One. Funny. Broad.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” - Ernest Hemingway
I had a wonderful Easter weekend - I spent time with family, laughed, ate great food and felt a tremendous amount of gratitude for what and who I have in my life.
But there was one really, really ugly part of my weekend that I’ve decided to write about because I think it’s a very important and misunderstood problem.
I went to the grocery store Saturday, which was also the day before Easter. I’ve always said “the holier the holiday, the more hateful the shopper,” and it didn’t fail me Saturday.
It was busier than a thousand one-armed paper hangers in there, and most of the paper hangers were in bad moods. Shopping for a beautiful holiday feast to share with your friends and family apparently makes a lot of people rude and seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.
It’s not uncommon to find someone taking up three-quarters of an aisle gazing upon cherry pie filling like the right choice could bring on world peace, then passive-aggressively ram you with their cart when you attempt to pass. That, I can handle. I just pretend that every one of those fun vacuums had a house land on their sister and I’m good.
During shopping days like these, especially, I am my nicest to the cashiers because I know they get unending verbal shopping carts rammed into them for an entire shift.
When I asked the young girl who checked me out how her day was going, she told me a story about what had happened in her checkout line a few minutes before I came through. And it made me sick.
The cashier told me she was checking out a young mother who was using food stamps to pay for her groceries. The mother had asked her what candy she had gotten for her daughter’s Easter basket would be covered by food stamps.
They were trying to figure it out when a woman next in line believed it was time to put this drain on society in her place, saying loudly, “I think food stamps should only be used for children, and their parents should starve to death for their bad choices.”
The woman, the cashier said, left the store without her groceries and in tears. What the woman next in line didn’t know was that the young mother she humiliated was a single mother because her husband had died.
It would seem the woman without food stamps believed she had the right to judge, be cruel and even wish death on a person she knew nothing about except she was using food stamps; and the person she humiliated didn’t even have the right to live.
On a weekend when we should be reminded of forgiveness, love, a lack of judgement; cruelty is what this woman brought to the table.
I’m not telling this story to preach to a choir. Most of you, I believe, have compassion. But I’ve seen posts on Facebook and heard people say basically the same thing to no one in particular in coffee shops more times that I can stomach.
To the people who toss around the blanket statement that most on welfare are frauds and draining the system, this is for you.
First I’ll say that certainly there is abuse in the welfare system. There are abuses in all systems and programs - churches, taxes, stock market, budgets - you name it and somebody’s found a way to exploit it.
And if you say you’ve never ‘fudged’ on your taxes, I’d say most of you are lying, and have also committed fraud. If you really think about it, tax fraud is most often committed by those who have the most to lose which makes the wealthiest the biggest drain on our national budget – not hungry families.
In these cases, beat the Christmas rush and judge yourself.
But this I believe: a very small number of the people on food stamps actually enjoy it or exploit it. Who in their right mind would enjoy the self-righteous stares and comments, not to mention the soul-crushing inability to provide for their family’s basic needs?
So next time you see somebody using food stamps or Medicaide, I hope you take time to thank God for all you have, and that you aren’t a person who is worried about where your child’s next meal will come from.
A little more
It’s been two years since I’ve been to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. But that’s where I am today, excited to meet smart and funny women from across the United States and examine what makes people laugh and how to get better at it.
When I went for the first time in 2012, it was a dream come true. Erma Bombeck is, in fact, my favorite writer and I began reading her work when I was around nine years old. At about the same time, Saturday Night Live began airing on TV and since I had the coolest mom on the block, Gilda Radner became yet another comedic hero and influence in my life. So when I heard that Alan Zweibel (an original Saturday Night Live writer, and more specifically, Gilda Radner’s writer) was going to be the keynote speaker on the opening night of the workshop, there was no longer a question of if I was going. I was.
That year, I travelled alone to the workshop and knew I wouldn’t know a single soul there, which I kind of liked. The first afternoon in Dayton, I was walking around the hotel and noticed a man in the lobby with a Mac laptop I would have killed for. As I walked past him I said, “nice laptop,” which if you are a writer is never a pickup line. The man said back to me, “I’d love it if somebody would help me learn to use it.”
I obliged because he seemed like a nice guy and we were in public. Little did I know that man was Alan Zweibel, the reason I had travelled to Dayton, Ohio. I visited with him for over an hour that afternoon, and heard him give one of the funniest and most inspiring keynote speeches I’ve ever heard at a conference, and I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my life. He gave me his information and told me to let him know if he could help with anything – and I believe he was sincere. I haven’t called him – yet – because I really want it to count when I do.
I have a huge fear of public speaking, but suspiciously little fear when it comes to meeting people one-on-one, which plays in my favor in these particular situations.
As a result, I met women at the conference whom I believe will be lifelong friends. There’s Judith from Washington, D.C., a retired IRS attorney and accomplished writer; Kate from Ohio who is a travel writer and recently opened a travel agency; and Dr. Gina Barreca (another keynote speaker), who is a professor of English Literature and Feminine Studies at University of Connecticut, columnist, and published author. Judith and Kate aren’t in Dayton this year – Judith got a month-long writing fellowship and Kate is busy with her new venture. Gina will be back, in charge of a session and moderating a round table.
Also, I’ll finally get to meet the creators and publishers of the Not Your Mother’s Book anthology, who published two of my pieces last year in the Being a Parent and Home Improvement books.
The best thing about this particular conference is the air that every single person there wants every other single person there to succeed. In other words, somebody else’s success doesn’t take away from anyone else’s. This year, my great friend and fellow blogger, Sherree’ Rogers, is traveling with me, and I think she’s a bit nervous.
It is daunting to walk into a room of 400 very, very funny women as a humor writer and not think, “I’m an imposter. I shouldn’t be here. I am so not in their league.” But I’m not. I should. And, finally, I am. And the same is true for Sherree’.
With a lot of luck I’ll leave the workshop with an agent and a book deal. Even without it, I will come home with more knowledge, friends and four straight days of laughing so hard, I should probably pack some adult diapers.
I’m getting ready to leave Texas to go to the glamorous and sunny Dayton, Ohio, where some of the funniest women (and men) in the nation will be gathering for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop this weekend.
I’ve been planning, packing and making lists for a week to prepare for the many times I expect to feel pee running down my leg as I struggle to catch my breath. The last time I was at the workshop, I laughed that hard way too many times to count. And now that I think about it, I should probably get that checked by a doctor.
The keynote speaker on the opening night will be Phil Donahue, of Phil Donahue talk show fame. If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “Why on earth would Phil Donahue be the keynote speaker at an Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop?” And it would be a great question. Turns out, in the 1960’s Phil Donahue and Erma Bombeck lived on the same block in Ohio and remained friends through the years. Which is very cool, because I grew up reading Erma and watching Phil. Phil Donahue is as iconic as Erma Bombeck.
Erma Bombeck has been my hero since I was nine years old. My mother began buying me her books that year, and I read them as fast as I could. Even at that age, I connected with her humor and her honesty – it felt like home. When the Wichita Falls Times Record News began carrying her syndicated column, reading Erma was the first thing I did every Sunday morning until she died in 1996.
The best thing about Erma’s writing is that it was real. Never snarky, never pretentious, never glossy – just very real and very funny. In those days, and even now in the era of perfect Facebook families, parents wanted to appear on the outside spit-shined and on the cutting edge. Erma Bombeck very bravely told it like it was, right down to the boogers, failed science projects and falling asleep on sexy date night. And even better, you cannot read her stuff without laughing. I’ve tried it – you really cannot.
She admitted – to the world – she wasn’t perfect and probably had millions of women breathing a collective sigh of relief because they weren’t the only ones failing miserably at impossibly high standards of parenting and wifely duties. And women need to hear that today.
Because of this, her work is timeless. And because of this, there will never need to be another Erma Bombeck because she did it right the first time.
This is where my Dad comes in. My dad was a weekly newspaperman, and one of the best journalists I will ever know. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism when he was only 27 years old. I got my love for writing from Daddy, and my funny from my Mom. I also have a spectacular vocabulary and excellent language usage skills, because Dad was known as the “grammar nazi” at the dinner table.
He was also a very busy and driven man with strong opinions and a knack for honesty that was both charming and terrifying. And while he was a very good man, he definitely wasn’t the personification of Beaver Cleaver’s dad – he wasn’t really great at the affection thing.
I always knew my dad loved me, but I hit a point in junior high on up when I wasn’t sure he noticed me.
During my sophomore year in high school, it crossed my mind that I was very overweight so I began an epic adventure in weight loss. One night I returned home from a date at 11:55 on the dot, a weekend curfew which was one of my mother’s many experimentations in creative parenting in the early 80’s. My dad was still awake, which was weird, so I used a compact mirror to check for hickies.
Dad had been watching Phil Donahue do a talk show about Anorexia Nervosa. He stopped me as I passed behind his recliner and said, “Sit down, Tiger, I want to talk to you.” I really, really thought I had been busted for every infraction I had committed earlier that night.
I looked at him in that “I’m nervous and possibly a little drunk, but really trying to act nonchalant” way, and he simply said this: “You’ve lost enough weight. Too much. Please stop.”
I said I would, and he told me he loved me. In those days, the words weren’t said that often.
It might have been the most awkward bonding moment in the history of fathers and daughters, but it was ours and it made a difference.
I weighed 89 pounds. I exercised all the time, and ate as little as possible. And I remember looking at myself sideways in the mirror and thinking I needed to lose a couple more inches in the gut. But I stopped losing weight, and weighed 110 by the time I graduated high school.
To this day, I believe getting over that is the very reason I am in no danger of being diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, so my husband probably should forgive me for my messy ways.
At almost 50, and many (many, many, many) more pounds showing on the scale, I can say that I have beat the living hell out of anorexia.
So thank you for that, Phil Donahue. Because of your show, I have a very fine memory with my Dad and my legs no longer look like commas.
And thank you Erma Bombeck, for giving hundreds of women encouragement and something to shoot for this weekend.
And finally, thanks to my Dad for giving me the tools to communicate my particular brand of funny.
I saw the most amazing thing earlier this week and at this stage in my life, I usually call that reportable news.
Out of nowhere on the mean, mean streets of Iowa Park, I saw a dog prance by with a freshly-killed chicken in it’s mouth.
I always kind of hate it when people use the term surreal because it’s really, really overused, but that’s what this was - surreal.
It was surreal because this dog just seriously pranced by me going down the street, oblivious to every single thing around it, carrying a freshly-killed poultry corpse in his mouth, then turned the corner and continued on his merry way. What struck me about this (besides the fact that a dog was walking through downtown Iowa Park with livestock in it’s mouth) was that where the hell else could you ever see something like this?
I was in New Orleans last week and as wacky-weird as the French Quarter is, it would’ve surprised me to see something like that. Ditto for Boston and pretty much every other place I’ve been in the world, with the exception of maybe Juarez.
It was like being smack-dab in the middle of Green Acres, except the lovable pet livestock gets killed off early and replaced by a dog.
I don’t know what happened to the little guy, but I like to think he went to where his wife and puppies are and laid down dinner like the champ he was.
p.s. I didn't have a camera with me when this happened, so I rushed back to my office and drew a picture on the page of a steno pad for posterity. I may hang this on my frig. And you can, too.
It’s Springtime, and that means the bears are coming out of hibernation.
Before you think you’re about to read a column about science and nature, you aren’t. Because by bears I mean legs, and by hibernation I mean sweatpants.
In other words, it’s time for the ladies to shave. If you prefer to wax the hair off, it’s all your business. My own personal experience tells me there’s not a pain that quite matches that of hot waxing hair off your legs and armpits. In fact, the very last time I got my armpits waxed, it took a thin layer of skin off on both sides and I walked around like I had a wingspan for a week.
I don’t even wax my car anymore because of that.
Either way, the least motivated of the women among you are just now going to harvest the winter coat they’ve spent the past few months cultivating ... on their legs. The very act of the first Spring shave is a gift to all mankind, and especially to my husband.
I’ve only known three women in my life who shaved their legs every single day, and for the record I’m not one of them. But I hold each of those ladies in high regard for their discipline alone. This column is not for them, but for the rest of us.
In researching the best blade for my winter coat, I’ve put together a Timely Guide to Lady Shavers, which are just the same as Manly Shavers – only with sexier names, and they’re prettier with aerodynamic handles to keep us from creating bloody skid marks on our knees and ankle bones.
Male readers can thank me with cash and prizes for this reminder to the ladies in their lives.
I don’t recommend using a disposable razor to mow down winter leg hair growth because it’s about as effective as using a lawn mower with baseball bat blades to cut your lawn. Because they only cut about every fourth hair, they aren’t a good pick for the first shave of Spring unless you’re being really passive-aggressive with the man in your life.
Most companies market their razors for women in pink or lavender, which is just sexist. I want red packaging, a power color that will sufficiently pump me up for the task I’m facing. Pink ain’t gonna do it, I’m afraid, but I’m out of luck. The lady shaver aisle at the store looks like it was designed by a spa consultant.
Next is the amount of firepower included, which equals the number of blades. I found the Quatro, which with four blades proves that sometimes it does take a village. It’s what I use in early Spring.
Then there’s the Hydro Silk and Venus Spa Breeze that moisturize the skin as it’s cutting away the hair. Totally admirable, but I prefer they concentrate all their knowledge on cutting power and let me pick my moisturizer instead of giving me a thin strip of something that wouldn’t slather up a lady bug.
There’s also Intuition Plus, Venus Embrace and the Extreme Husband Doing the Dishes, which are names that play on a woman’s emotions, and are rotten, dirty tricks that work.
My personal favorite, based on name alone, is the Schick Extreme 3 Sensitive Peaux Sensibles. I have no idea what the name means, but it’s so sexy I have an urge to buy three so my legs and armpits will be sensitive and sensible and maybe start shaving themselves.
And lastly, I have a consumer alert vaguely related to the topic at hand: I use Dove antiperspirant for women that says on the cap (and I’m quoting) Go shaveless in 5 days!. The fact that I’ve been using it for three years – and still have to shave my armpits – is the best advertising I can give it.
I took it as no coincidence that I received the annual Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalog around the time I began whining about turning 49.
Flipping through it, I was reminded that I’m not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. And by Kansas I mean a two-piece, and by Dorothy I mean myself.
It’s further proof that God has both a sense of humor and a passive-aggressive way of telling me to get in shape.
So, I got me a Hip Hop Abs video series last week, hoping to get abs that are, at the very least, “hop”.
There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute to dismantle the layer of fat I’ve spent 10 years collecting, but I look ridiculously hip doing it.
So hip, in fact, that my sweet husband has no idea I have the video because I refuse to exercise like that in front of anyone, including the one who has seen me in action while I spastically tried to get away from a wasp. Same difference, actually.
The whole point of the videos, I now believe after doing one 30 minute session, is to make people move in a way that would displease their grandmother or get them thrown into Turkish prison. Either way, you look like you're humping an invisible dog most of the time.
But because I want abs that look more hip hop than hokey pokey, I waited until the Bobby had left for work on Friday and I had the house all to myself. Well, all to myself plus two dogs.
I knew from a while back while I was doing yoga, that they would try to save me from exercise by licking me awake. But I figured all of my amazing hip hop moves would scare them and they would end up on the bed and under the coffee table, which are their current coping mechanisms.
They didn’t do that. They were pretty sure I was having a seizure and they were having none of it. One dog ran around me, very nervous about the situation, and the other tried to restrain me. I think they wanted in on the humping the invisible dog thing.
What the hell, man?!?
I finally stopped 20 minutes into it – covered in sweat and dog slobber – and gave them a biscuit and me a pint of ice cream.
After I came down from my Hip Hop Abs high, I realized I don’t need a bikini, I need a dog training bite suit. It covers more and cost less, and it’s very forgiving of the Ben & Jerry’s.
When you turn 49 years young, a lot of really weird stuff happens.
The first thing that happens is people start to actually say you are “49 years young,” which really means you have reached an age that doesn’t include shopping sprees at Victoria’s Secret.
The next thing that happens is people start delivering things to your office that only exist in horrible old movies and your nightmares.
Well, guess what? I’m 49 years young and I’m now sharing my office space with life-size full-color cutout of a flying monkey, compliments of two friends who seem to have forgotten they will have another birthday.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but “The Wizard of Oz”, in my humble, yellow-bellied opinion, is the worst movie of all time, due in part to flying monkeys.
The only thing more horrifying than receiving a flying monkey for your 49th birthday is having pictures taken of your reaction.
And pictures were taken because my two former friends and flying monkey delivery masterminds, Sherree’ and Julia, requested them since they couldn’t be there to watch me wet my pants when I saw him.
I’m going to keep this post short – mostly because my hands are still shaking – and share a couple of pictures.
When I first saw the little guy:
Two words: jazz hands. And not the excited ones.
My second look at the little guy:
Shoving curse words back in my mouth.
And the obligatory “thank you” shot:
Thank you. I’m going to dress him in Victoria’s Secret.
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It’s been an interesting week, y’all, underscored by attending and covering a Greg Abbott/Ted Nugent gubernatorial campaign stop at the 8th Street Coffee House in Wichita Falls.
My sister, Kim, and her daughter, Jeni, own what I like to call “the best coffee shop on the planet,” so when Greg Abbott’s people asked to use their business for the stop, I thought it was terrific. And I would feel the same if Wendy Davis’ camp had wanted to stump there.
To have a candidate for Texas Governor come to your small, growing business is a big deal and I’m proud they got that opportunity.
At close to the last minute, it was announced that Ted Nugent would be hitting the trail with Abbott, and my first thought was “Cat Scratch Fever.” I can’t help it if I’m a child from the 70’s.
I actually – due to that one iconic thing – wanted to have my picture made with a man who wears a soul patch and a camo hat and Crocs.
Photo by Abbie Scott, Tightshot Photography
I purposely didn’t look up anything on Nugent prior to going, because I wanted to have an open mind on him and Abbott.
Since I am positive you aren’t interested in my stand on political issues, I’m going to give you short version of how it went.
Ted Nugent had the same effect on me that a man wearing an evil clown mask has on a two-year-old. There was a lot of yelling (some people would call that passion), blanket statements (some would call that efficiently covering political ground), and what I would call self-agrandizement.
It left me feeling like I was having something shoved down my throat by force, while wondering what thought process the Abbott team used when they asked Nugent to join them.
Speaking privately with Nugent later did nothing to change my mind.
On the other hand, I found Abbott to be a genuinely nice man, and not in that politician-like way. Being in a newspaper family, I’ve met more than my fair share of politicians, and found many of them to have a very low sincerity level.
I liken Abbott speaking following Nugent to what it feels like to be bombed, then watch with relief as the Red Cross approaches.
With that said, I am still undecided who I will vote for in the race and have lots of studying to do. And close to no one will know who I decide is best.
The biggest lesson in all of this is to have respect. And I mean respect of candidates and ideologies of other people, regardless of whether or not you agree with them. I think that is still possible even in the political climate we live in. It should be.
I chose not to have my picture made with the legend of Cat Scratch Fever. Instead I photobombed him while he was being interviewed by KAUZ-6.
I think that makes me a conscientious objector.
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I was going to write a short blog this week, asking a simple question:
Who are the top five ice skaters of all time as listed by men?
I got that far and thought, ‘Whew, I’m spent . . . my blog is finished.’
Then I decided to include my completely uninterested husband in my Olympic Fever, and this blog grew wings.
I’ve been watching the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi since the opening ceremony, when myself and hundreds of other Twitter enthusiasts dubbed Team USA’s opening outfits “suitable for an ugly Christmas sweater party.”
Bobby, who does not share my enthusiasm for Olympic sports, was in the other room watching something equally as riveting, probably Bonanza or Gunsmoke – shows I’m pretty sure he watches so he can be alone.
And it works.
Still, I felt the need to report the ugly sweater faux paux to him and was greeted with a less-than-horrified response. I blamed it on Matt Dillon-induced testosterone poisoning.
I watched the Olympics all weekend long mostly focusing on ice skating, which I have since come to realize is a sport (yes, it’s a sport) men love to hate.
In fact I would go so far as to say that men and ice skating are the oil and water of the sports world.
Bobby pretty much ignored the ice skating until he could take it no longer – with “it” being my need to keep him current on how Team USA is doing on the ice.
Our last official Olympic communication Tuesday night underscores that point.
It came when I gave the Bobby an update on Olympic pair ice skating, and got the same reaction as I would have had I lit a stink bomb in the living room.
“Why are you giving me all this useless information?” he asked, in all seriousness.
“Because I just think you should know that the U.S. is suckin’ it up in the pair figure skating short program,” I answered, with one eye on the Russian pair who, in case you care, performed flawlessly with a hint of anger.
“You shouldn’t tell me those things because I don’t care. I really don’t care.”
For the record, I believe him.
I, the meanwhile, I found this YouTube video that adds a little fun to the sport and is added proof that I will never grow up.
It should help you enjoy the Sochi Olympics, even if you're a dude.