If you’re a student or educator, you are probably getting excited about the approach of SPRING BREAK! Wee-HOO! For students of all ages it means a week of crazy fun with little or no responsibility, whether you’re a fifth-grader planning a Spongebob Squarepants marathon to Bikini Bottom, or a college student planning a bikini bottom marathon of a different kind. If you’re an educator, it means a student-free week away from grading papers with so much red ink your desk resembles a sacrificial altar. Seriously, are they learning NOTHING between Tweets in class?!?
Even Congress gets what is referred to as “recess.” Let’s be honest: If I performed as poorly at my job as they have, I would get what is referred to as “fired.”
That being said, for the rest of us, spring break holds about as much anticipation as trash day or a release date for “Frozen 3.”
This is particularly true for those of us with teenagers at home, many of whom will openly mock us each day by selfishly sleeping in. Then, in an added display of thoughtlessness, they will still be in their pajamas and deciding on breakfast when we come home for lunch! The audacity! Especially since they misspelled “audacity” on their last quiz! Continue reading Congress gets recess, kids get spring break — what about US?!?
As the rains continue here on the Oregon coast and the political storm blows across the nation, I was reminded of a simpler time, three years ago, back when the only mud slinging came from my own lack of dexterity and an ill-advised attempt to try my hand at pole dancing.
In the rain.
It was a day that had all three elements of a “Perfect Storm:”
Extremely strong winds
My weak acrobatic skills.
Keep in mind that this is always a dangerous combination. Especially when my family suggests I do something funny, like pretend the wind is lifting me off the ground. Under normal circumstance — such as sitting on the couch, completely dry and nowhere near a pole — this would not have been a problem. But as we made our way through the school parking lot fighting the wind and rain, the third element of this Perfect Storm scenario developed.
“Honey, you should do that pole thing where you lift your legs up like it’s windy,” my wife suggested. “I’ll get a picture!”
“But it really IS windy,” I replied.”
“Exactly! It’ll look even funnier!”
Naturally, my response was what you’d expect from a 47-year-old man with limited health coverage.
Welcome to a free, unsolicited (perhaps even unwanted) excerpt from my latest book, “Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist,” a book Publishers Monthly has called, “The last word in writing advice. Or so we hope.” And what 50 Shades author E.L. James has refered to as “The inspiration for most of my safe words.”
But enough accolades!
This excerpt was originally inspired by a good blogging friend who, like many of my friends, has asked to remain anonymous. So we’ll just call her Michelle, a talented writer who emailed me after experiencing her first truly negative response to something she posted.
The reader in question was somewhat offended by what was essentilly a lighthearted post about accidentally being seen naked by a stranger. I felt Michelle’s approach was tasteful and humorous. Regardless, the reader’s response caught her off guard and caused her to momentarily question her judgement as a writer — something that readers of this blog question each day. Continue reading Writers need tough skin but shouldn’t forget to moisturize
When my wife called to remind me about letting our dog out at noon, I instinctively retrieved a Post-It from the desk drawer and scrawled “Dog at noon,” then stuck it to the computer monitor.
This required shuffling a series of other yellow Post-Its into order of importance, with things like “Call about hair cut,” “Go to dry cleaners” and “Clean out van” written on them.
That one, of course, was moved to the very end of the line.
Sadly, they’re all things I should be able to remember on my own and usually do; like when I’m staring into the closet for a pair of pants to wear. Later, I got into the van and was gently reminded by a shocking-yellow piece of paper to “get gas.”
No doubt, many of you have embarked on your New Year’s resolutions:
“I’m going to lose weight!”
“I’m going to drink less!”
“I’m going to change careers!”
“I’m going to stop referring to myself in the third person!”
Ok, maybe that last one was just me.
Regardless, I think we can all agree resolutions are a great way to jump-start goals for personal improvement and life changes. At least until the end of February, at which point we often “re-evaluate” our goals and make “more realistic” adjustments to those goals by “dropping them completely.” For this reason, as writers, we need to be careful about the resolutions we make regarding literary goals, and in some cases we shouldn’t make them at all.
Many of you are probably saying, “Sure Ned, that’s easy for you to say!”
Oops, sorry — That was me speaking in third-person again.
Like many Americans, I recently stripped down, prepared myself for the worst, and stepped onto the scale. Soon after, I retrieved the scale from the front yard and accepted the fact that, yes — it was probably defective.
At a friend’s suggestion, I tried our neighbor’s scale. This led to the discovery that, of the 23 scales I tested within a five-mile radius of our home, every single one was off by exactly 11 pounds.
Being a journalist, I had to wonder: Was this a widespread problem? Were we being duped into needless exercise by faulty scales?!?
I immediately brought this to the attention of my reporters here at the newspaper who, realizing the implications, told me to stay out of their candy drawers.
The truth is, I have no one but myself to blame for putting on these extra pounds. This is why, every year around this time, people just like me make a commitment to start going to the gym.
I know this because I recognize most of these people from last year. We all have the same expression: grim determination mixed with a sense of purpose in knowing that, afterward, there’s a fast-food place nearby. We come dressed with headbands and towels over our shoulders even though we spend most of our time wandering around the gym looking for water bottles. Continue reading Open contempt for those in better shape is first step to a healthier you
Note: In observance of National Fruitcake Appreciation Day today, I thought I’d offer this rum-laced flashback…
Recent studies show that anxiety during the holidays is not only common but, in many cases, the result of FDAD — Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder. On one hand, your fruitcake is often given as a gift and therefore deserving of some measure of appreciation. On the other hand, you may have already tossed it into your neighbor’s yard, where it has become a chew toy for their pit bull.
This often leads to feelings of anxiety, particularly when you see “Buster,” still intoxicated with rum, struggling to dislodge the sugar loaf from his tightly-clenched jaws.
So, as a service to our readers, we assembled a group of psychiatrists to help provide insight into dealing with FDAD. At a cost of more than $200 an hour, we held an informative, three-minute discussion to create the following self-help guide:
I’m OK — You’re OK. But Give Me a Fruitcake and I’ll Kill You.
Many years ago, I bought my wife an Epilady shaver for Christmas. Because it was a sleek, modern, electrical device costing over $50, there was no reason to suspect it would feel like someone had just ripped the hair out of her legs using Super Glue and a roll of duct tape. While I’m sure I’ve gotten my wife gifts she didn’t really like, she’s always accepted them graciously. But in this case, as she chased me through the house completely naked and swiping at my scalp with her new Epilady, two things came to mind:
1) She really hates this gift,
2) I shouldn’t have gotten her the cordless model.
A blogger friend named Randall Willis once posted a beautiful poem that I’m always reminded of this time of year. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience that I tell each year around Christmas. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments.
That said, my sincere thanks to all of you for sharing the magic in your own way, every day…
He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.
“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and what’s-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”
The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”
Yesterday, I posted “I just found a squirrel in my car” as my Facebook status. I did this as part of a Breast Cancer Awareness movement on social media. Before long, those who weren’t aware of the movement began to leave panicked comments like, “What the @#$% is HAPPENING?!? People are finding squirrels in their cars EVERYWHERE!! Do they want our NUTS?!? Are they RUSSIAN?!? CANADIAN?!? High on ROCKSTAR?!?”
To anyone currently locked in a safe room eating military grade rations after reading thousands of “squirrel” statuses, I apologize. However, it doesn’t mean the squirrel threat isn’t real.
Several years ago while visiting the Grand Canyon, my chance to enjoy one of the world’s greatest natural wonders was marred by an unprovoked squirrel attack. Anyone who’s been there can tell you that the park is completely over run by hordes of crazed, hyperactive squirrels. It’s gotten so bad that the park service installed coin-operated food dispensers, the idea being that tourists could feed the squirrels while remaining blissfully unaware that the pellets were, in effect, simply a diversion meant to save their lives.
The problem is that the squirrels are now SICK of these pellets, which tourists still purchase, but now hurl directly at the squirrels while fleeing back to their cars. In most cases, they never get to see the Grand Canyon at all, choosing instead to escape by turning their windshield wipers on high and dislodging enough squirrels to navigate their way into the nearest Sequoia patch.