“If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh…,” I sang out loud and proud as Beyonce thankfully drowned out my voice. That song “Single Ladies”, coupled with Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Woman”, helped me believe I could do it all.
I was enjoying the song when I suddenly realized, “I’m not actually single anymore.” It sounds silly, but I hadn’t truly internalized that reality until then; regardless of the whole meeting a wonderful guy and having a wedding thing.
I don’t know if this happens to others who’ve been single parents for a lengthy time but it happened to me. I was single for 10 years while I was raising my daughter and went back to school. I know, I know, such a cliché. I think during that 10 years of focusing on family and education my brain got re-wired somehow.
Even after being happily married with two more children there are moments when I viscerally feel single. Not in the physical sense of being single, because that would include panic attacks, night terrors, and profuse sweating, but sometimes I have to shake myself and realize that what I thought would never happen, and had in fact not been looking for, had happened; I found a partner.
Being a single parent for so long made me okay with being single.
Being a single parent made me stronger in my convictions.
Being a single parent made me, well, exhausted, something that never goes away.
Because of my experiences as a single parent, I realized that life can throw what it will at me and I’ll handle it; some things better than others, but I’ll handle it. You come out the other side of single parenthood with more confidence simply because it hasn’t killed you. Single parenting is, of course, not all fun and games, but neither is married parenting, so I blame the common denominator: the kids.
I still enjoy Destiny’s Child, although I don’t like that it’s now on the soft rock/oldies station. I don’t think I’ll ever completely forget that part of me that blossomed as I was single parenting. I suppose I shouldn’t want to since that makes me as much who I am as any other part of my life. I’m sure my husband would agree, although he might want the singing to stop.
To this day, if those empowering songs come on the radio my daughter says, “I know, I know. The shoes on your feet, you bought ‘em, the clothes you’re wearin’, you bought ‘em. I get it, Moooooooom.” As a parent, I believe my work here is done.
Short bio: Besides my day job as a trophy wife (they give out trophies for anything nowadays), I am also a freelance humor writer and retired attorney. I divide my time between trying to appreciate the absurdity of life’s little mundanities and cleaning gunk out of the bathroom drains magically put there by the house-fairies which I’m sure has nothing whatsoever to do with my three children, one husband, two dogs, and one cat.
Link to my blog: http://blog.timesunion.com/mycape
I recently attended a women’s retreat at our church, St. John Vianney. I needed some quiet time with God to thank Him for all my blessings. Forty other women filled the room. I think all women need some quiet time to reflect. This was our time.
The gals at my table were sharing song books. “Please join us in song 456 in your missal. “Here I Am, Lord,” hymn #456.” The music began and filled the room. This is one of those songs that immediately brings me to tears. Thirty-eight women sang like angels, while two women sang off key. Meet me and my new friend, Evelyn. She sang soprano, while I bellowed in alto. Next verse, I tried to imitate her beautiful voice and went high. She must have thought the same thing about my voice because she went low.
By the third verse, we were a mixture of Celine Dion and Kermit the Frog.
I leaned in and whispered, “I do better singing with men.” She grinned and said, “Me, too.”
By the forth verse, I was tired of trying to sing properly and in tune. I said, “Hey Evelyn, let’s just belt it out.” And we did! She was Celine, I was Kermit. But we sang and God loved us. He may have held his ears, but He gave us these voices to sing.
This all brought back the memory of my mom’s friend, Peggy Bohn. She was a tall, dark-haired woman with a big smile and laugh that could be heard two streets away. Her singing voice was the same. She never worried that she was the deep voice in the soprano pews. She belted out every song from the bottom of her heart. Her voice resonated throughout the church. I often think of Peggy when they announce the hymn at church. I admire her more with each off-key hymn I sing. Peggy had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. She even smiled when her husband, Bud, brought home a raccoon as a pet.
As we wrapped up “Here I Am, Lord,” Evelyn and I had reached an entirely new level. The words of the song were caught in our throats with emotion. Tears were streaming down my face. The other women sounded like a choir from heaven. Evelyn and I sang from our hearts like pre-pubescent boys. Once again, she was high soprano and I was Kermit low alto, and then we switched again. We sang with joy-filled hearts, as we swayed to the music.
When it was over, I spread my arms in exultation. I handed her a tissue as I hugged my new friend. “We did really good on that one,” I sniffled.
Evelyn agreed, “That was our best one yet.”
I think I heard God clapping. Peggy gave us a standing ovation.
— Anne Bardsley
Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause and Angel Bumps. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.
So, I am standing in line at Trader Joe’s. As usual, my quick trip yielded a cart and a half of food, water and wine. I think maybe their carts are too small.
Anyways, I am making small talk with one cashier, when another one walks up and starts chatting and bagging my groceries.
The piped-in store music had Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield playing, and of course, a few hours later, it is still on loop in my head.
“I always loved her voice,” said one of the cashiers. “And she’s right – love is a battlefield!”
Me, laughing, responded by saying, “In my world, it’s only a battlefield when it comes to TV remotes and thermostats.”
And now she’s laughing.
We are strong…
Yes, I am a blessed woman, because we rarely get into a battle about petty things. Maybe 34 years of marriage will do that.
But I was totally serious about the remote.
And the thermostat.
I don’t watch much TV, so that battle isn’t truly a battle. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but my dear husband insists the remote “has the power.” I do like to grab it from him time-to-time and claim, very boldly and loud – of course – that, “I have the power!” while waving the remote in the air.
But the thermostat…
For the first 32 years of marriage, even while stationed in Hawaii, I was always freezing. Well, maybe I am exaggerating. Maybe not freezing. But for sure, most of our marriage I’ve been in sweaters, pushing the thermostat up, up, up, and sleeping under 18 inches of blankets.
No promises, no demands…
However, the last two years, I have been living my own personal summer. Hot flashes are for real. I dress in layers to discreetly peel off my clothes without embarrassing the family. Or blinding innocent bystanders.
From the woman who was happy to be bundled-up, with windows locked tight to prevent drafts and blasting sub-tropic heat through the vents, this change in me is huge. But then again, I’ve written before that menopause has made me a changed woman…
These days, if a restaurant is too crowded or hot, I am not one to stay. When the option to eat outdoors is available, guess where we sit. Ask anyone – they will verify this. In fact, I’d be happy to push the snow off the patio furniture in January and dine al fresco. I can totally see me running the air conditioning in the dead of winter.
I never thought I’d appreciate the fact that I’m running like a blasting furnace most of the time. But instead of being too upset, it dawned on me that it could be great for our marriage! My spouse had to deal with the house being too hot for his liking for years. Now we can appreciate lower temperatures and zero complaints. It will be pure bliss.
Until the other day.
I, being comfortable with the internal temperature, saw him nudge the thermostat up to 68 degrees.
Hmm – that was the highest setting I used last winter. And it’s only fall…
It was then I had an ah-ha moment. My dear spouse spent almost a year deployed in the desert, living with 120-plus degree temperatures. It was what he was used to. Poor guy hasn’t dealt with fall or winter in over a year. So, naturally, he’s going to feel the cool, damp, autumn air like it’s an arctic blast. Me, I am welcoming it with open arms.
And I’m chained to your side…
My vision of our midlife couple-ness having a mutual love for cooler temperatures – after all these years – went out the proverbial window – which I still have open a crack.
Ah, love is a battlefield. So here I am, choosing my battles. He is welcome to the remote. I won’t need it – not this winter anyway. Chances are I’ll be sitting on a block of ice in an igloo in our backyard. With an ice cube in my wine. And a fan. I will envision palm trees swaying as I enjoy endure in my own tropical paradise.
No, I don’t get the remote. He can have it, as long as I get the thermostat! And when I lock it in at a cooler temp, I shall stand back and loudly proclaim, “I have the power!”
— Lynne Cobb
Lynne Cobb is a metro Detroit freelance writer, with articles, essays and blog posts featured in major and local dailies; national and niche magazines; and various Websites, such as Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, HuffPost50 and Midlife Boulevard. Recently, a blog post was published in the popular anthology Feisty after 45 — The Best Blogs from Midlife Women. Keep up with Lynne and her “Midlife Random Ramblings” at lynnecobb.com.
I have texted, I’m heading to the bank, when can I experience you?
I’ve texted, I love to HIV, instead of I love to give.
And when my frustration elevates into the danger zone, am I mad at myself? Of course not! I get mad at Auto correct! Duck you auto cucumber!
Auto correct is supposed to suggest corrections in spelling or grammar.
It isn’t there to finish our thoughts with words it thinks we want to use. We need to be in charge of it. Not it in charge of us.
But that means reading before sending. And based on texts I’ve sent and received, this doesn’t happen that often.
Take this text I received from my sister prior to meeting for lunch: In really pumpkin. Not here.
If you’re wondering what she was trying to say, you’re not alone.
This happens a lot. I receive a text and have no idea what she’s trying to say. I look at the keyboard, hoping to think of the letter she wanted to press but obviously didn’t.
It is close to Halloween, so the word pumpkin, well…maybe that’s a clue?
When all else fails, I simply text back, huh?
We are going on 10 minutes, and neither one of us has moved off the mark.
Realizing all bets are off, I try to mess with her a bit.
I text, bring your pumpkin…really.
Her response… Huh?
I text back LOL.
2 educated, college graduates going nowhere quickly and one of us is an English major.
I think your phone should be able to flash the word, huh? when necessary. Similar to when your computer asks you if you really want to delete something. It would be an alert of sorts that we are sounding dumber than dirt. A last chance to sound smart.
Not only are our phones making us sound dumb, they are also making us annoying, and dangerous. Today you practically need a helmet and certainly a lot of patience to walk from point A to point B.
How many times have you needed to bob and weave your way around the mall, the street, wherever you are, avoiding a collision with an oblivious person, head down and buried in their phone?
And there’s nothing more annoying than being behind a person who is walking and then simply decides to stop short! The pile-up of humanity behind them is akin to a pile-up of cars on the parkway, but without the broken glass.
Huh? How’d that happen, I’m sure they wonder.
I remember hearing about a woman in Miami who fell into an open cellar space because she was walking and texting. Forgive me but when I saw the video, I laughed. Out. Loud.
Huh? she must have said as she hit the floor.
Did you know that it’s illegal to cross a street in Honolulu if you’re texting? A city council member said, “this is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety.”
My friends, we have melting glaciers, the threat of nuclear war, 300 million guns in the USA, and white supremacy rallies. Laws are needed to help us cross the street? Seriously?!
Before crossing the street LOOK BOTH WAYS LIKE YOUR MOTHER TAUGHT YOU WHEN YOU WERE TWO!
In the words of someone who wants to make America great again” …SAD.
Talk about the dumbing down of humanity.
So back to in really pumpkin not here.
Previously to receiving this text, and because I hadn’t read before sending, I texted my sister, are you interested in tight places?
When what I meant to text was, Are you in the right place?
She texted back in really pumpkin. not here.
What she meant to text was, in the right place. here now.
All together now my friends…. Huh?
— Tracy Buckner
Tracy Buckner writes for The Observer Tribune of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills family of newspapers, which serve Madison, Chatham and Chester, New Jersey. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can read more of her musings on her blog: “Aging, Kids, Family and Why We Self-Medicate.”
Joanne Brokaw quickly tapped out a heartfelt essay about how the EBWW changed her life.
We had so much fun — and were so inspired by the creativity of the testimonials and “UNselfies” posted by Erma champions on #GivingTuesday last year — that we’re going to do it again.
The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop will kick off the season of giving by asking those who support the workshop to make a gift and post an UNselfie on social media to encourage others to give on #GivingTuesday, Nov. 28.
“The size of the gift doesn’t matter. We’d love to see broad support from all those who love the workshop and believe in its future. All funds will be used to help keep the workshop affordable for writers,” said Teri Rizvi, founder and director. “Please help us honor Erma in a way that will allow us to reach as widely and as powerfully as her writing and humor have.”
Check out our Facebook album of 2016 “Erma Champions” and get to work making your #UNselfie. Here are step-by-step instructions for creating your sign:
1) Download blank Unselfie sign. Share how you are giving back or why you give on the UNselfie sign.
2) Say “cheese!” Hold up the #UNSelfie sign and take your selfless selfie.
3) Share your #UNselfie on social media and encourage your friends to give.
5) We plan to compile a Facebook album again, so please send your #UNselfie to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make an online gift, click here. Checks can be mailed to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469-7054. If you or your spouse works for a matching gift company, the impact of your gift may be doubled or tripled. Please check here or your human resources office for details.
“We’re continually amazed and inspired by the generosity of all involved in the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop,” Rizvi said. “It’s a community of talented, supportive writers who encourage and empower each other. It’s a workshop that keeps on giving, and we’re grateful to all — keynoters, faculty, attendees and friends of the workshop — for their support.”
I’m an optimist who chases a toddler around all day. I follow him into the kitchen and while he pulls the potatoes out of the pantry, I wash a dish. I don’t wash every dish because I then follow him into the bedroom where he puts a potato in his dad’s pants drawer and I pick up the laundry.
The laundry is the easy part. My toddler likes to help with laundry. He knows how to get the lint out and takes pride in removing, cleaning and replacing the lint screen. Ahchoo! But when I stop him from throwing the fabric softener sheet into the toilet, it’s time for him to throw a fit. It’s hard to argue with a 16-month-old who doesn’t get the difference between a dryer sheet and toilet paper. Let’s hope he figures it out before he’s responsible for his own wiping.
His new favorite game is to take everything out of cabinets and leave them on the floor or place them in drawers and on shelves he deems appropriate. The house gets reorganized several times a day. Just not in ways you or I would imagine. I try to harness his love for this kind of activity and give him the job of placing grapes in the colander for washing before bagging them up for quick-grab snacks from the fridge.
We’re semi-successful. Some grapes get squished. Some get tossed. Some get licked. The teenager in the house now refuses to eat snacks she hasn’t personally prepared. We’ll call this a bonus.
Snack options are laid out in front of him like a toddler’s Old Country Buffet because you never know what he will eat or reject today. Rejected snacks get dropped to the floor. We call this the “gravity game.” It’s only temporary rejection because stray grapes and Cheerios taste better when found later to be eaten with the added entertainment of Mom grilling him about, “What’s in your mouth?”
I wear a Bluetooth headset for taking phone calls because otherwise I’m down a hand or would require a chiropractor after I hang up. This mom’s world is ruled by text — voice text even. If you want my undivided attention, schedule an appointment and bring your own sitter or call me in 10 years.
Nap time is for meeting writing deadlines. Bath time includes extra playtime so mom can sit on the closed toilet seat and read. Unless he poops in the tub.
Between all of these “have tos” in our day, we walk to the park, read books and tumble around in the pillows on the bed. Things are hard in our world sometimes, but I’m filled to the brim with love. At the end of the day, my house may remain half clean but my life, my heart and my wine glass overflow.
— Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer, wife and mom of three kids whose ages span two decades. Her work has appeared in the The New York Times; Brain, Child Magazine; Scary Mommy and more. Her Cincinnati Family Magazine mom blog earned Best Overall Blog in the 2017 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Bonnie is also the communications director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @WriterBonnie or on her website at WriterBonnie.com.
When my kids were young and had already fallen into the expensive habit of eating every day, I came to a sad realization: If people waited until they could afford to have children, the human race would die out.
Now that my kids are grown and have kids of their own, which means I don’t have to feed them anymore, I have come to another sad realization: If people waited until they could afford to retire, most of them would die at their desks.
This, I fear, is the fate that awaits me. My bosses would argue that nobody could tell the difference because I’d be just as effective as I am now. At least they wouldn’t have to pay me anymore.
Still, to get an idea of how long I could survive once I quit my job, or if I’d have to continue working until my kids retired, at which point they could feed me every day, I recently met with Jeff Sena, a regional consultant with Fidelity Investments, a multinational financial services corporation that is based in Boston and does business with the company that, in its limited wisdom, employs me.
“How old are you?” Jeff asked me at the start of the hourlong session.
“Old enough to know better,” I replied.
“Do you?” he wondered.
“No,” I said.
“Then I need to know your age,” he said, “because Social Security won’t accept ‘old enough to know better’ on your paperwork.”
“OK,” I conceded, “I’m 63.”
“You don’t look it,” Jeff said. “And you don’t act it.”
“I’m shockingly immature,” I responded. “It makes me seem younger.”
“I wouldn’t put that on your paperwork, either, or you’d have to work even longer,” said Jeff, who is 65 but doesn’t look or act it himself.
“You’re 65 and you’re not retired?” I said incredulously. “Can’t you afford it?”
“I can, but I love what I do,” said Jeff, who also loves hiking and belongs to the Appalachian Mountain Club.
“You must have clients from all walks of life,” I noted, adding: “People are always telling me to take a hike.”
“You should,” Jeff said with a smile. “But don’t take one now because we have to go over your finances.”
“That shouldn’t take long,” I said, producing the required documents, including bank statements, income information and investment records. “As you can see, I haven’t won Powerball.”
“Neither have I,” said Jeff, who scanned the figures and told me that I have a good RPM.
“My car has a good RPM, too,” I said. “And it will retire before I do.”
“I’m talking about your Retirement Preparedness Measurement,” Jeff said. “But more important than that is your FRA.”
“My car doesn’t have one of those,” I said.
“No,” countered Jeff, “but you do. It stands for Full Retirement Age.
The standard FRA, Jeff said, is 66, though people can draw on Social Security beginning at age 62.
“I can’t draw on anything except my granddaughter’s coloring books,” I said.
“If you were retired, you’d have plenty of time for that,” Jeff said. “But you’d be better off working until you were 70 because Social Security payments go up 8 percent a year until that age.”
Jeff said he could plan a retirement strategy for me until I am 94 and for my wife, Sue, until she is 96. “Women live longer than men,” he noted.
“If it weren’t for my wife,” I said, “I would have been dead long ago.”
Nonetheless, I told Jeff, longevity runs in the family.
“You must have good genes,” he said.
“Of course,” I responded. “My wife does all of my clothes shopping.”
“The question is,” Jeff said at the end of the session, “would your wife want you around all the time if you were both retired?”
“I’d probably drive her crazy,” I said.
“Then you should keep working,” Jeff suggested. “You can drive your bosses crazy instead.”
— Jerry Zezima
I’m referring to that time of year when every buck stalker in possession of a Cabela’s credit card slips into blaze orange and dons a camo headlamp for a few days. It’s a taxidermist’s dream and high season at the Buck Knuckle Saloon — which happens to be right down the road from our riding trails.
So, what’s the meaning of this gun-toting quest for a multi-pointed hat rack? I once thought conceal and carry was what you did when you nicked the last slice of apple pie at Thanksgiving. Yet it’s come to my attention that this isn’t about deer or hunting. It’s about old friends getting together to play cards, wear stinky clothing and raise a toast to old friends.
My own family provided this little line of reasoning. It all started when my father, a retired judge, and three of his Depression-era cronies hatched a plan to make one last trip to deer camp — for old time’s sake. These guys had been making a North woods pilgrimage together since 1945. Incidentally, I cannot recall The Judge or any of the hunting party coming home with a departed deer strapped to the roof of his car.
Anyhoo, on opening day, the senior hunters loaded Alden Losby’s Dodge Minivan with the required Cuban cigars, toilet paper, Bicycle playing cards, a cribbage board and a large rolling cooler full of groceries. Alden traditionally planned the menu, and The Judge traditionally complained that it included too much of his wife Myrtle’s krumkake and not enough steak. Meanwhile, The Judge, who had spent decades dispatching orders from his bench, appointed retired police detective Walt Schwenk to help Alden cook. He then assigned old Ed Witzig to tend the fire and the mousetraps. Ed also brought a handful of bungee cords to keep nighttime prowlers out of the garbage cans. As for The Judge, he volunteered to manage artillery.
It took most of the morning, but the guys finally managed to stuff all their supplies and sleeping bags into Alden’s minivan. With everyone onboard, Alden pointed North to the favorite hideout, Camp Rum Dumb.
After stopping once for coffee in Hayward and a second time to pick up a bottle of bourbon at the Dew Drop Inn, they pulled into camp. Everyone agreed that they should unload the perishables, and check the propane tank before setting out to trail trophy bucks. Only The Judge and Alden carried guns, which seemed like a blessing. Armed with binoculars, Ed and Walt tottered down the fire lane behind the other two. Walt brought a couple of egg salad sandwiches to share, and he and Ed ate their lunch while regaling one another with Camp Rum Dumb tales from years past.
There was the time Ed fell out of his deer stand and landed on a sleeping bull snake. Then, in 1965 a skunk family took up residence under the kitchen sink forcing Alden to move his food prep outside to the grille. These mishaps and a couple of stovetop fires shed light on why nobody ever got around to locating deer. They were beginning to sound like a bunch of birdwatchers.
Once more they hit the trail hoping to finally change their luck. An hour passed with no deer sightings. So, the fearsome foursome decided to go back to camp and set up housekeeping. Ed secured the garbage can lids from wayward raccoons, while Alden and Walt cooked up a meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Ed and The Judge played a couple of hands of gin rummy. It was a perfect day, The Judge later reported to my mother. After dinner, a crackling fire in the fireplace and a drop of bourbon topped off their stroll down memory lane. At midnight, they all retired to their sleeping bags.
About an hour later a clatter arose from the kitchen.
“What is it?” whispered Walt, groping for his glasses. “Who’s in here?” he demanded. “Come out here with your hands above your head!” No response.
The Judge clicked on his flashlight to have a look. Nobody felt compelled to try to capture the intruder. “What’s going on out there?” he bellowed. Just then the flashlight beam landed upon a startled weasel with a salad fork in its mouth. It glared into the light from atop the kitchen table.
“Well, I’ll be,” croaked Ed. “He must have liked the meatloaf.”
Nobody moved a whisker, including the weasel. Finally, the deafening silence was broken with an equally deafening explosion. Walt had packed his old service revolver and chose that moment to shoot a hole in the ceiling. Maybe he thought the weasel would see the new skylight and find its way out.
Nope. Instead, the weasel darted off the table but not out the hole. By this time, The Judge’s flashlight had tumbled to the floor with a loud clank and rolled under a bed. This was followed with a chorus of, “Shoo, shoo! Get out!” as the weasel rounded the cabin and rocketed first into Alden’s duffle bag. Given the rumpus on the other side of the room, they could tell that the weasel had made a second dive into Ed’s sleeping bag right alongside Ed. What followed was proof that an 80-year-old man can run as fast as Jessie Owens when joined in bed by a fork-wielding weasel.
I was almost afraid to ask what happened next. Thankfully the weasel made it out of Camp Rum Dum alive. And, believe it or not, old Ed suffered nothing more than a twisted ankle and soiled skivvies.”
Everyone was relieved that Walt’s gun made it back to the holster with no more action. The Judge promptly locked the sidearm in the trunk of Alden’s minivan to avoid any encores. And so, the four old friends had a fine time deer hunting without firing a shot. More or less. The weasel lived. Camp Rum Dumb suffered a little cosmetic damage, though small wildlife probably appreciated the new cabin entrance.
Oddly, this little caper now makes perfect sense to me. The oldsters might not have bagged a buck. And they no doubt faced plenty of worries and limitations that came with aging. But they sure knew how to have fun with their friends.
— Mary Farr
Mary Farr, a health care marketing executive and retired pediatric hospital chaplain, has devoted her entire career to exploring the worlds of hope, healing and humor. A former director of chaplaincy at Children’s Hospital, Minnesota, she has authored five books, and been featured in radio programs, publications and blogs including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnetonka Magazine, ZestNow.com, TheDailyBasics.com, Humoroutcasts.com and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.