Author: Marsha Wise

An Open Letter to Ernie’s 8th Grade Class

Preface:

When I started my blog I assumed I would be preaching/writing to the choir. Middle-aged women like me would be my audience. As with most things in life, my assumption was wrong.

A few months ago Ernie mentioned (I’d like to think bragged) to his classmates that his mom wrote a blog while in computer class. Suddenly my Google analytics had a whole new demographic coming from a middle school (thanks for the boost in numbers, guys). Since then Ernie’s classmates stop me at school and say, “The cupcake body wash was my favorite.” “Mrs. H yelled at me when I read ‘stud muffin’ out loud.” “When are you going to write a new blog post?” “Sorry about your cat.” “I know where Ernie gets his funny from.”

I’ve been neglecting my blog between writers’ block and not enough hours in the day. It suddenly occurred to me what my next blog post should be about, my teenage audience.


Dear Ernie’s Classmates,

Many of you have been with Ernie since kindergarten. Others joined the class over the last eight years. Tomorrow you graduate from eighth grade and will scatter to the wind and your new high school adventures. By the number of different t-shirts I saw on eighth grade luncheon day, at least twelve different high schools. You will go from being the oldest in a small school to a small fish in a big pond. But don’t let that scare you. That is how life works. After you climb to the top of one mountain you will start at the bottom of the next.

While I haven’t got to spend time with all of you, the last ‘bubble year’ (or as I like to call you, the ‘bumper crop’ year) at your school, many of you hold a special place in my heart. You have made me laugh, think, and be honored to get to watch you grow-up to be the great bunch of kids that you are today. My old-lady brain won’t let me remember all of your names but I’m going to try to remember a few.

Lucy, thanks for forgiving me when I called you by your sister’s name so many times. There are just too many girls in your family! Kylie, I’ve always admired your sense of style. You definitely take after your mom (and that’s a compliment even if you don’t think it is at this point in your life). Julia, even though you wear contacts now I still see the little girl in the big glasses and even bigger dimples. Lindsay, thanks for keeping Ernie in line for me. It’s a full-time job! Jackson, I’m so glad you and Ernie went from side-eyeing each other to being friends. Yes, he is a funny, funny kid! Justin, you make me laugh by just being you. Kaitlyn, you always greet me with a big smile and a hug (especially on ice cream day). Raquel, can you please tell me why every picture I have of you your tongue is sticking out? Dominick, you showed me the responsible man you will become when you jumped in to help at the party last year. Sarah, you were Ernie’s first best friend and I hope you will always stay in touch. Stephen, you always make me laugh. You are a talented young man and a good friend to Ernie. I hope you always stay close (And you’re the only one that gets away with calling me ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha’). Thomas, Ernie’s doppelganger. I hope you never got in too much trouble for something he did because the teachers couldn’t tell you apart. Maybe the two of you can go on double dates with twins one day. Wouldn’t that be funny? Lukas, I think you have been taller than me since second grade! I never see a guinea pig without thinking of Speedy. Caroline R, your enthusiasm when you sing in choir has had me watching you more than Ernie at the concerts. Maddy R, you were one of Ernie’s first friends in Mrs. M’s class. I hope the photos of you, Sarah and Ernie make the slide show. Lily, thanks for reminding me to write a blog post! Please keep reading. If I know you’re reading I’ll be inspired to write. Ava, I’m so glad I will still get to see you dance at BSA! Josh, could you ask your mom not to bring the cowbell to graduation? Thanks!

And, last, but not least, Ernie. In your fourteen years on this earth you have made me happy, sad, exasperated, proud, astonished, mad, thrilled, crazy, surprised, and flabbergasted. And that was just yesterday! (just kidding) Even though you are taller than me I still see my curly haired little boy who’s first word wasn’t ‘mum’ or ‘dada’ but the neighbor’s kid’s name (I mean really, I gave you life and you couldn’t give me your first word?) I see my four-year-old Ernie who saw a horse, but not a pole, and came home from Disney World with a black eye. I have every card you drew for me tucked away in a box (In all honestly I’m hoping you become a famous artist one day and I can sell them to pay for my retirement). I can’t wait for the day we write a book together. We come up with some of the best ideas in the car, don’t we? Since you were five, every time you have taken the stage I have been in complete awe of how talented an actor you are. Even though I cried tears of joy when the acceptance letter from BSA came, in my heart I knew you would get in. You worked too hard and were too focused not to have. Remember to keep up that level of determination and you will go far. I promise. Have I lied to you yet? (I mean besides the Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny thing.)

I remember my eighth grade graduation. We all promised to stay in touch but as we went to different schools, and then later colleges and jobs, the promises were forgotten. I didn’t find many of my eighth grade friends again until Facebook was created. The good news is I have picked up where I left off with many old friends. The better news is you don’t have to wait until you are 30-something to find your old crush on-line and see that he/she is married with seven kids and driving a mini-van. Or your BFF lives in Guam. You have all the tools right in your pocket on your phone. Don’t forget to use the power of social media for good and not just for selfies or photos of your snowball from Opie’s last night.

Good luck, my young friends! You’re going to be fantastic! I just know it!

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

With Love & Admiration,

Mrs. Wise

 

 

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The Next 61 Days

The Next 61 Days

Thanksgiving began the holiday season I’ve been dreading all year after the death of my mother, The Ancient One, in January. You see, all of the “firsts” that everyone warns you about in the first year after losing a loved one hit in the next 61 days. I guess I should look on the positive side and think, “well, I’m just getting them over all at once.”

On Thanksgiving, she wasn’t sitting at the end of the table in her red wool coat because my house is always “so damned cold.” No, Mom, we don’t keep our thermostat on the ‘hinges of hell’ setting like you did. That red coat made her look like Little Red Riding Hood, the AARP years. That coat is the only piece of clothing I couldn’t send to charity. After she had bird picked at her food (she didn’t have much of an appetite the last few years), she’d impatiently start asking for dessert before anyone else had time to finish their plate, much less had seconds.

December 21st would have been her 88th birthday. Mom hated cold weather, and always thought it was unfair she had been born on the first day of winter. She also didn’t like having her birthday so close to Christmas. I’m right there with you this year, Mom.

For as much as she hated winter, she loved Christmas. Growing up, Christmas was an event. She decorated everything from doorknobs to toilet seats. She had so many decorations that we had to clear off tables, shelves, refrigerator magnets, and a few pictures from the walls just to accommodate the multitude of Christmas decorations. And the tree! She had enough decorations to have decorated three trees. But no, she was hell bent and determined that they all go on one tree. The tree alone would take an entire day. No matter how many times I would say, “there’s no more room!” she’d find a spot to wedge in another poor little angel covered in enough glitter to make a stripper say ‘enough’. While cleaning out her house (yes, I’m still at it) I’ve ignored the closet with the Christmas decorations. I guess that I can’t put it off any longer. I need to bring my favorite pieces/memories home with me, to incorporate into my Christmas decor.

Since I was old enough to go out on New Year’s Eve, Mom always insisted that I was to call her at the stroke of midnight, no matter where I was or what I was doing. No excuses allowed. When the ball drops on 2016 I will have to stop myself from reaching for the phone after kissing Stud Muffin.

I know what you’re thinking; New Year’s ends this sad period in Taffy’s life. Nope! Three days into the New Year I get to celebrate THAT birthday. You know the one. The one everyone likes to remind you that you are now a half-a-century old. Yeah, that bitch of a birthday.

Then I finally come to the last first. January 25th. The day she left us at the end of the worst blizzard in years. The day the neighbors banded together to dig a path from her door to the main road, because her tiny one-way city street was impassable. They knew the funeral home was coming to carry her, feet first, out of the house that she had lived in since 1960. She always said that she wanted to die at home and have “McCully’s carry me out of this house feet first.” She got her wish.

In the next 61 days I will also deal with the removal of a malignant tumor on our eight-year-old Lab’s foot. There is a possibility that Molly may lose toes in the effort to save her life. Two days after Christmas, I will have a surgical procedure myself. My uterus has decided to be a complete raving lunatic which refuses to be ignored. I’m hoping she gets her eviction notice. Buh-Bye, Felicia!

I’ll survive. I know I will. Want to know how I know? Because the woman I am mourning raised me to rise to any problem, look it in the eye, and bulldoze through it. If she were here she would tell me, “You can’t change it, so just get it over with and be done with it. It’s only a big deal if you let it be.” It’s a big deal, Ma, a really big deal.

So I cooked dinner yesterday and served the bird on Mom’s turkey platter. I’ll decorate the house down to the doorknobs and toilets. I’ll smile some. I’ll laugh some. I’ll cry some (read: a lot). Maybe I’ll get invited to some of those holiday parties I see on Facebook every year (I use deodorant. Brush my teeth. Don’t cuss in front of your kids. Know which fork to use. What gives?) and get distracted by good friends, great food, and too much wine.

 

 

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Uber Mom

I hate to brag, but I’m an Uber Mom. You know, the mom who leaves snacks on each child’s seat in the car at pick up time. The mom who has never let a GMO pass her precious offspring’s lips. Who did her research and bought her children the same bicycle helmet that Lance Armstrong wears (no amount of performance enhancing drugs will protect the old noggin so you know he wears a good one). Like I said, I am an Uber Mom . . . . NOT!!

No, this Mom tells her tribe at pick up, when they declare that they are hungry, “Good! Maybe you’ll eat what I make for dinner tonight.” And Pop-Tarts are a food group, right?  And honestly, no sooner do you spend five minutes getting the bicycle helmet strapped to their head than they ride four feet, yank it off, throw it in the grass, and declare that it’s too hot to play outside. So why bother?

Rather, I became an Uber driver this week. I spend most of my day schlepping people around for free, so why not get paid to do so sometimes? Yes, when my niece Michele suggested it, I was a little apprehensive. I’ve watched way too much CSI and Criminal Minds to not know what evil lurks out there.   So I did my homework and found out that there hasn’t been a rash of Uber murders (yet) and decided to sign up. I could have started driving sooner, but Robbie yanked on the door handle too hard and broke it. I know my passengers have mostly likely watched Criminal Minds too, so I didn’t want them to think they were being kidnapped when they couldn’t get out. That’s just bad for business.

I decided that on my first night out I would cruise a college town near me on St. Paddy’s Day. What better night to make money than one with a bunch of drunken college students, right? Wrong! In true Taffy-fashion I picked a night during spring break . . . <cue cricket sound>

I did pick up three fares. Ubering (is that a word? Well it is now because I just made it one) has a huge upside: getting to meet people in a macro setting. You have people in your car for 10-20 minutes and dead air to fill. My garrulous side is in heaven. Here are my first three fares:

Ride #1: My first ever Uber passenger was a teenager named Ron. He needed a ride home from his job as a server at an assisted living home. His mom couldn’t pick him up so he had to call an Uber. I told him to tell his mom that a mom brought him home. He told me to be careful and get some pepper spray.

Ride #2: Uber gave me a Dulaney Valley Road address, but the rider icon on the map showed that Connor was standing on York Road, which is around the corner. I was confused. So I may have gone around the traffic circle at that intersection a few times (read five). When I finally found Connor and his fellow 20-something friends in front of the Green Turtle Bar they were laughing as they got in. I assumed the laughter was directly correlated to the waft of alcohol that came into the car with them (sidebar: Stud Muffin wanted to know who would clean up the puke when a drunk hurled. I checked, Honey, Uber reimburses for cleaning and damages. We’re covered.) I was wrong. The laughter was from them watching me on the Uber map going around and around in the damned traffic circle. Eff technology.

Connor’s very drunk friend Megan wanted to know why I was Ubering. I said I wanted to go to Italy next year and maybe I’d write blog post about Ubering my way to Europe or something. She whips out her phone and asked for the URL. I had to tell her a few times. Did I mention she was a little drunk? Well, for the rest of the ride she read “Dead Cat in a Pickle Bucket” aloud to me. I must say, you’ve never really heard your blog posts until a drunken girl reads them to you (Stud Muffin says that makes this a meta blog but I’m not sure what that is. And I frankly don’t have time to look it up. If you know what that is, please explain his geekiness to be in the comments below.)

Ride #3: Her name was Jessica. She was going home after celebrating her friend Allison’s St. Patrick’s Day birthday. She was ashamed that she was calling it a night at 10:00 pm, “It sucks getting old. You can’t drink like you use to.” She was all of 25. I didn’t want to depress her more about the other things that suck about getting old.  I figured that I’d let things like droopy boobs and peeing a little when she sneezes be a surprise later in life.

In taking her home I may have also gone the wrong way down Perring Parkway; in my defense it is an overly wide road and it was dark. When I realized what I did, Jessica was very forgiving, “that’s okay. I’ve done that before, too.”

I went out yesterday and Ubered (see, I’m making new words up as I go) too. The most memorable ride was Mike and his friends. Again, a group of 20-somethings, who didn’t want to walk a half-a-mile to a bar in the rain.

I’ve come to the conclusion that helicopter parents created Uber. We have raised a generation which has become so accustomed to being chauffeured everywhere, that getting a ride to a bar six blocks away seems normal.  Being able to open an app and get a mom like me to pick them up must make them feel right at home. Next time, I’ll leave gluten-free cookies and organic juice boxes on their seats.

P.S. My Uber Driver rating is 5-stars.

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Dead Cat in a Pickle Bucket

 

Daisy

Having a frozen dead cat thawing in my garage was not a situation I would have ever thought that I would be faced with but, yet, there I was.

Earlier that morning, our five-year-old rescued calico cat, Daisy, was having difficulty breathing. An emergency trip to the vet brought the news that she was suffering from congestive heart failure, and there was nothing that could be done for her. I did the humane thing and had her pain ended there and then. I cried into her fur and left, having made arrangements to have her cremated. Or so I thought.

My Three Sons, after learning that she had passed, unanimously put the kibosh on her cremation. “You can’t burn her up!” they declared incredulously. I called the vet and told them the plan had changed, and that I would be back to retrieve her body.

In the past we had buried other cats in old toolboxes in the backyard. It was January and I thought the ground would be too hard to dig, thus the decision to cremate this time. Since I was fresh out of toolboxes, I stopped at Home Depot on the way back to the vet’s for a proper coffin. I gave the toolbox to the vet tech and asked her to please put Daisy in it for me. She returned a few minutes later with an empty toolbox and something wrapped in an old Mickey Mouse blanket.

“I’m sorry. She froze in such a way that I can’t fit her in the toolbox,” apologized the vet tech. It had never occurred to me that they froze the dead pets awaiting cremation. Honestly, this was information I could have gone my whole life without knowing

Upon returning home, I put her in the garage, hoping that she would be thawed enough by the next day to fit into the toolbox.

No such luck. She still had her legs straight out in front of her. We started looking around the garage for an alternative container.

firehouse_subs_pickle_bucke_med“Hey! Do you think she’ll fit in this pickle bucket?” said Chip. I had purchased an empty, bright red Firehouse Subs five-gallon pickle bucket a few years ago (the proceeds go to their Foundation to help improve lifesaving capabilities). And, as luck would have it, she

fit. I hope that Daisy doesn’t mind the slight kosher pickle smell for eternity.

This whole experience does leave me a bit concerned. When it’s my turn to be buried, will my boys go to Firehouse Subs looking for a cast-off pickle barrel at a deep discount? At least they’ll be supporting a good cause if they do.

 

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40 Labor Days – Remembering my Father

It’s be006en 40 Labor Days today since my father chose to leave this world, at the age of 49. I’m just a few months away from my 49th birthday. It happens to also be 40 years to the day. Most people remember the death of someone on the date they breathed their last, but I have long since counted Labor Days. I guess it was easier for me to remember as a child of eight. At that age, most dates didn’t hold much significance except for one’s own birthday.

Unlike today, with the first day of school coming earlier and earlier it seems, back then Labor Day meant the last day of summer before school started the next day. I missed the first day of school that year.

I’ve long since made peace with his choice, but it wasn’t always that way. It took me until I was a young adult to understand Citrus Royaltythat his choosing to leave that day had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t about his dislike of me cutting my waist-length hair short just a week before. Or that my puppy had damaged furniture earlier that day. It was about his own internal struggles, which no one will ever know or understand.

Everyone has a different opinion about suicide. Some think it is an act of cowardice. Others view it as brave desperation. I think the death of Robin Williams last year taught us all a lesson. No one truly knows what’s in the heart or head of another person. We cannot judge anyone’s true happiness level on what they present to the public. Much like Robin, to the world, my father was a happy, always joking, out-going man who called everyone, regardless of gender or age, ‘babe’.

Who Daddy - Wildwoodwas Mike Wight? He was born in Baltimore City, the youngest of three kids. He never knew his mother, as she died in childbirth when he was two. His father didn’t provide much guidance, so he raised himself. Daddy didn’t go past fifth grade in school. He got in trouble one day; the school said that he couldn’t come back until his father came in for a conference. My grandfather said, “My school days are over, I’m not going back,” so neither did my father.

He was a whiz with numbers and may have gone far with his aptitude. We’ll never know. He worked odd jobs to feed himself. A local business owner paid him to sweep her floors and would make sure he had a hot meal. When he was old enough to drive, she had him making deliveries in the company truck. He drove for the rest of his life. Ice cream trucks, delivery trucks, oil trucks, and 18-wheelers.

When the  United States entered WWII, he lied about his age before he could be drafted. He wanted to guarantee that he went into the Navy, with his rationale being that he’d at least have a bed at night. The day after D-Day, the ship he was on, the USS Susan B. Anthony, struck a mine and sunk a mile off of the coast of Normandy. He was never the same person after that, my mother says.

My paMom & Dad croprents knew each other as children and were sweethearts when he left to fight in the war. They were married not long after he returned, and my sister and brother came in rapid succession. I was the ‘late life’ baby, arriving 20 years after my brother. Daddy gave me my blonde hair, blue eyes, and quick wit.

Today, I do not mourn him as much as I am sad for all that he missed. He missed meeting four of his six grandchildren, walking his youngest daughter down the aisle, enjoying an empty nest with my mother, and the freedom of retirement. But maybe I’m measuring my view of being 49 years old against his. I don’t feel that 49 years is nearly enough to do all that I want to do, and I look forward to many more years. Maybe it was the exact number of years for him to feel that his life was complete. It was his life to do what he wanted. Not mine.

At least my mother is free of remembering him today. Dementia has an occasional upside, I guess. I won’t remind her.  That would be cruel. I’ll keep him in my heart and head today enough for the both of us.

 

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