Monthly Archives: May 2012

My Funny Memory

(This is my attempt at Assignment 1.)

I want to tell a story about my father.

In order for me to adequately tell this story, however, I need to tell you a little about my father.

My dad, you see, is a gentle soul.  My most vivid memories of Dad when I was growing up are of him puttering around the house, the yard, the basement.  He is a mild-mannered man who cooked most of our family dinners (and still does),  taught (and still teaches) Sunday school.  He is a lover of puns and single-malt scotch.  He is slow to anger, but always quick to help.  He is not at all prone to sudden outbursts.  His humor tends to be dry and subtle-ish (though the puns are not always so subtle.)

The other character in the story is a seemingly innocent bottle of ginger ale.

Dad has, for as long as I can remember, done most of the grocery shopping.  He goes out early on Saturday morning and drives around to several different stores in town (Giant Eagle, Aldi, Wal-Mart.  When I was growing up, there was no Wal-Mart, but there was Shop n’ Save.)  He usually sticks to the grocery list that he’s made, but occasionally an item will catch his eye, and if it is on special, it might coax him into an impulse buy.

On the Saturday in question, there was a bottle of Vernors Ginger Soda on special.  Dad came home from his shopping trip with a bottle of “America’s oldest surviving ginger ale.”  We were not normally a soda-drinking people, so this was indeed a special occasion.  Asked why he bought a bottle of ginger ale, Dad responded that he had heard it was different from most other ginger ales, and he was curious.  Fair enough.

The thing is, Vernors Ginger Soda apparently has a very distinctive taste which is a bit… stronger… than your Schwepps or your Canada Dry.  (Their tag line is “Barrel Aged. Bold Taste!”  They’re not lying.)  It is also, apparently, quite a bit more carbonated than your average soda.  So when Dad decided to sample the soda, he poured himself a glass, took a sip…

…and promptly spit it out in the most phenomenal spit-take I have ever seen in real life.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another spit-take in real life.

Vernors Ginger Soda was sprayed over the floor, the island in the middle of the kitchen, and the cabinets across the room.

To this day, my brother and I both burst into giggles when this memory bubbles into consciousness, and it is, quite frankly, a very fond memory for me.  I’m tremendously fortunate that Dad, in addition to being wise and mild-mannered, has the rare ability to be able to laugh at himself, and tolerates a more than a decade of his kids still making fun of him for the one time he tried to drink Vernors Ginger Soda.

Personally, I’ve never tasted the stuff.


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Filed under Humor, Life, Uncategorized, Writing

Small Assignment 1: Find Your Funny Voice

So last night, David and I re-watched the film Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story.

It killed my very favorite excuse for not being better at humor, namely, that I’m not funny.

You see, Eddie Izzard spent a great deal of his youth trying to be funny, and failing miserably.  (No really, it was caught on film.)  But he continued to work at it and through a combination of Steve Jobs-like magical thinking and brute force of will, he became a comedian performing stand-up to audiences of 11,000 people.

Now, I don’t ever intend to be a stand-up comedian.  I do think, however, that humor is a necessary and important part of the craft.  So I will be working for the next several months on finding my funny voice.

But, you say, this is a blog about Small Assignments.  Finding your funny voice is NOT a small assignment.  So this is my small assignment (and yours): write about a funny memory.  Recall and write about an incident that still makes you laugh, days, years (or decades) later.  Let it be fiction, non-fiction, poem, or prose.  Just let’s try to be funny.  I’ll post the next assignment in a week.

This is your assignment.  Should you choose to accept it, write a little something and paste a link to your work in the comments section.

(Also, as always, if you happen to know other people who would like to participate please share this page with them.  AND, if you have a small assignment that you would like to suggest, please let me know!)

Good scribbling!


Filed under Humor, Life, Writing

Re-Tooling, and an Invitation

After my last post, I decided that maybe it was time to do a little reflecting.  I asked myself, what do I want this blog to be?  And after some serious contemplation, I have come up with one answer.

I want this blog to be practice.

You see, I am a writer.  That is what I do, and I do it professionally.  However, most of the writing that I do is written in a painfully anonymous voice, often in third person passive.  The professional writing that I am doing at this point has not left me with a great deal of opportunities to actually develop my voice and practice the craft.

Normally, the recommendation for people who want to develop their voices and practice the craft of writing is to join a writing group.

There is a problem with this recommendation, however.  I have been unable to find a writing group in Memphis, and I really lack the time to attend a writing group anyway.  Meeting with a group of people requires all kinds of planning and time not to mention childcare, which is expensive.

So, instead of finding a local writing group, I want to establish a virtual writing group, using this blog space.  I’m hoping that some of you out there who stumble across this post will want to participate.

You see, this is the beautiful thing about the internet!  We can be a group, but we do not ever have to schedule a meeting!

Here’s how this will work.  Anne Lammott, who is in many ways, my personal hero, (I steal her voice when I cannot find mine), has some rules of writing, one of which is “Small assignments.”  The point of small assignments is that you do not have to write EVERYTHING when you are trying to write something.  Just, she says, write what will fit in the one-inch picture frame.  So I will set up some small assignments for myself, and if you (yes you, out there) would like to participate, simply write a post on your own blog and link to it in the comments here.  We can all read each others posts and be all link-friendly and encouraging.  For anyone who decides to participate, I’ll add your blog to my blogroll, and if you feel so inspired to do the same, I’m sure you will have my eternal gratitude.

Finally, should you choose to participate in the small assignments and you have a small assignment that you would like to work on, you can feel free to set your own small assignment, and let me know about it!  (You can find my email in my “About” section, or you can just leave a comment.)

So that is how this will work.  I will post the first assignment tomorrow, and we will let this great adventure commence!

(Also, if you read this, and happen to know of someone who might be interested in participating, please “Share” this.  I’d love to have people participating who are writing all kinds of stuff – not just the kind of stuff that I write.  This is about broadening boundaries and horizons together!)


Filed under Life, Writing


It’s getting harder to write blog posts for this site, and I’m afraid that I’m fizzling.

I started this blog only a few months ago, with the intent to, you know, write something and hit “publish” every three days or so.  I thought that if I could stick with it, I would end up writing something and publishing something about three times a week.


Ha HA HA, even.

I grossly underestimated the amount of time and energy that maintaining a blog would require.  (I imagine that I am far from the first person to start a blog and then realize that, hey, this is not as easy as I thought.)  I’ve written before about my tendency toward perfectionism.  It takes a lot of effort on my part to write something and let it be published without serious edits and proofreading. I already have about a dozen or so posts half-written that will simply never be published because they are simply not good enough, and I want to publish a quality product, even for just the dozen or so people who read this on a regular basis.  Perfectionism, as they say, is death to creativity.  Perfectionism smothers the creative spirit and kills it dead.

But my challenge with writing and publishing here, on this site, goes beyond my own hang-ups with perfectionism and creative starvation.  You see, I’ve been busy.  I have work, for now, that I am being paid for.  It is even work that I enjoy.  But my time is being largely invested in paid jobs right now.  And then, there’s the fact that I am spending a lot of time these days looking for other work, because I know that my work with a client that has been quite steady for the last several years is going to become less steady in July, since their budget is going to cut out some room for working with contractors (i.e., me).

I’m trying to face this as an opportunity to do some real writing – sending out queries to magazines and working on a book proposal or two.  But the truth is that oscillate wildly between excitement, confidence, and terror.  What if I never make any money ever again?  What if I have to go to work at a real job?  How will we pay for child care?  Also, I’m completely unemployable; I don’t even have any clothes that are appropriate for an office!

The fear is holding me back.  The fear pushes me further into my perfectionist tendencies.  I need to find a way to make my words pay, which means I must make my words perfection.  But the truth is that my words are probably more likely to ring true if the flaws are exposed and given some air.

I’ve got a dozen reasons not to write, and I may be going through a dry spell.  But I still feel compelled, at the end of the day, to put pen to paper and write something.  That’s got to be worth something, right?


Filed under Choas, Life, Uncategorized, Writing

Happy Mother’s Day, from Mitt Romney’s team

Several weeks ago, I wrote this post.

Now we are approaching Mother’s Day, and what would the “holiday” be without an ugly rehashing of the dramaz from the Romney campaign.  (To be fair, this is paid for by the “Non-coordinating” Super PAC, Restore Our Future.)  Watch, and enjoy.

I don’t really have anything to say about this right now that I have not already said.

But I will say this:

As the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney took about 500 police officers off the streets.  So Happy Mother’s Day, to you mothers who live in dangerous parts of town.  Just teach your kids how to duck and cover.

During his term as Governor, Mr. Romney also made cuts to the budget of fire safety equipment – about $2.5 million.  So Happy Mother’s Day.  Send your kids to school with their own fire extinguishers.

As President, Mr. Romney claims that he would find $500 billion to cut from the federal budget, most of which would come from social programs such as Medicaid.  So Happy Mother’s Day, poor working women.  Here’s hoping your kids don’t get sick this year.

Other programs that would stand to lose funding under Mr. Romney’s proposed budget cuts are:

health research – Happy Mother’s Day, moms with sick kids.  Cancer won’t be cured this year.

education – Happy Mother’s Day, moms who can’t afford to send your kids to private schools.

food inspection – Happy Mother’s Day, moms who count on safe and affordable food products to feed their children.

housing and heating subsidies – Happy Mother’s Day, moms who want to put a roof over your kids’ heads and keep them warm at night.

food aid for pregnant women – Happy Mother’s Day, expecting moms who want to eat.

Happy Mother’s Day, from Mitt Romney’s team.

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Filed under Babies, Health Care, Life, News, Parenting, Politics, Pregnancy, The Poor, Toddlers

The Bad Review

The other day, a piece that I wrote (on assignment) for Mother’s Day started making its way around Facebook.  A couple of my friends “shared” the piece, and so some people read it and started commenting.  Most of the comments were generally affirming and nice.  And then… there was the negative review.

A person I do not know read my piece and disagreed whole-heartedly not just with the content but with my writing style.  The comment left on Facebook was not mean, but it was strongly anti-my-writing.  This person called my writing “syrupy” and “sentimental.”

And OH!  It hurts.  For all of the positive affirmation I get for my writing (my MOM said she liked the piece), one negative comment can send me into a tailspin of self-doubt and defensiveness.  It took everything I had in me to not jump onto Facebook and basically say “Well, it was a piece written for MOTHER’S DAY!  OF COURSE it was sentimental!  Plus, that’s what I was PAID to write.  Also, you MISSED THE POINT!  I was trying to get away from the sentimentalizing of motherhood!”  Then I was going to quit writing and go buy a pint of Haggen Daas Coffee Ice Cream. Instead, I logged out of Facebook, turned off the computer, and poured myself a regular cup of coffee.  (Then I decided to blog about it.  So much for letting it go.)

I know that I have a tendency to be saccharine and wordy when I write.  I just don’t like it when someone calls me on it.  The piece in question… it’s a little syrupy.  And pretty sentimental.  It was, after all, written for Mother’s Day.  But it could have been toned down.  I kind of wish I had had the time to tone it down.  But I turned in clean copy on time.  Now it’s out there, and there is at least one person who does not like it.  And that hurts.

I am currently trying to put together a book proposal, and I’m finding it somewhat difficult.  I’m intimidated by the scale of the project, and I’m afraid that someone out there won’t like it.

The truth is, when we put pen to paper and publish something, it belongs to the world and someone out there won’t like it.  But we can’t write so that people will like us.  I can’t write just so that someone will like me.  I have to write for the sake of writing.  Not everything I write will be great.  Hell, most of what I write won’t even be that good.  But it will be written, and I have to think that there is some value in that.

I think I need to grow some thicker skin now.


Filed under Choas, Life, Parenting, Writing

Hazing, Bullying, Bullshit

I have been following, with some interest, the story of Robert Champion, the Florida A&M University (FAMU) drum major who was beaten to death on a charter bus by fellow band members

His death was ruled a homicide by medical examiners, who found bruising on his chest, arms, abdomen, and back.  He suffered internal bleeding and shock.  His injuries – injuries caused by the hands of (marching) band members – were fatal.

Mr. Champion’s death has been stated as the product of hazing at FAMU.  He was beaten to death while he was attempting to win the respect of his peers.  This tragedy, says the media, exposes the general culture of hazing at FAMU, and demonstrates just how ugly and dangerous it is.

And then.  Florida State Attorney said, “I have come to believe that hazing is a term for bullying.  It’s bullying with a tradition, a tradition that we cannot bear in America.”

When I was in middle school, I was bullied.  I was threatened.  I was verbally harassed by a fellow student who made me not want to change my clothes for gym class.  I have experienced (and survived) bullying.  I get the anguish that goes along with bullying, and I am completely sympathetic to the kids who have been seriously bullied to the point where they feel the only way out is to hurt themselves.  I am appalled by bullying, and I fear the escalation of bullying that the internet and Facebook allows.

I have also experienced hazing, to a degree.  I was in the marching band in high school, and at band camp, upperclassmen were given authority to dress us up funny, or make us wear signs, or humiliate us in various ways.  I believe I was made to wear a pair of tighty-whiteys over my clothes for a day wearing a sign that said… something?  I don’t remember.  I have never been physically abused as a part of a hazing ritual, but I nonetheless feel that any hazing is an inappropriate way to facilitate group loyalty and cohesion.

I remember at time when hazing got a lot of attention, because hazing often goes too far.  People get hurt.  People get raped.  People get killed.  So hazing was the crime du jour.

These days, bullying is the crime du jour.  Hazing is not bad enough on its own.  Now hazing has to be bullying.  Because bullying often goes too far.  People get hurt, and people die.  This makes bullying the crime du jour.

So now, I want to call “Bullshit.”  When a student is beaten to death, it may be a hazing ritual gone to far, but it is also assault, battery, and murder.  When a student is hazed, it is not bullying. It is hazing.

Bullying and hazing are bad enough in their own right.  But there comes a point where hazing is not longer hazing and bullying is no longer bullying.  Someone has decided that bullying is the worst possible offense that a person can commit, and I am here to say: IT IS NOT!  Bullying sucks.  Being bullied sucks.  But bullying to the extent of bodily harm and/or suicide is harassment.

Likewise, hazing sucks.  When hazing involved one student being beaten to death by 13 others, it is assault. It is murder.

Hazing and bullying are both problematic in their own right.  But naming hazing bullying does not actually get to the heart of the problem.  The fundamental problem is violence – direct and intentional violence – against a fellow human being. Whatever we call it, Robert Champion is still dead, and it is still – and will always be – a useless tragedy.

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Filed under Life, News, Parenting, Politics, Uncategorized