Lightening Up the Mood: The Creative Writing Class Scene from Throw Momma from the Train

One of my favorite people on the planet, my cousin Jeff McDonald, has always been a kindred spirit, sharing in my zany sense of humor and penchant for pranks. In unison, we quote movie scripts ad nauseum–from Blazing Saddles to this one–a shared personal favorite that Jeff posted on Facebook, tagging me today, reminding me to keep on laughing through these tough times with my dad’s end stage cancer.

For creative writers and those who have taken any writing classes in college, this clip is a classic – the teacher critique scene from “Throw Momma from the Train.”




I’m So Thankful for Jack Right Now…

Our 10-year-old Jack has been one of God’s greatest gifts. In Jack, I got my own personal entertainer, and in me, Jack got his adoring audience and live laugh track. His sense of humor and quick wit continually save me from despair, especially after last night, when I hand-fed my weakened father his dinner, helplessly watching him decline from Stage 4 prostate cancer.

Jack in my prop  prosthetic hillbilly teeth.

Jack in my prop prosthetic hillbilly teeth.

Monday, Jack was off of school (for what seemed like the 10th time since Winter Break, which ended January 5th) so we did our dentist appointments together. He decided that my prosthetic crystal meth hillbilly teeth (pictured above) would make the visit “more interesting,” which they did…for the hygienist and the office manager. Thank God there are still adults out there with a sense of humor, and an accompanying sense of noblesse oblige.

Jonesy the Cat and Dave.

Jonesy the Cat and Dave.

Last week, Jonesy the cat, who exhibits an unfortunate case of arrested development and still tries to nurse on everyone, crawled under the covers and proceeded to bite Dave on the balls. Jack and I were absolutely doubled over, howling with laughter. The text speak “ROFL” is reserved for moments like this one. (It made me wonder for a brief moment if Jonesy was my Secret Santa this year?!?) The next morning at breakfast, Jack queried Dave:

“So…did Jonesy bite your onions this morning, or did she leave your garden alone?!?” You don’t often comments like that at 7 a.m. , especially from 10-year-olds. Jack definitely takes the sting out of the heaviness in our lives at this moment.

Jack has always demonstrated great comedic timing. I first recognized this while driving him home from pre-school one afternoon. On that particular day, the pre-school had a visiting zoo and Jack was in his little car seat in the back, in his high-pitched little boy voice, regaling me with tales of his animal adventures. He shared that he had petted the pony, and I immediately asked if he had washed his hands (he’s allergic to animal hair, hence our hairless cat) and he reassured me that he did.

And then Jack proceeded onward: “So I got to ride the pony.”

Me: “You di-i-i-id?” (Said in that adult, patronizing, sing-song way of speak we do to our children.)

Jack: “And not only did I ride the pony, but I crawled up onto his back…and then I did a handstand…and then I balanced upside-down…on one finger!”

At this point, my theater of the mind was blowing circuits. I nearly drove off the road laughing at this ridiculous visual.

Mother of the Year retorted: “So what did you do for an encore!?! Blow firecrackers out of your ass?”

To which Jack replied, without skipping a beat: “No…but the pony did!” At this point, I totally lost my shit. I could barely make the five-minute drive home, howling with laughter all of the way there. That one earned him a Dairy Queen, although he was befuddled by all of the fuss.

So when the 4th grade teacher asked him yesterday what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered, “A comedian,” with zero hesitation, responding in that what-a-ridiculous-question tone that infers “Of course…what else would I be?!”

Jack knows if he follows this pursuit, he’ll always have an appreciative audience of at least one.



Thank You, Dad

Christmas, 2013. Dad and Jack.

Christmas, 2013. Dad and Jack.

Thank You, Dad…

Thank you, Dad, for adopting me, and for always carrying me high on your shoulders, making my three-year-old self feel like a tall princess. I can still remember the feeling of patting the top of your head, your dark hair stiff with the Aqua Net Mom liberally sprayed to make it lay right.

Thank you for building me that beautiful play house, and the rabbit hutch, and the cage to protect my menagerie of cats, and the homemade ice rinks, the zip line across the yard, and the swing on the tall oak. The Japanese bridge you built across our creek was your true coup de grace.

Thank you for building me my first corner desk with matching bookcases. They were your gift to me for my eighth birthday. I spent hours sitting behind that desk learning to draw and write. I hope my younger self had enough awareness to tell you at some point how much I treasured it.

Thank you for demonstrating your steadfast faith, in your own quiet way, through your many acts of service.

Thank you for all of those camping trips, for passing on your joy for adventure and your fearless knack for finding the back roads route to any destination.

Thank you, Dad, for always providing for us. You never let on how dire things really were until later in life. Because of your hard work and your lifetime of holding down two jobs, we never missed a Christmas, or summer road trips out west, and by some miracle, you even got me through college, saving me from the burden of student loans.

Thank you for always being the only volunteer to take those long horseback rides with me on our family vacations.

Thank you for teaching me to fish, and more importantly, how to clean a fish.

Thank you for getting up in the middle of the night so many times to drive this bratty 16-year-old home from my closing shifts at McDonald’s.

Thank you for teaching me to waltz.

Thank you, Dad, for helping me pick up the pieces during my many failed attempts at adulthood.

Thank you for being such a wonderful grandfather to Jack. He has watched you age with dignity, and you’ve taught him well how to respect the vulnerable among us.

I told someone just this past weekend that I was “adopted into the right family for me,” but that comment is more profound at this moment, knowing now that our time together is so finite.

I fucking HATE cancer.

Flip Cancer - by Michael Gross

Flip Cancer – by Michael Gross




Note to Self: Reschedule Parent-Teacher Conferences When I’m Not There to Defend Myself

Me, after the Parent-Teacher Conference

Me, after yesterday’s Parent-Teacher Conference

It’s been a rough week. I learned my non-smoking friend Meryl with two daughters 5 and under has Stage 4 lung cancer. And in lesser news, a nasty virus and high fever kept me down for the count. In my vulnerable state, I should have rescheduled that Parent-Teacher conference, but my fever-induced brain led me to believe it a good idea to let the appointment stand without me present. Which is how I got thrown under the bus. By my very own fertilized ovum.  And by Dave.

All is well in Jack Land – his grades are good, he’s smart, he’s creative, but he tends to not double-check his homework in his rush to go socialize (a trait from my side of the gene pool, admittedly). He was present with Dave during the teacher’s discussion of Jack’s depeche mode for managing his school work. And that was the moment when 9-year-old Master Jack made the damning statement: “I need to not have Mama in the room with me when I do my homework. She’s too much of a distraction.” And Dave agreed!

Wow. That was an eye opener. Without solicitation, Jack elaborated further: “Mama is too silly…she makes me laugh too much.”

I guess there are worse things that could be said about me, but lest you think I’m this household’s Disney parent, it was I who banned Jack from all electronics this past week until he proved he could recite his multiplication table. The whole enchilada, not just one line of it. And it was Dave who lifted the ban just long enough to play Diablo as Jack’s reward for reciting just one line of it.

If that teacher ever wants to go party, I’m guessing I’ll be the one who gets that phone call.

But back to my friend Meryl. If you are interested in helping Meryl, here is a link to our online fundraiser. Believe me–every dollar helps. Thank you for anything you can do. I hate cancer.