Author Barbara Johnson's encouraging book about a woman's adventures in aging, Living Somewhere Between Estrogen and Death, became the number-one best-selling paperback in the Christian market for the year in which it was published. Soon hordes of happy readers were flooding Barbara's mailbox with their own favorite jokes, touching stories, and hilarious tales of female misadventures.
Now Barb has packed that amazing collection of wacky wit into this boisterously funny new book that's full of "laff leaks" about every stage of a woman's lifefrom diapers to dentures. No matter what stage of the "hormonal cesspool" you're splashing through, there's something here to touch your heart. You'll love Barb's quirky empty-nest de-cluttering strategies, her joyful insights on stress-soothing, husband-handling, kid-corralling, and parent-parenting in chapters like these:
- Having a Baby Is Like Writing a Book? Lots of Whining, Begging, and Pushing
- Who Are These Kids, and Why Are They Calling Me Mom?
- I Finally Got My Head Together? Then My Body Fell Apart
- We Started Out With Nothingand Still Have Most of It Left
Leaking Laffs Between Pampers and Depends is a heart-warming ride over the waves of humor in God's endless sea of love.
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|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.63(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Having a Baby Is Like
Writing a BookLot's of Whining,
Begging, and Pushing
Chaos, Panic, and Disorder
My Work Here Is Done
Someone commented recently that having a baby is a lot like writing a book. As a woman who has given birth to four sons and written more than a dozen books, I should know!
The baby often begins as a sparka little twinkle in someone's eye. The same thing happens when a book is conceiveda little spark in the brain sends emotions soaring in anticipation. No doubt about it: Conceiving a babyor a bookis the easiest part of the whole project!
From that tiny seed, a baby is formed inside the mother's body. In the author's mind, an idea develops into the framework of the book; a few choice thoughts slowly grow into a chapter-by-chapter outline. At this stage, we parents-to-be start having daydreams filled with precious cherubs and darling little bundles of joy snoozing sweetly in nurseries decorated by Martha Stewart. Expectant authors imagine a spellbinding book that outsells everything but the Bible.
Then the pregnancy is confirmed. A contract is signed, and a due date is given. (How could anything so wonderful have an awful name like "deadline"? I wonder.) The date seems so far off ... a few seasons or perhaps almost a whole year away. Actually the date may seem like a cloud of fog far in the distant future. There's so much timeno need to rush things. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I push anyworries aside while pulling the dessert plate closer or filling the schedule a little fullerand trilling "fiddle-dee-dee!" all the while.
Next comes that queasy feeling in the stomach, a nauseous reminder each morning that I've made a real, almost overwhelming commitment. Suddenly I feel an urge to upchuck before breakfast, after meals, or anytime I happen to walk by the typewriter that waits, cold and silent, on the desk in my bedroom. The idea of becoming a parent suddenly takes on a more serious tone. The bare framework of the book has formed, but there's precious little hanging on it.
Then comes the stage when I feel a deep desire that this pregnancy had not happened. There are even occasional feelings of resentment toward my husband (or my publisher). Is this person intentionally trying to annoy me? Why else am I constantly bombarded with pesky reminders and nervous questions about what I'm eating or how much I've written? And why, in the quiet darkness at midnight, do I seem to hear a clock ticking somewhere or the pages of a calendar being flipped?
Then the second three months begin, and gradually I warm to the idea again. It actually starts to seem possible that I can be a mother, that I can write a book ... but now the IBM Selectric seems too close to my swelling abdomen and too far from my outstretched fingertips. A mysterious restlessness fills my days as I wrestle with the ideasand the individualchurning inside of me.
Now the baby seems to intrude on everything I do, and it's not even born yet. At this stage, going out to lunch means not just squeezing my bulky form behind a tiny table at a favorite restaurant but also asking to be seated on the outside to allow room for that huge lump in front of me. It seems to be the center of attention everywhere I go. Folks who hardly know me feel free to pat my tummy or put a sympathetic arm around my shoulders and ask how far along I am. Everything centers around the babyor the bookthat is not nearly finished yet.
As the third trimester begins, I am exhausted and sick of seeing myself in mirrors, tired of feeling so bulky. I try to type out the words, but some strange interference causes me to have to strain to get at the typewriter. Everything seems to be moving farther away from my immense middle, my book-filled brain. What an effort it takes to do anything!
The last month is the worst. I know the baby is just about due. The book is almost finished, but at this point I don't care about the endingor the beginning or middle, for that matter. I am so sorry I ever even thought of getting pregnant, regretful that I ever had the idea of writing a book. Then the baby is born. With deep groans of agony and heaving sighs of pain, I force out the last few pages, thinking, I JUST WANT THIS TO BE OVER! With my last ounce of strength, I lug the manuscript to the post office and mail it off to the publisher. Returning home and collapsing into bed, I heave a huge sigh of relief when the delivery is complete.
Then there is that brief, eager time after the birth when I hold my breath and wait for the doctor's (or the publisher's) assessmentto which I respond, "What do you mean the color seems to be a little off?" "How could you possibly think this masterpiece is too lengthy?" What follows next is sometimes the most irritating part of the whole process as my book is probed and preened until I beg for mercy. I threaten to take my poor baby and move to the home for the bewildered.
Then the nurses place my sweet angel on the pillow next to me. The editors show me the cleaned-up version, and glory be! It's kinda cute. A few weeks later, it's introduced around the neighborhoodor the worldand what do you know? People ogle it and ... why, they actually like it! Trying to be modest, I blush and smile while proudly claiming it as my own.
Then, basking in the glow of adoration and appreciation, the most amazing miracle of all happens. Somewhere inside my head, all the memories of my recent agony melt away, and there's a tiny flash of brilliant light, one bright little spark.
And somehow I have the thought that ... well, actually, it might be nice to have another one ...
That's exactly how this book came about. After "giving birth" to the book Living Somewhere Between Estrogen and Death, I was so relieved to have it finished that I actually thought of unplugging my IBM Selectric and calling it quits. After all, I'm well into retirement age, and we "mature" mothers and authors do need our rest. (By the way, you know why women over fifty don't have babies, don't you? We'd put 'em down somewhere and forget where we left them!)
After my Estrogen "baby" left home and went out into the marketplace, I was inundated with stories and letters from women who wanted to share their own hilarious "wonders of womanhood." They also wanted to tell me how the book had helped them laugh while they wrestled with the most heartbreaking experiences life could throw at them. One of my favorite stories came from a woman who said she had read the book aloud to her elderly mother as the loved one died of cancer. "Barb, the nurses kept coming into the room and asking what was going on. You see, they weren't used to hearing such laughter in the hospice center," she said.
That story warmed my heart! And so did a similar story shared by a woman in Chicago. She and her sister had brought along a copy of Estrogen when their eighty-year-old mother was hospitalized for what they feared was her final illness. Sitting in their mother's hospital room, they took turns reading the book aloud to her. She said, "Barb, I'll always be grateful to you for that cherished image: my mother, laughing, on her deathbed!"
"Oh," I answered softly, "when did she die?"
"Oh, she didn't dieshe lived!" the woman said, laughing heartily. "That was a year ago. She's fine now. We think it was all that Estrogen we read to her and all that laughing!"
Another woman came to my book table at a conference and told me she had first seen Estrogen when she was sharing a reception area with other women awaiting radiation treatment for cancer. One of the women, she said, was reading the book and chuckling to herself. Seeing the expectant faces of the other women waiting with her, she began to read aloud. Pretty soon, the woman said as she tugged on the geranium-trimmed hat covering her bald head, "We were all roaring with laughter."
Such responses helped make Estrogen the number one best-selling paperback book for the whole Christian market in 1997, the year it was published? When the standings were announced, I thought, This must be how it feels to be the mother of Miss America! With the encouragement of so many readers and with an abundance of delightful new material flowing in, everyone agreed there had to be another book. But while Estrogen was aimed at women living somewhere "between menopause and LARGE PRINT," the material that had been shared by all the letter-writers and Women of Faith conference attendees clearly indicated that the next book would need to encompass all the years of a woman's life, ranging from parenting young children to parenting parents. The first seed for the title came from a gal at a Women of Faith conference somewhere who laughingly told me she was "somewhere between Pampers and Depends."
Naming the Baby
Parents know how important it is to choose the perfect name for their baby. You have to consider what words rhyme with the name so you don't choose something the poor kid can be tortured with by his or her peers. It's nice to choose a biblical namewhile keeping modern trends in mind. David and Benjamin are very popular, for example, but Damaris and Boaz are less common these days. The best names bring to mind a positive image of a happy, trustworthy person.
The same is true for book titles. Authors and publishers go round and round trying to choose a name that will accurately represent the book while igniting a spark in the minds of potential readers. One of my all-time favorite book titlers is Dave Barry. A few years ago he published a book titled Babies and Other Hazards of Sex. Frankly, the title wasn't all that great, but the subtitle was hilarious: How to Make a Tiny Person in Nine Months with Tools You Probably Have Around the House.
Hoping for a phrase as clever as that one, I suggested to my publisher that the phrase "Pampers and Depends" was the heart of a great book title. At first, the Word Publishing executives were okay with it. One Word executive even sent me a fax, excitedly sharing that she'd found the word pampers in her Bible concordance: "Of course, it's not the diaper kind," she wrote, "but I thought it was funny to see it there. The reference is Proverbs 29:21: "If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end."
Not being a real pious prune, I took that as a sign that God was bestowing His blessing on our next project, even if the context didn't seem to be related in any way. So we had part of a title, but we needed a verb. We'd already used living, so something different was needed. Someone suggested changing, citing all the changes we women go throughchanging diapers, changing from daughters to mothers to grandmothers, going through the change.
But changing seemed so ordinary. In the middle of the night (it might have been a rainy night), the word leaking suddenly soaked into my brain. It felt like a logical choice to me. But the poor folks at Word nearly croaked when I mentioned it!
"Oh, Barb, you don't mean it!" one of them gasped. "Leaking diapers?"
"Barb, that's just too gross," another one moaned. (It might have been the same one who worried a few years ago that the Christian market just wasn't ready for the word cesspools in my best-selling book titled Splashes of Joy in the Cesspools of Life.)
"Well," I reminded them self-righteously, "you just need to remember Philippians 4:8 and think on things that are pure and lovely. Obviously, you've got your minds somewhere else!" (Because I've been working with these dear people for nearly a decade, I tend to offer them a little motherly advice and scriptural insights now and then.)
As we continued "negotiating," I sent out a short list of title options to a couple hundred friends and supporters of Spatula Ministries, asking their opinions. The overwhelming response from these women was that leaking laffs was the best possible choice. As one woman wrote, "The word changing is boring. Leaking is best!"
Meanwhile, back in Nashville, the Word executives were probably pulling their hair out and stocking up on extra-strength Maalox.
After several weeks of whining and begging (I whined, they begged), I had just about persuaded them to let me have my way when something happened that settled the issue once and for all. To express our appreciation for the artwork Precious Moments creator Sam Butcher had generously donated to my last book, He's Gonna Toot and I'm Gonna Scoot, Word had graciously prepared a beautifully poignant plaque to give him. The presentation was made at the Women of Faith conference in Kansas City, after which some of my favorite Word executives whisked us off to lunch at a cozy restaurant where we had a special room all to ourselves.
During lunch, I waited for a quiet moment, then, with the Word people listening, I casually asked Sam for his opinion on the title I was proposing for my next book. The picture below shows Sam's merry response. He burst out laughing, rocking back and forth in his chair, and then added between guffaws, "And you could have babies in diapers crawling along the bottom of the cover and call them 'little squirts'!"
Of course, this just about sent the frazzled Word folks over the edge. Judging by the stiff smiles that seemed to be frozen on their sweet faces, I thought they all might be considering a career change at precisely that moment. But when they could speak again they swallowed hard and graciously nodded their assent (probably while wondering if their therapists offered telephone counseling on Saturday).
The "baby" had been named!
Later, Sam's sharp-witted assistant, Larrene Hagaman, pulled the whole idea together by suggesting the cover illustration: the Geranium Lady riding a waterspout that's shooting up through a small boat. At one end of the boat, Sam's "little squirt" is yowling away, and at the other end there's Larrene's "little squint" (who looks a little like Mammy Yokum), enjoying the ride. When Word's artist, Dennis Hill, sent me his depiction of these little characters, I knew they were too adorable to use just once. So you'll find them popping up again in the collections of jokes and stories that close out each chapter. In fact, I've called these chapter-closing giggles "Squirts & Squints," just because the whole idea makes me laugh!
Toot 'n' What?
Even when I have to work hard at negotiating (begging and whining) to get the book titles I want for my "babies," I enjoy every minute of it. All the whining just makes for a better story in the end, which I love to share with folks who ask, "Where in the world did you get that title?"
It's also fun to see how the titles get mangled and twisted. For example, after Toot 'n' Scoot was published last year, I got an early morning call from a lady in West Virginia who said, "I heard on the radio that you have a new book out, and I wanted to read it. But it's forty miles to the nearest Christian bookstore, so I want to make sure I get the right one. It sounded like you said the title is Poop 'n' Scoop. Could that be right?" And at my book table somewhere, a woman said she thought the title was called Too Pooped to Scoot!
Another woman sent a note to my publisher that said:
Barbara Johnson will love this ... I sent my husband to the Christian bookstore to see if they had her new book, He's Gonna Toot and I'm Gonna Scoot. He proceeded to go in and ask for One More Toot and I'm Gonna Move! (I laughed 'til I cried!)
See what fun I'd miss if I didn't insist on giving my books such zany titles? Of course, I do get a little nervous when I think of the books' foreign translations, especially after reading the long list of nightmares someone sent to me that resulted when American companies' trade names were translated overseas. One of the marketing failures supposedly occurred when a company marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, where its ads were supposed to say, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." Instead, due to a faulty translation, the ads said, "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant"!
Leaking Laffs, Soaking Up Love
Now, isn't this just like a new motherspilling all the gory details of labor while visitors cuddle the baby? If you're a woman, I don't think you'll mind. In fact, you may want to send me your own "triumphant" stories of childbirth and parenting experienceswhatever you've birthed and experienced!
And if you're a manwell, buddy, hang on to your hairpiece! If you're gonna read this book, you'd better prepare yourself for some mental aerobics. And your eyebrows may get a workout, too, if they're not used to frequent lifting. Don't be embarrassed; I've learned to expect some men to let their curiosity get the better of them and read my books, even when they're warned not to. After we put a "For Women Only" disclaimer on the cover of Estrogen, I heard from one man who joked that he'd read it by flashlight while hiding in the closet. Another man said he had propped it open in front of a newsmagazine so fellow airplane passengers wouldn't give him a hard time as he read. What a delightful picture those men must have made!
Like that famous deodorant line, this book is "strong enough for a manbut made for a woman." Whoever you are, and wherever you are along the journey from Pampers to Depends, I hope you'll come along to share some "laff leaks" in this boatload of silliness. We're gonna have a fabulous time, splashing in laughter and soaking up God's love.
Unless otherwise indicated, the sources of all the "squirts and squints" in this book are unknown; people who know how much I love to laugh have sent me these little ditties in letters or faxes or passed them to me on scraps of paper at Women of Faith conferences. I'm grateful to these unnamed writers, whoever they are. Their words have touched my heartand tickled my funny bone.
I love deadlines.
I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by!
* * *
A little boy told his preschool teacher one morning, "I have a disappointment I want to talk about in circle time."
"Ohhhh," said his teacher, worried he might be planning to spill some devastating family news. "Could you tell me first?"
"No," he replied solemnly. "I want to tell everyone."
She tried to persuade him to give her a preview of his "disappointment," but he stubbornly refused to say another word until his little classmates were assembled in the sharing-time circle.
Nervously, the teacher waited. When it was his turn, the little boy took a breath and started telling about lying down on a big chair that lifted him up toward a bright light. A man wearing a mask told him to open his mouth and then tapped on his teeth with something hard, he said.
It was then that the preschool teacher realized just what the little tike was describing: his dentist appointment.
* * *
Think it over. Of all the creatures God created, we are the only ones that have to deal with diapers. Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin nor clean up after their junior lily offspring.... [Perhaps] God deliberately chose to create our babies as hygienically challenged little people who require our extremely personal service several times each day ... to ensure that we learn to perform a selfless act on behalf of a truly helpless person who cannot even thank us, doesn't really know what we are doing for him anyway, and, more likely than not, will [wet] on us for good measure....
Changing the baby is sort of like giving alms in secret, only smellier.
* * *
Some time ago, a tiny three-year-old daughter used a whole roll of gold wrapping paper to wrap a present for her father. Money was tight for the family, and when the little girl brought the gift to him, her father winced to see how much of the expensive paper had been used. Then his anger flared when he found that the box, so elaborately wrapped, was completely empty.
"Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside of it?" he snapped. "You've wasted all this paper on an empty box."
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy! It's not empty. I blew kisses into the box. They're for you, Daddy."
Each of us parents has been given a gold box filled with unconditional love from our children. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.
* * *
When it's hard to go with the flow ...
at least try to trickle!
* * *
You know you're a mother when ...
· You have time to shave only one leg at a time.
· You've mastered the art of placing large quantities of different foods on a plate without anything touching.
· You hear your own mother's voice coming out of your mouth.
· You use your own saliva to clean your child's face.
* * *
The boss urgently needed to speak to one of his employees on a Saturday afternoon. He dialed the employee's home number and was greeted with a child's whispered, "Hello?"
"Is your daddy home?" the boss asked.
"Yes," whispered the small voice.
"May I speak to him?" the boss queried.
"No," the little kid answered.
His patience running thin, the boss asked next, "Well, is your mommy there?"
"Yes," came the whispered reply.
"May I speak to her?"
Again the small voice whispered, "No."
Perplexed, the boss asked, "Well are there any other adults there?"
"Yes," the child whispered, "a policeman."
Stunned, the boss hesitated only a moment and then asked, "Well, may I speak with the policeman?"
"No, he's busy," whispered the child.
"Busy doing what?" the boss asked.
"Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the fireman," the child replied.
"There's a policeman and a fireman there?" the boss said, now beginning to get worried. "Why are they there?"
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle, "They're looking for me!"
* * *
When my friend Roger Shouse wrote to wish me "best of luck with the new book," he struggled to find the right phrase. "With actors they say, 'Break a leg.' But what do they tell authors? 'Get a cramp in the hand?' 'Hope your mind goes blank'?"
* * *
A little girl was diligently pounding away on her father's computer. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."
* * *
A grandmother wasn't sure her granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so she decided to test her. She repeatedly pointed out things and asked the tiny girl what color it was. The girl always answered correctly. But it was fun for the grandma, so she continued the game. Finally the little granddaughter headed for the door, saying sagely, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"
* * *
The only time a woman wishes she were a year older is when she is expecting a baby.
* * *
A woman took her small daughter to the funeral home for the viewing of her great-grandmother. Staring, perplexed, into the casket, the little girl asked, "Mama, why did they put Great-grandma in a jewelry box?"
* * *
Someone has equated laughter with changing a baby's diaper: "It doesn't change things permanently, but it makes everything OK for a while."
* * *
A couple invited some people to dinner. At the table, the father asked their six-year-old daughter to say the blessing.
"I don't know what to say," the girl replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the dad answered.
The daughter bowed her head, heaved a little sigh, and said, "Lord, why on earth did we invite all these people to dinner?"
* * *
An old country doctor went way out into the boonies to deliver a baby. It was so far out, there was no electricity. When the doctor arrived, no one was home except for the laboring mother and her five-year-old son. The doctor instructed the child to hold a lantern high so he could see to deliver the baby. The child held the lantern, the mother pushed, and after a little while, the doctor lifted the newborn baby by the feet and swatted him on the bottom to get him to take his first breath.
Watching in wide-eyed wonder, the five-year-old shouted, "Hit him again! He shouldn't have crawled up there in the first place!"
* * *
Little kids' instructions on life:
· When your dad is mad and asks you, "Do I look stupid?" don't answer him.
· Never try to baptize a cat.
· Never trust a dog to watch your food.
· Never tell your little brother that you're not going to do what your mom told you to do.
· Remember you're never too old to hold your father's hand.
* * *
I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"
She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
* * *
A mom was delivering a station wagon full of kids home from nursery school one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat beside the driver was a Dalmatian dog. The children began discussing the dog's duties.
"They use him to keep crowds back," said one youngster.
"No," said another, "he's just for good luck."
A third child brought the argument to a close. "They use the dog," she said firmly, "to find the fire hydrant."
* * *
A couple of young siblings were sitting together in church. Finally, the six-year-old sister had had enough of her little brother's giggling and talking out loud. "You're not supposed to talk out loud in church," she hissed at him.
"Why? Who's going to stop me?" the little boy challenged.
The big sister pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers."
* * *
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, five, and Ryan, three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.'"
There was a pause, and then Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus."
* * *
"God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me."
Sarah, aged wife of one-hundred-year-old
Abraham, upon the birth of their son,
Isaac (Gen. 21:6 NCV)