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I was perfectly ok with turning 40

Marie MillardI was perfectly ok with turning 40. It happened last fall, and I didn’t need to dye my hair and try to look 24. I didn’t need to wear yoga pants and use text lingo out loud. I didn’t need to be the cool mom or know who the people on the front of tabloids were. Maybe I was a little proud of my lack of vanity. Maybe I needed to be tested. But could anyone have passed this vanity test?

I pulled into the parking lot of my beloved local grocery store and exclaimed “SMH, it’s senior discount day. I’ll never find a parking space.” It wasn’t easy, and more than one senior stole my space, but I persevered. In the checkout line, and wearing my blue sweatshirt and baseball cap, I chatted with the lady in front of me about whether or not the impulse-buy beef jerky was chocolate covered. “Well, there’s chocolate-covered bacon now, so you never know,” I said wisely.

She paid, and then it was my turn. And remember, I was perfectly ok with turning 40. I was ok with the fact that when “American Idol” started, I was already too old to audition. I was ok with the fact that I’ve probably missed my chance to be in the Olympics.

But here’s what I was not ok with.

The cashier, a woman about my age with a apologetic expression, said, “I’m sorry, I’m new – do you…qualify for the senior discount?”

It turns out I do have a teensy bit of vanity. While I simply said, “No I do not,” I thought, “Does being new make you incapable of guessing someone’s age within 15 years? Don’t you think I would have asked for my discount if I wanted it? Was my banter about the chocolate-covered bacon so full of elderly wisdom that you ignored my smooth skin and the ends of my hair which aren’t gray yet?”

And then I left, and I thought, “I should have said yes and gotten the 10 percent discount.” But I wasn’t old enough to be wise enough to do that. And then I got home and checked the store’s web site to make sure that the definition of a senior citizen was indeed 55. No, I was not old and wise enough to not do that.

It was 60.

And then I thought, “My husband’s going to leave me. I have one foot in the grave. I’m really not going to the Olympics, am I? Maybe I should have applied for the job of the grandma who advertises for Kozy Shack Pudding.”

So, a tip for cashiers everywhere. Let people ask you for the senior discount. Because it’s hard enough getting over being your real age.

— Marie Millard

Marie Millard taught elementary and junior high band for 10 years before turning, in desperation, to humor writing. One would think she would have plenty of material about trombone spit and shrieking clarinets, but it’s still too soon. She has published a children’s book, When I Grow Up, and is soon to publish a YA novel, Anaheim Tales, both under the name M.L. Millard.

Quoth the squirrel, nevermore

Samantha RodmanOnce upon a naptime dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious website filled with mommy lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my front door.
“Tis the UPS guy,” I muttered, tapping at my front door —
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
As my husband was traveling for work, my sanity was in pieces on the floor.
But a sitter was coming soon, giving me a break in the afternoon
And the minute she appeared I planned to run right out my door
A rare and radiant sitter whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.

And the polyester sad uncertain rustling of each Target curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“Tis the UPS guy entreating entrance at my front door —
Or possibly the FedEx guy entreating entrance at my front door;
Amazon and nothing more,”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam,” truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my front door,
Did you not see the baby asleep sign?’ — here I opened wide the door;
My overgrown shrubs, and nothing more.

Into those bushes deep, long I stood there half asleep,
Hallucinating due to fatigue?  It had certainly happened before;
Nobody seemed to be around, but I heard from near the ground
Some rustling and then suddenly the whispered word, “Lenore!”
“What?” I whispered, and again the voice murmured the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the house turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely what I hear is the Amazon box must be here
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;
Tis UPS and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the window, and then, with his paws akimbo,
In there stepped a stately squirrel of the normal furry type
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched beside my Diaper Genie
Perched upon a sleeve of diapers just beside my Diaper Genie
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this squirrel began beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the fuzzy face it bore,
“Though you are quite brown and furry,” I said, “art sure don’t seem in a hurry
Like the usual squirrels that are endearing —
Can you tell me why you’re leering?”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

I marveled but wasn’t fazed, as I hadn’t slept in days
And nothing fazes the mother of three children under four.
But I could not help but noting that it’s rare to get a rodent
Sitting on the Diaper Genie in the playroom on the floor —
Just sitting there and chilling by the toy pile on the floor,
And saying “Nevermore.”

But the squirrel sitting lonely on the changing table, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further did he share — and I started to get scared —
And I scarcely more than muttered “Soon the sitter will be here
At 4 o’clock she will come so I don’t lose my mind as I fear.”
Then the squirrel said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it’s stating has nothing to do with how I’m waiting
For the sitter who promised she would soon be arriving at my door
The texts were clear as a bell and she’ll be coming to my door
She seemed reliable to the core!”
The squirrel murmured, “Nevermore.”

“Now, squirrel,” I entreated, “The sitter’s sorely needed
Because I have to get my hair done and feel like a person once more
Although my children are adorable, their behavior is deplorable
And this sitter seemed more reliable than the other ones of yore.”
Still, the squirrel said, “Nevermore.”

Then I started to getting panicky and the squirrel laughed manically
And his fiery eyes now burned into my lactating bosom’s core;
And I sat there getting madder hearing my children’s pitter patter
Oh for God’s sake they had awoken. Where was the sitter?  Was she joking?
The squirrel whispered, “Nevermore.”

Then, methought, the air grew chilly; I tried to think, “I’m being silly!”
How could this squirrel know if the sitter wouldn’t show up anymore?’
“Wretch,” I cried, “you know so little! This is not some kind of riddle
We agreed she was going to show up on Wednesday just a little after four!
I really felt I trusted this babysitter named Lenore!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of doom!  Why are you spouting all this gloom?
What do you mean in telling me she’s going to no-show at four?
Desolate yet trying my best, I have kept it together with no rest
And now I was delighted just to go and get highlighted
Is there — is there a shot she will show up? — tell me — tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of horror! — tell me, what about tomorrow —
By that Heaven that bends above us — by the naptime we all adore —
Will she leave a message and cry and say that her car battery had died
And then I can reschedule with this sitter whom the angels name Lenore —
With this CPR certified sitter, whom the angels name Lenore?”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, demon!” I shrieked upstarting —
“Get thee back into the unmowed grass and trees outside my home!
Leave no rabies as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! — just scurry out my door!
Stop thy paws from ripping out my heart, and scurry out my door!”
Quoth the squirrel, “Nevermore.”

And the squirrel, never moving, still is sitting, still is grooving
On the stupid Diaper Genie just inside my own front door;
And the sitter never came, never texted, really lame
And my roots stayed just as gray as heathered clouds upon the moor
Now my children have a pet, and I’m not dead from exhaustion yet,
But not getting a backup sitter?

— Dr. Samantha Rodman

Dr. Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Maryland and a happily married mom of three kids under 5.  She blogs on Dr. Psych Mom and has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. Like her on Facebook, and tweet to her @DrPsychMom.

The way summer camp should be

Head shot_potato headWe’ve gotten summer camp all wrong. We are sending the wrong people. Namely, kids. I discovered this years ago when I had my first encounter with summer camp, or more accurately, when I first had to research camps for my kids after my town’s camp failed to be a viable option any longer (they tended to lose kids much like the clothes dryer loses socks — you know, you put both in, but you only get one out).

Admittedly, my camp intelligence was fairly non-existent, but my research that day opened my eyes to the vast, seemingly endless array of recreational activities designed specifically to ensure a spectacular summer experience for those age 5 through 18. There was, quite possibly, a camp for every single activity on earth.

It was then I had the epiphany. Why in God’s name are we sending kids to camp?

If anyone needs a camp, it would be adults. I mean how stressful can life be for a kid? They don’t work. They don’t cook. They don’t do laundry. Or go food shopping. Or even pick their clothes up off the floor. They don’t have a mortgage to pay. They don’t plan for the future. And, most importantly, they don’t have kids. What on earth do they need to get away from?

Among the varied and almost limitless camp options unearthed by my research were a knitting camp, a yoga camp, a tech and gaming camp, a few fashion camps, several theater camps, tons of art and sports camps, and a gifted and talented camp. Then there was a camp to learn how to shape hot molten glass; a rock-and-roll camp training in the important life skills of stage performance; a drumming circle camp, where one could learn “earth-based beats” and chant a “root mantra;” a Tae Kwon Do camp; and a zoo camp. I think that last one is just a way for the zoo to get free pooper scoopers. Well, actually, you have to pay to be a pooper scooper.

But that’s not all. I discovered a Magic for Muggles camp. And, I even found a circus camp, training youngsters in the fine art of juggling, plate spinning and slapstick, aimed at those parents who aspire for their children to grow up to be circus clowns.

I considered submitting an application to one of the camps I came across. The volleyball camp. But it was only offered for 5th through 8th grade girls, and while I look young for my age, I thought the counselors might catch on. I was quite distraught over the situation since my volleyball class adjourned for the summer, and no volleyball courses are offered for adult women with the skill set of 5th to 8th grade girls. Which seemed a little unfair if you ask me. It appeared to be a blatant case of age discrimination.

The one camp that really caught my attention, though, was the Surf and Turf Adventure Camp. This one wasn’t so much a camp as a land-based cruise ship. It boasted a fun-fueled, action-packed summer of rafting, hiking, tubing, biking, canoeing, spelunking and surfing. I’m pretty sure you also got to take a zip-line tour through a tropical jungle somewhere in the continental United States. And, by you, I mean your kid.

And that’s what I’m talking about. Do you think I’m going to shell out $500 a week for my kids to go have all the experiences want to have?

And, that doesn’t even touch upon all the sleep-away camps we’re missing out on.

— Stacey

Stacey is the mastermind behind the humor blog, One Funny Motha, a site she sees as a refuge for rational people. Predicated on the belief that parenting is not nor ever should be an extreme sport, One Funny Motha provides incisive cultural commentary, also known as common sense. Her work has appeared on such sites as The Huffington Post, BlogHer, Scary Mommy and Mamalode, and in 2014 she was named one of the Top 10 Funny Parent Bloggers of the Year by Voice Boks. Perhaps most importantly, she is the proud founder of the Detached Parenting Movement, a child-rearing model she single handedly developed without any guidance or advanced degrees in child psychology. The woman’s a genius. Find her running her mouth on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and, of course, her blog.


The drop-off

Tracy BucknerDuring a recent trip, I sent and received the following texts from friends: “It takes time to get over it,” “There is nothing worse,” “You will have good times and then you will be a crying mess again.”

At the same time, my daughter sat in the back seat of our car texting her friends and giggling. Later, she answered her phone and I heard her say, “Yeah, both my parents are crying, too.”

Thankfully this is nothing as serious as death, divorce or cancer, but rather the yearly trek that some of us make taking our kids to college. The drop-off.

If one more person tells me “I’ll be fine,” I think I will throw up. Of course I will be fine and I’m hopeful I will love my new life, but I’m not quite ready to be on the road to recovery just yet. I’m thinking of starting a support group like AA for those of us recovering from the drop-off.

We could call ourselves DOA — Drop-Off Anonymous. We no longer would have to tear up alone in the car, in the bathroom, making a bed, hiding our tears behind sunglasses, ashamed and alone. We could all do it together — once a week for as long as it took to get a grip. We would recognize and deal with the stages of recovery. We could have sponsors who are fully recovered and would give us hope.

My youngest left last Thursday for college, and I am no longer a sack of drippy emotions. For the last three weeks, most of my friends also have been dropping their kids off at various colleges, and so we are all in different stages of recovery. We’re like emotional cheerleaders for each other. “Hang in there!” “As long as they’re happy, you can be happy!”  Nobody really expects to feel happy, but just knowing that we are all being ridiculous (You’re probably thinking “pathetic”) is helpful.

Those of us who have been through the college drop-off before are familiar with the first stage: denial.  We knew what the “first timers” were in for and tried to warn them. But like children with no point of reference, they had no idea and happily went on their way buying bedding, microwaves, fans and USB ports. The denial stage made them blissfully unaware of what this spike on their VISA bill really meant. Those of us all too familiar with this stage started with the tears weeks in advance of the actual drop-off. We wistfully looked at moms walking their young children to school and wondered, “Where did all the time go?”

The depression phase started the last two weeks in August when were all walking around in different stages of duress. Everywhere I went I saw women who were usually rushing through Shop Rite in yoga pants, sweaty from their most recent workout of Guns, Buns and ABs clutching a phone in one hand and a food list in the other, instead, acting sort of weepy and slowly ambling down the aisles.

We were like zombies anxiously awaiting THE DATE as it loomed ever closer. “When is your date?” I would ask. “Aug. 15, Aug. 21, Aug. 30, they would mumble.  You would think we were sending our kids off to slaughter. Get a grip, I kept telling myself, your new life awaits! My mother said to me, “Get over it Tracy, you will cry for a week and then you will be fine.” Gee thanks, mom.

It’s been two weeks since the drop-off, and I’m in the transition phase of my recovery. During this phase the worst is over. You are calmer and go most of the day without tearing up. It helps that I hear from my kids regularly. Texts will come in at 3 in the morning so my sleep is interrupted but I force myself to remember that I love and miss them so much that I don’t mind searching for my glasses, turning on a light,  picking up the phone to read, “Hey.” “Hey? How do you answer a “hey?” From this profound and well-written message, I can see that they are up at 3 in the morning, and I tell myself the university library is open 24 hours so I know they are studying. I get pictures of food so I know they are eating, pictures of school mascots and 60,000 of their friends so I know they are getting social interaction. No pictures or texts of getting an education, but I don’t want to dampen their mood.

The side effects are receding, and I believe I am into the acceptance phase of my recovery.  I am getting used to putting myself first and there is considerably less laundry. I find joy in the fact that my daughter can no longer use the laundry basket as a drawer. The laundry fairy has been freed.  It makes me smile that my son, a college senior, has to get up before noon and that it will occur to him (on his own, and not by a nagging parent) that if he wants to stay up till 3 in the morning, it may be difficult to function. I practically beam to think that one of the stops in his day is finding time to go grocery shopping. And then, guess what? Dinner just doesn’t appear every night at 6:30! Do I sound giddy? You bet.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I do miss them…every day.  I was never one of those mothers who cheered when the bus came in early September to pick my kids up for their first day of school. But instead of having until 2:30 p.m. to do anything for me only, I have until Thanksgiving. I’m doing things I have thought about doing for years.  I’m taking a writing course, I’m volunteering, and I’m only doing the food shopping once a week! But the best thing about being home alone is the fact that my husband and I no longer say to ourselves, “Can we do this?”  Because, YES WE CAN!  We saw the Kenny Chesney concert at MetLife Stadium, flew to Vegas for a long weekend and have lots more planned on our calendar. We don’t have to worry about who’s home or who may need us. As a matter of fact, upon getting home at 3 in the morning I did something I’ve always wanted to do. I texted my kids, “Hey!”

Recovery is sweet.

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming.

War in the skies

Stacey GustafsonFlying has become tortuous since X-ray body scans, flight cancellations, smaller seats and lost luggage. We travelers are sometimes treated worse than cargo.

But there are strategies to employ in order to survive flying. Southwest Airlines offers an open-seating policy where customers can grab any unclaimed seat. On a recent flight from San Jose to St. Louis, I hatched a scheme. I waited for my number to be called at the terminal, rushed to the first available empty row and grabbed an aisle seat. Then I set a trap like a spider to solicit a seatmate.

Anyone skinny, without kids or a large handbag, and who appeared germ free met my prerequisites. I spotted a possibility and announced to her in a loud voice, “Excuse me. Would you like to sit here?”

“Oh, thanks. How thoughtful,” she said. More like self-serving. But on airlines with assigned seating, your seatmate is a crapshoot. Take a recent Delta flight. Without checking my ticket, I was confident I was in the right row and grabbed a prized aisle seat. I stowed my books, attached the seat belt and waited. And watched. A rather portly man came barreling down the aisle, eyeing my area.

Oh, God, please no. Just keep walking, I thought. Let’s just get it out here — one size seat does not fit all. He lumbered by.

I survived the next wave of crying kids, sneezing teenagers and businessmen with briefcases. A slim, petite woman smiled in my direction. Jackpot, come on over. She fumbled to check her ticket and said, “You’re in my seat.” I checked and rechecked my ticket. She checked hers again. Damn, I had the wrong seat.

I returned to the main aisle and moved down a few rows. Like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a man over 6’4” and 250 pounds was in the aisle seat of my row. I squeezed past Big Guy, climbed over his huge shoes, oversized coat, bulging briefcase and big bag of greasy take-out food. I avoided eye contact out of pure irritation.

Then the flight attendant announced, “Put away all electronics. Buckle your seat belt.”

Mr. Big dug around his seat searching for the belt, knocking me in the chest with his mammoth elbow. “Sorry. Can’t find the darn seat belt.”

A few more jabs to my ribs, and the search was over. I glanced out the corner of my eye to watch him buckle in, no seat belt extender necessary. Whoosh, like a can of biscuits, flesh exploded over and under the armrest and filled in all available spaces.

After removing his shoes and stuffing the extra blanket under my footrest, he asked, “Honey, could you please turn on the overhead light?”

That was his opportunity to snatch my armrest. My skinny arms were no match for his muscular, oversized appendages. I tried to ignore my discomfort and took a short nap. When I awoke, I discovered my tray table down, crowded with a cup of water, a can of soda, a coffee mug with the contents half finished, and The New York Times. An iPad was squeezed to the side, the cord dangling across my lap.

I let out a sigh and fought to keep my mouth shut. Despite its size, the tiny bathroom would be a welcomed reprieve from the cramped setting.

“I need to go,” I said, and rolled my eyes as he removed all his items from my tray table. Then he stood and let me by.

Over the loudspeaker, the flight attendant said, “Due to turbulence, you’ll need to return to your seat, please.”

You’ve got to be kidding.

In my hurry to be reseated, Big Guy moved to the middle seat. Despite his “nice” gesture, sitting in the aisle seat proved as bad. He leaned on me the rest of the flight, bending my spine like a case of scoliosis. I was so far into the aisle my head got clubbed by the drink cart.

Soon our captain announced, “Prepare for landing.”

Once on the ground, I gave Big Guy a smooch on the lips. Then I whispered in my husband’s ear, “Thanks for the terrific vacation,” squeezed his arm and motioned for our kids in another row to wait for us at the exit.

Maybe next time I can be upgraded to first class.

— Stacey Gustafson

Stacey Gustafson is an author, humor columnist and blogger who has experienced the horrors of being trapped inside a pair of SPANX. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the SoulNot Your Mother’s Books, Midlife Boulevard, More Magazine, Better After 50 and on her daughter’s bulletin board. Her book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With An Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives, will be released September 2014. She lives in California with her husband and two teens. Visit and Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.

Do I really look that old?

Ginger TruittLast week, on the occasion of my eldest child’s 21st birthday, I spent most of the day trying to garner compliments.

Perhaps “compliment” is the wrong word. It was really reassurance that I needed.  I didn’t care who said it, I just wanted to hear those magical words, “My goodness, young lady! You do not look anywhere near old enough to have a 21-year-old daughter!”

Truth be known, I was pathetically desperate.  I carefully stopped the gas pump at $19.79. When the cashier handed me the change, I laughed, “That’s really funny!  Twenty-one cents.  My daughter turns 21 today!”

“Uh-huh,” he muttered as he looked past me to the next person in line. If he had had taken two seconds to make eye contact, he would have been shocked to see such a young woman claiming to have a 21-year-old child. Someone really needs to work on their customer service skills.

Next stop was the grocery store. I was picking up the usual — bread, milk, double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream — when inspiration hit.  I stocked the cart with six boxes of wine, two cases of beer and a gallon of Sangria. Nothing says youth like liquor in boxes and jugs.

There are occasions when I get carded even though the sign says, “Any customer clearly under the age of 40 must present an I.D.”

I always appreciate the rare clerk who can’t tell for sure if I’ve reached 40. They will never be hired as carnival age-guessers, but they would do well in any business that requires ego boosting. I should ask them to guess my weight, too.

But on this all-important date, the clerk rang up my cartful of boxed liquor without batting an eye. As she handed me the receipt, I gave her a second chance, “I guess I could have had my daughter pick this up for me. She turns 21 today!”

“Uh-huh,” she chirped, snapping her gum and turning to the next customer.

Glancing at my to-do list, I cringed.

An hour later, I signed in at the front desk.  Required fields were Name, Date and Procedure. I sat in the waiting area, grumbling to myself about the poor magazine selection. Golf Digest, Architectural Digest, Travel and Leisure; who reads this stuff? I wanted something lighthearted to take my mind off of the impending discomfort.  I said to the old man sitting next to me, “I should have brought my 21-year-old daughter’s fashion magazines.”

He responded while turning the page of his AARP mag, “Uh-huh.”

Suddenly, I became aware of some commotion at the desk.  Two receptionists and a nurse glanced furtively in my direction while whispering over the sign-in sheet.

Finally, one approached me.

“Are you Mrs. Truitt?”


“What procedure are you here for?”

“A mammogram.”

“The problem is, we don’t do mammograms here.”

“But I’m certain I’ve been here before.”

“Yes, ma’am, you were here two years ago for a scan of the soft tissues in your neck.”

“Oh. So, where would I have scheduled my mammogram?”

“I’m sorry, I really couldn’t say.”

“This is so embarrassing!  I guess I’m just really distracted because my daughter is turning 21 today.”

“I understand,” she reassured, “the same thing happened to my mom once.  She said it’s just part of getting old.”

— Ginger Truitt

Ginger Truitt’s award-winning column has appeared weekly in Midwest newspapers since 2001. She has also been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, church newsletters, her high school newspaper and, most notably, the Barry Manilow fan club magazine. Follow her on Twitter (@GingerTruitt) or check out For the past two years, her columns have won awards in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual competition.

Notes under the door

Anne BardsleyOne of my favorite things when my kids were younger was finding notes under our bedroom door. They were usually folded and taped shut. They were addressed to either Mom or Dad and only that person should read them.

That was because they were usually complaining about the other one. I’d get my coffee and prop myself up to enjoy the latest correspondence.

One such note from my daughter told me I needed to get my own brain and stop listening to dad. He was so unfair for sending her to her room for calling him a “d*** weed.” She meant it as a joke. He has no sense of humor.

She ended the note with, “DO NOT show this to Dad.”

When we’d go out of town, sweet notes would appear. “I’ll really miss you, but I want you to have a good time. Please don’t forget me.” (A picture was enclosed for each of us.)

Another note to “Dad Only” suggested that he be in charge of allowance. “Mom wants us to do chores and you just give us money, so let’s just get allowance from you. Mom can do the chores. It will be much easier. This can be our secret. DO NOT show this to Mom.”

The notes continued to flow as each child grew. Often there were apologies. “Mom, I’m sorry I was rude, but you ask too many questions. I am old enough to stay out until midnight with my friends. I shouldn’t have to call you. Am I still grounded? I said I was sorry.”

More notes followed. “Dad is so mean. Everybody skips school. It’s part of growing up. I should not have to miss the dance this weekend just for that. I love you so much, Mom. Please talk some sense into Dad. DO NOT show this note to Dad.”

“Dad, I didn’t mean to sneak out last night to meet Joey. Before I knew it, the patio door opened and I was locked outside. He just came over to help me get back in. Then we were laying on the sofa to get some body heat. We were just getting warmed up when Mom thought we were making out and sent him home. So not fair! Please tell her I would never make out while you guys were sleeping. DO NOT show this note to Mom.”

“Mom, there is a boy sleeping on the sofa. His name is Matt. He had a fight with his mom and needed a place to sleep. He’s really nice, and it’s only five degrees outside so I told him he could sleep on our couch. Don’t wake him up. He had a really bad night. Tell Dad, too.”

“Dad, I’m sorry I called you a butt wad. You are a really good dad. Sometimes you just act like one. I probably should have said you were being a jerk. I will remember that next fight. DO NOT tell Mom about this.”

“It’s not easy living in this house. I have homework, sports and chores. If you wonder why I’m grumpy, this is why. Life is too hectic for me. Please write an excuse note saying I have measles. Then I can stay home from school for a week. Tell them it’s really bad and I am very contagious. Then I can get happy again. ASK DAD to sign it, too. I love you.”

“I wish you never married Dad. Why didn’t you marry a fun husband? I am so tired of cleaning my room to his standards. I don’t care about the Army way. I am not in the Army. He’s not in the Army. Tell him to get over it! It’s my life and I can have a messy room if I want to.

P.S. I think I have a mouse in my room. Can you ask Dad to catch it, please?”

Now that they’re all grown, I really miss those little notes.

I don’t know if I should tell them that.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

The city bus

Sarah HoneySometimes in life you find yourself in the most random situations. These random adventures always find me or I find them, some for the good, some for the bad and some for the funny. It’s not an everyday experience or is it?

Traveling to an unknown city or place is hard enough, let alone navigating public transportation. Well, I’m always up for an adventure. However, it’s usually a bit more planned.

I was in San Jose, Calif., for the Blogher conference, and people recommended that I go to Santana Row. It’s a great outdoor shopping area full of restaurants and cafés.  Hello, shopping!  I was on it!  I had time while I was waiting for my friend’s flight to come in. I figured I would scope it out, shop and find a place for us to have a delicious lunch.

I showered, got dressed and left the room. I had read on the Fairmont Hotel’s web page that Santana Row was about three miles from the hotel and a shuttle was available. I asked the concierge how to get to Santana Row, and he told me to walk to the end of the block for the bus. I didn’t think much of it since there were four hotels at the end of the block. I guess I thought it would be a shuttle bus for all the hotels in that area.

I waited for the shuttle bus to come, and I got on. The driver said, “$2 please” in broken English.  I said, “Do you have change for a 10?”  He said, “No, do you want to buy a $10 pass?”  I said, “No,” and he responded, “Just get on.”  Since I’m a fabulous listener, I did just that! I turned the corner and walked farther onto the bus. There was no turning back, or getting off.

Oh, boy!  This was in no way a “shuttle bus” for the hotels.  It was the city bus.  The CITY BUS!

All the seats were filled with passengers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and I stood out to them as a stranger. It was obvious I didn’t belong, and I had no clue where I was going.

As I looked around, waving my $10 bill and asking if anyone had change so I can pay for my bus fare, no one spoke up.  They just looked at me as if I was some kind of cute and adorable alien from a different planet.

I thought, “Wow, these San Jose people are so rude. No one has change? Seriously?” So, I asked again, “Seriously no one has change for a $10?” I mean I wasn’t asking for anyone’s first born!  I was asking for change for my $10 bill. Finally, after my third time asking the fellow passengers, an older women spoke up and said, “That’s gonna be hard to find change for, sweetie!”

I slowly looked around the city bus, looking carefully and not too long at anyone. No one understood me in my quest to find change for my $10 bill.  They weren’t being rude; they couldn’t understand me. I was an alien to them. They were just people trying to survive in this world. Just like I was trying to survive on the CITY BUS!

The bus drove down the street, stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. The bus was completely full with only standing room left. I was lucky enough to find a seat next to a homeless woman with all her bags and a shopping bag full of toilet paper rolls. Bless her heart. Each time we stopped to pick up passengers, I asked the newest passengers like a broken record as they walked by me for change for my $10 bill. No one had change.

Finally, a gentleman with dirty clothes and hands, some facial scrub, and broken English handed me the $2 bus fare.  A total stranger who couldn’t speak English placed the $2 fare in my hand. I was shocked that a perfect stranger would give me money.  I said, “Thank you so much sir, but I can’t take your money.” He didn’t understand me and kept trying to get me to take it, but I couldn’t. I could tell he worked hard for his money. I was shocked by his kindness to help a total stranger who didn’t need his money. I didn’t ask again for change for my $10 bill. I figured I would just buy the $10 pass and leave it with the driver in case someone else didn’t have the $2 fare.

And, just then, the mom, dad and a toddler girl sitting across from me reached in their wallets and gave me the change I needed.

Kindness!  I was amazed that strangers would go out of their way for others. At the next stop a gentleman in a wheelchair and his caregiver got on the bus. Four people had to get out of their seats so the gentleman could board. No one complained or said a word.  They just got up and moved. One of the uprooted passengers was an elderly woman with a cane who was traveling with an elderly man. I got up and gave the woman my seat. She smiled, thanked me, touched my hand and said, “Don’t get old, dear. It sucks.”

And the next few stops went just like that.  Kind of like musical chairs. People got on and people got off — and the kindness for others was amazing. I had no clue I was getting on the “City Bus,” but I’m glad I did. Kindness still exists in the world, sometimes in most random places. But if you keep your eyes and heart open, you’ll find it.

And that makes me happy!

— Sarah Honey

Sarah Honey is a writer, blogger, adventurer and “queen bee,” who writes the popular lifestyle blog, Thank You Honey: Adventures in Mommyhood.

Reflections of Erma