I Just Want to be Alone – an announcement

My husband and I have many things in common- we both think we’re both funny even when no one else does; neither of us likes Mad Men; and we’ve got these two kids- among other things. But we have some enormous differences as well- I believe that the outside of a pot needs to be cleaned in addition to the inside; I think it’s weird to eat one cookie allowing the rest of the package to go stale; and I’m a writer while he does not have a way with words. In fact, he often uses words incorrectly, uses the wrong word in place of one that sounds similar, and makes words up by accident.

You might hear him asking for a “slither” of cake.

Last night he had me cry-laughing because he kept saying “pumpkernickel.” He finally figured out why I was laughing, after his fifth or sixth “pumpkernickel,” but he didn’t know what was wrong with it. “It’s not pumpkernickel? Is it pumpnickel? Pump-ker-nickel. Are you sure that’s wrong? Pumkernickel. Pumpkernickel.” I was dying.

When you’re married you have to laugh at the little things, and if you pay enough attention, there are a ton of little things. My husband generally doesn’t love it when I write about him, but once in a while he gives his blessing. Which is lucky because…(drumroll)…

I have an announcement!  I am part of the much-anticipated follow-up to the best-selling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone, put together by the incomparable Jen from People I Want to Punch in the Throat. I’m one of the Super Cool Lady Writers telling hilarious stories about the men in our lives.

I Just Want to be Alone

I Just Want to Be Alone is a collection of essays from 38 of the most Super Cool Lady Writers you’ll find on the web today.

Including:

I Just Want to be Alone will be available on March 22, 2014, but in the meantime you can pre-order it on Amazon. If you pre-order today, you get a discounted price! So, are you ready to find a few minutes alone to laugh your ass off? Pre-order your own copy, and one for all the laugh-loving women in your life.

Click here to pre-order a paperback copy.
Click here to pre-order a Kindle copy.

 

Join us at BlogU!

BlogU Might Just Change Your Life

Get thee to BlogU!A while back I introduced BlogU, a new kind of blogging conference. (You can read all about it here.) If you’re you a blogger on the fence about attending, I know what you’re thinking. I clearly remember my trepidation before attending my first blog conference. Had I given into my doubts, not only my blog, but my entire life would be different. Does that sound like an overstatement? Well, it’s not. Today I am a published writer with a network of professional and personal relationships, all thanks to that first step I took.

I started my blog in 2010 and I remember how exciting it was when 15 people saw it. I thought, “I probably only told 13 people about it. Who are those other 2?” Soon I was excited when 40 or 50 people read a post. “Now that’s definitely more than just my friends and family! Someone told someone and now people are actually reading my stuff!” The first time I got 100 hits my mind exploded.

I was the only person I knew who blogged. It was a strange thing I decided to do all alone in my house with no one looking. I soon became friendly with a few other bloggers online, which was unexpected and fun. I felt like we had an understanding that I didn’t find in the “real” world. Afterall, we each decided to do this weird thing alone in our houses with no one looking. We read one another’s blogs, commented, and exchanged witty Tweets.

When the opportunity to attend a blog conference presented itself I felt both excited and apprehensive. I wanted to go, but did I belong at a real live blogging conference? Surely not. Who was I but a teeny tiny blogger? I didn’t have fancy things like advertisers, sponsors, or a strategy. I had no inkling of SEO or other blogging buzzwords. Nevertheless, two of my newfound online friends and I decided to do it. I was nervous and had no idea what to expect.

At that conference, back in 2010, I met JD Bailey of Honest Mom and Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start by Saying. I couldn’t have known at the time how much meeting these women would change my life, but I knew instantly that I found two kindred spirits. Four years later, I communicate with JD and Kim nearly daily. Through the years we’ve helped one another with all things writing and blogging, but, more importantly, we’ve become real friends. I turn to them when something hilarious happens. I turn to them when I’m struggling, sad, angry, frustrated, or need to know which shoes to wear. I’ve shared meals, drinks, skin care secrets, hotel rooms, spa days, tears, and so many laughs with them.

I learned so much about blogging from that first conference. Within a few months my readership doubled, tripled, quadrupled and then some. I felt less weird and alone in my blogging. I would never be where I am now if I decided I didn’t belong at that first conference. I’ve since attended other conferences where I’ve had the good fortune to meet so many more amazing bloggers, and where I’ve made professional connections that have led to some incredible career opportunities. JD and Kim are now among a tribe of women I rely on to get through every single day. I can’t imagine my life without them.

So, if you’re thinking that your blog is too small or that you won’t fit in for some reason, if you’re worried that you don’t know anyone who’s going, stop it. We all have something in common: we’re writers. That means that if you’re worried that you’re too socially awkward or introverted, I can guarantee that plenty of your peers are feeling the same. We’ve kept BlogU small to create an accessible, intimate, non-intimidating atmosphere. Whether you have an online relationship with any other attendees or not before walking in the door, I can assure you that you’ll leave with not only new professional contacts, but with new girlfriends.

If you’re still nervous, feel free to contact me or one of the other faculty members to ask questions. Talk to your blogging acquaintances to see if they want to go too. Check out our Facebook page or join the BlogU attendees page where you can get to know some of the other bloggers before we all descend on the Baltimore campus in June.

I can’t guarantee that attending BlogU will change your life, but it just might.

 

A MAJOR Announcement (Not a Baby)

I’m not good at many things that I like: I can load a dishwasher like a freaking ninja savant, but I wouldn’t want to build a life around that particular talent. At the same time there are many things that I like but am not particularly good at: upon hearing my highway rendition of Paradise by the Dashboard Light you’d understand that I like singing, but am not good at it; you’d also see that I’m good enough at remembering lyrics to sing both sides of a conversational duet with feeling, but thus far no one has offered me a job with benefits based on my singing while driving (SWD) proclivities.

The only thing that I like and have some proficiency in is writing.* It’s always been writing. I’ve loved writing for as long as I’ve known how to do it. I kept diaries and wrote stories. Every trip I’ve ever taken has its corresponding travel journal. I kept my writing to myself, never taking the risk of putting it out there, fearing I’d find out that I wasn’t actually very good at it after all. To that end I kept it as a hobby, never a career.

*Any awkward sentence structures, fragments, or gratuitous use of the passive voice is done totally on purpose. Totally. Misspellings too. To keep you on your toes.

Even after all this time as a blogger, I can’t say “I’m a writer” without feeling somewhat fraudulent. After all, what have I really written? Isn’t this whole blog just a glorified journal? I mean, I’m not published or anything. Right?

WRONG!

For as long as I can remember my dream has been: to be a published author. To see my name on a book. A BOOK!

Well, people, I am officially announcing that I am in a book. A BOOK! I.AM.IN.A.BOOK. Iaminabook. A BOOK! (Sorry, about that. I keep shouting “A BOOK!” in real life too.)

"You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth" and Other Things You'll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room

I am one of several contributors to You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth. My co-authors are talented, hilarious, and accomplished writers; I would say that I’m humbled to be among them, but I’ve been too busy being psyched to notice how humble I am. (Seriously though, a huge thank you to Leslie and all the editors at In the Powder Room for including me!)

You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth is so crazy-full of funny that it should come with the following warning: Do not attempt to drink any beverages while reading this book – you will snarf. If you’ve birthed children, please consider adding some Depends to your Amazon order. 

I promise you’ll laugh your ass off.

So, what are you waiting for? Click here to buy the book at Amazon. Or here. Or here.

A BOOK!

At Least One of my Children is Mine

Our children take after us in so many ways. Your nose, his ears, grandma’s slender feet. Their personalities do this Frankenstein match-up as well. His sense of humor, your temper, grandpa’s love of music. My kids didn’t use Frankenstein as a model. They just came out like Tim. Luke is a carbon copy. The only thing he may have inherited from me is his temper and total disregard for rules and authority. (Lucky me.) Sally came out looking exactly like Luke. Clearly, I was merely a vessel to create little Tims. I had no genetic input.

Luke’s Timness isn’t limited to his looks. He is incredibly physically adroit. This body awareness, athleticism, and stamina certainly don’t come from me or my side. It’s all Tim. Lately we’ve had the two of them diving into the pool side by side. Not only is Luke crazy good at diving for a 6-year-old, but he does it exactly like his father. The run up, arm swing, timing of the chin tuck, angle they hit the water – it’s uncanny. I dove beside him to see if it was just a matter of two people diving together, and it’s not. Our bodies took different shapes as we ran up, sprung into the air and hit the water.

Luke’s mind works as differently from mine as his body does. This morning he was playing with his Skip It toy and kept tripping himself up. I suggested he try to say the alphabet while doing it. Having his mind on something else, his feet easily maneuvered the toy, spinning and hopping to the rhythm of the ABCs. Next I asked him to sing Twinkle, Twinkle.

“OK! Twinkle, twinkle ….” He tripped. “Um, twinkle, twinkle…” Tripped again. “How does it go?”

“You don’t remember the words to Twinkle, Twinkle?”

“No. I really don’t.”

“Twinkle, twinkle little star…”

“Oh yeah!” He begins skipping again. “Twinkle, twinkle little star…” He stops. “What’s next?”

We sang the entire song this way. My son doesn’t remember the words to Twinkle, Twinkle, a song he’s heard a bajillion times! I asked if he could sing Happy Birthday. He couldn’t. I’m not kidding. WTF? The kid is just like his father.

While Tim probably does know Happy Birthday, (I’ll have to ask him,) he can’t remember Twinkle, Twinkle. Or Row, Row, Row Your Boat, or Baa, Baa Black Sheep, or ANY other song in the universe. This is insane to me. I can hear a song and remember it. (Especially a children’s song full of repetition, rhyme, and glaring obviousness.) Words are my thing. It’s hard for me to understand not being able to remember the words. They both can’t even repeat a line of a song back to you the instant after you sing it to them.

As Luke learns to read, we practice the same simple books over and over. Each time he reads a book, he has to really read it. He doesn’t have the books memorized, or even remembered well enough to guess and predict. It surprises me that he needs to sound out the same word with every reading. Doesn’t he remember? Can’t he see the picture of the goat? It’s a GOAT for goodness’ sake! He finds reading extremely frustrating, and I don’t blame him. I find his reading extremely frustrating too. But there’s something that’s making it worse: Sally memorizes the books after one reading. Turns out words are Sally’s thing too.

She can speed “read” all of his books. While he’s stumbling, slowly pronouncing the letters, she’s filling in the blanks. Even in books she’s never read before she correctly guesses the words before he struggles to read them. She uses the pictures and rhymes (and basic common sense) as clues to finish the sentences. When she “reads” a book it’s easy to follow the story because she speaks fluently with regular intonations. When Luke reads a book it’s impossible to follow because he reads it in stops and starts, robotically, ignoring normal pauses and intonations. The disparity between them is not lost on him.

I feel for Luke and worry that he will be forever turned off of reading, falling behind his peers, causing lifelong scholastic under-achievement and misconceptions about his own abilities. I mean, if he can’t freaking guess “house” after reading “mouse” in text that is immediately beneath a picture of a mouse and a house, how can he not get frustrated and want to quit? Especially with his baby sister shouting out “house! house!”

I’m a reader, always have been. Tim reads just about never. I can count on one hand the number of books he’s read since we met fourteen years ago. He read each of those books at my prodding. I know I can’t change Tim’s reading, but it saddens me to think of Luke not loving books.

When Luke was born I read him Goodnight, Moon every night. Every night for about two years. He never once sat down to listen. Had I juggled or bounced a soccer ball on my knees instead, he would have sat there, mesmerized, learning. Of course I can’t do either thing to save my life, and they’re not important to me. But reading?

Turns out I can’t control anything about my kids. (Surprise!) Luke will probably be a just fine person, who happens to not love books or reading. Afterall, I think Tim is a just fine person despite this horrible character flaw. Likewise, he thinks I’m just fine even though my soccer skills allowed our child to outplay me when he was just four. To him, this trite inability might seem important. Even though that’s silly.

But while I worry for Luke, I am so proud of Sally. Finally, a child that takes after me in some way! She remembers songs and sings along. I remember songs and sing along! She stays up at night in her room “reading” books. I stay up at night reading books! She plays back her arguments with Luke accurately, despite Luke’s protests and completely wrong versions. I play back my arguments with Tim accurately, despite his protests and completely wrong versions! She’s a mini me! At last, a child I can understand.

While I’m determined to teach Luke to work through his frustrations with reading, and I hope to keep him on par with is peers, I need to accept that he might always struggle with wordy things. I write. Tim doesn’t. If a letter needs composing I do it. (If a lawn needs mowing he does it.) If Luke struggles with writing the way he does with reading it might break my heart, but I should prepare myself. We already know he can’t make up a story to save his life.

Recently, Sally told this story:

Did you know the microwave is running away? It’s true. It’s going to Target to meet a girl microwave. They’re going to get married and have babies. Their babies will be toasters. Then he’ll come back so we can still cook in it. Is that a good story?

Impressed and not wanting to be outdone, Luke told a story of his own:

The, um, refrigerator and, uh, the microwave, no not microwave, the oven are getting married and they’ll have baby, uh, um, blenders!

His is lacking a certain something, no?

Oh well. At least I know one of them is mine.

Book Review – Part of My World: Short Stories

I’ve long been a fan of Kim Bongiorno’s and her blog Let Me Start By Saying, and I consider myself lucky to count her among my friends. She is side-splittingly funny and translates that humor to her writing with apparent ease. But her talents don’t end where mine do at personal essays. She also has voices in her head a vivid imagination and is able to create worlds and characters out of thin air. Her book of short stories, Part of My World: Short Stories, demonstrates those voices her seemingly limitless imagination.

In writing, less is not only more it’s also significantly harder. It’s infinitely easier to use many words to conjure up an image, scene or idea versus few. But Kim is a master and the English language is her bitch. Her stories draw the reader into characters full of conflict and history, worlds full of strange creatures, and dramas unfolding before our eyes. She manages all of this with so few words that this writer is left constantly astounded.

This concise writing makes Kim’s stories read like vignettes – short bursts capturing a specific moment in the lives of her characters. These vignettes are so full of descriptive writing that as I read I felt like I was watching a play. A spotlight on stage right reveals a woman doing laundry. The light only lasts a moment, just long enough to see a breath of her life before extinguishing as suddenly as it appeared. At that instant another light flashes on stage left where a child runs; suddenly our hearts are pounding. Again, we’re privy to only a sliver of this character’s life before the light goes out and another illuminates a totally different scene elsewhere on stage.

As a writer, I can’t begin to understand how Kim manages to pare her work down to these small scenes while still filling them with description and palpable emotion. Truly, her writing is remarkable in this respect.

Part of My World is a quick read and lends itself perfectly to a summer day at the beach, park, back porch. I read the digital version available here, but it also just came out in paperback, so you don’t have to worry about leaving your Kindle or iPad unattended while you jump in the water to cool off and ruminate on the story you just lived. If you’re quick, you can enter to win an autographed copy here!

Kim Bongiorno Headshot 2012 400x560 Labeled

Kim Bongiorno is an author, blogger, and freelance writer. Her humor essays have been published in the best-selling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone (2013), and in Fifty Shades of Funny: Hook-Ups, Break-Ups and Crack-Ups (2012). In addition to her blog LetMeStartBySaying, she writes for In The Powder Room,The Huffington Post, MamalodeToday’s Mama and various other websites. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing. Most recently she was recognized as one of BlogHer’s 2013 Voices of the Year. In her free time, she makes drool-worthy butterscotch confections and appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, HLN’s Raising America with Kyra Phillips, and HuffPostLive. In her other free time, she can be found at home in New Jersey with her husband and two adorably loud kids.