Laugh

Laugh
Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Legacy


As far as legacies go, my tastes lie with something simple, like a check. Or stock. Or heirloom china. Unfortunately Mama wasn’t the heirloom china type. What I got when she departed for the peaceful place where mothers don’t have to cook, clean, or say, “If I told you once, I told you a million times,” was not the inheritance I assumed was my birthright. What she left me was the very thing I was the least qualified to handle. Wisdom.

Giving me a lapful of life lessons is like tossing me a copy of the Atkins diet and a size six sheath dress and telling me the party starts at seven. You may as well shove the plans for building a biplane into my arms and tell me to be in Paris by midnight. When it comes to legacies, it’s best to just go ahead and hand me a gold bar.

Now that I’m in the stage of life where good advice usually involves a recipe loaded with fiber, I realize that what Mama left me was a handbook for life. Thanks to the seeds my mom planted in the rocky garden of my mind over the years, I’ve sailed through many of the stormy seas of life without having to evacuate to life boats. Turns out Mom knew best all along. Here are Mama’s Rules to Live By—along with some of my own observations for those who, like me, have trouble following directions.

1. There is something to love in every person. However, there are some people who hide that something really well. Actually, Mama just said that first part. I learned the second part from my sister.

2. If you rip a page out of your brother’s comic book, he can rip a page out of yours. This is a mother of four’s version of The Golden Rule. I learned to treat friends, family, and their possessions with respect. And I’ll never know what happened to Archie and Jughead that day at Riverdale High.

3. Give a child two cookies; one for each hand. This is a smart idea because it keeps the child busy for twice as long, diverts him from "helping" with your biscuit dough and prevents you from having to walk every morning for a week to work off two cookies that you would have eaten to relieve stress if your child had two hands free to plunge into the dog's food.

4. Don’t honk your horn at anybody. At first I assumed this was Mama’s version of traveling etiquette, but now I realize that she understood road rage long before anyone held up traffic trying to read road signs through the wrong part of skinny designer bifocals.

5. Always have a skill you can fall back on. By this, I know now that she meant a skill that will continue to be of service to the Community of Man. Unfortunately the skill I chose was typing, which caused typewriters to immediately become extinct.

6. If you’re not tall enough to see out the car window, sit on a pillow. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Even the Marines agree with her.

7. If something particularly unpleasant is happening to you, there’s probably a lesson involved. Wade through a puddle or two on the linoleum and you’ll remember to let the new puppy out. You’ll also remember to buy a mop.

8. Don’t sell things you can give away. That might not make sense in an e-Bay world, but knowing that someone who needs it will have a warm coat for the winter goes a long way toward offsetting the thrill of bagging $1.50 for your old hula lamp in an online auction.

9. Play to win. Unless that gets in the way of playing for fun. When playing Scrabble with an elderly woman who can’t see past her elbow, give her a break if she thinks she drew five blanks. Come to think of it, that’s how Mom always won at Scrabble, so there’s probably an extra lesson tucked in there.

10. Always take time to watch the birds at the birdfeeder. Time spent with nature is a peace of mind investment. And last winter, a tiny chickadee who muscled his way through a crowd of rowdy cardinals to have lunch gave me some great ideas for handling the next family reunion. And the big project due at work.

11. Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. This was my mom’s slogan. When I was three and ran to her with a skinned knee, she said it. She was right. I broke my arm. When I was thirty-three and getting divorced, she said it again. And soon my kids became teenagers. But by then, I had it figured out. If things can get worse, the problems that seem overpowering right now aren’t the end of the world. Things can also get better. So if teaching two teenaged boys to drive and adding them to my insurance is the worst life has to offer, I can handle it.

But I sure wouldn’t turn down a check.

 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Siisterhood of the Stretchy Pants


After almost half a century, I’ve finally figured out my identity. It came after a lot of finding out what my identity isn’t.

I’m not the customer that strolls into a highbrow boutique to have all the salespeople cluster around her cooing, “I’ve been waiting for you to come in. I have a clever little cocktail dress in a size 6 that would be just perfect for you after we take it in.”

I’m the customer who wanders into the store, fumbling through her purse for her bifocals and casting about nearsightedly for the chubbies department while Twiggy the sales girl adjusts her shoulder pads to give the illusion of a three dimensional shape and mutters through her nose, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” Meanwhile I can hitch up my stretchy pants and find the perfect dress to wear to the class play on the clearance rack.

I’m not the employee who writes a clever computer program that allows the CEO to unsend an e-mail that distributes company secrets to everyone in his address book, including the Soviet spy that highlights as a janitor.

But I am the employee that can unjam the copy machine with a raised eyebrow, a push of a button, and a hip check in less time than it takes the culprit to hijack the elevator to the third floor to jam their copy machine.

I’m not the wife who can pull together a catered luncheon for 150 when my husband offhandedly invites the rained-out IT Teambuilder Weekend group home. But I know the way to a man’s heart is paved with meatloaf and mashed potatoes and I have a secret ingredient that gets his attention faster than an advertisement for a car that runs on beer.

I’m not the health-chick who can order a three-leaf salad for lunch and be too full to pack in another bite. I’m the one who reaches for the dessert menu as soon as her stretch jeans hit the cushioned seat of the booth and orders her entrĂ©e by saying, “Whatever goes with the Death by Chocolate.”

I’m not the Mom who can whip up a fairy princess costume out of two doilies and a handful of glitter that consumes the under-five crowd with envy. But I can juggle two soccer practices and a baseball banquet on a single Saturday without losing shin guards or sanity.

I’m not the daughter who can buy her parents a mansion on fifty acres of Kentucky bluegrass or a nice retirement villa in the South of France. But I can make sure they get to every doctor’s appointment, including that awful dentist who makes dentures that stick to a candy apple like the Sword in the Stone.

I’m not the sister who picks out birthday cards with enough flowers on front to kick your hay fever into high gear and has it delivered to your office in a pot of seasonal blossoms that I’ll drop by your house to plant in the garden for you later.

The bouquet I send you will be made of assorted chocolate bars; at least one will have a bite missing and another will be an empty wrapper. But I’m the sister who goes shopping in the petite section with you even though the only thing petite about either one of us is our patience with all the clothes made for small, slender women.

So if you’re looking for the one who will stick by you through bad manicures, haircuts gone wrong, and spray-on tans that look like a summer sunset off the coast of Florida, I’m your gal. But try and pull on a pair of skinny jeans after a post-romance feeding frenzy and you’re on your own.

Or save a gallon of cookie dough ice cream for me.

Because there’s one important thing I’ve learned from stretchy pants.

They give.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Holding On to Letting Go

What do you do when your baby (Mom, I'm 27!) decides to hop a plane to a country where chocolate milk is not the drink of choice? You wring your hands and then you write about it! Join me at Sasee for a Mom's-eye view.  http://sasee.com/2018/03/01/holding-on-to-letting-go/