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Facebook fossil

Marcia DoyleOkay, I’ll admit that I’m tired of being the dinosaur in the family.

I was the last to learn how to use a DVD, the last to learn how to use a cell phone and the last to learn how to use a computer.

I finally brushed the cobwebs out of my brain and took a computer class geared for geriatric-aged people. For months I tinkered around on the computer and discovered how much I liked watching weird videos on YouTube, reading blog sites and emailing friends who had given up such relics as stationery, ink pens and postage stamps eons ago. My kids also set up a Facebook account for me, but I rarely looked at it. In fact, I thought it was kind of silly spending all that time chatting away with people I hadn’t seen since Jimmy Carter was in the oval office.  At the time I was also sharing the clunky, old, family computer with three other people in the house, so it seemed pointless to get into a juicy conversation with an old friend online when my kids were hovering nearby, waiting their turn to neglect their homework in favor of socializing on Facebook.

Life changed the day my husband surprised me with my very own computer for Christmas. It was the Holy Grail of communication for me, and every time I lifted the lid on my laptop, I swear I could hear the Hallelujah Chorus when the keyboard lit up. Suddenly I couldn’t get enough of it —  was zipping through videos, blogs, emails and Googling stupid stuff like kangaroos trained to play ping-pong in Australia. It was a heady experience, all that power at my finger tips. With one click, I had access to THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE — or at least a great recipe for low-fat meatloaf.

And then one day I let my fingers do the walking through Facebook, and I discovered this whole, new neighborhood filled with hundreds of people who at one time or another were important in my life. I badgered my kids daily to help me set up my profile, upload nice (i.e., flattering) pictures and to locate people I haven’t seen since we marched out of the high school auditorium with diplomas in our hands.

That’s when the real fun started. Friend requests were sent and received like rapid gunfire over the Internet. I was sending friend requests to EVERYONE, including people I hadn’t seen since nursery school. “Hey, remember me? We shared a mat together during nap time in Mr. Jim’s class…”

Even more fun was checking up on the Facebook status of each of my children and leaving silly comments on their walls. One son threatened to “unfriend” me for reminding him on his Facebook wall to brush his teeth before going to bed. I kept forgetting that my comments were like a neon sign on his wall for the entire teenage population to see.

I also had to adapt to computer lingo before I could join the Facebook community. Abbreviations such as: LOL, BRB, LMAO, DK, BFF, TMI, UR2, TXT, TTYL and ROFLMAO — it was like learning a new language. Once I got the hang of it, my fingers were flying over the keyboards as I abbreviated everything in “text-speak.”

At this point, my kids were nauseated by my Facebook enthusiasm. They never expected this old fossil to become a Facebook aficionado. I was obsessed with it — not only could I catch up with old friends, but I could also share recipes, videos, music, photos of the grandchildren and get good advice from dozens of people on how to stop my dog from pooping on the living room carpet. I could change my status daily or even hourly, and there was always someone out there reading it, ready to send me a smile or a sympathetic ear to my daily grumblings. My husband just shook his head and asked, “Why do you need to know who’s cheating on their diet right at this very moment with a strawberry and cream frappucino from Starbucks, or who’s secretly sucking down vodka martinis in a Spiderman thermos at their kid’s soccer game? Why do you even care?”

I couldn’t explain to him that it was all just part of being involved in the Facebook community.

Over time I have learned that there are certain, unwritten rules that need to be adhered to while using Facebook.  For instance:

1. You’ve heard of drunk texting?  Drunk Facebooking is worse. DO NOT get lubed up on cheap beer or wine and stalk old boyfriends/girlfriends or write depressing messages on your wall about feeling unloved or under-appreciated.

2. If you’ve got food poisoning or the flu, please refrain from sharing your symptoms, in detail, in your day’s status.  Some of us already have weak stomachs.

3. Leave negative comments to yourself.  If your best friend posts a picture of herself in a new pair of jeans, don’t ask her if it’s too late to get her money back.

4. Do not discuss politics on Facebook.  Pretty soon 40 people will be arguing on your wall over who would make a better president/senator/governor. Eventually they’ll all agree that Pee-wee Herman should be a write-in candidate.

5. If several of your Facebook friends are dieting, do not post pictures of the calorie-laden, mouth-watering meal you just consumed with a Rachel Ray description of every bite you took.

6. This is the most important one of all. DO NOT TAG YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS IN UNFLATTERING PICTURES!!!  To me, this is the worst offense on Facebook.  It’s hard enough to be a middle-aged person trying to look 10 years younger and trying to post a flattering picture of yourself on Facebook.  After all, EVERYONE sees these photos — old lovers, ex spouses, high school rivals, distant cousins, the family dog. You’ve got to look NICE in these pictures! When you finally think you’ve got the best pictures of yourself posted on Facebook (you know, the ones with your stomach sucked in, chest out, chin up, hair perfectly coiffed), something terrible is bound to happen that will shatter that image of perfection on the computer screen. Your kids (or a not-so-nice friend, in-law, etc.) will take great delight in posting a horrendous picture of you from last summer’s backyard barbecue — the one where you’re mid-bite into a juicy burger and there’s mayonnaise all over your face. Or that picture taken last Christmas that the kids think is so hilarious because they caught you on camera at 3 a.m. putting presents under the tree. No makeup, wild hair, ratty, old pajamas and looking very much like a rabid possum. They shamelessly tag you in these photos on Facebook.

The definition of blackmail?  When your kids post these God-awful pictures while you’re out of town (and miles from any WiFi spots) or schlepping around Walmart, and you have NO IDEA that the entire universe has already viewed the REAL YOU in living color. This can scar you for life, and you’ll end up shouting in your sleep, “DELETE! DELETE!”

The ultimate revenge in this case is to return the favor and post on Facebook old photos of these same people, whether it’s an old high school friend who once sported red satin pants, a sequin tube top and a poufy 1980s hairdo while engaged in a hotdog eating contest, or one of your kids (prior to puberty) when they went through that awkward, chubby, mouth-full-of-braces look in a bathing suit two sizes too small.

Post these embarrassing old photos on Facebook, sit back and chuckle while the comments roll in on your wall. Who says you can’t teach an old dinosaur new tricks? LOL!

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013.

Trapped

Doug CloughAs my wife’s and my children grow older, I dread the day after a child’s sleepover. Sleepovers should just be called ‘overs,’ as in “It will be all over for you if you talk to my daughter today.”

I have learned it is possible to harness the power of a tired teen. It all began a few weeks ago at bedtime when my bride and I heard teeth gnashing coming from the bathroom.

“Do you hear that?” I stammered to my bride, sitting up.

“Yeah,” she replied. “It’s Abby scratching at the backdoor.” Abby is my companion Labradoodle.

“No,” I said. “It’s coming from the bathroom.”

“It’s not,” she uttered. “It’s Abby. I heard it all the time from our farm dogs.”

I went to sleep, not questioning  farmer’s daughter wisdom.

The next night we heard it again at 11 p.m. and every hour until 4 a.m. My wife’s confidence was shaken, evidenced by her polar bear pajamas stuffed into my boots while carrying a broom handle. We discovered a hole beneath the bathroom sink and sawdust piled neatly underneath.

“The good news is that it’s not a bat,” explained the Pest Control man. “The bad news is it’s not a mouse.”

Bad news?

“It’s doing too much damage.”

Our abode had been invaded through a ground-level dryer vent with a stuck flap. My dad came to help install a secure vent. During our work, we heard a POP, followed by the lights dimming. We shrugged and continued on our fix-it journey to find nothing unusual about the dryer’s innards.

The ventilation eventually repaired, the vermin had no way in — or out — of the house. I drove to the hardware store for glue traps and D-Con. The clerk suggested I might have a woodchuck. From bat to mouse to woodchuck; Sasquatch couldn’t be far off in the guessing horizon.

Traps in place we headed to bed in hopes of a good night’s sleep. Sliding off into slumber, I dreamed of Sasquatch sticking its nose through the hole, snarling, “That trap makes me ANGRY.”

Awakening to a “SNAP,” I ran to see our catch. I stared slack-jawed at an empty trap drawn against the hole. My wife’s oldest slept that night with a claw hammer in his right hand and fishing net in the other.

Three days passed without any noise or animal caught. Becoming frustrated, I checked the under-stairs storage for signs of life. After pulling out the initial load of winter coats and decoration-filled totes, I saw poop, something from a sizable sphincter. The interloper was around the corner where no light shone.

Abby was brought in to finish the hunt but refused to partake. My wife, growing more agitated with each day that passed, told me to “get in there and get the job done.” Abby now seemed the only one with good sense, so I joined my furry friend’s stance of refusal. And the spousal bickering began.

My wife’s 13-year-old daughter, the victim of two consecutive nights of sleepovers, was not amused by the squabbling, and hollered, “I’M TRYING TO SLEEP!” I calmly explained to her to “BUTT OUT.”

Not backing down, my farmer-daughter wife’s daughter marched downstairs, announcing, “FOR GOODNESS SAKE, IT WON’T BITE YOU IF YOU DON’T STEP ON IT!” Continuing, she sauntered into the abyss of the storage area where two adults and a Labradoodle would not go.

Fueled by an internal combustion known only to teens, the blonde bomb ticked around the corner with plumes of dust, bags and totes thrown over her shoulder — until pink feet and tail became visible. We had a rat, most notably, a freshly dead rat.

Our heroine shrieked and ran into her mother’s arms. Being assured it was dead, she declared, “I deserve take-out.” Agreed. After all, it’s distress in a family’s life that helps parents to know their children and how to reward a young lady for a job well done.

How did the rat meet its end?

My father speculates that its fondness for chewing got him electrocuted. My wife believes that, having tried the poison, he expired soon after. As for me, I believe the poor thing suffered heart failure at facing a sleep-deprived teen.

— Doug Clough

Doug Clough writes a column for the Ida County Courier in Ida Grove, Iowa, called “From our backyard…”  His work has appeared in Farm News, The Iowan and Boating World, and he served as a travel scout for Midwest Living. “I am a father of a salad bowl family (aka ‘blended’), a customer service manager, the possession of my Labradoodle and — in a former life — an English teacher. Someone has to enjoy that mix; it may as well be me,” he says.

The gift of the moment

Anne CasteenNext month, I will be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

This is very cool for me because I have always enjoyed Erma’s writing. It is often heartwarming, always pure comic genius, and timeless. Long before I could relate my personal life experiences to her writing, I thought she was hilarious.

At the age of 50, I have a greater appreciation for her insight and her use of  humor to celebrate the ups, and cope with the downs, of life. Life is short, but some days it sure seems long. The ability to see the funny in everyday life is a gift.

Even Erma’s views on the subject of humor were insightful. Some of her more famous quotes about the importance of humor are:

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.

He who laughs….lasts.

When humor goes, there goes civilization.

I have a sentimental attachment to her writing because it reminds me of my Mom. When I was growing up, one of us would often ask the other, “Did you read Erma today?” Together, we laughed about her column, read her books and watched her segments on Good Morning America.

During the summer, we also tuned in at 9 a.m. to watch The Phil Donahue Show together. Oh, the education a teen could gain from The Phil Donahue Show back then. It was THE source for information because he covered all the thought-provoking and juicy topics.

So, Phil and Erma are forever linked together in my mind. Not only because they are former neighbors who had a mutual admiration and affection for each other, but also because they were involved in a sort of 1970s Midwestern love triangle with my mom and me. Nothin’ weird here; this was a triangle of appreciation and adoration.

We enjoyed Phil, and we loved Erma. Erma and Phil loved and adored each other.

In light of this, it is especially cool for me that Phil Donahue will be the keynote speaker at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

During a visit to my hometown over the holidays, I decided to tell my Mom that I had gotten into the workshop. The former version of my Mom would have been so tickled about this. I knew the current version of my Mom, with advanced dementia, would not fully grasp what I was saying. I also knew she would have absolutely no memory of the conversation just a minute later.

Despite being the subject of a few blog posts, including Sweetie Pie and She’s Such A Doll, she knows nothing about my blog and has never read a single post.

So, as silly as it may be, I still wanted to share this news with her, and just enjoy the moment. 

One afternoon I sat in her room, reading the Christmas cards she had received. Some included photos or letters. (For anyone who continues to remember nursing home residents with greeting cards, may God bless you for this kindness.) We passed the cards, photos and notes back and forth. She was able to fondly recall at least a small detail about each friend or family member.

She was “tracking” fairly well, so I decided to share my news with her. As we chatted, she was lying on her side, atop her bed, like a teenage girl. Her elbow bent, her head propped up in her hand.

“Mom, do you remember reading Erma Bombeck?”

“Oh GAWD, yes. She’s SO funny!”

“Well, do you remember my friend, Terri?”

“Well, of course. How is she?”

I went on to explain in very simple terms, with no details, that Terri and I would both be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

I never even got to the part about Phil Donahue.

My Mom sat up and said, “Really? You’re kidding?”

Wow! Had I really picked the perfect lucid moment?

Then she said, “We should call Grandma! She loves Erma, too!  She’ll go with us!”

Chatting with dementia, the trickster, is sort of what I imagine doing improvisational comedy is like: you never know which direction your partner will go next. You need to be on your toes, open to anything, think quickly and just go with it.

We both smiled at the idea.

It was a lovely moment.

I went with it.

“Sure, that’s a great idea, Mom!”

As she slowly counted off on her right hand, she said “That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of us.”

Yep. Me, Terri, Mom, Grandma….and Erma gettin’ away for the weekend.

Of course, only three of us are actually alive, and only two of us are registered for the workshop.

Yet, in some way, I feel like all five of us will, in fact, be there.

— Anne Casteen

Anne Casteen is a Midwesterner at heart, but resides in Southern California, where she can be found chasing silver linings with a glass half-full (usually a California red). She loves nothing more than a good heartwarming or rib-tickling story. She celebrates the ups of life at 50, and laughs at the bumps in the road, in her blog at funnysister.wordpress.com.

Wake-up call

Alisa SchindlerStumbling from bed half awake, I literally hobble to the bathroom on feet that won’t walk straight, and a back bent over in a broken position. It’s 6:30 a.m. and although I’m up, it takes my body a few minutes to get with the program.

I look in the mirror, squint and look closer. Man, I look bad. What the hey is going on around my eyes? Okay, I need to stop squinting ASAP! At least my freckles are cute and sexy. Wait, I inspect more closely. OMG! Those aren’t FRECKLES, they’re AGE SPOTS!  I stare at the brown spots that were once freckles. I see how each little dot has literally consumed the one next to it and grown twice its size.

As I’m staring, I notice something else. Hairs — long, dark ones by the corner of my mouth. Ew. They’re so dark, I think the hair by my lip has sucked all the pigmentation from my head and that’s why I now also need an appointment with a colorist! What is happening? I try to pull out the offending hair, but, yeah, it’s in-grown so I wind up having to dig into my skin, and I just know I’m squinting as I attack my face with the tweezers. Now there’s a puffy red mound next to my lip and half the offending hair is still deep in there. I’m getting prettier by the minute. Why did I get out of bed? Oh, right. It is a bathroom for a reason.

Business done, I’m about to head out when my eye is attracted to the flat metal square on the floor. I’m obviously a sadist this morning. NO! My brain is screaming. Do not do it. Don’t! But of course I will. There’s no stopping me, it seems. I step on, exhale all my breath and look down. What are those??

Some scraggly, old witch is missing her feet! I want to turn away but I can’t help but stare at the scaly skin, funky nails and the deformed-looking appendage that looks as if a sixth toe is about to be born. I walk on those things? I am so distracted by the feet I used to fancy as foot model material that I almost missed the nail in the coffin. I’ve gained two pounds.

I want to kick the scale. I want to break the mirror! I want to go back to bed! This is a very bad dream! Traumatized, I snuggle back under my protective covers. Someone obviously needs a whole lot of beauty sleep. I look at the clock. It is 6:34 a.m.

I have 11 minutes to make it happen.

— Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog www.icescreammama.com. Her essays have been featured on Mamapedia.com and Bonbonbreak.com as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest.  She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.

The blog and beyond

Donna CavanaghWhen writers are starting out, the first tidbit of advice they receive is to start blogging.

Honestly, this is great advice because it is an easy way for a writer to force himself/herself to write constantly.  The problem with blogging is that starting out can be a daunting task, and when writers get overwhelmed, they often quit — and that is a true shame. The reason why writers become overwhelmed is that they don’t understand the blogging process. They have concrete ideas on what to write; they just don’t know where to write.

Before writers set their pens or keyboards to any blog, they need to ask themselves one question:

“What type of blog suits me?”

There are basically two options: the community blogging site or the single blogging site. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

A community blog offers a built-in fan base where other writers on the site are willing and ready not only to encourage you and read your work but also promote you as well. A well-run community site should be adept at social media and willing to push your work out which will in turn build your brand — which I know sounds businesslike — but it’s essential in today’s world.  The downside of a community site: You share page space with other talented people who might or might not get more attention than you. You have to realize on community blogs that Tweets, Stumbles and Facebook posts that go out into cyberspace are not all about you. There might be days when “your best post ever” has been blown away by a photo of an elephant talking to a car salesman with a caption that reads, “Tell me what do you need for trunk space?” It’s sad, but it’s true.

If you have a single blog, you have a lot of work cut out for you. There is no riding the coattails of more established writers plus the social media is all your responsibility. Social media is not easy, and it is time consuming. The upside to a single blog: you get to be the one and only writer. You are the star! You get to experiment with your writing and let that blog be the place where you push the envelope and try out that edgy material that will make your mother cry in shame or your fellow PTA members blush with embarrassment.

As a single blogger, you can join blogging networks, which can offer a sense of community without the commitment. That might help you get your work out, too, but you have to be diligent in keeping those connections strong.  Let’s face it: Blogging is not for the weak.  It is the most important weapon in a writer’s arsenal.  Your posts possess the capability to take you to other publication opportunities or to books or to videos or to podcasts or to wherever your dreams want to go.  In today’s digital world, blogging is the first step on the long journey for all writers.

Before you decide how or where you want to blog, think about long-range goals. Are you hoping to publish a book or develop a screenplay? Are you to hoping to become a media maven? What your goals are now should direct you to what type of blogging you want to do.

Will your goals change? Absolutely. Can your blogging platform change? Absolutely.  As you venture past the blog and into other spheres of writing, you will look back and appreciate your blog as the jumping-off point that allowed you to become the writer you always wanted to be.

— Donna Cavanagh

Donna Cavanagh, part of the 2014 EBWW, is a humor entrepreneur and founder of HumorOutcasts.com, an online humor magazine that features the work of more than 100 writers, screenwriters, filmmakers, actors and stand up comics.  She is also founder of HumorOutcasts Press/Shorehouse Books and is co-host of Write Out Loud for the URBusiness Network.  A veteran journalist who detoured into humor writing, Donna considers humor as “our best weapon against the challenges of today’s world.” Her books include Life on the Off Ramp, which was a finalist in the USA Books Contest, Try and Avoid the Speed Bumps, and her latest, A Canine’s Guide to the Good Life.

Why wear a towel in the locker room

EBWW- Ronna BenjaminI was getting dressed in the locker room at my gym last week when I overheard a conversation between two ladies about the tough cardio class we had all just barely survived. One lady was in her bra and panties, the other naked, but for a towel.  I looked over at them, about to commiserate on the ass-kicking, when I realized the woman in the towel looked familiar.

“You look familiar,” I said to her, forgetting my comment about the class. I am always a little nervous when I say the words “you look familiar” because I have Prosopognosia and I expect replies such as, “that’s because I’m your sister-in-law, you moron,” or “that’s because I was at your house for dinner last week.” But I was safe this time.

“Well, yes, you look familiar, too,” she said smiling. And then she told me her name.

“Oh,” I sighed, “you look familiar because you’re my gynecologist!”

And everyone around us had a nice laugh as she made a lighthearted comment about how she didn’t recognize me with my underwear on.

And this is what went through my mind: “Thank God she was wearing a towel, because I do not need to see my gynecologist naked.  And thank God I had my panties up because my gynecologist is only supposed to see me naked in her office exam room with my feet up in stirrups.”

I normally am naked for as little time as possible in the locker room, engaging in a method of covering up while the underwear goes up that employs not less than two towels and a few minor gymnastics moves. But there are other women who seem completely oblivious to their nudity, happy to strut about naked in the locker room or to blow dry their hair dressed only in their birthday suits. And yes, I think that is a bit odd.

I entered the locker room with a friend the other day, and her comment, after she almost collided with a naked tush, validated my feelings. “I just can’t deal with the naked bodies,” she said. She’s quitting the gym; I’m not (I like to eat way too much.). I’m not offended by the nakedness — I’m intrigued.  I’m fascinated by the complete and utter lack of modesty, and I truly think it is wonderful that women of all sizes and shapes love their bodies and are proud of them. But do I need to love their bodies, too?

At the risk of being un-PC and prudish, the answer is a resounding “no.” I’ve given this a bit of thought (can you tell?), and I have come up with 10 reasons why women might want to wrap themselves in a towel before they go prancing around the locker room.

1. The body near you might be your patient or your client.  They don’t need to see you in the buff before you appear in court on their behalf (or worse, on your ex-husband’s behalf), before they drill your teeth, or before you show them their next dream house. You can’t “unsee” a naked tush; especially one with cellulite.

2. Twenty-somethings do not need a good look at what their bodies (however fit) will look like in 30, 40 or 50 years.  You naked old people might singlehandedly be contributing to an already unacceptably high suicide rate among young adults.

3. 50-year-olds do not need reminders of what their bodies once were, or in my case, what their bodies once were not.

4. Is there a term for the female version of the Pecker Checker? There is a natural curiosity when others have what you don’t have — huge, pendulous breasts for example, or hair versus no hair (don’t we all want to know if the Brazilian is in or out of favor?) I don’t want to look — really — but sometimes, you know, one can’t help oneself, especially if it’s (literally) in your face.

5. The gym locker room is not your home bathroom. While gyms often do provide razors, Q-tips, soap and shampoo, note the lack of a) doors, b) a 10X magnifying mirror, c) your toothbrush and d) anyone passing gas with impunity (the men’s locker room may be another story.).

6. There are cell phones with cameras in there.

7. The gym provides a perfectly acceptable place for toweling yourself off in private. Toweling off in the shower area prevents minor flooding on the locker room floor near where I am walking in my socks (and not because I think bare feet are bad).

8. The locker room is neither a place for a show (if you are especially fit), or a place to make a statement (if you are not quite so fit). Whether you intend it or not, that is what it seems you are doing when you engage in any of the following activities completely naked: a) blow drying your hair, b) rubbing lotion all over your body or c) applying your makeup.

9. No one wants to sit in the spot in the sauna where your privates have been sweating.

10. There are a lot more people who are uncomfortable with nudity than are totally comfortable with it. Majority rules.

So ladies, let’s get the locker room etiquette down; especially at any gym where the towels are plentiful and free. I am happy you love your body, but remember, the person next to you might not.

— Ronna Benjamin

About the time Ronna Benjamin turned 50, she had an epiphany. After 28 years , she realized she couldn’t stand being a real estate attorney for even one more minute (can you imagine?). She jumped into the world of writing as her “encore” career and never looked back. Ronna teamed up with Better After 50 founder Felice Shapiro, and soon became a partner, managing editor and weekly humor columnist for BA50. She writes about the things BA50s are concerned about: adult children, aging parents, illness, anxiety and insomnia, to name a few.  She is a native Bostonian and loves to spend time with her wonderful husband and three adult children. She also loves to cook, sail, ski, run and bike, and she is always on the look out for the next great diet.

Measuring up

McKowen, Dahlynn(Posted by permission from Dahlynn McKowen, who’s part of the faculty for the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. This story will appear in the seventh book in the Not Your Mother’s Book series: Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Mom. It will be released on April 8.)

Moms. We are always on the go, go, go and many times, ignore ourselves in the process.

I used to be one of those busy moms. Back in the day, I held a full-time, high-level management position which ran me ragged. Up early, kids off to school, commute to work to earn my very, very nice paycheck. When it was time to head home, my day went in reverse. Commute, pick up the kids from after-school care then prepare dinner and help with homework. I nary had a moment for myself, except for an occasional glass of wine after the kids were tucked in.

To top everything off, perimenopause was beginning to frustrate me to no end. From sagging body parts to fledgling chin hairs, from fading eyesight to a fading memory, I tried my best to ignore all the signs. I also tried my best to ignore the fact that daily exercise and eating right were not a part of my normal routine. Getting used to this phase of my life at age 43 was slowly becoming a reality. But no one could make this fact more evident to me than my then 10-year-old son Shawn.

From the day he was born, Shawn had always been on the small side. To keep up his self-esteem, the family made it a point to praise him for growing taller, using everyday household objects to gauge his growth. From the first time Shawn was able to see in the bathroom mirror by himself without having to use a stool to being able to sit at the family dinner table without the help of a telephone book, growth milestones in Shawn’s life were a constant in our home.

A favorite growth milestone for Shawn was the kitchen countertop. He loved cooking with me, but had to stand on a stool to help. Shawn dreamed of the day he wouldn’t have to use the stool anymore to flip pancakes or operate the hand-held mixer.

Then the day came — Shawn finally grew tall enough to see over the counter and the stool was retired. It was then I realized I had to come up with yet another new growth milestone. Looking around, the next obvious one was the top of the refrigerator — at 5-foot 7-inches tall, I couldn’t even see over the top of this large appliance. Stumped, I decided to compare my darling son’s height to mine, and to use my boobs as his new growth milestone.

My favorite thing in the world is to get hugs from my boy, who is lovable, caring and compassionate. Upon setting the new milestone, whenever he would hug me, I’d say, “Oh, Shawn! You’re almost as tall as my boobs!” He’d giggle, mainly because I would over-enunciate the word “boobs.”

One morning, when I was enjoying my wake-up hug from Shawn, I was shocked over how tall he was, compared with my boobs. It was as if he had grown four inches overnight!

“Shawn, look how tall you are! You’re taller than my boobs!” I exclaimed, mid-hug.

Shawn pulled away and looked up at me with sleepy eyes. He mumbled, “Duh, Mom. You’re not wearing a bra.” He then headed into the living room to watch TV.

I stood in the kitchen, dumbfounded. Looking down at my perimenopausal body, I realized that Shawn hadn’t grown four inches overnight, but quite the opposite—my boobs had decided to sag four inches.

Thanks to my loving, compassionate, caring and honest 10-year-old, I had a breast reduction and lift the following year. Now Shawn is 17 and way taller than my new boobs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

— Dahlynn McKowen

Dahlynn McKowen, a national award-winning author with more than one million books sold, spent 10 years co-authoring titles for Chicken Soup for the Soul before launching her Not Your Mother’s Book anthology in 2012. To date, six NYMB books have been released, covering such topics as parenthood, home improvement, dogs and being a stupid kid. She plans 30 more books on everything from dieting to menopause. She also is CEO and publisher of Publishing Syndicate, based in Northern California. Since selling her first feature article in 1987, Ms. McKowen has sold and published more than 2,000 works, including business features and travel articles.

Five things I should be able to do but can’t
from least to most difficult

Janene Dutt5.  Sing song lyrics correctly.

I get called out all the time for this. I remember years ago my husband and I were in the car listening to an Alanis Morrisette song.

Me: (singing loudly) “Does she speak Ebequenese?”

Brian: “What did you say?”

Me: (annoyed at my singing being interrupted) “What?”

Brian: “What is the line you just said?”

Me: “Does she speak Ebequenese?”

Brian (laughing): “It’s “does she speak eloquently?”

Me: “Seriously? I don’t think so. I sing this song all the time.”

Brian:  “Yes, seriously. What the heck is Ebequenese? It’s not even a word.”

Me (sheepishly): “I thought it was the language of a country I’d never heard of. But, yeah, I guess eloquently makes more sense.”

There have been many, many of those sorts of conversations over the years.

 4.  Pronounce the word “familiarity.”

I know the definition. I can spell it perfectly. I just literally can’t say it. Don’t know why; it just won’t roll off my tongue. Every couple of years my family tries to make me say it and then marvels when I still cannot.

3.  Understand my sixth grader’s math homework.

In 1982 I was a straight A sixth-grade student. In 2014 I cannot understand even the instructions in the sixth grade math book. Has math changed since the 80s? How could MATH change? The only explanation is that I have become dumber, which makes me sad. Thank God I married a math and science geek who can even help my daughter with high school geometry.  Remember that, all you young and single people (none of whom would actually read my blog) — consider mathematical ability when choosing a mate.  Your future children will thank you.

 2.  Score above 10 on Flappybird.

Damn you, you crazy little addictive game. My 5-year-old’s high score is 43. I have the lowest high score of anyone I have ever met, young or old, who has played the game.

1.  Open the thin little produce bag you pull off the roll at the grocery store.

What is the deal with this? Am I the only one who stands there like a moron for what seems like an eternity trying to open that stupid bag? I check and double check that it’s “THIS SIDE UP” and then I pull at it and pick at it every which way and it just will NOT open. I feel like I’m on candid camera, like people are snickering at me from behind the potatoes. The other day I got so frustrated that I recklessly threw down the bag and just let my fruits and vegetables roll all naked and willy nilly down the conveyor belt at the checkout stand, like uncivilized little produce savages.

— Janene Dutt

Janene Dutt is brand-new blogger who has no legitimate writing experience to speak of and was, therefore, panicked when asked to write this bio. She recently relocated from Southern California to a small island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Her mother said her blog was funny so she now has grandiose and delusional dreams of becoming the next Erma Bombeck. You can read about her experiences at www.imightbefunny.com.

Reflections of Erma