Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prepare for 'Take Your Dog to Work Day'

by Rose A. Valenta


"A goalie must have one overriding quality - he must want to be a goalie." - Teddy Carey

Even with the economic crunch, Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 22nd) is making a strong comeback since fizzling out a few years ago. It is so popular that it has its own acronym, TYDTWD. It is more popular among small businesses, as Fortune 500 companies have enough trouble keeping employee animal lovers off the Pissy Puppy Show on Canine Talk Radio during normal business hours.

Personally, I can’t see the value in showing off your dog in the office, unless you are a school teacher and you want your students to really see how Spot runs and does his business. Show and tell has its merits, I suppose, but it depends on the breed and its range of low-level flying drool. I'll be wearing galoshes.

“Not everyone loves dogs,” experts advise. “A visiting client might not think a snout in his well-tailored crotch is an appropriate hello, and there are allergies and phobias to consider. They may gobble up your coworker’s tuna sandwich. Also, don’t let your pet use office hallways as an unleashed dog run, it can lead to dogfights."

Pet Sitters International offers the following seven tips for participants:

  1. Make sure the boss and your coworkers are comfortable with the idea (otherwise you are seeking a pink slip).
  2. Bring only socialized, quiet, friendly and well-house-trained dogs to work. Leave aggressive, nervous or sick dogs at home.
  3. Use a leash or baby gates to keep your dog inside your cube or other open workplace.
  4. Make sure the dog is well-groomed and flea-free.
  5. Puppy-proof your office. Make sure wires, poisonous plants, pens, rubber bands, and any choking or chewing hazards are all out of reach.
  6. Create a space for your dog with his own pad, toys and bowls.
  7. Ask someone to watch and walk your dog if you’re away from your desk.
I add, "The water cooler is not a fire hydrant, Fido."

I always believed that a well trained orangutan would be nice for the office. Wearing DEPENDS®, it could learn how to make a good pot of coffee, clean your cubicle area, attend unimportant meetings, do some light typing, and schmooze with the boss.

Like my good friend, Maxine, at her desk “I keep hitting the escape key, but I’m still here.”


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Surprise at ‘Macon Whoopee’

By Rose A. Valenta

Last month, I attended the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) Conference in Macon, Georgia. The theme of the event was “Macon Whoopee.” Every year, the NSNC holds its three-day Conference at a different city in the United States. A local Conference Chair is elected, and attendees get to see the most interesting places in the vicinity. It is a gathering of members: bloggers, book authors, magazine writers, newspaper columnists and contributors, poets, and newbies. The format is usually the same. We have workshops, panel discussions, keynote speakers, visits from local politicians, contest awards, and scholarship awards.

To raise scholarship funds, there is a silent auction on the last night of the annual event. Everyone contributes something to the cause and can bid on items of interest. We received books, jewelry, framed prints, and autographed memorabilia.


This year, we got a surprise donation. Macon native, Nancy Grace, of HLN spoke at our event. When she heard about our fund raiser, she upped the ante. It was to be a live auction after dinner. She donated a few minutes of airtime on the Nancy Grace Show for the winner to plug a book, column, blog, or whatever the writer is crafting; plus a studio tour and one-on-one lunch with her. Additionally, the winner gets a link on Nancy’s website. You would have thought someone hit the Mega Millions.

And then the fight started…

The bidding war began in the Johnston-Felton-Hay House, where we were having a light dinner, amongst the Monets and Van Goghs. It was between our senior Southern humorist, Cappy Hall Rearick, and our creative hypnotherapist and NSNC Past President, Suzette Martinez Standring.

"Do I hear $1,100?"

I quickly called my bank to see if I had that much in my debit card account. No such luck. After buying gas in eight states and staying at two five-star hotels for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop 2012 in Ohio, and the NSNC Conference in Georgia, I was down to $845. I had also been binging on cheese grits and shrimp in the hotel dining room. It was a new food group introduced to me, at my own risk, by the chef at the Macon Marriott City Center. There were no allergic reactions, but wow! It is habit forming.

"Argghhh!" I muttered into my Galaxy Tab. Then I called my bookie to bet $200 on I'll Have Another (15-1) in the Kentucky Derby.

"Can I use my credit card?" I asked.

"No! Bring the check book."

"I have $1,150; do I hear $1,200?"

I wrestled with incontinence. This was no time to make a bee-line to the bathroom. Besides, I was drinking wine and might hurt myself on one of the trompe-l’oeils at Hay House. It figures, I thought. Nancy Grace would donate airtime towards the auction and NSNC Scholarship Program when I'm on a down-slide. I can see it all now, high-profile murderer in the first segment on HLN ends up sitting on cold porcelain at the end. Although, I think Nancy was relieved that she didn't have to show the cartoon cover of my humor book (Sitting on Cold Porcelain) with the Limbaugh headline and me being deep-sixed in the commode - imagine my book being discussed on the same show as the Spray Tan Defense, or worse - Whitey Bulger.

"I have $1,250; do I hear $1,300?"

Maybe if Suzette wins, she can hypnotize Nancy to lighten up, I thought. She was an emotional train wreck all morning.

“$1,300 going once…going twice…the winner is Cappy Hall Rearick!”


I can't wait to see her on HLN.

Cappy has written five books, most of them humor. Her most recent novel, however, is The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen, a story about love, hate, murder, and redemption. It is her first foray into mystery writing. I’m sure it will be a success and appropriate for the show. Her blog is Simply Cappy .

Just last week, the NSNC ( www.columnists.com) announced that it will be honoring humorist, Dave Barry, with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Conference in Hartford, CT. I plan to attend and most of our humor writers will be champing at the bit to meet him. If Nancy Grace has set a precedent with her generous donation to the NSNC Scholarship Program, can you see my mischievous grin?

Photos of Nancy Grace and Cappy Hall Rearick © NSNC taken by NSNC Conference photographer, Larry Largion Najera of www.najeradesign.com. Used with permission (Except that I screwed them up trying to resize for the blog, sorry Larry).

© 2012, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Monday, June 18, 2012

Long Live the Humor of Erma Bombeck

by Rose A. Valenta

“My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.” ~ Erma Bombeck



In April, I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop 2012 at the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. It is a bi-annual event that I have registered for since 2004, because I love humor writing. There are always more than 350 people in attendance and seats are sold out quickly, so I have learned to sign up on the first day of registration and make hotel reservations early in December.

I first read Erma Bombeck in the late 1960s. She hooked me with At Wit’s End; Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own; Aunt Erma’s Cope Book; If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and many other hilarious books. I have been an avid fan ever since. This year, they dedicated a Hoopsi Blue Spruce in her memory outside St. Mary’s Hall at UD, to commemorate the 16th anniversary of her death on April 22, 1996; from complications due to kidney transplant surgery. “They planted trees and crabgrass came up” the inscription read on the stone in front of the small evergreen, “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, 1976 - Erma Bombeck ’49.” Erma’s husband, Bill Bombeck, spoke at the dedication ceremony and WDTN-TV Channel 2 News covered the story. Later, I managed to get a photo with him.



I noticed a new trend evolving at the Workshop - many seniors had registered to start new careers in writing. I networked with as many people as possible at each of the Workshop sessions, and at lunch and dinner during the three-day event. I met retired business owners, government workers, IT professionals, law enforcement officials, and school teachers. Their stories were similar to mine, “I read Erma Bombeck while raising my kids,” or “I always admired her writing,” and “I’d like to learn how to make money at this, so I can supplement my Social Security income.” They were not all humor writers, some were there to learn how to interject humor into more serious topics and presentations. I met folks, who wrote health columns, blogs, Christian books, children’s books, greeting cards, and newbies just learning the craft of writing.

Among the sponsors, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) boasted that they have the oldest columnist in America as a member, Harriette B. Leidich of North Bennington, VT, who turned 100 years old on April 19th – opening day of the Workshop. Harriette is still writing columns for the daily Bennington Banner.

The concurrent educational sessions at the Workshop were excellent, covering everything from basic humor writing to social networking and blogging. I was able to order a CD with the sound track from all of them because I had to miss a few sessions that conflicted with my schedule.

Keynote speakers during meals included feminist humor maven, Gina Barreca; Ilene Beckerman, who started her writing career at age 60; Pulitzer Prize-winner, Connie Shultz; television writer and book author, Adriana Trigiani; and Thurber Prize-winner and original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan Zweibel.

Gina Barreca brought the house down when she entertained us with standup comedy for over an hour after dinner on Saturday. After that, about 27 of the attendees, including yours truly, were given 5 minutes each to perform standup comedy for folks energetic enough to stay awake until midnight.


Mascot, E.B. Heron, a blue heron, who was adopted by a small group of “Ermies” at the 2010 Workshop, was in attendance this year. His fan club sported yellow t-shirts and tiaras. His handmade tuxedos (he owns two) got more attention at the event than Kate Middleton would wearing maternity clothes. Previously, they had a “Name the Bird” contest at the 2010 Workshop and the winner chose “E.B.” after E.B. White. Seven ladies contributed to a Kindle biography about him titled EB and the Ladies of the Bird Table Take Flight. You can find it here at the Amazon Kindle Store.

This was a wonderful experience. I learned about the benefits of social networking, made many new friends, and plan to attend the 2014 Workshop.

Actually, I can’t wait to see E.B.’s new tuxedo.

For more information about the Workshop, you can log on to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop website at www.humorwriters.org. The NSNC can be found at www.columnists.com.

© 2012, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Friday, June 15, 2012

Felice Giorno del Padre: An Italian Father's Day Tribute

by Rose A. Valenta

I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of the great men in my life, my Italian grandfather, Alfonso. This was the guy, who let me watch him make homemade wine in the cellar and put me wise to the double-standard.

I'd like to make this a heart warming and sensitive human interest story. One that would bring a nostalgic tear to anyone's eye, but let's get real here. Hearts and flowers are for incurable romantics; me, Norman Rockwell, and Virginia Hill all have a lot in common - realism.

I only had one grandfather, as the other one died before I was born, so Grandpop Alfonso and me had a private joke: As he was sternly meting out discipline to his kids, he was also enjoying the power of being in a position of authority. I caught on to this, as I was the second oldest grandchild, a girl; and for some reason he never yelled at me, but would wink in my direction when he reamed someone else.

As an Italian, he was more than a little strict with his daughters about such things as cussing and smoking in public. He forbade them to smoke at all, saying that it didn't reflect well on their individual character. One of my aunts, who could have given Al Capone a run for his money, was once evicted from the house for an entire summer for saying "wop" (his English wasn't good enough to translate some of her other words), while smoking a cigarette. I think she was also hooked on old Bette Davis movies at the time.

She is 86 years old now. She quit smoking when she was 78 for health reasons.






It was a normal annual routine for my family to chip-in and rent a house to take my grandparents to the Jersey shore for an entire month. Then, aunts and uncles would alternate vacation days, so the house could accommodate everyone else for a few days at a time.

One night I was up on the boardwalk and there was this game being played for packs of cigarettes. I didn't smoke at the time, but the game looked like fun, so I played and won about 10 packs of my grandfather's brand of tobacco.

Needless to say, I became his best friend for the rest of his life. He even shared an ounce of his homemade wine with me to celebrate this friendship. I was only 12.

Every time I went up on the boards, he'd slip me a few dimes and say "Don'ta tella you mom." I always came back with lots of cigarettes. The game hawker even knew me by my first name.

You have to understand that all the women in the family locked themselves in the bathroom to smoke, so he wouldn't catch them. As a kid, I couldn't quite figure out what the consequences would be if they ever got caught.

So, there I was, all my friends were still playing with Betsy-Wetsy dolls, and I was the delivery girl, you know, just like Virginia Hill, delivering Lucky Strikes to my grandfather in the kitchen and Chesterfields and Camels up in the bathroom (solitary confinement) to my mom and aunts. My grandmother was probably watching The Untouchables in the living room because she didn't smoke. Plus, she had this secret crush on Frank Nitti. If it was an episode of The Jersey Shore, she would have been drooling over Paulie D. Little House on the Prairie it wasn't, ya know?

Sometimes when you walked into the bathroom, it looked and smelled much like the back room of an illegal gambling establishment in the Bronx. The language wasn't much better either. They all thought they were bad and were laughing and entertaining themselves, thinking they were pulling something over on their old man. However, he did have to "go" once in a while and use the room. So, I think he knew.

Once my cousin Vinnie came down from New York. He had to "go" and was forced to switch to plan B, the outhouse. So, he located and loaded up all their cigarettes with those little wooden cigarette loads that blow up when burning tobacco touches them. I think four of my aunts were in the bathroom at the time, and all of a sudden it sounded like the 4th of July in there, with screaming and running mixed into the fireworks.

Downstairs, I heard Grandpop mutter under his breath "Dumba asino ragazze."

Grandpop Alfonso, wherever you are, Happy Father's Day!


© Lou Monte via Youtube

© 2012, Valenta, All rights reserved.
To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Monday, June 11, 2012

How to Get Into Mischief at Work with a Kindle

Just the other day, my friend Betsy called me. She works for the government and is restricted to certain Internet websites while she is at work.

A while back, she tried to access my blog and a huge red stop sign popped up on her screen with an "Access Denied" message. She became upset and had to make several trips to the ladies room because she was afraid that the LAN administrator would report her to her manager, the Information Assurance Officer (IAO).

She told me about it and I went to Amazon to find out if I could make my blog available to kindle users. Betsy has owned a Kindle since last Christmas.

They accepted my content, which I knew wasn't red stop sign literature anyway, but what can you do? It was government red tape.

When my blog was made available, I noticed that it was lost among 5,000 other blogs that Amazon offered.

Another huddle with Betsy.

"Can you get interviewed by Clayton Morris at Fox and Friends," she asked.

"Would I be able to stay focused?" I asked.

"Knock it off, can you?"

"No, but I can probably get interviewed by Jerry Blavat," I said. "Me and the Geeter go back a long way."

We came up with a solution. Create a media release and circulate it only to publications and newsgroups that report on the Kindle:

For Immediate Release

Philadelphia, PA, (June 11, 2012) - Amazon.com has added Rosie's Renegade Humor Blog by Rose A. Valenta to their growing selection of Kindle offerings: Rosie's.

The Kindle, Amazon’s hugely successful e-book reader, not only offers users the opportunity to download books, but also the ability to access major newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY. Rosie’s Renegade Humor Blog is a perfect fit for the Kindle because the essays satire current events, and offer an entertaining respite from heavy news stories in a unique and hilarious way.

In a recent Internet survey of Kindle users, 47% of the respondents indicate that they access online newspapers at least once per day. Over 41% access blogs. These are people who prefer digital media over print newspapers and turn to the internet for much of their information. Rosie’s Renegade Humor Blog is ideally positioned to reach these people through the Kindle because of its large internet presence and intelligent themes.

“This is the blog for people who would be knowledgeable about current events and politics if only politicians and news anchors didn't stretch the truth, so what else is there to do, but share an honest laugh?" said Rose Valenta.

Columns include "Joe Biden's Gaffe Could Qualify for a Political Darwin Award," "Rush Limbaugh: The Don Rickles of Radio," "How Congress Failed Homeland Security Duties," and "The Mona Lisa Had High Cholesterol?"

Rose A. Valenta is a nationally syndicated humor columnist. Her columns have been published by the Yahoo Contributor Network and have appeared in USA TODAY, Newsday, NPR, Courier Post, the WSJ online and many other local news and radio websites. She is syndicated via Senior Wire to print newspapers.

For additional information, visit http://www.rosevalenta.com.

~

If you know anyone, who owns a Kindle and has a similar problem as Betsy, feel free to e-mail this article.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Aye of the Needle

by Rose A. Valenta

While everyone is anticipating the coming election, both sides agree on one thing - America is spending too much money. Our incumbent has been on a spree like 100 drunken sailors hitting the Big Apple, and Romney’s mattress is actually made from remnants of faded US currency and chinchilla. So, what can we expect, right?

Just as an example, the US State Department Rewards for Justice Program this week offered $7 million for information leading to the capture of Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed or Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, founder and commander of the terrorist group al-Shabaab; $5 million for Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, an al Qaeda fund raiser; and similar bounties totaling $33 million US dollars in Somalia.

The terrorists retaliated by placing a bounty of 10 camels for information of the whereabouts of President Barack Obama and two camels for information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure what their offer was for Rush Limbaugh.

A camel only costs $700 in Somalia. Go figure!

I was going to write a letter to Heloise because my Congressman is not even worth two cents, but I decided to figure this out myself.

Just then, Uncle Harry came leaping into my kitchen wearing a safari hat and a sheet. He was wild-eyed and had a wad of cash. He was also carrying an African travel brochure and immunization schedule.

“You ready?” he asked.

“For what?”

“I just sent a letter off to Patriot Voices; they are trying to recruit 1 million members. I offered to go to Africa and raise camels for the US State Department, so we can speak their language in terms of bounties. I figure 15 camels for Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed’s butt could actually work.”

“What did they say?”

“They thanked me for joining.”

“You know, Betty White is recruiting for her show Off Their Rockers you might try auditioning.”


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus - What Does it Mean?

The Internet has gone berserk since the announcement that NASA will podcast the Transit of Venus.

My Uncle Harry swears they will find out that the alleged planet eclipse is really ghostbuster, Harry Houdini, returning to Queens, NY, after traveling the universe trying to find his way back. He is convinced that the red dot NASA saw in its telescope flickered Morse Code that spelled “Rosabelle.”

Of course, you can’t believe everything Harry says, especially after he drank a whole bottle of champagne anticipating getting Houdini’s first postmortem autograph.

“Imagine what it will sell for on eBay!” Harry bellowed.

“Harry, I don’t think champagne mixes well with your Viagra. The blood rush has gone to your head.” I said.

“Oh, shut up!” He responded, as he frantically Googled all the latest news on NASA.

“Look at this,” he said, “Some fool thinks that NASA will also make some announcement about one of Saturn’s moons. I got a moon right here.” He patted his butt with a smirk on his face.

“You’re both fools, if you ask me,” I said. “No way it’s Houdini either! It’s probably a hoax by NASA hoping that it gets more funding to find creatures like E.T.”

“Everybody knows E.T. isn’t real,” Harry said.

“Yes, and everybody also knows that Houdini has really been dead for 86 years and hasn’t phoned home. Not even once!”

“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” he said, while humming the subtitles from Houdini’s ‘The Man From Beyond.’

“Maybe Steven Spielberg should start funding NASA,” I said.

“I found it!” Harry jubilantly exclaimed.

“Found what?” I asked.

“NASA’s mysterious red dot.”


© 2010, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here