School has started and my kids have become pod people

Honey, I don't think the kids' alarms were set for school...

“Hey, Honey? I don’t think the kids’ alarms went off for school!”

Now that school is back in session, we have settled into our normal routine here at the Hickson household. This routine is based on a strict time schedule that my wife and I have developed over the years to ensure that, each morning at precisely 7 a.m., all hell breaks loose. This includes — but isn’t limited to — at least one person (or family pet) running through the house in boxer shorts, and my daughter locking the bathroom door for some “quiet time” while heating a Pop-Tart with her hair dryer.

Though we know this pandemonium could be avoided by just getting up a little earlier, the fact is, my wife and I are the only morning people in our family. As anyone in this situation already knows, this is sort of like being the only lambs at a coyote picnic. Continue reading

Weird manicures that will give you a Long Awkward Pause

It’s Saturday! That means I’m with the rest of the staff over at Long Awkward Pause for this week’s Saturday Six, which is a collection of items (…yep, six of them) that are awkward and loosely related. How awkward and loosely related? Let’s just say if the S6 were adoptable children, even Brad and Angelina wouldn’t take them in.

This week’s topic: Painted nails that will make you cuddle your cuticles for comfort…

1. Edward Scissornails

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BrainRants: I approve of this because Edward Scissorhands is creepy, and creepy shit is awesome.

Omawarisan: How do you use toilet paper if you’ve got Edward Scissornails?

Jack: It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye – because you went to brush your hair out of your face and you have 9 minature scissors on your fingertips.

Ned: Edward Scissorhands or not, it seems to me these nails would make it hard to trim your bush.

(In the mood for a One Direction manicure yet? No? See how you feel after seeing these next examples at Long Awkward Pause…)

Establishing a regular writing routine will shape your literary thighs

Welcome to this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! This will be the third and final excerpt from my upcoming eBook, which I have cleverly titled: Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing. This will help distinguish it from other books on writing, such as “Bob’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing” or “Bubba’s Nickel’s Worth on Righting.” So as I put the final touches on my manuscript, I’d like to offer this hand-picked excerpt of writing wisdom that Publisher’s Weekly is already calling, “Insightfulness that is a rare combination akin to having a Big Mac and carrot salad…”

Bike typewriter copy In a way, establishing a writing routine is a lot like going to the gym. Except that you don’t get sweaty, never leave a seated position and, unless you write romance or erotica, you probably won’t increase your heart rate much.

But aside from that, it’s just like going to the gym.

When I first started writing in an actual newsroom, my routine consisted of sitting at my desk, staring blankly at the screen and banging on my keys as quickly as possible until it was time to go home, where I would do my actual writing.

Why did I do this?

I was intimidated. On either side of me, journalists were typing feverishly — seemingly non-stop — while I sat waiting for inspiration. My brain was still hardwired for waiting until the kids were asleep before slinking off into the study/laundry room to do my writing, as long as nothing else needed to be done. I was a single parent of two children under the age of 10 at the time, so there was always something else that needed to be done.

Continue reading

Then there’s that time I was attacked by a wooden lion…

Since changing my Facebook image yesterday afternoon, a lot of folks have been asking about the story behind the photo, which is of me getting sucker punched by a wooden lion. For those who know me, it really shouldn’t seem out of the ordinary. Regardless, for those who missed it — or those who just like seeing me get punched by a lion (please, show some decorum) — here’s the true story behind the photo…
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image It’s been nearly 40 years since my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Flunkem, wrote the following remark in red ink on my report card:

Unstructured time is a challenge for Ned.

After reading this, my mother looked at me and said, “Since when did filling your unstructured time become a challenge?”

And things haven’t really changed since then. I can honestly say, through sheer luck and determination, I have put myself in a position to have what I’m sure Mrs. Flunkem would consider entirely too much unstructured time. Fortunately for me, my wife disagrees with Mrs. Flunkem and encourages me to make the most of it.

How?

By saying things like, “Hey Honey! Look at that wooden lion over there!” Continue reading

Parenting teens is easy once you embrace being an embarrassment

My son really hates it when I call for a price check.

My son really hates it when I call for a price check.

Everyone with teenagers please raise your free hand. And by “free” hand, I mean whichever hand isn’t either guarding your wallet or refrigerator door. For parents without a free hand because you are guarding both, don’t worry; we can see it in your eyes. It’s that blank, pleading stare recognized and shared by all parents with teenagers.

It’s a look that says, If not for over-the-counter medication and America’s Got Talent, I would curl into a fetal position until my kids turn 20.

Part of what makes raising teens so challenging, aside from mood swings that would frighten both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is the lengths parents will go to avoid doing things their teen views as “totally embarrassing,” such as breathing while in the presence of someone they might know from school. Or making eye contact with them anywhere outside of the home. Or referring to them as “Pookie” or “Scooter” while standing in line with other parents and teens during school registration. (Read more at Long Awkward Pause…)

Celebrity make-overs that will give you a Long Awkward Pause

It’s Saturday, which means it’s time for The Saturday Six, when I and the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause comment on six items that are related and completely awkward — think of six Jimmy Osmonds at an Osmond Family reunion and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m getting at. This week’s subject? Fake celebrity make-overs. Fortunately, there’s no Jimmy Osmond in sight…

1. Between A Rock And A Kitty

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Omawarisan: Seeing Rob in his new Mr. Cuddlesworth hat struck fear into, well, no one.

Chris – Can you sssmmmmelllll…what’s on Rock’s head?

Ned: Some men will go to any length to cover their bald spots.

BrainRants: Nope. Not gonna piss off The Rock. Nope.

(Sadly, this first example is the closest we have to an actual celebrity look-alike. In other words, it’s all downhill from here. To keep that awkward momentum going, join me for the rest of The Saturday Six HERE…)

It’s my 500th post but I swear: I don’t feel a day over 499 posts

Where the magic happens. Or so I keep telling my editor...

Where the magic happens. Or so I keep telling my editor…

In addition to the wild excitement my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing usually generates… (See? Did you feel that?) … this week’s NWOW has the added distinction of being [cue pocket drum machine] my 500th post!

WHOA LADIES! Keep those tops ON!

You too, sir.

Since pushing the “publish” button on my first post about two years ago, more than 62,000 people have stopped in at some point — mostly while Google searching “monkey butts” or “Cheeto Clog” — and 5,250 of you decided to stay. I am very thankful for that and a little surprised, especially considering there are no Cheeto-clogged monkey butts anywhere on this blog. I’ve looked. And so has PETA.

Also over that same period, I’ve shared more than 50 weekly acorns of NWOW writing insights gathered through 15 years as a newspaper columnist tending the tree of literary wisdom — all of which I am currently squirreling away into an eBook that Publisher’s Digest has already predicted will be “…writing tips that are nuts.” Continue reading

Ice water in my veins? Ummm… not exactly

This would've been refreshing if we lived somewhere warmer

This would’ve been refreshing if we lived somewhere warmer like The Equator.

Ordinarily, my day doesn’t end with a bucket of ice water being dumped over my head by a junior varsity football team.

No, it’s true.

But thanks to a challenge issued by Adam Sendek at Long Awkward Pause, my plans to watch the sunset with my wife on the porch while drinking something icy and alcoholic turned into something else entirely.

Except for the icy part. There was actually plenty of that.

By now, most of you have seen at least one of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos circulating the Internet, during which [Spoiler Alert!] someone gets a bucket of ice water dumped on their head. What started out as a celebrities-only challenge to raise money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research, has grown exponentially to include thousands of non-celebrities, all of whom are united in hope that, some day, everyone on the planet will be able to trace themselves back to Kevin Bacon. Continue reading

Potty train your child using the Jedi Knight method

image As I sat reading an article about the new Star Wars Trilogy now in production, I suddenly had an epiphany: Potty training our children had been a lot like training young Jedi Knights!

This prompted me to devise a what I am calling the Jedi Potty-Training Program — something that is spiritual, aggressive and, hopefully, a lot less messy than the old-fashioned method of staring at your child until they make a face that looks like they are having a BM, then racing them to the commode.

Because of our subject matter’s explicit nature, we will be using GALACTIC terms during this discussion. Whenever you see this special GALACTIC font style, you’ll know that I’m JUST MESSING WITH YOU.

Ha Ha! No, that font means that it’s important enough to justify wielding my special GALACTIC font-making powers as a way to highlight the fact that I’m BEING SUED BY GEORGE LUCUS. Continue reading

I’m 48 today AND it’s my 30th class reunion; way to rub it in, God

The kind of excitement my birthday is generating.

The kind of excitement my birthday is generating.

This morning, after unpinning my legs from under our Labrador, I pulled back the covers and rolled out of bed, bringing my feet to the floor for the first time as a 48-year-old.

So far, so good, I thought, then stretched, twisted and stood before sliding into my pants. I’ve always told myself, when I have to start sitting down to put my pants on, THAT’S when I’ll know I’m getting old. But this morning I realized that wasn’t entirely true: It’ll start long before that, when I can no longer get out from under the dog.

Naturally, the first thing my son asked me this morning is if I felt a year older. I told him I didn’t, but that I was starting to forget little things, like including his name in my will. And I might’ve accidentally worn his underwear while jogging yesterday. Plus, I may have posted a Justin Bieber link to his Facebook instead of his sister’s. But other than those minor memory glitches, I hadn’t noticed any real difference in becoming a year older. Continue reading