Monday, March 19, 2012


The trouble with life’s embarrassing moments is their stealth.  If you could predict when they are about to strike, you would do something to prevent them. You’d have to be some kind of nut case to deliberately put yourself in jeopardy of total mortification.

And so, I checked twice before leaving the restroom to make sure my skirt was ALL the way… well, you already know where this is going.

I wore a black, mid-calf skirt on Saturday night when we went to the ballet; one of those skirts that is assembled in bias-cut panels that fall nicely away from the hips and get all kind of floaty by the time they reach the hem. Flattering on the mature figure.  Slimming, almost.

Regardless, watching lithe young dancers is a sure recipe for feeling like a Smurf. But what are you going to do? It’s been 40 years or more since you were 95 pounds in a leotard. I’ll tell you what you do: you try to project an appearance of youthful, physical grace and agility; you endeavor to look as elegant and thin as possible.  Greeting other patrons in the lobby, you suck in your gut, pull your shoulders back, extend your height, pulling up out of your torso and stand in second position. If you look around, you’ll see other women standing in second position all telegraphing that they KNOW what second position is because THEY had dance training once upon a time as well.  When you move to your seat, you glide as gracefully as you can across the lobby with your feet turned slightly outward as though wearing invisible pointe shoes and you know how to avoid tripping on them. You alight in your seat as if you weigh as much as a ballerina, being careful not to make those Grandma noises that you’ve been making lately every time you interact with a chair. When the lights go down, you breathe out again, knowing your mature figure can relax for an hour or so and your dinner can digest. When intermission arrives, you rise blithely and float across the lobby again, chatting gaily to folks along the way to the restroom.

It was at this stage of my lobby performance that I got into trouble.  I was alone in the Women’s room standing in front of the mirror, close to the 5 minute call to return to our seats. Lipstick. Check. Hair. Check. Skirt. Check. Check it again, Lesley. You never know if you got it ALL back to its proper place, hem swishing lightly below your knees. O.K. Looks o.k.  Fluff the hair again. Check. Skirt? Yes, yes.  O.K. Enough. Out the door.

By the time I had walked a few paces, I could tell something was wrong. There was a breeze that I shouldn’t have felt at the back of my right leg. I put my hand down to my thigh and flipped the edge of my skirt. It released from where it was caught. Oh, no!! I missed a corner! It was tucked in you-know-where and I wanted to die right then and there on the spot!

And what’s the first thing you do when something like this happens? You look around to see if anyone else has noticed. They had! Oh, wretched me! Two women were sitting on a bench nearby finishing their drinks. They were looking my way. Bless them, they didn’t turn away or snicker. They had looks on their faces like they were so totally mortified for me. They were in complete sympathy. They looked as though they were on the verge of calling out to tell me about my wardrobe malfunction.  I stopped for a second, waved to them and called out a nonchalant, “Thank you!” with as much of my balletic decorum intact as possible. What else could I say? If they had prevented me from sashaying into the crowd with my skirt stuck in my undies, I would have been utterly grateful.  But, you know, these things all happen so fast. In the next split second, my eyes darted around. After that red-faced “thank you” my eyes met a man’s who was standing close to the ladies. He looked stricken. Unable to speak or look away. Time froze for a moment. I turned quickly without engaging further.
I schlumped back to our seats.

Later, as we left the theatre, I hoped I wouldn’t see the two ladies again, much less the man. Although, perhaps we might have smiled at each other and maybe giggled a little, waved light-heartedly and shared a human connection.

What do they say about pride goeth-ing before a fall? It’s true. Forget the lobby performance. Be comfortable. Wear pants.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Brand Name?

On January 13, 2012, I posted a blog entitled “I’ll Be Signing Autographs” in which I mentioned entering the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. I heard the results two weeks ago I didn’t win. Well, did I really expect that I would? Probably not. But it has taken a couple of weeks to process the crushing disappointment that I didn’t set the world on fire with my very first foray into the public forum. I did receive some encouraging and helpful comments, however.  In summary, they told me that my submission had good structure and was humorous, but wasn’t LOL funny enough.  They said that I need to go for bigger laughs.

I’ve had writer’s block ever since.

I think I lost my mojo sometime last week as I was trying to wrench a political metaphor out of Girl Scout cookies. I started a blog this week in which I was attempting to draw a parallel between March Madness basketball and daylight savings time. Convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe it. You should be glad you won’t have to read it.

The whole reason and purpose for writing a blog is now before me as a soul searching question. Didn’t I start this just for my own enjoyment? I love Erma, but do I really want to emulate her? Funny enough? For whom? Am I really trying to become a humor writer? So many questions.

Fortunately,  coming up in April, there is the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop just around the corner, to help sort all this out. Here’s a session they designed just for me!

Six Million Dollar Humor Column: How to Write Bigger, Funnier and Faster
Tracy Beckerman
What makes something funny? Believe it or not, there is a science to humor, and although that sounds incredibly unfunny, these tried and true theories and techniques can make a big difference between a so-so humor column and a hilarious one. So what does it take to write a bigger, funnier and faster humor column? Syndicated humor columnist and author Tracy Beckerman tells you how to pump up your humor writing so you can sell more columns and make $6 million, or at least a few bucks more than you are now.

As I am making zero bucks writing my blog, any bucks would be more. But does having a whole session devoted to this topic mean that there are other writers out there with this same affliction called “so-so humor”?  Tried and true techniques? A science to humor? I was never really good at science, but o.k.! Give me a white coat and let me into the lab!

Here’s another session I plan to attend:

Brand to Book — Creating an Online Voice That Opens Doors
Anna Lefler
It’s a noisy, crowded Internet out there, and the best way for your work to get noticed is to create a compelling, distinctive voice. Your voice is, after all, your brand — your key to attracting not only readers, but agents and publishers as well. In this session, we will roll up our sleeves and dig into the rewarding process of crafting your personal humor brand, including making yourself — and your work — memorable, honing your humor voice, the importance of consistency, the value of broad appeal, building on what comes naturally to you, and more.

That’s what I need! A honed humor voice! A brand named, Me! Wow, have these people gotten inside my head, or what?

Here’s another one!

Finding the Authority to Write
Kyran Pittman
Do you live in secret fear of the day someone demands to see your Artistic License? Do you have trouble putting the word “writer” in the occupation blank? Are you dogged by an internal heckler who wonders just who you think you are anyway? This workshop will help you with the answer, as you examine why you write, and for whom, through a series of hands-on exercises designed to help you claim the authority to write. Think of it as a chiropractic adjustment for your soul. Ah…much better.

O.K. now this is getting scary! They are definitely listening to my brain!

So, hang onto your hats, my loyal readers, all six of you! I’m going to take a short blogosphere break to earn my Artistic License at the workshop. I’ll be back very soon with funnier and fresher comedy using my newly honed humor voice!

In the meantime, I’m going to Florida. So next week, look for a re-run post.  I’ll republish my losing competition entry just for you it’s not very funny, but it has good structure and is mildly humorous. Just like me!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Girl Guides vs. Girl Scouts: A Cookie Smack Down

To honor International Women’s Day, (which was this week, March 8th) I am writing today to promote cross-border peace and harmony between Canada and the US. I wish to see an end to a long standing feud over whose girls sell the best cookies.

You may not be aware that cookie typologies represented by the Girl Guides of Canada and the Girl Scouts of the United States are quite distinctively different.  Canadian Girl Guides sell a sandwich-style, icing-filled cookie. A box features half vanilla and half chocolate. Their American counterparts, the Girl Scouts, sell a variety of single-flavor boxes that include a chocolate-covered mint thin, a caramel/coconut combo, a shortbread, and a peanut butter sandwich, to list just a few of the best-sellers.

The tension over this has reached a scale proportionate to the Middle East Peace Talks.

I say, it’s time to put this disagreement to rest at last and be friends once again. To that end, I am open to hearing arguments from both sides of the border.

Thus far, the argument has gone something like this:

Girl Guide cookies are better than Girl Scouts’!

Are not!

Are too!

Are not!

Are too!

This is not productive. As reasonable adults, I believe it is time to settle down and debate the issue rationally.

The Girl Guides’ sandwich cookie is a very polite and unassuming, almost self- effacing cookie. It harkens back to the days when Canada was a British crown colony and everyone anticipated the vicar coming for afternoon tea – or maybe the Queen Herself dropping in. You would of course serve a sandwich style cookie such as those sent over from England by Peak Freen.  


The Girl Scout assortment of cookies offers something for everyone, whether one prefers mint, chocolate, shortbread, peanut butter, coconut, lemon or some other Flavor. It is truly a patriotic, American cookie collection as it offers options and choices. The cookies represent rugged individualism and independence; good old American values. And as for afternoon tea with British royalty, well we know what happened in Boston.

Yeah? Well, Girl Guide cookies packaged as one, together in vanilla and chocolate, represent  true Canadian-style multiculturalism kind of like English and French equality on labels and government signs.

Ha! Our Girl Scout cookie varieties are a melting pot of many, many kinds all coming together to form one nation of cookies, indivisible!

So! Our cookies have a high level of interaction, like three cookie experiences in one – the two cookie disks plus the sweet cream filling. You can pry them apart and scrape the filling out with your teeth! Can’t do THAT with your thin minty cookies!

So what! Oreos did that first and who did you think invented them?!?

O.K., O.K., but your peanut butter cookie could cause an allergic reaction!

And your cookies contain gluten!

So do yours!!!!

You see how this goes. It seems as though a bi-national agreement over this thorny issue will be impossible to reach.

Perhaps both sides need to sit down for a good old fashined cookie party. Anyone got milk?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Don’t you hate it when you get a song stuck in your head? It can run on replay in your brain until you’re ready to scream. I find this especially heinous at 3 a.m. I finally gave up this morning and got out of bed at 5 hoping to get last night’s terrible tune, Alouette, to PLEASE STOP!!!!!

Thanks to the retailer, Target, this bouncy, little old French Canadian folk song has been accompanying an ad on TV with irksome frequency. It’s actually a pretty cute ad: a hot air balloon lands in a grey, winter-worn community. Dozens of colorfully clad characters emerge to whirl around paintbrushing drab, woolly citizens in bright pastel spring clothing. Then they hop back in the balloon and take off for the next dreary place to spread more of their vibrant magic.

We learned to sing Alouette in school; I think it was when I was in grade 4, which was the year Canada adopted French as the official second language.

Alouette. Gentille Alouette.

Alouette. Je te plumerai.

Je te plumerai la tête. Je te plumerai la tête.

Not sure why Alouette would have been chosen as the musical score for this ad’s mini-drama. The song is about plucking a bird. Apparently, alouette (“lark” in English) was on the menu in the olden days in French Canada; and je te plumerai, literally means “I will de-feather you.” An obscure connection if indeed there is one as the ad seems to suggest just the opposite. Never mind. It’s a catchy tune. And it lends itself well to singing in “call and repeat.” Ken and I sang it together at the breakfast table one morning this week:

Et la tête.




(Together) OOOOOOH….Alouette, etc. etc.

The verses continue to denude the bird by le cou, le dos, les ailes, les pattes. OOOOH!

Our teachers likely intended the song to help us learn French pronunciation, but our Anglo accents made it more like: “jaunty allo-etta” and “jetty ploom-a-ray.” And of course, we had no idea what we were singing about – or at least I didn’t. It might have been a bit disturbing had we known.

Come to think of it we were taught all kinds of songs that made no sense to grade 4 kids. Like, What Will We Do With the Drunken Sailor (Earl-lie in the Mor-nin’?) and Rule, Britannia and Give Me Some Men Who are Stout Hearted Men and Valderie, Valdera (Valdera-ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, my knapsack on my back.)

By our junior high years we had become worldly youth who listened to rock and roll. We held transistor radios up to our ears or hid them under our pillows so we could listen to late night radio programs without our parents knowing.  So, when I was in grade 8 and our school hired a freshly-minted, young music teacher, I thought maybe things were looking up! Maybe she would teach us cool songs by the Beatles or the Guess Who! It was not to be. She taught us show tunes.

I doubt that she ever actually went to Broadway to see shows; that would have been rare in those days; New York would have been considered adventure travel and certainly not part of our reality deep in Canada’s Prairie. No, we learned the songs from the movie LP soundtracks: Oklahoma and The Music Man.

Our teacher had a special fondness for Julie Andrews’ early body of work. In fact, I’m convinced she wished she WAS Julie Andrews.  She had the same short haircut and pert, upturned nose. She got a wistful, faraway look in her eye teaching us songs from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. When we sang the love duet between Julie Andrews’ Maria and Christopher Plummer’s Captain Von Trapp, she got even dreamier. We disappeared from her consciousness as she gazed out the window perhaps imagining herself embraced in the Captain’s arms, her face turned toward his yearning for his kiss.

In spite of this childhood music training, I still love those musicals and know all the lyrics from about a dozen shows.  I’d certainly like one of them to take over at 3 a.m. when my brain is fixed on Alouette. Gentille alouette.

Do you have it on your brain's replay now? Sorry.