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I’d like to check you for ticks

Flea and tick season is officially upon us and reports claim that this is going to be the worst year ever.

That’s bad news for pet owners and anyone who loves the outdoors.

This is also extremely bad for me.

Somehow, I have managed to raise three boys who played with worms and snakes, yet are deathly afraid of ticks.

Last night, Marc let out a blood-curdling scream.

I rose from a deep sleep fearing for the worst, almost running head on into Rocky and Kevin in the hallway.

Marc was standing on his bed wearing nothing but his underwear.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Mom! There’s a tick!” Marc screamed.

Kevin and Rocky were right behind me.

“A TICK? Where?” Kevin yelled.

Rocky replied, “If we don’t find it, I am NOT sleeping here.”

“Good idea!” Marc said, “Let’s go to a hotel!”

“EVERYONE CALM DOWN!” I yelled.

“Okay, where was the last place that you saw it?” I asked.

Marc replied, “Near the bathroom.”

We all began to search for the tiny insect that was standing between us and a good night’s sleep.

“I don’t see any tick. Let’s all just go to bed.” I instructed.

“Are you kidding me?” Kevin bellowed.

Rocky chimed in, “This is totally gross!”

“Mom!” Marc cried, “We could all get Lyme Disease!”

I was longing for my pillow and dreading what seemed to be the beginning of a ludicrous all-nighter.

Suddenly, I blurted out the first thing that came into my mind.

“Okay, we’ll all sleep in the living room. I think I have some spray for ticks.”

My boys were a flurry of commotion… blankets, pillows and slamming bedroom doors.

I grabbed a bottle of Febreze from under the kitchen sink.

“Are you sure that kills ticks, Mom?” Marc asked.

“Positive.” I replied, (okay, I’m reaching here, but I like my sleep.) I vigorously doused every room in the house with Febreze.

We all settled in on the living room floor.

After much talk about the dreaded ticks, all three of my boys were fast asleep and I somehow managed to fall asleep myself.

Freezing and uncomfortable, I awoke to the overpowering smell of Febreze and the windows covered in condensation.

Kevin stirred and asked, “Mom, what are you doing?”

“Why is the air conditioning set for 40 degrees?” I inquired, as I turned it off completely.

“I was trying to kill the tick,” Kevin replied.

Still shivering and achy from the few hours of sleep that I managed to get on the living room floor, I prepared my morning coffee.

Better make it extra strong, this is going to be a long tick season… and I better stock up on more Febreze.

— Erin Cooper Reed

Erin Cooper Reed is a domestic violence writer and public speaker. She has written for six Domestic Violence organizations, including the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the Charlotte Court System in North Carolina. She has posted inspirational guest blogs at MindMovies.com and been published in local newspapers. Her writing is often used in journals and websites, including the Connecticut Historical Society’s newsletter. Erin currently resides in Connecticut where she writes a humorous and inspirational blog about the trials of raising three teenage boys as a single mother. Her blog can be found at www.mylifeiswear.com. She can be reached at contactmylifeiswear@yahoo.com.

Funny dog story

When I entered the kitchen around 7 a.m., my husband glared at me with bleary eyes marked with half-moon circles. I poured my coffee and said, “What’s wrong?”

“I was hoping to get a full night’s sleep last night because I have a busy day. Didn’t you hear the dog whine at 4:30 this morning?”

“No, I didn’t hear him or I would’ve gotten up.”

“He whimpered, whined, then he yelped and barked. He needed to go out.”

“So you’re angry that I didn’t hear him.”

“No, I threw on my white terry cloth robe and I couldn’t find my slippers so I put on my flip-flops. The dog tore down the steps to the front door and I followed him and grabbed his leash from the closet. When my flip flops hit the tile foyer, I slid on something slimy and my feet flew up; I landed on my back.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m bruised and tired.”

“What was on the tile?”

“Yellow dog vomit, a big puddle. Don’t worry about cleaning the floor. I had lain there a minute and my robe absorbed it. I rose, and when I opened the wooden entry door the dog pushed the storm door open and ran.”

“He slipped out? We never let that happen. Thank goodness no one was out driving.”

” I walked the neighborhood with nothing on except my robe, underwear and flip-flops. Clouds had blocked the moon, and I navigated using our floodlights and street lights. I couldn’t find our Labrador retriever, and when I returned home he was standing on the front lawn panting and wagging his tail so hard that his back shimmied. He had stolen six neighbors’ newspapers and scattered them across our front lawn.”

“So, training him to get the newspaper was a success. He must have felt euphoric when he had retrieved the first paper and didn’t know when to stop,” I said.

“I had walked our court with barf streaked down my back and I pitched papers to the homes without them. Some neighbors may be surprised to find a journal on their lawn that they hadn’t ordered.”

“At least the dog seems ok, so we don’t have to take him to the vet. Since we never let him out alone, he shouldn’t be able to nab any more papers.  I’m sorry that your day started at 4:30. On the bright side, the dog helped you relive your youth as a paperboy. But, next time wake me. ”

— Dottie Lopez

Dottie Lopez is a blogger who loves to travel and cook. She and her husband dine out weekly and travel to places like the Caribbean, Boca Raton, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Barcelona and Paris, collecting recipes on the way. She graduated from Loyola College with an English degree, and took a course at Towson University that emphasized writing restaurant reviews. The Baltimore Post Examiner published one of her reviews.

Blue Ridge blues

In my last piece, I mentioned that my eldest daughter participates in equestrian competitions, seemingly the most expensive and inconvenient activity available to inflict upon fathers of teenaged girls.

I also mentioned that her riding team has continued to advance to higher (and more costly) levels of competition — despite my attempts at sabotage by replacing all of their riding boots with knitting needles. (I even offered to provide them with yarn and purchase t-shirts emblazoned with a new team name like The Doily Daredevils or The Afghan Aces.)

Rejecting my generous offers, though, her team managed to earn a trip to the National Hunt Seat Finals in Lexington, Virginia, nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and bordered by the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. Naturally, we were thrilled for her and excited to take the entire family to watch the competition and do a little sightseeing. We were also confident that our three daughters would understand that in order for us to pay for the trip, we would all be selling our plasma every week for the next 60 years.

One benefit of this trip was that we would be visiting a part of the country that is rich with history. In fact, our first night in Virginia was spent in a historically quaint little town at an extremely historical hotel. Keep in mind that when applied to hotels, the word “historical” is synonymous with “creepy” and is used as an excuse to charge you more than you would normally be willing to pay for a night in complete discomfort. This hotel had a very historical history as an early twentieth-century hospital, and it possessed a very historical smell — like my grandmother’s boudoir. Our room had a very historical stain on the ceiling and a very historical mattress on the bed. (I’m pretty sure it was from the original tuberculosis ward of the hospital.) Each room also came with a complimentary haunting, and the historical lamp on the nightstand featured a disturbing porcelain cherub with only the jagged stump of an arm — which I was sure he would use to stab me in the neck when he came to life later that night.

Having survived our night in the Dust Bunny Inn and enjoyed a continental breakfast of bagels and coffee cake (which tasted very historical), the next leg of our trip involved an afternoon visit to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson — the American president famous for gracing that bill you don’t see very often because everyone keeps it in their top dresser drawer with their Dinky the Dodo Bird Beanie Baby and other worthless junk that we thought would be valuable by now. (I’m willing to let Dinky go for another $2 bill if you’re interested.)

The mountainous scenery on our drive to Monticello was spectacular, and I encouraged my daughters to look out of the windows to witness the splendor of nature. They were so amazed by what they saw that they said, “Cool,” monotonously in unison and immediately went back to their iPhones to continue an edifying line of questioning with Siri. Below is an excerpt of their conversation:

Girls: Siri, have you ever tooted?

Siri: Who, me?

Girls: Uncontrollable giggling

Girls: Siri, blah, blah, blah!

Siri: Yah dah dah

Girls: Even more uncontrollable giggling accompanied by spastic
snorting and gasping for breath.

Along with the educational enrichment my daughters were gaining in the back seat as they ensured our placement on a harassment watch list by the Apple Corporation, I was especially pleased that they would be able to experience such a famous historical American landmark. On the shuttle bus to the grounds of Monticello, I explained to them the importance of visiting the home of the American president whose face is not only on the $2 bill, but also on all of the nickels I steal from their piggy banks when I need to play the claw machine at Walmart. I could tell that my little talk with them had an impact because my youngest daughter lasted an entire two minutes on the tour before she asked if it was almost over. My middle daughter (who aspires to be a professional shopper someday — for herself and with my money) asked if we could skip the tour altogether and go straight to the gift shop.

One historical aspect of Jefferson’s home that they did appreciate was the central air conditioning because on the walk from the shuttle into the house, they both threatened to evaporate if they got any hotter. Because I’m more serious about history than my children, my favorite part of the tour was to the basement area of the home where the original historical privies are located. (The tour guide was less than amused when I sat on one and asked if he had a magazine I could borrow.)

This first part of our trip had already been memorable, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us at the actual horse show. We were even able to take a brief jaunt through the souvenir shops of Washington, D.C. before our flight home, but that’s another story, and you’ll be glad to know that it involves no tooting at all — at least not from Siri.

– Jase Graves

Jason (Jase) Graves is a new writer for the EBWW blog and a finalist in the 2017 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ column contest in the humor-writing category. He writes a regular column for The Kilgore News Herald and blogs for The Longview News Journal.  He is a married father of three daughters and writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective in his personal blog, “What’s Wrong With Daddy?” Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.

Watching ‘Route 66’ from NC 66…so many years ago

Besides a place where animals are kept, menagerie also means, “An odd or eclectic assortment of things.” That would describe our family room. Or basement. Or great room. Or whatever they call the place where people hang out after dinner these days.

Our current “gathering room” is three or four times larger than the den I remember off highway 66. This was NC 66, which connects Kernersville to Horneytown, about nine miles. It was not U.S. Route 66, which connects Chicago to Los Angeles, about 2,000 miles…and the TV show by the same name.

Mother, and my two brothers and me, often watched “Route 66,” starring Martin Milner and George Maharis, on our little TV in our little den, among its assortment of odd and eclectic things.

On the knotty pine wall above the couch was a picture of “Jesus Knocking At The Door,” surrounded by pictures of the Reid family. As the years went by, Mother kept updating the wall to show pictures of her grandchildren, and my latest wife and me. She once threatened to start pasting a picture of my new wife over the picture of my old wife.

Built-in bookcases flanked a window at one end of the den, which was to the right of our 17-inch B&W TV from Sears. The bookcase housed a set of Grolier encyclopedias (we couldn’t afford World Book), several Reader’s Digest condensed books, medical encyclopedias, more Reid photos, a photo of a family I didn’t recognize (I think it came with the frame), someone’s brass baby shoes, a jack-in-the-box and a pair of praying hands.

The other end of the den featured our “entertainment center,” consisting of a turntable (beside a stack of Elvis albums) and a Zenith radio. Eight-track tapes hadn’t come along yet.

By comparison, our modern “menagerie” features computers, iPads, printers, big-screen TV, a Bose Wave radio/CD player, photos (including my current wife and me), a few of my journalism awards, books by George Orwell to George Carlin, and an eclectic assortment of things including an empty Scotch bottle from World War II, a duck decoy, a Super Bowl trophy (from my fantasy team), a “Ray’s 19th Hole” sign, a Dodgers clock, a Jack Russell terrier figurine, a microwave oven and a piano no one can play.

And then there’s the toy Corvette. When I close my eyes I see Martin Milner at the wheel, on Route 66. And Mother and Jerry and Bob and me huddled around the TV watching, in the little den in the little house on NC 66…so many years ago.

— Raymond Reid

Raymond Reid is a national-award winning humor columnist from Kernersville, NC. He can be contacted at rreid7@triad.rr.com.

Or best offer

Our town of Oreland has an “online yard sale” Facebook page.

Folks post pictures of items they are trying to sell, and people respond to them if interested. I’ve seen jewelry, bunk beds, sports equipment and clothing snapped up eagerly, and it’s tempting to try and unload some of our treasures this way. But so far I have not participated because I still have fresh recollections of many “real” yard sales we have had. We’ve had these every couple of years, because we have never learned.

It was such a good idea! Taking things we didn’t need and turning them into cash! We would spend the night before each sale dusting everything off, labeling and pricing to beat the band. We were sure everybody was going to LOVE the assortment of costumes that had been donated to us for our theater company and we couldn’t use. Think about it, who wouldn’t kill for a giant bear suit? My collection of second-string cookbooks, including The Canadiana Cookbook, (which, if memory serves, had rather too many recipes featuring maple syrup) was also up for sale. As the evening wore on, we always became greedy and started to price things higher and higher. My mother’s wedding gifts — sterling silver platters so heavy they could double as murder weapons? Ka-ching! Sterling is worth a fortune, isn’t it? The Madame Alexander dolls? $50 each! No, $75!! We went to bed with visions of dollar signs dancing in our heads.

In the cold light of dawn, we set out our card tables and arranged our bounty. Everything looked a bit shabbier than it had the night before, but we were optimistic!! The first hint of trouble came before 8 a.m. when the “early birds” arrived. These canny shoppers canvassed the area every Saturday morning looking for bargains. They usually had specific items they were seeking, from musical instruments to vintage LPs. Even when we offered hot coffee, they passed right by our little assortment of stuff.

As the hours crept along customerless, we were reminded of why we always did so poorly with yard sales — our stuff is either no good to begin with, or so badly maintained as to be almost worthless. In late afternoon, the giant bear suit would go out on a table marked “Free.” My Canadiana Cookbook found a home with my wonderful Canadian neighbor, who most likely purchased it out of pity. No one wanted the Madame Alexander dolls; NO ONE wanted the tarnished sterling silver platters. In the end, we’d wasted an entire day and made just enough money to get a takeout pizza (no extra toppings) after we lugged things back inside.

Like the pain of labor, the memories would eventually fade, and we’d find ourselves doing it all over again.

My sister Carolyn has always made a bundle at her yard sales, perhaps because EVERYTHING she and her hubby Rob own is in mint condition. Who wouldn’t do well selling a beautiful drum set and still-in-the-wrapper DVDs? It seems our daughter Julie is a chip off that block because she is registered on the Oreland yard sale page and is doing very well. The old rabbit pen, ill-fitting shoes, never-opened nail polish (yes!) — all have been claimed quickly. Julie urges me to sell online as well, so the other day I rounded up some odds and ends to photograph and post. Haven’t done it yet, though, because I’m sure our every knick-knack bears the Seyfried curse and will languish, embarrassingly unsold, forever.

Someday I’ll go for it and mark down the few items we have that are worth anything, just for the thrill of a successful transaction. And afterward, as we stand counting our cash in our empty dining room (table and 8 chairs! $20! Or Best Offer!), we will figure out if we made enough money to go out and buy back our own table and (8) chairs, which will no doubt have been marked way, way up by a savvy yard saler. We will not pay a penny more than $200! After all, we have our pride!

— Elise Seyfried

Elise Seyfried is the author of three books of humorous spiritual essays, a columnist for a Philadelphia newspaper and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis, Guideposts Magazine, Grown and Flown and many other publications. Elise is also a church worker, mom of five and grandma of two.

Fishing around at the farmer’s market

Let’s see, do I go with the loaf of fresh sesame bread or the Italian style tube of hardened yeast, milk and other natural ingredients? Oh, but wait: that whole wheat chunk looks pretty good, too, as does the loaf with the raisins on top. Bet it tastes like Raisin Bran.

Or maybe a pie would be good. Those pies — is there anything better than a blueberry, cherry or apple pie?

So many vexing choices at last Saturday’s farmer’s market in my hometown. Near the bread stand sits a table loaded with fruits: plump nectarines, dinky blueberries, tan and rough-edged cantaloupes and deep maroon cherries. Those would be good to churn up in a blender with ice and have as a Saturday afternoon smoothie. All of them could in there. It would be a party among the eclectics.

Then the bad news starts roaring in — on the same table no less. There they are, vegetables. Fire engine-red tomatoes, forest-green cucumbers, shiny and bright red peppers — all of this comes into vision and reminds me of how important it is it eat vegetables even though they don’t taste nearly as good as fruits and red licorice.

We had such a Saturday going on, didn’t we? Then those veggies bombed us out of our bliss. They always do. All those people who say how great corn on the cob is have bought into mob psychology. Over the decades a lot of people talk about how great corn tastes especially in the summer. So others start to think it’s true even though it’s just not as great as everybody says. Corn is overrated.

One of the great surprises of my life — and there have been many — was the time I had red peppers sprinkled on my cheesesteak sandwich. My friend Jim recommended it. Have to admit that pepper upper sent that sandwich into the stratosphere. So red peppers are good, but almost all other vegetables are not. If potatoes are considered a vegetable, they are by hundreds of miles the best on the farm.

Unhinged by the veggie table, I turn around and check out what’s on display at another table. Looks like jars of pickles and olives. Yep, that’s what is creeping around over there.

I have known a few people who liked to not just have a pickle on their hamburger or could tolerate it on the McDonalds cheeseburger; they ate whole pickles. I always wondered about those people. I didn’t understand them and still don’t.

A line of people formed at the pickle and olive table. They were checking things out sort of like an animal exhibit at the zoo. The products were in little jars. It almost looked like about half dozen small fish tanks were on display showing off the latest guppies and gold fish.

No way, I thought to myself. There is no way I am going to buy any pickles or olives, especially not olives. The only reason I have ever eaten a pickle is because I didn’t know it was on a McDonalds cheeseburger and I bit into it. Olives have never been put on these cheeseburgers. For that we should all be thankful.

— 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.

Cereal Days:
A tribute to the Golden Age of cereal

(Cereal Days lyrics. Watch the video here.)

Cheerio, Apple Jack Honey wants her Sugar Smacks
Corn pop Cocopuff, Sonny’s gonna do his stuff
Captain Crunch get your Kix, here the rabbit, hide the Trix
Tony Tiger Sugar Bear share some with that silly hare.
Peanut butter Smedley, crunch berry medley!
Jean Lafoote, you stole my lunch, come back with my Cinnamon Crunch!

Cereal Days, camped out by the TV!
Cereal Days, sugar high for you and me!
Cereal Days, find the prize inside the box!
Cereal Days…Cereal rocks!
Snap, Crackle, Pop!

Toucan Sam Golden Graham, Fruity Pebbles, Bam Bam!
Loving Life with a spoon, do you remember ol Kaboom?
Clowning round with Frosted Flakes, How about some Quisp and Quake?
Quake was fat and then got thin, Quisp — a smiling alien.
King Vitamin is gone, he could have used a Lucky Charm
Hearts, Stars, Moons, Clovers, the Leprechaun will bowl you over!

Oh no, what’s next Shredded Wheat and Rice Chex
Total fitness, Special K, it’s all so tame…
Honeycomb still calls my name!

Count Chocula, Boo Berry, change the color of the dairy!
Very scary Frankenberry, artificial strawberry.
Over the hill Wafallo Bill — Waffle Flavored Cereal.
Rice Crispies, Alpha Bits…breakfast, with benefits!
Sponsored by the Jackson Five, on the box a forty five!
Cut it out and ABC, a little record just for me!

Cereal Days, camped out by the TV!
Cereal Days, sugar high for you and me!
Cereal Days, find the prize inside the box!
Cereal Days…Cereal rocks!
Don’t forget The Freakies!
Cereal Days, find the prize inside the box!
Cereal Days…Cereal rocks!
Spoon!

— Ira Scott Levin and Julia Bordenaro

Contemporary folk duo The Levins offer harmony-driven acoustic music that is warm and uplifting without skating over the complexities of life. In addition, Ira Scott Levin blogs at Stream of Light, reflections spotlighting those making the world a brighter place through their dedicated benevolence and creative caring. His blog appears frequently at Thrive Global and Humorwriters.org.

The Graduate

I have never been to a graduation at Yale, Harvard or any other Ivy League school, mainly because I couldn’t get into one of those prestigious institutions unless I broke in at night, in which case I would be arrested and sentenced to serve time in another kind of institution.

But I recently did attend a graduation at Old Steeple, a preschool in Aquebogue, New York, and its moving-up ceremony beat anything a university could put on. I admit to being prejudiced because my 4-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, was in the Class of 2017 and, I can proudly say, graduated magna cum little.

The impressive event began as Chloe and her classmates filed into the church above their school and waited for the formal procession past dozens of guests. They included my wife, Sue, and yours truly (known to Chloe as Nini and Poppie), as well as Chloe’s mommy, Lauren; her daddy, Guillaume; and her little sister, Lilly, who is 9 months old and won’t be in preschool for another two years.

Mrs. Kramer, the teacher, and Mrs. Link, her assistant, guided the 19 members of the graduating class into position. That’s when Chloe spotted Sue and me sitting in the second row. Because she didn’t expect us to be there, her eyes widened and she broke the line, rushing up to the first row and squealing, “Hi, Nini and Poppie!”

Sue and I smiled and waved.

Chloe looked at me and said, “I’m so glad you could make it, Poppie!” Then she said, “Doh!”

It’s an utterance most recently made famous by Homer Simpson, but it was originated in the early 1930s by James Finlayson, eternal antagonist of Laurel and Hardy. Chloe and I have been saying it to each other since she learned to talk, so I returned the greeting.

Sue nudged me and whispered, “Stop fooling around.”

Then we both indicated to Chloe that she should get back in line.

“OK, Nini and Poppie!” she chirped and, accompanied by Mrs. Kramer, reclaimed her spot.

The exchange drew an appreciative chuckle from the audience.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” did not play, the students walked up to the altar and took their seats on folding chairs that were arranged in a horseshoe shape. Mrs. Kramer stood at the microphone and welcomed the guests.

What she didn’t do was give a commencement address, a refreshing switch from the typical graduation ceremony in which some bloviating speaker tells the graduates they are “the future of this great nation” and urges them to “go out and change the world,” which would have been an unreasonable exhortation to kids whose idea of change not too long ago involved their diapers.

One by one, the students went up to the microphone and said a rehearsed line that introduced the next part of the program. Some were tentative.

Not Chloe. When it was her turn, she strode up to the mic and said in a strong voice, “We will now sing ‘The More We Get Together’!” For emphasis, she elongated the last syllable, which drew a laugh and a round of applause from the audience.

Then the graduates sang the catchy song:

“The more we get together, the happier we’ll be. Your friends are my friends, my friends are your friends. The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

When the hearty applause stopped, Chloe looked down in my direction and again said, “Doh!”

The crowd chuckled once more.

The rest of the program was just as delightful. At its conclusion, Mrs. Kramer stepped back up to the microphone to hand out diplomas. The first student she called was Chloe, who took the sheepskin and, with a flourish, bowed to the crowd, which responded with enthusiasm.

“She’s tops in her class,” I said to Sue, Lauren, Guillaume and Lilly, who recently learned to clap and was doing so, perhaps unwittingly, for her big sister.

Afterward, everyone went downstairs to the school for milk and cookies. It was a fitting end to the best graduation I have ever attended.

Yale or Harvard couldn’t have done better.

— 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 BestLeave 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 the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma