My husband is a world traveler. He’s navigated: foreign visas, foreign airports, every continent but one, diverse climates, cuisine, airports, languages, and sewer systems. He’s cool—except when he isn’t. Occasionally, I travel with the world traveler to keep him company and keep him out of airport jail. True story. Coming home from South Korea, I was able to talk him down off a ledge when we landed in the Detroit International Airport only to have to stand in a line that was one hundred and fifty-seven deep, to wait for TWO surly guys to stare at our passports and grunt. Being in Detroit was like being in a foreign country with bad plumbing. My husband, the world traveler, stood in the middle of the endless line of weary, slightly smelly, fellow world travelers and said, “This is %&^*ed up.” Really loud. I remember because my eyebrows hit my hairline with a thud. My husband does not curse—ever—even for a good joke. On a recent trip to Washington, DC for our thirty-plus year anniversary, my husband, the world traveler, navigated security, dashed through check points, yanked out ID like a guy with a cable show on the travel channel and dragged me along like a slightly larger version of a cat in a cat carrier. We were savvy travelers. We were savvy travelers, right up to the point when he whipped out our airline tickets from his front shirt pocket and a binky tumbled out. I looked down at the lonely pacifier on the nasty airport terminal floor and said, “Babe, is that your binky?” We looked down and stared. The binky looked lonely and familiar all at the same time. The ultra cool world traveler said, “Yeah.” He looked around. “Doesn’t look like it belongs to anyone else.” We were surrounded by ultra cool, world traveler types; they were checking their email and Facebook updates. A hamster could have fallen out of his pocket and no one would have noticed. “It’s Gummy’s,” he said. “Do you think that kid’s ever going to be called by his given name?” I vaguely remembered liking our youngest grandson’s real name. I just couldn’t remember what it was. “Nope. He’s the baby.” He picked up the binky and tucked it back in his pocket. We traveled on. One of the important lessons I’ve learned over the past three decades is that just about the time that you think you’ve reached a state of super cool, world traveler status you lose your binky right there in front of everybody. It’s like writing a story about achieving the state of “cool” and realizing you’ve spelled cool with a ‘K.’ Linda (Suck on This) Zern
I was sixteen. He was seventeen and had his hat in his hands—literally. It was a welding hat from shop class. For those of a younger generation, shop class was a high school class dedicated to the idea that not everyone had to be a lawyer to be happy, healthy, and wise. The boy with his hat in his hands asked me to the homecoming dance. I went. We’ve been together ever since, making us high school sweethearts. Or as I like to tell the youth in my church, “I waited for him and he waited for me, and it doesn’t get more romantic than that.” For thirty-six married years, plus three dating years, equaling thirty-nine total years, it’s been smooth sailing, low stress, and baby bunnies in Easter baskets every step of the rainbow giggling way. Sure. Sure. What? It happens to be true that big, fat lies are all the rage right now. A couple of consequences of being together for such an extended period of time are the evolution of flexible attitudes, the development of various coping strategies, and the use of guns over knives when fist fighting. For example, in the beginning, we argued. Now, we banter. Banter is arguing with the sharp edges knocked off. Recently, we bantered our way through the new self-checkout register at our local Walmart. It was trial by barcode scanner. “Okay, I’ll scan and you bag.” I held up a giant bag of Halloween candy corn. “Scan, Baby, scan,” Sherwood chanted. I swiped the bag of candy and Sherwood stuffed the bag into a bag and straight into our buggy. The machine immediately suspected shoplifting and seized up. “I think you’ve got to let it sit in the ‘bagging area’ so that it knows you’re not stuffing candy corn in your pants.” “Why would I stuff candy corn in my pants? I hate candy corn.” “The computer doesn’t know that.” I swiped a giant bag of Kit Kat candy bars across the scanner. He stuffed the Kit Kats in a plastic bag. The machine seized up and declared, “Unauthorized item in bagging area.” “I haven’t put anything, unauthorized or not, in the bagging area.” “Did you think about putting something unauthorized in the bagging area?” “Are you kidding? How would the machine know what I’m thinking?” I looked up. “Drones?” An assorted flock of small, pooping birds swept by, over my head—possibly drones—hard to tell. “Wait for assistance!” The machine commanded. We waited. A cashier, approximately the same age as my socks, assisted us. Tap, tap, tap, swipe, and tap. “Okay,” she said. I tried to scan a head of lettuce. Nothing happened. The machine suspected shoplifting and seized up. “Here,” I said. “Put this head of lettuce in your pants.” Once upon a time, my cavalier jokester attitude, the fact that the line of grumpy shoppers behind us was piling up fifty deep, and our obvious lack of check-out acumen or savvy would have sent my husband into orbit, and I would have trailed behind him like a kite string. But now? Now we understand that ninety-eight percent of life is complete daffiness—so yuck it up, baby, and bring on the banter. While we waited for teenage assistance to arrive and to make us feel super stupid, my husband pretended to stuff the head of lettuce into his pants. I snorted through my nose. Then he took two lemons and . . . well, never mind what he did with the lemons. I’ve known him for thirty-nine years, and there’s no one I would rather banter with—no one. Linda (Lemonade) Zern
From my walk-in closet I pulled a pair of my highest, sharpest stilettos and strapped them on. “Why are you putting on high heels?” asked Sherwood, my husband of thirty- plus years. “Because we’re going into battle. I pulled a suit jacket over my yellow knit top. “It’s pretty hot for a jacket. Don’t you think?” “Sherwood, dear man, nothing says, ‘I want my money back ‘ like sharp, pointy shoes and a Liz Claiborne suit jacket.” I checked my makeup and threw a mock pink crocodile hobo bag over my bony shoulder. “Let’s go.” This was war. And I was not going to lose. We crammed the defective four hundred and sixty dollar (two year extended warranty included) Hewlet Packard Officejet Pro scanner, printer, fax, and copier machine into the truck. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, I had purchased the new copy machine with cold, hard, American credit to replace the old copy machine that had been blown to toast by lightning—while I happened to be standing next to it. The replacement Hewlet Packard Officejet Pro scanner, printer, fax, and copier fresh out of the box—did not work. It didn’t pretend to work. So, back it had to go because I make a lot of copies of stuff—my writing, my sketches, coloring pages for grandchildren, my last will and testament. “Give me the keys. I’ll drive.” I snapped my fingers. “Slow down, General Patton. I’m driving,” Sherwood said, holding the keys over my head. He didn’t have to hold them very high. Sherwood drove. I fumed and prepared my opening salvo. The girl snapping her gum, standing underneath the Customer Service sign, did not have a chance. “Hi, my name is Linda Zern,” I said, “and I’m not a happy customer.” The gum snapper snapped to attention, eyes widening. I did not slow down. “Yesterday, I bought a four hundred and sixty dollar copy machine for my business, and it does not work, not even a little bit. Now I know that this unfortunate turn of events is not your fault, or my fault, or the fault of some poor slave chained to a factory wall in China, cranking out copier machines by the billions. The machine does not work. I find this situation beyond frustrating, and I want no silliness from this fine establishment. Do you understand? Now, what do you plan to do for me?” Her hand trembled as she pointed toward the back of the store. “Just leave the bad one and go get a new one,” she said. I spun on my pointy heels. When I found a young man lurking in the copier aisle, I said, “Young man, this it the situation: I purchased a moderately expensive copy machine, and it is defective. Now I know that this is not your fault, or my fault, or the fault of some poor slave chained to a factory wall in China, however I still want one that works. I am not happy. Furthermore, I can’t seem to find another copier machine to replace the piece of junk I purchased in good faith from this store only yesterday. What can you do for me?” His hand trembled as he pushed a very large ladder to a top shelf where a stack of very heavy HP Officejet Pros waited. I noticed Sherwood’s frown. “You think I’m being too hard on the troops.” It was not a question. “I think you’re being testy.” With raised eyebrows I asked the young man, now bent double under my replacement copier, “My husband thinks that I’m being testy. What do you think?” His hand trembling increased as he steadied the huge box. “I think that you are a person who wants what she paid for.” “Excellent answer, young man, proceed.” He lumbered towards customer service. “Do you think that he’s afraid of me?” I asked my husband. “I’m afraid of you.” “Good.” I marched to customer service, my stilettos tapping a determined rhythm. Without a word, the gum snapper made the switch and handed me a receipt. “Young lady, I want to thank you for not making me have to mud wrestle you over this exchange.” She cracked a lip glossed smile. “And if I were you I would say your prayers that this machine is not also defective.” She crossed herself. We left. The copier is perfect. I give all the credit to my shoes. Nothing says, ‘Don’t mess with me or my feet’ like a pair of sharp, pointy shoes. I know the truth. Any woman who is prepared to endure the pain, discomfort, and unnatural spinal position that high heels require will not hesitate to fling herself over a customer service desk and throttle the teenager running the cash register. It’s like having two rottweilers on your feet. I love my high heels—also they make me taller. So, tip of the week, if you want action don’t wear flip-flops. Linda (I have hammer toes older than you!) Zern
“There’s something in the office with us,” my husband said. His still, small whisper carried across his desk to my side of the office. “Define something.” I didn’t bother to look up from my computer. “As in some living thing—in this room, with us.” His tone made me pause. “How do you know?” “Because the rug under my desk is breathing.” And it was. Breathing. There at his feet under the area rug was a small hump—breathing. It was a small, breathing hump. I was stumped. Then I remembered. “Oh sorry, darn, I meant to tell you earlier that the cat had some thing in here earlier, messing with it. Sorry again. My bad. Should have mentioned it.” The hump shivered. Later, after recovering and tossing a rotund, slightly traumatized mole out of his office, my husband observed, “I’m not sure that I can stand all this nature. It’s starting to keep me up at nights. Did you hear that racket in the garage the other night? About one in the morning?” I shrugged. I guess he’d forgotten how fast I forget stuff. “You didn’t hear the banging!” he said, shocked. I shrugged again. “It was a possum, inside the garage, too blind to see to see that the garage door was shut. So, it just kept bonking into the garage door—over and over and over again. I had to let the possum out of the garage like it was a pet or something.” “We don’t have a pet possum.” He rolled his eyes. “I know that.” I didn’t think that this would be a good time to tell him about the fox squirrel (a giant mutant squirrel capable of hauling bricks around) that I had spotted stealing landscaping cloth from our garden. It took us hours to roll out that stupid landscaping cloth. That mutant fox squirrel was ripping up huge hunks of the stuff, balling it up, and carting it off to his mutant squirrel condo in the sky. I guess to re-carpet or something. And I didn’t bother to mention that a psycho cardinal (a red bird on crack) that had been attacking his own reflection in the rearview mirror of my truck, had now graduated to attacking his own reflection in our bedroom window right around naptime—mine! Tap. Tap. Tap. Tappity tap. “Hey, you idiot bird, you’re trying to peck out your own eyes!” I may have screamed once or twice. The good news—the bird wasn’t pooping all over the truck any more. The bad news—the bird was now pooping all over the house. So that’s country living. It takes a strong constitution, a hefty work ethic, and an appreciation for nature in all its cracked craziness. Linda (Nature Girl) Zern
When I proudly handed a copy of my first children’s chapter book to my sister-in-law, she took it, looked at it, and said, “That’s a lot of writing.” She was not overly enthusiastic. When I started sending funny, little, quirky emails to friends and family sixteen years ago (before blogging, before vlogging, before posting) another close relative said, “And stop sending me those damn silly emails.” He was less than encouraging. Rejection comes in all flavors. Yet . . . I write on and on and on. Sixteen hundred words a day or as much as my line editor can safely edit without losing her mind. Over the years, I have learned a couple of tricks and tips and techniques. Here are five. 1) Women Only or Overly Meaty Men: Write braless: There is nothing worse than writing for sixteen hundred words worth and then realizing that your boobs have turned blue from lack of oxygenated blood. It’ll throw you off. Trust me. 2) Thesaurus – Yes or No: That’s a big yes. My professor said to throw the thesaurus out. Whatever. I’m pretty sure that no one knows all the synonyms for the word “heave.” Editors get testy when you use the same word for stuff over and over again. So, if you need another word for heaved in the following sentence, “Her bosom heaved,” with a thesaurus you could write: Her bosom surged. Her bosom billowed. Her bosom huffed. See? How handy is that? 3) Snack With Caution: Writers live at their keyboards. Potato grease in sour cream & onion chip dust can make the computer keys slick. Bad things can happen when your fingers slide around. Words like shoot and shot can come out in the wrong spots. That’s my theory. Poorly executed grammar, creepy spelling errors, upside down word choices, and dazzling typos are ALL due to slippery chip grease fingertip trouble. True story. True chronicle. True fiction. 4) Handling Massive Rejection: Eat more chips. Type more words. Tell more stories. 5) Why Write? Because one day your ten-year-old granddaughter will hand you a story she’s written just for you about pumpkin seed fairies, and she’ll say, “When I grow up, I want to be a writer just like you, YaYa.” What I like best about being a writer and dreaming of having a wildly successful book, novel, tome, or opus (thesaurus alert) is that there can never be too many good ones. Good books are like potato chips; you can never stop with just one. Linda (Keyboard) Zern
Mark Twain said that American humor differed from humor in other countries. In England they told stories about something funny that had happened.
“Oh look! The Lord of the Manor lost his pantaloons.” Or something else equally hilarious.
But Americans, he contended, could tell any story and make it funny.
“Oh look! The Lord of the Manor lost his pantaloons. Hey aren’t those Lady Bluebell’s pantaloons, and aren’t they pink? I have a pair just like them.”
My personal favorite form of humor is called self-deprecating. “Humor in which performers target themselves and their foibles or misfortunes for comic effect.” Essentially, these are people who can laugh at themselves. It’s adorable. It’s charming. It’s smart. It’s mature. It’s confident. It’s down right sexy. And it’s the kind of humor where you can use the word foible. What’s not to love?
People who can laugh at themselves are highly intelligent. It’s a scientific fact. Probably. Sure. Sure. I bet there’s a governmental study costing ten trillion taxpayer dollars proving it—or not. Probably.
Okay, let me illustrate:
I was born when tinfoil on the rabbit ears was high tech and Jiffy-Pop was kitchen magic. The 21st century has been a bit of a challenge for me. Oh, who am I kidding? I still think that if I open the computer I’ll see typewriter keys.
This backwater attitude amuses my children, causing them to push and nag and drag me into the world of multi-media or, as I like to put it, multi thorns in my side to make me wish I was eating Jiffy-Pop popcorn while watching Laugh-In. But I digress.
So, in I jump: Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, Linked-In, Writing.com, Writing.net, Writing. Dumbbunny, and my very own website. Even though, the learning curve on each has caused me stress, hot flashes, nose bleeds, and happiness leakage. But, in I jumped.
Recently, I contracted a common cold viruses better known as the Vlad the Impaler Snot Fest. I was bed ridden for two weeks and weakly for two more weeks after that. It allowed me to be quite active on my Facebook page. Okay, I updated my status every time I sneezed and wet my pants—it was a lot.
And my children (grown) MADE FUN OF ME for over posting, or as Adam put it, “I like the post that said her pneumonia had contracted influenza.”
I never said that.
I said that I couldn’t smell, hear, taste, or breathe and that all hope was lost and that they should save themselves. Leave the casserole on the doorstep. Oh wait. There weren’t any casseroles from my children.
This story is an example of self-deprecating humor. Foibles alluded to include: My age, my dopiness, my bad children, my lack of tech savvy, and the wetting of my pants or pantaloons, depending.