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Ending “at the end of the day”

Sammy Sportface“At the end of the day” is, at the end of the day, one of those phrases like “it is what it is” that we need to eradicate from our daily lives.

Pretentious people say at the end of the day as do people who want to sound impressive and definitive. In business, which is so focused on outcomes and the bottom line, people say at the end of the day often. At the end of the day is similar to the answer to a math problem. It’s like saying “after adding 10 + 10 you get a result, at the end of the computation, of 20.”

Why does “the start of the day” get less airtime? How come people don’t talk about it as much? It’s as if everything of importance happens at the end of the day. Reconsider.

At the start of the day people pour syrup on their pancakes, take warm showers and rub body wash on themselves, and drink sweet-flavored coffee. At the start of the day the sun rises, which is an embodiment of hope that revives the human spirit. At the start of the day people write up their To-Do lists and get energized to accomplish things which, at the end of the day, they don’t completely finish. Often they don’t even complete their first item on the list because they get interrupted all day long or lack discipline. At the end of the day, this is life.

At the start of the day we get to watch highlights of what insults Republican candidates unloaded at each other during the previous night’s debate and wonder what, at the end of the day, it all means. At the end of the day the debates mean it’s time to move on with our lives which, at the start of the day, revives hope. At the end of the day personal insults get us nowhere.

At the start of the day we eat bacon. At the start of the day our hair is combed and clean unless, at the end of the day, we don’t care how we look. At the start of the day we drive around noticing how nice the scenery is and fantasizing about the trees turning green again. But at the end of the day,we know that’s going to take longer than we hope. It always does.

At the end of the day, the start of the day is better than the end of the day. At the end of the day we have to decide something. Decisions go awry and build stress. They cause us to eat too many sweets. Often there are nuances to these decisions based on incomplete information, interpersonal politics and money pressures. Often our decisions are questioned and turn out to be wrong and ill-timed.

At the end of the day we have to think about what we need to do at the start of the next day. At the end of the day we post results that we have to live with until the start of the next day and sometimes long after that. These decisions carry weight, often day after day.

At the end of the day our minds tire. We can’t concentrate for as long as we could at the start of the day. At the end of the day it is dark outside so more difficult to see where we are going or who is walking down our streets. At the end of the day there is less to do other than watch presidential debates that are, at the end of the day, a bad way to end the day.

At the end of the day, this is how it all comes together.

And at the start of the day we do it all over again.

Every day.

— 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.

Poppie goes to school

Jerry ZezimaWhen I was 3 years old, I knew my ABCs. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the rest of the alphabet until I was in high school.

Even now, my granddaughter, Chloe, who will turn 3 this month, is way ahead of me. So I was thrilled recently when I was asked to assume actual adult responsibilities and, for the first time, bring Chloe to school.

Because my younger daughter, Lauren (known to Chloe as Mommy), and her husband, Guillaume (aka Daddy), had an early morning appointment and would be gone before Chloe got up, I (Poppie) had to sleep over and get her ready for what promised to be an exciting day.

To facilitate matters, Lauren gave me a list of instructions. The first, written in her very neat cursive, was: “Wake up.”

This is extremely important, unless you are deceased, in which case the sleepover becomes permanent.

Instruction No. 2: “Change pull-up.”

“I don’t wear pull-ups. At least not yet,” I informed Lauren, who rolled her eyes (I rolled them back) and said, “Chloe does. Take her to the potty. I’ll leave her outfit in her bedroom. Bring it downstairs and get her dressed after breakfast.”

I perused the remaining instructions, which included what to give Chloe for breakfast (three-quarters of a cup of milk, microwaved for 30 seconds; one strawberry yogurt; and one slice of multigrain toast).

“I spoke with Mrs. Kramer,” said Lauren, referring to Chloe’s preschool teacher, “and told her you were dropping off Chloe and that you would pick her up after school. I gave her a description of you, but you may have to show her your driver’s license.”

I felt like an escaped felon, but I guess you can’t be too careful these days.

The next morning, I followed Instruction No. 1 to the letter and woke up.

“Do you know what to do?” Lauren asked as she put on her coat.

“Yes,” I replied confidently. “I have to go to the potty and then have breakfast.”

Lauren rolled her eyes again and said, “And don’t tell Mrs. Kramer any of your stupid jokes. She might call the cops.”

About 15 minutes after Lauren and Guillaume left, Chloe woke up. I went upstairs to her bedroom and opened the door.

“Poppie!” she exclaimed.

“Good morning, Honey!” I chirped.

I followed the remaining instructions (potty, check; pull-up, check; breakfast, check; outfit and hair bow, check; brown shoes, check; hat and coat, check; backpack and sippy cup, check; carseat, check) and drove Chloe to school.

I waited at the door with her as a bunch of other kids and their mothers showed up. The young women smiled at me, but I could tell what they were thinking: “Who the hell is this geezer?”

A few minutes later, Mrs. Kramer opened the door.

“Hi, Mrs. Kramer,” I said, introducing myself. “I’m Poppie.”

“Hi, Poppie,” said Mrs. Kramer, who greeted Chloe by saying, “Good morning, Chloe!”

“Good morning, Mrs. Kramer!” said Chloe.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license?” I asked Mrs. Kramer.

“No,” she responded pleasantly. “Lauren gave me a description of you. I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, Chloe,” I said.

“Bye, Poppie!” said Chloe, who went inside with her little friends.

I smiled at the mommies and drove back to Lauren and Guillaume’s house, where I made myself useless for a couple of hours before returning to pick up Chloe.

As the door opened and the children exited, Mrs. Kramer held up a bag and said, “Here you go, grandpa!”

I thought she was talking to me, but she was referring to Mike, a fellow grandfather who was picking up his grandson, Mason.

“We’re the only grandpas here,” I said.

“I know,” said Mike. “But I’ve done this before. Mrs. Kramer knows me.”

“No one would mistake us for mommies,” I said.

Mike nodded and said goodbye. I took Chloe’s hand and said goodbye to Mrs. Kramer, who smiled and said, “You did a good job.”

“Did I pass the test?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Kramer. “You can tell Chloe that Poppie got a gold star.”

— 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.

I want a man for my birthday

Kate MaharI have a few chores around the house that I’ve been avoiding. Things that require me to stand on a ladder or dig up substitutes for tools I don’t own. I may go into a nursing home before the two new smoke alarms get installed.

It got me to thinking (especially since my birthday is coming up) that a really nice present for a single woman would be an afternoon or morning of manly services. No, not that kind. Don’t send me a gigolo when it’s a handyman I’m hankering for. Here’s how it would work.

Do you have a husband or father or son who can perform basic manly tasks around your house? I’m not talking about a certified plumber or anything. But maybe a guy who can carry lawn chairs up from the basement to get ready for the coming season, or clean leaves out of the gutters? Install those damned smoke alarms? (It’s not that I’m some frilly, helpless girlie-girl, but I am only 5’2 and am chubby and old; ladders scare me a little bit.)

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’d appreciate some help once in a while. Someone I’m not paying $20+ an hour to do a lot of things I could probably do myself if were younger and taller. I’ll bet you know someone like me who would appreciate the help as much as I would. Or maybe your friend is a single mom with little kids running her ragged who would give her left nut (if nuts she had) to have a few hours of complimentary babysitting service.

Oh – and here’s another one for the single mom. If she doesn’t have family around who thinks of doing this, offer to take her kids to the store to buy her a birthday or Christmas gift. She’ll even gladly give you the money. It’s just sad all around when mommy doesn’t have anything to open Christmas morning and the kids feel bad that they couldn’t get her a present. I’ve been there. This is a big deal and the friend and her kids will be so grateful to you for the help.

But back to me, me, me . . .

I don’t expect your husband/father/son to come over for the afternoon to help me because he’s just so kind and thoughtful. No. This is where you come in.

Instead of buying me a birthday dinner or a scarf or some other very nice gift, pay off your husband so he’ll feel like he’s getting something out of the deal. Make him chocolate chip cookies or offer one sex-on-demand certificate in exchange for his services. (Stick to the cookies for your father or son, of course.) I mean, putting out is the least you could do for a good friend, right?

In a world where most of us don’t need more “stuff,” I think it makes sense to consider how we can show our love to family and friends in more creative ways.

So there you go. My birthday is April 14 if any of my BFFs want to consider going this route. It’s a big birthday this year, so you’re probably already wondering what to get me. Here’s the answer. And if you don’t know me but just read my blog (thank you for THAT, by the way!), then I hope you will consider this for one of your dear friends who lives alone. Tell her Kate sent you.

UPDATE!

Wouldn’t you know it, but I no sooner wrote this when I urgently needed manly help! My dear friend Carol and her beau, Bob, came to my rescue Sunday morning when a skunk was hiding under the new addition to my house. I knew this because my miniature hound dog, Mick, was sniffing and digging maniacally at a hole leading under the house (the addition, my bedroom, is built on top of what was a deck and is now filled with insulation). When I reached down to drag him away, I could smell skunk residue. Not a full-fledged, gruesome spray, thank goodness.

Carol and Bob drove over in a flash and helped move a large railroad trestle-type length of wood over to block Mick from the hole. I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but I’m afraid there may be more to share before this is done. Tomorrow the wildlife exterminators are coming over to build a wire mesh barrier to prevent Pepe le Pew and his smelly little paramour from making sweet love and birthing babies under my bedroom.

So thank you, Carol and Bob, and an early happy birthday to me! I hope Carol showed her gratitude to Bob in some appropriate manner.

— Kate Mahar

After years of writing everything from trade journal articles on fork lifts to executive speech copy, Kate Mahar is semi-retired from her freelance writing and event planning business. She’s finally spinning stories for the sheer joy of it, writing her first novel and creating humorous posts for her blog, www.katemahar.com. Kate and her two dogs, Mick Jagger and Little Richard, are living happily ever after in beautiful Willoughby, Ohio.

He’s not that into me

Stacey GustafsonHiring a good handyman is as tough as trying to lick your elbow.

Heck, finding my husband was faster, easier and less expensive. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t do home improvement projects in his spare time. A combination of long hours at work and heavy air travel convinced him to leave home repairs to the experts.

After moving into a new house, I Googled “Handyman Services” and found match ups like eHandyman.com and ChristianHandyGuy.com. I had to act fast. The 20-year-old house we’d settled on was crumbling around us. We needed help before we had to sleep in a tent or move in with our parents.

Send me an angel, I secretly prayed to the home-improvement gods.

The first guy I called was your typical older, retired jack-of-all-trades, anxious to earn extra money.

“Hi, I’m Stacey,” I gushed, opening the front door. “You won’t believe how glad I am to see you.” Hallelujah!

“What’s the problem?” he said, all business. We discussed the most critical project on the list — the replacement of broken and missing bathroom tiles. After the discussion, I hired him. The job lasted more than two weeks. He showed up daily, grinding and drilling to completion.

“Thank so much. You’re the best,” I said, laying on compliments as thick as pea soup.

A good man is hard to find.

By week three, he offered a helping hand with a series of minor projects. He hung pictures, fixed a leaky sink and cleaned out the garage. I called him at home the next week to help set up Christmas decorations and lights — the works.

But his attitude changed by week six. I had a sneaky feeling he was cheating on me. He turned up late for our next appointment. And he started taking calls on his cellphone during work.

“Yeah sure, I’ll be over in 15,” he said, whispering into the phone now cupped in his hand.

What’s this? Where’s he think he’s going? Who’s he talking to? I brooded.

With nary an explanation, he hiked up his tool belt, grabbed his toolbox and skedaddled. I waited a few days before I called him again.

“This is Joe. Leave a message,” said his voicemail.

“Joe, please call me. I need you for several small projects. I could really use your help. Thanks.”

Weeks passed. Finally he dropped by to collect his last check. “By the way, I’m raising my rates and I’ll be tied up a few months with a big job.”

And just like that, my handyman dumped me.

After Joe, I found Rusty through his online website, RustyDoesJobs.com. Based on his profile pic, he didn’t look like a mass murderer. Best yet, he could start the next day.

He arrived 15 minutes early. I answered the door wearing ratty sweatpants and my old high school sweatshirt.

“Hi, I’m Rusty. You needed a handyman?” he said, looking me up and down.

Hey, Buddy. Take a picture, it lasts longer! I thought, not happy he arrived early for our date.

Once he put his eyes back in his head, he began the first job, hanging a ceiling fan in the den. From the top of the ladder, he asked, “How far do you want the fan to hang down?”

“I don’t care,” I said, tugging on my ear.

“Six inches or 12 inches?” he asked, with narrow, squinty eyes.

“Uh, I don’t care.” Stop pressuring me.

He settled on 12 inches. Then I proceeded to talk. I couldn’t be stopped. I had no idea if he even answered me. “Did you watch the Giant’s game?” “Can you believe the weather?” “How long have you been a handyman?” “My last handy guy never called me back. I think he’s avoiding me.”

“No kidding,” he said, letting out a gasp.

When he finished replacing the fan then repairing the toilet, he said to use PayPal to pay him, grabbed his things and rushed out.

“Wait. Can I just mail you a check?”

“I don’t use snail mail.”

He’s afraid to give me his address. “I guess this is goodbye?” I yelled after him, receiving no answer in return. Another one bites the dust.

Then my lucky day arrived. My realtor introduced me to Jose and the heavens split open. He had all the necessary qualities — loyalty, strength and sensitivity. And he was hardworking. A match made in honey-do heaven.

Whatever the task, Jose proved to be an expert. And he listened and respected my opinion. “Tell me what you need,” he said, leaning forward and giving me steady eye contact.

“I don’t know how to store all this junk in the garage,” I said.

“No worries. I’ll build you shelves.”

When his cellphone rang, he said, “Lo siento. I’m with a customer. Call you later.”

At the end of the day, he asked, “If you have a problem, I can come back Sunday.”

“Wow, I really appreciate that.” I smiled. “I’ll be OK.”

“Make your list then. See you Tuesday.”

Yeah! He likes me! He really likes me. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

— Stacey Gustafson

Stacey Gustafson is an Amazon bestselling author, humor columnist and blogger who has experienced the horrors of being trapped inside a pair of SPANX. Her book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives ranked #1 Amazon Best Seller in Parenting & Family Humor and Motherhood. Her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and seven books in the Not Your Mother’s Book series. Her work appears in Midlife Boulevard, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Better After 50. She was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month. Enjoy her blog, Are You Kidding Me? at StaceyGustafson.com or follow on Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.

A grand adventure

Ye Olde kathy & cindy(Editor’s Note: Kathy Kinneyknown for her iconic role as “Mimi” on The Drew Carey Show, and Cindy Ratzlaffmarketing guru behind the South Beach Diet, will serve as keynoters at the March 31-April 2 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. The longtime friends are the creative force behind the Queen of Your Life book series, calendar and blog. In a Q&A, they talk about what brought them together — and why it’s so important to develop a “Queen voice.”)

Q: The two of you have such different backgrounds. What brought you together to collaborate on inspirational books and calendars?

A: We met at college one very hot, muggy Wisconsin summer while working on the children’s play George and the Dragon and have been friends now for over 35 years. Cindy intended to be an actress, and Kathy had decided to write the great American short story and so after college we headed to New York. While pursuing our careers we had a massive amount of survival jobs, including Director and Membership Director of the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant to the Head of Finance and Publicist Liaison for the Muppets at WCBS-TV — as well as producing, directing and starring in the comedy groups Belles Jeste and Prom Night. During our time in New York we had successes, failures, boyfriends, love found, love lost and our friendship always endured. Cindy eventually found herself with a successful career in publishing/marketing, and Kathy moved to Los Angeles and became an actress. Could life be any more mysterious, baffling or wondrous? After half a lifetime of shared memories and exciting adventures, it seemed like a good time to write a book about what we had learned and what we wanted to achieve in the next half of our lives.

Q: You’ve described your journey together as “hilarious, sometimes tearful, but always honest.” Is that the appeal behind the “Queen of Your Own Life” movement?

A: Queen of Your Own Life is about learning to be honest with yourself and letting go of your fears so you can keep moving forward without self-judgment. We like to say it’s about taking care of yourself and learning to take the “ish” out of “selfish.” Taking care of your needs does not make you a bad person or selfish; it means you’re smart.

Q: What’s the secret to being Queen of Your Own Life?

A: The secret is that you already are the Queen of Your Own Life, but sometimes you just need a good friend to remind you. It’s about getting past the negative internal voices that say, I should’ve, could’ve and oh, if only I would’ve, to finally uncover your true Queen voice. The voice that says you were enough, are enough and always will be enough just the way you are. Your Queen voice is loud and reminds you that life is a grand adventure and you are the woman who is brave enough to live it.

Q: Has Erma Bombeck inspired you in any way? Did she use a “Queen voice” in her writing?

A: Erma Bombeck was definitely the Queen of Her Own Life, and that’s why everyone loved her so much. She was always authentically herself, and her Queen voice was loud and clear. She was funny, warm, clever, and it was a joy to read her column and her books. She had the gift of making you laugh till you snorted and yet think about, and be grateful for, the life you were living. Our favorite Erma quote is, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Truly a worthy goal.

Q: You talk about walking through your fears and taking control of your life. Why do some people, particularly women, have such a hard time doing that?

A: It’s a lot better out there, but the message woman still get from the media is you aren’t enough the way you are. In order to be valuable or desirable in our society you need to be young, curvy, blonde and very sexy. It takes courage to make the choice to be your authentic self — a strong, smart, creative woman who shows up everyday owning her power. The key is that we are all more alike than different in our fears about being accepted and loved. Deciding to be yourself gives permission to everyone around you to do the same thing.

Q: You’ve brought your empowerment message to huge conferences around the country. What appeals to you about the crowd at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop?

A: First of all, we just love, love, love authors and writers. They are our people! Also, folks spend a lot of time talking about the East Coast and the West Coast, and we’ve lived both places, but the middle of this country is truly the “Heartland.” We are Midwest born and raised —and while you can take the girl out of the Midwest, you can never take the Midwest out of the girl.

Q: What message do you want to leave with writers struggling to find their own voices?

A: Just get out of your own way and do it! Everyone has the right to write a book, play, poem, blog or, for that matter, a rap song! If you write it, there will be someone there to read it, and someone who needs to hear what you have to say. Don’t let your fear of not getting it “right” stop you from expressing yourself. And, above all, have fun with it! If you’re not having fun while doing it, then change directions until you are enjoying yourself. It’s your adventure, so don’t talk yourself out of living it.

Q: Besides the work you do together, what else keeps you busy these days? What brings you joy?

A: Joy for us both is family, friends and leading a creative life. Kathy still acts and has a children’s character called Mrs. P at mrsp.com who is an advocate for literacy and libraries. Cindy still works in publishing and helping authors find their own brands. We both find a lot of pleasure in being successful in these jobs. We also find great joy daily in posting “Queenisms” (positive affirmation combined with a vintage image) on our Facebook page. This means we spend many fun hours in antique malls questing for vintage images of woman. After we have the images, oh my, that is when the fun really begins! We scan all of the photos, then reimagine and redesign them on Adobe Photoshop and then add an affirmation. Voilà, as the French say, a Queenism! We love using and exploring Adobe Photoshop so much that we have secretly dubbed ourselves the Nerd Queens. It’s great to have a hobby you adore.

Blind as a rhino

Marcia Kester DoyleIt started with a recipe.

I misread the amount of flour that was to go into a cake and added too much of it to the batter. That night, I served a frosted hockey puck to my dinner guests. I was certain the mistake was due to my lack of attention while baking. Note to self: Do NOT watch “America’s Hottest Firemen” on cable TV while making a cake.

There were other slip-ups that soon followed — little things I stubbornly ignored, such as squinting while reading a book. Or leaning over the car steering wheel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame just so that I could see the road beyond my dashboard. It wasn’t until I backed my van into a telephone pole one rainy afternoon that I knew it was time to face the painful truth: MY MOTHER LIED ABOUT THE CARROTS.

I really couldn’t blame Mom for feeding me an abundance of carrots when I was young. The myth that they help our vision dates back to WWII with the British Royal Air Force. They attributed the success of their pilots’ night vision during German reconnaissance missions to the vast consumption of carrots by their airmen. Perhaps if they had consumed mass quantities of cauliflower instead of carrots, they may have needed less fuel to get their planes off the ground.

It was my love for books — and the fact that I was struggling to read the small print — that prompted me to purchase a pair of glasses from the drugstore (it was either that or buy all my romance novels in Braille). This tactic worked for a little while until everything around me became slightly fuzzy. I had trouble reading the numbers on my cell phone, and instead of dialing my gynecologist, I called the pest control guy to complain about my irregular periods. My typing skills had also diminished considerably, and the emails I sent out were often questioned by the recipients: “When did you start calling your son Zarf?” “What do you mean you ate the dentist?” My husband had already threatened to enroll me in the Helen Keller Institute For Typing if I didn’t do something about my poor eyesight. I finally admitted that he had a point when I could no longer tell if I was petting the family cat or my uncle’s toupee. It was time to find an optometrist.

After having my eyes dilated by the doctor, I strained to read a chart that was a mile away and filled with ridiculously small letters. By the end of my appointment, I had two sets of glasses; one for reading, and one for driving.

It wasn’t long before I was stockpiling glasses of various strengths — some for working on the computer, others to watch TV, and another pair for walking the dogs at night. But no matter how many pairs of glasses I accumulated, I lost them as quickly as I lost my socks every time I did the wash.

Fed up with wearing (and losing) my glasses, I returned to the optometrist’s office to be fitted for contacts. I learned how to insert the flimsy lenses into my eyes and returned home, optimistic that I’d solved the problem of my glasses disappearing into the same black hole that my missing socks were orbiting.

It was all fun and games until it came time to remove the lenses. The harder I tried to slide them out, the farther they slipped under the folds of my eyelids. Panic set in when both contacts disappeared into the caverns of my eye sockets. You know what true love is? A man who uses a magnifying glass and a mini flashlight to probe his wife’s eyeballs for missing lenses.

Ten minutes and two scratched corneas later, I swore off contacts and decided to live my life as a blind mole. My only comfort was in knowing that at least my eyesight was a step up from the rhinos, who are notorious for attacking trees and large rocks due to their poor vision.

Living life in a blur became too difficult ( I was tired of walking around with bruised knees from walking into furniture), and eventually I caved in by buying more glasses, along with several pairs of brightly colored contacts. I needed to be prepared in case I was forced to go on another eye expedition in search of my elusive lenses.

The way I see it, putting up with lost glasses and slippery contacts is worth it to be able to see the world clearly again. And I may add a few more carrots to my diet, just to be on the safe side.

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humor book, Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane, and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy, among others. Marcia lives in sunny south Florida with her husband, four children one feisty granddaughter and two chunky pugs.

The lovely one

Anne BardsleyI wasn’t the favorite.

My sister’s weren’t, either, nor were any of my cousins. Chrissy held that title. Of all the aunts and uncles, she was their favorite. You might have thought she was extraordinary!

I was eight when I first saw her. She was lying in her bassinette waving her hands wildly at me. She had the brightest blue eyes and a goofy smile. The adults were talking about Chrissy’s problem. I couldn’t imagine that she had problem. I thought she was perfect.

As Chrissy grew older, it was always a treat when she arrived. My mom bought her favorite soda and fancy desserts. It was always a special occasion. Her every word brought the aunts to laughter. She got extra hugs and presents from all the aunts on her birthday. Seriously, you might have thought she was a princess.

As Chrissy got older, her charm blossomed even more. She’d bring her mom flowers, and she learned to sign I Love You. At a crowded party, you’d see her signing to our aunts. They melted each time. She loved a good party. If there was music and dancing, she was the first one on the dance floor. Naturally, the aunts followed. This charming, sweet act was very difficult to follow for the rest of the cousins. We were always out-charmed.

When Chrissy visited Ireland with who else, but the aunts, she entertained an entire pub with her singing abilities. The band had just set up when Chrissy began to sing, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” They quickly grabbed their instruments and joined in. Within a few minutes, the entire pub was singing in harmony with her. They insisted on an extra verse. So maybe this night she was really spectacular.

Chrissy liked to come to the parties at my house. She called me “the party girl” and very rarely called me by name. I’ll admit that she made me feel special with that nickname.

She always wore a grin that would quickly turn into a genuine smile. An unkind thought never crossed her mind. In that way, she really was lovely.

Chrissy had Down’s Syndrome. When she was born, everyone worried about her future. There was no need to worry. She brought so much love, light, laughter and happiness into our families. She knew more about love than all of us. She expressed it in simple, but meaningful, ways. She was unselfish, pleasant, kind, humble and sincere.

She just recently passed away. She’s in Heaven with the aunts now. I have a feeling that all of Heaven thinks she’s perfectly lovely, too.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Fla., with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.

Stuck in the middle with myself

Lee GaitanI pride myself on having a wide range of female friends.

And I mean wide range rather literally as several of my girlfriends happen to be clustered at the extreme ends of the height spectrum. Over the years, I have listened sympathetically to each end gripe about the ridiculous-to-rude remarks they routinely endure, but lately it’s become almost a competition about who has it worse, the under-talls or the over-talls. I feel their pain, and if your personal altitude has exposed you to unfair ridicule and mockery, I feel your pain as well. But you all are not the only ones suffering injustice on the vertical plane.

Why leave me out? This is still America, gosh darn it, and I intend to claim my fair share of victimhood.

Now hear this: middle dwellers suffer, too. We are your mothers, your sisters and your daughters, although it’s likely you never noticed us as we blend into the crowd without distinction. We of nondescript height are neither charmingly petite nor alluringly statuesque. We are stuck in the middle, part of the pack, just one of the herd. If height were hair color, we’d be dishwater blond. If height were grades, we’d be a “C” average. We are neither rare, nor well-done; we are plainly and unremarkably medium. Medium, a breath away from mediocre.

We are the usual; you are the unusual. We are the typical; you are the atypical. We are the expected; you are the exceptional. Let’s face it, we average-heighters put the ordinary in extraordinary. Even the Bible eschews those of us who occupy the middle ground. It says we, the lukewarm, being neither hot nor cold, will be spit out of God’s mouth. Spit out of the mouth of the Almighty (who presumably made us this way in the first place!). That’s a bit more severe than having to suffer foolish comments like “How’s the weather up there?” or “You don’t have far to go when you fall down.”

You, both the height-gifted and the height-challenged, command attention wherever you go. Heads turn and tongues wag when you walk in a room because you are, folks say,“something to see.” The most people say about us middle-of-the-roaders, if they say anything at all, is that we are nothing to write home about. So, tall ones and small ones, be grateful for your major or minor stature. It accords you recognition we fair-to-middling types will never attain. Tiptoes can never lift me high enough nor slouching push me low enough to be of note, a status you achieve just by being who you are. And who better to be other than yourself?

Come to think of it, who better for any of us — high, low or somewhere in between — to be other than ourselves? I hereby declare the height-whining competition null and void. (But, I still think I should have won!)

— Lee Gaitan

Lee Gaitan is the author of two books, Falling Flesh Just Ahead and My Pineapples Went to Houston — Finding the Humor in My Dashed Hopes, Broken Dreams and Plans Gone Outrageously Awry. She also has written a chapter in the bestselling book, The Divinity of Dogs. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Better After 50, Mothers Always Write, Midlife Boulevard, Fab Over Fifty and The Good Men Project.  She lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and dog and blogs at Don’t Just Bounce, Bounce Back. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Reflections of Erma