I got a little reminder in the mail the other day: “Hey, Linda, it’s time for your yearly mammogram! Give us a call to schedule yours today!”

It felt a little like getting those flyers in the mail for car dealerships. “C’mon down! Everything’s on sale! We’re makin’ crazy deals! Good credit? Bad credit? No credit? We’ve got the financing for you!”

So, awash with the appropriate amount of excitement, I called yesterday to schedule an appointment. The scheduling-lady-person on the phone said, casually, “How about tomorrow?”

Now, see, scheduling-lady-person, I purposely called on a Friday afternoon so that you would NOT say “How about tomorrow?” I figured the earliest you’d suggest would be Monday, or, if it’s your busy season or something, next June. Who stays open on Saturdays to do mammograms?

Before I had enough time to process what I was saying, I blurted out, “Sure.”

And so, in a half-hour, I leave for the mammogram.

And you can bet I’ll be taking notes for another book essay. After all, I already try to lighten the mood while I’m there by asking the technician (as she looks over the shots to make sure she got them right), “Can I have a few wallet-size for my husband?”

Yeah, that always breaks ’em up behind the heavy lead apron.

The trick will be coming up with mammogram jokes that haven’t already been done to death, but I’ll try. And the real trick will be communicating that humor without being tasteless. You know, more tasteless than usual, I mean.

Let’s face it: The dermatologist appointments aren’t all that funny. The general practitioner appointments are a snooze (except when they ask me to stand on the scale to get my weight and I take off my shoes, and then they ask me to stand on the scale again to get my height and I put them back on). The eye doctor visits just mean yellow eye drops, crazy Roy Orbison impressions in the car on the way home, and taking bets on whether this is the time I’ll hear the word “trifocals.”

So, the only funny appointments left are the mammograms.

Just thinking about that huge machine with the rotating vise grip is making me chuckle already. Yeah, um, no. But I’ll write about it. You can bet on that.


That One Big Thing

So, I sit here with a stack of errands and miscellaneous to-do items that could stretch from here to West Mifflin if I let it. They’re all things that need to be done eventually: doing a load of laundry, cleaning the upstairs bathroom, picking up some groceries, finishing the corrections on a book I’m typesetting (for someone else—not my book), unpacking more boxes (just so I can find my favorite pair of shoes, the digital thermometer, and a missing purple pillowcase … and no, those three aren’t related), watching back episodes of Dark Shadows…. You know, the stuff that makes up any normal person’s day.

And yet, with so many of my heavy-commitment events now gone for the year, I know it’s time to dash through these mundane tasks and start carving out the writing time … and guarding it. I’ve become convinced that I can no longer feel guilty about spending time each day writing, just because I like it a little too much. Perhaps I like it for a reason. Perhaps I like writing because it is my gift and I should be writing. Perhaps (and run with me yet one more step, but watch out for that twig or you’ll trip) it would actually be wrong to engage only in everyday tasks and therefore neglect the one unique thing I may have been put here to do.

Yeah, I know: What’s a humor writer doing sounding like there’s some great force of destiny pushing her to write about her lawn mower, her waterbed, her adorably strange husband, and several bats who’ve gotten loose in her house this summer?

But honestly, work with me on this one. Long before I was a wife or a mother, I wanted to be a writer. I was eleven when it really hit me. By then I already owned a typewriter (and what kind of ten-year-old asks for a typewriter for her birthday except one who is going to be a writer or a kidnapper?). Now I just needed the momentum.

I wrote a lot through my teen years, and then suddenly stopped when I got married a tad too young and had to face The Real World of putting food on the table, raising children on the world’s smallest income, and shoving my needs and dreams to the back burner… heck, shoving them entirely off the stove and onto the floor. (And yes, then I’d clean up the mess.)

So, if I sit around now, in my early fifties—having lived several lifetimes of experience, pain, anguish, and joy—and I choose to spend too much of my time keeping up with things that can essentially manage themselves with a lot less effort than I give them (work smarter, Linda, not harder), then I am wasting the time God’s given me. I’m procrastinating on the One Big Thing I was put here to do—because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t washing my husband’s dirty socks or cleaning the vacuum cleaner filter for the umpteenth time, even though those things fulfill my soul every time I do them.

Jesus’ parable of the talents has been poking at me lately, and I really hate being poked. Especially by Jesus, because He’s really good at everything. Being poked hurts, and I bruise easily.

So, now that my personal and professional schedules have both eased to the point where I can rearrange my priorities each day, it’s time to buckle down, get some books out there, and take the world by storm. (Well, if not by storm, then at least a really nasty breeze and some drizzle.)

Who’s with me?


In Which I Discuss My Brand

There’s so much talk out there these days for authors to have a brand. At first I thought that sounded painful—I mean, I’ve seen enough westerns to know that branding involves hot spiky things and lots of mooing—but then I realized that it didn’t mean a physical brand. But I’m still convinced it would involve a lot of pain and probably some mooing.

So, to get with the program, I learned the writer jargon-of-the-day and put the word “platform” on the back burner for now, despite the fact that I was convinced that standing on an author platform might at least make me a little taller and easier to see.

I’m always one step behind the changing lingo of being a writer. It’s bad enough that my work as a proofreader means buying new dictionaries like some people buy new iPhones. But somehow this author lingo never makes it into my new dictionaries fast enough for me to keep up with it. So I have to learn new words and catch phrases just like the little people do.

And I don’t like it. I mean, I don’t mind learning that “Google” is now a verb or that “anymore” is now one word or that the serial comma is a source of small civil war skirmishes in 27 states, but that’s because I get paid to learn that stuff. It seems a bit annoying at times to learn that “Ground Zero” means something entirely different now than it did when “Weird Al” Yankovic wrote his Christmas classic, “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but I’ve learned to roll with those punches because it goes with the territory of being a good proofreader.

Somehow, though, I feel a smidge of personal offense that the powers that be (and who be they, exactly? and are they elected officials we can impeach?) have secret meetings every year or so to change the current word for … well … for “brand” or “platform” or whatever it was before “brand” and “platform.”  Just when I get used to the idea of needing a platform, I discover I’m too late and I need to ditch the platform and have a brand instead. And yet, just as the word “brand” starts to fade to be replaced with something else (within about six months, if I’ve done my math correctly), I’ll realize that I didn’t really get the hang of that either.

Until then, I suppose, I’ll just have to be myself:  a wife, mother, and mostly family-friendly humor writer from western Pennsylvania who yearns to be the next big thing on the bestseller lists. There can’t be more than one of me, can there? A benevolent God wouldn’t allow it.