Erma made it ok

When I was a little girl, sure I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina or a princess. Deep down, I knew what I really wanted to be.

I wanted to be a mom.

Also, I was one of those kids who read everything I could get my hands on. At some point I must have finished all of my Nancy Drew books and I started reading my Mom's Erma Bombeck books.

I remember reading one of Erma's stories. I learned there are two kinds of moms in the world: the kind who washes a measuring cup out with soap after she'd only used it to measure water, and the kind who doesn't.

This was my takeaway: Erma was funny, and I wanted to be the kind of mom who washes the measuring cup out with soap.

As hard as I tried, I probably only had fleeting moments of being that kind of mom. Even if I managed to wash my measuring cup out with soap, I was the kind of mom who had a job. I was the mom who got divorced. I was a single mom. I was the mom who didn't have to wash her measuring cups, because it was easier to just go out to eat.

Then I got married to the Pastor and I was the kind of mom with a step in front of it, raising preacher's kids alongside my own.

While Erma never had to worry about being a pastor's wife or a step-mom, we had one thing in common - living with people who gave us plenty of writing material. I didn't just want to be a mom anymore; I wanted to be a writer.

A couple of years ago I went through the worst kind of writer's block a humor writer could have.

I was sad.

I know why I got stuck. I had spent two years of my life trying to get pregnant, having a baby that died, trying some more, failing and letting go. Nothing had worked out the way I thought it would; nothing was funny. I had all the time in the world to wash measuring cups out with soap, but no baby.

I had this need with my writing to make everything funny. There wasn't anything funny about miscarriage or infertility. Was there? Granted I was 40. I was living with three teenagers. I was not that many years away from having an empty nest. Wanting another baby? I must have had some kind of mental condition. There had to be something funny about all of it.

About the only thing I could come up with was that my body and baby did not get along because my baby didn’t like Mexican food and we just couldn’t come to an agreement. Or the baby was just as ungrateful as our other kids: I carried that baby all over Europe and then he just took off after the vacation.

I had the hardest time writing but I kept reading. Once again I found myself out of books and at Goodwill searching for more. That's when I stumbled across a collection of just about every single one of Erma's books.

I read Erma's A Marriage Made in Heaven...or Too Tired for an Affair. I realized Erma didn’t just write about the funny stuff. Erma wrote about everything, good and bad. This book? It was exactly what I needed.

I learned something about Erma I never knew. Erma had struggled with infertility. Erma had been 40 and pregnant too. I started the chapter about Erma's pregnancy at age 40 with renewed hope. Erma was a huge success! Maybe this was a good omen. Here I was struggling to write and struggling to get pregnant. Maybe Erma had all the answers.

Turns out, Erma and I had something else in common. Erma's baby died too.

Erma wrote about it.

Erma wrote about not wanting to deal with the inevitable. Wanting to wait just a little bit longer. Not wanting to let go. Maybe it would turn out ok. About having to give a child back.

And you know what? It wasn't funny.

But it was ok.

My whole life I had admired Erma for her successes.

But now I also admire Erma for her failures.

Sure, there was the successful Erma Bombeck. But, there was another Erma I could and should relate to. The Erma who had her share of failures.

Erma had survived, and she went on to write about it. I knew I could too, whether it was funny or not. The material is still out there, whether you can see it or not. Whether you can process it or not. But you never will if you don't write it. You have to write. You have to make your way through it, and at some point you will be on the other side and things will be funny again.

Eventually I was ok. Eventually I picked up keyboard again. Eventually I got un-stuck.

And I no longer care if the measuring cups get washed out with soap. I have more important things to do, and to write about.

Thanks, Erma.


Special K

I have just returned from attending the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop in Dayton, OH.

While I was gone, the Pastor and I "celebrated" our seventh anniversary. Because I was out of town, the Pastor thought there was some sort of loophole in which an anniversary no longer happened.

He asked me the night before our anniversary if I needed him to do anything. I was having a wonderful time at my conference. We had spent money on that. I was happy. I was content. I told him the truth: I don't need anything. Plus I had the memory/pain of the previous week when we had to give Uncle Sam so. much. money.

But now I know what I should have asked for.

I got up the morning of our anniversary and sent the Pastor a text:

Why couldn't he just have responded with an "I love you." Or an "ILY2." Even "ok" would have preferable.

But K? That just set me off.

This is a man who sends me hundreds of emails, all with the subject line "here" that he expects me to have total recall about at a moment's notice. This is the man who fills up my voice mail with voluminous messages about stuff I don't care about. This is a man who has written a dissertation.

But after seven years? I get a single letter.

I flew home today. I had in the corner of my mind, maybe, just maybe the Pastor knew how much he had screwed up, not by not doing something, but by doing the wrong something. Maybe he would try to redeem himself. I envisioned him greeting me at the airport with flowers in hand. The good kind of flowers, you know, the ones he never buys because they are not on the brink of death. Or cookies. Or a mini bundt cake. Not because we had an anniversary, but because he was glad I was home.

Nope, it was just him, empty-handed. Well... not completely empty-handed. He did have his cell phone with him, you know,in case he wanted to send any more texts. Wouldn't want anyone to miss out on those!

I kept the thoughts in the back of my mind. Maybe there are cookies waiting for me in the fridge! Maybe there is a house full of flowers!

He stopped at 7-Eleven on the way home. He came back out to the car with a present for me. A cupcake from 7-Eleven.

It was like he had purchased fuel for the fire. The cupcake was awful. I ate the top of it. I only ate what I did because I was angry, and I took my anger out on the cupcake because that's what I do.

Clearly I did not stay gone long enough.

Now I know. Now I know that I don't only have to hold his hand, make a list, put things on his calendar that he won't look at. I don't just have to tell him what to do, I also have to specify what not to do: don't be an idiot.

I thought at least if he didn't want to celebrate our anniversary, that maybe he had missed me.


Exhibit A: No flowers. No cookies in the fridge. In fact, nothing in the fridge. You wouldn't want me to miss out on getting to go to the grocery store right away, would you?

Exhibit B: He removed ALL of the pillows off our bed except for his. He shoved them into my closet, reminding me that in his ideal world (bachelor pad), a pillow-free existence is preferable.

Exhibit C: He removed our bedspread and replaced it with what I refer to as a "horse blanket" because it has the look and feel of something you would put on a horse.

I get it. Men don't understand the need to have a lot of pillows. Some day they will figure out we need plenty around in case we decide to smother them, like when they do something stupid. Men shouldn't just appreciate the pillows, they should fear them.

The only thing I can figure is that maybe he really wanted to give me some new writing material.

My birthday is in 13 days and Mother's Day is soon after. Perhaps I should keep holding on and trick myself into believing this is all a big ruse to distract me from the magnificent diamond and/or automobile combo gift he's waiting to give me. I can pass the time between now and then by going to the bakery, rearranging the throw pillows on our bed and contacting our cell phone provider to remove text messaging from our plan.


Where's the syrup?

I've left the Pastor and children at home to fend for themselves while I attend the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

As I drove through downtown Cincinnati in rush hour traffic this morning to get here, my phone rang. The Pastor was calling to ask me where he could find the syrup. That was it. No "how are you" or "where are you," just syrup.

Now we know I'm easily replaced with Aunt Jemima. In fact, the only difference between us is that Aunt Jemima (wisely) doesn't have a cell phone. Well, she's probably sweeter than me too.

Later the Pastor texted me a photo of his dinner. It was an Indian Taco. He captioned the picture, wanting to make sure I knew that he has not gotten to eat an Indian Taco since we got married.

Yes, somehow our union has prevented him from going to the Indian Taco stand less than a mile from our home for the past seven years. What was I thinking all those nights I cooked dinner? I have clearly been holding him back.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, feel free to drop off a casserole.


welcome to the jungle

I just welcomed the Pastor home from a stint teaching in the jungle.

He entered the house with a resounding "this place smells funny."

Of course it does. We have our own version of the jungle here - the climate is unpredictable and it includes three teenagers, one who had made garlic omelets that morning.

More under the category of "unpredictable." It seems as though every time the Pastor and I have any sort of discussion, he seems to like to use the word "emotional." As in "you are being emotional." I don't know about you, and I'm not a trained professional, but something about his use of that word/phrase is becoming a trigger for me, and makes me want to karate chop him in the throat. Of course that may just be the emotions talking.

What is wrong with being emotional? Let's face it. What he's really saying is you're being a woman. Or hormonal. What I'm really saying is that he's being an idiot.

There are many wonderful emotions - appreciation, amusement, excitement, joy, sexiness - I could go on and on. Why doesn't he say I'm being "emotional" when I'm showing any of these emotions?

That's ok. Every once in a while, when they are not making the house stink of b.o. and garlic eggs, having these teenagers around does come in handy. If there was ever anyone who could show the Pastor what it's really like to demonstrate (emphasis on the "demon" part of the word demonstrate) being emotional, it's the species known as the teenage girl.

Bottom line - I didn't know if we needed to get her Midol or an exorcism. She made me look as undemonstrative and inexpressive as a man.

I'll express some appreciation for that. Now maybe the Pastor will think twice the next time he tries to throw down the emo card. If not, you'll be able to tell by any conspicuous bruising around his neck area.