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Three friends, the MammoVan and the flat tire

Nancy L. WolfMen think it’s weird when women go to the ladies’ room in groups.

Men may think it even weirder that I go with two friends each year to get our mammograms.

We call it the “MammoVan.”

Let me clarify — the three of us travel together in one car but we have separate mammograms in consecutive appointments. Even the most advanced imaging machine can only accommodate two breasts at a time.

The three of us — Martha, Liz and I went to the same college and ended up in the D.C. area. All lawyers but not the boring kind.

We became friends before our breasts did.

Somewhere in her 30s Martha developed breast cancer (she’s fine now but pretty religious about keeping it that way, as you can imagine). And Liz, somewhere in her 40s, discovered the BRCA gene ran in her family so she got the same religion.

Me? My breasts have been the healthiest part of my body so far.

Fortunately, another college friend of ours, Dr. Linda, is an expert radiologist with her own practice less than an hour from D.C. devoted solely to breast imaging. Picture a spa-like setting with plush robes, soothing music and soft colors on the walls together with cutting-edge digital technology. The best part is that all of her patients get the results directly from her that same day. No waiting a week to get a letter in the mail with scary words like “dense tissue” or “ductal.”

If you might be expecting bad news, what better way to take it in than with close friends?

That was the idea that launched our now annual MammoVan.

On our first visit Dr. Linda showed us around her new digs. In the darkened room where she reviews the images that look like white squiggles with a few bright dots on a blurry field she displayed three of our latest studies.

Liz innocently asked Dr. Linda, “Whose image is whose?”

Dr. Linda very sweetly answered, “Can’t you tell? Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.”

Perhaps TMI, but let’s just say that the three of us have differing physical characteristics of our upper torsos.

This morning we set off for our annual visit in the MammoVan (aka Martha’s car.) Halfway there, while on a highway with trucks whizzing past us, we started to hear a clinking sound. Liz, the car expert, confidently announced that was a tailpipe that had come loose. The ridiculous potholes we have had this winter have done their damage. But as the tailpipe clinking becomes a louder, more clunk-a-clunk sound, Martha guessed correctly, the car had a flat tire.

We pulled over to the side of the highway.

(I was silently cheering. Surely it will take hours for the road service to come and install the spare tire? Yay, we will miss our mammogram appointments!)

No such luck.

While Martha called for help, I noticed that we had pulled over on an overpass precisely between the National Security Agency (barbed wire all around) on one side of the road and some kind of penitentiary (more barbed wire) on the other.

Yup, we and our breasts were stuck between two heavy and ominous places already — and we hadn’t even made it to Dr. Linda’s office.

Sadly, the roadside assistance arrived promptly and quickly put on the spare tire. Liz impressed me by knowing the location of something called a lug nut. And when I called Dr. Linda’s office, her receptionist told me she was able to squeeze us in (the squeezing thing!) even if we arrived late.

30 minutes later —  for the benefit of any men still reading this, the following occurred:

1. I took off my bra and sweater and put on a fluffy blue robe, then was escorted into a room with the giant machine.

2. I took off the fluffy blue robe.

3. While standing in front of the giant machine, a technician with a very soothing voice guided me into proper placement upon a solid glass plate onto which my breasts, first the left, then the right, got squished between the solid glass plate and a sledgehammer appearing device which came ever so gently slamming down on the top.

4. “Hold your breath!”

5. The technician moves away behind the screen. A few buttons are touched.  I breathe again. Unsquished.

6. Then, while staring at a lovely painting of calming flowers, I was repositioned to stand with my side to the machine. Again, the right, then the left, or maybe it was the other way around.

7. Squash, “Hold your breath!” Squash again, squeeze, more breath-holding. Breathe.

8. Done.

It wasn’t so bad at all. I’ll take a mammogram over dental work anytime.

And then, one at a time, we take turns going into Dr. Linda’s office where each of us was told, “You look fine, you are good to go until next year.” Good news: our breasts are healthy as is our friendship.

If you don’t have a MammoVan in your life, may I suggest you get one? And bring someone along who knows where the lug nut is kept.

— Nancy L. Wolf

Nancy L. Wolf is a recovering D.C. lawyer, semi-retired but hardly retiring. You can find her writing in the Washington PostHuffington PostMidlife BoulevardBetter After Fifty and in emails to her kids. She blogs at Witty, Worried and Wolf.

Why I can’t return the sour milk

Jocelyn pihlajaStep into my mukluks for 17 minutes.

Minute One: Park car in lot outside “fancy” grocery store in town. As door slams, congratulate self on not locking keys inside. Simultaneously marvel at surprising deliciousness of cotton candy gum.

Minute Two: Walk across parking lot to store. Remember time you ran into cousin there, in middle of asphalt. He wore long wool coat. When he was young, you’d never have pegged him as wearer of long wool coat. Wonder about intersection of coat and his recent “vice president” title at work. Related?

Minute Three: Enter store. Notice college student ordering latte at the coffee stand. Quash urge to yell, “Get the Turtle Mocha. They cut up a Snickers bar and put it on top of the whipped cream, and you’ll never have a better boyfriend than that!” Reject notion of getting cart, as you have short list. Pick up basket and congratulate self for traveling light. You are restraint on tiny cat feet compared to conspicuously consuming shoppers hacking around dairy section. Gad. Watch lady in North Face puffer coat loading yogurts into her cart like 12-day blizzard, or prolonged course of antibiotics, is imminent. Thorstein Veblen would clutch cravat in choked dismay.

Minute Four: Look at shopping list. First item: 10x yogurts.

Minute Five: Even though not on list, toss bag of pita chips into basket. Midnight snackies favor hummus and get shrill if not coddled.

Minute Six: Recall kids have been wanting little Jell-O cups. Green ones. As occur in nature.

Minute Seven: Bananas! On list! Virtue restored!

Minute Eight: Self-righteously march past bulk nuts. Crack nonsensical joke to self about “bulk nuts.” Slip by woman near cans of beans who needs new stylist. Hard black hair against 63-year-old face highlights, rather than masks, age. Tangentially wonder if Oprah dyes hair. Ruminate about how girls who have graduated from Oprah’s school in South Africa are doing and if they have seen Selma. Imagine what girls would wear to Oscars, had Selma been nominated and Oprah brought them as special guests. Predict strapless with sweetheart necklines. Hot orange.

Minute Nine: ORANGES! Head back to produce. Fruit supply at home is low. Mercifully, so is population of fruit flies. Pull out mental gratitude journal, noting unnecessarily that Oprah Is Ubiquitous, and jot “No fruit flies means don’t have to cover wine glass with coaster” as today’s entry. Watch as mental script fades away in middle of “coaster” because mental pen is running out of ink. Stupidly, toss oranges on top of pita chips. Cringe at ensuing crunch. Congratulate self for tricep workouts that enable you to carry light-footprint basket even when loaded with 15 pounds of items not on list. Wonder if Thorstein Veblen was any fun at parties.

Minute 10: Feel underwear tag scratching heiny. Complete sly mental scan of five-foot radius. Clear. Casually slide hand down pants and adjust offender.

Minute 11: As long as scratching crack, time for cracker aisle. Rue that Triscuits aren’t negative calorie food. Wonder if science fiction writer could ever create world where oil-rich food saps body. Wonder if, should this book be written, you would read it. Decide not. Send out mental signal to fictional science fiction writer not to bother. Wonder what his name would have been. Derek?

Minute 12: Get mired down in front of protein bars. Check calories and shake fist at sky. Note sugar grams and drop forehead into hands. Spiral, in under three seconds, into black void of hunger, exercise, intake, output and ceaselessly soft mid-section. Jar brain out of unreasonable rut with observation that protein bars are processed food. Also observe that husband and son aren’t bar-oriented while daughter and mother are. Feel exasperated by gender politics of food. Load eight bars into suddenly-heavy-feeling basket. Give triceps pep talk and remind them how hard they worked at gym while lady wearing microphone yelled motivationally about 16 more reps.

Minute 13: Walking past plexiglass case, get distracted by prospect of muffins. Realize, in complicated emotional bargaining that is parenthood, you “owe” son muffin since you bought several for daughter two weeks ago when she went on extracurricular event for three days and stayed in hotel. Store had no chocolate chip muffins then. Store has no chocolate chip muffins now. Get philosophical and ask self, “What is a muffin without chocolate chips, really?” Deliberate merits of massive pumpkin muffin instead. Decide no. As you walk away from pumpkin, bid him “Adieu, Derek.”

Minute 14: Realize you’re supposed to be picking up daughter and friend not named Derek from ski practice in one minute. Hope they find enriching conversational topics to temper waiting. Consider texting daughter quick message: “Beyoncé. Pregnant again? Discuss.” Concede Beyoncé topic not enriching. Revise unsent text to: “Are corporations people? Answer is NO. Discuss Romney’s failed bids for presidency.” Speculate about product Romney uses in hair to make it look like shellacked guitar strings. Smile at image of guitar strings because Taylor Swift plays guitar and daughter loaded your iPod running playlist with Taylor Swift songs. Oops, DAUGHTER. Should go get her. Do driving math of “four miles that direction before six miles another direction,” push gently on spongy internal organ to test its mass, and decide bathroom stop is essential.

Minute 15: Enter bathroom, sliding gaze to floor so as to avoid verbal exchange with hair-fluffer obsessed with volume of noggin’s silhouette. Skulk into stall. Set down bag of groceries while simultaneously setting rear onto ring. As soon as relief begins, realize there is no toilet paper. Unzip jacket pockets. Frisk self. Peer into amazing lime green purse that could easily hold Kleenex were they stocked. Check for feet under next stall so you can query, suddenly friendly, “Can you spare a square?” On every front: out. of. luck.

Minute 16: Contemplate brown paper grocery bag at feet. Ripping off some inches would be admirably pragmatic. Consider thickness of paper. Stiff stuff. Not absorbent. Entertain possibility of “tanning” brown paper as traditional hunters did deer hides: with urine. Realize, damn it, you just wasted that most precious resource. How can someone tan brown paper bag with urine when she’s just released all of hers into five gallons of water? Let brain drift to one of its favorite vacation spots: life of Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear. When not domesticating animals or inventing needle and thread, assuredly that woman harnessed potential of urine.

Minute 17: Spot nine-inch receipt inside brown paper grocery bag. Push through nano-second of worry about vaginal ink poisoning. Grab receipt, blot cooch with it, and watch paper swirl and swirl again — so full of drama with swirls — before disappearing down porcelain chute. Take moment, bowing head like traditional hunter standing over elk with arrow in its side, to thank water, sky, earth for always providing.

And that’s why, when I got home and discovered the milk I’d bought was sour, I couldn’t return it.

— Jocelyn Pihlaja

Jocelyn Pihlaja has been teaching writing and literature at the college level since 1991. She has a husband who cooks dinner every night, kids who hold up hands requesting “silence” when their reading is interrupted and a blog, O Mighty Crisis. Her writing has appeared on MamalodeBLUNTmomsThe Indie ChicksThe Good Men ProjectMamapediaIn the Powder Room and elephant journal. She also is a regular contributor to a local public radio program, Women’s Words, where she delights in wearing huge headphones — and not just because they remind her she actually remembered to wear earrings that day.

Have a day!

Anne BardsleyI was going to wish you a Happy Easter, but that would be offensive to so many.

First, I’d offend the cows. This is a bunny/ chick day. If the cows get offended, you know what happens next. They go on strike and there goes my mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

Next, I’d offend the chickens and hens that lay bland color eggs. The robins might compete with their blue-speckled eggs, but that would just incite the woodpeckers. I cannot mention tye-dye bright-colored eggs, or our feathered friends might go into a roosting protest. Imagine that smell! Then it would offend the farmers who had to sweep out the roost.

I almost mentioned my favorite colored Easter grass is pink, but the turf builders would be on my front lawn with signs protesting artificial pink grass.

Next on my list of offensive things would be the little marshmallow chicks. Mother hens everywhere might unite and peck me to death for making fun of the color of the chicks: blue, pink and yellow. I don’t want to be a marshmallow-chick racist. Rumor on the street is that the blue ones are supposed to be the tastiest. Shhhhh!

The rabbit community actually has the right to be offended. They are shy creatures in reality. Those six-foot bunnies with huge beady eyes and ceiling-high ears do not do them justice. No wonder my kids had panic attacks when they met their first Easter bunny at our local dairy farm. They locked the doors and refused to get out of the car.

I really wanted to wish you an Easter sunrise with renewed faith in the world. This is my religion’s most holy day, when Christ rose from the dead. In doing so, I might offend other religions.

I’m not sure when we all got so offended about things to celebrate. More importantly, why is it so offensive? It seems to me that a few cranky people ruined it for the rest of us. Now, isn’t that insane? There is a saying, “Be careful when you follow the masses; sometimes the M is silent.” Oh dear, I think I just offended the donkeys.

So with all of this offensive stuff going around, how can I ever hope we’ll have a renewed faith in this world of ours? If you figure it out, please let me know. I promise not to be offended.  And by the way, Happy Easter!

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She’s been featured on Scary Mommy, humorwriters.org, Better Writers After 50, local magazines and more. She barely survived raising five children and is so glad she didn’t strangle them as teenagers. Grandchildren have erased those late night, missed curfew, memories.  She lives in St Pete, Fla., with her husband and two spoiled cockapoos.

Celebrating Erma — and more of history’s greatest women

Beckerman, TracyIn case you didn’t know, March is Women’s History Month. Personally, I think we should celebrate women every single day, not just one month out of the year, and I make sure to remind my husband of that as often as I can.

Anyway, there are so many women who are recognized for their contributions throughout history, but there are a few, sadly, who go unmentioned even though they made a HUGE impact on society.

Take Marion Donovan. In 1946, after three kids, Marion had had it with washing out their dirty cloth diapers, clothes and bed linens, and decided to take matters into her own hands, or rather, her own sewing machine.  Using just a shower curtain and some heavy-duty thread, Marion fashioned a waterproof diaper cover, and then later, the first disposable diaper. In 1961, her design was used to help create Pampers®, the first mass-produced disposable diaper. But it was Donovan who we should thank for all those diapers we no longer have to wash by hand.

Then there was Mary Phelps Jacob, a young New York socialite in 1914 who decided corsets were both uncomfortable and unattractive under her clothing. Determined to create a better alternative, Jacob took two silk handkerchiefs and, with help from her maid, sewed them together to make the first bra. As an aside, I have to imagine that women of that day must have been significantly smaller in the bosom area than we are today because if someone my (generously endowed) size tried to get away with a bra made from two silk handkerchiefs, the weight around my neck would probably cause my head to snap off.

Ann Moore was a Peace Corps nurse during the 1960s in Togo, West Africa, when she noticed how African mothers carried their babies in slings on their backs. Moore saw that this way of toting around their babies not only made life a lot easier for the mothers, but also seemed to make the infants feel more secure.

When Moore came back home she decided to try creating something similar to carry around her own child and thus, the Snugli® was born. As mothers, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Moore for this invention, and I’m sure Moore owes a debt of gratitude to Marion Donovan for creating that disposable diaper, because the one thing worse than having a wet baby is having a wet baby in a Snugli® on your chest.

In 1930, Ruth Wakefield was mixing a batch of chocolate cookies for her guests at her lodge, The Toll House Inn, when she discovered that she was out of baking chocolate. All she had were some Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels. So, expecting the morsels to get absorbed into the dough like the baking chocolate, she used them instead. But as we now know, Nestle’s Morsels don’t ever fully melt when you bake them, and the resulting cookie launched Ruth Wakefield into fame as the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie.

This was obviously a great moment in culinary history but also a potential problem for many women who could just not get enough of Wakefield’s Toll House cookies. Fortunately for us, Jean Nidetch, another great woman in history, came along in 1963 and founded Weight Watchers.

Clearly, these women have had a profound effect on our lives, but I have to say, as a humor writer, the woman who probably influenced me the most, aside from my mother, was Erma Bombeck.

Most people don’t realize that Erma Bombeck was almost 38 when she started writing her humor column for the Dayton Journal Herald. By today’s work standards, that is practically old enough to retire to a senior community called “Journey’s End” in Florida and start stealing sugar packets at the Early Bird Special. Like Erma, I was also nearly 40 when I started writing my column. Like Erma, my column grew out of the experience of becoming a mother. It was not something I could have written in my 20s. I actually don’t even think I really hit my writing stride until my 40s. With age, they say, comes wisdom — but also, sometimes, children. That kind of blows that whole wisdom theory to heck. But with children come hemorrhoids. And with children and hemorrhoids come a humor column.

Erma Bombeck wrote about children and hemorrhoids and other familial things that annoy and inconvenience us in more than 4,000 columns that appeared in over 900 newspapers. She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Best Sellers List. Considering she didn’t start writing until she was almost 40 and she passed away, sadly, when she was 69, that is a heck of a body of work for such a short time.

So what did Erma Bombeck really achieve aside from all these books and columns? What makes her someone worth celebrating during Women’s History Month? Well, she made people laugh. She made us forget our financial struggles and health issues and parenting challenges for a short time by helping us see the humor in life. She helped us feel less alone with our problems by letting us share in hers. She opened a window into the challenges of child rearing and let us know it was okay to laugh at our mistakes. Most importantly, she taught us the healing power of humor and the fundamental need we have, as humans, to connect through laughter.

Interestingly enough, although she was undoubtedly one of the most gifted columnists of our time, Erma Bombeck was incredibly humble about her achievements and defined herself as a wife and mother first, and a writer second.

As for me, I define myself as a writer first, a wife second, and a mother third because my kids really annoyed me this morning, and if my husband doesn’t come home with flowers today to make up for all the hell the kids put me through, he’s definitely dropping into third place.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I’m taking the time to remember some women in history who did so much to improve the quality of our lives. But I think we should also take a moment to celebrate ourselves. Everyday we simply make someone else smile, we are doing something that makes a difference. For me, that is writing a humor column, but it can also be as simple as just telling someone how much I appreciate them.

I think a lot of the time we are way, way too critical of ourselves. My husband says if anyone else talked about me the way I talk about myself, he’d deck them, which isn’t saying much because even I can bench press more than my husband.

But this is the time of year when the media tells us we should start feeling bad about the weight we gained over the winter, or the book we didn’t write, or the kids we forgot to feed (and by the way, I only did that last one once).  It’s hard to feel good about yourself when it feels like everyone else is telling you you’re not thin enough or working hard enough or a good enough mother. However, if history is any indication, our foremothers did not have perfect bodies or perfect careers or perfect children, either. They did the best they could and sometimes they had amazing results and sometimes they had so-so results, just like us.

So instead, let’s celebrate what we do achieve, not what we don’t, and everyday just be the amazing, authentic individuals that we are.

We might not get our house on the National Register of Historic Places like Erma just did, but we are certainly likely to make someone’s day.

— Tracy Beckerman

Tracy Beckerman, who served on the faculty at the 2014 EBWW, writes the syndicated humor column and blog, “Lost in Suburbia,” which is carried by more than 400 newspapers in 25 states and on 250 websites to approximately 10 million readers. She’s also the author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir and Rebel Without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs. In 2014, she was the global humor winner in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library in Centerville, Ohio.

Erma wrote here

Bombeck homeAt the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last spring, Martha Boice approached Erma Bombeck’s children and asked if they’d be comfortable if she pursued nominating their childhood home — a modest 1959 ranch house in Centerville, Ohio — for the National Register of Historic Places.

“It was one of my pipe dreams,” conceded Boice, who helped found the Landmarks Foundation of Centerville-Washington Twp. “Few communities can claim so cherished a person.”

With the approval of the current owners — University of Dayton psychology professor Roger Reeb and his wife Tracy — the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board in December recommended that the suburban home of America’s most beloved humorist and one of the University of Dayton’s greatest graduates be nominated. Earlier this month, it was listed.

“It’s a nice honor for my mom,” said Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles. “It was a great place to grow up and we really have fond memories of our neighbors and the neighborhood. The nice thing about the neighborhood is that it really hasn’t changed that much since we were there — except the trees are bigger.”

In 1959, the Bombecks built the 1,392-square-foot three-bedroom ranch home at 162 Cushwa Drive and lived there until 1968, when Erma’s career began to rocket with her popular nationally syndicated column and the release of her first book, At Wit’s End.

“Erma frequently referred to those years of occupancy as our family’s maturity. She would always include our hamster and dog, Harry,” quipped husband Bill Bombeck, who taught at Centerville High School.

Typing on an IBM Selectric, Erma wrote her columns in a cramped bedroom on a makeshift desk — a plank between cinder blocks. Phil Donahue, who became a legendary TV talk show host, lived across the street. Bombeck at Home

“We would entertain each other in our homes,” Donahue eulogized at Erma’s memorial service in 1996. “We all had the same house. It was a plat house — $15,500 — three bedrooms, two bathrooms and the fireplace was $700 extra. …The Bombecks had beams in the ceiling. I mean real wood Early American beams, perfectly mitered. You kept looking for Martha Washington. Bill Bombeck made those beams all by himself. I envied those beams so much.”

Current homeowner Reeb says those seven ceiling beams still help distinguish the house from other prototypical homes on the suburban street. According to the National Register of Historic Places application, the L-shaped home with its gabled roof has retained its historic integrity. It “still reflects its era of construction” and “maintains its sense of scale, time and place, and setting.”

“A lot of family living has taken place on this property. I have a sentimental feeling for this house,” said Reeb, who serves as the Roesch Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences at the University of Dayton. He often sits in the Florida room and writes papers about service-learning and his work with homeless shelters.

“Knowing that she did her writing in this house has been inspirational to me in my career,” he said.

The Reebs moved into the house 20 years ago with their young sons. They built a family room over the back porch’s concrete slab and converted the garage into an extra room.

“We were looking for a good house to buy with good schools and a big back yard for the kids to play in,” he recalled. “For a little kid, that backyard was like a football or a soccer field. We’d have cookouts, put up tents and all their friends would come over. It was a nightly event. We have very fond memories of the house because this is where our kids grew up.”

The house, which will remain a private residence, turned out to be a perfect setting for Bombeck’s humorous musings about family foibles that appealed universally, especially to housewives.

“The columns spoke to her neighbors, both literal and figurative,” according to the nomination, which was prepared by historic consultant Nathalie Wright. “Erma’s frustration with the notion that homemaking was an artistic pursuit that would forever fulfill women was the touchstone of her writing. She shined a spotlight on the pressures of social convention, covertly telling women that the notion of a perfect home was not realistic. Her sly insights struck a chord, and readers instantly connected to her in droves.”

The Reebs didn’t hesitate when asked if their home could be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

“This was Erma’s roots,” Roger Reeb said. “Why not honor her in this way?”

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder and co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she also serves as executive director of strategic communications.

Rockin’ it

To my friends of EBWW,

Dancing for Our Future StarsAt last year’s conference, I loved sharing the journey of my mother’s God Box from page to stage. And in just nine days, I will be onstage at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theater to perform the show to benefit EBWW, building an endowment so that more deserving writers can attend this incredible event.

But before I do, I wanted to share another way that I am hoping to give back…on my feet. I accepted an invitation to compete in a charity version of “Dancing with the Stars.” “Dancing for our Future Stars” pairs professional ballroom dancers with amateurs who’ve built careers doing anything but. The competition is a fundraiser to support the Independence Mission Schools in Philadelphia. These schools support children in the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods. (My own grade school is one of them.)

I’ve spent four months learning the rumba, cha cha, swing and waltz, honing my spray tan, pumping my sparkle and dancing backwards in stilettos and tonight, I am put to the test.

Can you be partner from afar? If you go to www.dancingforourfuturestars.com and vote for me between noon and 8 p.m. EST today (Saturday, March 21), your tax-deductible donation of $10 or more will count, first for the kids but also as votes for my dance. I promise I will rock it and if I dare to share, video will follow. Thanks so much for anything you can do.

And soon, I will pay it forward in Dayton for our beloved Erma Workshop! Hope to see you there!

Your fellow writer,
Mary Lou Quinlan

— Mary Lou Quinlan

Mary Lou Quinlan is the New York Times’  best-selling author of The God Box, Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go, a marketing expert, actress, speaker and advocate for women. The God Box Project has become a global movement, including a vibrant online community, series of short films, mobile app and a one-woman play written and performed by Ms. Quinlan. All proceeds go to various charities around the U.S., mostly to benefit women’s health and educational causes.

Dunkin’ Donuts love stare
wiped away at Mets game

Charles HartleyIn Major League Baseball news this morning, I felt swept away, my heart warmed, by one of those quick eye-locking glances at Dunkin’ Donuts. I engaged in this with the women with whom I order my Dunkin’ Donuts cream, sugar and extra pumpkin sauce coffee every morning.

The glance lasted about 1.7 seconds before she, as is typical of women but not men, looked away and grabbed a donut for another customer. I would have kept staring as long as she did.

This women knows me. As I stroll towards the counter each day, she smiles and places my order without me saying anything. It’s like when Norm walks into the Cheers bar and Sam pours him a beer automatically.

During our eye contact I had that feeling, you know that feeling, when you think maybe you’re in love and this is the beginning of a torrid romance written about in a trashy novel that women read on the beach during the summer. I remember having a similar glance at a girl in seventh grade. When this man-to-woman chemistry erupts, it feels better than when the relationship progresses and you get to know and dislike each other, which always happens.

On her left nostril rested a ring 1/5th the size of a thumbtack. My guess is she’s from Mumbai, India, a country gushing with stunningly beautiful women. Her eyes and skin color remind me of the color of a UPS truck. American runs on Dunkin’ and UPS trucks.

If she and I started a romance, our first date would be to a New York Mets game. On the way we would stop by the same Dunkin’ Donuts where we would re-enact the crime. I would order the same thing, our eyes would glue on each other except this time for 11.7 seconds to make more lasting the arm and head tingles. I’m a blissfully married man, but man.

She likes me. I can tell. You just know. But wait until she gets to know me. She will fall out of love. Guaranteed. This is the circle of life.

Sure I’m about 30 years older, and it would be inappropriate for me to delve any further into this story. But I will because it’s Happy Friday and within 30 years I will have dementia and pumpkin sauce will have lost its grip on my life.

That 1.7 seconds. Let me tell you, it was like hitting a baseball out of a major league park. The contact was so quick and crisp and pure that the eye joy felt like a weightless baseball bat cracking a ball. Yes. Felt real good, like a soft breeze on a sunburned face.

At the Mets game she would ask what I do for a living. I would tell her I’m a sports blogger. She would ask me why I do such a loser thing. I would tell her I’m not a loser, that only other people think so. As for me, I believe pumpkin sauce is lifting my career into the stratosphere, which is why I feel loose and able to take her to a Mets game where hot dogs cost $20 and Nachos with Cheese $25.

“I’m living large,” I would tell her. “And I’m getting large because of the coffee you serve me every day. At some point this all has to stop because I have a career to get back to.”

I ask: “What’s that nose ring all about?”

“It’s to attract men like you into Dunkin’ Donuts,” she says. “It’s good for business, a competitive differentiator.”

“I can relate,” I say. “My competitive differentiator is writing to no readers about questionable flings with an Indian woman at a pro baseball game.”

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

What moms can give up for Lent

Janine_HuldieIf you are Christian and not living under a rock, then you know Ash Wednesday was last month. It’s the beginning of 40 days and 40 nights of the religious season known as Lent, culminating eight long weeks later on Easter Sunday.

During Lent, all Christians are supposed to give up and deny themselves of certain luxuries as a form of penance or punishment for what Christ went through dying on the cross.

Simply put, it is that time of the year to give up your bad habits!

Raising my hand in the air as a Christian mom, I struggle each year with what to give up for Lent.

My ever-so-thoughtful husband cleverly suggested NO NAGGING for the next eight weeks, while I countered with having him give up not losing his cool over things that he has no control over. I’m dying to see him keep his cool with the two little princesses, who have a penchant for making that large vein in his head throb and want to explode before most days have barely begun.

Even though I have what I am giving up (thank you, dear husband), I thought there might still be some undecided moms out there.

Here are 10 surefire ideas:

1. Eating a cold meal with each and every daily food intake, because cold must mean amazingly tasty.

2. Replacing the toilet paper roll every time the last person to use it chooses to ignore the need to replace it.

3. Cleaning up all sorts of catastrophic messes or taking out the garbage, because a mom equals garbage person.

4. Waking up early every morning whether you have to or not, because mornings are the best part of the day if you are under 4 feet tall.

5. Enduring long drawn-out bedtimes that last until the wee hours of the morning with all sorts of excuses why the little tyrants kids won’t go to bed.

6. Being interrupted while doing anything, especially once you are holding a phone in your hand.

7. Being the keeper to lost items, because if it is lost, then mom must know where it is.

8. Being the on-call chauffeur to all 24-7, no matter the time of the day, month or year.

9. Mediating fights over anything you could possibly imagine under the moon and stars.

10. Battling homework getting done, because homework is cruel and unusual punishment for little people, and moms just don’t seem to understand that.

I know you are thinking, how on earth are you going to give up these most amazing, daily treasures that you so enjoy?

But wait, hang on, she must be kidding and it isn’t even April Fool’s Day yet!

OK, never mind. This is called being mom and if we were to give up any of these, we might lose our “mommy cards.”

Happy Lenten season, one and all!  Now, where is spring? This mom is so over illnesses, ice, freakishly cold weather and snow that has left my kids being home from school more then they actually have attended.

If I make to Easter Sunday in one piece, I think I deserve a medal or at least a little hug.

— Janine Huldie

Janine Huldie was a certified professional middle school math teacher who became a stay-at-home mom after having her second daughter. She blogs at Confessions of A Mommyaholic and runs her own graphic design company at J9 Designs. Find Janine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Reflections of Erma