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Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Erma Bombeck nearly ruined my blog

Erma Bombeck is ruining this blog. Oh, she doesn't mean to do it. And I don't mean to be bad-mouthing the mother of all funny mothers. But, I have not been hitting my stride on this blog and I have Erma to thank (or blame) for it.

Three months ago, I attended the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop at the University of Dayton. It was -- hands down -- THE best conference I have ever attended. I met and talked with and laughed with and learned from so many terrific writers. Ilene Beckerman, Karen Walrond, Tracy Beckerman (no relation to Ilene), Alan Zweibel on the famous side. And plenty of up-and-comers like Ott Mama and The Bearded Iris. (Oh and YOU too, I can't list everyone.)

And with all those brushes with greatness, all that time spent with funny people, I kind of lost my way. I think I'm funny. But now I feel under pressure to deliver the funny. All. the. Time. The truth is, funny takes time. Sure, I can come up with witty one-liners and am pretty handy with rib-tickling rhetoric. Delivering that every time my fingers hit the keyboard is a tall order.

Plus, even Erma found herself among the pits in her own bowl of cherries from time to time. My life is good -- very good, even -- but not every day is a gut-buster. Before the Erma conference, I felt like I could put that out here in this space. Now, it feels like a betrayal of humor writers everywhere.

But here's the deal: this space is my space. Sometimes it will be funny. Sometimes it will be wrought with exasperation. Sometimes, it will be my own brand of nonsense. Other times you'll come here and get a glimpse of where I am spiritually. Whatever it is, I promise -- you and myself -- it will be me. The good, the bad and the funny.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If you give a fat girl a cookie...

If you give a fat girl a cookie, she is gonna eat it.

If she eats the cookie, the fatter she'll get.

The fatter she gets, the worse her heartburn will get.

The worse her heartburn gets, the more she will need daily doses of drugs like Nexium and Prilosec.

The more Nexium and Prilosec she takes, the less her body will absorb iron.

The lower her iron levels get, the more exhausted she will feel all the time (even if she is using her CPAP machine religiously).

When she feels so exhausted, she will just want to lay around in front of the TV.

And chances are, if she is vegging out in front of the TV, she'll want a cookie to go with it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Trying to avoid the awkward family photo

It's church directory picture time again. I'm not sure whether to arrrgh or just sigh...

Our church is pretty big, at least as far as Catholic churches go. Some 2,000 families. So have a pictorial directory is a good idea. That way you can know the name of the family who always comes in after the first reading or the one who leaves a mess of Cheerios in the pew.

CHurch photoThe first time we had our family picture taken for the directory, there were only 3 of us and Annie was just 10 days old. The last time, there were 4 of us. Charlie was 3 years old and Annie asked the photographer if he would take a picture of just me and her. Make me melt.

Now, there are 5 of us and probably the only thing melting that will happen is the meltdown I might have about what we're all going to wear.

In the last directory, one family all wore red clown noses. It was great -- no one even looked at what they were wearing, except on their noses. Another family all wore Cincinnati Reds t-shirts. This year, friends of our all wore Butler University gear. Perfect, as he works for BU. But that doesn't help me much.

Robbie would be happy if we all wore Angry Birds outfits. Maybe Mike and I could sport the red bird and King Pig costume heads? Charlie wants to wear basketball shorts and a t-shirt. If we were to get a photo taken that really reflects who we are as a family, we'd all be holding some kind of electronic device and I'd have a Diet Coke in the other hand.

Since that would probably make us look shallow and pathetic, I'm moving on to Plan B. Mike wants to wear jeans and sport coat with a white shirt. I don't love the jeans, but don't feel like finding and ironing his khaki pants, either.  The boys would be happy in jeans and as long as I don't make them wear ties, dressing them will be pretty easy.

Annie is all set to wear a hipster-approved, vintage-look dress with cardigan that she really does look cute in.

Then there is me. I scheduled our pictures for the latest possible date so I would have time to lose 20 pounds. Yeah, like that happened. Instead, I think I've gained 5.

So between now and this evening, I have to find something in a color that looks good on me -- I'm thinking purple -- that doesn't make me look like Grimace, Barney or any other large and cartoonish character. No matter what I decide to wear, I'm pretty sure Spanx will be part of the get-up. If only they made Spanx for chins...

If I want people to recognize us at church from our picture in the directory, I'll have Robbie slumping, Charlie staring off into space, Annie twirling her hair and Mike and I on the ends looking happy to just have made it (mostly) on time.

Yeah. Not awkward at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spilling my guts

If you've "liked" the 4th Frog page on Facebook (and why wouldn't you? We have a lot of fun over there!), you likely know that I had an endoscopy yesterday. A doctor I had never met stuck a camera down my throat, took a bunch of pictures and stole some of my tissue.

Why would I let him do that, you might ask? (Let's pretend that you did ask, otherwise there's not really a point to this post).

It all started about two weeks ago. I went to my local blood center to donate platelets because a.) they needed them and called to ask if I would and b.) the day I went was free movie ticket day. Sad, but true.

Knowing that my iron is sometimes low, I ate lots of red meat and broccoli in the days before my appointment. At the designated time, I went to the blood center, filled in 50 or so bubbles to answer questions about my travel and sexual habits (neither of which are remotely exciting or sordid) and proffered my index finger for the hemoglobin stick. That's where they test to see if your blood has enough iron in it to donate.

For women, normal hemoglobin is somewhere between 12 and 15. Mine was 8.4. Lower than its ever been, which explains a lot about why I've been needing 2 naps a day). So I left with a pack of Nutter Butters and the movie tickets (I did offer that they didn't have to give them to me) and a directive to call my family doctor.

Which is how I wound up at the family doctor's office with a physician assistant the next day. A physician assistant who I think might have been born after I graduated high school. She sent me down to the lab, where they were only too happy to take four vials of my blood and send me on my way with no cookies, no movie tickets and not even a Hello Kitty band-aid.

The next day, the obviously-looks-younger-than-she-could-possibly-be physician assistant called to tell me that not only was my hemoglobin low, but so were all 7 of the other things they measure when they do an "iron panel."

Which is how I ended up at the endoscopy center yesterday. I arrived about 12:30pm, having had nothing to eat since 11pm the night before. I signed in, showed my insurance card and my driver's license (which reveals a weight that may or may not be anywhere close to the truth) and took a seat in the waiting room. A few minutes later, I was disrobing from the waist up and slipping into a highly fashionable hospital gown. No sooner did I put my belongings in the locker the nurse had shown me than the power went out.

And it stayed out. Five minutes went by. Then 10. Then 20. The nurses came by assured me that someone from the power company was working on it. As my stomach grumbled, I began thinking that at least I'd only fasted and didn't do a whole colon prep. And at least it didn't go out while the scope was down my throat. The Korean lady in the curtained area across from mine began demanding that she wasn't going to have this procedure done today (at least that's what the interpreter was saying).

Just about the time I was ready to call my sister who was coming to wait during my endoscopy and then drive me home, the power was back on and all systems were go.

By the time the nurse came to wheel me back, I was just looking forward to being knocked out. The doctor and I talked about our college alma maters, they asked if I was allergic to Versed or Demerol (the anesthetics), I said no and then I don't remember anything...until I woke up before the procedure was finished.

Which is how I gagged on the scope, threw up (you're welcome) the nothingness that was in my stomach along with the scope and they had to do it all over again. That must have involved some more buzz juice, because then I really don't remember anything until I was back in the little curtained area. I could hear the doctor talking, but would not be a reliable witness in a court of law.

From what I remember and what my sister told me, my GERD is bad (duh), they took 4 biopsies from my esophagus (standard procedure), and oh yeah, I need a colonoscopy. Lucky me. I also got some souvenir pictures of my esophagus to take home, which I will not share here. Lucky you.

Everyone keeps telling me that the colonoscopy prep is worse than the procedure. Maybe, but one thing's for sure. I'm going to make sure they knock me out really good for that one. I certainly don't want to be waking up before that one is over.

(If you're just dying to see the inside of my esophagus, click on over to the 4th Frog FB page. If nothing else, it will freak my daughter out.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I blame the laptop.

I'm all for technology, but sometimes progress doesn't seem so...progressive. Take the laptop computer for instance.

With the invention of the laptop, we entered into an era where we can work -- or play -- nearly anywhere and anytime we want to. Cool, huh?

But I've noticed some things that don't seem so cool about that.

First, my at-home productivity has gone down, even for things like blogging. Most evenings you'll find me on the couch, in front of the TV with my laptop. Watching TV and trying to blog, or work for pay, just isn't as productive as sitting down at a desk to do the same. It's not just the distraction of the television. It's the physical posture and the mental cues that being upright at a desk brings. Simply put, I get more work done when I use my laptop more like a desktop computer.

The laptop also encourages, or at least allows, isolation. Take your laptop and hole up in your room. I do it. Mike does it. Annie does it. You, if you have a laptop, probably do it too, at least on occasion.

Another not-so-progressive characteristic of this handy invention is it's ability to act as an electronic leash. Rarely do I leave town, even for just one night, without my laptop. Is a vacation really a vacation if I'm connected to all the things that tether me to my everyday life?

It's not just vacations, but work too. There was a time when work was done at work. Five or six o'clock rolled around and everyone went home. Now, we bring work home with us. After a couple hour break for dinner, some TV, maybe some family time, it's back to the electronic salt mines.

Yes, I blame the laptop. But if I'm really being truthful, I have to blame me too.


*Note: This post was written on a laptop at the kitchen table.