At an obnoxious hour last Thursday morning I boarded a plane for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, OH. I was confident that a good experience waited for me, but I had no idea.

I’m not ready to snap out of the post-workshop after glow just yet. One day soon I’ll share with you some of the deep, meaningful, and hilarious things I took away from four days with Erma and Friends. For now, though, let’s stick to the numbers.


64 – Number of hours I wore Grown Up Clothes.

I work at home. At the most, I wear a real bra and business casual clothes six hours a day, one day a week. I didn’t wear yoga pants, flip flops, or running shoes for four days.

The last night, 16-plus hours after getting dressed in the morning, even my bra was over it. While workshop attendees performed standup, my bra unhooked itself. There are only two reasons your undergarments remove themselves: either they find you repulsive after so many hours between showers, or Ryan Gosling just walked in the room.

2 – Number of new Pocket People (I will explain).

Mark and I have a long-running… I don’t know what to call it. It’s just a thing. When we come across an outrageously adorable person, we say they are, “so cute, we just want to put him/her in our pocket.” Current Pocket People include, but are not limited to, Tommy Silva (This Old House), Seth Cohen (of The O.C.), and Ray (from our grocery store).

My new additions? Erma’s husband, Bill Bombeck; and Ilene Beckerman. Dear God, these people are wonderful.

Honestly, all of the keynote speakers were fantastic. I’d be happy to put any of them in my pocket.

5 – Number of times I cried, minimum.

Every time a member of Erma’s family – biological or chosen – read one of her pieces, I wept. Seeing her legacy represented in such a personal way was stunning. That is the power of words well written, of love well documented.

1 – Number of times I feared for my life.

Lesson learned: When the hotel staff at the overflow hotel points you in the general direction of campus and shrugs a “you could walk,” get another opinion. You cannot walk from downtown Dayton to the Marriott near the University of Dayton. Physically, sure. Emotionally, not so much. If you ever register late and the workshop hotel is already booked, please, for the love of Erma, take the shuttle. Do not walk. In case you’re still thinking you don’t need the shuttle, I have a subset of numbers for you here.

3 – Junkies we passed on our way.
1 – Person providing me with hilarious, distracting conversation on this walk of doom. Also, it’s nice to have your own big-city-raised Russian immigrant at a time like this; she assured me that our walk had nothing on the streets of San Fran.
2 – Gas station attendants who openly laughed when we asked to call a cab, saying, “You could call a cab, but sometimes they don’t come.”
6 – Layers of clothes and foundation garments (combined, dummy, neither one of was wearing 6 layers) drenched in sweat by the time we reached that Marriott ballroom.

4 – Number of pounds [my suitcase] gained.

I’m paranoid about surpassing the baggage weight limit, and having to remove my hairdryer or Oxford English Dictionary at check-in. I closely watch that scale at the baggage counter, and I don’t breathe easy until I see a number under 50. Because of this, I know my bag gained four pounds while we were at Erma.

I ate an absurd number of white dinner rolls and lots of cake while at the workshop. And I am thankful that I did not have to stand on the scale at the airport.

1ish – Number of criminal acts.

I lifted my roommate’s Logitech iPad keyboard. An utterly senseless crime, since I have one exactly like it. In court I will make the argument that I thought it was mine, and as it was four – in the morning – and I was packing after fewer than three hours of sleep, it’s an honest mistake. I am sure no jury of my peers will convict me.

In all fairness, she stole my jacket. Oh okay, I accidentally left it hanging in the closet. See: packing at 4 a.m.

15 – Number of hours I slept in three nights, max.

It was worth every sleep-deprived minute.

Unknown Numbers – The times I laughed and the friends I made.

I’m not naming names here. I live in fear of inadvertently leaving off a name, just as I inadvertently skipped out on my bar tab Friday night. I will pay you back, nice people I just met before I did the Drink and Dash.

But I did meet fabulous people. And I did laugh, often until I cried. So I guess I should change that number up there for “Times I Cried” to unknown, as well.


There’s no good way to say thank you to all of the people involved in pulling together the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. If I had to quantify my appreciation, it would require a number higher than my English major brain can safely handle. So, simply, thanks to all of you.

And Erma, to you most of all.