A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

30 June 2009

Things Are Going From Bad to Worst...

Well, it's been a very bad couple weeks in the entertainment industry...Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and now Billy Mays. Very sad indeed.

So, I thought a little levity might be in order. But, be forewarned...these are really bad. In fact, they are amongst the worst out there...and therein lies the rub: they are SUPPOSED to be.

Imagine sitting at your desk in school when you were young...and the teacher just told you to write a story about summer vacation. If you were like me...it was an exercise in futility, imagination, and worst of all...getting it all started. The dreaded opening sentence. It all hinged on that. Once you got your story started...it usually came easier after. But...oh...that "starting off" point.

There's a myriad of ways to start off any story. Now, granted, first grade English class compositions probably weren't exactly going to garner you any movie deals. The number of screenwriters who struck it big at seven...well, you can probably count them on any cartoon character's hand (bear in mind...cartoon characters typically only have four fingers...or, three fingers and a thumb, if you prefer). In other words...there probably aren't many. But even at the tender age of seven...you came to realize just how detrimental the wording of that opening line is...and how hard it is to just...well...start...period.

And the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest capitalizes on just that. Period. Yes, up until that dreaded period...you can string words together any way you like...all forms of time-honoured punctuation is accepted...except the period. Once you place that dot at the end. That's it. That's all folks...that's all you get...that's all she (or he) wrote.

So, Professor of English, Scott Rice, started this contest way back in 1982 - as a lesson of sorts I figure...highlighting the pros and cons of opening sentence structure. It goes something like this:
Good: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." -- Opening line to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Bad: "Me and Mommy and Daddy went to Disneyworld and we rode the rides and then we got popcorn and then my brother, Timmy, threw up, and the lady had to clean it, and then we went back to our room." -- Opening line reminiscent of countless children's' essays (around the world) the first day of school.

Worst: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." -- Opening line by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford.

Do you see where this is headed?

Well, perhaps Professor Rice didn't either...but from a small beginning with, I believe, three whole entries...from his English class the first year...to what it has become: A literary legend. To win this prize is [almost] akin to the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer AND the Oscar...rolled into one. It has ballooned into the juggernaut that it is now.

And how do I know this?

I won it back in 2003...but you can read all about that in a blog I wrote back in 2006.

But back to the winner at hand, David McKenzie, of Federal Way, Washington, who won with this flowing refuse of writing:

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

Bravo, David. Bravo, everyone else who won sub-categories and got mentioned...but most of all, bravo, Professor Scott Rice...for your monumental contribution to [would-be] writers everywhere.

23 June 2009

Capris, Clamdiggers, Pedal Pushers, and Knickers, Oh My!

I keep saying it to everyone - "I am NOT accepted here in Montgomery". The cheerleader-type mentality reigns supreme. They've drawn that circle in the sand and I cannot cross over. I am "Little Ralphie" and his "A Christmas Story" friends; noses smooshed and faces pressed up against the window of "Higbee's Department Store" but I can't get in...

...or can I?

But...I wonder. You see, someone must have sent out a "clothing memo" to the "over 40 crowd" and counted me out once more. I never got word that I should, in some "Stepford Wivesonean focus" go to the store and plunk down ready cash on some Capri pants.

It's clearly evident everyone else here got the memo, as everywhere I look, women who fall into that "cougar-aged" category...are sporting these horrid things.

Oh, don't try to convince me otherwise...I saw it a little at first, a few years ago...or at least I "think" I did. I'd go into a store and try on some pants and remark to myself, "huh...that's funny - usually they are overly long - these don't even make it to my ankles...they just kinda "high water" it there. And I'd write it down to some sweat shop in Pakistanjurbec cutting fabric short and catering to the overly short-legged girls of the world.

And staring at that "lower exposure of skin" in the mirror takes me back...way back - to a time in my youth, all regional locales aside - although I'm sure everyone across the world has experienced this in one shape or form...the time you HAD to wear your sibling's pants (be them brother or sister) they outgrew...because you were next in line, height-wise. Surely you can sympathize with the emotional scourge...the raking over the coals...the cutting down a few notches...that only 3rd through 6th graders can inflict upon one another. The finger-pointing, the name calling, the ostracizing - the social embarrassment of seeing...or worse yet, of wearing those high-top Keds (or Ked mock-offs...which we called "Bo-Bo's") the "clever" moms would buy in order to conceal and camouflage the obvious - thereby doing even MORE damage by their misguided, albeit thoughtful, misdirection.

So, when I tried on those things...a wellspring of horror came rushing over me like a flood...reminding me even MORE so of those high-water pants that never needed to be hiked up...and unfastening that first button cum snap thing...and shimmying them down past your hips...well before sagging pants were in "vogue"; no, that kind of deception never cut it.

Back on the rack these misfits went.

Now imagine my chagrin when I find out NOW...that THEN - I could have been a trend-setter. Just think...all those social pariahs I went to school with - were way ahead of their time. Unfortunately, they never lived in present-day Montgomery where they could parade around and flaunt those ankles...and calves with confidence. Believe it or not...they can even wear them in front of 3rd to 6th graders and NOT get mocked...even at the ripe-old advanced age of 48.

Me? In a way I'm glad I didn't get "the memo" - my Washington, DC trip last month solidified my thoughts and confirmed my suspicions. It's really more of a regional thing - Capris were far and between there and, I'm guessing, even further between in Jersey...where I grew up. Further bolstering the old saying "you can take the girl out of Jersey...but you can't make her wear items of clothing which will leave an indelible mental mark on her like those all too often scabbed knees from Dodgeball on the playground...which ruined an infinitesimal amount of tights"...or something like that. Or perhaps it's just "You can take the girl out of Jersey and plop her in Montgomery...but will she wear them to fit in?

Well...let's find out next installment, shall we?

(Part I of II)

16 June 2009

Forrest Gump's Mom Was Wrong

Life is NOT like a box of chocolates - it's really like a game of Rugby.

I made this revelation only yesterday while being driven home from the doctor's office by my son.

Let me run some comparisons by you and you can decide for yourself...

Box of Chocolates:

- Okay, first off - "you never know what you're gonna get" - I claim foul on this one. Those Whitman ones always had the "lid diagram schematic" and Godiva comes with a "piece identifier" folded map-type insert. So, unless you are extremely daft...which Gump really wasn't...you'd easily be able to tell.

- You get a whole variety of them in there - if you don't like one, you can always spit it out, give it away, or try another. Sorry - in your one life - these are just not options.

- You can choose to eat your box quickly...or savour every bite and leisurely go through it. Sorry again, not so with life - it's really not up to you, now is it?

- Most of your little confections under that lid will be - well, sugar-coated and sweet - and only once in a while will you meet a nut. Ummm...not so in life...it's pretty much covered with nuts...and many times it will be very, very bitter.

Now to Rugby:

- To start, you don't get to wear any padding - whatever comes at you...you'll have no defense against it unless someone comes to your aid...and you'll just have to take what life gives you - head on.

- No time outs. You can't throw up your hands in frustration or desperation and have everything stop - you don't have the option to regroup - you just have to make do with what's coming at you.

- It's timed - into two 40-minute periods. When it's over...it's really over. Period. And sometimes there are absolutely no winners...and sometimes you win and...sometimes you don't. Sure, you do have the luxury of knowing when it will be over...but you still can't drag it out any longer - no matter how much you'd like.

- Lastly, it's governed by "laws", not "rules". Well...there ya have it - life in the proverbial nutshell...but...totally without chocolate.

So, I'm not sure if you agree...but I think my analogy works a lot better. Hmmm...I wonder what Tom Hanks thinks about this...

05 June 2009

Hitting It Right On the Head

First off I have to let you know - I'm NOT a clumsy person. I'm not prone to stumbling over my own feet, over table legs or cat toys. I have never been called a "klutz" and the second to last time I remember falling on my tush - I had a pair of roller blades on about 10 years ago and I got too cocky. Let's just say wearing them IN the house on a RUG and then going out through your garage holding on to stuff and then letting go in the driveway when it has a 2 degree angle...well, I'll just say - butt and pavement will intersect.

Enter Warfarin aka Coumadin aka blood thinner.

I had to go on a blood thinner for a couple reasons. I won't bore you with them, I'm sure you've been bored enough reading my blogs (yes, insert "Catholic guilt trip" here) - but when the doctor who prescribes you them in the hospital says "this is an EVIL drug"...well, that's the beginning of a series of not so good signs.

The second bad sign? The "Welcome to Hell" booklet. Oh, sure...it wasn't called that, but it could have been. Let me quote some statements directly from it:

"...call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you have any of the following:" (It then sites a whole list which is logical and pretty much a no-brainer across the board for anyone, regardless of medication - and then this...)

A serious fall or a hit on the head.

Blah blah blah...avoid some activities and sports that could cause injury...blah blah...if you like to work in the yard, be sure to wear sturdy shoes and gloves. Activities that would be safe for you include swimming and walking. It is very important to know that you can be bleeding and not see any blood. For example, you could fall and hit your head, and bleeding could occur under your skull. Or, you could fall and hurt your arm and notice a large purple bruise. This would be bleeding under the skin. Call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately if you have taken a bad fall, even if you are not bleeding. (Yes, it was in bold

Then it goes further talking about other things I should do and not do, including:


Use an electric razor.

Use a soft toothbrush.

Use waxed dental floss.

Do not use toothpicks.

Wear shoes or non-skid slippers in the house.


Always wear shoes.

Be very careful with sharp tools; wear gloves when using them.

Avoid activities and sports that can easily hurt you.

Wear gardening gloves when doing yard work.

Stay active.

Followed then by a whole list of precautions about what to eat and what not to eat (a much longer list) and how every single medicine will now interact with Coumadin/Warfarin in some manner, shape or form.

So, after reading this, I asked the doctor..."Oh, c'mon - I can't eat a salad with arugula anymore?" "Nope." "A cranberry??" "Nope." "Alcohol????" "Nope."

"Oh, just kill me now."

So, let me get this straight...I can't do anything anymore - and whatever I do, don't get into a car accident. BUT...I can walk and swim. Walk and SWIM??? Now think how many other activities there are in this world - and then there's walking and swimming. "Gee...thanks!", Warfarin people.

And this wouldn't have been so bad if not for the fact I have a head.

Oh, go ahead and laugh - or think I'm insane. You try living your life being aware of your head every single waking minute.

I was told "if you hit your head...go to the ER right away".

"Wait...maybe that statement is meant to be read, 'serious fall and SERIOUS hit on the head'? Or is it just 'SERIOUS fall and hit on the head?' 'ANY hit on the head?' I mean ANY??" Which IS it, Warfarin booklet people!?

How many times have I hit my head in my life that I can remember?

Maybe four.

I fell (was pushed) off the sofa once after jumping up and down on the furniture with my sister and gashed my head on the door lock mechanism when I was a kid. Did I tell my mother? No. Did I tell on my sister? No. Did I survive? Yes.

I walked into an I-bar pole once outside "Korvettes" deparment store - splat. I have a scar on my forehead from it. I didn't know I was bleeding until it ran on my coat. My mother put a makeshift "butterfly" bandage on it and I never went to the doctor. Again, I lived.

There's gotta be another in there at some point.

And I hit my head pretty hard loading stuff into a dumpster at my parents' house in Jersey when we were cleaning out the house/sheds after they died, before we put the house on the market. Did I go to the ER? Nope. Death? Nope.

So, four times. Four times in 48 years. That averages once every 12 years. Not bad.

How many times have I hit my head since December...since I've been on Warfarin?

About a dozen.

Sure, you can surmise I'm just more AWARE of my head now so I remember every little knock and bump - and it might be true. But let me give you the rundown on some of my head hits:

Taking a shower...after putting the Waterpik showerhead doodle back on the holder - it decided to jump off and hit me right smack on the forehead as I was kneeling down turning off the faucets. Number of instances documented of a Waterpik showerhead jumping off its holder and attacking a person? Oh...I Googled - I found none.

Flushing the toilet after - well...flushing the toilet and hitting my head on the towel cabinet which sits directly over the toilet. The odds? Again...probably higher than the showerhead incident...but still, relatively low.

The microwave door left open aka "you're stupid, Mariann - close it already" syndrome. An over-the-oven microwave door left open and my head coming into contact with it? You don't want to know how many times.

Unlocking the cat door - and hitting my head on the overhanging granite edge on a wood chopping-block cabinet when I got back up...in the pantry? Once. Resulted in subsequent CT scan. I do not recommend doing this - it hurts.

Tossing grocery bags in the backseat of the car when I've been used to a much higher profile van? Once. Again...it hurts and requires a trip to the ER...and also makes you cry in the parking lot of Fresh Market...not because of the pain...but because you know there's probably a cat scan involved at some point...because, as the book says, I HAVE to let my doctor know I hit my head.

Putting the cats' water bowl in the water bowl/food holder, which, ironically, sits directly under the pot holder rack - and directly adjacent to the very pointy and very hard wooden pub table top in the kitchen. Both - varying degrees of hitness...varying angles...varying areas of my head.

And the mother of all "oh, c'mon and cut me a break already" events?

Lobbing, very softly and very slowly...a rubber playground-type soccer ball to my daughter whilst talking on a cell phone. This is where I swear to you that I can chew gum and walk at the same time...unless there is blood-thinner involved. First lob on the grass? Fine. No problem. Ball crossing street...me crossing street...me crossing my one leg over the other to just barely kick the ball back? Gotcha! I fell flat - like someone dropped off the side of a building, flat...on my right side. My cell phone flies across the street. The first thing I thought? "Oh...damn...I hope I didn't break my cell phone!" The second thing I thought? "WHY did you kick the ball to me? Why why? And WHY did I kick it back?" Third..."call on-call doctor"...who proceeds to say the magic words "Well, you didn't hit your head...and I don't think you fell hard enough to rupture your spleen or liver - because that would be fatal. Would you maybe like to go to Pri-Med?" "Nah, that's okay...I think I'll just risk DEATH...what do YOU think??!"

I now am a master of awareness. I am aware of my head in relationship to my body and to any object at any given time. I get up slowly from any kneeling position - I look up before I get up...I find myself looking up when I am standing up...for no explicable reason whatsoever; and I stand far away from the underside of my showerhead. No kidding.

My life (and my head) is now like one of those 'spoon and egg' races...only a LOT slower...and always wearing shoes and gloves...you know...JUST in case; and, as long as I wear shoes and gloves as I walk to the pool in the backyard, I'll be okay...right? Right??