It May Be YOUR Pillow, but It’s MY Insomnia!

Dear Mike Lindell,

So you invented “My Pillow” and your worth is now over 300 million dollars (and counting!) and none of us can turn on our televisions without being taunted by (you actually issue a money-back guarantee!) getting a wonderful night’s sleep. You and your perfectly precious palpable pillowable promises. I hate you.

But let’s start with the profound way you supposedly thought up “My Pillow.” You’ve made documentaries on this very subject and it states on Wikipedia — In 2004, you had a dream that came from God, a dream about a miracle pillow which would bring millions of insomniac and sleep apnea sufferers comfort. (In truth your boring infomercial is the only real remedy you offer for insomnia!) But nevertheless, am I getting this right? You had a dream you invented an extraordinary pillow? Well Mr. Lindell, in order to have any dream… first you have to finally fall asleep. You big show-off!

In the dream you saw the product name clearly written as “My Pillow.” Genius. Utterly brilliant. And God told you to call it that? Perhaps, my Pillow Prince, perhaps. Or isn’t it just possible that the night before some stranger simply uttered your own name (“Mike Lindell”) super fast and slightly mispronounced? Try it. It sounds very similar to “My Pillow” now, doesn’t it? (Especially on cocaine.) Isn’t it plausible then that your product’s true name is really just a slight variation of a fast-talking telemarketer phoning you up to sell a life insurance policy (which you might still need after the pillow-fight I intend to have with you — just sayin’) and you decided to incorporate his social faux pau into a creative dream because that makes for a more interesting autobiography?

And before you became “The Prince of Pillows” you claim to have been “The Insomnia King.” Let me tell you something Mike, (after hours spent researching your hard night’s sleep teen turmoils) “flipping the pillow over a few times looking for the cooler side” hardly qualifies you. Talk to me when you’ve tossed so much, your name could replace Caesar’s on a salad menu.

And your little pillow project wasn’t enough for you, was it? You went for sheets, duvets, mattresses, bedspreads, and then pet beds. Dog and cat sleeping quarters? That’s really random, isn’t it? What’s next — parakeet pouffes stuffed with their own feathers?

But I’m a reasonable woman, Mr. Lindell you sexy entrepreneur you. And I have an idea. It literally just came to me from God during a nightmare. Let’s go over the facts first. You’re the divorced Pillow Prince and I’m the divorced Princess and the Pea (remember how elusive a good night’s sleep was for her from your bedtime stories? Stay with me on this… cuz I need you Michael, I really do.) Plus you have four kids, and I have six — together we can merge our families, have built-in employees, and start a new company called “My Pill-Oh!” (Organic over-the-counter sleep medication that puts even melatonin to shame!) I’ll finally stop counting sheep and start counting $$.

I may not be a former crack-head dreamer like you, (let’s just say my head is stuffed with the same 100% polyurethane foam you use in your pillows, so it holds its shape remarkably well) but I believe we could put something together here that might just rock both our worlds….to sleep.

Are you “down” for that?  We could even work “undercovers.” It’s a “comforter” thought, isn’t it? When you’re ready to take “mattress” into your own hands, call me and let’s “slip” into bed together for some playful, passionate, productive, placid “Pillow” talk. I’ll “rest” a whole lot easier when I know I can trust my pillow isn’t just “lying” behind my back! Please believe me when I say this letter isn’t full of “sheet,” Mike … but it’s definitely a “blanket” statement.

Stephanie AKA Little Miss Menopause

PS. All is forgiven. Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite. Zzzzzzzz

 

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Lessons I Learned From Going on Dates and Bringing my Toy!

There was a time when first meetings with men from online websites consisted solely of mundane beach walks and ho-hum coffee talks. But then I decided to make it more interesting and bring some “props.”  Here’s some of the takeaway and things I gleaned:

BUBBLES

From my purse I extracted two tiny vials of soap bubbles purchased from Target. This was not as bizarre as it sounds because we were sitting in a park.

HIM: Bubbles. Really??

Me: I think they’re fun! Let’s see who can blow and preserve the most by catching them on our wands.

HIM: Sure.

Me: Uh, could you stop intentionally poking my bubbles? That’s literally the opposite of what I suggested we do.

HIM: Just ten more?

Me: Really. It’s very important to me to see how long a beautiful but fragile bubble can last. Don’t you put stock in symbolism??

HIM: Sorry. I can’t seem to stop. Pop! Pop! Pop!

Little children began to gather around us, but the date actually ended when my dream bubble literally burst as it dawned on me that (after five days of non-stop compatible emailing) this was someone who was either mean-spirited or had a strange case of OCD and I should certainly “blow off” any further dates with him.

PLAY-DOH

From my purse, I deftly pulled out five mini canisters of that iconic children’s colored modeling compound and sniffed the distinctive scent (always takes me back fifty years!) then watched as the smile faded from my date’s face. I then proceeded to roll out a replica of his annoying frown using red Play-Doh and stuck it on the blue ball of Play-Doh, which now represented his dumb head! But he wouldn’t participate because he said he doesn’t like to get his hands dirty. Then he chastised me for combining the different colors together because (his words!) it will be hard to separate them and put them away neatly. The date ended when he inquired, “So how long have you been a preschool teacher?” And I responded, “I’m not. What an odd question. Whatever made you think I was?”

SILLY PUTTY

I withdrew from my purse (I know! I’ve got some great purse, huh?!) the classic red plastic egg which housed the addictive Silly Putty and handed it to my date to see how he’d use it. He was very enthusiastic! This was a great sign. Game on! But instead of pinching it, rolling it, or putting his thumb into it to make a hollow hole and then squeezing it tightly to produce the loudest, most satisfying cracking sound ever, he asked to see my drivers license. What?? Over and over he pressed the flat rubbery substance against my photo and after it magically transferred onto the Silly Putty, he’d distort my image by pulling it this way and that while murmuring things like, “Look! You’ve got the longest nose in the world. Honk honk!  And the skinniest neck, giraffe lady! Haha.” And “I’m gonna make your hair stick up even further than it actually does. Watch!” Game over. Date definitely over. PS. Even if he didn’t make my face look grotesquely cartoonish, he had some weird accent that made him refer to it as “Silly Potty” and there was only so much of that I could take.

JACKS

It did not help matters that my timing with this specific object was rather unfortunate because this guy’s name was actually “Jack” and he thought by picking this particular toy, I was insinuating that he was a “Player.” Sheesh, some people put too much stock in symbolism. He also kept asking, “What era did you grow up in? My great great great grandmother played Jacks.” There were too many “greats” in his sentence for my liking. Finally we lost the little red ball completely and he thought a better game was to see who could stand upon all the Jacks the longest (barefoot!) without grimacing.

LITE-BRITE

Remember this beloved contraption with the little colored pegs? I should have known how this would turn out when I texted my date, asking him to bring batteries so we could use my favorite “toy.” He immediately messaged back, “Oh, I’m on it, babe! And I can’t wait for you to be on it, too. Heh heh.” Words cannot describe how disappointed he was to see what I actually had in mind for a “toy” when we met in real life.  But my bigger mistake? Lite-Brite only works in a dim room. And therefore it was in the dark co-ed public restroom with the door locked, when my mind became fully illuminated that Lite-Brite should never be attempted with a Grope Dope.

SLINKY

This man used the wonderful metal spring to bind my wrists and ankles to the park bench and then stole my purse and cellphone while singing the original product jingle — “Slinky, Slinky, it’s fun for a girl and a boy.”

MAGIC 8-BALL

What do you do with a guy who cannot understand that you can only ask a Magic 8-Ball “yes or no” questions? This isn’t a difficult concept, seriously! Yet he kept asking it things like, “What will Stephanie be like in bed?” and “How many times will Stephanie climax?” and “Where’s the most unique place we’ll do it?” Finally, out of frustration I shouted, “No!  Don’t you get it? You can’t ask stuff like that. You have to ask something like, “Will Stephanie sleep with me even though I’m a complete idiot?” He was thrilled this suggestion came directly from me and made this exact inquiry three different times, claiming the answers in a row were, “It is decidedly so” and “Without a doubt!” and “You may rely on it” but then he’d shake the black ball up really quickly before I could verify any of that. Which was a moot point anyhow because “my sources (AND my senses!) said “No f*#@ing way.”

Barbie & Ken Dolls

Really I thought these toys would have zero chance of coming out of my purse, but to my surprise his reaction was, “Cool. How about we use them to act out different gender issues and dating challenges by utilizing their bodies and our voices.” Creative. I’m liking it! Then he actually suggests that he’ll be Barbie (It was really a Midge doll, but did he need to know that?) and use her to depict the type of woman he likes to be with. This oughta be interesting. And then he tells me to be Ken. Ha. Fat chance. But hey, if I can learn some telltale things, it’s probably worth talking in an embarrassingly deep voice.

Ken: Hey baby. How about you and I play a little Lite-Brite in the public bathroom??

Barbie: I don’t do sexual innuendo. Let’s grab a salad and see the live version of Les Miserábles.

(Salad, not pizza? And OMG that’s my absolute favorite show! Nobody ever wants to see that show. This guy has potential.) 

Ken: Are you sure? Okay hop in and we’ll take the “scenic” route. Heh heh.

Barbie: Sorry. I don’t let guys I’ve just met drive me places. I make it a rule to meet them there.

Ken: (slaps Barbie’s ass) Hard to get! That gets me hard.

Barbie (slaps Ken’s face)

Ken: Man, you’re a prudish bitch.

Barbie: Yeah. And quirky too. But I’m sure they’ll be another Bimbo err Barbie who will be into it with you. Good luck with your herpes.

Quirky? It’s like someone gave this guy the CliffNotes on me before he arrived. Immediately I snatch the dolls and stuff them away in my bag, and pull out this favorite childhood toy instead.

Because finally I found someone who’s a barrel of fun and perhaps a guy I’ll truly want to have a little monkey business with. 😉

Readers: What’s your favorite Childhood Toy? Leave it in the comments!

My Success Story: Author Goes Door-To-Door!

Well it’s not exactly as “successful” as my blog title makes it sound. For years I’ve walked 11 miles every day for health/fitness reasons, so when I saw the local ad (Wanted: Individual to hang notepads in plastic bags on doorknobs, $15/hr) I realized I could get paid for the same exercise I already do anyhow for free! The real-estate agent told me how quiet and peaceful it would be, walking through serene neighborhoods. He said I could listen to podcasts or music and never have to talk to anyone like typical door-to-door salesmen do. What could be better?

I’ve never had more conversations with so many strangers in my entire life.

With telephones, people have Caller ID and they know it’s you before they answer. Similarly, everyone has video cameras mounted on front porches and apparently they see me coming a mile away. Ever tentatively reach out to unobtrusively put something on someone’s front-door when suddenly it’s abruptly yanked open and they shout in your face, “Whadya want?”

Me: Hi! I have this handy little notepad for you.

Man: What am I gonna do with that?

Me: Well um, you could um make your grocery list on it.

Man: Not a shopper.

Me: Uh, ever play Boggle? You could scribble four and five letter words on it before the timer runs out.

Man: No.

Me: To-Do Lists?

Man: Hate em.

Me: To-Don’t lists??

Man: What do you do with your notepad?

Me: I’m a writer so I jot story ideas on it.

Man: And I should give a sh*t about that because…?

Me:  You’re right. You could just throw it in the garbage.

Man: (brightening) Yeah, I could do that! Give it here.

Three houses later I encounter a landscaper who delightedly asks how I like the paver stones he’s bordering the lawn with? I point out eight are slightly crooked. He frowns, grabs my notepad and scrawls, “OCD!” We develop a “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship and I go on my merry way.

Around the block is a lonely mailman with a leg injury who needs someone to complain to that physical therapy isn’t helping him and then inquires if it would be okay to toss packages onto porches, thereby saving himself the pain of walking up steps? Sure. “The Postman Always Flings Twice!”

Tons of people have their garage doors open. I’ve never really noticed how many folks spend quality time out there, amongst their cars, their lawnmowers, and their bikes just sort of hanging out, puttering around. A couple engages in a sex act while leaning against bags of Round-Up and I think about leaving a notepad on their door titling it, “Garage Fantasies and Role-Plays We’ve Yet To Try” but wisely decide not to.

As I nonchalantly slink by these homes with their open garage doors (in order not to disturb the occupants and avoid further human interaction) nine times out of ten they call me over.

Woman: Hey! Whatcha got there? Why you passing my house? I want one.

Me: Oh just some silly notepads. You don’t really need any. Totally useless.

Woman: I’ll give you a dollar for two.

Me: They’re complimentary. They have advertising on them.

Woman: $30 for the entire stack. And how much for your backpack? I’m having a garage sale this Saturday. I could put that out as well.

Me: Really? Do you want my sweater too? Five bucks.

But it’s at the next house where all the trouble starts in front of a cute birdbath.

Husband: Which broker are you distributing for?

Me: Century 21.

Wife: We’re Nationwide Realtors. How much they paying you?

Me: $15 an hour. Under the table.

Wife: $22.50 an hour under the table and also under four dining room chairs!

Me: Really??!

Husband: Only if you retrace your steps and replace their crummy notepads with our awesome bookmarks.

I imagine re-encountering the grumpy guy, the limping mailman, the garage sale girl, the landscaper, the sex addicts, and I start to feel exhausted.

Me: Can I just put your bookmarks inside a novel I wrote and leave it as a package deal for $20?

Wife: Sure, why not?

Taking a cue from the mailman, I march back to my car (where the trunk holds boxes of my extra novels which are doing nothing) and proceed to throw my books from the driver’s window onto the front steps of hundreds of homes, yelling all the while, “Read this! It’s a best-seller. Oh yeah and check out the free bookmark!”

And that could be part of the reason I’m now referred to as the “Drive-By Shouter” but at least I don’t have to talk to anyone in person. And so much for getting paid to exercise.

Do You Recycle, Reuse, Repeat Yourself in Future Relationships??

 

“I used to have a lot of close connections. But they lived in Connecticut so I cut them off. Get it? Connect-I-Cut?”

Noooo! If I EVER hear that stale old line uttered again, I may have to pour grated parmesan over the head of the speaker, because that’s how cheesy I find it.

Unfortunately the speaker was my 1st husband. This was a husband who told the exact same jokes and one-liners for the entire decade of our marriage and expressed great disappointment that I didn’t giggle just as heartily after hearing them the millionth time as I did when we were first dating. But I was the dutiful wife and thus we had an agreement —  at any get-together, party, or date-night out with another couple, I’d laugh hysterically at his stuff, dab my eyes with a napkin, pretending to catch my breath so I could sputter, “Ohhhh. Isn’t he hilarious? Such a card!”

This set him up for his next line which was, “Yeah, but instead of the Jack of Spades, I’m the Jack of all Trades!” And he’d launch into his many talents and skills. Pleeeease!

“Look, either get some exciting new material or get a new audience,” I’d say, stifling a yawn once we were home together alone in our bed. (Note: I may or may NOT have been referring to his comedy routine.)

He chose the latter option. We divorced.

My second husband and I were together for many years and like any couple we developed our own routines and distinctive little ways of relating to one another that I called, MMM (“Memorable Marriage Minutia.”)

Examples would be a) Taking a Selfie of ourselves with our eyes closed while each person held up a number of fingers behind the other person’s head. When we’d look at the photo, if we each had the same number of fingers we “won” and rewarded ourself with a nice dinner out or a picnic on the beach. b) If there was just one piece of our favorite food left on a plate, we’d split in half, in half, in half and so on until there was the tiniest of crumbs too infinitesimal to split in half — and then we’d play rock/paper/scissors to see who got it. c) I’d write messages to him on the outside of his banana peel in his lunch.

(Hey! I didn’t say these were sane rituals, just OURS.)

Fast forward to our breakup and I’m walking down our same favorite sandy shoreline exactly one year later (What? It’s not like he was awarded the entire beach in our divorce agreement!) when I spot two people taking a Selfie by their picnic basket. Wait! Are they actually holding their fingers up behind each other? As I suspiciously head closer, they sprawl out on their blanket and a lively game of rock/paper/scissors ensues. Really??? I wait until my ex loses (he always picks “paper!”) and run up to them shouting, “Noooo! That’s mine. I copyrighted that. What do you need, a patent? A registered trademark? You can’t steal that!” I am (of course!) pointing to the banana with the Sharpie scribbled writing that’s grasped in her hand as they look incredulously at me.

Sheesh. C’mon folks! Don’t recycle. Can nothing be reinvented for the new person in your life? Maybe I should teach a class called, “How to Have an Original New Relationship!” I’ll walk around during test days and chastise, “Don’t look at each other’s papers, ya bunch of copycat romantic wannabes!”

Fittingly, last night I was dining in a quiet Italian restaurant at a secluded booth with a date of my own (trying to create a new fun little tradition between us regarding the bill the waitress had just set on the table!) when what familiar snatch of dialogue should I hear floating through the air?

“Did I ever tell you about my close connections in Connecticut?”

That was it! I couldn’t help myself. As my 1st ex-husband’s latest girlfriend stared with astonishment, I proceeded to dump powdered parmesan cheese all over his head. She burst out laughing and said, “Ugh. Thank you for finally silencing the “Jack of all Trades.”

I have a feeling I just laid the groundwork for their own future unique ritual — albeit a remarkably cheesy one.

READERS: Do you have secret little rites or actions you do with someone special in your life? Don’t share them in the comments section….someone will surely refurbish, revamp, and reclaim them as their own! 🙂

Do You Ask For What You Want? Or Just Drop Hints?

That depends on what it is we want and with whom we are making the request of, doesn’t it? We’re all aware that nobody can intuitively know what we want/need to be happy. We know people can’t read minds. Yet in some cases, we’re NEVER gonna ask directly, simply because it’s awkward and scary.

However NOT in this case:

Me: Kids, I want you to clean up this kitchen before I return. I’m not going to be happy if I come home to this disgusting mess!

Can you imagine my resorting to dropping a hint because it’s too uncomfortable to ask?

Me: Children, it sure would be nice if somehow while I was at the gym, the birds and forest creatures from Snow White scurried about doing these dirty dishes while singing “Whistle While You Work!”  Gosh, I wonder how I’d feel to see a surprise like that?

In the latter example, I came home to our front door left ajar, a parakeet flapping around the kitchen table, and a squirrel licking the cake batter from a mixing bowl left in the kitchen sink. Oh well.

Let’s try another:

Me: I have been writing this humor column over a year now for your magazine and I’m aware that readers tell you I’m their favorite. I feel my value is worth more than you’re currently paying me and I’d like a substantial raise.

Versus….

Me: Last night I had a bizarre dream that readers picketed your publication with signs saying “Bring Back Stephanie’s Column!” after it disappeared because the amount of $$  I make doesn’t cover my electric bill and my power was turned off so my computer wouldn’t work.

In the latter monologue, I received a laptop battery pack.

And last example:

Me: This is a new dress I’m wearing, and I took great pains putting my hair in an up-do so it wouldn’t be sticking up in a million different directions (like usual!) and I was hoping to hear you liked how I looked tonight.

Versus…

Me: What a coincidence! At the wedding tonight, the parking valet, the doorman, the bartender, the DJ, the waiter, the justice of the peace, and even the groom all told me I looked gorgeous and wished I was on their arm tonight. But there was only one guy I really wanted to hear that from…

In the latter example I was marched up to the garbage man in the parking lot who sheepishly wolf-whistled at me after my boyfriend prompted, “Well?? . . . ”

By now you may be catching on that anything I ask for inevitably backfires on me. First of all in a relationship, I shoot myself in the foot before I even do the requesting because a little voice in me says, “Well…if you have to resort to asking, it’s not really coming from his own mind/heart so it’s going to be forced and contrived, and not sincere. It only counts if he thinks of it himself.”

Poor guy! Can he ever win?

But what about looking at this proverbial “Ask and you shall receive” philosophy on a larger scale? We’re talking God, the Universe, a Higher Power?

For years, (like everyone!) I desired certain things .  .  . to meet my true soulmate, to have a baby, to get a Hollywood agent to represent my writing, etc. I had no problem (or ever felt awkward!) asking for these things by way of prayer (don’t worry, I also prayed for sick people!)) or using the Power of Manifestation that everyone talks about these days.

But then something ironic happened. I met folks who had received their hearts desires and were absolutely, positively certain that it wasn’t because they had put in requests or tried really hard. In fact, they claimed it was when they STOPPED wanting these things that everything finally happened in their favor.

Yep, my best girlfriend tells anyone who listens, “When I took my online profile down and gave up on dating, I was rear-ended by my handsome soul-mate driving a garbage truck” (I guess he graduated from wolf-whistling to fender benders!)

And my sister-in-law loves to tell the story about accepting that she couldn’t get pregnant. But the moment adoption proceedings began, she was puking in the kitchen sink (I guess there was no squirrel in hers!)

Aha! I would use this theory to my advantage. But instead of just stopping my efforts and nonchalantly moving on with my life, I would do one better. I would fool the Universe by acting as if I did NOT want the thing I really REALLY wanted. Are you following this? Do you believe you can trick the universe? I did!

I sent this letter:

Dear High Powered Hollywood Agent,

I’m so grateful you’ve never responded to my many requests to peruse my blog, check out my novel, or called about representing me in a movie deal. I mean can we be real for a minute — what kind of life would that be for me? I don’t have time for nagging fans and paparazzi. Look what happened to Princess Di! You’re doing me a favor by ignoring me. Don’t even think about reading me on Huffington Post. Stay away! You’re banned!

Stephanie D. Lewis

It worked! I was gleeful when I saw his name in my email inbox. Seriously — 137 attempts had been made to contact this man previously and none of them elicited any response or acknowledgement. Eagerly I clicked on his message.

Dear SDL,

You’re very welcome. And to reciprocate, you are now also officially banned from coming anywhere near my Beverly Hills office. See attached restraining order, you nutcase.

Sincerely,

HPHA

Ugh….really?  Sorry God. I’ll be returning to the power of prayer tonight, if you’ll let me back into your good graces??

Readers: Do you ask for what you want? If you’d like to read a more serious article (of course that would probably mean I am NOT the author!) on how to accomplish this in healthy ways, just go HERE. 

PS. I really want you to leave me a comment … so will you? 

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Beware — The Vulnerable, Vacillating, Vanishing Valentine Villain!

 

 

It all began on February 1st because I went to see my therapist for ideas on how to feel closer to my neighbors and become a bigger part of my local community.

Therapist: How can I help you?

Me: Every day I walk exactly 11 miles before 11:11 pm on the clock and…

Therapist: So you’re here to address your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Me: No, that’s just my lucky number. The point is I encounter tons of neighbors on my walks but nobody says hello or acts friendly at all. And if I wave, they just ignore me.

Therapist: So you have a fear of rejection and a wounded child syndrome.

After I convinced her I was emotionally healthy, we decided the approaching Feb 14th holiday was the ideal opportunity for me to foster a more neighborly attitude. I would bake heart-shaped cookies and leave a sweet message on nearby front porches. Perfect. It would be a “Love Thy Neighbor” type of deal. Hey! Maybe I’d even start a new trend like that “Pay It Forward” kid did and become famous!

Then came all the trouble over “LOVE.” Because it was centered around the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, of course I wrote “I Love You!” on a sticky Post-It and attached it to the plate. Hallmark says it and so do those putrid conversation heart candies — why can’t I?

The next morning my neighbor confronted me at the mailbox with raised eyebrows and asked me what exactly I meant by that? I assured him I’ve lived here for nineteen years now and had just grown fond of his entire family. He frowned and hurried away, issuing a warning about mounting one of those video surveillance cameras on his front door.

I consulted my therapist who advised me to omit the “I” from “I Love you!” It was too overt and felt threatening to people, she told me. “Besides if you’re signing your name, they all know who you are anyhow,” she further explained.

Okaaaay. Cookies went out again, this time with a card that simply stated, “Love You!”

That afternoon, I overheard two neighbors talking in suspicious tones underneath my window.

Neighbor #1: What’s up with this Stephanie chick and those weird, mushy sentiments?

Neighbor #2: Yeah! Why can’t she just wait until Halloween and leave the normal, “You’ve been booed!” scary anonymous goblin note with treats instead?

So essentially I live in an area where people would rather be spooked than loved!

My therapist next recommended I try a different cul-de-sac of homes and dial it back even more. She suggested writing “Luv Ya!” because that was somehow more appropriate. Why I had to intentionally misspell words didn’t make any sense, but if that’s what it took, I was on it.

My children were annoyed that I kept baking heart-shaped cookies around the clock but not a one was for their consumption. Nevertheless I was determined to make this plan a success. The next batches went out late at night and I felt really good about it — plus my signature was now, “From Your Secret Valentine Vixen!” so it would be completely anonymous like the Halloween ghost thing they mentioned.

I was confident my neighborhood would now be a much nicer place to take walks in! But that was before I ran into five women standing in a huddle and looking disturbed. I moved in closer to hear what all the fuss was about.

Neighbor #1: There’s a Valentine Vamp after our husbands!

Neighbor #2: Yes! And she’s also a Valentine Vandal. There were cookie sprinkles littered all over our brand new front doormat.

Neighbor #3: Plus she’s undermining our parental authority because we don’t allow sugar anywhere near our children.

Me: (enthusiastically joining in) The sheer audacity of this woman. Let’s intercept her mail!

And that’s how I hit on the best way to get close to all my neighbors . . . I would bond with them through everyone’s anger and disgust over me – the loving Valentine cookie baker!

But for good measure, I left a plate of exactly 11 heart-shaped confections on my therapist’s office door with a note that said, “Wuv U!”

She called me immediately. Her voicemail said, “We really must work on your OCD and that neglected Inner Child of yours!”

 

I Plead “No Contest!” (When Entering Writing Competitions)

I’ve never entered a writing contest before. Although every time I submit my work to an editor, technically I’m competing against other author “contestants” who want to have their creations appear in the exact same magazine, anthology, or website. And when the prize is an acceptance notice of publication, yes I feel like a winner. That’s a contest if you ask me and so I’ve entered many.

However this writing contest was different. . .

I’ve written novels and screenplays before, but this contest was for live theater and the winners get their words brought to life on a stage in front of an audience. Sign me up!

The other difference was that I only found out about this contest a mere 24 hours prior to the submission deadline, which threw me into some fast and furious typing. And the rules specified it could be a comedy OR a meaningful, serious drama. After some inner debate, I chose to do humor. Big surprise.

But in the end, my biggest dilemma was needing help choosing which play to submit (somehow two distinctly different scripts had been birthed from my infertile, barren brain….fraternal twins?) because I couldn’t decide on my own which was more brilliant. Or (every other hour) which script sucked less. The rules were clear — one entry per person.

Who in my life was competent to give this kind of input and more to the point, would help me make this decision extremely QUICKLY? (Yikes! Like within the next thirty minutes!) The first thing I did was turn to another writer friend (Samantha) who owed me a huge favor since I had recently critiqued her query letter and it helped her land an agent.

Samantha expediently sent me a ton of elaborate feedback on both my scripts. But what wasn’t clear, was her opinion of which one she recommended I should enter into the contest — essentially the only question I had originally asked!

I emailed back and said, “Thank you! But which one was better?” Samantha replied, “That’s personal preference. But I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear what you thought of my feedback?”

So here I am with hours to go until the deadline and I’ve got a narcissistic friend/egomaniac writer expecting me to critique her critique!?

Ugh. Frantically I sent both possibilities to my mother, along with the rules of the contest so she could see the criteria with which they’d be judged. “Ps. Please Hurry!” was how my email ended. After many long hours, she wrote back, “I contemplated this very carefully. I’d go with the one about your multiple personalities falling in love with each other at a cocktail party. But both of them were very meaningful and serious dramas.” I wrote back, “Thanks, mom! But they were both comedies. Which one made you laugh more?”  And then she called me and said, “If you like contests so much, the county fair has a watermelon-eating one you can enter this weekend.”

Okaaay! I’m done with asking females for help. Turning to men has sometimes worked for me in the past. Quickly I sent my scripts to a great guy who performs in local community theatre, pleading “Which one??”  He finally wrote back that both of them had dialogue sections that didn’t sound very good when belted out in his shower. I forgot he only does musical theatre.

Feeling truly desperate, I took my beginning narrator’s lines from each possible entry and sent them as my introductory messages to two different men with dating profiles on Match.com. Whoever wrote me back first and said “That’s really funny!” would be how I would make my decision.

The first bachelor wrote back,  “Hi! Sorry, I’m only 5 ft. 4 and I make it a rule not to do taller women because things won’t line up properly.” Very helpful input. And then the other wrote back, “Meet tonight at 7 pm for a drink? Ps. And are you a therapist? Damn! That was some crazy psycho-babble, babe.”

But now thinking about therapists and my own past sessions… I had the answer to my quandary of which script to submit to the contest. I would send both! One would be entered under my own real name. And then the second script (about my multiple personalities falling in love at a cocktail party) would be sent under the name Sybil. Problem solved!

Readers– Have you entered writing contests? Have you had as much trouble as this? Oh! Also I was recently interviewed. You can check it out just below. But why is it called “Woman on the Edge of Reality?” Lol. 

An interview with Stephanie Lewis, author of Lullabies & Alibis

 

 

The Security Guard’s Relationship With Me (That He Didn’t Know He Was Having!)

It all started one day this past summer after moving to a townhouse inside a gated community with a real live security guard who sits in a little shack by the entrance and monitors everyone’s comings and goings. You know the modern version of the kind who shouts, “Hark! Who Goes There?”

As I unpacked boxes — lamenting my lack of closet space, my phone rang with news that my little Shih-Tzu had been picked up by the Gate Guard. “Thank goodness her collar tags still reflect my same cell number even though my address has changed,” I said aloud as I rushed over to claim my Lola.

“Better be careful with this little one,” admonished the Gate Guard with raised eyebrow, “She almost crossed that busy street.” Great. The Gate Guard thinks I’m a negligent pet owner now.

That night we ordered pizza. Obviously. What family doesn’t order pizza on moving day? My cellphone rang and as I answered it, I heard the gate guard tell the driver that it sure smelled good. Guiltily, I granted permission for him to let Papa Antonio’s delivery service through the gate. “Extra cheese??” the Gate Guard commented to me in what could have been considered a very indicting tone. Great. The Gate Guard knows I’m lactose intolerant and undisciplined now.

The more people who came to see my new place, the more self-conscious I became. It seemed to me the Gate Guard knew everything about my life just from the types of visitors I had. “I wonder why so many men come through here asking for her address?” I imagined him contemplating luridly. After the fifth guy came before noon, I felt an explanation was needed. “You see, I’ve been having a lot of work done on my place today and right now I have a clogged toilet and a hornet’s nest on my back patio,” I offered weakly when he called to get my okay for two more fellows named, “Buzz Hoff” and “John’s Flush” to be let through.

“Uh huh. Whatever,” the Gate Guard said flippantly. Great. The Gate Guard thinks I’m running a house-of ill-repute now. How judgmental.

It wasn’t long before I was certain the Gate Guard (Whom I’d taken to referring as “GG” now) formulated a strong hunch that I wasn’t much of a cook. I pictured him welcoming Chinese, Greek, Mexican, and yes more Italian food trucks into our community and pointing them all toward my place with sort of a disapproving look on his face. And that’s why, when I passed him by one day on foot on the way to the mailboxes, I felt obliged to let him know my oven was broken. “I’m sure it is,” he responded, grinning widely. Great. GG knows I’m a liar now. 

GG also became quite familiar with my mother and probably thought it was really lame that she’d already come over here 18 times in the two weeks since I’d moved in. That accounts for the reason I exclaimed loudly out my rolled-down car window the next time I exited through his shack, “We’re Jewish!” while he looked bewildered and yelled out after I passed, “Well….Shalom then, I guess!” Great. GG thinks I’m a religious fanatic now. Such Chutzpa!

During a stressful week that was particularly prolific with pizza, GG (who also rides around on a golf-cart patrolling our neighborhood, ridding us of burglars and kidnappers, but probably more often dealing with sidewalk solicitors) passed me walking on the street late at night and slowed down to ask real friendly-like, “Getting some much needed exercise after all that pizza?” Great. GG thinks I’m getting fat now. What nerve.

“I have two constantly hungry teenagers,” I justified. “And I only eat the veggie toppings and spit out the cheese!” Great. GG knows I have an eating disorder now.

When he passed me by again a full 2.5 hours later, still riding on his stupid golf-cart, he came to a complete stop this time looking incredulous and inquired, “Still walking??”

“Yes. I have to stay out here until my pedometer says 11 miles or until my watch says 11:11pm, whichever comes second.” He gave a weird little nod, issued a tentative wave, and sped quickly away. Great. GG knows I have obsessive compulsive disorder now. 

During Thanksgiving, I had my mother and a few other family members over for dinner, all except my four older kids who sadly all moved far away. I noticed GG was burning the midnight oil in his little guard shack after my guests departed. I decided to take him a food care-package because everyone deserves to eat turkey and pumpkin pie. When he slid open his glass door I said, “You’re the same age as my son who couldn’t come home tonight. Thought you’d enjoy.” He took it, thanked me, but added that his own mother was keeping dinner warm for him. He emphasized the words, “My OWN MOTHER.” Great. GG thinks I’m some sad little empty-nester who wants to adopt him now. 

A few days later, a survey came in the mail asking how the community has been running? It also asked for feedback on certain employees, including the Gate Guards, of which there were several. I filled it out and wrote a comment specifically about GG which went like this, “GG does his job okay, but he’s very presumptuous and jumps to all sorts of conclusions about my lifestyle. He’s nosy and invades privacy. I would appreciate it if you’d tell him to keep his opinions to himself, otherwise you should probably fire him because he makes your residents feel very uncomfortable.” I then realized I didn’t know his real name so they wouldn’t know who I was specifically referring to.

I drove down to the shack and knocked matter-of-factly until GG opened the window and I could lean my head in closer to scrutinize his name badge. He instinctively took a few steps back so I couldn’t read anything at all. Great. GG thinks I’m a Mrs. Robinson type and I’m here to seduce him now. And so I said, “Relax, I just need your name.”

“My name is Gregory Garrison, but my good friends call me GG. And by the way your pumpkin pie was better than my moms, you’re an excellent cook and the nicest, most interesting resident I’ve met since working here. They told me if I don’t get enough good reviews, I’m going to be let go after Christmas. I just wanted to tell you that you’ll be the one I’ll miss the most.”

I stood with my mouth wide open, completely dumbfounded. Great. GG probably thinks I’m shy and at a loss for words now.

But I wasn’t. I drove immediately home to erase my comment on the survey form. In it’s place I printed these emphatic words. “Gregory Garrison, (GG) is an asset to our community and should be given a raise for his competency…. but especially for his sweet, caring, personable behavior.

Dear Readers, Is there someone doing a regular job in your life that you are either completely oblivious to or have the wrong impression of? Reaching out or giving the benefit of the doubt is such a wonderful thing. Happy Holidays!

Another Star Is Born!

I just came home from watching Lady Gaga in the new remake of A Star is Born and please tell me I can’t be the only writer who, (after viewing a certain scene which I’ll call the “Aww Awwww AWWWWW…” scene” and you can watch it yourself right here starting at 1:20 if you promise to come back and finish reading!) really wishes that the act of writing was something more performance oriented. Something concretely tangible, or auditory and visual that an audience could enthusiastically cheer for as they watch mesmerized and spellbound with enormous respect and admiration.

Just picture this:

Another Star is Born

Bradley Cooper: I’d like to call up to the stage a good friend of mine who writes funny blogs so you can all witness her doing some incredible work in person.

Me: (In the wings offstage, shaking my head in humbled protest. My modest demeanor about to disintegrate any second as Bradley comes closer to me with that low, grumbly-rumbly voice of his, pulling me up firmly by the wrist, and whispering in my ear.)

Bradley Cooper: Here’s what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna come out and write that article I love.

Me: No, no, I can’t do it.

Bradley Cooper: You’re coming. Here we go. All you gotta do is trust me. That’s all you gotta do…”

Me: (Nervously climbing on stage in front of tens of thousands, taking the microphone and lowering it way down to the level of my laptop computer.)

Audience: (Screams, whoops, hollers, bursts of applause as a whirring noise emanates when the power is turned on.)

Me: (Tap, tap, tap, tap, point n’ click, copy n’ paste, looks up to sky, Googles ‘synonym for small horse.’ Types “pony.” Looks down at floor. Tap tap tap. Blows breath forcefully out from mouth upwards into a long sigh causing tuft of hair bangs to lift slightly toward the sky. Delete, delete, delete DELETE…. takes a slight awkward bow.)

Bradley Cooper: Let’s give her a big hand, folks!

Audience: (Filing out of seats to get ticket refunded.)

Alright so maybe there are other movies more suitable for substituting writing into the plot that might work better than a singing one. Let’s try . . .

“Dirty Freelancing”

Scene: Stephanie — a wild dark-haired neurotic woman, sits isolated in the back of a dimly lit room, bent over a computer with her hands moving violently over a keyboard, trying to find the submission guidelines for an online publication.

Patrick Swayze: Nobody puts Babyephanie in a corner!

Okay so maybe not a dancing film either.  Let’s see…I know! Ice-skating, like the Tanya Harding documentary.

“I, Margaret”

Stephanie rapidly types in fits of hysteria trying to get her brilliant words out before she forgets her own character’s motivation. A shadowy figure lurks behind and maniacally smashes down a hammer upon innocent Stephanie’s right hand, fingers and all. As she turns toward her attacker, Stephanie catches the eye of none other than Margaret Atwood. “I heard I might have a little competition with Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret utters and then disappears through the open window.

What? It could happen!

But maybe this is a more likely scenario — Trying to get into the prestigious masters program for creative writing at the University of Iowa, (instead of Jennifer Beals auditioning to get into the famous ballet dance school in NYC)

FlashFiction

What a Feeling!

(Cue familiar music right HERE)

First when there’s nothing
But a slow hunt n’ peck dream
That your typos seems to hide
Deep inside your mind.
All alone I have cried
Silent consonants full of pride
In a world full of editors
Made of stone.
Well, I hear the tapping
Close my eyes, feel the rhythm
Wrap around
Take a hold of my shift key!
What a feelin’
Agents believin’
I can have it all
Now I’m typing for my life.
Take your passion
And give it a clever caption!
Stories come alive
You can publish right through your life…
The scene climaxes as three admitting professors watch wearily as I get a running start for my big long leap into the air, landing into a perfect breakdance head spin, balancing precariously on a typewriter while managing to pound out, “On a dark and stormy night” on an 8.5 x 11 paper. It impresses them and I’m accepted!
Maybe all this performance stuff is asking too much. I think the writing profession can easily be parlayed into important matters of social justice like in this memorable film . .
StephErin BrockoLewis

Author Stephanie Lewis sacrifices all her energy, time, children, and her busy social life to the total dedication in the pursuit of saving old-fashioned writers back in the typewriter era from getting poisoned by the new toxic rules of single-spacing after a period. She researched until her fingers were bloody raw and finally came up with this irrefutable evidence in order to form a class-action lawsuit and bring back double-spacing at the end of sentences for good, making her a hero to other midlife writers and the publishing industry extremely sorry they ever rejected a novel of hers that wasn’t in compliance with their dumb new rule.

Okay Readers — So what famous movie scene do you kinda, sorta, definitely fantasize you could realistically be in? Tell me in the comments.

 

Not Your Typical Mom & Pop Stores!

I recently watched a movie in one of those expensive theaters where a waitress comes and takes your order and then not only is there Surround Sound and Technicolor, but suddenly there’s “Scentaflick” as the sharp aroma of goat cheese mushroom pizza wafts throughout the cinema. But smells are so not the point. The point is that this was precisely when I realized what other innovative (and time saving!) businesses there could be if certain services and/or concepts were integrated together.

IMAGINE IF YOU WILL . . .

PediDine – Unique restaurant with delicious entrees served to patrons seated at booths with floor length tablecloths. And what’s happening down on the floor, obscured by all that fine linen? Lithe and limber spa employees crouch below giving relaxing foot massages and full-on pedicures, while podiatrists examine diners for signs of fallen arches or pronated ankles. Themed dishes are served with fitting names such as “Foot-long sandwiches” and “This Little Piggy Ate Roast Beef” while the house special is of course, “Polished PotaTOES with shiny, red clipped TomaTOES.

A Shrentist’s Office – This unique establishment will combine a competent shrink with a dentist office for all your one-stop therapy and cavity needs. Recline back in the chair as the hygienist tells you to open wide while a psychologist asks leading questions to crack wide open your dysfunctional childhood. Have a fluoride rinse and rinse away your bad memories simultaneously! When you hear, “C’mon, spit it out!” — will that mean the toothpaste in your mouth or your negative feelings about your mother-in-law? Only your Shrentist knows for sure!

Gyro-Gyno-Gym-o– A Triple Threat for the healthy, hungry, and fit woman! Eat this Mediterranean style lunch (combo of lamb and beef) while lying with your feet in the stirrups as a trained physician conducts your annual female exam. Afterwards, enjoy state-of the art equipment at the gym to help you with your kegel exercises so you can keep your visits to the above mentioned gynecologist to a minimum. Ghirardelli chocolate would complete the experience.

Drive & Strive To Look 25! – A DMV with a professional hairstylist and makeup artist on staff so you don’t have to look how you actually look in real life in the photo when your drivers license gets renewed for the next decade.

Backs & Tax – A chiropractor works on your aches and pains while a certified public accountant sits in the “back” room going over your financials! Come April 15th, the only extension you’ll need to worry about is the extension the back doctor showed you to lengthen and strengthen your spine!

Press N’ Dress – It’s Nordstrom with a functional dry-cleaners at the entrance. Bring your entire old wardrobe in for a complimentary wash and ironing — and since now you’ll have nothing to wear for the day, you’ll shop for more clothes! Talk about a win/win!

Y Not? – (Yoga, Yogurt, Yo-Yo, Yoko Ono!) It’s time for a trendy role reversal store! Forget hot yoga and Fro-Yo!  This Frozen Yoga studio (your mat is a sheet of ice) serves Hot Yogurt (And why not? You’ve heard that warm milk is relaxing, right??) Bonus – Every Sunday, Yoko leads a group meditation and each participant walks away with a free Yo-Yo favor because …well just because nothing else starts with a Y.

Push/Nip/Tuck/ — A maternity ward where as you give birth, a plastic surgeon stands by to give you a tummy tuck! Need I say more?

The CardioCake Factory – Full service Cheesecake Factory with servers bringing any item from the dessert menu into a workout room where stationary bikes, stairclimbers and ellipticals are programmed to burn the specific calories of whatever you ordered by the slice. Special pre-calculated treadmills (when you go overboard) set for, “I’m actually consuming an entire Cookies n’ Cream Dream Extreme!”

Wet Pet Vet Debt Bet Roulette! – Okay so the company name needs work, but animal lovers and gamblers unite! Walk in with your dog or cat and they’ll be immediately bathed and groomed, followed by a veterinarian giving them vaccines and thorough check-ups. Can’t afford any of this? Don’t fret or get upset because the waiting room is a legalized casino and odds are in your favor you’ll play slots to pay for shots!

Alright, so maybe that last one is a little far-fetched, but I’m still ordering the fillet of “Sole” at the PediDine restaurant!

READERS: WHAT BUSINESS IDEAS DO YOU HAVE THAT WILL BE A UNIQUE COMBINATION? PLEASE LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS.