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When Your Schtick is Schtuck

I think my schtick is stuck. I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Funny ain’t easy, you know, especially when a freak earthquake literally pulls the rug out from under you and, in the wake of a hurricane, chronic pain prevents you from getting out of bed in the morning or even wanting to try. The past few weeks have been hard on a lot of people. It’s difficult to laugh or even smile as you claw your way out of the rubble of natural disaster, illness, terrorism, prison, abuse, addiction, or even the everyday emotional and financial upheavals of life.

     Thankfully, laughter and tears are often two sides of the same coin. As in Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” I believe that some of the best jokes are those that make you nod your head and say, “Amen! I have experienced that too. I have lived it and survived to laugh about it.” Some of the funniest comedians are those that have rebounded from tragedy.

     A few years ago, my dad fainted and fell after a bad reaction to medicine. At the time, my mom and I didn’t know what was wrong with him and were scared out of our minds. Mom tried to step over him so she could get to the phone. Her foot missed the floor and she stepped down with her full weight on Dad’s lower abdomen. Dad sat straight up and hollered “Whoa!” Then, he flopped back down again and began to snore. Mom and I looked at each other and started laughing and then we started dialing 911.

     We went from not knowing whether he was alive to breathing a sigh of relief that he was going to be OK. We could think clearly and take action to get him to the hospital. That moment of absurdity had broken the high tension. Mom’s misstep is legend in our family, although Dad doesn’t remember. Today, I look back and remember how scared I was at the time, but what sticks with me the most is the laughter that came after the tears.



I am baffled by the new Skinny Licious menu at the Cheesecake Factory. Does anyone really go there to diet? I go for insulin shock by Godiva cheesecake. If I’m going down, it’s going to be death by chocolate.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It never fails. Thirty minutes after I start to mow the grass, three neighbors think that it’s time to mow their lawns too.

It’s human nature to copy or imitate other people. That’s why we have copycat killers, plagiarism, fashion knockoffs, and successful ad campaigns encouraging us to “Be Like Mike” or to keep up with the Joneses. It’s the reason millions of women have sported hair styles such as “The Farrah Fawcett,” “The Mary Lou Retton”, “The Jennifer Aniston”, and, regrettably, “The Kate Gosselin”.

Who are you imitating today? Emulating others can be a learning tool. If you want to be better at your job, look around and find someone who is excelling or getting promoted. Ask questions. What are they doing that you’re missing?  Pretend you are that person (but only for a moment so as not to be perceived as being a stalker or having a split personality).

If you want to be a more confident public speaker, look to a celebrity, such as Tom Bergeron, who is a master at relaxed impromptu speaking. If you want to sing as beautifully as a friend or relative, spare yourself the humiliation and take up the violin. Kidding! Only kidding. Maybe sometimes it’s better to be an original. Well, gotta go, I’m late for my “Write Like Nora Roberts and John Grisham” class.

Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ninjas

Every great novel begins with great characters. Every great character begins with a name that is well-suited to that character’s personality and circumstances. Even the Bible (Proverbs 22:1, NIV) says that “a good name is more desirable than great riches.” Moon Unit may be the perfect name for a hippie child born on a commune in the 60’s, but it won’t work for the strong, brooding hero in a romance novel. Fi-fi Trixibelle may fit the child of a rock legend, but not the warden of a maximum security prison.

Speaking of prison, I have a theory that the crazier the name a parent gives a child, the more likely that the child will end up on the wrong side of the law. In my time as an attorney, I have collected the outrageous names of a few criminal defendants who might consider a legal name change (They are not my clients. Please do not give them my address.):

10. Samuel Crook

9. Mordecai McBean

8. Gobin Ramroop

7. Michael Schuttpelz a.k.a. cherryice2u

6. Robert Donald Duck

5. Andrea Schumate a.k.a. Meat Meat (For a double serving of dumb)

4. Arthur Outlaw

3. Brent Bonecutter (Hope he has never seen the movie, Saw)

2.  Aninja (Just Aninja, one word like Cher or Madonna but scarier)

1.  And my personal favorite . . . Norman Bates Hatchett

Barbie Loves Company

Misery  Barbie Loves Company

My mother has always loved delicate paper dolls and baby dolls. I, on the other hand, preferred mine with a few battle scars. As a child, I subjected my Pink & Pretty Barbie to Navy Seal-like training. Notice that Barbie isn’t plural. That’s because I so appalled my mother that she refused to buy me another. My Barbie got a GI Jane haircut, fell from cliffs, had logs fall on her, got caught in the undertow without a lifejacket, and fell into wells. When my dog chewed off the doll’s hands and feet, I knew Barbie was in for a new adventure. Her life was controlled by my imagination.

Before you call me a Barbie bully, understand that I didn’t want Barbie to die. Rather, I wanted her to MacGyver herself to safety, to climb back up the mountain, to grab onto a floating log, to fashion a rope from a Scrunci and a shoelace. I realize now that this was part of the foundation for my writing career. At the core of my writing are strong heroines, warrior women who know the words to “I Will Survive” by heart and can get themselves out of a well without the aid of Lassie or Timmy.

As I have grown older, I realized something that my lone Barbie, in her empty plastic shell, never could: You can’t have warrior strength unless you surround yourself with people who believe in you. A strong heroine needs a team in the background who cheer her on. I hope your team includes friends, a romantic hero, parents like mine who encourage me even when I’m weird or my writing needs serious help, and especially a God who is always with you and I even in the depths of that dark well.

Daytime Soaps on the Ropes

My debut novel goes behind the scenes of a dying soap opera. Daytime drama is struggling to survive amidst network budget cuts and a waning audience. I cringed at last night’s Daytime Emmy Awards show, which was more of an infomercial for Las Vegas tourism and nightlife than a celebration of daytime drama. I hope that soaps will still be on the air by the time I find an editor and publisher for my book.

I offer 5 reasons to watch and love the surviving soaps—Young and the Restless, Bold and Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, and General Hospital:

  • #5. People who irritate you can be recast or written off the show.
  • #4. You will never have to work a day in your life, even if you are the editor of a magazine or CEO of an international corporation.
  • #3.  Soap heroines never have a bad hair day, even in a tornado, plane crash, or coma.
  • #2. You will always have a beautiful new outfit to wear every day, including matching shoes, purse, and jewelry.
  • #1. None of your loved ones ever truly die. It is likely that they are alive and well on an island, have been kidnapped and replaced by an evil twin, or are being nursed back to health by a kind and extremely attractive farmer, villager, vet, or  (insert rescuer here).