Listening More

By Jason Tudor

Erma Bombeck once famously said, "If I had my life to do over, I would have talked less and listened more." So, who am I to get in the way of her brilliance or my own sheer, purposeful laziness?

I've decided to shut my yap and allow friends and colleagues to dispense wisdom just eight days past Ms. Bombeck's birthday. I get out of penning an actual column. You get useful tidbits you can cut out and stick on your monitor. Win-win.

As a bonus, I've also made you meme-able graphics made up of my friends' and colleagues' wisdom. As the Internet kids say, spread them like a virus! That said, on this bonus day of 2012, let's leap and listen:

From my father, advice from his father: "Always be honest with yourself and others, no matter if it hurts. I started in high school and I still do it today. My real friends know I am a man of my word and with that comes respect from those that really know you."

From my friend John, whose news editing work is seen by about 4 million people each day. He also makes great chili. Source unknown: "There will be a last time this child will look at you as if you hung the moon or will crawl into your lap and ask you to read a story you’ve read to him 500 times. You’ll be somewhere, sometime, and realize how long it’s been since you lifted her up on your shoulders so she could get a better view, and that it will never happen again. Someday he’ll go to bed on his own and you’ll never again hear his prayers or tuck him in. No matter how routine these rituals become, make sure you savor them every time, because no one is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, 'This is the last time for this, so remember how it feels.'"

From my friend Frank, who works in politics in Alaska and taught me something about inner strength, from his grandfather: "'Find something you love to do, and then find a way to make them pay you to do it. Happiness is more important than success. To be happy, always remember why you’re doing the thing – because you love it, not because you’re getting paid for it.' It’s definitely the best advice I ever got."

From my friend Tiny, who loves a good science fiction convention as much as I do and is a former member of the British Army Parachute Regiment, from his father: "He said, 'Learn something new every day, because if you don't, you're dead!' I continue to adhere to this, and try to improve myself."

From my best friend Michael, vice president for a telecommunications company and my co-host for "The Science Fiction Show," from his mother, father and Walt Disney: "'Keep moving forward.' The diligent application of this advice will not always guarantee that every day of my life will be filled with unicorns, rainbows or butterflies, but that’s okay. I know that I will never be given more than I can handle, no matter how trying or satisfying a situation may become."

And finally, from my friend Val, a brilliant painter and a former boss, from her Mom: "She said, 'There is something beautiful about everyone.' I'm sure she told me this because I was a super geeky kid with buck teeth and thick glasses, but it is true and it has always stuck with me. It taught me early on to never judge anyone based on how they look and to appreciate the beauty in everyone."

Jason Tudor's short story, "The Lives Madga Made" will be published in the anthology "No Rest for the Wicked" in May. He's also the creator of "Tales of the Gunfighter Hollis Brown" available from iBooks and Lulu.com. He is the creator and co-host "The Science Fiction Show," a weekly podcast available on iTunes. For more, visit www.jasontudor.com.


Platform Building from Jail

by Jeanette Levellie

Dear Savvy Granny:
I am a newbie writer, trying to build my platform by joining all the social networking sites. Everyone tells me I need to get on Merry Mug Shots. They say it’ll help me gain exposure as a writer, so people will recognize my name and buy my books. Are you on Merry Mug Shots? If so, has it helped you gather a tribe?
Clueless in Seattle
Dear Clueless:
Yes, I joined Merry Mug Shots a couple of years ago. It’s a great way to keep up with family and friends who’ve never heard of letter writing, and think a phone is for typing with only their thumbs. But you must strategize to gain your bevy of buddies. Like I did.
At first, I accepted friendship requests from every Mabel, Butch, and Greta who breezed onto my profile and offered me a cyber dark chocolate. Merry Mug Shots must have known the kinds of people I liked to hang out with, because they posted suggestions of new ones to befriend, complete with a mug shot of each. How sweet of them to help me gain more friends, I thought.  I spent many merry moments on their site.
Then they put me in jail.
Yep. Seems I had knocked on the doors of too many people who reported that they didn’t know me from Eve. Merry Mug Shots sent me a not-so-merry message, forbidding me for seven days from making new pals in the MMS playground. I think it was meant to make me cry, put away my pail and shovel, and repent of my too-chummy ways.
What MMS didn’t know was that I came out of the womb with business cards in my wee hand, introducing myself to every nurse, doctor, and aide in the hospital. I planned birthday parties for all the newborns in the nursery, and volunteered to be the clown.  I came back six weeks later to teach my first How to Make Friends and Influence Parents class.
Nope. MMS jail didn’t scare me. I’d been making friends for fifty years when Merry Mug Shots was still a dollar sign in her daddy’s eye. In fact, I got more friend requests while I was in jail than I’d had the entire two years my mug shot was out in cyber land. So my advice to you is: join MMS right away, and then request friendships of every kid in the sandbox, until someone gets suspicious and they throw you in jail.
This will do more for your writing career than all the platform-building schemes out there. They don’t call me Savvy Granny for nothin’.


Back in the Nest

by Melanie Hooyenga

Melanie and her dog Owen, loving life in their one-bedroom apartment.

Dear Helpfully Opinionated One:

I recently moved into my parents’ basement after living on my own for almost twenty years. How do I make this transition without killing them... or myself?

Leery of Silly, Embarrassing Rules


You’re in luck! Two years ago today I moved in with my parents -- into their basement no less -- and during my fifteen months, two days, and five hours (but who’s counting?) I learned a few things.

Rule #1: It’s their house.That said, you’re their child. Chores are required, but raiding the fridge, using up all the hot water, and lounging in your PJs are completely acceptable. But...

Don’t forget the robe. Your years of roaming naked are over. Even if you are lucky enough to have a door on your bedroom (which I did not) getting too comfortable in your parents’ home can lead to a multitude of questions NO ONE wants to answer. Bet you never thought they’d find out about THAT tattoo, did ya?

Check your maturity at the door. Try as you might to fight it, sleeping in your childhood home brings out the worst in all of us. Your mother’s casual comment to drive carefully before heading out for the night mutates (in your head) into her breathing down your neck and what time will you be home young lady? Growling and slamming the door are not acceptable responses. Same goes for your dad. His innocent inquiry about the location of his glasses/book/man-purse can quickly escalate to sarcastic apologies for sneaking out of the house that summer before senior year. Keep your guard up.

Not under my roof! Sex: the trickiest part to bunking with the folks. My best advice is to date someone who has his own place. Any embarrassment over your parents’ knowing their little girl is sleeping at a man’s house trumps having them learn your new boyfriend’s name by hearing it through the floorboards. But if you must sneak him in, be sure to keep an eye on those condom wrappers, especially if you have a dog that likes to bring things into the backyard (not that this happened to me...).

Most importantly, remember that they really do care about you. They’ve allowed you, your stuff, and your wildly intrusive dog under their roof rent-free, knowing that it will be tough on all of you. The least you can do is bite your tongue, smile, and wait until you’re out with your friends to vent. Oh, and buy your own alcohol. You ARE an adult after all.

In the past two years, Melanie has gone from living in her parents’  62-degrees cinder block basement to preparing to buy her own home. She’s currently editing her YA novel but is considering a self-help book for her fellow 30-something divorcees. Follow her daily musings at @melaniehoo.


Tech Support

by Terri Lynn Coop

02/22/2012 transcript – for official use only 


Tech: Yes, ma’am what can I do for you today?

Caller: Hi, um, in 2008, I got your Boyfriend v1.0 package. I was really happy with it. In fact, I added the Fiance v2.0 upgrade package in 2010.

Tech: Always glad to hear from a happy customer. Is there a problem?

Caller:  Well, my Fiance v2.0 was slow and got outdated, so I added one of the suggested expansion packs, therabbitdied.exe and before I knew it, he did a self-upgrade to Husband v1.0! However . . . 

Tech:  Glad to hear the software autoloaded. Occasionally, the user has to start the upgrade with the prompt shotgun.html. But, it still sounds like there is a problem.

Caller:  You didn’t tell me that the Husband v1.0 package included the macros farting.exe, snoring.exe, and that sports.exe would be constantly running in the background! It is really interfering with the happilyeverafter.doc template I purchased as part of the wedding package.

Tech:  Yes, those bloatware programs do come standard with Husband v1.0. However, we do have a Husband v1.2 security patch download. Type in mymotheriscomingtolivehere.html and you should see an immediate improvement in behaviors. Anything else?

Caller: Yes. Fiance v2.0 had some wonderful functionalities that don’t seem to be working now that I’ve upgraded. Flowers v2.4 and SnuggleBunny v3.1 haven’t worked for months now.

Tech:  Be honest now. Did you run the recommended diagnostic lingerie.html?

Caller: Yes! And it was no help.

Tech:  Let me check your root directory on the current Husband v1.0 package. Uh oh, I see what might be part of the problem. You may have a bimbo virus. There is a file in here titled Monique.exe. It’s in the subdirectory Motives and that heading is shaded. 

Caller: I knew something was going on. Is there anything I can do to remove that file? 

Tech: There is a diagnostic that’s been known to work. Type in communityproperty.html followed by childsupportorder.html and see what happens.

Caller: OMG! It worked! And it triggered a download of Flowers v3.0. You are a genius!

Tech:  Awesome. That’s a tough one. I do recommend regular diagnostics of lingerie.html along with our bimbo sweep pack including footrub.exe, lasagna.exe, and pokernight.exe. Even though the upgraded Husband v1.2 is a more stable program, it requires maintenance. It’s all in the manual.

Caller:  The manual?  Geez . . . it looked so easy in the demo. 


Terri Lynn Coop lives in Kansas in a big spooky building with a leaky roof and two Chihuahuas to protect her from evildoers while she writes her novel. Check out her blogs www.whyifearclowns.net and www.readinrittinandrhetoric.blogspot.com for more funny.  She also hangs out on Twitter under the handle @TerriLCoop.


Advice from the Unqualified

Friends, I’m really not qualified to give advice on anything but X-Men and laundry avoidance, but here goes.

Dear Harley May,

How do I make Nathan Fillion come to his senses and love me?

Excellent question, Jen. I’ve asked myself this many times and to be completely honest, I don’t have an answer. Nathan Fillion isn’t sitting next to me on the couch as I write this, but I can share some tactics that don’t work. And these are theoretical tactics. I haven’t really tried them. Cough. First, Nathan Fillion doesn’t answer my requests for shirtless photos on twitter. It was my assumption You might assume that men liked being objectified by women, but apparently not. Second, while dressing like a Brown Coat and memorizing dialogue from Firefly and Serenity will get you applause at ComicCon, Nathan Fillion doesn’t seem that impressed when you show up at his door ready to re-enact scenes. I mean, he might be amused for a minute, but that quickly fades when he realizes I was you’re serious. One would think he’d recognize a great actress who refuses to break character even while being loaded into a squad car, but NOOOO. I haven’t had time to memorize all the Castle episodes You could try memorizing all the Castle episodes? Good luck!

Dear Harley May,

Where do Fairies come from? And why does mom call dad that?

Hi Timmy. Um, please sit down and have a cookie. As for your first question, I’m not entirely sure, but I think a lot of magic and laughter is required with a fairy birth. Happy things are involved. It’s a lot like Disney World or Universal – there’s a huge crowd, long lines, and everyone leaves over stimulated and tired. Have you been to either theme park? I’d love to take you. As far as why your mom calls your dad a fairy, um, maybe they’re playing a game? Whatever they’re doing, it isn’t your fault and they love you very much and I’d really like to take you to Universal. You’d like it there. They have rides. Do you like Harry Potter? I could buy you a wand at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We could sit in the shade and sip frozen butter beer in Hogsmeade. Doesn’t that sound nice? Would you like a juice box? I have more cookies if you’re still hungry. Do you need a hug?

Dear Harley May,

Why do you always sigh and roll your eyes when we watch Tango and Cash?
-Mr. May

Hey. Probably for the same reason you groan when I put in Pride and Prejudice. Well, not the same EXACT reason. Tango and Cash has corny dialogue, a poor plot, and the boobs we see in the first ten minutes are random and gratuitous. I don’t mind boob, but would like to be emotionally invested in the boob’s journey. If anything is gratuitous in Pride and Prejudice, it is collar bone. The sexy amount of chest hair visible through a loosened shirt top during a misty sunrise might be a touch gratuitous, BUT THERE IS NOT RANDOM CAR SEX BOOB. Let’s just watch 300 or Super 8 instead. Boom. Problem solved. Now take these cookies out of my hands.


On Being a Pro at Cons

So your boyfriend -- or, perhaps, girlfriend -- has invited you to your first science fiction convention, and you’re a little panicky. You've heard all about these sci-fi weirdo types, and you’re not sure you can hold a conversation with Coneheads. There are some strange folks out there. You should know. Apparently you're involved with one now.

But he’s different. You wouldn’t hang out with a weirdo. It’s all the other nerds you’re worried about.

I'm here to help.

On genre and costumes

You will encounter a wide range of subcultures at your typical con, both in and  of costume: Trekkers, Jedis, Transformers, barbarians, Hobbits, elves, furries. The undead will likely be there, along with Browncoats and Medievalists. Various alien races will be represented. Just remember that most of these folks have day jobs where they don’t dress this way, but where they excel just like normal people.

There are two things to never show:

1. Fear. Look that Klingon in the eye and tell him how much you admire the manliness of his forehead. Shake the zombie’s hand if it’s offered; the fingers that come away with your hand aren’t real. Usually.

2. Shock. Depending on current fashion, you may be confronted by men in huge mechanical robot costumes or women in scandalous lack of costumes. It’s all an act; the girl in the Stormtrooper bikini will go back to work Monday in the law offices that handle your corporate legal matters. The young man in the floor-length trench coat is in real life the manager of your local supermarket. That sawed-off shotgun he’s carrying is just for show. It’s not real. Usually.

On language

Yes, you will hear a good bit of jargon. It may sound meaningless, but it fulfills the true purpose of jargon, functioning as a shorthand for ideas that there aren't any adequate “normal” words for. You should, whenever possible, ignore the fact that you have no idea what people are talking about. Just look interested, laugh when they laugh, smile knowingly when they lower their voices. They aren't talking about you, after all. Usually.

If you look confused, you will be labeled as a 'mundane,' which I assure you is not an unkind term. Unless they use the word 'mundane.' “Reality,” as the saying goes, “is for people who can’t handle science fiction.” So buck up and ask your date later what the heck they were going on about.

On the programming

The convention will have a variety of activities, from book signings to author panels to award presentations to viewings of classic movies. This is where you’ll find your hard-core fans, who aren’t really there to socialize. So feel free to duck into these venues if you want to be left alone for a bit.

And finally, when all else fails:

Most conventions are in hotels; most hotels, as luck would have it, have bars.  You know what to do. Share and enjoy.

Bill Mullis, when not disguised as a native of South Carolina, makes his home on a medium-sized planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.


Nuggets from the Advice Zebra. No, not those nuggets. Gross.

By Angie Mansfield

The Advice Zebra in her natural habitat

All right, all right. I've been buried in emails from people who keep begging me for advice. Clearly, these people haven't been paying attention or they'd never come to me for advice, but who am I to disillusion them?

I am the Advice Zebra, that's who. Buckle in, this could get bumpy.

Dear AZ:

Yesterday I happened upon a troubling sight. You see, my sister, who I'll just call "the tramp" for the purposes of this question, got married. Just before the ceremony, I went to the pastor's office where she was waiting, so I could give her a hug and my well-wishes before taking my seat. When I got back there, the groom's brother was in there, standing behind my dear sister with his hands over her...bazingas. Can I say 'bazingas' here? If not, I'm sorry. Twice.

Anyway, when I expressed shock at this situation, the groom's brother said I had a dirty mind, and that he'd thought it might be the groom coming into the room, and he was just trying to keep the groom from seeing my sister's bazingas before the wedding, and thus getting seven years' bad luck. Have you ever heard of such a thing, AZ, or should I defend my sister's honor with a baseball bat and a set of brass knuckles?

Brother of the Bride

Dear BoB:

I'm appalled at the complete ignorance of wedding etiquette on display these days. You'd think no one had ever heard of manners, the way they get all uptight about the ceremonial bride-goosing, the ceremonial telling of dirty jokes to the bride's grandmother, and the ceremonial calling of the cops.

Where was I? Oh, yes -- your new brother-in-law is clearly a lecher and needs to be taught some manners. Whoever heard of hiding the bride's bazingas before the ceremony? If his intentions were truly pure, he'd have had his hands on her behind.

Dear Advice Zebra:

There's some dude passed out drunk in the alley behind my barn. What should I do?

Intimidated by Inebriates

Dear Intimidated:

I'm shocked. Shocked! How do you know he's drunk? Did you ask him? No! I'm sure you just assumed by his posture and the fact that he's sleeping by a barn. Did you stop to think that the poor man might have been overcome by the odors wafting from your livestock accommodations? Sure, you find those aromas delightful, but not everyone shares your enthusiasm. Get out there right now, young man or woman, and see if that poor man needs smelling salts. Wait -- those probably won't work. Just poke him with a stick until he wakes up, then offer him a refreshing iced beverage. But if he's been sleeping by the barn for any length of time, best not to invite him in.

Dear Advice Zebra:

I am part of a traveling troupe of troubadours, and we are plagued with problems with our posture. Can you--

Dear Annoying:

I apologize; I am averse to aiding anyone who abuses alliteration.


Your Perfect Valentine

By Sara Spock

Dear Ms. Mommy,

What are guidelines for sending Valentine’s Day Cards to school with Little Miss Precious Perfect? I want to celebrate just right!

Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused,

You came to the right place! I have a trove of tips and ideas so your little one can have an amazing Valentine’s Day. Before we get started, let me commend you for wanting to follow etiquette on behalf of Little Miss Precious Perfect. She will be thanking you for years to come for not embarrassing her in front of the entire world, for giving Little Billy Dreamboat the perfect Valentine, and thus establishing a lifetime of happiness in the first grade.

Her teacher should be providing a list of students that chose to participate in the bloody little holiday festivities. Keep your eyes open for a scarlet red paper, adorned with names like Aembyr, Baenjaemyn-Daeved, and Soleil Moon Frye. You’ll use this to compose your shopping list. Your list should include items to craft your own, I mean, her own perfectly designed cards, adorable envelopes, hand-made treat bags, and whittling materials so that you can carve pencils, yo-yos, and small woodland creatures.

Once you’ve assembled all your supplies, you’re going to need to set aside a block of two hours a day for the next few weeks in order to accomplish all you need. You should start by designing cards. If you don’t have the artistic skill to draw your own, there’s no shame in hiring a graphic designer to give you a leg up. It shouldn’t cost too much, but what’s a couple hundred dollars when considering your own child’s very happiness? Designs should include ric-rac trim, crepe pink hearts, and hand-etched addressing. To fill treat bags, start with an extensive class-wide email to determine food allergies and customize each bag with hand-selected delicacies. The children might enjoy mocha truffles, petit fours, and Turkish delights, which you should be proficient in crafting.

In addition to cards and treats, each Valentine should include a small token of friendship such as a whittled bunny or barn owl. If you spend just a small amount of time each evening in the place of showering or the Kardashians, 25 carvings will be finished in no time! When each item is crafted, skillfully secure the carving to the bag of treats, loop a ribbon through a heart-shaped hole punch in the hand-made Valentine, and put them all into a pink gingham-lined basket so that Little Miss Precious Perfect can carry them to school.

If you aren’t concerned with Little Miss Precious Perfect’s reputation or lifetime of happiness and you’ve put off Valentine’s planning until the last minute, I suppose I can offer this additional bit of advice: Target has a lovely selection of pre-made cards that your Satan-spawn can scrawl on, without any regard for neatness or design.

Sara Spock is a Mom, Wife, Penn State Graduate, Substitute Teacher, Freelance Writer and Chocolate Addict. When her tongue isn’t firmly in cheek and she’s not trolling Target on Valentine’s Day Eve, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. recipe. at. a. time.


Run More Than You Eat!

Image: www.peanuts.com

By Sarah Garb

If you’re looking for some solid words to the wise, forget newspaper columnists and horoscopes. The real source of airtight advice is children.

In their short lifetimes, elementary school students have somehow managed to assemble a significant body of supposed expertise on a wide variety of topics and will dispense recommendations gladly.

One such area of expertise is healthy living. During a nutrition unit, my fourth grade students offered advice that, with the addition of a few exclamation points, could be the title of the next fad diet book or a Better Homes and Gardens article:

Cut Off Sugar for a Week!
Eat some Soft Food or Hard Food!
Eat Lots of Bread!
Drop the Junk Food!
Stop Eating Sweets All the Time!
Eat Fruit All the Time!
Run More Than You Eat!

I don’t think I could agree to stop eating sweets all the time, but the simple fitness formula to, “Run more than you eat,” struck me as quite brilliant.

The year my husband, Nate, and I got married, I asked my third graders how to know if someone is right for you to marry. Their thoughts on the topic appeared to be cobbled together from Kanye West songs, TV commercials, and church sermons:

If they do stuff for you.
If he’s cute and doesn’t argue.
Only if he never cheated you before.
If he comes home right after work that means it.
Think about the good times and bad times. If you had a lot of bad times, he is not your man.
If he loves you for your money, no. But if he doesn’t, yes.

Fortunately, Nate is cute and also doesn’t argue, so he passed that test with flying colors. Next I asked what Mr. Nate and I should do to have a happy marriage. Much of it is actually valuable advice. A strong relationship definitely requires honesty and asking personal questions. However, some of their responses suggest that the third graders were envisioning Mr. Nate’s role in our marriage as a weekend childcare provider or gold digger:

When you are on your honeymoon, ask some personal questions.
You should try not to fight and be happy.
Don’t lie to Mr. Nate.
Ask how your day was.
Don’t look at other men.
Be kind, but honest when your husband asks your opinion of something.
If you have a bad day, tell Mr. Nate.
Buy him something. At the reception party give the present to him.
Get a prenup so if you have a divorce, you stick with your money.
If you have a baby, Mr. Nate can always keep the baby on the weekend.

Whether or not the claims are valid that bread is the key to good health, or that a successful marriage depends on gift-giving, if you find yourself in need of advice, find an eight-year-old. She will set you straight. Or at least make something up that sounds good.

Subsisting exclusively on soft food or hard food, Sarah tries not to fight and tells Mr. Nate when she has a bad day. When she has an entertaining day, as gauged by how many quotes or how much advice from third graders she’s able to collect, she blogs at Dead Class Pets. If it is not the running-to-eating ratio advice you need, Sarah’s students have plenty more where that came from. Their advice on relationships can be found in the new humor anthology, My Funny Valentine: America’s Most Hilarious Writers take on Love, Romance, and Other Complications.


A Perfectly Satirical Advice Column

Who's got a question they want answered? Who's dying for solicited advice that was only solicited because I figured the answers would make for a good column? No pushing, people....form a single file line right here. Who's first?

Dear Aspiring Mama: Where have all my winter socks gone?
-- LainaSpareTime

(May I call you Laina?)

Your socks have obviously run away and eloped with my missing winter socks, as is evidenced by the spectacular number of unmatched singles I currently have taunting me in the basket in my living room. I'm going to assume your next question to me will be "But why? Why did my socks leave me, Pauline? Did I not show them enough affection? Did I expect too much of them?" And to be perfectly frank, the answer is this: Your socks left you because of that weird I Don't Like Other People Touching My Feet Rule of yours that keeps you from getting a pedicure. Because really, do you want to hug a foot that hasn't been dipped in paraffin at least twice in the last four weeks?


Dear Aspiring Mama: I've always wanted to know-- How do I deal with that not so fresh feeling?
-- Saving for Someday

Always a tough one. Let me figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop and help Foreigner figure out what love is and then I promise I'll answer your question.

Dear Aspiring Mama: My boys are hitting puberty! Help! What do I do?

As the mother of a four-year-old girl who will eventually be dating, I am perfectly qualified to answer this question for you. Actually, I'm lying and in desperate need of advice on how far to run when my daughter realizes she has hormones. In fact, I've also been wondering if I'm totally doing this parenting thing wrong and if I should start funneling some of her college savings into a Future Therapy Slush Fund. Your thoughts?

Dear Aspiringmama: Sometimes I fantasize about going out for milk and moving to Como to search for George Clooney. Should I act?

I’d wait at least a few months. Give him a chance to get over the paranoia from my stalking…errr…Clooney search. I’d offer to drive with you but there’s the little matter of a restraining order...Send me a post card?


There ya have it, folks. Next time, I'm charging.


Advice from Miss Perception

By Carole Lee

Dear Miss Perception,

My husband, George, is such a jerk. I don’t know why I married him. My mother told me that he was no good, but I ignored her advice and married him anyway.

Every day, it’s something. Just yesterday, I hurried through the house just before he got home from work, vacuumed the living room, started dinner and had the table set when he walked in the door. I handed him the garbage to take out and the leash for Fido, and all he could say was, “I’m tired. Can’t we have supper first?” Well, I’m tired, too!

My brother, Fred, is living with us, and he says he can see firsthand why I am so upset. Last week, George yelled at him for drinking the last beer in the fridge. I say that if George wanted beer, he could have stopped on his way home from work. He’s not the only one who lives here.

Fred’s girlfriend isn’t having it any easier. Their baby is due in two months, but George refuses to switch bedrooms with them. I told him they need the space. The only thing George ever says is, “Has Fred found a job yet?” It’s like he doesn’t even care!

I am thinking about filing for divorce. I can’t continue to live with such a heartless, mean person anymore. Can you help me find a way to get through to George and show him the error of his ways? My mother, who lives next door, says her best friend’s son just got out of prison, and he’s looking for a girlfriend. He just got a job at the Piggly Wiggly, so he’s a pretty good catch. Do you think I should divorce George and move on to greener pastures?

Idiot’s Wife

Dear Idiots,

I am reminded of an old joke I heard a long time ago.

A woman paid a visit to an attorney because she wanted to divorce her husband.

“Tell me, ma’am, what is your grudge?”

“Grudge? My husband is such a loser that we don’t even have a grudge; the car sits in the driveway.”

The attorney was confused, but pressed on.

“Well, does your Mister beat you up?”

“Oh, no. I get out of bed long before he does.”

The attorney tried again.

“Ma’am, I’m trying to figure out on what grounds you want a divorce.”

“Grounds? I thought it would happen in a courtroom!”

With that, the attorney reached the end of his tether.

“I can’t help you file for divorce until you give me a good reason why!”

“Oh! That’s easy. The idiot can’t hold an intelligent conversation.”

If this joke rings true, Idiots, you should see immediate improvement on the homefront. If not, I am reminded of a quote from French actor, Sacha Guitry:

“When a man takes your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.”


Why Did People Stop Dying?

by Steve Barber

I don't remember exactly when I first became aware of it, but I have known for some time that people almost never die anymore. Don't believe me? Read the obituaries. You'll see. People pass away, pass on, or they're called Home to be with the Lord. But almost nobody dies. I'm not sure why this is, but I'm convinced that some people have gone to great lengths to make the language of death and dying confusing as all get out. Those people are called Obituary Writers.

People who write obits are the reason angels come to take some folks to Heaven while others apparently have to find their own way. But what if you're an atheist and don't believe in Heaven? What happens to you then? Who is there to guide you on your final journey, and where are you supposed to go anyhow? I'll bet the obit writers never thought of that one.

That's not all they haven't thought of. Here's more:

1.    When someone dies from a nasty disease, why does he have to have a courageous battle first? Aren't there any dead cancer sufferers who gave up the minute they got their diagnosis?

2.    Why, when people die, must they be either surrounded by their loving family or have their loving family by their side?  I'll tell you this, if I were concerned about my health and felt my life slipping away, the last thing I'd do is let my family near my sickbed. There's a causal relationship between circling relatives and death. I'm sure of it.

3.    Why can't I be sad when a friend or relative passes away? Why must I be bereaved instead? And did you know that when I go to the visitation, viewing or wake I won't see Uncle Rollo there, but I'll see Uncle Rollo's remains. His remains will, of course, be reposing in a slumber room. Why must dead people repose? Can't they simply lie there? And, you know, he's not exactly sleeping, so why do they put him in a slumber room?

4.    When dead people repose, they must do so in a coffin or casket. Coffins and caskets are overpriced boxes that have handles on the side, the top door open, the bottom door closed and contain a satin pillow on which to rest Uncle Rollo's remains' head, not that he notices. Why do they call them coffins when what they are are boxes?

5.      Uncle Rollo has had his jaw wired shut, little caps shoved up under his eyelids to keep his eyes closed, and his bodily fluids drained and replaced by noxious chemicals. The funeral home staff set his carcass under special soft lights and they've smeared makeup all over his visible body parts. Then people file past the casket and say, "My, my. Doesn't Uncle Rollo look natural?" Why do they do this and whom do they think they are kidding?

You want natural? I'll tell you what's natural. Cremation, that's what. Ashes to ashes and all that. And that's what I'm opting for when I finally cash in my chips, buy the farm, or exceed my 'sell by date.' But I promise you this. The first person that calls my ashes “creamains” is in for one heck of a haunting.

Steve Barber longed to be a shepherd, but never realized his childhood dream. Now, a lonely and bitter old man, he ekes out a marginal living by collecting returnable bottles, and by selling single cigarettes to small children. On rare occasions he blogs at http://whatdoyoumeanishouldstartablog.blogspot.com/


Romance on a Budget

Did you ever try to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget?

My budget includes borrowing art supplies from my children and crafting a card that would rival any second grade artist, but I wanted more for this year’s love fest. 

I asked myself if I could make a romantic dinner for two at home, after tucking the kids snugly in their beds.  Sounds budget-friendly and doable in theory, but allow me to demonstrate a real-life romantic dinner at home:

5:30 pm - Throw several dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the oven, rescue favorite stuffed animal from the grasp of the dog’s jaws, inspect and sign homework papers, and throw the clean laundry into the dryer. Take the dog outside because she’s chewing on your slippers.  Answer the phone.

6:00 pm – Get OFF the phone and scrape all black residue from the chicken nuggets. Serve your kids dinner. 

6:30 pm – Listen to reading homework; make sure the kids shower and brush their teeth; do the dishes; don’t kill the dog; go to the bathroom.

8:00 pm – Assign your daughter the job of setting a ‘fancy’ table.  Make her promise not to lick each fork to remove dishwasher spots.  Send your husband down to the corner market to get the cashews for the cashew chicken.

8:30 pm – Tuck your kids into bed, and take a much-needed shower.  Put the dog in her crate so she doesn’t push the bathroom door open and run off with your clean underwear.

8:40 pm – Tame your hair, paint your face, and dress in the first clean outfit hanging in your closet.

8:55 pm – Snack on the burnt crisps leftover from the kid’s nuggets.

9:00 pm – Start cooking.  Again.

9:30 pm – Serve a lovely cashew chicken dinner minus the cashews, because apparently there was a run on cashews this afternoon.

9:40 pm – Light the candles and take out the crying dog.

9:45 pm – Just as your husband leans into the flickering light of the candles to smooch your lips, the dog freaks out because your neighbor decides he’s going to shovel the sidewalk. Save the kiss for later and grab the dog before she wakes up your kids.

9:47 pm – Too late.  The kids filter through to use the bathroom and get a drink.  It’s an emergency, of course.  You can faintly see symptoms of dehydration in their eyes.  Let them taste your cashew-less chicken.

9:55 pm – Explain the importance of alone time between parents and threaten their lives with ten years of morning-til-night homework, year-round school, and a chore list that stretches to New Jersey and back.

10:00 pm – Throw out the cold chicken and go straight to dessert.  Assure your spouse that yawning and drooping eyelids are the latest signs of true love.

Reality says, when you have children, romantic dinners at home do not work.  My heartfelt advice to you is, forget the budget and GO OUT.  Beg your parents, friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, and the teenagers next door to watch your kids for a few hours.  Even if you have no money, go sit in the car (without the kids) and steam up the windows.  Just get out of the house! 

Tricia Gillespie is looking forward to a Valentine’s Day when she takes her own advice and goes out, sans kids.  She writes about real-life chaos on her blog, TheDomesticFringe.com.  She’d love for you visit!