An Erma Smack-Down

Any time you submit a piece of your writing for a contest or to be considered for publication, you’re leaving your most tender parts exposed and vulnerable. Picture a hermit crab without a shell; that’s a writer waiting for someone else to hand down judgement.  You’re all nervous and pink and quivery, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.  And it’s even scarier when you submit a piece to a contest that bears your writing idol’s name.

Back in February, I submitted a piece to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Competition. And then I waited. As the time for the winners to be announced drew near, I imagined various scenarios that were taking place behind the scenes regarding my contest entry. Either  A) the judges were immediately declaring me the hands down winner, or B) the judges were scanning my entry, tossing around words like “crap-tastic”, and then balling it up for a three point shot into the trash can. After spitting on it.

Well, the winners were announced this week. And no, I wasn’t one of them. (Insert pathetic, sad trombone here.)  But I will hold my head high, because I’m proud of what I wrote. All 853 people who entered should be proud, for that matter. So while I lick my wounds and self-medicate with pie, I invite you to read my contest entry, which, because I lost, is now available for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to the Tree Farm

Tragically, the festivities took a dark turn when the children took the phrase “tree lighting” a bit too literally.


The brisk air and the appearance of twinkling lights tell me it’s time. Time to shake off the confines of our suburban cocoon and venture forth to the wilds, as our ancestors did before us.

“We’ll go today,” I tell my husband. He’s apprehensive, but knows nothing can deter me. I feel like Quint hunting the Great White, except…less grizzled. Yes, today we’re off to find the Christmas tree.

Lesser mortals have been felled by the Christmas tree farm’s porta-potties, hot cocoa the temperature of molten lava, $50 wreaths, and rusty saws. But not I. I will claim my prize, threat of tetanus or no.

Over the trilling of Jingle Bells coming from the parking lot loudspeakers, I sidle up to the white-haired farmer and deliver my edict. “Direct me to your most hearty trees, good sir,” I say grandly, as my kids try to pretend they’re with a different family.

“Well, we have some nice Scotch Pines… or maybe a Norway Spruce?” He offers. But I know what I came for and I’m not leaving without it.

“Ha!” I scoff.  “Not good enough. I want the toughest tree you’ve got,” I say, grabbing my children as I notice them trying to sneak off with a group of Mennonites.

He hesitates, then looks around before leaning in and whispering, “Well, there’s the Blue Spruce, but…” He shakes his head. “Are you sure you want that? Tough branches, but them needles are as sharp as… well, needles.”

Not to be dissuaded, I set my jaw and push up my sleeve. “See this scar? The Great Decorating Debacle, 2006. And this one? 2009. I was putting the star on top. Tree fell over. Lost seventeen ornaments that day…let’s just say I’ll never use a stepladder again.”

I see fear in his craggy blue eyes… and something else. Respect, perhaps? A few seconds later, he relents.

“Across the creek. At the second row of trees turn left. And…good luck out there,” he murmurs.

“Onward, family! The trees be yonder! Prepare to come about!” I shout, adding an “Arrrggghh!” and a  squint for good measure.

“Um, since when are you Scottish? And a pirate?” My husband asks. Ignoring him, I grab the proffered saw and sled and we plunge into the wilderness.

After an hour, we locate the Holy Grail: A tree we all like.  “That’s a twelve footer!” my husband says in awe. “Twelve and a half,” I say with authority. Sawing commences, and we load our trophy onto the sled to drag it back. It takes twenty minutes to lash the enormous tree to the roof of the car.

But as the leviathan on top of the car creaks and strains all the way home, I realize it might be time to face the inevitable truth.

I think we’re gonna need a bigger minivan.

Expect the Unexpected: The Christmas Version

Sung to the tune of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”:

“Oooohhhh… I want a subluxation for Christmas

And only a subluxation will dooooo…”

Forgive me, I’m a little punchy. There’s a context here, I promise.

So I had it all planned out. Monday was the day I was going to finish all of the Christmas shopping. My kids would get on the bus for school, and I would grab my coffee, and knock the rest of the shopping out in one day. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would deter me from my mission.

Okay, I’ll wait while all of you moms finish laughing knowingly. Smugly. Because you know what’s coming.

I arrived home from a Christmas party on Sunday evening , and was dismayed to find one kid with a fever. Since the rule is 24 hours fever-free, she would not be going to school the next day.

“I can work around this,” I thought, determined. Just because she couldn’t go to school, she could run a couple of errands with me if she was feeling better. The day wouldn’t be lost, after all. Proud of myself that I was so resourceful and positive in the face of adversity, I continued about my evening. Until…

The proverbial other shoe dropped. A stomach virus suddenly hit kid number two like a wrecking ball. I’ll spare you the details. You’re welcome. Enjoy your lunch.

Now faced with having two kids at home all day, one of whom most definitely wouldn’t be leaving the house, I needed to come up with a different plan. “Look at me!” I thought. “I am still being resourceful! And positive!”

Fortunately, the VP has some flexibility with his job, after making sure he didn’t have to be in the office for any meetings, he agreed to work from home so I could get everything done. Yay! I was saved. I tended to my two sick children, pleased that everything had worked out. Until…

At about 10:00, yet a third shoe dropped. Wait, you say. There aren’t supposed to be three shoes! The saying only includes two shoes! Stupid saying. Lucy came into my room, and told me that the shoulder she had injured the previous week was not doing any better, and was in fact maybe worse, and that after a week of denying the pain she was finally ready to admit she needed to see a doctor about it. And could we make an appointment in the morning? If you are keeping count, that is now all three of my kids that would not be “getting on the bus” and “going to school” as previously mentioned.

So in the morning, I called the doctor first thing, and the appointment was scheduled for 9:00. That meant I could take her to the appointment, then drop her off at school, and be shopping by 11:00 a.m. Visions of credit card swipes, Christmas presents, and maybe treating myself to a peppermint mochaccino danced in my head. Until…

The pediatrician examined her, became very concerned, and said something about a “rotator cuff” which didn’t sound good at all and sent us immediately to the hospital. Where we stayed for the rest of the damn day.

Because it turns out, and you’d think I would know this by now, there is no “quick in and out” from the hospital. There are sign-ins and registrations and more forms and questions and nurses and x-rays then waiting and then more waiting. And then someone comes in and tells you it will just be a little while longer and then asks you the same questions the first seven people asked.

End result? Lucy has a shoulder subluxation, resulting in a full arm cast and sling for at least the next four weeks. Merry Christmas. Maybe we can put a bow on it.

At 5:00 in the afternoon, driving home from the hospital in a thunderstorm and rush hour traffic, I knew my dreams of Christmas shopping that day were away like the down of a thistle.

It’s pouring down rain today, and I hear we are getting snow tomorrow or the next day. So I will get as much done today as I can. Am I regreting not starting my Christmas shopping in July? Maybe a little. But that’s okay. Somewhere out there there is a peppermint mochaccino with my name on it.

The Christmas Hooker

The following conversation happened while we were decorating our tree this year:

Me: Hey, are you working on getting ornaments onto the other side of the tree? It was looking kind of empty.

Daughter: No, I’m working on putting hooks in these ornaments. I’m a hooker. Oh, wait… that came out wrong!

Me: Yes. Yes it did.  

Merry Christmas to one and all. Even hookers.