Insomnia

(photo courtesy of Pixabay)

In yesterday’s blog post about the free writing exercises I did in a session with Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, authors of Queen of Your Own Life, at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, I mentioned a column that had run in Refreshed Magazine that won a 2015 Evangelical Press Association Award. I’d been surprised to learn about the honor, because I didn’t even know the column had been submitted to the contest.

I’m not really big on awards, but I will say that I am really proud of the fact that this column won an award from a religious organization, despite the fact that there is zero religious content. It’s just a general, humorous piece, and it got a perfect score from the judges, proving that humor doesn’t have to fit into a box to resonate with readers.

“Insomnia” was borne from a free writing exercise; I set a timer, wrote, and hoped something wonderful would come out. Success.

Here’s the column. This was pretty much what I wrote in the 10 minute writing sprint. See, you don’t have to be a genius to be a writer. You just have to write.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

INSOMNIA

It’s after midnight and I can’t sleep.

I have a column due in the morning and I have no idea what I’m going to write about, so I keep turning over thoughts in my head. The problem is that the column ideas are being pushed aside by weightier items demanding my attention.

Take the fortune cookie I ate today. Continue reading “Insomnia”

Back To Work (No Kidding!)

photo courtesy of Pixabay

(This column originally appeared in Refreshed Magazine, February 2015)

People always tell me that I’m good with kids, usually after I’ve entertained their three-year-old by asking stupid questions like “I like your sparkly shoes. Do you think I could borrow them sometime?” and “I can’t seem to find my tail. Have you seen it anywhere?”

The ironic thing is that I’m not actually good with kids. I like kids, one or two at a time, in a supervised environment, for a limited period of time. Put a bunch of kids together in one room and my anxiety level quickly shoots into the red zone. Add in a few babies, and you’re guaranteed to hear screaming and crying.

And the babies aren’t usually very happy, either. Continue reading “Back To Work (No Kidding!)”

The Trouble With Technology

The state of the art fridge has a camera that lets you see what’s going inside the fridge, without opening the door.

Dear readers,

Last week, our clothes dryer died and, while shopping for a new one, the salesman, after enduring my constant exclamations of “For god’s sake, I just need it to dry my clothes, not cure cancer”, gleefully took me to the refrigerator section to show me a model that not only connects to WiFi so you can surf the internet (from your refrigerator door), but also has a camera that allows you to see the inside of your fridge without opening the door. That way, while you’re standing in the middle of Wegmans thinking “Do we really need milk?”, you can just use your smart phone to look inside your fridge and get the answer. With a price tag of $3185, I think you’d have to avoid purchasing a lot of extra milk before that fridge paid for itself. But as my friend Tammy says, some people have too much money.

The fridge of the future, complete with a WiFi connection.

Anyway, apparently our refrigerator saw the dryer go out the front door last week and, not wanting to miss out on whatever fun it imagined the outside world holds for aging appliances, yesterday decided it was also time to retire. I spent an entire day shopping for a replacement that would fit not only our budget but the weirdly shaped kitchen in our 90 year old house.

Needless to say, we won’t be getting the $3185 model the salesman demonstrated for us last week. I just want a refrigerator that keeps milk cold and ice cream frozen; if it has a working light inside? Bonus. (True story: I actually forgot that refrigerators have lights inside, so I was pretty jazzed about that feature. The salesman, recognizing the depth of my technology ignorance, added, “And it’s LED, so you don’t have to worry about buying those expensive light bulbs.” Wait. You can buy replacement refrigerator light bulbs?)

These recent appliance adventures reminded me of a column I wrote a few years ago called “The Trouble With Technology,” so I thought I’d share it again. It’s a bit dated…or is it prophetic? You decide. I just got an email reminding me that my car is due for its annual inspection.

oxoxo
Joanne

PS: “The Trouble With Technology” appears in my book, “What the Dog Said“, .the royalties of which will pay for a half-gallon of milk to store in my new refrigerator.

Continue reading “The Trouble With Technology”

Mama Mia, Don’t Break The Pasta

(This column originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Refreshed Magazine)

(photo December 2015)
(photo December 2015)

Over the holidays I noticed a new product on my grocery store shelf: half-sized spaghetti. It’s basically plain spaghetti, but half the length of regular spaghetti and touted as the “perfect size for any pot” because there’s no need to break it in half.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, have we become so lazy as Americans that we can’t break our own pasta in half?

I posted that sentiment, along with a photo of the box of spaghetti, on my Facebook page. My intent was to generate discussion about the way we rely on convenience items and technology to do everyday things we really should be doing ourselves. I’m not even talking about things like relying on GPS instead of reading a map. I’m talking about using electric staplers and wearing self-tying sneakers.

The little rant made sense to me, so imagine my surprise when instead of people talking about the laziness of half-sized spaghetti, I was hit with a barrage of replies that all shared the same message: Never break the pasta.

Yes, dear readers, the fact that we’re too lazy to break our own spaghetti is a far less serious offense than the fact that anyone would dare to break spaghetti in the first place.

The debate over pasta size included comments from my friend, Bob, who regularly cooks a variety of delicious-looking Italian dishes for his family and shares the photos on social media.

“Never break the pasta,” he wrote. When I asked why, he replied, “You’re not supposed to break it.”

For the record, I don’t break the pasta; I know not to do that. But why am I not supposed to do that? I asked the question again and again, and dozens of people responded. The conversations went something like this: Continue reading “Mama Mia, Don’t Break The Pasta”

Writing in Real Life

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photo courtesy of pixabay

One of the misconceptions people have about writers is that we loll around all day in our pajamas while brilliant prose magically pours forth from our fingers, usually minutes before deadline. We don’t work, therefore we’re always available for lunch, errands or babysitting. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want, and we make gads of money doing it.

OK, yes, sometimes I work in my pajamas, but most of the time I get dressed. (Yoga pants and sweat shirts count as getting dressed, right?) And yes, I am free during the day to run errands and have lunch with friends, and I used to babysit (we all know how that story ends). I also grocery shop and cook and do laundry and pay bills and answer the phone and let in repairmen. And I would clean, if I was the kind of woman who cleaned.

In between real life, I write.

Continue reading “Writing in Real Life”

This old (falling apart) house

plumbing-840835_640
photo courtesy of pixabay

The problem with talking about things you would like to do is that someone might overhear and make your wish come true.

Apparently, God reads my column. Some months ago, I wrote about how darling husband and I were watching home remodeling shows on Netflix and making a list of things we’d like to repair in our 88-year-old house. Then a pipe in the upstairs bathroom burst, causing Niagara Falls to cascade into the kitchen.

Once the culprit was found—ancient cast iron pipes that literally caved in on themselves—we were left with holes in the walls where the main stack had been replaced, as well as a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling and upstairs bathroom floor.

That provided an interesting new system of communication, to say the least: you could sit on the upstairs toilet and talk to someone standing in the kitchen below.

Entertaining as that might be, it got old pretty quickly. We needed to fix the holes.

Continue reading “This old (falling apart) house”

And the winner is … me?

EPA award 2015

Imagine my surprise this week when, while congratulating writing and publishing friends on their wins at the recent Evangelical Press Association Awards in Denver, I scrolled through the list of Higher Goals winners in the Humorous category and saw who won first place – ME, for my column “Insomnia”.

I had forgotten then the publishers of Refreshed Magazine had entered my columns in this year’s contest. I was surprised at not only the win, but … first place??

Lamar and Theresa Keener, publishers of Refreshed Magazine, took home numerous EPA awards and deserve loads of congratulations for their hard work and dedication to putting out such a high quality magazine. I’m honored that they include in their Refreshed family!

Buckets and buckets and buckets of gratitude are due my editor, Lori Arnold, for her patience, grace and willingness to put up with my quirks and writers block. There’s no greater blessing a writer can have than an excellent editor who laughs at her jokes.

This is my third EPA award, but whose counting? Well, I am, because if I’m being honest I’m still always amazed that people read my scribbling. The biggest thanks, of course, goes out to you, dear reader, for reading my musings and ramblings so that I don’t have to get a real job.

A reader gives me feedback – and the bat goes free

The bat escaped ... this time. Fly free, Mr. Bat. Fly free.
The bat escaped … this time. Fly free, Mr. Bat. Fly free.

When you’re a writer, reader feedback is always welcome, whether you’re telling me that you enjoyed something I’ve written or you think I’m an idiot.

In the July issue of Refreshed Magazine, I wrote about hearing a critter in our attic and darling husband’s brave battle with a bat. The bat lost. One reader sent this comment about the killing of the winged rodent:

“I think the article Bats in the Belfry by Joanne Brknow [sic] was disgusting! There was no reason to kill the bat!  Bats are good as they eat tremendous amounts of insects. How could you print that? And under the heading That’s Life!”

Yesterday, we found a bat in our basement. In honor of the reader, we set it free.

Well, if I’m being honest – and you know that honesty always makes for the best humor pieces – we trapped the bat between the front door and the screen door while we debated whether to whack it or let it go.

It must have been listening, because as darling husband inched the door open, the bat escaped. But as it flew away – and then circled our house, and the neighbor’s house, and the street for about 10 minutes – I cried, “Be free, Mr. Bat! Be free!”

After eating bugs in the backyard, I fully expect Mr. Bat to return some night this week for another midnight round of Critters In The Attic. We’ll be waiting … with the bat whacker …

Happy Birthday to Me

happy-birthday-cake-candle-celebrate-celebrating-1

(This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Refreshed Magazine.)

By the time you read this column, I’ll have reached one of life’s many milestones: the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday.

Or, to be more specific, I turn 350 in dog years.

I’d love to share some words of wisdom about turning 49+1, but publishing deadlines being what they are, as I sit down to write this column I’m still a few weeks shy of the actual Big Day. All I have as a prediction of the coming decade is my past experience. My 40s were significantly better than my 30s, which were much better than my 20s. Each decade has brought with it increasing wisdom and maturity, allowing me to both apologize to and forgive myself for the previous decade.

If that trend continues, I’ll be eligible for membership in Mensa. Or sainthood.

Since I have nothing to offer yet on what it means to join the Over The Hill Gang, I turned to my friend Lynda for some thoughts on what to expect. Her birthday was just a few days ago, so the big event is still fresh in her mind. She had a weekend-long celebration that included a night out with the girls, dinner with family, and a lot of pictures on Facebook showing that she’s barely aged since high school.

When I asked her how it felt to turn 10×5, she mused about a little arthritis in her knees, along with the requisite hot flashes and slightly higher blood pressure. You know, the things people tell me that “women your age” deal with, along with resistant gray hair, memory loss, and those few extra pounds that won’t go away no matter how much you diet or exercise.

Fair warning. The next person who says “women your age” to me will find out that women my age can still give you black eye.

But back to Lynda. She isn’t letting a milestone birthday get her down. She has a lot to celebrate this year. She and her husband will be married for 25 years. Their daughter turns 21 and their son starts high school. “I have a job I love, which I work part time, so low stress,” she told me by email. “Two great kids, an awesome husband, a lovable dog, a roof over our heads, living in San Diego, and just came back from the beach, where my son’s swim team was taking their team photos.”

With characteristic optimism, she added, “We survived the millennium, so it’s all bonus years from here on out!”

Maybe she’s so upbeat because the birthday cake sugar hasn’t cleared her system yet, or she’s high on all of that California sun and surf so absent here in Western New York, where I live and write (and shovel snow in May). I needed feedback from someone in my own climate.

My friend Lisa celebrated The Big One last December, during a blizzard. There was a surprise party, although she didn’t feel much like celebrating. And it wasn’t just the weather. “I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life,” she admitted over lunch recently. I understand what she means. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, while people I went to high school with are retiring from jobs they’ve held for 25 or 30 years.

Mickey has a few years on me and Lisa, and she added this perspective: “When I do realize how old I’ll be it amazes me. I’m not where I thought I’d be but it’s been a pretty good trip to where I am.”

That explains Yvonne’s thoughts. She said that as they years have passed, “I gained confidence. I gained experience. I gained knowledge. I gained self-esteem.” This birthday is when she bloomed. “I moved forward and I’ve never looked back.”

Sounds like the key to aging is to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination. Good. That means I can throw away all of those mailers from the cemetery offering to help me preplan my funeral.

Today turns into tomorrow, this year turns into the next, and life keeps happening, regardless of how many candles are on your birthday cake. While I haven’t made a big deal about my impending leap into old age, it would be nice if everyone else stopped counting. Yesterday the mailman delivered my membership application for AARP.

That led to maybe the best feedback I’ve gotten so far about turning … gulp … 50: “Enjoy it,” said my Aunt Mary Ellen. “You’ll never be any younger.”