My talented guest writer for this article, Dorothy Rosby, is a syndicated humor columnist whose work appears in publications throughout the West and Midwest. She’s the author of four books of humorous essays including her latest: ‘Tis the Season to Feel Inadequate: Holidays, Special Occasions and Other Times Our Celebrations Get Out of Hand which will be out November 15. She received degrees in journalism and communication from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and lives in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Dorothy is also the global winner in the humor category of the 2022 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, and my good friend. Were I on stage in an auditorium right now, I’d ask you to stand and give a rousing round of applause for the very funny and insightful Dorothy Rosby.
Table Scraps by Dorothy Rosby
For many years I had a laminated cartoon hanging on the wall by my home computer. It showed a small cage labeled Dream #13 and a sign on the cage read, “Please do not feed.” But an odd-looking character was ignoring the instructions. He looked furtively over his shoulder as he snuck a dish into the cage. The caption read “Morty kept his dreams alive by sneaking them table scraps when no one was looking.”
The cartoon was signed “Norman,” and I kept it because whoever he was, Norman had summed up my frustrations in one panel. I felt like Morty. I wanted something so desperately that I ached for it, I prayed for it and I worked for it. For 23 years, I snuck my dream table scraps when no one was looking.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer. From a young age, I journaled and wrote dreadful short fiction and even worse poetry. But I found my genre when I was in my mid-twenties. I joined Toastmasters, an organization where members practice their public speaking skills, and I realized quickly that I loved doing humorous speeches. I competed in humorous speech contests and I won some. Eventually, I typed up some of my humorous speeches and sent them to the editor of my local newspaper, and she agreed to take me on as a humor columnist.
As time went on, I began to see humor writing not just as my hobby, but as my calling. I desperately wanted to do more than write two columns a month. I was feeding my dream table scraps, and it was starving.
But I had a job as a public relations professional for a wonderful nonprofit which serves people with disabilities. And I had a son to raise and a mother to care for. My mom was 80 years older than my son and she lived with us for several years. I didn’t have time to write. But column deadlines forced me to fit it in somehow and that taught me discipline. Deadlines are a gift to a writer, though they seldom feel like it when they’re staring you in the face.
The other gift that didn’t feel like a gift was the ache to do more. Of course, it was a source of great frustration and hopelessness too. There were so many things I wanted to write that I didn’t have time for. I envied anyone who had more time than I did to pursue a creative life, and when you’re a working mother caring for an elderly parent, almost everyone has more time than you do.
But looking back, I see that yearning as a gift too. I took it as a sign that I was meant to do the thing I yearned for. Trying to ease the pain of it motivated me and strengthened my commitment to my writing routine. And it was that motivation and that routine that got me through the constant fatigue and feeling of being overwhelmed during those years. I wrote every morning for at least half an hour before my family woke up. I rarely missed a day. I fed my dream table scraps when no one was looking.
There were many difficult times. My job was demanding. My precious son had childhood asthma and my mother seemed to have everything else. At one point, she dislocated her shoulder and for weeks, she needed help even to get up out of her chair. I raced home from work every few hours during the day to help her to the bathroom and I slept on the couch outside her room at night. When she woke up, I got up and helped her to the bathroom, and then, because I was too stressed to fall back to sleep, I wrote in the night.
I’m one of those unfortunate people with a jukebox in my head. When life reminds me of a song, and it often does, the song becomes an earworm. A song by Meatloaf, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” was stuck in my head during that time, and that earworm became my anthem.
If you know it, you know that the title is also the refrain. I’m not sure what Meatloaf was referring to, but I know what those words meant for me at that point in my life. I’d do anything for the people I love—I’d feed them and care for them. I’d get up in the night to help my mother. I’d drive my son to his activities and help him with his homework, and I’d work all day on very little sleep to help put food on the table and a roof over their heads, but I would not give up on the thing I longed to do. I would not do that.
Were it not for the deadlines and that ache, I would have quit. My life would have been easier. But not writing was more painful than writing. So along the way, I never missed a deadline. I found my writer’s voice. And I managed to do some marketing and convince 36 other publications to run my column.
Eventually, my son grew up and my beautiful mother died at the age of 96. I became an empty nester, but all those years had made me greedy for time. I still hated getting up from my home computer to go to work.
Fortunately also along the way, my husband and I saved our money and paid off our home and other bills. And on April 1, 2019, I sat down at my computer for the first time as a full time writer. I don’t know what it means that it was on April Fool’s Day—maybe just that it was foolish to give up employer-sponsored health insurance so long before I’m eligible for Medicare.
But I’ve never regretted my decision and I’ve never been happier. Now every morning I get up and go to work—in my home office. And as I write this, my third book of humorous essays is at the publishers.
And by some strange coincidence, the cartoon that hung on my office wall all those years—Morty feeding his dreams table scraps when no one was looking—disappeared. I hope I find it in one of the piles in my office someday. In the meantime, I like to think Morty’s dream came true too.
You can learn more about Dorothy and sign up for her always entertaining blog at https://dorothyrosby.com/.
After she is tragically orphaned, young Abella loses the ability to speak her truth and express herself. She is sent to live with a reclusive uncle she’s never met, and her only friend is her horse. Abella endures heartbreak, loneliness and questions who she truly is inside. Eventually, she meets friends and animals who help her not only regain her voice, but also uncover her strength and purpose. Purchase How Abella Found her Voice for $4.95 here: https://laurahandke.com/product/how-abella-found-her-voice-e-book/
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Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,