Opportunity Knocks

10 Sep

DSC_0253Whoever said, “Opportunity knocks but once” didn’t know about the “Not Your Mother’s Book” series by Publishing Syndicate.

I am grateful to have two stories appearing in the new anthology NYMB On Being a Parent and one story in NYMB On Home Improvement, with more stories to appear in future titles. Both books will be released nationwide today at all major bookstores.

It is a thrill to be part of this fun series and to appear alongside some of my writer friends who have joined the NYMB ranks, friends such as Terri Spilman aka The Laughing Mom who first alerted me to this opportunity and who taught me that the art of writing happens best in a community.

The NYMB founders Ken and Dahlynn McKowen worked as coauthors/editors of Chicken Soup for the Soul before launching the NYMB series featuring “edgy” stories on a variety of topics. They are currently accepting submissions and have 30-plus new titles, so if you are a humor writer, I encourage you to submit your stories today! NYMB Submission Guidelines.

And now, here is my story “Chase to the Cut” about an OCD mom (me) participating in a home tour fundraiser, included in NYMB On Home Improvement:

Chase to the Cut

“You didn’t make the cut, but thanks for trying.”

It was the story of my life, fruitlessly chasing my ambitions with Wile E. Coyote abandon. Somehow, I always fell short of capturing my prize. I was outwitted by the competition and left hanging in mid-air before falling into a chasm, howling in pain.

Later in life, I discovered all of my hard work and determination granted me distinctive and recognizable status in the form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The disease allowed me to channel my formerly ineffective energy towards my greatest goal yet—home improvement.

Taking enormous pains to give my house a quality makeover, I spent two years selecting rare stone countertops and backsplashes. I had beautiful handmade mosaic tiles imported from Turkey, and hired many contractors, including a French carpenter with a sexy accent.

Following renovation came the sterilization phase of the project. Armed with an arsenal of cleaning products, I scrubbed, scoured and Febrezed my way into every nook and cranny, eradicating my home of every possible germ left behind by the contractors.

My efforts to beautify my house paid off in more ways than one when my friend, Lucy, asked if I would place my home on the Ten Most Beautiful Homes Autumn House Tour sponsored by my son Henry’s school. It was the first time my house would be on a home tour! I was elated and agreed. In my house-fixated state of mind, a house tour was a more important measure of success than winning a talent show, being part of a high school homecoming court and being given a major job promotion—combined. I had made the cut. This would be my opportunity to shine.

So what is a house tour? An event in which the entire community pays money to do what I did every day—debate whether grass cloth was the right choice for my office walls, scrutinize my sofa upholstery and wonder how my husband and I could afford all this.

I learned that preparing for the tour would be simple. Organizers would assign captains to man each house on event day. Captains would admit guests, ensure they removed their shoes upon entering, and then comment on some of the home’s unique characteristics. In my house, for instance, they might discuss how our fixation on keeping things organic resulted in a sustainable and almost livable space. “The homeowners spared no expense in their effort to use natural materials throughout the house. For example, this exquisite custom bathroom sink is made from farmed Japanese bamboo, which retains its luster for a lifetime, as long as it doesn’t get wet. The kitchen countertop is a Calcutta de’ Oro marble quarried in Italy, chosen for its classic beauty and practicality. The homeowners have requested that it not be touched, as oily fingerprints could mar the surface. And the lights over the kitchen island are custom-designed, delicate hand-blown glass lanterns. So as not to cause extra vibrations, please tread softly as you pass.”

The homeowner’s responsibility was to make their homes presentable, welcoming and festive. “Presentable” was a cinch for a person like me who gauges clutter according to whether the entire contents of the room could pass through the “12 items or less” express aisle at the grocery store. “Welcoming” could be achieved by simply taking down my front door sign which read, “For sanitary reasons, please do not enter.”

Making my house “festive” would be my greatest challenge. It was November, and I was never the type to fill the house with pinecones and paper turkeys. My idea of autumn festivity is rallying my family to rake the backyard leaves. I do not, like some homeowners, decorate with intangible objects such as smell. Nowhere in my home will you find scented candles with delicious sounding names like “Cranberry Compote,” “Pumpkin Medley” or “Turkey Surprise.” These are the kind of candles that, if lit all at once, gives off the essence of an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Preferring to keep things simple and organic, I keep a matchbook in the guest bathroom instead.

Unlike the other nine homeowners also chosen to place their home on the tour, who all scrambled to clear their house of clutter, I had to add things to my home to give it that lived-in feel. Some would call my home austere. I call it soothing.

Some people fill their homes with family photos: “Here’s Johnny and Sue. Here’s Johnny and Brian. Here’s Johnny, Sue and Brian.” Why do I need to surround myself with photographs of my children? I already know who they are and I see them every day.

People seem to take comfort in owning knickknacks, like miniature spoons and Hummel figurines. I have never been an enthusiast of collecting cutlery for display, nor do I enjoy being under the constant watch of porcelain clowns.

I am content to accessorize my house with simple things that bring me joy, like my coffee maker, paper-towel holder and toilet brush. My floors are devoid of debris and my countertops as barren as an old nun. Even my kids know not to linger in one space too long for fear of getting stashed in the mudroom closet along with their backpacks. That is, when I allow them visits home from their boarding school in Siberia.

Some people take delight in turning their refrigerators into expressive appliances by decorating them with magnets as if it were a year-round Christmas tree. I rely on a calendar instead of refrigerator postings to remind myself to do things like bleach the bathroom grout, iron my underwear and have sex with my husband. I do not own an oinking alarm that sounds every time the fridge opens, warning me not to pig out.

I’m not much of a cook, but since it was a house tour with an emphasis on kitchens, I felt obligated to make it look like someone actually cooked in it. By the time I had finished staging my kitchen, it looked like an Ethan Allen showroom, right down to the artificial artichokes on each plate at the kitchen table. The gourmet vegetables represented the first course in our family’s hypothetical expansive multi-course dining experience. The formal place settings, with cloth napkins and real Wedgewood plates, looked so convincing that even I was looking forward to the imaginary five-course meal that would replace our normal freeze-dried lasagna served on Dixie Disposable, with Crystal Light to wash it all down.

The house tour was a huge success and raised $17,000 for our school. The expected 350 headcount grew to 450 by the end of the four-hour tour. In germ terms, at an average of two plantar warts per person, that translated to approximately 700 warts that marched across my kitchen floor, which collectively grew to an epidemic 900 cases of potential future foot fungi for the entire school district. But regardless of all the fungi in my home, I finally understood what it meant to give back to the community. Volunteering for a worthy cause helped me realize that success is about the process, not just about making the cut.

And yet still, a few months later, as my podiatrist scraped a relentless fungus from my right toe, I couldn’t help but gloat to myself about how I had finally triumphed. Just at that moment, Dr. Healey took a firmer grip of my foot, looked up at me and said, “You also have a suspicious looking mole here. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to make a cut.” Then he warned, “Brace yourself, it may be deep,” the latter part which sounded uncannily like Road Runner’s cry—“Beep! Beep!” The incision didn’t hurt nearly as much as the familiar pain of defeat. I howled.

When I got home, I told my husband that I would have to take a series of medications and wrap my foot every night. I worried about how I would keep track of everything. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “We’ll organize it for you by making a chart. We’ll just buy some magnets and post it on the refrigerator.”

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58 Responses to “Opportunity Knocks”

  1. dorannrule September 10, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Congratulations! Kudos! I am so impressed. 🙂

  2. Grown and Flown September 10, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Huge congrats on the book. Sounds like a great project and a wonderful publisher. Is it available on Kindle?

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      Thanks! I’ve been impressed with the publisher and all the titles they’ve churned out so far. I know some of the NYMB have been available on Kindle in the past so I’m hoping the latest books will be too but I haven’t seen them yet.

  3. Carrie Rubin September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Congratulations! I wish you and the other writers the best of luck with the book launch!

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      Thanks, Carrie. My kids are especially excited because their photo appears with one of the stories. 🙂

      • Carrie Rubin September 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        Wow, I’m impressed. My kids would never allow that. Not that they have hunchbacks, or warts hanging off their noses or anything…

  4. Terri L. Spilman September 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Congratulations Lisa! Your story is hilarious and fantastic. And, I love how you sneeked in one of your trademark puns at the end. I am so with you on the scents and pictures. And, thanks for the mention. I am so glad the folks at Publishing Syndicate recognize the quality of your work and are sharing it with the world so others can enjoy your incredibly well-written, witty stories. You are one of my absolute favorite writers!

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 10, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      Terri, you are too kind. Your praise means a lot to me, especially coming from someone whose writing I so admire. It’s been fun evolving with you. 🙂

  5. Adventures of a Middle Age Mom September 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    YAY, Lisa. So very happy for you!!

  6. Amy September 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Congratulations! That is a wonderful achievement.

  7. Traci September 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Congrats and thanks for the info and link!

  8. Professor Taboo September 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Huge congrats Lisa! You deserve it and everything that follows from it! Funny story to it all. Hah! 😉

  9. sherrystanfastanley September 10, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    This fabulous story–and all your stuff–deserves to be in a book. Congrats, Lisa!

  10. theempathyqueen September 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Thank you for liking my post today. The joy in someone reading and letting me know that they like it (besides the boost) is that I get to see what you write about on your blog. Very funny and too real!

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 11, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      The pleasure is mine. By the way, I noticed your mention of dual American/Canadian citizenship. My daughter plays for the Syracuse marching band and they performed in Montreal for the Allouettes and she said the Canadians were SO nice and the best audience they’d ever played for. She also loved Poutine. 🙂

  11. LB September 11, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    This cracked me up “Even my kids know not to linger in one space too long for fear of getting stashed in the mudroom closet along with their backpacks. That is, when I allow them visits home from their boarding school in Siberia”.
    I don’t know anything about NYMB … but congrats! (and nice job on the fundraiser!)

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 11, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      “This cracked me up” — Those are some of my favorite words. Thanks for the nice comment.

  12. Stacey @ nursemommylaughs September 11, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    You have done an amazing job in the Parent book! I haven’t read the other one. YET! You are such a talent and I’m thrilled you are getting the opportunity to shine for a bigger audience!!

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 11, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      Stacey it’s been so much fun going on this journey with you! I appreciate all of your support and the smile you and your musings constantly bring to my face. 🙂

  13. joehoover September 11, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Congrats! Brilliant story worthy of publication, had me in stitches, especially as I am new to home decor and becoming a Pinterest addict (I would never have known what the mudroom you refer to is without it). Shame I’m in a rental but I’m sure my landlord will appreciate me adding value to his house.

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 11, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      I didn’t know what a mudroom was either, Joe, until I move from CA to NJ. I find it to be worth its weight in gold.

  14. I suck as a parent September 11, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Congrats! Loved the piece about your delivery. Hilarious! I couldn’t help but worry about your rug though.

  15. Perfecting Motherhood September 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Congratulations on the book launch and an amazing adventure!

  16. marianbeaman September 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Congrats and thank you–Praise for your publication and thanks for the follow! I love your whimsical writing style and honest tone. Just between the two of us: I keep my dining room table perpetually set with a few place settings. I think the china and silver have fooled more than one. The details of your kitchen staging crack me up!

  17. earthriderjudyberman September 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Congratulations, Lisa. That’s a wonderful opportunity. Thanks for the heads up on contributing stories to these publications, too.

    About opening up your home for a tour … you’re a braver woman than I am. Glad it worked out so well for the community fundraiser and for you. 🙂

  18. Paprika Furstenburg September 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Congratulations, Lisa!!! Great story. Not many people could find the humor in foot fungus, but you did 🙂

  19. Rev. Shayna Lester, MS, MFT September 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Congratulations, Lisa….so happy for you to be published

    “Shayna” Jean Lester, M.S., L.M.F.T. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Director Volunteer Prison Chaplain 310-650-8808

  20. Pamela September 13, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    Congratulations for your well deserved cut to success!
    stumbled upon your blog while searching on house cleaning tips. And I am glad that I did.
    O my! i just had my share of laughter for the entire day.

    • Main Street Musings Blog September 13, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      Thanks you, Pamela! Hearing about your laughter is music to my ears. 🙂 Welcome aboard. PS If you have any good house cleaning tips, please share!

  21. Dawn@LightenUp! September 13, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    “You didn’t make the cut, but thanks for trying.”
    Ha! story of my life, too!
    But you obviously made the cut for NYMB! Congratulations, Lisa!!!!

  22. LuAnn September 13, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Congratulations on the book. I have no doubt that it will be very successful. 🙂

  23. WordsFallFromMyEyes September 18, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Wonderful! Congratulations 🙂
    You’re really a wonderful writer. I’m so impressed. Great story.

  24. daniheart21 September 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Wow. so sorry about your foot. eeeeek. Good you made the cut though. 🙂 The one time in my life I went barefoot I of course, got athletes foot. LOL Never again. Fun post.

  25. Dawn@LightenUp! October 6, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    I thought for sure I had commented on this. Perhaps I am losing my mind. Again.
    But CONGRATULATIONS, funny lady!! Well deserved!!

  26. ittymac October 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    I just nominated you for A Versatile Blogger Award – A gracious way to acknowledge others and their Blogs. http://ittymac.wordpress.com/

  27. Kathryn McCullough October 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Hi, Lisa! I just wanted to stop by and thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I’d love to know where your family vacationed in Peru.

    And congratulations! Good for you———— Publication rocks!

    I’m happy to have found your blog. I’m going to subscribe. Hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend.

    Blogging from Ecuador,

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 20, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      Welcome! I left more details about our travels on your blog, and look forward to learning more about your adventures in the future!

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    thank you for yokur time just for this wonderful read!! I definitely savored every
    part of it and i also have yoou bookmarked
    to check out new things in your blog.

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