Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: Making Deadlines By The Skin of my Teeth


Welcome to the October edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the other talented writers.

This month's question is "When do you know your story is ready?

Standard stories have a beginning, middle and an end. That's why I enjoy writing poetry, because often times you can make up the rules as you go along, or at least that's what I tell myself.

In writing stories for a local news website, I know my story is ready when I've told the most important details of the event or evoked emotion in a human interest story - all in about 1,000 words or less.

Once I've submitted a story to the editor after proofreading it several times, a calming affect sweeps over me. All right, sometimes I feel more like a college student cramming to complete a final paper on the night before graduation.

After I completed my latest story, I decided to drive over to my mom's for a relaxing visit.

Mom: Let me see your teeth.

Horrible Daughter: Why do I have food stuck in them?

Mom: Just smile for me.

(Horrible Daughter obliges.)

Mom: Well, they could be whiter. You could still smile, but they should be whiter.

Then it hit me. I was one day off in my story. I thought the event was October 10th, but it was really October 9th.

I texted my editor at once, and fortunately the story had not been published yet. I raced home and made the correction. Talk about making a deadline by the skin of my teeth.

Now, I'm off to a dentist to correct my other problem, but I know something else will come up, and I'll never ever really be ready.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: Should Women Shy Away From Self-Deprecating Humor?


It's time for another edition of  the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the other talented writers.

The other day I ran into an old classmate that I hadn't seen in years. We went all through school together, and though his hair had turned salt and pepper, I immediately recognized him. He reminded me that we were Facebook friends, and offered up suggestions for my blog.

Though he thought it had "potential," he felt I needed to "ease up" on my self-deprecating humor. 

 "Men like confident women," he said. "We don't want to hear about your flaws. It doesn't reflect well on you or your family. Take pride in your accomplishments, and stop going for the cheap laughs." 

Then he smiled when he asked, "I'm glad your mom still has a great sense of humor. Does she still wear those tight leather pants?" 

For once I was tongue-tied. Though part of me was flattered he actually read my blog,  I was shocked he had found it offensive, and creeped out that he still had a thing for my mom. It was high time I put him in his place.

"Many female comedy legends are known for their self-deprecating humor. Look at Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Even Lucille Ball was at her best when she was stomping on grapes, or shoving chocolates down her uniform at the chocolate factory. Comedy isn't always sexy, yet many of these women are very attractive. I know I'll never be in their league, but you know what I mean."

He stared at me for a minute before asking, "Remember you mom's leopard couch? They sure don't make couches like that anymore. Didn't she have a matching robe too?"

I almost dropped my vanilla chai latte. "I don't remember inviting you over. When were you ever in our house?"

"Your brother asked Donny and me to come over after baseball practice one day."

Donny? Then it all came back to me. He and Donny were in a group of boys who traumatized me in grammar school. When he wasn't calling me names, he was busy shoving me on the playground. He was the ringleader in a group of kids who picked on everything from my buck teeth to my clown shoes. 

Funny how someone who spent years deflating my ego found my self-deprecating humor unbecoming. 

*Note: This is a repost from November 4, 2014.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sharp Wit Cuts Deep


Welcome to another edition of Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex, and all of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend support. Below is a story that hints at where my insecurities all began.

                                                           Sharp Wit Cuts Deep

I'm used to hurling insults, and clever cut-ups. Yes, I am talking about my mother again, and this cutting edge story is not for the squeamish. It all began in July when my mom announced once again that I'm a "horrible daughter." I'm hoping that this story will unite other horrible daughters, but realize that this is wishful thinking, as no one has committed a more heinous act than I.

My mom and I used to have weekly outings to the beauty shop. When I began working last year, her caregiver started accompanying her for long, leisurely afternoons of billowing blow driers and near death by hairspray asphyxiation.

Now my mom doesn't have to travel farther than the second floor of her building for weekly comb-outs and blow- drys. Remarkably, during her five month stay only one stylist has quit.

Mom: She doesn't know from teasing.

Horrible Daughter: No one likes to be teased, especially about their work.

Mom: I'm talking about teasing hair. You know with a comb. Will you please try to keep up!

Her beautician for over 20 years is an expert at teasing and roughing, so she set the bar very high. The second floor stylist hasn't quite earned her trust yet, so my mom has decided to take matters into her own hands.

Mom: Bring me a pair of scissors.

Horrible Daughter: Why do you need scissors?

Mom: I don't have time for all of these questions. Dinner's in three hours. Just bring scissors, or don't bother to come.

Visions danced through my head of all the terrible things my mom could do with scissors, because she has Parkinson's Disease, and her hand shakes. She could cut her finger, or drop the scissors on the floor and step on it while she's scooting around in the wheelchair. Another scenario involved unknowingly dropping it on the bed and bleeding to death in her sleep. So I hatched a plan.

On my next visit, instead of greeting me with, "Hello my precious daughter," the first words out my mom's mouth were, "Did you bring me the scissors?"

I smiled and handed her my boys' safety scissors with curved edges from 1992. They looked brand spanking new. My mom was not happy.

The subject of scissors didn't come up again until about a month later when she asked me to get something out of her nightstand drawer. I discovered a larger pair of contraband scissors with squared off edges for cutting bandages.

Horrible Daughter: Where did you get these?

Mom: The nurse gave them to me.

Horrible Daughter: No she didn't. You stole them.

Mom: I did not steal them. She left them in my room.

Fortunately, there was no sign of a shiv under her bed.

Recently, my mom brought up the scissors again when she decided that the stylist couldn't be trusted, and she was going to give herself a haircut.

It was a beautiful Saturday, so my husband and I took my mom for a long walk to a shopping center about a mile away. She loves to shop, and even found a cute top with a gift card from her grandsons. After dinner, we walked back to her room.  Then she said, "Did you bring me the scissors?" When I replied, "No," she didn't take it well.

Mom: It's the only thing I asked you to do.

Horrible Daughter: You can't give yourself a haircut. You could poke your eye out.

Mom: I'll be fine. I never complain about anything. It's the one thing that would make me happy...

I started to gather her clothes from the hamper to take home to wash.

Mom: Don't wash my clothes. Don't ever do anything for me again.

She said goodbye to my husband, and not one word to me.

A few days later our cousins went to visit my mom, and they offered to bring her anything she wanted. They suggested bringing cookies, candy, anything at all. My mom didn't want to be a bother, but she thought she was low on Kleenex, as she was down to four boxes. Hence, they brought her some emergency Kleenex.

Then I asked why she didn't tell them she needed scissors, and she replied, "You know I should have. I forgot all about it."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Write Fit


It's time for another edition of Alex J. Cavanaugh's  Insecure Writer's Support Group. I was hoping to come up with something new and exciting for this month, but instead I decided on something that's worn out and comfortable. Be sure to visit the talented IWSG bloggers who are always available to lend a helping hand, but if you decide to stick around anyway, here's a little ditty from 2013:

                                                           The Write Fit    

Between working long hours, taking care of the home, and raising a family, many writers struggle to find time to write. There are so many obstacles that get in the way. As an empty nester, I should have less distractions than most people, though that's not always the case.

With our boys home for winter break, I was busy sorting out everyone's laundry. The other day when I was carrying their clothes from the laundry room up to their closets, I also put my husband's freshly washed jeans away. I specifically put them off to the side, so he could methodically arrange them in his closet.

The following night he told me that he couldn't find them. We were on our way to dinner, so I said that I'd help him look for them when we got home. Later I began searching for his pants. I checked all of the boys closets, as well as the laundry room. Still frustrated, I  plowed through the bag that was put aside for the cleaners. A task that should've only taken a few minutes, was escalating into a major excavation. I couldn't stop now, and my husband was so torn up about it that he passed out on the couch.

The next step was to search the boys' hampers. Maybe someone threw them in there by mistake. Even though I had just done laundry a few days ago, they both were completely full. I sifted through socks that may have been remnants from the twentieth century, and I still had no luck.

I finally had no choice but to go back into my husband's closet. Of course I found them immediately. By this time it was almost 2 a.m., and my husband woke up when our older son came home. Expecting gratitude, my husband had a different reaction after seeing his long lost jeans, "Oh those aren't the jeans I was talking about. They're only a size thirty four. They won't fit."

I saw him wearing the jeans just a few days earlier. I washed the jeans, and even put them away, but somehow someone else had snuck into his closet to trade his jeans for an identical smaller pair. I calmly told Cinderfella to try on his jeans, while I called in our son as a witness.   

 As the suspense was building, I explained how denim stretches to conform to your body. I also mentioned that you can't only go by waist size, because cut is an important factor. He had a huge smile on his face, as he buttoned his jeans. "I really do fit into a size thirty four." 

Then I pointed out how most of him fit into his jeans. My son laughed, and quickly closed the door in his room, so I wouldn't keep him up any longer. Though I knew that they were the right size, I was not thrilled to have wasted hours of valuable writing time. After this incident, they'll probably send me away to a quiet little place where I'll have nothing but time to write.

Postscript: At present day, my husband now fits into our son's size 33 hand-me-down jeans. Though he's about four inches shorter than our son, they're a perfect fit. He does some of his best shopping in our boys' closets, but they're not conveniently located across the hall from us anymore.    

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters



Welcome to the May edition of Alex J. Cavanaugh's  Insecure Writer's Support Group. As Mother's Day approaches, I thought I'd re-post a vintage game show parody that many of us can relate to. Be sure to visit Alex and his talented team of writers. Happy Mother's Day!

                                        Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters

Host: It's time to play Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters, the only game show where mothers and daughters try to get along to win prizes that the mothers will never be able to operate in the first place. Let's meet the contestants...(He notices that one mother is still trying to climb up into her chair)  Do you need some help Dorothy?

Dorothy: No, I'm fine thank you.

Dorothy's daughter: Just grab my hand, and let me give you a boost.

Dorothy: I said I don't need any help. STOP RUSHING ME!

Host: Okay, let's move on to Gladys and her daughter Gretchen. How many times do you call your mother a day?

Gretchen: Once. 

Host: And you Felicia?

Felicia: I call my mother once a week.

(A loud siren sounds)

Host: Where's Dorothy?

Dorothy's daughter:  She fell down and her Life Alert alarm went off.   

 (The paramedics lift Dorothy into her seat)

Dorothy's daughter: I call my mother six times a day. She hangs up on me, and says, "It's never enough."

(The bell sounds ding ding ding)

Host: You are correct. The answer is, "Never enough." You just won a case of prune juice. You must be very proud of your daughter Dorothy!

Dorothy: Did you see how nice those paramedics were? Why couldn't you have married someone like that?  

Host: All right then. Now we'll ask the mothers a question. Gladys when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Gladys: Don't we get a lunch break?

Host: It's only been five minutes. We'll have snacks after the show.

Gladys: But this is when I eat lunch.

Gretchen: Here Mom, I brought you a sandwich. (takes one out of her purse)

Gladys: It's on rye bread. I like a nice roll. I can't eat this. What's wrong with you?

Fanny: I'll take it. I'm starving. (Looks at her own daughter Felicia) Why don't you ever make me lunch?

Host: Fanny, when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Fanny: That's easy. As we were driving over, I told my daughter that her dress was very pretty...

Host: Well, that is nice.

Fanny: And I'm sure that if she lost ten pounds it would actually fit her.

Host: Maybe we should just throw out that question. Dorothy, when was the last time your daughter took you to the doctor?

Dorothy: You know falling down really makes a person thirsty. How come no one offered me a drink or a sandwich?

Host: If you answer the question, I'll get you both.

Dorothy: Okay, yes please.

Host: Yes please what?

Dorothy: I would like both a drink and a sandwich. Soup would be nice too, but I don't want to be a bother.

(Gladys is dashing across the stage with her walker. Her daughter is jogging behind her)

Host: Where are you going?

Gladys: I just remembered I think I forgot to turn off the stove.

Host: Can you have someone else check on it?

Gretchen: It's my stove, and I just got a text that the fire department is heading over to my house.

Gladys: Are we stopping for lunch first, 'cause I still haven't eaten?

Host: Good luck ladies. Be sure to tell us your new address, so we can send you a lifetime supply of incontinence products.

Dorothy: Continents? I can name the continents! There's Asia, Africa.....

Host: Well, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for playing Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters. (The daughters storm off stage) Aren't you forgetting something? Don't leave me alone with your mothers. Come back!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mom's Closet Encounter


Welcome to the April edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group . Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh, and the rest of the extremely talented writers who may have an insecurity or two.

                                                          Mom's Closet Encounter

In February my mom went from the hospital to rehab and back again. Fortunately, her new home is conveniently located across the parking lot from the hospital, so on a nice day she can be wheeled over for a tune-up. Through it all, my mom hasn't lost her sense of humor, or her ability to unleash my insecurities.

Here is a brief sampling of her latest adventures:

Last week my brother suggested that we arrange for a prepaid funeral for our mom in order to lock in today's rates. A women from the funeral home agreed to meet us over at the healthcare residence. My plan was that I would keep her busy in the room, while my brother and my husband spoke with the woman downstairs.

Once we arrived, my mom said she wanted to join us. I thought this was a terrible idea, and was worried that my mom would spiral into a deep depression. At the very least, the thought of spending a lot of money on something she couldn't even enjoy would give her indigestion, but only her favorite child knew that she wouldn't mind planning her own funeral.

Her first concern was about the bugs. "I don't want a wood casket, because the bugs will get in. I'll also need a good hairdresser. I don't care that I'll have a closed casket. I'll need an experienced beautician that knows how to tease hair. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt if she could do a little something with my daughter's hair too."

A few days later she had trouble hearing me on the phone. Since she has difficulty bearing weight, my brother wanted to use a transfer belt to help get her in and out of the car on a trip to the dentist.

Mom: A transfer what?
Mumbling Daughter: Belt.
Mom: I still can't make out what you're saying.
MD: A belt. B as in boy, E as in egg, L as in your name Lois, and T as in Tom. Belt.
Mom: A brft? What's a brft?
MD:  Are you playing an April Fools joke on me?
Mom: No.
MD: Ok. What do you use to hold up your pants?
Mom: Suspenders.

For the last several weeks I've been bringing my mom's clothes from her apartment to her new residence, and whatever there isn't room for I've divided into bags for donating, and bags to store at my house which now looks like Disneyland for hoarders. My mom had every closet in her apartment filled with clothes, and she generously allotted her live-in caregiver ample space to store all of her belongings on top of the refrigerator.

In addition, she had a storage locker filled with clothing that she had no intention of parting with. My mom has collected more than 37 vests throughout the years, and when I asked her which ones she'd like to keep, she replied, "All of them."

Last night my mom sounded upset when she called, so I asked her what was wrong. She told me that someone had broken into her closet. Though she has a very stylish wardrobe, I couldn't believe that anyone  would actually empty out her closet. She said, "Oh no, my closet is still completely full. I just don't recognize any of the clothes in it."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How I Almost Flashed The Fire Department


I originally wrote this story almost five years ago when one son was still in college and the other was in law school. Though they've grown into confident young men, I'm still as insecure as I've always been which brings us to Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit this talented group of welcoming writers.

    How I Almost Flashed The Fire Department

As I eagerly awaited my boys arrival for summer break, I did a quick sweep of their bedrooms, and went to check on the condition of their bathroom. It desperately needed a mini makeover. A couple of fresh coats of paint, and a power wash for the tile, and the bathroom would be ready just in time for them to turn it into a frat house. 

The next day the painter arrived on time, and everything was going smoothly. The walls required sand blasting, because they needed to smooth down the stenciled cowboy designs I had painted in 1994. Hey, I didn't want their delicate noses to inhale dangerous paint fumes, and I also didn't want them to develop a taste for beer, before they were even double digits. Now was the perfect time for a change; while still keeping  their allergies at bay. All was calm, until the smoke alarm sounded off.  

After I turned the alarm off, I called the alarm company to tell them that the sand blasting must have tripped it. They told me that the firefighters were already on their way. Before I hung up, two fire trucks were in front of my house. I nervously apologized, and they were very gracious and understanding.

Two days later, our handyman was scheduled to clean, re-grout, and seal their  bathroom tile. He came a half hour early, before I had taken my shower.  While he was working in one bathroom, I was showering in the other.  As I was drying off, I heard faint beeping sounds. I quickly put on a faded pink towel robe that was fastened by an unreliable Velcro panel, and opened up my bedroom door. Now the noise was growing louder, and I ran into the hallway to turn off the alarm. Then I frantically flew down the stairs to get the phone number of the alarm company. I was so relieved to have reached them in time. Now I needed to head back upstairs to get dressed.  

After I put one sock on, the siren sounded off again. I quickly fled down the stairs, to look up the access code. Then I remembered that the handyman's assistant was working nearby in the first floor bathroom. He pretended not to see me, but I know he also caught  a glimpse of my towel robe, gently brushing up against my single tube sock. Meanwhile, the head handyman was trying to clean all of the dust out of the smoke detector, as I was coming up the stairs. Once it was put back together, my Groundhog Morning started up again. 

Before the fire department graced our doorstep again, I held on tightly to my repulsive robe, and pleaded with one of the handymen to  go outside and apologize for wasting their valuable time. Then I finally convinced the alarm service to temporarily disarm the system. They told me that this whole incident could have been prevented, if the painter had covered the smoke detector with a plastic bag. I'm sure this ordeal made both handymen welcome their wives with a passionate embrace.

That evening my oldest son came home from school, and actually noticed that his bathroom had been painted. He liked the bold color of the accent wall that will serve as a constant reminder. It's just a shade deeper; a spicier version of fire truck red.