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Why writers are like teenage girls

Lisa BeachBeing a writer is kind of like being a teenage girl. One minute, you’re facing soul-crushing rejection; the next minute, you’re elated over a “he-likes-me” moment. Throw in a dash of overanalyzing other people’s words or behavior, and it’s an emotional roller coaster for sure.

Only instead of dealing with teen angst and boyfriend troubles, writers face a special brand of insecurity and rejection: doubt about our writing ability, unengaged readers, mean comments from Internet trolls, the silence of a bombed social media promotional post and a steady stream of “no thanks” from editors. And the ratio of editorial hits to misses seems to wax and wane more than the moon. Some weeks we’re on fire and other weeks we can barely write a clever, typo-free Facebook post.

Fortunately, most of us freelance writers make a boatload of money, so it makes all the anxiety worthwhile (said with great sarcasm).Meme-Being a Writer

Nevertheless, today I got another “no thanks.” While it’s better than hearing nothing at all (trust me, a writer wants closure, even if it’s a “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out”), getting a rejection always stings. And it usually kicks our overanalyzing nature into high gear, making us wonder what an editor’s rejection really means. In fact, writers might wonder any (or all) of the following, sometimes even spiraling into a negative vortex of unrelated self-doubt:

• Did I pitch the article to the wrong editor?
• To the wrong website/publication?
• Is the article not funny enough?
• Is it not funny at all?
• Am I not good enough?
• Should I quit?
• Am I too old to restart my career?
• Is that another wrinkle?
• Is my failure setting a bad example for my kids?
• Am I a bad parent?
• Why don’t we have any more wine?
• WHERE’S THE WINE?

Yes, the self-doubt can get the best of us (and by us, I mean me). So, on days when we’re not thinking clearly and plagued by self-doubt, here’s how writers might interpret the rejection email received today, this time for a humor writing contest.

What an Editor Says: Thank you for entering the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.
What Writers Hear: Thank you for bogging down the selection process with your sub-par entry. If you were one of our talented winners, we would have started this email with “Congratulations!” We know you got momentarily excited to see “Erma Bombeck Writing Competition” in the subject line. But you didn’t really think you had a chance, did you? (Writers can almost hear the editor’s virtual laughter at our hope, self-confidence and naivete.)

Editor: We had 463 entries this year from countries including Austria, New Zealand, Canada, and Spain, and all but two U.S. states.
Writers: You are a loser, not just in the United States, but all over the world! (Yay, us! Go big or go home, right?)

Editor: The essays ranged from funny and self-deprecating to poignant and heart-warming, and our panel of judges had their work cut out for them.
Writers: Unfortunately, your humor article, while self-deprecating, was not even the least bit funny. Seriously, do you understand what comedy is? Have you ever even heard the sound of real laughter? What were you thinking when you submitted this? Didn’t you read the winning entries from previous years? Yours wasn’t even close! Go back to copywriting.

Editor: Unfortunately, your essay was not chosen and if you received comments from your judges, I will pass them along as soon as I’m able.
Writers: We had so many tidbits of constructive criticism that our comments were longer than the actual article you submitted. Also, we’ve ordered you a copy of the latest edition of Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer, as you obviously need to master some of the fundamentals of good humor writing. Please, be generous with your use of a highlighter, don’t skip “Chapter 3: The Recipe for Humor” and dog-ear as many pages as necessary. In fact, you might benefit from a humor tutor. Please allow us to hook you up with this year’s contest winners.

Editor: To see a complete list of this year’s winning entries, please visit the library’s website.
Writers: To get a feel for real humor, please carefully ready these winning entries. Better yet, print them out, grab a pen and take copious notes on what makes people laugh. These writers know their stuff.  You, apparently, do not. I’m almost embarrassed for you.

Editor: Good luck in 2018!
Writers: Please, we beg you — do not bother with this contest next time, as we only want to read Erma-worthy material. Don’t discredit her good name by submitting anything resembling the mediocre piece you submitted this year. In fact, we’ll probably remove you from our mailing list so you don’t know the details for 2018. But if, in fact, you do decide to submit next time, please note that you have two entire years to improve your writing. Use it wisely. Reading through Erma’s At Wit’s End, binge-watch Seinfeld, go see a few stand-up comedians, watch the original cast of Saturday Night Live, follow Tina Fey on Twitter — whatever it takes. But, for the love of all things funny, please don’t subject us to your witless writing again.

— Lisa Beach

Lisa Beach is a freelance writer, blogger, mother of two teenagers and recovering SAHM/homeschooler who lived to write about it. Catch up with her at Tweenior Moments, Lisa’s humor blog about midlife, family, friends and all the baggage that goes with it. Follow Tweenior Moments on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

These products baby us

Lisa CarpenterMy husband recently turned old. Well, older. Old enough that since the birthday celebration, we’ve marveled in disbelief more than once that we’ve reached the age we have.

“I’m still working on figuring out what I want to be when I grow up,” I told him. To which he high-fived in agreement.

My husband and I have raised a family, kept our wits about us when our nest emptied, become grandparents, managed relatively successful careers (so far), successfully stayed together for more than 35 years (so far). We have a mortgage — and PLUS loans we’ll pay on til death closes our account.

Grownup responsibilities. Yet on the inside, my husband and I fail to feel like grownups, fail to see ourselves as grownups. From conversations with others near our age, we’re certainly not alone in that sometimes disorienting discrepancy.

I blame our stuck state of affairs on the popularity of products and pastimes that coddle and cater to the baby in us boomers — much to our delight, I admit — and allow us to stray ever so slightly from the lead of generations before us who fully embraced adulthood and never looked back.

COLORING BOOKS FOR ADULTS. We’ve all heard the news that coloring is the new yoga. It centers us, relaxes us, warms our hearts. It makes us feel like a kid again. I bought an adult coloring book. A brand-new box of colored pencils, too. (Far more mature a coloring tool than crayons, don’t ya think?) I cleared the table, cleared my head, and set to coloring. I wouldn’t swear to becoming centered or relaxed, but I did feel like a kid again. And was so proud of myself that I sang the Mister Rogers “Proud of You” song when I was through.

GUMMY VITAMINS. Why deal with the discomfort of swallowing gulps of water along with big, ol’ clunky, chunky daily vitamins when you can treat yourself to a, well, treat each morning with soft, sweet, chewy, gummy, yummy vitamins. Pills are for our parents; gummy vitamins are for the kid in all of us. I look forward to the day blood-pressure pills resemble (and taste like) M&Ms and ice cream is infused with estrogen. Make mine a double scoop, please, in a waffle cone.

BEER THAT TASTES LIKE SODA. I’ve long enjoyed martinis, margaritas and merlot. You know, the drinks grownups sip and savor. Then I was treated to root beer-flavored beer. In a bottle. I tried it. I liked it! I gulped that puppy down and asked for more. I recently learned a popular national burger eatery offers the yummy stuff on its menu, right alongside the IPAs and more mature alcoholic beverages. They even offer it as a root beer float — my favorite summertime treat as a child… and now! But wait! There’s more! A major beer brand just this year introduced a ginger ale hard soda and an orange-flavored hard soda, too. Cheers to that!

PLAYGROUNDS GEARED TOWARD GEEZERS. Senior playgrounds have been big news lately. You know, outdoor spots with swings and such that appeal to grandmas and grandpas (and other older folks, too), whether the grandkids join them or not. What boomer doesn’t still love to wiggle onto a swing, pump both legs, and soar high as can be? Forget fitness centers, the playground’s the place for me — whether my grandkids join me or not. One warning for us older kids: Beware jumping from those soaring swings or those brittle bones will surely be broken. And merry-go-rounds? Those darn things have always made me dizzy and now that simply getting out of bed gives me a headrush, those shall be avoided, too. The slides, though? They have my name written all over them (unless they’re metal and in the sun, which will surely scorch my currently crepey skin).

A CAR FOR LITTLE KIDS — PERFECTLY SIZED FOR BIG KIDS ADULTS. I admit to swinging and coloring, to slamming down root beer beer and gummy vitamins. This next one, though, I’ve never tried. Still, it makes me happy just to think that if I had the desire — and the dollars — even my ride to work or the dreaded grocery store could feel like play. I applaud (and admittedly envy) my fellow boomers fortunate enough to toodle on down the sidewalk, er, street in one of these. Check out the video.

Those things and more pamper and please us boomers, bring comfort and coddling to health matters and play time. Yes, they baby us. And I love it! And (semi-reluctantly) resign myself to never growing up.

Now if only there were something similar to ease and improve our work time. Say, a way to seem educated and authoritative — without ever having to read or research as real grownups are expected to do.

Hey, Siri: Is there an app for that?

— Lisa Carpenter

Lisa Carpenter is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in topics related to grandparenting, the empty nest and the baby boomer lifestyle. She publishes the Grandma’s Briefs website, stressing the vitality and relevance of today’s grandmothers. She also writes regularly for other sites around the web, including the Huffington Post and PurpleClover.com. Follow her on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

Big Girl Weekend

Jerry ZezimaThe surest sign that a toddler is getting big is when she becomes more mature than her grandfather. In the case of my granddaughter, Chloe, who is about to turn 3, that happened about three years ago.

Two other signs are when she gets her own bed and has her first haircut.

Both of those things happened to Chloe recently in what was dubbed, in case you missed the celebration, Big Girl Weekend.

Since she was born, Chloe had slept in a crib, which prevented her, as some grandfathers have been known to do, from getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

I don’t know what the wrong side of the bed is, unless it is against a wall, in which case you will hit your head when you get up and promptly fall back to sleep. Since I am off the wall, I have never had this problem. That’s why I have always thought that the right side of the bed is the top.

Anyway, Chloe had begun trying to climb out of her crib, a sure sign that it was time to get her a bed.

When Chloe heard the news from Mommy (my younger daughter, Lauren) and Daddy (my son-in-law Guillaume), she was very excited. Nini (my wife, Sue) chimed in, saying Chloe was going to get a “big-girl bed,” which made her even more excited.

When I (Poppie) added my two cents, which Chloe put in her piggy bank, she said, “Chloe’s a big girl. And Poppie’s a big boy.”

“Poppie has a big-boy bed,” I said, hoping I wouldn’t wake up on the wrong side of it and slam headfirst into a wall.

Lauren and Guillaume shopped around for a twin bed and a box spring, but naturally there were complications because one store offered one deal and another store offered another and never the twin did meet.

One day, Guillaume and I, thinking outside the box spring, lugged a box containing a bed, not a spring, back to one of the stores. Later, I went home and fell fast asleep in my own bed.

But rest assured, it all turned out OK because, on a recent Friday, Chloe’s new big-girl bed was delivered. She took to it like a fish to water, even though it’s not a water bed, and went right to sleep that night, probably dreaming of her first haircut, which she got the next day.

On Saturday morning, Sue and I went over to see the bed, which is higher than ours and a lot more comfortable. It also has two mattress guards, presumably so Chloe can’t get up on the wrong side.

“Do you like your bed?” I asked Chloe.

“Yes, Poppie!” she chirped. “I’m not a baby. I’m a big girl.”

And she proved it even further when Lauren, Guillaume, Sue and I took her to Hairport Salon in Port Jefferson, New York, for her first official haircut.

“She looks like Shirley Temple,” said Valerie, a very nice stylist who had the important assignment — and, if I do say so, the honor — of trimming and shaping Chloe’s blond curls.

Chloe sat calmly in a chair, holding three purple brushes while Valerie snipped her underlying baby hair. Chloe even helped by handing Valerie one of the brushes.

When the haircut was over, everyone told Chloe she looked beautiful.

Chloe smiled and bit into a cake pop that Lauren had given to her for being so good.

It was a fitting end to Big Girl Weekend. The next celebration will be this Saturday, on Big Boy Weekend, when Poppie gets up on the right side of the bed and goes for a haircut. I may even have a cake pop.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

At Wit’s End

Allison and Margaret Engel fondly remember their mother sitting at the breakfast table with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in hand, shaking with laughter.

“She could only manage to get out two words — Erma Bombeck,” recalled Allison, who has collaborated with her twin sister on a one-woman play, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End.

Starring stage and screen actress Barbara Chisholm, the play enjoyed its world premiere Oct. 9-Nov. 8 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. On April 1, Chisholm and the playwrights will bring a staged reading of the solo show to the University of Dayton’s sold-out Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. After the performance, the playwrights will join the Bombeck family on stage for a behind-the-scenes look at Erma’s life and enduring appeal.

The humorous production is described as “a look at one of our country’s most beloved voices, who captured the frustrations of her generation by asking, ‘If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?’” Chisholm, who portrays Erma, most recently appeared in the Oscar-winning 2014 film, Boyhood.Barbara_Chisholm

Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End is a loving tribute to the journalist who was lauded for opening up the secret world of the mother and housewife, to the public figure who used her budding fame to support the Equal Rights Amendment, and to the woman who loved her family. The play is full of Bombeck’s own words and humor and is written for an audience who already know and love her work,” according to a review by dctheatrescene.com.

This is the playwrights’ second one-act play that celebrates women humorists. In 2010, the two journalists and authors brought the feistiness of syndicated Texas political columnist Molly Ivins to life in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Kathleen Turner starred in the critically acclaimed production on stages in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., and Washington, D.C.Allison and Margaret Engel

After the premiere of “Red Hot Patriot,” Aaron Priest, Bombeck’s agent and longtime friend, contacted the playwrights about their interest in bringing Erma to life on stage.

At the peak of her career, Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” column appeared in more than 900 newspapers, reaching 30 million readers. Her entertaining essays hung on refrigerator doors around the country because they captured so perfectly the foibles of family life. She’s arguably the most famous graduate of the University of Dayton, which honors her legacy through the popular biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. In 1996, she died of complications from a kidney transplant.

“It was such a delight to remember and read all of Erma’s books and columns,” Margaret said. “She is so witty and gets at the secret life of a family that makes us laugh in recognition.”

To research At Wit’s End, the sisters read her immense body of work — thousands of columns and a dozen books — and viewed “Good Morning America” clips from her 11 years on the show. They perused the University of Dayton’s online Erma museum for photographs, speeches and other material and interviewed Erma’s husband Bill, secretary Norma Born and the three children, Matt, Betsy and Andy.

“We had an avalanche of material to work with,” Allison said. “The family has been so wonderful as far as being generous with their time and remembrances.”

Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, said the family appreciated hearing Erma’s words performed. “The Engel sisters were absolutely the right playwrights to bring our mom’s humor to the stage,” he said. “We hope the play not only makes audiences laugh, but gives people a deeper insight into her life.”

The Engels’ appreciation for Bombeck grew enormously as they worked to translate her life for the stage. “We found her remarkable,” Allison said. “She was so well known that magazine polls showed her right up there with the pope among admired people, yet she didn’t go Hollywood. When the kids came home from school, she was just mom. We tried to portray that in the play. To be ordinary and have such remarkable fame, it’s almost impossible to pull that off.”

Bombeck poked fun at motherhood and housekeeping during a time of social change for women, drawing a legion of like-minded women as fans. “Many people probably don’t realize that she spent almost two years of her own time on her own dime stumping for the Equal Rights Amendment,” Margaret said. “She lived through the Depression and that experience of seeing what her (widowed) mother went through also informed her activism.”

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will close its 2016-2017 season with Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End. The show plays May 6-June 4, 2017.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she also serves as executive director of strategic communications. (Illustration by Ed Fotheringham, courtesy of Arena Stage. Photo credit: Mark Berndt)

Shooting March Madness

 

Sammy SportfaceI’ve got a problem with the top four seeds for this week’s March Madness men’s college basketball tournament.

There is no way Prairie View A&M, North Dakota State, Pepperdine and Oberlin deserved these top seeds. I would have gone with Alabama A&M, Texas El Paso, Weber State and Tufts.

Those schools deserved it more. The only reason Tufts got a top seed is one of the members of the selection committee has a mother who teaches biomechanical engineering at that school. Jingoism is everywhere.

There are several other teams that got snubbed. They didn’t get an invite to the Big Slow Dance. They included Buffalo University, Gettysburg, Marist, Amherst, St. Bonaventure, Shepard College, Frostburg State, University of California at Santa Cruz, University of Hawaii, Ball State, Wyoming State and Belmont Abbey.

Each of these teams deserved to make the tournament based on their regular season records, strength of non-conference schedules and RPI rankings.

Come on. Wyoming State beat Wyoming twice including at Wyoming, which is a hostile environment. University of California at Santa Cruz beat San Jose State, University of California at Sacramento, The Sorbonne, University of California at Monterrey, University of California at Menlo Park, University of California at Reno, University of Reno, University of Jacksonville, Rollins College and Brigham Young at their place.

The Wyoming State Water Buffalos also meet the eye test; when you watch them play, which no one has, they look like one of the best 68 teams in the country.

Because of all of the mistakes the selection committee has made, this whole tournament should be protested in the parking lot of the NCAA headquarters in Kansas. It’s illegitimate.

Even the first round match-ups don’t make sense and are unfair to several teams. There is no way University of California at Menlo Park should have to play Michigan State in the first round. They got jobbed. It’s unfair that Oregon has to play University of Reno in the first round because Reno has three six foot 10 guys and a shooting guard named Renaldo Reno who can hit threes.

The Midwest Region is where the committee really screwed things up. Why does Duke get to play Coppin State in the first round and them Hamilton College in the second round? The committee always gives special favors to Duke because they drive up TV ratings, which means more money for each committee member.

This same region has Havana College of Cuba, which doesn’t even play in the NCAA, playing against the Wharton School of Business where Donald Trump got good grades. MBA schools should not be allowed in this tournament, and schools from Cuba excel at baseball.

My money for this tournament is on Oral Roberts University over Jesuit College, Liberty College over the Citadel, the Wharton School of Business over the Duke Fuqua School of Business, Trinity College of Texas over Richmond and Cornell over Canisius in a buzzer-beater.

The Final Four will be the University of Phoenix Online University against Prairie View A&M. In the other game will be John Carroll College versus Robert Morris.

The online university will trounce Lehigh in the final.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

Parenthoodwinked

Rachael KoenigOne of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is convincing your child that you have some idea of what you are doing … because you usually don’t.

“I don’t need a jacket today,” my six-year-old will report to me on mornings that I look out the window and observe ice falling from the sky.

“You need a jacket,” I will insist. “It’s freezing, and you are only wearing a T-shirt that appears to be two sizes too small.”

“But, I’m not cold,” he will reason, as if logic is something he uses on a regular basis.

“Put on your jacket,” I will counter.

“But, MOMMY WHHHHHHYYYYYYY?” His voice will go up several octaves and level out in a long whine like a dying balloon looking for a safe place to land on the floor.

“Because,” I will pause and then utter those words that all parents swear never to use: “I SAID SO.”

Providing such rationale is typically a dead giveaway to any child worth his salt that you have exhausted all your ‘real’ answers and have gotten desperate. My older son, age 10 going on 40, is especially salty.

“I really think you should join a soccer league,” I will say on occasion, varying the suggested sport with each season.

“Not interested,” he will murmur from the couch, the glowing reflection of Minecraft dancing in his eyeballs.

“You’ll make some new friends,” I will point out, “And, you could really use the exercise.”

I’ll go over a prepared list of data points and supporting research to validate my position, like a freshman on the first day of debate club, usually getting monosyllabic counter-arguments or grunts in reply.

Finally, I’ll give up. “How do you know you don’t like something if you don’t try it??” I’ll wail, exasperated.

Here, he’ll glance up briefly and inform me, “I’ve never tried having my brain eaten by zombies, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t like it.”

Obviously, my children are getting older, and they are becoming more aware of the fact that at any given time, as a parent, I am winging it. “Because,” is increasingly less convincing as an answer for questions like, “Why can’t I have a bowl of jelly beans for dinner?” or “How come I have to wear pants to Grandma’s party?” Really, I just don’t know.

Recently, I overheard my older son instructing his brother on the finer points of a video game they were playing.

“Why do I need to defeat ALL the bad guys on this level?” the six-year-old questioned.

“Because,” his brother paused, “I said so.”

At least I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

— Rachael Koenig

Rachael Koenig is a writer and humorist deriving most of her inspiration from her two sons, aged nine and five, and step-daughter, aged 13.  Her site Maxisms contains personal stories and a collection of precocious, snarky and hilarious conversations between herself and her children. Her work has recently appeared on scarymommy.com, rolereboot.org, whattheflicka.com and The New York Times parenting blog Motherlode. She thinks of herself as more of an essayist than a blogger, because she is old-fashioned and grumpy and out of touch with modern social media vernacular. Also, “blogger” still sounds like something one would pull out of a left nostril. She can be reached on Facebook.

Life lessons

Mary Roberson WiygulRubbing sleep from my eyes, I tried to focus on the spackled sheetrock walls in the bedroom my sister and I shared. Quickly, I pulled the quilt up to my neck and tried to figure out what had startled me awake. It was “Blackberry Winter,” as we call it in the South, the time of year in late spring when a cold snap hits just as the blackberries are blooming.

“Rex, have you lost your mind?” I heard Momma scream from the front of the house followed by the same sound that must have awakened me. The urgency in her voice, teamed with my curiosity, convinced me to forego the usual fight with my older sister about who would be getting in the shower first, and I scrambled out of bed. I made my way into the hallway stopping to catch a second of warmth from the wood heater before I eased toward the source of the commotion. Peeking around the living room door, I witnessed what had become an imaginary boxing arena. In one corner was Momma and Frisky, my beautiful black-and-white cat. In the other corner was Daddy, and the spawn of Satan in animal form — an albino possum.

The possum was just one of many creatures my animal-loving Daddy had dragged home. It, along with her seven babies, had been occupying a cage in the back yard that had at various junctures housed two rabbits, three raccoons and two chickens. But today, this fine specimen had garnered an honor above all honors: a visit inside the house to square up against my cat for a battle royal. “Daddy,” I wailed at deafening decibels as I instantly decoded the scene laid out before me.

My cry startled the possum and the origin of the slumber-wrecking sound was revealed as it let out a hiss as loud as a washtub full of water moccasins. This reaction, in turn, sparked a retaliatory hiss and tip-toeing, back-arching ninja move from the cat. Momma and I watched horrified as Daddy did a jig and urged the competitors on. My cat, which was accustomed to Daddy’s antics, (Daddy had even taught it to play fetch) took about a millisecond to assess the situation, hastily decide he was the “undercat” in this match up, throw in the towel and Fred Flintstone his way out of the room.

Unfortunately, Daddy urged on by amusement and Wild Turkey, had other ideas for a towel besides throwing it in. With the prizefight idea thwarted, he moved to plan B: giving the possum a bath.

Without giving one thought to his safety, Daddy scooped up the possum and carried it to the bathroom to draw a nice warm bath. When the water was at the perfect temperature, he opened my bottle of Mr. Bubble and whipped up a snowy mountain for his albino freak of nature. The possum’s fine white hair disappeared like cotton candy as Daddy lowered it into the water, and dumbfounded, Momma and I watched as it allowed him to lovingly scrub it clean. When he was done, Daddy, knowing it was chilly outside, took a hairdryer and dried him right up. When the flowy white hair had reappeared, he brushed it and added a sprinkle of baby powder for good measure. After the spectacle had come to an end, Daddy turned to me and said, “I’m done with the tub now. You can use it.” I opted for a shower instead.

Though an unlikely text for life lessons, there are many that can be gleaned from the story of my Daddy’s actions that day. First of all in life, one must be flexible. When Daddy’s original plan fell through, he didn’t give up, he simply changed his course of action. Secondly, one must be fearless. Daddy dared to bathe a possum and came out completely unscathed because he never once allowed fear to rear its ugly head. And last but not least, one must stand firm in his/her dedication to the task at hand. Daddy set forth to achieve his goal and through his perseverance and strong will claimed his prize — prettiest possum in Panola County.

— Mary Roberson Wiygul

A Mississippi native, Mary Roberson Wiygul has taught in the public school system for more than 20 years. When not teaching, traveling or spending time with her family, she loves to write personal essays, short memoir pieces and poetry. She is currently a feature writer for Southern Sass Magazine, and her work has also been featured in Southern Roots Magazine and Magnolia Quarterly.

Why can’t everyone be quiet?

Lisa Kanarek Growing up in my parents’ home with four sound-barrier-breaking siblings, a skittish dog that barked when a leaf fell off a tree, and a TV blaring all day was as peaceful as taking a yoga class at an artillery range. I couldn’t wait to move away from this never-ending eardrum assault.

Throughout college and even after I graduated, I lived with roommates who kept their mouths and music on mute. I even sought out someone quiet to date, which at the time seemed like a good idea until it wasn’t. Relationships work better when two people communicate, resolve issues by talking with one another using words other than “uh-huh” and “whatever,” and know when silence is not so golden.

Now that I’m an empty nester, my home and life is monastery-quiet (minus the brown robes and celibacy pledge) until I visit my out-of-town boyfriend or he visits me. Quiet mornings are to him what sleeping late is to parents with toddlers.

My morning routine is simple: I exercise, take a shower and then park myself in front of my computer. My boyfriend gets out of bed, turns on the bathroom radio and then listens to a local radio show whose morning host’s booming voice sounds like he’s gargling rocks inside an active volcano. Not wanting to miss a morning with his favorite Jerk Jockey while out of town, my long-distance love figured out how to stream the show over the Internet and into my bathroom.

Lucky me.

One morning as I was putting on make up, I decided to give the show another chance rather than turn it off right away. After a few minutes I admitted to the show’s biggest fan that I may have jumped to conclusions; the host wasn’t as stress-inducing and brain-splitting as I had previously thought. My boyfriend turned to me and said, “See…he’s not that bad” at the same time the host went on a rant like a spoiled traveler who complains about having to fly coach.

Staring into the mirror, my hands shaking harder than the backside of a backup dancer at a music awards show, all I could think about was poking my boyfriend in the eye with the eyeliner pencil that had left me looking like a band member for KISS. If I could bottle the stress that radio host was causing me, and people actually bought it, I’d be a millionaire.

Then I could buy a house with soundproof walls and two separate master bathrooms.

— Lisa Kanarek

Lisa Kanarek is a freelance writer, the author of five books about working from home, and writes the work-from-home blog Working Naked. Her work has been featured on various sites including BonBon Break, In the Powder Room, Grown and Flown, Ten to Twenty Parenting and MockMom. She is a co-author of the bestselling book Feisty After 45. She is the mother of two sons in college and has lived in Texas half her life, but may be breaking state law by not owning a pair of cowboy boots.

Reflections of Erma