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Be the Boss: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop

“Kathy, not everything is funny.”

I got this feedback from my boss during one of my last formal job performance reviews. My initial reaction was that I found that pretty funny. And so shortly after, I left corporate life and started writing about how really funny it was to try to juggle a full time job and a house full of kids.

I wrote for 20 minutes a day. This was mostly due to the fact that the impetus to leave my job was to start a maternity leave with my fourth child, coupled with the fact that my nanny had decided to take her own leave, of us (two events I’m not totally unconvinced were not connected). And so I wrote. And wrote.

Flash forward 12 years, six books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles later, and as I was on my way to a writers’ workshop this week, I ran into that same boss at the airport.

“So how are things going?” she asked. “ With the writing, and all that.”

“Pretty good,” I said. (You can tell I’m a writer, I know.) And as she headed off to her business conference, and I to mine, I realized that I should have taken the time to thank her. Because sometimes it’s these “moments of truth” that other people inadvertently hand us that take us from one place to another.

My old boss (okay she’s technically younger than me, but who isn’t) is still in the same industry, although she’s switched companies, and it suits her. She looked great, she was excited about her work, and it showed. It worked for her. What I’m doing works for me. Sometimes we get caught up in what we’re “supposed” to do and we forget all about what we want to do.

Is everything funny? I still wasn’t sure it was. Fortunately, and funnily enough, I was at the airport to head to Dayton to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. I had the opportunity to listen to the hugely successful writer, Lisa Scottoline, known for her female driven lawyer thrillers. But she has recently turned to writing humour, collaborating with her daughter initially for a column called “Chick Wit”, which has turned into a series of books. Because, in her words, she felt something was missing when Erma passed away. That voice of family, and humour.

At the conference she revealed that her 94-year-old mother had been placed in hospice. At one point during her talk she actually stopped to check her voice messages before she could carry on. “Is this funny?” she asked? “Of course not. Will I find humour in it? Absolutely.” She went on to tell a story of her acquiring holy water to keep in the cupboard, for that final moment, only to have her brother almost drink it, mistaking it for gin.

So maybe my former boss was right. Not everything is funny, but finding the humour in even our toughest times is what makes us human. When you can’t find the humour, it might be time to move on. The name of my last book? “I Am So The Boss Of You.” Maybe she was right. “He who laughs…lasts.” Erma Bombeck.

Post Script: Lisa Scottoline’s mother passed away two days after her talk.

Read Kathy Buckworth’s Be The Boss column every month. Buy “I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business” at bookstores everywhere, or visit



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