Saturday, February 17, 2018


Friday was a beautiful day in our neighborhood. The weather sang. The day sparkled. The grandchildren ran wild. I called off science club in light of the beauty of the great outdoors and said, “Run free, little birds, run free.” And off they went to do what children do.

And what did they do?

They engineered a new game. They dug a hole in the sand hill. They propped up a piece of plywood with hunks of scrap lumber. They aimed and angled the plywood at the hole. They located a bowling ball. They took turns sitting in the hole. They lugged the bowling ball to the apex of the inclined plane and let it fly at the guy sitting in the hole, legs spread wide.

The object of the game?

To jump out of the hole before the bowling ball smashed into your genitalia.

The name of the game?

Bust Your Balls.

I gave them homeschool credit for the proper use of an inclined plane, engineering a free-standing structure, a scientific demonstration of gravity, a sound understanding of anatomy, and cooperative gameplay.

My hairdresser once expressed concern about her son when he refused to come inside to make a reindeer ornament out of a paper plate because he and his buddy were too busy outside chopping something with an ax. She wanted to know if I thought he’d become an ax murderer. I said only if you make him come inside to make a reindeer ornament out of a paper plate.

Boys. They need bowling balls and plywood and dirt and outside and the vague possibility of crushed nuts.

Linda (Don’t Come Crying to Me) Zern 

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Book reviews are tricky creatures. Authors want them. Writers need them. Artists hunt high and low for the wily beasts through patches of tangled feedback trees. 

I am an Indie author of eight books (plus or minus, depending on how you count the short story collections). I write across genre lines. I write for love, for dreams, for kicks, for readers. I write for reviews.

Good reviews are the sticks we use to build our rickety storage units of approval. 

The bad ones are sticks we use to beat our confidence over the head.

We send words out and hope for some to come back. Reviews. 

I’m hoping to review more this year, but I’m looking at the mother of all writing dilemmas: telling the truth, keeping the faith, guarding the gate without sending people into fractured confidence comas.

And I think I’ve figured it out.

I'm going to review books under cover of anonymity. No titles. No authors. Just the words and what works and what does not work. But not stars. Not a star rating. Three stars. Five Stars. Nope.

Snacks. I want a snack rating. One snack bag of Fritos if I can make it through the first five pages. Five snack bags when I hit fifty pages, and I haven't run into one of the big three: telling not showing, obnoxious grammatical roadblocks, or characters made of cardboard. Halfway and I salute you with a full-size bag of Fritos. And if I get to the end of all the lines, all the way to the great big resolution at the end, I'm making a toast, with lemonade, my favorite.

1 snack bag = five pages
5 snack bags = fifty pages (this is my elementary school teacher's standard if I'm not in love with it by fifty . . .)
Halfway = full-size bag of Fritos
If it goes off the rails before the end = party sized bag
The big finish = lemonade toast

Disclaimer: Please be advised that I have never picked up a book and not wanted to adore it. NEVER. EVER. I want to be transported. I want to be swept up and away and farther than that. I want the author to step quietly to the back of the room to watch me being transported. I want to love every book I read. ALWAYS.

Linda (The Unknown Reviewer) Zern

Monday, February 12, 2018

Marshmallow Smuggling (A Classic ZippityZern's)

The way a family spends its weekend is a real indicator of just how nuts a family is, no matter how not nuts they want people to believe they are.

My family is an excellent example of this working theory. We would like you to believe that we are sophisticated intellectual sorts who spend our leisure hours having deep philosophical discussions, frequenting places of stimulating cultural interest, and engaging in recreational activities. Here’s how the weekend really shakes out.


After watching The Lord of the Rings—again—we begin our post-movie, round table discussion by answering the following question, “What would you do if you had a ring that made you invisible?” Answers include . . .

Phillip (the son-in-law) - “I’d go around doing good for all mankind.”

Sherwood (my husband of forever) - “I’d sneak into women’s locker rooms.”

Phillip (when he heard Sherwood’s answer) -  “I’d sneak into women’s locker rooms with Sherwood.”

Me (the voice of reason and sanity) - “I’d sneak up behind Sherwood and Phillip sneaking around women’s locker rooms and bop them on the head.” But then I added, “Invisibility ring! I’m already invisible.  What I need is a VISISBILITY ring.”

 Adam (Please see my essay, Only A Nimrod Would Think that he could Tip Over a Whole Cow) – “I’d sneak up behind cows and tip them over.”

Maren (nineteen at the time) – “Men are dogs.”

 Heather (after twenty minutes of deep thought) – “Pants People?”


 Before Disney, before Universal, before civilization there was Gatorland. Gatorland is a semi-tropical ode to tacky tourist traps.  We love it.

Murky pools of fetid water swirl as Florida alligators and the occasional crocodile glide by. Reptiles, roughly the size of sofas, bask in the shimmering heat. We throw marshmallows at them. Visitors can buy hotdogs to toss to the gators, which bring them to a boiling frenzy, but why? For ninety-nine cents and the thrill of watching Adam smuggle a bag of Jet-puffed marshmallows in his pants you can bring these pre-historic handbags to the point of hysteria.

(Please note: It is wrong to do this and you should never, ever smuggle foodstuffs in your pants when visiting Gatorland—ever. I’ll tell.)

And before anyone complains that we’re probably causing cavities in the alligators with our contraband marshmallows, let me remind you that alligators use their teeth for grabbing you, not chewing you. Alligators eat you—after they death roll you, drown up, stuff you under a submerged log, and tenderize you. Then they snack on you. Believe me, those marshmallows never touched their teeth.

Culture is 150 alligators lined up and waiting—breathless—for the next Jet-puffed marshmallow. Our working theory is that they’re sick of eating hot-dogs, biting chunks out of each other, or jumping for dangling chickens. (Note:  Yes they do jump, no matter what Sherwood and Philip say. They don’t jump great, but they jump.)


Once a month, we indulge in Sunday dinner with the Chevrier family.  Note: Sometimes the Chevrier’s temporarily adopt one or more of our children and raise them, like in the Middle Ages when you sent your kids to other people’s castles to check out the alligators in their moats. 

So we have dinner. We eat. We talk. We discuss deep philosophical issues like, “Will marshmallows give alligators high blood pressure?” And if we’re really in a wild and crazy mood we take our own temperatures with Carol’s way cool ear thermometer. Aren’t you glad I didn’t say rectal thermometer?

There’s crazy and then there’s weird.

There you have it, philosophy, culture, and recreation. One of the things I like best about our family is that we can really laugh at ourselves. I can’t think of people I’d rather be invisible with or get busted with while smuggling marshmallows in my pants.

Linda (Puffy Pants) Zern
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