Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 27-04-2012


Spoiler alert: This is one long ass post. Mea culpa. But I hope you’ll read it. It’s from the heart. And also, I want to know who is possibly going to hell with me some day, so by all means, please feel free to comment! I am hoping for some fun company. I mean I really hope you get past St. Peter if I can’t. NO really.

With the recent demise of my laptop, and my quick junket to Ohio for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, I haven’t written in a while. I’m literally feeling twitchy and hearing voices in my head and I only hope these words will flow in a way that makes sense.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop takes place every other year and draws humor and human interest writers from all over the United States and Canada. There are folks in attendance and/or presenting who are just beginning their writing journey and some who are household names and even Pulitzer prize winners. But they are writers, one and all. These are “my people”.

To be in the presence of Erma’s very gracious family (see photo below) and hundreds of writers is literally an exercise in laughter and tears. Erma Bombeck passed away in 1996. If you’re not familiar with her work, she wrote eight books which are still timely and relevant, and most of all, hilarious. If you want to know what talent and heart is, read her stuff. The fact that she has a legion of admirers who first came to know Erma by picking up her columns and books their moms left lying around, tells you all you need to know. My bf from the conference, Dawn, wrote beautifully about her here. Don’t let the lumberjack shirt throw you off–she’s hilarious and beautiful, too! I learned as much from the presenters at the conference as I did in speaking to other writers in the elevator, over a 73 drinks, and at an event I think was supposed to be, dinner.

Bill Bombeck, moi, and Betsy Bombeck. Thank you to the lumberjack, Dawn @Lighten Up!, for being so bold as to ask for this pic that I was not worthy to be in! Cue up, "That's what friends are foooor...." Keep shining, people.

Being a writer, and also a mom, can often be isolating. I don’t work in an office. My kitchen counter is my desk. My co-workers eat Gogurts and mostly aren’t even adept at wiping their own arses never mind have the ability to give me constructive feedback on my work. And when you write non-fiction, and you blog, it can often feel like a self inflicted set up. You’re really putting yourself out there. When you write fiction, as someone so brilliantly said at Erma Bombeck, your writing is subject to scrutiny and criticism. But when you write non-fiction, your life is subject to scrutiny and criticism. (I’m paraphrasing because I regret to inform you I forget who said it! Was it the booze? Was it my aging brain…I dunno. Just know this brilliance didn’t come out of my mouth. What came out of my mouth was, “What time will you be at the bar?” and “What kind of fish IS this anyway?”)

What she said resonated with me, because I’d been thinking about this whole putting myself out there a lot lately.

Recently, a friend of mine who happens to be religious, told me she passed my blog on to some of her friends because she thought it was hilarious. “Thanks!” I beamed. I always appreciate when people pass it on, and since I don’t get a lot of feedback with this gig, I soaked in the glow of the compliment for a second before she continued, “And some of them loved it but(ugh oh)….. some of my Christian friends said they were shocked I passed it on to them and said, “Namechangedtoprotectmyfriend! She is irreverent!”

*Please note in no way did I want to shoot the messenger. I simply offered her more hummus and a, “Really?” which was a few octaves too high (which is unfortunate because on a good day I sound like Lisa Simpson.).


I’m not going to say that didn’t sting a little. If someone said, “I think your writing is lacking because of A….” or “You’re kinda not funny, but thanks for trying.” then fine, noted. But irreverent? To me, that means disrespectful. Or lacking a reverence for God. Or mocking religion and by extension those who hold it dear.

I’ve known a lot of people in my life. Some who never set foot in a church or synagogue except for a wedding or funeral, some like me, who attended mass every Sunday and every holy day from the time or their birth to the time they left their homes for college/the real world/Amsterdam/wherever, and some who I’m pretty sure pray for my imperfect soul today. Regardless of whether you’re super religious or not religious at all, I do not stand in judgment of you. It’s personal. And if I’m going to judge anyone at all, I’m going to judge you on your actions and the way you treat others. Period. That whole love your neighbor thing? I’m loving you til you give me good reason not to. Innocent until proven guilty. If you move next door to me and need to borrow a cup of sugar, a bottle of vodka, my bible, by all means. Just ask.

Certainly, if I make fun of anyone in this space, it’s usually me.

Yet, I briefly contemplated, “What am I even doing here?” I am making people laugh, sometimes, I think? But am I giving the mistaken impression that I’m irreverent? Or if that’s what they truly think, then AM I irreverent? And ultimately, I have to say, I’m comfortable with who I am. If you land on my blog and it’s not for you, no big. Move on. There’s plenty of other stuff to read that might suit you better. But deep down I had to wonder, if someone thinks I’m irreverent, will they, if they know me in real life, judge my kids? Who are…innocent until proven guilty?!

Enter Erma, and “my people”.

There’s Iris. My blogging friend. I forget how we “met” online but if she’s not one of the funniest bloggers out there I don’t know who is. I sat next to her during a session at Erma, and she told me about a recent post she’d written, which I missed due to computerfromhell,where she’d contemplated hanging it up. “Tell me more!” I pressed, when she showed me a mind blowing comment she received from a reader whose husband was undergoing cancer treatment and how Iris’ blog helped her. Please read about it here.

And Julie. A dear, funny, funny friend from the Erma 2010, who expressed similar thoughts on her blog, here.

Then I met a new, fun friend at Erma who blogs at MomoFali. (It was my important job at Erma to rescue her from her hotel room should the sausage heads at the bar try any pyro tricks…but that’s not relevant here. We lived. Yay!) She wrote a moving post here about how the people at Erma get it…that regardless of what anyone is going through, it is okay to laugh through the pain. A to the men. We all have a right to laugh our way through anything.

I said to Iris at the conference, “Don’t quit. The risk you take putting yourself out there is a risk not everyone will understand, or even appreciate. But that comment right there is why you can’t quit. You have a gift and it would be wrong not to share it.” I said to Julie after the conference, “Don’t quit. You have a book in you. I know it.”

And I would say to Momo Fali, never stop laughing. And, I live 1000 miles away from you so you’re on your own with the fire in the middle of the night shizz from now on.

All of these women, these wonderful writers, they get it.

I thought back to my own life. The times I know for sure I provided much needed comedic relief and the times I know I needed it. My sister was killed in a car accident when I was 15. I don’t remember all of the details from that time period, I just remember the house was dark, both in mood and physically. I was the only one living at home with my parents. I think at that point my parents didn’t have the energy to muster to lift a shade. And I can’t say I blame them. I remember my mother taking me out for lunch a month after my sister died for my 16th birthday, and bumping into a priest and a nun from our church. “It’s Janet’s birthday!” my mother tried. And I don’t remember what they said, I only remember they looked at me with such sadness I wanted to tell them to stop. I just wanted to crawl away. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. The truth was, I probably had enough of my own to face.

And the thing I turned to was my faith, that better times had to be ahead, and to writing. Most of what I wrote no one ever saw, but it helped me. I don’t think it was funny back then. I only wish I had had something funny to read. I only wish the internet existed. That there was someone out there who spoke to me, like an Iris, and made me laugh, and forget, if only for a few moments. I always thought life is exactly what you make of it, and I knew my sister lost her chance to forge ahead and so I had no choice but to try.

I thought back to a little over a year ago. (Are you seeing the thinking theme? Do you know how long it takes to get from Ohio to NH these days? I might have well ridden home on the freaking chuck wagon…way too much time to think. Look what happens when you call me irreverent…you go from dead fish to dead loved ones in one fell swoop!) My dad had passed away. He was 83 and had beaten back several illnesses over the course of a decade and finally, had a serious stroke. My family stood guard at his bedside and watched him slip away over the course of a few days, but before he lost consciousness and ultimately passed on, he joked with us, and with the nurses.  He asked them all about themselves–with slurred speech no less. I left the room at one point to call home to check on my kids. I came back and my sister said, “Just so you know, dad is now referring to you as ‘the muffin top’. He just asked, ‘Where’d the muffin top go?’ I laughed then and I laugh now thinking about it. My father faced his mortality head on and with a sense of humor. To me, there is dignity in that.

I learned what I know about humor first from my family. If you weren’t quick on your feet you’d get annihilated at dinner. When my dentist gently asked me yesterday, “Janet, please turn your chin for me.” and I answered, “Which one?” I just couldn’t help myself. The hygienest roared laughing, told me I was terrible –but asked if she could use the line. The ultimate compliment. I laughed, and said, dryly, “Sure, it’s not copyrighted.” Maybe she’ll repeat it and it will give someone who’s having a rough day a laugh.

I thought about the days after my dad passed away. I was away from my kids for three days while he was in the hospital and while we made funeral arrangements. The ninety minute car ride home seemed like an eternity as I wondered how I would tell three kids six and under that their grandfather was gone. I got off the highway and handed the toll worker a $20. He scowled at me for giving him a big bill for the fifty cent toll, huffed theatrically as he counted out my change. “You have a great day, too!” I beamed, all the while thinking, “Hey jackass, I have no change because I spent it all at the vending machine at the hospital!” I could have used a laugh right then.

Later that weekend, my 2 year old would crash his head on into the coffee table at bedtime when I could no longer see straight, and my hubs and friend would drive off with him to the ER for stitches, bleeding, as I fought back tears. The next day I had to face reality—-my father’s wake and my four year old’s birthday—same day. I felt sorry for my family and for myself—if that toll worker had only known what I was going through! But in time and with distance I’ve thought about him, and wondered, who knows what was going on in his life. Maybe his wife left him. He couldn’t pay the mortgage. His son just died. Or, maybe he was just a big douchewaffle. WHO KNOWS!

All I know is if irreverent is the worst they can say, I’m okay with that. This is my space. To say what I want. If I make you laugh, all the better. My blog, and this life, is exactly what I make of it. And if you want to come along, I am so happy to have you. And if you don’t, I truly hope you find what you’re looking for. No one can be all things to all people, and no one, if they’re being honest and true to themselves, should try. But, just know:

I’m working on the grand assumption that God has a sense of humor. He made me, didn’t he?

And if not, I’m just going to grab St. Peter by the shoulders on judgment day and say, “But I know people!” and hope he has mercy on my sometimes irreverent, imperfect soul.

And I will hope I was a sliver of what Erma Bombeck was.  She said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

Use it up, people, use it up. Whatever your talent may be.


Comments (40)

I love your blouse. Can I have it?

Kidding, of course. But we might be the same size.

I’ve only found you recently, or you found me, I’m not sure. I love what you write. I have many talents, but writing is not one of them, so I hold you and your talent in high regard.

Have a grand weekend.


Oh honey – you nailed it. You Erma-ed the hell out of this one. I laughed, I cried, and I am leaving with a mission to USE IT UP!

And also, I vow to use the word douchewaffle at least once a day for the rest of my life. Hilarious!

I don’t remember how we met either, but I’m so glad we did. YOU are the reason I went to EBWW! Hello? Life changing!

with much love and proud irreverence,


Personally, I take “irreverent” as a compliment.

Also, I’m pretty sure that if you make more people laugh than cry during the course of your life, God will let you into Heaven.

(At least, that’s what I’m counting on, because otherwise I’m screwed.)


Link is an interview with Jerry Garcia – Perception is maleable, situational and most of all personal. It’s admirable that you continue to write regardless of any particular critique – once its out there you have no control of the response but you can often do good. Keep on truckin :)

Im a friend of Nancy Davis Kho – another writer and attendee at Erma Bombeck conference attendee.

Cheers Drew


Wonderful post, Janet. Need to save this one to read again and definitely needed it this week (not so much for the writing part, but for the life stuff.) Also…douchewaffle? Fa-rickin’ brillz.


@Mel Thanks on the blouse and I hold YOUR talent in high regard, MacGyvering the snizz out of nothing into beautiful things! But back to the blouse….Macy’s, Charter Club, clearance, $15. Best part? It’s an L and not extra grande like what I usually wear. You might have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands while I’m negotiating with St. Peter. I do have some lovely frocks in pink I can offer you?

@Iris You will never be Leslie! I am so glad I got the chance to meet you live to discuss our shared and apparent irreverance! Re:douchewaffle. I am sad to say, I –and this is the God’s honest truth—I literally thought I made that word up. Deep down I knew I could not possibly be cool enough to have made it up, so I looked on urban dictionary and crapowski, it was there! I must have heard it and subconsciously stuck it in the back of my muffin top for a later date. Bah! But I will still use it bc it is so full of awesome!

So @Linda I hope you’re right and even if you’re not, the good news is hell should be one fun party!

@Drew I’m sorry I missed you at EBWW! Any friend of the wine drinking Nancy is a friend o’ mine and I appreciate the encouragement! :)

@Michelle….Thank you….and please refer to my comment to Iris for the orgination of the esteemed “doucewaffle”. It is? Brillzy. But unfortunately, not my invention. Boo! Sorry for your rough week. This too shall pass? Or so my mom would always say! Until then, there is booze. Rock on!


This post just blew my mind. You and I talked about this over several (hundred) beers, and you wrote about it flawlessly.
Like you, I feel a higher calling with this humor thing, this “making people laugh.” It’s really the only paycheck I need from writing, if I think about it.
(PS: Thanks for pimping me! Too kind!! Erma Forever, yo!)
My favorite post of yours. Luvs ya, my BDB.
The Lumberjack


“Muffin” so glad I found you. If you don’t remember who I was, I was the one who called you a bitch at dinner. How irreverent is that? Don’t change a thing and yes, God definitely has a great sense of humor.


@Terri, totally know exactly who you are! Loveeeed when you called me bitch. IT was classic timing to me busting your chops, and that’s when I knew….you were one of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So glad to have met you. And thank you.


God definitely has a sense of humor! Your stuff is funny and good natured! Keep it coming…u have the Callaghan clan cheering you on all the way (& laughing all the way too)


Oh sweety, don’t you go anywhere-this is exactly where you should be. Your writing, and the heart you put into it, are the very essence of honesty and beauty, both virtuous traits. I looked up irreverent, so I could clearly understand what/why those people would say what they said….if it means you are sassy, you are. If it means you are saucy, or cheeky, absolutely! But if it means you are rude, contemptuous, or ungodly…no way! Obviously those people did not read enough of you to understand what a good mom and wife you are, and what a beautiful person you are. I have learned over the years that without sadness, there would be no joy; without grief there would be no humor-you my dear know how to balance both, so don’t those ninnies get to you! I hope to have the honor of meeting you someday, so we can through back a few (72) drinks together!


Happy I met you, you are my kind of people EXACTLY.

WOuld love to get to know you more.



@Jean Thank God I had that family training before I was let loose on the Callaghans! :) Love your fam—thanks. XOX

@Jules I was definitely goin’ for saucy–not irreverent. Thanks for your kind comments. I love your stuff as well and sooo hope our paths will cross at some writing/blogging event so we can have those 72 drinks!

@ Alexandra, the beautiful empress….Thank you and so awesome to meet you and I’m sure I’ll see you ’round the interwebs. Love to read some of your stuff. :)


Oh, I’m loving this post. You also may be my new blog crush. Laughing through the pain has always been a go to for me.
Thank you for the reminder to “use it up”.
Shall I see you at BlogHer?

You have the noble gift of writing – don’t you forget to use it up too!


Hey @Jenni Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words…there’s too much crying and not enough laughing, imo. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes all you can do is cry, but at some point, you have to laugh again and not feel guilty for it.

I’m not sure about BlogHer. Never been, but some peeps at Erma said I should go bc I have a book coming out in July, so it’s definitely on my radar if I can finagle it all! If I go I’ll definitely let you know! :)


One of your best. posts. ever. A toast to irreverence!


How can one say Thank You when you have said everything so perfectly? I am sitting in my office at the Lupus Support Network waiting for the patients to arrive, hoping, no praying that I have at least one piece of information that will make their lives better and I read this. I have chills, but chills that make me fearless. Thanks for being you, for being open and honest and sharing with the rest of us.


“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” And I, for one-of-loads-of-muffintop-lovers-everywhere, am so stinkin’ glad. Love your brand of funny. And, also, I think your da bomb. So, just to recap: You is smaht. You is funny. You is beyouteeful. Don’t. Stop. Writing. Ever!


@Amelia Back at you. WHat should we have?

@Wanda Lupus is so rough. One of my best friends has it. She is such a stong person with an unbelievable attitude, and I admire her for that. Wanda, I am SURE you will find just the right thing to say to help these folks. Humor always helps, and you’ve got it. THanks so much for your comment.

@Missy I am SO grateful you stuck around to get a feel for this place. :) I would like to thank you some day with a Co-Cola…but….maybe we can put some Jack in it???? Love the quotes….you’re the best. God loves everyone—even the sassy girls!


THAT was EXACTLY what I needed to read. I live to read your posts. If I didn’t laugh, life would be horrible and I am glad I am not alone.


If there were no “irreverence” there would be no humor. Just for the record, JC was all ABOUT the irreverence. Sort of like Erma.

Keep shining, keep writing, knowing you can always count on this online audience that you have worked hard to create and that is healed by the laughter you give them.

So nice meeting you at Erma.


It all makes sense now…I was drawn to your posts because my mom was a great fan of Erma Bombeck. And so, of course, am I. You may come across as irreverent to some, but I see you as telling it like it is.

I’m not as fearless as you, writing contemporary romance novels and travel articles. Keep writing to keep people like me sane.

You know people, yes. God made you. And God doesn’t make mistakes.

God bless. :)


That totally just made me cry. For so many reasons. Thank you, Janet – you are a beautiful and fantastically funny woman – with a dang good perspective on LIFE!!!

And keep on putting yourself out there – I understand the vulnerability of it from my own blog a couple years back (both the comments from the peanut gallery and the lack thereof) but I promise you that I will always keep reading! That’s gotta count for something, right??

ps, I love the idea of “using up” my talents! Oh, where to begin :)


All I know is that I slept like a baby because I trusted some woman I had just met in a bar/tent (what WAS that room?) who made me laugh, who had a kind smile, and who assured me that she was strong enough to break down my door in the middle of the night.

I like you a lot and I think you’re pretty awesome. This is, clearly, the only opinion of you that matters.


first of all, let me say, I’m sorry we did not get to spend more time together at EBWW. There were so many awesome, talented, fascinating people I wanted to connect with… yourself included.. and there just weren’t enough hours. Hope we cross paths again soon at one of the blog conferences.
Second.. I love your blog. It is truthful and yet hilariously funny (when it should be) and all the things a great blog are. I hope you were inspired by the conference to brig it to whatever the next level is for you!
lastly, I take it as the hugest compliment when people say my column is “irreverent.” my definition of irreverent is “unique.. different from the norm… and wonderfully special.” When they put it in the same sentence as “funny and entertaining,” I feel like I have hit on the trifecta of positive adjectives. Maybe this is what the others meant when they called your column “irreverent!”


Firsties, thanks for the shout-out, hot stuff!

Second, way to rub it in that you are now besties with Iris, while I’m still just stalking her. (Iris, text me.)

Third, I LOVE being called irreverent! It’s better than being called a c**t, which is what one of my commenters called me! Yay for language!

You are the sweet and the spice and your heart is full of gold and I love reading about your adventures. Thanks for your lovely words of support recently, and I raise my glass to you! Back atcha baby!


@Amy Thanks — so great to meet you too and I appreciate the comment.

@Jolyse The world will thank me for not trying to write romances! :) Your comment, and all your comments, mean a lot to me. YOur mama had great taste!

@Dyan You, girl, have so many talents. Looks like you’re already putting them to good use. Let me know if you kick up that blog again!

@Momo Fali I so would have. I have skillz. Not really. I do have brute strength in odd sitches! Your comment made me lol and I’m so glad we met–love your blog.

@Tracy….I know, I said to some of the ladies, it was a total bummer to not be able to talk to everyone. The conference would have had to be a week or two and my liver just couldn’t handle that. I so appreicate your kinds words and Imma keep on keepin’ on!

@Julie You’re killing me. Has Jen Lancaster been replaced by Iris in your stalkerazzi line up? YOu guys would get along famously. I have a really funny fiction book idea but no chops to carry it out. I need to email you about it! You better be working on your book—get off the computer now. Now, go!!


1. Isn’t it great to find your people? To be around those that GET YOU?

2. You are an awesome dancer.

3. I think irreverent is a compliment – interesting and smart and outside the lines. Funny how we can weigh down language.


@ Suniverse YES! You are so right, except for the dancing part. Put the crack pipe down, girl. I live in fear that there is a tape out there of me dancing. Seriously. I think this is how people must feel when they make a sex tape and it’s leaked. Only worse! Ma ha ha.


My first time here and I couldn’t have found a better post to read. Thanks for sharing. If someone has read a post of mind and concludes I’m irreverent then so be it. It tells me I have done my job as a writer and that is to get people to read and respond to what I’ve written; whether irreverent or not.


You are so not irreverent.

I value humor as one of the best traits of humanity. It is my favorite personality trait. I will pick a funny man over a good looking one any day. I like to think I’m funny. I know that I can be, but it doesn’t come as quickly to me (I also worry my humor is usually too offensive for most people) but to be called funny I think is one of the best compliments and you, muffintop, you are funny.


@Giannetta Thanks for stopping by–glad to have you here and you bring up a great point– if you’re moving people to respond to what you’ve written that’s a good thing. Thanks!

@Marta Love your thoughts–and appreciate that you always take the time to read my blog and comment, too. So thank you! I SOOOO agree with you on the sense of humor. Hot guy vs. funny guy…funny guy trumps hot every single time. And funny is the very best compliment—so thank you for that, too! I hope to keep you laughing into the future. Cheers, MAMA!


Wow, there’s an Erma Bombeck writer’s conference? That’s kinda cool. My mom loved (and probably still loves) Erma Bombeck; I got her one of her books for a birthday way back when. She used to read me some of her funnier columns growing up.

Your blog always makes me laugh; that’s why I read it! But on a more serious note, I try to have the same perspective — that you never know what someone else is going through so you shouldn’t judge them. That’s really become true for me since having kid(s). Motherhood is a tough gig. And life in general can be pretty rough; you get thrown all kinds of curve balls. A sense of humor is definitely a great weapon to have. I hope you keep honing yours through your writing. Besides, I need something humorous to read in the middle of the night while I try to console a newborn!


Yep…you are totally irreverant and you ROCK it! Seriously sister…our sense of humor is all we have….I had stage 3 cancer when my kids were 3, 5, and 7. THEN my youngest was diagnosd with a terminal illness…Humor is what saves me………if I had time, I would write a super sarcastic, irreverant, blog about the bullsh
it people think REALLY matters…and doesn’t. ALSO..I think you live in NH and so do I and I hope I run into you at Target someday. :)


@Laura, agree, agree, agree. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I so appreciate you reading and laughing alone with (at?) me. :) We need to all stick together in this!

@Tonya Wow. Your comment really touched me. If you can maintain your sense of humor given all you’ve had to go through, there is NO reason why others can’t. I am so sorry for everything that has happened to you, but think you are truly remarkable and a very special person to handle your life the way you did—what an example for your kids.

I do live in NH and was in Tarjay today (of course!). I hope to run into you, too. But…I don’t know what you look like. Hopefully I won’t be in a ratty t-shirt with a toddler over my shoulder like last week! (Um. Long story.) :)


This is one of your best blog posts. I love it!


Thanks, @Keri!


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