand!

Step 8:

Master the art of seeing out of the eyes in the back of your head.  They grew when I became a parent!  And do not be shocked if child tries to glue some on the back of his head and on his ears!

Step 9:

Learn children’s songs and shows. And do not be shocked if you are watching them 30 minutes after your child has gone to bed.

Step 10:

Be prepared for public announcements. Usually at the most inappropriate times!  Like, random public check ins. “Mommy and Daddy do you have to go pee or poop?” or “Mommy doesn’t like that,” when being served something at your in-laws.

Step 11:

Always, I mean always, keep a bottle of wine or some kind of alcohol in the house.

Step 12:

Work hard and master each of these steps and you will be the best 12-stepper ever!

Parenting is no different than working the 12 steps in any other program. Recovery is possible. However, unfortunately it is only after your children have their own family and, let’s face it, recovery just does not really happen.  As much as you work the steps and commit to the program, you can never become a parent in recovery!

— Sarah Honey

Sarah Honey is the author of a lifestyle blog, “Thank You Honey,” where she writes about her adventures in mommyhood and everything in-between. You can also find her on TwitterFacebook or wrangling her toddler.

Blackberries, Morning Glory and my lawn mower for $100, Alex

Bob NilesLast week I was cutting the heads off the clover with my poor excuse for a gas lawn mower when it hit me.

No, it caught me. The Morning Glory vine from the neighbor’s yard reached out and grabbed me. I responded as I do when anyone touches me by screaming and swatting at it. I have issues, so says my bruised doctor.

The vine from hell (VFH) scratched me! I tried to lift the lawn mower high enough to sever its spindly arm.

I don’t know how many times the lawn mower spun around before it stalled, but it was enough to knock several boards off the fence and me to the ground. My poor excuse for a lawn mower was now five feet in the air and wound tight to the fence.

“Well, I can break my glasses and throw them away. I’ve seen everything now!” I shout at the neighbor in her bathroom window.

I got up to free the lawn mower off the fence. I borrowed the machine from my brother three years ago. He’s probably given up thinking I’d ever return it, but come Sketch 2014-07-06 14_36_58Friday I was going to prove him wrong. That’s if I could unwind this piece of junk off the fence.

I blindly reached through the fence to pull at the VFH when it bit me again. Then it grabbed hold of my arm with kitten-like claws and said, “Wait right there!” I’m arm deep into the neighbor’s yard, stuck. Now both the lawn mower and myself look like some weird fridge magnets stuck on the fence.

I cowboy up and just pull on my arm as needle points etch bloody linear roads down its length. I haven’t been this scratched up since I tried to baptize the cat.

“Boy, that doesn’t look good!” I yell at the top of my voice. “Probably looks worse than it really is, though!” But still she remained in front of the window.

I reach in my pocket for my pocket knife and start to cut at the kitten-claw vine that’s hanging onto my brother’s soon-to-be- returned piece of junk lawn mower. I discover my VFH is made up of two vines, Morning Glory wrapped around blackberry runners. The perfect weed! A weed you can’t kill or pull.

I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to kill a blackberry bush. These two vines make up one of these symbiotic relationships you see on the science channel — like the oxpecker bird and the rhino, remoras and sharks, and panda bears and kangaroos living in harmony together.

The Morning Glory with its large, white trumpeting flowers attract bees that pollinate both vine and bush. Wrapping itself around the thorny runners of the blackberry bush discourages anyone from trying to pull it out. Gol-lly a perfect marriage made in hell. It can’t be stopped! The whole world is going to be taken over by the black Morning Glory berry bush.

“I can see it all now. It’s horrible. Shut the curtains!” I think to myself.

I walk, no run, to the hardware store wondering why I didn’t drive. They’ll have some poison to do away with my little friend. I make it to the end of the driveway, winded and change my mind. I will drive!

Two minutes later I’m back in the house on the computer wondering where I was going to go in the car. I type in “hoe to kill black betty bush.” Because of my poor typing skills and ex-president George Bush having a relative named Betty, I’m now on some list. So, then I change the wording from hoe to how and kill to poison. Again, I’ve alerted the police.

If this bush from hell were in my yard, I’d have a fighting chance of hacking away at it, but it hides between the neighbor’s garage and my fence. It strikes out into my yard, the Morning Glory vine pulling the blackberry bush along at speeds equal to a pensioner heading to Denny’s on his birthday.

I can’t go in the neighbor’s yard to attack this beast as the beast and dog both hate me. I quietly climb the tree for a peek and yell a rude insult at my victim.

Two days later

It’s Friday and the lawn mower is still looking like a fridge magnet on a fence. I’ll have to borrow my brother’s other mower or my other brother’s mower to cut the heads off the clover and the three dandelions poking through my dead lawn.

The neighbor bought new boards and fixed the fence. He’s now watering and fertilizing that bush from hell. I think he’s feeding it meat!

I cut at it, hack at it and try to set it on fire but with little success. It’s a daily fight at this time of year.

Blackberries are now in season, and the wife has taken a real liking to them. But I’ve got so much ‘Weedkill’ on the bush that I’d never eat them.

“Honey, I’m going out to pick more berries! If I pick enough berries, will you make a pie for Pete and Judy? Kind of a peace offering to make up for my critique of Judy? What’s that? Sure, I’ll pick a pail for you, too. No problem.”

I may have lost this battle, but this war’s not over.

— Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names), honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs here.

Please check me out

Helene Cohen BludmanHave you ever reached for your wallet and discovered a credit card was missing?

This had never happened to me, ever. Until yesterday. At the grocery store.

My scalp prickled with perspiration, much like a hot flash, and as my heart pounded my blow-dried hair curled into obstinate ringlets. A few cleansing breaths later I was able to calmly assess my predicament.

I really didn’t suspect theft. I assumed the card had been misplaced when I switched pocketbooks earlier in the day. It most certainly was at home, I reassured myself.

But first things first. I had to pay for these groceries.

I could write a check.

Luckily, I had my checkbook with me. I made out the check and handed it to Checkout Guy, pulled out my key chain and scanned my shopper’s card (those pennies saved really add up. Not.).

He looked at the check. Then squinted at me. Gingerly, he held out his hand with the enthusiasm of someone accepting a soggy used tissue.

“You want to pay by ch-check?” CG stuttered in disbelief. I nodded and he proceeded to scan the many buttons on his checkout apparatus.

He punched one, then another, and still a third. He tried to force the check into the check slot. No dice.

After a few minutes of this he decided to call for reinforcement, so he summoned the checkout guy in the next aisle.

“Joe, how do you process a check?” CG muttered under his breath. “I tried pushing mumble mumble and it didn’t work. Do I have to press mumble mumble or mumble mumble?”

Joe surveyed the many buttons and haphazardly pushed a few, to no avail. “You have to scan your shopper’s card,” he told me.

I sighed. “But I did already.”

This 20-something kid probably thought this middle-aged, shiny-faced frizzy-haired woman had no idea what scanning was. He asked for my card and scanned it for the second time.

Still nothing. After a brief consultation, CG and Joe agreed it was time to call in the big guns. The manager.

Mr. Manager came over, was apprised of the situation, and turned to the register. Now all three of them were punching buttons and looking mystified.

Suddenly, Mr. Manager had an epiphany. “You have to scan your shopper’s card,” he announced triumphantly.

I bit my tongue.

I handed him my key chain with the card affixed.

“I need the larger card, not the one on your key chain,” he said.

I didn’t have the larger card. Its whereabouts were as unknown to me as my missing debit card.

“Without the larger card you can’t write a check,” he told me.  And just to make sure I understood, he repeated, “You can’t be approved for check-writing privileges unless you have that card.”

I turned to the woman behind me jiggling her toddler, whose whining had now escalated to a shriek and whose meltdown was even more accelerated than my carton of Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream now dripping on the conveyor belt.. “I am so sorry,” I whispered. She smiled frostily.

Mr. Manager sensed that things were deteriorating fast. “Go over to Customer Service and they’ll help check you out,” he said. “You’ll get your new card in the mail in about a week to 10 days. When you want to write a check, you’ll have to have it with you.”

With as much dignity as I could muster, I proceeded to Customer Service, paid my bill and marched out with my head held high.

P.S. I still haven’t recovered my debit card.

— Helene Cohen Bludman

Helene Cohen Bludman blogs at Books is Wonderful about the quirks of midlife, parenting adult children, modern culture and, or course, books. She left a career in marketing to become a full-time writer.

Save the papers

Con ChapmanNewspapers, as you may have heard, are declining rapidly in value.

To take a recent example: In 2000 The New York Times bought The Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram-Gazette for $296 million.  This year the paper was sold for an undisclosed amount that industry analysts estimate was less than $15 million.  That sort of decline in value hasn’t been seen in Worcester since the Chevrolet Vega I drove as a reporter there in the ’70s  began leaking oil.

This isn’t news.  In 1981, when The Real Paper, an alternative newspaper in Cambridge, Mass. that I wrote for, folded, I submitted an article to The Columbia Journalism Review on its demise.  The rejection letter I received said, in essence, thanks, but we get too many stories like this.

Those of us who saw the deluge coming were like William Shatner in the “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the only passenger who sees the gremlin out on the wing of the plummeting plane.

You — sitting there in front of the computer — are part of the problem.  You’ve apparently decided that you’re tired of reading the same Boston Globe story about tattooed professional women three times in the past 18 months, in each case with fewer facts than before.  Funny, the female accountants, lawyers and MBAs I meet tend not to have “Wellesley MA 02481″ scrawled on their necks, a reminder of “where they came from,” as one NBA player said of his return-address neck tat the other day.

Instead, you get news online where you can click a link and watch two guys dropping candy into Diet Coke bottles when you get bored with the two-civic leader op-eds the Globe likes to run.

I’ve been writing for newspapers off and on — mostly off — since high school, when a cracked vertebra tragically brought my football career to a premature conclusion.  I wrote for free back then, so to me writing on the Internet is like coming home for Christmas.

I can’t imagine a world without print.  There are some places where you just can’t go — at least not yet — with a laptop.  This week I got a haircut and was trying to imagine what a normal colloquy with my barber would be like if newspapers ceased to exist:

BARBER:  Canna you tilta your heada justa little?

ME:  Sorry, I was doing a site search for “lacrosse” and “Blazers” to see whatever happened to Boston’s indoor lacrosse team.

BARBER:  Why donta you justa reada the sportsa page?  Thatta way I don’ta get little hairs in your computer when I blow dry.

ME:  Enzo — print — it dies.

BARBER:  Too bad.  You want gel on that?

I, for one, am not going to stand idly by while a way of life comes to an end.  What follows is my guerilla plan to save print through hand-to-hand combat that you, dear reader, can you join anytime you want.

Buy two copies, throw one away.  During the first Reagan administration humorist Roy Blount, Jr. suggested that we reduce the national debt by buying postage stamps and throwing them away.  Maybe if writers bought two copies of every newspaper they wanted and threw one away, we could save print.  Of course Blount’s plan didn’t work, but that was before there was the Internet to spread the word.  If you wanted to read Blount back then, you had to buy Esquire.  Not any more.  Now you just log onto the Internet, type his name into your search engine and…never mind.

Pets.  Pets are one of the key demographics that publishers neglected when advertising revenues were strong and things didn’t look so grim.  Try lining your parakeet’s cage with a laptop, or house-breaking your Portuguese Water Dog using an Amazon Kindle — it’s a mess!  You’ll be begging the nice telemarketer for The New York Times for a two-week free home delivery trial the next time she calls.

Diminished civility.  Next time somebody at the soup ‘n salad place where you eat lunch asks if he can have your paper when you’re through with it, just say no.  As you make your way out of your commuter train in the morning, pick up the discarded papers that other riders leave behind and throw them away.

If somebody complains, tell them if they want to read the news for free, they can buy a laptop, which is way more expensive.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works includeThe Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn(Joshua Tree Publishing). He is the author of 30 plays, 10 of which are published. His articles and humor have appeared in national magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Boston Herald.

Menopause killed my inner MILF

Vikki ClaflinGoogle “Benefits of Menopause,” and you’ll get 8,570,000 possible links. Over 8 1/2 million articles written on how menopause makes us stronger, sexier, more confident and more at peace with our bodies and our sexuality. Not to mention the exhilarating freedom from periods, bloating, cramping, PMS and the constant worry about pregnancy, however slim the chance.

What they don’t tell you in those same posts is that all that zen is achieved after menopause is over. It’s the prize at the end of a rather bumpy ride, during which you’ll start questioning whether you’ll ever be sexy again. Or if you’ll ever care.

Like most women, I like feeling attractive, sexy, desirable. I’ve spent more money than I probably should’ve towards that goal over the years, and although yoga pants and no makeup are my norm, I do clean up fairly well (which admittedly takes longer with each passing year). I have a tiny, but persistent, inner hot chick that still likes stilettos, little black dresses and the appreciative looks from Hubs at my efforts. Menopause crashed my hotness with a thud heard in three states.

Suddenly I was more “Ma’am” than MILF. Men stopped whistling at me from the street and started helping me through the crosswalk. People no longer commented, “You look so much like your mother,” and started assuming we were sisters. One unfortunate store owner in town asked me if I was my son’s grandmother. (As soon as I figure out how to hide the body, he’s going to die.)

In retrospect, I’m amazed that Hubs made it through my menopausal years. He married a reasonably confident, arguably normal woman, and woke up one day to an overheated, moody, questionably sane female sobbing uncontrollably over the sudden appearance of cankles. My MILF was gone. How menopause killed it:

1. Hot flashes. We were out at our favorite romantic restaurant, and instead of the coy flirting of our early years (“Gee, Big Guy, is it hot in here or is it just you?”), it became “Is it hot in here or what? I’m hot. Is anybody else hot??” Repeated requests to the uncooperative waiter to turn the thermostat down finally ended with a screeching “Can’t you turn the freaking heat down?!? It’s TOO FRIGGIN’ HOT IN HERE.” Hubs dragged my sweaty body out of the restaurant, and we haven’t been back since.

2. Metabolism changes. Actually, mine didn’t change. It stopped. Weight maintenance was now limited to one Fruit Loop and a Diet Coke per day. Weight loss required colonic cleansing and fasting. And if you like wine, no carbs for you. Ever. Carbs plus wine make you blow up like a puffer fish, so you have to choose. I haven’t had a carb since 2009.

3. Fatigue. I was tired all the time. Bedtime went from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., effectively eliminating boogie nights on the dance floor, since it’s virtually impossible to find a band that starts at 5:30.

4. Night sweats. Yeah, nothing turns a man on more than being whacked on the arm at 2 a.m. to “Get up” because we have to change the cold, wet sheets. Again. After the first six months, we both got used to just tossing beach towels over the sheets and crawling back into bed. Take that, sex life.

5. Day sweats. I quit going to the gym after realizing my clothes would be soaked, with visible sweat pouring down between my boobs and my butt crack, and I’d only been on the treadmill for 3 minutes. It took me longer to wipe down the machine than it did to work out.

6. Incontinence. I’d laugh. A little squirt. I’d sneeze. Another little squirt. The actual need to pee? Now I’d be clenching my Kegals while I waddle-ran to the nearest bathroom, praying there wasn’t a line and fully prepared to bust into the men’s room if necessary. By the end of the evening, I smelled like Eau de Pee, sitting in wet undies, and wondering what the hell had happened to my life. Hubs, not surprisingly, was still not turned on.

7. Mood swings. Some days, Hubs would come home to find me sobbing over yet-another Hallmark commercial about the son returning home at Christmas to his adoring little sister and happy, teary-eyed parents. Other days, any and all comments directed at me, from anyone in the room, on any subject, were met with “What the hell is wrong with you??” accompanied, when the stupidity-level warranted it, by a smack up ‘long side the head. Hubs claimed later that every day was a crapshoot.

8. Physical changes. Under-arm twaddle, boobs headed towards my knees, and hips widening, irrevocably eliminated anything sleeveless or low-cut from my closet and would forevermore require military-grade underwear. Menopause underwear is designed to git ‘erdone, by pushing, lifting, and shoving defiant and migrating body parts back into their original shape and place. We no longer care about lace edging or cute bows. We need Kevlar underwire and the Spanx company on speeddial.

9. Body heat. More consistent than hot flashes, I was basically just hot all. the. time. We had the front door open year-round, and unless it was raining, I had the top down on my car. In December. I turned the house heat completely off every night and opened all the windows. Hubs repeatedly complained that he couldn’t perform in a meat locker. I reminded him once that it’s a bad chef who blames his utensils, but apparently he didn’t get my humor. Yeah, nobody got any that night.

10. Hunger. Suffice it to say that I was always hungry. And somehow, I have no recollection of craving carrots. I do remember threatening to bludgeon Hubs to death one night for eating the last of my Milk Duds. To this day, he’s never eaten another Dud.

11. Evening conversations tended more towards chronic menopausal-induced IBS than our mutual plans for our next vacation through the wine country. Hubs, who’s never seen me pee (not once in 15 years) because I want to maintain a modicum of mystery in our marriage, looked a bit stunned one night when I bent over and hiked up the back of my dress, asking “When I bend over like this, can you see cellulite on the backs of my legs?” He laughed so hard, he fell off his chair, but was smart enough to leave that question untouched.

Now, at the end of the tunnel, I’m approaching inner peace. But it was a humbling and often mortifying ride. And occasionally, when I’m doing my morning prayers and meditation, my thoughts will free-fall back to those years and I’ll ask God, “Really??REALLY??”

I’m still waiting for a response.

— 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. In 2014, she received a BlogHer Voice of the Year award for humor.

The Write Sisters

Katrina_KittleAre you looking for a fresh, impartial critique to help prepare your manuscript for submission? An opinion from someone with years of experience in the literary world? Honest feedback from an author who has been published and has an intimate knowledge of the industry?

Three Dayton, Ohio, published novelists and teachers have started a new business, The Write Sisters: Fiction Manuscript Consultants.Sharon.Short

Katrina KittleKristina McBride and Sharon Short have 50 years of experience in publishing, and have spent a collective 40 years teaching various levels of English and creative writing. Kittle has served on the faculty at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, and Short, who directs the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, has judged a number of writing competitions, including the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

The three will edit most genres for the middle grade, young adult, new adult and adult audience, from short stories and novellas up to approximately 125,000 words (500 pages) in length. In addition, they also offer feedback on query letters and synopses.

Kristina.McBrideThe goal of The Write Sisters is to guide writers in honing overall aspects of voice, plotting and narrative, as well as polishing the nitty-gritty details, all while staying true to the heart of the story. They hope to fuel the passion writers have for the manuscript they are creating, and to offer a final push to enhance the piece in preparation for submission.

For more details, including pricing, visit The Write Sisters.

Reflections of Erma