Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Nightmares


As 2015 approaches, I can't help but reflect on some of my worst New Year's Eve moments. One year during winter break from college, I went to a New Year's Eve party on a first date. The party was at my friend's house, so I spent most of the night introducing him to everyone. All of this talking made me quite thirsty, so he generously offered to refill my punch glass.

At the end of the evening, he kissed me goodnight at the door, and I raced to the bathroom. To this day, I don't know if it was because he was a terrible kisser, I drank too much, or if it was a combination of the two. I was just happy I made it to the bathroom in time, and didn't wreak havoc on my mom's rust shag carpeting.

I didn't have to worry about letting him down gently, as his family packed up and left shortly afterward. My mom met his parents through a mutual friend who bought insurance from them. They gave them such a good deal that my mom also became a client. They left my mom and her friends with no insurance, and me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

Years later we went on a ski trip with our boys to Snowbird, Utah during winter break. On the cab ride to the airport, I sat in the backseat with the kids, while my husband sat up front. The Russian cab driver was such an animated conversationalist, that he gestured with both hands while he was driving. He also didn't want to be impolite, so he engaged in frequent eye contact with my husband. Somehow he got us to the airport in one piece without keeping his hands on the wheel or his eyes on the road. My husband was so impressed that he asked him to pick us up from our return flight on December 31. Before I could strangle him with his seat belt, he politely declined. He said New Year's Eve was his busiest night, and he wouldn't have time. He gave us his friend's number to call instead.

After risking my life in freezing temperatures without a bunny hill in sight, I couldn't wait to go home to sub zero temperatures where I wasn't rolling down Death Mountain on my raw flesh sled. Fortunately, my boys were much better sports and skiers than I was.

I didn't want to spend New Year's Eve flying home, but our flight was early enough that we weren't worried about being caught in all the chaos. As fate would have it, our flight was delayed a few hours. When we finally arrived in Chicago, our cab driver's friend was nowhere to be found. We tried calling other cab companies, and had to wait almost two hours for a ride.

When we finally made it home, all of the nearby restaurants had closed early for the holiday, so I quickly threw some eggs or pasta together for my starving children. We were too exhausted to take out our party hats, and noise makers. It was hard ringing in the New Year, when I just wanted to wring my husband's neck. He promised that this wouldn't happen again, and agreed to plan a warmer winter destination. It only took him about twelve years to make good on his promise, but at least he didn't kiss our insurance goodbye.

Wishing everyone a very happy, and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Deja Vu Blogfest: Meddling Mothers & Disappointing Daughters


 DL Hammons, and   Nicole Zoltack are hosting the  Deja Vu Blogfest, where writers are asked to "re- post their favorite blog from this year, or one that never received the exposure it should have."  Be sure to check out the list of entertaining entries who are getting into the holiday spirit by highlighting their favorite repeats.

My story was written in February 2013. Thanks to DL and Nicole for inspiring me to dust if off. Happy Holidays, and remember it could always be worse!

 Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters

Host: It's time to play Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters, the only game show where mothers and daughters try to get along to win prizes that the mothers will never be able to operate in the first place. Let's meet the contestants...(He notices that one mother is still trying to climb up into her chair)  Do you need some help Dorothy?

Dorothy: No, I'm fine thank you.

Dorothy's daughter: Just grab my hand, and let me give you a boost.

Dorothy: I said I don't need any help. STOP RUSHING ME!

Host: Okay, let's move on to Gladys and her daughter Gretchen. How many times do you call your mother a day?

Gretchen: Once. 

Host: And you Felicia?

Felicia: I call my mother once a week.

(A loud siren sounds)

Host: Where's Dorothy?

Dorothy's daughter:  She fell down and her Life Alert alarm went off.  

 (The paramedics lift Dorothy into her seat)

Dorothy's daughter: I call my mother six times a day. She hangs up on me, and says, "It's never enough."

(The bell sounds ding ding ding)

Host: You are correct. The answer is, "Never enough." You just won a case of prune juice. You must be very proud of your daughter Dorothy!

Dorothy: Did you see how nice those paramedics were? Why couldn't you have married someone like that? 

Host: All right then. Now we'll ask the mothers a question. Gladys when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Gladys: Don't we get a lunch break?

Host: It's only been ten minutes. We'll have snacks after the show.

Gladys: But this is when I eat lunch.

Gretchen: Here Mom, I brought you a sandwich. (takes one out of her purse)

Gladys: It's on rye bread. I like a nice roll. I can't eat this. What's wrong with you?

Fanny: I'll take it. I'm starving. (Looks at her own daughter Felicia) Why don't you ever make me lunch?

Host: Fanny, when is the last time you said something nice to your daughter?

Fanny: That's easy. As we were driving over, I told my daughter that her dress was very pretty...

Host: Well, that is nice.

Fanny: And I'm sure that if she lost ten pounds it would actually fit her.

Host: Maybe we should just throw out that question. Dorothy, when was the last time your daughter took you to the doctor?

Dorothy: You know falling down really makes a person thirsty. How come no one offered me a drink or a sandwich?

Host: If you answer the question, I'll get you both.

Dorothy: Okay, yes please.

Host: Yes please what?

Dorothy: I would like both a drink and a sandwich. Soup would be nice too, but I don't want to be a bother.

(Gladys is dashing across the stage with her walker. Her daughter is jogging behind her)

Host: Where are you going?

Gladys: I just remembered I think I forgot to turn off the stove.

Host: Can you have someone else check on it?

Gretchen: It's my stove, and I just got a text that the fire department is heading over to my house.

Gladys: Are we stopping for lunch first, 'cause I still haven't eaten?

Host: Good luck ladies. Be sure to tell us your new address, so we can send you a lifetime supply of incontinence products.

Dorothy: Continents? I can name the continents! There's Asia, Africa.....

Host: Well, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for playing Meddling Mothers and Disappointing Daughters. (The daughters storm off stage) Aren't you forgetting something? Don't leave me alone with your mothers. Come back!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shaping Up For Mom's Big Birthday

(Mom with her favorite child)
During one of my brother's weekly visits, he asked our mom what she would like for her upcoming birthday. He was astounded when she replied, "Some small weights for working out." My brother reminded her they had a few sets in the exercise room of her building that she could use on her way to dinner. Mom said she didn't want to workout at that time, and would rather have her own weights to use at her convenience.

My brother knew the weights would end up collecting dust in the corner of her apartment, as her major form of exercise consisted of lifting her comb to her hair. His patience was wearing thin, "What difference does it make if you workout on your way to dinner, or any other time of day? You never perspire, and your breathing is exactly the same whether you're exercising or sleeping."

Needless to say, our mom accomplished the same task with twin soup cans. Seeing her now, it's hard to imagine she was once the reigning arm wrestling champion in our family. She managed to hold onto her title until her grandsons were in their teens.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we celebrated our mom's birthday with a few close friends, and family. At the restaurant, I used a make-shift geriatric booster seat which consisted of one hundred table linens wrapped in sturdy plastic. This helped her maintain over-the-table eye contact at all times. Though the restaurant was louder than we expected, it was nice seeing everyone, especially our dear family friends that we don't see often enough. My brother even made a thoughtful toast, instead of his usual special occasion "roast."  

Afterward, my mom was very appreciative, and had no complaints. This made me a little concerned. Fortunately, it only took a few days until Mom was back to herself. I noticed it when she was unhappy about her temporary new caregiver. Since she was always within earshot, Mom couldn't say what was bothering her, so I asked her a series of "yes" or "no" questions. She replied "no" to everything. Then as soon as she stepped out she whispered, "She can't tell the difference between a pill and a pillow." How dare my mom's temporary caregiver have a hearing problem when my mom's hearing was perfectly fine. Suddenly, I knew she was going to be all right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

IWSG: More Than Just A Guide


Thanks to  Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his round-the-clock team of administrators, The IWSG Guide To Publishing And Beyond is here! I'm honored to be a part of this group that has been growing for three years strong, as well as a contributor to this helpful guide. You can download it at:  AmazonBarnes and Noble,  KoboSmashwords, and  Goodreads.

 Alex decided to take the IWSG to the next level with this wonderful guide to help writers attain their goals whether they're just starting out, or want to strengthen their marketing skills for their next book. Since this will be the last IWSG post for 2014, it's made me reflect on how I've gone from an insecure blogger to an insecure writer, and how this group helped me along the way.

According to Mari Kane from Blogsite Studio, there are "Five Big Differences Between Writing and Blogging." The observation that most struck a chord was how, "Blog readers like to skim, not chew."

The same could be said about many professions in our fast-paced society. Many people spend the day rushing from one meeting to another, barely making time to sit down for a meal. It's not unusual for parents to train their children at an early age to have every hour scheduled throughout the day. I knew one mother of three who kept a port-a-potty in her mini-van, so she wouldn't have to pull over when she was transporting her children from one activity to another.

Our attention spans are getting shorter, and action movies are more popular than ever. Even PBS classics like Downton Abbey have been known to cut quickly from one scene to another. Though you may find a lengthy soliloquy in a stage performance, Maggie Smith's elderly character The Dowager, is more likely to engage in a pithy punchline like, "What is a weekend?"

Some blogs are informative, while others are entertaining. Like the most successful writers, the best bloggers have the ability to do both, but it doesn't end there. Mix in loyalty, compassion, and a healthy dose of encouragement, and you have the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We may still be insecure next year, but thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, insecurity is the new black.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bird-Brained Tips On Dressing

Notice the elegant lines on the dog's fringe poncho, and the cat's pressed Pilgrim suit. Their respective feather headdress and Pilgrim hat are perfectly in sync, as well as their priceless poses. We could learn a lot from these precocious pets.

Fast forward to a Chicago courtroom. A female judge sentenced a man to two days in jail for wearing "rodeo clown pants," aka saggy pants to court. Though his case was dismissed, he still had to serve time.

Another man who got off for using his cell phone, while riding his bike was sentenced for contempt of court. Eight men in total were forced to sit in jail for wearing their pants too low. According to WGN News, "It costs about one hundred and fifty dollars a day of the taxpayer's money for an inmate to sit in jail."  Talk about really cracking down on sloppy dressing.

There should also be laws for women who show too much skin. Any woman over fifty in cleavage-baring attire should be issued a warning, and over sixty should immediately be locked up. Women over seventy should be held indefinitely without bail. My brother and I have discussed this many times, and neither one of us would have a problem locking our mom up for good if we caught her in the act again.

All hell could break loose with the saggy pants epidemic on Thanksgiving, as many people unbutton their pants after the big meal. I have already planned my outfit to insure I won't be doing any jail time. A tasteful turtleneck will not offend the turkey, or the guests, combined with a stylish pair of sweatpants with an elastic waist. I realize I won't be as fashionable as the cat or the dog, but I'll definitely be more comfortably dressed than the bird.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carol Kilgore Presents: Gracie and the Peach Thieves - Part Two

Before Gracie concludes her thrilling cliffhanger adventure, I would like to thank her for sharing her story here. To show my appreciation, I tried to make her feel at home by putting out a peach spread. Unfortunately, peaches are out of season here, but I don't give up easily. I thought I might be able to track down a few on the Internet. This is what I found instead: Peaches & Hot Sauce (Comedy Production Studio), Peaches Boutique (specializing in prom dresses), and a company that ships Peach Bourbon Fried Turkey.

Since I couldn't reach any of these places in time, we'll have to settle for some hot peach tea, and fresh scones with peach jam. Wait a minute, a truck from the Peaches and Hot Sauce Comedy Studio just pulled up. Gracie, I'll try to stall them while you tell your story.                                                      
Gracie and the Peach Thieves – Part Two

Hi, this is Gracie again. When I left you at Carol’s blog on Monday, I was trapped in a peach tree with peach thieves on the ground below. Here’s what happened.

My only weapons were peaches. They’d have to do. Some of the ones around me were still as hard as rocks. I’d have to take care not to disturb the branches when I pulled the fruit, and I wondered if I could do that. I had to try. I shoved Mama’s basket into a fork so it wouldn’t fall.

Then I pulled a hard peach. Both men kept picking. Petunia and Daisy yapped in the distance, but I couldn’t tell where they were. They didn’t sound concerned. I pulled another peach and looked down.

The men were working fast. They’d already picked a bushel of Mama’s peaches and were working on another basket. They didn’t know how mad Mama would get, that’s for sure. With my two peaches in my pockets, I yanked off two more, took aim, and fired the first peach. The second. Two hits!

The men were loud! All the words I was taught never to say spewed from their mouths. I fired the next peach, and then the fourth. The dogs were louder and coming our way. I reached for another peach, but I wasn’t careful enough.

I lost my balance, and fell through the branches.

The next thing I knew, a wet nose was pushing on one cheek and a warm tongue was licking the other.

“Gracie, wake up. C’mon, honey, wake up.” Daddy’s voice.
I opened my eyes. “Peach thieves.”

“Buster saw them drive up and called the sheriff. He’s out at the road with them now waiting for the deputy. They said you hit them with peaches. One’s got a black eye.”

“Good. They got into Mama’s trees. I couldn’t stop them in time.”

“Thanks to you, Mama still has plenty of peaches. She can make an extra cobbler for Buster. Maybe some ice cream, too. If you hadn’t stopped them, they could’ve wiped out a whole row of trees before the dogs found them.”

I smiled, remembering how good peach ice cream was on top of warm peach cobbler.

“Let’s check you out. Move your arms and legs.”

I sat up. “I’m okay. I have to get Mama’s cobbler basket.”

Daddy took the two bushel baskets along with Mama’s basket and sent me off to play. When he walked into the kitchen, I heard Mama all the way from the hay barn. Those thieves were lucky they only had to face the deputy and not Mama.

After high school, I went on to college, graduated, and joined the San Antonio Police Department. Nothing there quite equaled the thrill in that peach tree, so I searched for more.

Now I’m the newest member of a still unnamed taskforce to be based in San Antonio. We’re all still training, so look for more to come! My name is Gracie Hofner, and I’m Carol Kilgore’s newest character. She’s writing a whole trilogy of books based on me, which is why I’m writing this instead of her.

You can find out more about Carol here:
Under the Tiki Hut blog:
Website with Monthly Contest:



By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death—locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of her dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Apps Under Attack


Monday night CBS News ran a story entitled, "Is Your App A Trap?" The segment talked about how some apps may actually be spying on our iPhones. For example, just by downloading the free Flashlight app, we're allowing access to our contact lists, as well as other personal information. The same is to be said of using Snap Chat, or other social media. They stressed the importance of checking the "terms of service" for every app, and to never hit "update all," as it may create malware  problems.

Now that Apple is tightening their policies for iPhone, I looked up some apps that were either discontinued, or didn't make the cut in the first place: The following though aptly named, were considered offensive to children:

The Russian Bride Gallery - A fine selection of sweet and polite mail-order brides.

Zombie School - A shoot 'em up of zombie children who are coming after you. Where's the fun in just putting them to bed after dinner? 

Adult Tennis Boobs - Serving up buoyant pairs courtside.

This made me want to create my own apps. The first one falls under the category of a safety reminder for men. I like to call it the "Would It Kill You To Call Your Mother?" app. For a slight charge you can add programmed responses like, "Don't worry mom. Since it's chilly I'll take a sweater with me."

On days when you just don't feel like going in to work, 'cause you just woke up, and have no idea where you are, there's the "I'm Home Sick In Bed Anytime" app. This pre-programmed app works in conjunction with FaceTime. You simply videotape yourself ahead of time while moaning about how sick you are in bed. Then you hook it up to a live FaceTime feed showing the current date and time. No one will be the wiser, unless you hit "update all," and your boss is on your contact list.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

IWSG: Should Women Shy Away From Self-Deprecating Humor?

It's time for another addition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit  Alex J. Cavanaugh, and the other welcoming writers.

The other day I ran into an old classmate that I hadn't seen in years. We went all through school together, and though his hair had turned salt and pepper, I immediately recognized him. He reminded me that we were Facebook friends, and offered up suggestions for my blog.

Though he thought it had "potential," he felt I needed to "ease up" on my self-deprecating humor. He added, "Men like confident women. We don't want to hear about your flaws. It doesn't reflect well on you or your family. Take pride in your accomplishments, and stop going for the cheap laughs." Then he smiled when he said, "I'm glad your mom still has a great sense of humor. Does she still wear those tight leather pants?" 

For once I was tongue-tied. Though part of me was flattered he actually read my blog,  I was shocked he had found it offensive, and creeped out that he still had a thing for my mom. It was high time I put him in his place, "Many female comedy legends are known for their self-deprecating humor. Look at Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Even Lucille Ball was at her best when she was stomping on grapes, or shoving chocolates down her uniform at the chocolate factory. Comedy isn't always sexy, yet many of these women are very attractive. I know I'll never be in their league, but you know what I mean."

He stared at me for a minute before asking, "Remember you mom's leopard couch? They sure don't make couches like that anymore. Didn't she have a matching robe too?"

I almost dropped my vanilla chai latte. "I don't remember inviting you over. When were you ever in our house?"

"Your brother asked me and Donny to come over after baseball practice one day."

Donny? Then it all came back to me. He and Donny were in a group of boys who traumatized me in grammar school. When he wasn't calling me names, he was busy shoving me on the playground. He was the ringleader in a group of kids who picked on everything from my buck teeth to my clown shoes. Funny how someone who spent years deflating my ego, found my self-deprecating humor unbecoming. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mom's Ghoulish Choice For A One-Way Trip

Halloween in Portland, Oregon (
Below is an excerpt from a recent phone conversation with my mom. As usual, it's more kooky than spooky.

Mom: I'm moving to Oregon.

Me: Oh, is it because it's one of the few states that has the "Death With Dignity" law?

Mom: Yes, it is.

Me: I don't think you'll find a doctor who will agree to assist in your suicide, just because your manicurist's rates went up.

Mom: I'll find someone who will.

Me: Okay, in the meantime I'll do some research, and get back to you.

Mom: Are you going to use that Google machine?

Me: Probably.

Mom: Well, be careful. They could use the information against you. Don't mention that you're related to me, and definitely don't tell them where I live.

Me: I'll try to remember that. By the way, do you have any terminal conditions I should know about?

Mom: I'm terminally bored with this conversation. I'll talk to you later.

According to the Death With Dignity National Center, "The Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death laws allow mentally competent, terminally-ill adult state residents to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death. This is one of many end-of-life care options available in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont."

Sadly, this news has made headlines as a twenty-nine-year-old woman suffering from terminal brain cancer made arrangements to end her life on November 1 in Portland, Oregon. Brittany Maynard's plan is to be surrounded by her family and best friend, as she takes a powerful prescription to end her suffering. Her family generously offered to relocate with her to Oregon, the first "Death With Dignity" state after she exhausted all of her treatment options. This beautiful, brave young woman will be ending her life on her terms, but she has decided to postpone the date. Thanks to Janie Junebug for informing me of Brittany's recent decision.

I spoke to my mom again later that day.

Me: Since you have a big birthday coming up, maybe we can have a destination celebration in Oregon!

Mom: Why would I want to do that?

Me: You said you wanted to move there a few hours ago.

Mom: Well, I did some research of my own.

Me: And...?

Mom:  And I'm not going.

Me: You couldn't convince your hair stylist to move with you?

Mom: Have I mentioned that you're terminally annoying?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive Bloghop: A Nose For Trouble


Alex J. Cavanaugh,  Michael Di Gesu,  Stephen Tremp, and  L. Diane Wolfe are hosting the Survive and Thrive Bloghop to create awareness, and encourage early screenings for disease prevention. Please visit our wonderful hosts to read their amazing stories, as well as the rest of the talented participants. Below is my contribution.

                                                                     A Nose For Trouble

I'll never forget my childhood days of summer. We'd spend hours soaking up the sun in our backyard. Before anyone even heard about tanning beds, my mom had her own outdoor version. It was an inflatable raft that she filled up with water. Because it was silver, it was comparable to baking in a large tinfoil reflective pool. Somehow my mom came out perfectly bronzed without a hair out of place, while I turned beet red.

When tanning beds first came out, I was one of the first people to line up. In a half hour, I could evenly cook my front and back without burning. How could it possibly be harmful?  If only we had known about the dangerous effects of all types of sun bathing.

During a routine dermatologist visit several years ago, my doctor noticed a suspicious mark on my nose. He thought it was a basal cell, and suggested I have it removed by a plastic surgeon to avoid scarring. Two questions immediately came to mind, "Are you going to do a biopsy, and should I meet with the plastic surgeon before the procedure?"  Because this dermatologist had been treating my family for many years, I didn't argue with him when he answered "no" to both of my questions. Big mistake.

After my procedure, the plastic surgeon sent a biopsy to the lab. Instead of a cancerous basal cell, it was just a gland. The procedure was a complete waste of time and money, which could've been avoided if I would've followed my instincts.

As a fair-skinned blond, I'm always prone to blotches and blemishes. Seven years later, I noticed a recurring blemish that appeared near the area of the botched surgery on my nose. It would turn crusty, and reappear every few months. I made an appointment with my new dermatologist who immediately took a biopsy. This time I had a confirmed basal cell, but the location was even trickier to get to, and there was no telling how deep it went. For those reasons, my doctor referred me to a Mohs surgeon.

According to Mayo Clinic, "During Mohs surgery, layers of cancer-containing skin are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains." When I arrived, the nurse told me how fortunate I was that the cancer didn't spread to my left eye.

After each layer, they sent me back to the waiting room, so they could examine it. My husband kept me company until they called me back in for the next round. As a result of the prior needless surgery, I had extra scar tissue, so the surgeon took a skin graft from behind my left ear. It took six attempts until the surgery was complete. I asked if that was a common number, and the nurse said that it took one of her patients sixteen attempts to remove all of her cancerous layers.

Now I try not to be in the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and wear sunblock or a moisturizing lotion with SPF 30 or higher. As my scar was healing, it looked like some of the sutures were popping out, so I immediately went to the doctor's office.  One suture looked particularly long, as I was able to wrap it around my finger. After the nurse examined me, she fought hard to keep a straight face. Then she relayed her findings, "Those aren't sutures. They're hairs. We deliberately took the skin graft from behind your ear, because most people don't grow hair back there." Now there's something I could be proud of for finally coming in first.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sidestepping Into Fall

Fall is the time for new beginnings, and Rosh Hashana symbolizes the Jewish New Year. We celebrated by filling up on the traditional holiday dinner which featured everything from matzo ball soup to brisket. The evening was pleasant but relatively uneventful until our guests said their goodbyes.

The front door is no longer an option for some of our family members who walk with aids. Hence, there are fewer steps to the car through the garage. My aunt and uncle were the first to leave, before the pile-up began. With breaking speed, Mom was about to pass-up my cousin. I told her to stop showing off with her walker, and let our cousin head to the front of the line. My brother helped her down the first step. Then she broke free, and kept walking with her cane. Seconds later, I heard my brother call out for help. Unfortunately, my cousin hadn't seen the second step, and was lying face down on the garage floor.

Apparently, this was the second time she had fallen in two days, and her face was pretty beaten up. After not taking no for an answer, our cousin agreed to let us drive her to the emergency room. My brother met us at the hospital, and we kept her company in between tests. The hours passed quickly, as she told us stories about growing up with our dad. They were first cousins, and though he was five years older, he treated her like a sister. They even took separate trains to meet at the Cubs games when she was only ten. She enjoyed going to the games with our dad, because he told her everything he knew about baseball. Years later, Dad introduced our cousin to his fraternity brother who became her husband.

After her tests were over, they stitched up the inside of her cheek, and were ready to send her home. My brother and I both pleaded with the doctor to keep her overnight, as she lived alone, and was at risk to fall again. We were also hoping a physical therapist would assist her in using a walker. My cousin kept apologizing for ruining our evening, and told us to go home. She didn't realize how relieved we were that she wasn't seriously injured, and how much we enjoyed learning more about our dad. My cousin couldn't have been more appreciative that I stayed with her until she was safe in her hospital room, and promised to call her children first thing in the morning.

It was almost 3 a.m. when I got home. I expected to find all of the dishes piled up, but my husband and sons washed all of the wine and water glasses by hand, and set off the dishwasher. I was so grateful for their wonderful surprise.

At the end of Yom Kippur, I had my immediate family over for a casual break the fast. After dinner my mom seemed anxious to go home. She suggested my brother take his dessert to go. We couldn't figure out why she was in such a hurry. Finally, she admitted she wanted my brother to drive her home before the storm hit. None of us could figure out what storm she was talking about. The sky was completely clear when we walked her to my brother's car.

A few days later, the subject came up again. I thought my mom made up the whole story, because she was mad at me for something.  She swore she heard about the storm on TV, while I was preparing dinner. Then it hit me. She had been watching a previously recorded program from the week before. It must have been interrupted due to a severe storm watch. When I told her she exclaimed. "How was I supposed to know that? And by the way, you gave me indigestion." I'm so glad my aunt has offered to host Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG Guide: How Selling Yourself Short Might Shortchange You


Alex J. Cavanaugh has decided to take the IWSG to a new level with The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide To Publishing and Beyond.  As the group enters its third year, as well as the first anniversary of the IWSG website, Alex is compiling a book to assist other writers in the areas of writing, publishing, and marketing.  For a sneak preview, be sure to visit all of the talented writers here.  Below is my cutting room floor contribution for consideration in the Guide.

 How Selling Yourself Short Might Shortchange You

Oh, how I loved to sing. As high school thespians, we would often burst into song like the characters in Glee. I didn't realize how annoying that habit was until I decided to belt out some Ethel Merman show tunes during a long drive home. My "older" boyfriend was too polite to say anything, as I sang for an audience of one in an enclosed vehicle with enough vibrato to fill an auditorium. When he pulled into my driveway his head was throbbing so heavily that he didn't even bother to walk me to the door. Any false sense of bravado I had was lost that day. It must have somehow disappeared along with my phone number.

This is only one of many stories that led me to join the Insecure Writer's Support Group in 2011. As the group was celebrating its third anniversary in early September, I was also celebrating the publication of our anthology, Old Broads Waxing Poetic. Our team of eight witty and wonderful writers, includes two other members of the IWSG. After we got the word out on our blogs, and other social media, the hardest part was marketing to friends and family.

Upon recovering from the initial shock that I was finally published,  a few friends offered to buy the book. I could tell they were just trying to be nice, so I foolishly said, "That's okay. You don't have to." I gave them an out, and they took it. What I should have said was, "That's great! All proceeds are going to Care International. Thank you!"

I didn't want them to feel obligated, and I couldn't be more wrong. I was playing the restaurant game. We've all played it. The bill comes, and one person grabs the check. He or she offers to pay. You initially say that it's not necessary, and offer to split it. The person insists, and you say thank you. I was waiting for the "I insist" round that never came.

Though some older family members wanted to help out, they were concerned about providing personal information to Amazon, as well as shipping charges. They offered to reimburse me, after I ordered copies for them. I was glad they weren't the least bit worried about me sharing personal information. I tried to explain how to access an Amazon card, but they didn't seem interested.

My closest friend surprised me by buying five copies. She gave one to each of her sisters-in-law who enjoyed it so much they're planning on buying some additional copies to send to their friends. Last week she also gave books to two more friends when we were at her house for a holiday dinner. Then  I realized she had given all five copies away. As if reading my mind, she said, "Don't worry, I'll order some more copies." When I started to argue she didn't hesitate to add, "I insist."

This is my entry for consideration in The IWSG Guide To Publishing and Beyond. If accepted, I give permission to include this entry in the anthology.

My Bio: Julie Kemp Pick writes about family humor often featuring her rebellious mom, and blogs at

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Big C Hop: Willful Women With Woes and Secrets of Honor

A person's true character is revealed under the most adverse conditions. When my mom's close friend Joy's prognosis from lung cancer was only six months, she came up with a plan. After she made her funeral arrangements, and got the rest of her affairs in order, she invited my mom, and another friend to go on an Australian cruise with her. They made the most out of their "last hurrah." Happily, Joy proved the doctors wrong by stretching those six months into ten years.

Between chemotherapy and radiation treatments many cancer patients have difficulty coping. My Auntie Rho was not one of them. She made friends everywhere she went, and continued throughout the worst of times. Though she wasn't my aunt by blood, she could not have done more for my family. Before she came down with lung cancer, the non-smoker was the first one to help me clean up after a holiday dinner. Even at seventy, she would have everything cleared off the table and put away faster than I could bring out the next course. Just when she seemed to be fading away, Auntie Rho miraculously rallied to celebrate her seventy-fifth birthday with family and friends.

After my neighbor moved away, we were in and out of touch for a few years before she was diagnosed with leukemia. Since she underwent a bone marrow transplant, she has suffered from one complication after another. Her extensive cocktail of anti-rejection drugs has resulted in diabetes, as well as a slew of other ailments. Fortunately, she continues to maintain her wonderful sense of humor.

Whenever I inquire about her health, she always replies, "You don't want to know." Then she rattles off one horrible thing after another in a surprisingly amusing way. Recently, in an attempt to prevent a corneal transplant, her ophthalmologist glued her left eye shut for three and a half months. Her grandson asked her when she was going to stop looking like a monster. Despite all of her hardships, she still managed to potty train him in just one day.

Because she's been to so many different doctors, she's threatening to change her name to "Ologist." Remarkably, she doesn't let any of her ailments slow her down, and though her eyesight has been fading, her nose for news is stronger than ever. She is always up on all of the latest happenings in the neighborhood, and had to fill me in on what was going on practically outside my front door.

At the end of our recent phone conversation, I couldn't believe we had been laughing for over an hour. This tough little survivor who at one time dropped down to seventy-eight pounds, could always keep me in stitches. Though we have had the most entertaining time on the phone together, I couldn't remember why we haven't seen each other in years. Then it hit me. The last time I suggested getting together, she didn't quite share my enthusiasm, as she replied, "Well, it's almost winter."

Needless to say, all of the women fought with dignity, grace, and humor. The youngest, and feistiest of the group continues to fight off whatever is thrown her way, and I hope she doesn't stop taking my phone calls for many years to come.

This story may be featured in an anthology to raise money for  Melissa Bradley  who has been battling cancer. Proceeds will also go to Gilda's Club Chicago. Please visit Melissa to learn more about her story. You can  find Melissa, and the rest of the talented participants  here.  Special thanks also to Michael Di Gesu  for hosting this worthwhile event. I wish Melissa all the best in her recovery.


In other news, I'm thrilled to announce Carol Kilgore's SECRETS OF HONOR is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

Purchase Kindle edition here:

Purchase paperback edition here:

Please visit the delightful  Carol Kilgore at Under The Tiki Hut to congratulate her.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ferreting Out The Competition



Last week in celebration of our new release Old Broads Waxing Poetic, we held a contest inviting bloggers to write about their favorite old broad. Our winner wrote not one, but two essays about his mother which shot him straight to the the top of the list. This made me think of another sharp shooter who treated his ma right.

Gangster Meyer Lansky remembered how much his mother sacrificed for him, and vowed to take care of her when he became wealthy.  He set her up in a luxury retirement complex, and often visited her. The "mob's accountant" always made sure his mother had the "very best in medical care, and remained an affectionate and devoted son."
I'm pleased to introduce you to another devoted son,  Stephen T. McCarthy, who has won a copy of Old Broads Waxing Poetic. Congratulations Stephen! Though his stories about his favorite old broad were both funny and heartwarming, they were too long to post here. They are definitely worth the trip over to Susan Flett Swiderski's to see for yourself. I would pack a light lunch, as it will take a while.

After you've stopped laughing and crying yourself silly, you should head on over to Stephen's Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  If you haven't been there already, I guarantee the shock value alone will make your head spin. The man clearly revealed his sensitive side to Susan when he eloquently wrote about his "tough Ma" Any man who cares that deeply for his mother, is a good man. I'm sure that's what Meyer Lansky's wife told herself too.

Friday, September 5, 2014


 Available on Amazon

To celebrate its release, each old broad featured in this book is blogging about her favorite old broad today, and we invite each of you to tell us a little something about your favorite old broad in the comments. Stay tuned for more details on how you could win a free copy of Old Broad's Waxing Poetic.

I couldn't decide on just one favorite old broad, so I thought it would be fun to create my own. My mission was to build the best old broad by combining the most exquisite features from glamorous screen legends.

I came up with Elizabeth Taylor's eyes, Raquel Welch's cleavage, Jane Fonda's abs, Cyd Charisse's legs, and Lena Horne's sizzle. I glanced at the list, and couldn't quite put my finger on what was missing, so I called my life coach.

I went over the list with my mom, and she was unimpressed. She began talking about some of the legendary movie stars from her day like Veronica Lake who was known for her beautiful blond "peek-a-boo bang," and Betty Grable 's "million dollar legs." Sadly both actresses died young. Veronica Lake died at fifty from hepatitis, while Miss Grable lost her battle with lung cancer at fifty-six. Like many of our writers, technically they were too young to be considered old broads.

This conversation took place while my mom was having her bedtime snack. I overheard her request a "handful of peanuts" from her caregiver. It was after eleven o'clock, and I was making her late for bed. I didn't dare comment on her dangerous late-night snack. She said in an irritated voice,"So they both died young. What do you want from me? Why don't you go with Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies as your favorite old broad?"

My mom was in a better mood when I redialed at 11:02. She started to whisper when her caregiver left the room. "Can you hear me? I have to talk fast. I want you to know that I moved my money from the third drawer on the right to the second drawer on the left in the other room. That's where it will be tonight. I'm planning on moving it again tomorrow. I just thought you should know in case anything happens to me."

Then I asked her if this meant I got to keep all of her bingo winnings for myself, or if I had to divide it among the family. With that she let out a very husky laugh which reminded me of  a younger Lauren Bacall. My mom regained her title as my favorite old broad. Though she had known all along that her position was as secure as her forty-seven cents.


Now it's your turn to tell us about your favorite old broad for a chance to win a free copy of Old Broads Waxing Poetic.  Just write a short poem or essay in the comments.  In addition to reading a wonderful mix of entertaining and heartwarming poetry, you'll also feel good in knowing all proceeds from its sale are going to CARE International.

Now let's meet our talented group of young and hip Old Broads. Be sure to follow their delightful blogs.

NOTE: "Technically, Michael isn't a broad. He's a very nice guy who used that lovely image from Francesco Romoli to create our cover for us, so you could say, as an important member of our team, he's an honorary broad. With hairy legs."  -Susan Flett Swiderski

Help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter throughout the week. Also, please indicate where you posted about your favorite old broadso we're sure to find it. The winner will be announced next Friday, September 12th. Thanks for your part in making this a very broad celebration.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

IWSG: So, you're a poet now?

Now that it's the third anniversary of the Insecure Writer's Support Group,  I finally feel like I belong here. Yes, I've always been insecure, but with the publication of our new anthology, Old Broads Waxing Poetic, I officially consider myself a writer. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh  for all of your support, and congratulations on leading this inspirational group for three incredible years. You can visit the other talented IWSG members here.

When I told my friend about our poetry book she replied, "So, you're a poet now?" Well, the jury is still out, but I do feel confident that I've surrounded myself with seven sensational poets. Since we are constantly being judged by the company we keep, my poems have been given a chance to shine among shooting stars.

It's also been a tremendous learning experience. This has enabled me to go behind the scenes in the world of self-publishing. Though I was always the last to be picked in gym class, this was a true group effort, and I owe it all to this hard-working team.

To celebrate our book launch on Friday September 5th, we're inviting bloggers to enter to win a copy of Old Broads Waxing Poetic by writing about their Favorite Old Broads in the comments section of our blogs. I hope to see you on Friday for the cover reveal, details about our broad spectrum of writers, and easy-breezy contest rules.

Though I'm still insecure about my writing, thanks to my three years of therapy with the IWSG, and wonderful experience with Old Broads, I have graduated from a tricycle to a big girl bike. Nonetheless, I'm not quite ready to take the training wheels off, just yet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Blame Game

Host: Welcome to The Blame Game where children blame their parents for everything that's gone wrong in their lives and vice versa! Let's get started by introducing the Weasel family. Curt Weasel is a student at Cal State, and he's here with his parents. What are you studying, Curt?

Curt Weasel: Human behavior, social habits, movement and motion...

Host: So you're a psych major?

Mrs. Weasel: Not quite. He's been living on campus for two years trying to find himself. Though he's been accepted by the university, Curt hasn't officially accepted them. He's decided to live on campus for a probationary period until he's made his decision.

Host: So Curt has all of the benefits of college without actually being a student. Does he work to help cover his expenses?

Mr. Weasel: Does Curt work? No, finding himself is a full-time occupation. I, on the other hand work two jobs, and his mother runs a cathouse.

Host: Do you enjoy taking care of cats, Mrs. Weasel?

Mrs. Weasel: Well, the big tippers aren't so bad, but some of them are a literal pain in the butt.

Mr. Weasel: I thought you had that looked at?

Host: Considering the sacrifices your parents have made for you, what do you blame them for?

Curt: Just look at them. Mom's losing her teeth, and Dad wears socks with sandals. I can't be seen with them in public. They're an embarrassment.

Host: And Mr. and Mrs. Weasel, what do you blame Curt for?

Mrs. Weasel: He's such a sweet boy, but we do wish he'd call or write more often.

Host: Let's have the audience decide who is more to blame.

They tabulate the votes from the audience. Buzzers are beeping and lights are flashing. After a brief commercial break, the winner is announced.

Host: Well, the audience has made their decision. It was a very close race, but Curt is the winner! Let's find out what Curt has won.

The audience is simultaneously applauding, while cheering Curt's name.

Off-stage Announcer: Curt has won an all-expense-paid trip to a luxury resort in Maui where he'll have fun in the sun by day, and enjoy fine dining and entertainment by night.

Host: Curt, normally we provide a trip for two, but in this case you're entitled to bring two guests with you on this once in a lifetime adventure!

Mr. and Mrs. Weasel smile as they hold Curt close.

Curt: That's great! I could really use the time off. I think I'll bring these two hot girls I met backstage with me. Come on out ladies!

Two bimbos come out from behind the curtain. Curt places an arm around each girl, and exits the stage. Curt's parents and the host are left standing with their mouths wide open. 

Cue The Blame Game theme music. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Trouble With Lying About Your Age

I'm (on the right) with my adorable sorority sisters in 1981. l'll never tell which one was my partner in crime.

I've always done it. From an early age, my parents even encouraged it. One year, they had my older brother pretend to be nine when he was twelve in order to get into a drive-in movie for free. My dad quizzed him several times to make sure he could smoothly rattle off his fake date of birth, so that our parents would only be charged for two tickets instead of three. I could rest easy, as I was really nine, and in the clear. My brother worked well under pressure, and passed with flying colors during the practice drills. When my dad pulled up to the front of the line, the cashier asked him our ages. Before my brother could speak, my dad anxiously blurted out, "He's twelve and she's nine." They never asked my brother to lie again, but I was a different story.

As I grew, the lies grew with me. When I was fifteen, I passed for eighteen at my brother's college campus. The drinking laws were very lax in the 70's, so I just had to say the fake date and year I was born in before I transformed into an instant coed.

Things became more difficult during my college years. The drinking age changed from nineteen to twenty-one, and if you were caught with a fake ID, it was immediately confiscated. Fortunately, my tall, blond sorority sister came to the rescue with a copy of her driver's license.

It's true how everything comes around full circle. Now I fib about my age at the movies in order to get a senior discount. Some of my friends have caught me in the act, and hide while I purchase our tickets. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't the same age, and older.

As for my lovely, kind and considerate older sorority sister, today she has a bionic hip, and still looks great in a bikini. Though at fifty-four she is a year older, she could pass for ten years younger. You would think I'd learned my lesson, but once a liar always a liar.

At a recent college graduation party for a family friend,  I decided to join in conversation with a group of women whom I'd never met. Introductions were made, and the topic of age came up. One woman said she was forty-five, another fifty-four, and then it was my turn. As they waited for my response to this silly question, I thought it only appropriate to respond with a silly answer. I concentrated on keeping a straight face when I told them I was seventy-two. Without missing a beat, the younger woman replied in all seriousness, "Well, you must have stayed out of the sun then."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Middle-Aged Bragging Rights


Do you ever notice how some people can't go one minute without bragging? They start at a young age, and every conversation turns into a competition. They go to the best schools, graduate with the best jobs, marry the best spouses, and move into the best homes.

After their gorgeous and gifted children move away, they come to the realization that they have very little to talk about. They're at that awkward age where their bodies are creaking, and their weight is shifting in the wrong places. Trapped in middle-aged limbo: too young for retirement, yet too old to sit in a chair without dozing off. If only they had grandchildren to bounce on their knees before arthritis kicks in. Here they are, a group of friends gathered around the picnic table bundled up in blankets beside a roaring fire on a balmy summer evening playing the latest board game. 

It's Toots and Bladders, Battered Hip, and Crazy Mates all rolled into one: the game where it pays to decay. A player draws the first card which asks, "Have you ever had a cyst lanced from your perineum?"  Raymond answers "yes," collects $200, and advances his miniature oxygen tank down the board.  Pearl throws the dice, and lands on Constipation Blvd. Everyone presses the buzzers at once. To break the four-way tie Lexi shouts out, "How long has it been?"  Pearl answers "five days," Raymond three, Lexi two, and Leonard adds, "since lunchtime."

When Leonard proudly admits to having hair plugs he is forced to move his miniature enema kit into the Unnecessary Cosmetic Procedure Pavilion forfeiting his next turn. Now the competition has shifted from earlier conversations about material possessions to who has the largest surgical scars.  The couples are thrilled to have something to talk about, even if it means battling it out to see who has suffered the most. 

Lexi draws the final card which reads, "Congratulations on your fifth anniversary of being cancer-free..." Lexi can't believe that her husband and closest friends remembered it has been almost five years to the day since she underwent her last radiation treatment for breast cancer. She is so excited that they went to all the trouble of ordering a customized version of the game just for her. Then she reads the rest of the card, "...and your mother-in-law will be joining in the celebration tomorrow, when she moves in with you after her hip replacement surgery." With that everyone turns their winnings o
ver to Lexi, right after prying her hands off of Leonard's hair plugs.

This is a repost from November 2011.