This House


We bought our modest little house 28 years ago. We bought it from a family with three young kids. At the time, the house itself was only about 5 years old. When we went to see it, it was messy and filled with toys. There were socks on the floor, if I remember right.

We bought the house. We filled it with our three children. We filled it with two cats, several good dogs and a lot of family and friends. We filled with our lives, messes and all.

SONY DSC

Yes. There was lots of finger painting in this house.

Over the years, we haven’t done a lot to change the place. We haven’t had much extra money at any point, so our improvements have been limited to repainting the walls, adding a few new windows, putting our hot tub on the deck.

Slowly but surely, we have also changed the yard. When we moved in, the front yard was guarded by seven towering white pines and one big choke cherry. There were no flower gardens at all. Since then, we have had five of the pines taken down and have added perennial beds, rhododendron, tons of wildly growing forsythia and even a vegetable garden and a strawberry patch.

irises

Finally: a good patch of perennials!

The yard where our boys used to play baseball for hours has become a fenced in space for the dogs. The rock garden where I once planted little “hens and chicks” has turned into a thriving raspberry and blackberry patch.

Over all these years, our yard has been filled with birthday parties, baseball games, a trampoline, countless piles of leaves and several scarecrows. There was even an ice hockey rink for several winters. Our yard has sported Christmas lights and Halloween pumpkins and even a few May baskets.

But the wheel of time has turned, around and around again.

The house has guarded us as we have aged. It has seen the sadness as the dogs and cats have died off and been replaced by eager, loving puppies. It has seen the children grow from squabbling toddlers to rebellious teens.

It has stayed steadfast and ready when the children eventually moved out. Like me, I believe that the house was waiting for them to come back.

Over these many years, this little house has held in our grief and kept us safe. It has watched us celebrate births and weddings and countless holidays. This little house, set in the middle of our mostly wild yard, has rocked to the sound of music created by our sons and by their friends.

It has held in the wonderful smells of Sicilian Easter Pie and Christmas octopus. Of meatballs and Chinese dumplings and roasting chicken. It’s walls have somehow expanded when the place was filled with young people celebrating the birthdays of our grandchildren. It has always seemed to me that the house itself has loved the times when it has been well and truly filled.

Kids cooking

Cooking for Nonni’s birthday.

 

This house has seen its share of abuse, too.

It has been peed and pooped upon by humans and animals alike. It has had chocolate icing smeared on its walls and Southern Comfort regurgitated upon its floors. It once had a child’s hand go right through a pane of glass.

This house is a home.

It might not be elegant, or stylish, or worthy of a photo shoot. But it’s a house whose walls need noise and life and delicious smells and voices and laughter.

I love this middle class, not quite rural place. I love the slightly off kilter walls and the weird little nooks that the builders left in. I have grown to love the narrow closets that barely hold our towels and the spidery garage where we store so many tools.

I love my house. The only house I have ever owned and lived in.

And that’s why Paul and I have decided that when the house falls quiet, it will be time for us to move on. When the children are grown, and the parties have stopped, it will be time to pack our bags.

We love this house.

We don’t want it to fall silent, or to become sad.

When we aren’t cooking dinners here, when we aren’t hosting family and friends, when the music has mostly stopped, then we’ll tell each other that its time.

Time to cut the grass, pull the weeds and get the garden ready for another season. Time to clean out the garage, give away the extra dishes, put the photo albums into a big plastic box and call a realtor.

When the house is quiet and sad, that will be our time. Our time to move on to the next phase, the next step, maybe the last step.

And if all goes according to plan, that will be the time when we sell this funny little house to a young family with loud and messy children and maybe a shedding dog.

We owe this house at least that much.

 

 

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Keeping Nonni Humble


Oh, man.

Every time I think I have really mastered this “watching and nurturing kids” thing, something happens that forces me to be totally humble.

Totally. Humble.

As in, “This is way more than I could even begin to handle in any world I have ever envisioned.”

Yeah.

Yesterday I was Nonni in charge of my three year old granddaughter, her four year old friend and our one year old grandson. It was challenging but wonderful. The two girls laughed, played, shared toys, argued, snacked and were generally the epitome of young children learning to cooperate.

It was great.

I put out snacks, I mediated a few arguments, I made lunch. Mostly, though, I was a cheerleader.

“You guys shared those toys so well! I’m so proud of you!”   

“You are so good at taking turns!!!”

I thought that the fabulous day was due to my wonderful Nonni-ness. I went to bed last night patting myself on the back for my superior child management skills.

Then today dawned. If you have a secret universe where there are rainbows, unicorns and little tiny children who cooperate without effort……..Well.

Then you are completely delusional. And you have never met an actual child.

I know this because I woke up this morning feeling relaxed. “Oh, I only have my own to grandchildren”, I thought. “It’s like a day off.”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahaha

No.

This one short day of child care, which Nonni started with a feeling of smug confidence, turned out to be one huge exercise in keeping Nonni humble.

Holy chaos, Batman.

I won’t go into every detail, but let it be said that Nonni has had her commupance.

I thought it would be a good idea to quickly throw together a little nightstand that I had ordered online. What I didn’t know was that the maker of said little nightstand failed the “Impossible-to-follow-Ikea-test”.

I tried. And tried. And covered the entire kitchen table with said random pieces of nightstand.

I attempted to follow the “oh-so-simple” directions which are provided for free without ONE SINGLE word of explanation in any language.

Today it was roughly 900 degrees outside, so we had our AC running as well as it could. We had fans running. Skylights were closed.So it was only about 85 degrees in the dining room where I was fighting to the death with the nightstand directions. I was a big, fat, old lady sweat ball by the time I had connected the first two pieces.

By this time, I have to brag, I had already fed breakfast to both kids, cleaned the kitchen, thrown in a load of laundry, and set up a glo-in-the-dark racetrack.

But I spent my morning trying to build the world’s tiniest and most useless nightstand. I was determined to get it done.

In the meantime, I had set the timer for potty training and taken the toddler to the potty three times , made breakfast for two, served that breakfast, cleaned up said breakfast, washed two faces, pulled out a bag of toys and cleaned the kitchen.

The day went on with pretty much the same rhythm. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 43, change a poopie diaper. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 52, serve some goldfish snacks. Put the dog out. Let the dog in. Wash faces. Repeat.

I hammered, hugged, sweated, served, screwed in useless screws, mediated fights over crayons, changed diapers, took Ellie to the potty, let the dog out.

For a while, I thought I was OK. I thought it was working out.

Then Ellie asked for a new snack. Yet another snack. A wicked messy snack.

“Nonni,” she asked with her big innocent eyes fixed on mine.  “Can I have some yogurt?”

Shit.

I mean, really? Healthy, wholesome yogurt? Of course I said yes. I said yes even though I knew that Johnny would want to do exactly the same thing that his big sister was doing.
I gave Ellie her vanilla yogurt cup and a spoon and set her at the dining room table. I took off ALL of Johnny’s clothes, put on a big, set him up in his highchair with its big tray. I put the yogurt and a spoon in front of him.

I went back to nailing in useless nails and gluing useless connections. I let the kids eat.

Then I looked up.

“I’m all done!” chirped Miss Ellie with her nice clean yogurt cup and her clean spoon in front of her.

“MMMMMMMMMM” said Johnny, with vanilla yogurt on his cheeks, his ears, up his nose and into his hair. “MMMMMMAHHHHH!”

I dropped the useless hammer and the pointless nails, ran into the bathroom and turned on the tap in the tub. Back to Ellie and Johnny, grabbing spoons and yogurt cups and hustling both of them into the bathroom.

I thought I was pretty cool. Mostly exhausted, but still pretty much on top of things. I had (mostly) made the stupid waste of money nightstand. I had fed the kids and entertained them and kept us all mostly cool in the desperate jungle heat.

Now I dropped the yogurt covered baby into the tub, and helped his big sister climb in with him. I scrubbed, I shampooed, I scraped dairy products off of key body parts.

It was only noon, but I had already had a long day. I was silently patting myself on the back as I sat back to watch my grandchildren playing. “Nice,” I told myself, “I have helped them to share, to learn from each other, to appreciate the special relationship that only siblings can understand.”

And then.

“What’s that?” asked Ellie, pointing into the tub full of bubbles, toys and …..meatballs.

“OH.” I said. “Um. I think Johnny pooped in the tub.”

In a feat of athleticism rarely seen outside of an Olympic stadium, Ellie hurled herself out of the tub with a bloodcurdling shriek.

I was left with the fallout.

*************************************************************************************

So. Now the kids have gone home. The tub has been cleaned, the toys are put away. The sink is filled with hot water, bath toys and white vinegar.

I have a martini in my hand.

Every time I think I have it all figured out, the kids find a way to keep me humble.

kids

Don’t get too comfy, Nonni!

 

 

 

Happy Labor Day


I have to admit. I have not always been a big supporter of labor unions. At one point in my life, I served on my local School Committee and was charged with negotiating a new contract with our education union.

I admit it. I was frustrated by the union, even though at the time I was a teacher myself. I thought that sometimes they were more focused on themselves than the kids. It made me angry.

But a couple of years after that experience, I took a class on the Industrial Revolution. We went to a bunch of mills, tenements, factories. We read a lot of first hand accounts of the young men and women who worked in these places. We learned about the originally altruistic intentions of the factory owners.

And we learned what happened when competition began to make it harder and harder for the owners to maintain those rich life styles. We learned about the increasingly long hours that were required from each worker, and of the decreasing salaries.

I was surprised to learn that when it became too expensive to pay local workers, the factory owners turned to immigrants to fill those jobs. At the turn of the 20th century, millions of desperately poor immigrants flooded into the United States. Legally. All were welcomed, because they were hungry enough to provide the endless hours of working hands that the new factories required.

Men willingly went to work gutting fish, shucking oysters, canning fish. Women and men signed on for 90 hour work weeks in the textile mills, spinning, weaving, cutting cloth. And children went to work, picking berries, harvesting potatoes, working in the mills and factories of the newly affluent United States.

Our class looked at photos of those immigrants working in our new industries. I saw these.

And I thought about how I would feel if my children were forced to work as these little ones were, just so that our family could survive.

I was shocked. I was brought to tears. This could have been my child. My Italian child. Instead of snuggling in my arms and reading books, or going to kindergarten to learn how to share, my child could have been in this field.

picking-berries

When I learned all of this, when I found out what had happened in my country just around the time that my family arrived from Italy, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow.

How could this have happened? How could children and desperate mothers be forced to work in such terrible conditions? How could this be the story of my country?

Luckily for me, our class went on to study the labor movement. We read “Bread and Roses” and “Triangle“. We learned about corporate greed and about desperate workers. We read letters and news reports and books and stories.

We learned about the people who stood up for their basic human rights.

We were taught the story of the American Labor Movement. And I was able to shake off my grief and embrace the power of united workers, united and supportive average Americans.

The professor taught us about the first Labor Day, and the significance of it’s recognition.

So.

I no longer feel frustrated when teachers demand a quiet place to work and plan. I no longer think that unions are simply self-serving.

Now I know that in the absence of workers’ unions, we would not have a forty hour work week, or mandated weekends. We wouldn’t have sick time, or vacations, or health insurance.

We would have no child labor laws. Can you even imagine?

Now I know that on Labor Day, we need to look at the tender faces of those little children working endless hours in terrible places. I know that we need to pull up the images of five and six year olds facing a life of physical labor, with no hope of education or betterment or a happy and healthy future.

Happy Labor Day.

I hope that on this Labor Day you will enjoy your cheeseburgers and your families and your ice cold beers. But I also hope that you’ll take a minute to think about the 146 young workers who died in the Triangle Fire. I hope that you’ll spare a thought for the thousands of little children who labored in our textile factories and our fish canneries and our berry farms.

I hope that you will raise a glass to the Union movement and that you will give a silent salute to those workers who fought and suffered and sacrificed so that we could have a weekend like this one.

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Dear CVS, I Hay Chew


Generally speaking, I live a pretty easy life. I’m retired, I get to spend the days gardening, reading, playing with my grandchildren. I don’t have many stressors.

And that’s a damn good thing, because the ONE huge issue in my life is my ongoing war with CVS.

The trouble started a couple of years ago, when my Mom realized that it was time to give up her car keys. She came to this difficult decision after her kids and grandkids gently persuaded her that she had become a menace to herself and to everyone else on the road.

It only took a few weeks of endless haranguing, but Mom eventually agreed and gave up both keys and car.

Phew.

At that point, I had the brilliant idea that we should switch Mom’s prescriptions from the local CVS to the online Caremark/CVS system. Smart, right? No more worrying about needing a refill every thirty days, because with Caremark, we can get three months worth sent right to the house!

No more multiple texts to figure out who can pick up the medicine, and who can call the doctor to reorder.

So.

Smarty pants me went online and signed Mom up for Caremark. Awesome!!!!

I checked all the boxes, filled in all the information, clicked where I was supposed to click.  Thirty days later, right on time, Mom’s three medications were refilled! Huzzah!!!!

Annnnnnd….30 days after that (even though CVS/Caremark had sent us 90 days worth of meds), Mom got a call from her local store asking her if she wanted to refill her scripts.

Huh. I thought I had clicked the “no longer refill at local CVS” button….Oh, well. No big deal. I called Caremark and spoke to a nice lady. She promised to fix things.

One peaceful month passed, and then, you guessed it. CVS called Mom again. She got confused but figured they knew what they were doing. So she got refilled AGAIN.

This time I called both CVS and Caremark. The local store promised to take care of it and change the status in their computer.

But Caremark, the same place I had called four weeks earlier, told me that they couldn’t speak to me about my Mom.

“But you did speak to me a month ago.”

“Well, we can’t speak to you now. You need to prove that you have power of attorney.”

“Uh…Will her medicine be refilled when it’s due?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Grrrrrrr.

Fast forward about 4 weeks. My older brother has sent proof that he has power of attorney. I have walked into our local CVS to explain the situation. I’ve been reassured that they won’t try to refill her meds at the store any more.

Time for the Caremark three month order.

Which did. not. come.

Double grrrrrrrrr.

Log back into Caremark, click more boxes, check more checks, remove Mom’s phone number and replace it with mine. Fill out the “Automatic Refill” form. Again. Put my name on as “medication manager”.

Feel satisfied.

Until Mom calls to tell me that……CVS CALLED HER AGAIN TO REFILL THE MEDS!!!!

This has been going on for months. Months, I tell you!!!!

I have called the local store 3 times, been in there twice, called the 1-800 corporate number twice and gone to CVS online at least five times.

The last time I went into Mom’s local store, I begged the pharmacy lady, “Please, please, forget you ever knew Mom! Pretend she died! Can you mark her record as deceased??”

They were horrified, but I was getting desperate.

I swear, I don’t know what to do!

Two weeks ago I had to get on line again because one of the Caremark medications, one that is marked “automatic refill”, failed to refill.

SCREECH!!!!

Got that sorted out without resorting to any felonies.

And three days later I got a text from CVS. The store. The one that is supposed to  think that Mom has crossed that rainbow bridge. The exact same frickin’ text that I have been getting every thirty days for eons.

“If you want to refill your prescription for C, text YES. If not, text NO.”

I kinda lost it.

I texted back, but it wasn’t NO. It was something more along the lines of “What the FUCK is wrong with you people???”

Answered with: “Invalid response.”

This went on for a while.

“Go to hell!”

“Invalid response.”

“Stop bothering me!”

“Invalid response.”

“Never darken my door again!”

“Invalid response.”

“I fuckin’ hay chew.”

“Invalid response.”

Finally I started to feel a little silly. Also a little vindicated. So I texted NO and figured we were set.

Nope.

Mom called me yesterday, feeling confused and embarrassed. It seems that CVS, or the tiny brains that run the place, must have decided that I was too insane to deal with. So they apparently dug out the old phone number that I had spent a year getting them to delete. They called my poor Mom, who tried to tell them that she didn’t need any refills because her kids are taking care of it.

I can’t even imagine how that conversation went.

Because not only did CVS decide to refill the meds, they also decided that Mom needed a welfare check. So the poor lady got an unexpected visit from a local police officer.

Yeah.

I will not report on the conversation I had with CVS after that. I just hope this time they believe that Mom is “in a better place” and they don’t try texting Heaven to see if she needs more blood pressure medicine.

CVS.  I seriously hay chew.

golden_rx_pharmacy_symbol_mortar_pestle

 

 

I Feel Useful….


I love watching my grandchildren. I love it so much when their Momma drops them off at my house and leaves me in charge. I. Love. That.

I love it for all of the obvious reasons, of course. The kids are cute, sweet, fun. They hug me, they make me laugh, they snuggle up against me and tell me that they love me.

I love feeding them, and washing their sweet little faces after I do. Naturally, I am thrilled when they ask me to read to them or sing to them or snuggle with them. Being Nonni in charge is so fun!

But.

I realize that there is something else going on when I readily, happily, joyfully agree to watch the kids unexpectedly.

Here’s what I realized today, while Ellie and Johnny were dancing around in my living room.

I realized that being Nonni-on-duty makes me feel useful. It makes me feel like I matter.

On summer days when I am at home alone, with no grandchildren to watch and no students to teach and no job to rush to, I find myself feeling pointless. Oh, I have my list of chores, and they are all significant in their own way. “Stain deck,” “Wash siding,” “Call Comcast Again,”  Laundry, shopping, gardening, canning summer’s bounty, cleaning closets. They could all be called useful, I guess.

But in my heart, when I am crossing each chore off my list, I am feeling useless. I am feeling that I could so easily be replaced by a local teen or a small business or a better cook.

I can’t help it. When I am at home, with nobody here who needs me, I feel completely pointless.

But bring on those grandkids, baby, and everything changes.

Ellie needs me to pour milk! Johnny needs me to hold him! They look at me, and it is as if the sun has risen and poured its golden light over everything. When they are here, I am not the old teacher lady who was put out to pasture. I’m not the middle aged woman with fibromyalgia and arthritis and whatever else is going on that week.

Nope. When those two beautiful little people are here in my house, I am Nonni. I am the giver of hugs, the reader of books. I am the funny lady who runs up and down the darkened hall with flashlights on, screaming about monsters who chase us. When they are here, I am the one who kisses the bumps, the one who laughs at the jokes.

I am the ONE. The center of their small, protected universe.

When my grandchildren are here, I am Nonni.

I have a purpose. A job. A role to fulfill.

They convince me, with one hug, that I am important to the world around me.

kids

“Nonni, we are making dinner! Can you help us?”

Try To Remember….


….the kind of September….

When I was a teacher. Try to remember the late August days that used to bring me anxiety, excitement, joy, a sense of purpose, lost sleep and far too many credit card charges at Michael’s Crafts.

I do remember.

I remember what it felt like to watch those precious days of summer begin to fade. I remember the excitement of facing a new school year.

I remember seeing my class list, and recognizing some of the names. I remember knowing some of the siblings of “my” kids. Knowing some of their parents. Recognizing the faces and thinking, “how can she be in fifth grade already?”

I miss those days. I miss them.

I miss the little heart flutters that used to come with printing out the tags to go in each hallway cubby. I miss the pleasure of opening up new boxes of clean, pure notebooks.  I miss throwing out the old broken crayons and replacing them with new, whole, optimistic replacements.

I miss the new books. The clean desks and shiny new pens.

I miss it.

I miss the long walks that I used to take in the week before school started, memorizing my list of students in alphabetical order. Walking, and reciting, and walking some more. “Adams, Bates, Cohen, Chevaliar, Dulakis…..”

I miss the first day of school, when I would look each child in the eye and tell them how nervous I was about meeting them. I’d tell them about waking up at night, worrying that they might not like me. I would laugh as I told them about picking out my first day of school outfit, and changing my mind five times before the first day.

I loved being a teacher. I loved the joy of taking a group of disparate souls and helping them to form a cohesive classroom unit.

Mostly I miss those completely unexpected moments when all 25 of us would break out in laughter.  I miss the hugs. I miss the snacks. The history lessons, the incredibly touching and surprising written words. I miss the smiles, the frowns, the pushing back against my “authority”.

I was a good teacher. I loved being with my students every day.

I wish that I hadn’t been pushed out of my classroom by an insecure and over controlling administrator.

I wish that this was that week when my stomach would fill with butterflies and my heart would skip some of its beats. I with that I was in my classroom, placing name tags on desks and getting ready to know and love and laugh with a whole new group of inspiring young people.

I remember what it felt like to come to the end of August knowing that you were about to enter a demanding and fulfilling September.

I remember.

And I’m sad.

I wish that I was one of those lucky teachers spending this week opening boxes of brand new markers.

I miss it.

photo

My old self……

Lunch With Donald Trump


I’ve been trying to dabble a bit in fiction writing.  I’m not real good at creating the old “story arc”, but I do OK with dialogue.

I was just watching the President on TV.  And I got to thinking.

What if I had been Donnie Trump’s fifth grade teacher? I wonder what the conversation would have sounded like at his lunch table. I think it would be something like this:

Jack: That essay was really hard.

Donnie: Not for me. I wrote the best essay ever written. It was incredible, believe me.

Jack: Dude, you finished it in five minutes.

Donnie: Because I’m fast. I’m the fastest. That’s why the teacher loves me so much.

Dylan: (snickering) She hates you.

Donnie: She loves me, believe me. Many kids are saying it. She says nice things about me. The nicest.

Suzie: Actually, I heard her talking to the Principal, and they were both saying you’re a pain. They said you’re “challenging” and we all know what that means.

Donnie: The Principal is very low IQ, very low. He’s not smart like me. Many kids are saying, and I’ve been saying it for a while. 

Suzie: Then why did you tell us yesterday that you’re going to win the Principal’s award this year, because he’s such a good judge of intelligence?

Donnie: I’ve never trusted him. Never. He’s a disaster. I’ve been saying it. People have been saying it. 

Jack: Well, the teacher hates you, too.

Donnie: She’s a real lowlife, that one. Nobody likes her.

Jack: We do!

Donnie: Believe me, nobody does. Nobody. She’s slime. Scum. The worst. 

Jack: You’re an idiot.

Donnie: This is a witch hunt!

The kids all get up and move to another table, leaving Donnie alone with his soggy fries.

Donnie: (muttering to himself): They’ll see. They’ll all see. I’m a genius and they’re all gonna pay. They’re all my enemies.

The lunch bell rings and the kids crowd toward the door. Donnie drops his trash on the floor and shoves a first grader out of his way so he can be at the front of the line. She cries, but he ignores her. Head held high, he swaggers out the door and onto the recess field.

Walking over to a group of giggling girls, he yanks the hair of one and pokes his finger into the ribs of another. As they yell at him to stop, he grins.

Donnie: (to no one in particular) The babes love me.

I can’t help it. Every time the President of the United States of America opens his mouth, I feel like I am right back in an elementary school classroom, trying to figure out the best way to deal with a “challenging kid.”

And, for the record, I have never, EVER met a kid anywhere near as “challenging” as this one.

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Don’t be fooled by the innocent look.

Speak UP!!!!


I try not to complain, I swear I do.

I try not to be that old lady who gripes about “kids today.” Cuz for the most part, I’m actually a really big supporter of “kids today.” I think our next generation is wonderful! They’re philanthropic, socially aware, politically liberal, creative, spiritual and generally adorable.

They make great music, great beer and wonderful cannabis butter.

I love the millennials!

Except…

What. Is. With. Those. Voices?

It’s not the men (sorry….I swear, I’ve been a feminist for decades!)

It’s the women.

It’s the recent speech fad that has taken over the women on radio, television and in far too many casual conversations.

As a former speech/language pathologist, I always pay attention to the way people speak. I tune in to pitch, to intonation patters, to the rate of our speech. There have always been habits or fads to the way public figures speak.

Can’t you picture those old WWII news reels, where the guy speaks with the rhythm of a machine gun? His voice would go up and down in an exaggerated intonation pattern in an almost singsong tune. Listen to two minutes of this 1940’s newsreel and see if I’m right. Politicians from those years spoke the same way, but they also had the same fake New York/London/Boston accent mashup. Picture Cary Grant or Bette Davis.

Am I right?

If you jump forward to the 1960’s, the TV and radio voices became slower, more mellow. Both men and women spoke at a low pitch. Their voices were smooth, mellow, drawling and sultry. Everyone tried to sound that peaceful and calm at that time.

I was just a kid, but even back then, I remember loving those TV voices. They sounded like real maple syrup pouring out over a stack of pancakes. See what I mean in these old ads?

I don’t think I noticed any other verbal styles or habits after that time, although I’m sure there were lots of little quirks.

It wasn’t until the past three years or so that my aging and increasingly cranky ear has been caught by a verbal trend.

And this one is making me insane.

See, all the young women on the air today sound like they just swallowed a frog. Every sentence kind of trails off and ends on a pitch so low that their voices scrape along the gravel.

They all sound like they smoke too many cigars.

It’s awful.

It’s terrible for your vocal cords, in the first place. Don’t these women want to be able to sing along with Rhiannon Giddens in the car? I mean, jeez.

And it’s terrible for comprehension! Especially for old folks like me. When these young whippersnappers drop their pitch that much, I lose the whole conversation.

And its just so freakin’ trendy! You know?

Last week I took my Mom out for lunch at our favorite local spot. We were enjoying out pad thai and our shrimp curry, but I couldn’t make myself ignore the conversation taking place at the table behind me. Not because it was so fascinating, but because both of the young women were speaking in glottal fry.

“I only have two weeks left before my (picture the sound of a frog here) school year staaaarts.”

“I know! I already have my classroom just aboooout reeeeeady.”

I could hear their vocal folds shredding. And even though they were young, enthusiastic teachers, I wanted to strangle the life out of both of them.

OK. I am old. Yes, I complain. Fine, I’m cranky.

But, holy annoying mindless stupidity.

Listen to this please. Tell me I am not alone in bemoaning this horrible vocal scourge.

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What Would I Do?


I remember one of my favorite classes, back in high school. We were asked to pretend that society had never been created. To pretend that there was no government, no social order, no bureaucracy.

Our teacher put us into small groups of three or four kids, and told us to set up a social order that we would find comfortable. I remember that she used the word “comfortable”. Not “fair” or “profitable” or “stable.” She went with comfortable.

I remember that my group of young, idealistic, foolish kids created a “social order” where people were expected to work in a way that gave something back to the group. People would be asked to create some kind of productivity (food, technology, infrastructure) that would make life better for the group. Then those workers would get food, shelter, health, safety, education.

It seemed so simple.

We were teenagers living in a time of idealism and hope. We thought that the lessons of the 1960s had been valuable. War is not the answer. Love is the key. Share what we have. The world is a very small blue planet that we all share.

We were beyond naive.

Still.

If you ask me today what it is that I would like to see from my government, here is what I would have to say.

I want to live in a place where the “government” is made up of regular folks. Where we take turns serving and then we go back to the “real world.”

I’d like to live in a country where the sole purpose of government is the provide security, health, safety, peace to the majority of the governed. Where laws are designed to create equality of access. Where companies and corporations are viewed simply as groups of workers to provide products to the people. Where those products are valued based on how much they needed. And when they are no longer needed, those products and those companies would fade into history and would be replaced.

So I guess if I was the one in charge, I would have stopped all the petroleum based corporations way back in the 1960’s, when the first evidence of global warming was being discussed. I would have had my government throwing its weight into renewable energy.

I bet if I was the one in charge, I would have shied away from letting private companies rake in millions and billions on medical discoveries. In my simple, naive world, medicine would be seen as a benefit to the people in the society, not as a source of riches to a tiny few.

If I was the one who had designed our society, I am pretty sure that I would have made sure there were no “parties.” I would absolutely have tried to design a system where two groups of rich and powerful people weren’t able to be in charge of everything.

Most of all, if I had been the one to create this system of government, I would have set it up in such a way that it would have been a lot easier to scrap.

Cuz I have to be honest. I am sick and tired of being the ping-pong ball in the endless game of “which party has the worst villain.” At the moment, all I know for sure is that it will be a very cold day in hell (global warming notwithstanding) before I will cast a vote for either of the corporate owned parties in charge of things now.

What a freakin’ mess.

Makes me yearn for those innocent days of high school, when we still thought things could be made better.

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What Gender Roles?


I love being a grandmother. I mean….jeez, I love it! I get to adore my grandchildren without worrying every minute that I’m ruining their lives. (Yup. I remember being a neurotic Mom.) I get to play, make a nice mess, then have the evening to put things back in order.

I get to feed them. A lot.

I love that.

I love watching them grow. I love watching them change, and learn new things. I love seeing which parts of them are nature and which parts are pure nurture.

Ellie, at the tender age of three, is a bit cautious and very sensitive to feelings and moods. And she’s dramatic.

She also loves to solve problems. She has a certain tenacity that lets her scream in frustration while trying to put things together, then sob in outrage, then pick up the tools and start again.

She works with her tongue in the corner of her mouth, frowning and humming as she tries to figure out which piece goes where. She does NOT quit.

When she’s done, she often looks up at me and says, “I did it!!!”

She loves to dress up, she loves to dance ballet. The more glitter, the better, as far as Ellie (“I’m Elsa and Anna right now.”) is concerned. She loves hair ties, and jewelry and plastic princess shoes with high heels.

And she loves blocks, trains, cars, fitting things together and tool kits. She loves to cook, to plant flowers and to defeat the bad guys with her magic.

She is a warrior woman. She is all things that a strong, brave, beautiful, self-confident young female should be.

Warrior Woman Child

Yes, I am using a drill while dressed as Ariel. Why do you ask?

Hooray for letting kids choose their own way. Hooray for telling young girls that they can be sparkly superheroes who defeat the bad guys with drills and high heels.

Hooray.

And while we cheer for the power of little girls, let’s embrace the power of little boys to choose their own paths, too!

Our little Johnny is only a year old. He can walk, climb, throw a ball, drive a car, play the drums and smack his Nonni in the head with a block.

He hurls himself backward into whatever is behind him, whether it’s the couch, a blanket or a pile of bricks. He kicks, he squeals, he eats with both hands.

He seems like the traditional description of “all boy.”

But.

He also looks at his Nonni from across the room. He tucks his little chin, grins and toddles across the room with both arms wide open. When I scoop him up, he rests his cheek against mine and coos, “awwwwww” as he hugs me.

He puts his toys to sleep on the sofa pillows. He feeds them and sings to them and rocks them.

Johnny sings and dances when any music comes on. He asks me to sing when I rock him to sleep, but if he doesn’t like the tune, he sits up in my arms and puts a hand on my mouth. He likes gentle, repetitive songs that have words he can imitate. “Blue bird, blue bird, at my window” is one of his favorites.

He is sweet.

When he was here with me the other day, without his big sister or his Mommy, he found a headband of Ellie’s in a drawer. “Ah”, he said, handing it to me. “Ah” . He tilted his head forward, so I’d put the band on his head.

Then he started to dance. There was no music playing, but he knew that on most days, he and Ellie would dance to the music on my computer.

He twirled, he raised his hands, he picked up one foot at a time. He was delighted to be dancing in the sunshine of my living room, all by himself. He was dancing for his own pleasure.

Then his internal ballet music must have stopped, because he bent down to pick up a toy car.

Johnny

“One pirouette and Vroom!!!”

“Vrrmmmmmm!” he announced, his headband still delightfully in place.

Kudos to the new generation of parents, who let their boys dance around in pink tutus while their girls use the drill. You all give me so much hope for a happy, more balanced future.