From the moment I watched the agonizingly adorable Holderness family Christmas video greeting, I was simultaneously impressed, intimidated, and overwhelmingly grateful my kids are grown and our days of producing creative Christmas cards have waned. I thought there was pressure then.
When I was little, photo cards were the exception rather than the rule. The fact that someone took a picture and had them made into cards was above and beyond everyone’s factory made cards with a scribbled signature added to personalize them. Those people were rich.
Christmas letters have been around forever, but those have already been infamously lampooned and become so iconic, they have become cliche. It is the rare author today who doesn’t try to make fun of penning one year into a concise review while skewering the braggadocious letters.
Photo cards have become mini photo albums now. It used to be one picture of the kids and/or family and/or pets was enough. Thanks to the ease of uploading and printing, the photo cards include multiple images of the little rat bastards because their adorableness simply cannot be captured in one brief shutter exposure. Their smiling/crying/un-cooperative faces tilt in varying positions on premium paper, both front and back. Cost is no concern. More is better.
I’ll admit to making an effort to send out creative Christmas cards when the boys were young. No standing in front of the fireplace cliches for me. I remember being wowed by people that actually used Halloween pictures, or summer vacation pictures to mix it up a bit. I immediately followed suit. I even drew a cartoon card one year.
The competitive nature of these clever/amusing/overdone greetings rivals that of the Tour de France. Because my husband was in advertising then, there were some wickedly cool photo cards sent to us. I got to the point where a plain old Christmas card without any family photo was a disappointment. Waste of paper. I loved
ridiculingseeing photos and letters that said so much more between the lines.
Now the damn Holderness’s have thrown down the gauntlet. They have made a Christmas greeting on steroids. Everyone is in love with their video. Where will it end? And if everyone starts making them, when will there be time to trim a tree or bake a cookie? You’ll either be in production, or viewing someone else’s greeting while biting your lip and praying theirs did not beat you to the punch on some brilliant idea.
I predict many failed attempts will follow the Holderness video, along with parodies that will kill. The current generation of vid-kids can already edit on their laptops or even make a viral vine, so the potential is limitless. I look forward to any clever masterpieces my children will send of any future grandchildren, but am totally relieved I am old enough to have escaped this new trend. I, for one, refuse to feel pressured. Happy Holidays to all you creatives out there. I’ve got to run. Making a holiday hologram takes more time than I planned for.
Never having attended a writers conference of any kind, I was a toxic stew of insecurities as I left for the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. Would I have what it takes? Would everyone else be an established writer? Could I handle being there alone amongst total strangers? Would everyone be funnier than me? Would I be able to pass gas?
As it turned out, the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop was worth every penny and provided the shot of adrenalin I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a legitimate writer, or at the very least, a better one. So for any novices considering attending this fantastic conference in the future, I thought I could pass on some valuable lessons to help you blend “write” in.
Lesson 1: Writing is a business.
The first night started with a dinner. Before the chicken even hit the table, a woman whipped out her business cards and passed them around for everybody to take. One attendee piped up: “We’re already doing cards?” I followed: “We were supposed to bring cards?”
I pulled out the three business cards I had in my purse which had nothing whatsoever to do with writing and let people wrestle for them. How could I be so stupid? Years of being home with the kids had left me about as business savvy as Ronald Wayne, the poor guy who gave up his Apple partnership for all of $2300. I judiciously held on to one card in case a powerful publisher cornered me and begged for one.
Lesson 2: The Pitch
Learn how to pitch yourself and your work briefly and succinctly. At each meal everyone at your table introduces themselves and gives a quick synopsis about themselves and their work. If they have no concept of brevity and tend to meander all over the place bringing personal baggage to their introduction, the third time you’ve heard their spiel you want to stuff their mouth with a roll and whisper in their ear “Get an EDITOR!!” A simple, “I’m insane. I love to write” will do fine.
Most people do have an agenda involving self-promotion in the hopes of making a connection that would further their career. Some people have a more intense agenda than others. Perhaps the organizing committee could offer the option of adding “And what can you do for me?” beneath an attendee’s name and home town on the name tags provided.
At the last luncheon a woman sat down at our table and I asked her what she thought of the conference. She hurriedly showed us the book she had published through the publishing company she had started. All because someone had told her at a previous Bombeck workshop to stop buying how-to books and doing research on writing and just get it done! I lauded her for all that she had accomplished in a few years and was even more impressed because her book was about motherhood and she obviously had small children at home as well. She looked at me with wild eyes and said, “I just feel like there is so much more to do!” In an effort to put her accomplishments in perspective, I proudly told her, “This is my first workshop and I drove here from Chicago. All by myself.” She gathered her gear up and left in a flurry. I yelled after her, “I’m not contagious! You can still be successful!”
Lesson 3: Relax and have fun.
The weekend is a whirlwind of activity and stimulation. Enjoy every moment of it. Even if the only thing you’ve written is a shopping list, you will be inspired. You will learn things from celebrated authors and industry experts. You will meet great people and make lifelong friends. You will want to write more than ever and you will leave counting the days until the next Bombeck Workshop.
I was amazed at the talent that had been assembled both for the workshops and the guest speakers. Writing can be an isolating task. It was great to be surrounded by fellow creatives who were not only talented, but understood the angst that goes along with the process. The speakers were stellar and hilariously funny. It was electrifying. I don’t know what other writers workshops are like, but since this one honors the brilliantly humorous Erma Bombeck, the focus was on funny and it did not disappoint. Pack extra Poise Pads for those of you who know what I’m talking about.
Lesson 4: I recommend everyone print their picture on their business card.
You will meet a lot of people in a short time. At the end of the weekend, cards are flowing like oil into the Gulf. I came home with piles of them and it was impossible to remember who was who and who I wanted to keep or toss. Thanks to my lack of preparation, I didn’t have to worry about anyone tossing mine. I still have the one I saved for that potential publisher. Maybe next time…
Lesson 5: Don’t let insecurities get in the way. Keep writing. Polish your craft. Savor every success, even if it’s simply getting up the nerve to go where you’ve never gone before. Look for me at the 2012 workshop. I’ll be the one with a U-haul stuffed with personalized business cards, Beano and plenty of pee pads.
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, which is great because I am my own worst enemy, and guilt is my weapon of choice.
My guilt trips come with their own pilot, flight crew, and bad catering. “Welcome aboard. We’ll be flying at the lowest esteem possible, with occasional inner-turbulence, peppered by mild anxiety attacks. SSRIs will be available for purchase during the flight, along with headphones for the feature film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Lots of people set goals and seem to have the energy of a splitting atom. I call them overachievers, while feeling like a total loser in comparison. I am inert by nature, finding innumerable ways to avoid doing anything that requires effort. While other moms were cutting up fresh fruit and frying up bacon, I threw packages of Hostess mini-muffins up the stairs yelling, “Breakfast!”
When my husband was dismissed from his job of twenty years, he took over meal preparations to save money and because he actually likes to cook. That was great in the beginning, but one day my younger son tells me, “I don’t like having Daddy home.” I gasped. “Why not?” “I miss going to McDonalds.” And the best parent award goes to…
Call me Blanche DuBois, except that I’ve always depended on the cooking of others. The very thought of having to put together a meal, or worse, entertain makes me anxious. Besides, cooking is messy and messes have to be dealt with. The inside of my oven looks like a combination of toxic waste and seagull droppings. “Self-cleaning” my ass. If ovens were truly self-cleaning, they would clean themselves after each use. My vagina has better self-cleaning power than a KitchenAid Superba.
Speaking of overachievers, one of my neighbors does lunges up our steeply-inclined street and looks like a million-bucks. Meanwhile my bones are getting so porous I may have the ability to fly soon. The very word “exercise” makes me phantom sweat, but it’s easier feeling shitty about myself rather than actually sweating. If beating myself up counted as a workout, I’d be a candidate for an Olympic boxing team.
By law it is okay to kill someone in self-defense, and if anyone deserved killing, it is this insidious enemy. I have been working on it. Watching Hoarders helps me feel like a superior housekeeper, and Toddlers and Tiaras makes me feel like an incredible mom. Who knew reality TV could be so therapeutic? As I grow wiser and increasingly more comfortable in my own flabby skin, I just need to get over feeling guilty about being happy.
Just when I thought the 2013 NHL season couldn’t get any better, the Stanley Cup came to my hometown. It all started with a tip from someone, followed by a call-back telling us to keep it on the down-low because The Cup’s presence at our Civic Center wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge. No problem.
When the alleged time for The Cup’s arrival came, our neighbors discreetly piled the whole family into the car. That’s suspicious on an ordinary day. My husband asked them where they were going and they wouldn’t even give a straight answer, simultaneously suggesting we should go now, if we were going to go at all. This was getting good. My husband decided we needed to buy garbage stickers at the Civic Center. Now. And we always buy stickers together, right? Hurry up. Stealth mode on.
As we approached the building, a family adorned in Blackhawk jerseys (“sweaters” for the true devotees) was hurrying toward the Civic Center and we knew it was game time. The Mom called out to the kids speeding towards the doors, “Why don’t we wait here for Daddy?” They didn’t even look back. “Oh well, Daddy’s on his own.” Cup – 1, Daddy – 0.
Any ideas of keeping this information on the DL had obviously been about as successful as the Bruins’ last two minutes of play. People were in a wide line, snaking all the way up the stairs towards the gym. Edward Snowden probably leaked it from Russia. The line continued to grow right out of the foyer and into the street.
Eventually the Chief of Police worked his way through the crowd towards the elevator with a black trunk on wheels and an entourage. I’m surprised it wasn’t cuffed to someone’s wrist. We all watched with envy as a select group of people accompanied the Chief and The Cup into the elevator and disappeared.
Finally, people were allowed into the gym. It was just like snaking your way to the best ride at Disney. Everyone was patient. Everyone was in a good mood. I saw my dentist ahead of me. This was everyman’s ride. A couple of young ladies behind me were fantasizing about kissing The Cup, knowing it had been touched by all those gorgeous, hunky winners.
To make sure everyone who made it in had a chance for a photo-op, there were people in front of The Cup taking pictures for the giddy fans. The closer I got, the more nervous I got. My phone battery was waning. My sardonic husband was smiling like a dope. The Cup brought out the little boy in him. We strategized doing separate turns to have twice the pictures and more time with the cup. This was like a surgical strike and we didn’t want to blow it.
They had us moving so fast I didn’t even get a good look at it. I was able to touch it and get a great picture. Mission accomplished. Time to get home and post it on Facebook. Suck on this anyone who had playoff tickets!
Now here’s the part I didn’t expect. Naturally there were a lot of “likes” and comments on my FB post about how cool it was that we were able to get up close and personal with the mythical Stanley Cup, but the comments that mattered to me were along the lines of: “I’m not sure which is more beautiful, you or The Cup.” “So cute!” And my favorite, “You’re adorable.”
As a woman pushing sixty, I haven’t been called adorable since the middle of the last century. It’s a close second to the Blackhawks winning the series. I hold no false illusions about my looks, but this trophy made me feel good in ways I never expected. There is truly something magical about The Stanley Cup.