Aging in Place?


My mother is 91 years old. She is still happily living in the house she and my Dad bought in 1962.

She is dealing with dementia, some small health issues and increasing frailty.

But she is safe at home. In her chair, on her porch, surrounded by the walls that held our family of 8 for so many years.

In many ways she is incredibly lucky. I think that many people of her generation have always planned to “age in place”. To live and die in their one beloved home.

I understand that urge. I understand my Mom’s attachment to this place, to her anchor, to her best memories.

But as I make may way through this house, the place where I was raised and from which I launched my own life, I am swept with sadness.

I see images of my 5 siblings gathered around the kitchen table. I remember our arguments, our jokes, our little annoyances and our small joys. I see my Dad, so happy and proud, grinning at Mom as she served dinner to the brood.

My heart hurts.

And I wonder.

Is it really the best thing to stay in place until the end?

I ask this question as I find myself moving through my own house today. The house that my husband and I bought 31 years ago. The house where we raised our own three children into adulthood. A house, a home, filled with so many memories.

I love it here. I look out into my garden and remember that when we moved in here, there were no gardens. I am the one who planted the day lilies, the forsythia, the coreopsis and coneflower and phlox and lilac.

But.

Walking around this yard fills my heart with memories. And it makes me sad.

I walk by the backyard, now filled with blueberry bushes. I remember walking here with my baby boy, the first year that I ever planted my own tomatoes. That little guy, nearly a year old, loved to pick a fresh, warm tomato and bite into it as he stood there barefoot in the grass. I can still see him.

He turned 31 years old today, and I struggle to let go of the image of his golden haired smiling baby self.

I move around to the side of the house, remembering my baby child, my last born. I can see him throwing a baseball against the wall. I can hear myself yelling at him, complaining that he and his friends were cracking the siding.

I remember pets that are long gone.

I remember a sweet, tender, heartbreaking little boy from next door and I remember his shocking death at the tender age of 25.

So many sweet things happened here.

When I walk our dogs around the block, there are ghosts all around me. Ghosts of Halloweens past and birthday parties and giant storms. Ghosts of neighbors long gone, and children now grown.

Ghosts of young adults falling in love, and the tears that came with those experiences. Shadows of lessons learned and echoes of lessons lost.

Now my house is also filled with the memories of my grandchildren, who have spent so many days here in my care as their parents have gone to work. Another layer of ghosts pulling at my aging heart.

And I am beginning to wonder if I really want to “age in place.”

Paul and I have friends who have managed this part of life with more grace. Some have moved to new and excited places where they are creating their “next phase” lives on islands and in exotic foreign lands.

I watch them packing up their middle aged lives and moving on with joy.

And I am envious, and a little jealous and aware of the fact that if I had it to do over again, I would have sold this nice little house right after our children left it. I would have moved to a new place, to start a new life, to find my next steps.

For me, the idea of “aging in place” has lost a lot of its charms and now feels like an anchor that is holding me down.

Photo by Devon MacKay on Unsplash

Sitting on the Deck on a Summer Night


I am sitting outside, on our deck. The sun is slowly sinking behind the pine trees. The sky has gone from pale blue to a deep and peaceful navy.

I tilt my head back, breathing in the summer smells of pine needle and grass. A hermit thrush is singing in the oak tree right behind me.

This is a peaceful moment. A calm and gentle pause in the panic that has become our reality. I want to embrace it, to hold it against my stuttering heart, to use these smells and these sounds as a buffer against my fear.

But as hard as I try to block out the world, my memory jumps up and ambushes me. I find myself sitting on this quiet deck, with my eyes closed, fighting against the flood of tears.

I remember Paul and I sitting out here, a couple of months after we’d moved in. We were a young couple then, with a baby girl and a boy on the way. This was our first and only home. We sat outside on a beautiful summer night and we looked up at the stars. Every promise, every hope, every dream was right there in front of us. With our arms around each other, we we secure that our future would be joyful.

And I remember lying out here on this deck with my three young children, gazing up at the Perseid meteor showers, watching the magic as it appeared above us.

I remember parties and dinners out here on this deck. I remember my first collection of potted herbs, arranged carefully in the corner, catching the rain and filling the air with their nurturing fragrance.

I remember our first dog. I remember when that dog ate a pair of expensive hockey gloves. And I remember when he was too feeble to walk up and down the stairs of the deck into the yard we had so lovingly fenced in just for him.

I sit quietly on this deck, with the summer air hot and wet around me.

My mind wants to hold onto this moment, but it keeps wandering back to other summer days.

I remember how excited and happy we were to put a hot tub on this deck, and how many wonderful ice cold evenings were soothed in it’s hot embrace.

I remember.

The old hound dog is gone now, no longer in pain as he made his tender way down these steps. The hot tub is gone, it’s inner workings lost to a leak and the ravages of New England winters.

And those children are grown, up and out and on their own.

So I sit here, looking up sadly at the branches of the oak tree that has sprung up like magic in the place where my favorite white pine used to be. I look into the woods, and see that the clearing where I used to watch the hawks circling is now completely closed off by the branches of maples and birch.

It is a beautiful summer evening. I still have this sturdy deck and these lovely trees. I reach out with all my soul, looking for some peace and a sense of security.

I try.

But, missing the past, and the false sense of security that it gave me, I give up and go back inside.

Maybe the fall will bring me a better feeling of hope.

Time to Stop Blaming Myself


I grew up in an Italian Catholic family, which means that guilt is my middle name. I grew up feeling guilty for an unmade bed, a missed homework assignment, and a mean comment tossed out to one of my siblings.

I grew up feeling guilty for being a terrible athlete, even though I was a decent musician and writer. I grew up feeling that my testy moods were my fault, although I understood that the hormones of adolescence were the likely culprits.

As I grew into adulthood, I shifted my guilt feelings just a bit. I learned to feel bad about myself if I ate an ice cream cone, knowing that I might get fat (guilt) and not look as lovely as I was expected to look. I learned to feel a deep sense of guilt for every mistake, every emotional outburst and every weak moment experienced by my kids.

Guilt, a feeling of deep unworthiness, was my defining characteristic.

But you know what? I sort of got over that feeling, for the most part. At some point in my 50 year relationship with my husband, I realized that he wasn’t actually upset with me for gaining a pound, missing a bill, having a bad day. He accepted me. He didn’t expect perfection from me, and I slowly, slowly learned to let go of the same expectation of myself.

And being a mother changed my view of my worthiness, too. My kids were great. They were happy, healthy, loving and secure. They were far from perfect, but for some reason, that was OK with me. In return, my own lack of perfection as their mother didn’t make any of them look at me as if I was a bug under a shoe. Instead, they taught me to laugh at my cranky moments, to embrace my human mommy self and to accept the fact that life has some pretty rough edges.

I have been evolving for about 6 decades. You’d think I would be pretty secure by now, right?

Enter the thought of physical frailty, and I am right back in my most guilt wracked days of self-loathing.

You see, when I was growing up, we all admired those older folks who remained hale and hearty. My uncle, who cut down a giant oak tree in his yard at the age of 70, was a family hero. My Nana, who lived on her own until the age of 99, and who took no medications, was a superhero.

I thought, for some reason, that my own aging experience would be just like theirs. I keep active. I eat well. I am always learning and thinking.

I thought that would do it.

But when I found myself struggling with ongoing pain and fatigue, and eventually was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I immediately asked, “What did I do wrong to cause this?” It felt like my fault, although I have no idea why that is true.

In the past few years, I’ve added a minor heart issue and two unrelated blood disorders to my medical records. I am smart enough, and informed enough, to know that having an inherited blood disorder can’t be my fault. I understand that having a condition labelled “idiopathic” means that even the highly trained doctors I meet with have no idea why this has hit me.

I still feel responsible. Deep in my heart, I constantly ask myself, “If I had just gone to a pilates class, would this have happened?”

Now I find myself on the scary edge of the cancer world. I have a very early, well contained, breast cancer. I need a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. It’s fine. It’s not like, “real” cancer. It just has to be dealt with.

My treatment is slightly complicated by my blood issues, meaning that before I can be treated by the surgeon and sent on to the oncologist, I need to meet again with the hematologist. There will be some extra blood tests and some platelets transfused.

Not a biggie.

I’m not scared (although I’m not happy, either).

But I do feel guilty.

I know it’s stupid. I know it.

But as I lie awake at night, pondering the next few months, I find my thoughts running along a familiar track. “If you had just worked out more……” “if you didn’t drink alcohol……” “Why didn’t you become a vegan?”

I don’t understand this thinking at all.

When my family and friends run into health issues, I never, ever, ever blame them for their bad luck. I don’t.

So why do I blame me?

I don’t know.

But I do know that I need you guys to respond, and to tell me that at 65 years old, stuff happens. People get sick. They get injured.

It’s life.

It’s not my fault.

Right?

It’s Time For a Divorce.


Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

Dear United States Congresspeople,

We have a request.

Could you guys please, please, please just stop screaming at each other for five minutes? Please?

Democrats, we understand. You are really upset because the Republicans won’t participate fairly in your investigations of all the terrible things the Republicans have been doing for the past decade or so. We get it.

Republicans, we know how you feel. Those mean Democrats keep trying to make you look bad and demanding that you self-incriminate. We know. 

We hear you, loudly and clearly. “WE want bipartisanship! But not if it means we have to work with you guys!” 

We hear you. 

But guess what?

We are tired. Tired of trying to keep track of all the ways you are investigating each other. Tired of hearing you accuse each other of destroying our democracy. Tired of the bickering, the name-calling, the finger-pointing, and the constant rage.

Because when you get right down to it, none of what you are doing has anything at all to do with governing. None of it is about democracy.

We hired you guys to do a job. 

According to the Constitution of this nation, that job is pretty specific and pretty limited. You’re supposed to make the laws that govern us. You’re supposed to control the budget.

You’re supposed to work together to get both of those things done.

We are pretty sure that the job description does NOT include running an endless string of investigations on each other. You aren’t the freaking FBI (we pay their salaries, too. We want them to handle the investigations.) And the job description doesn’t include constantly monitoring each other, censoring each other, taking positions away from each other, or tweeting about each other.

We remember the Whitewater investigation. We rolled our eyes through one Benghazi investigation after another. 

At this very moment, we are watching you fight like snarling dogs over a planned investigation into the horrific events of January 6th. Yes, we know. SOMEBODY needs to be digging into what happened that day.

But the FBI is doing that already. DC police are doing it. Arrests have been made, trials are scheduled, a few people are headed for jail. Good.

Why do you feel like YOU have to dig into it yourselves? For justice, you say? For transparency, you declare. 

But we wonder if there’s another reason. 

We wonder if you have all simply come to enjoy the constant limelight? Maybe it’s become kind of fun to see yourselves on TV every ten minutes hurling accusations at each other? 

We wonder if perhaps you hope to raise as many millions of our dollars as possible by convincing us that the other side is trying to “dismantle our system of government” and “end our way of life”? 

Honestly, we are beginning to feel like children caught up in the world’s most dysfunctional family battle. We feel like kids who are constantly being pressured to choose between Mommy and Daddy as they fight all day. We can see that Daddy can be a bully sometimes. We know that Mommy isn’t as supportive as she should be. We get it. Mommy and Daddy are very very unhappy. We feel bad for them.

Meanwhile, though, we need to know that someone is taking care of things. We need our parents to stop screaming long enough to pay the bills so we don’t end up on the street. We need them to work together to keep food on the table. 

In a deeply troubled family, it is often in the best interests of everyone for the parents to get a divorce. To step away from the heat, away from the rage, away from the self-serving focus on the sins of their partner. 

Dear Congress, 

We wish you’d get a divorce. We wish you’d stop playing tug o’ war with our lives long enough to pass some laws.

Seriously.

We’re kind of in a crisis here. We need a REAL plan to deal with the climate disaster. We need a unified approach to stopping this horrifying pandemic. We need the people with the power to make the difficult decisions that will keep us afloat.

We need clean water. We need safe streets. We need healthy, safe school buildings. We need to have our roads and bridges fixed and the pipes under our cities updated. We need access to fresh food. We need healthcare, for the love of God.

We are paying you to do those things. You are living off of OUR MONEY.

So stop talking about arresting doctors. Stop calling each other Nazis. Enough with the threats to lock each other up, kick each other out of office, impeach each other, and shoot each other.

Just STOP.

Honestly.

We’re pretty sure that if you can’t shut up and start doing your jobs, we might need to bring in a third party to mediate this whole mess.

How Being Old Helps Me Get My Steps in Every Day


Photo by Kamil S on Unsplash

A few years ago I noticed that a lot of my friends were wearing big, rubber-encased watches. I saw those friends gazing at their watches as we strolled through various gardens and along a few beaches.

“This is a Fitbit!” one friend told me. “It measures my steps, keeps track of my heart rate, counts calories and reminds me to drink more water!” 

Oh.

As a confirmed non-athlete, I was unimpressed. 

Fast forward several years, however, and I found myself the slightly abashed owner of my own pink Fitbit. Covid was raging, and as a good Italian woman, I had spent several weeks trying to cook my way out of danger. I was, shall we say, getting chubby. Or to quote my adorable three-year-old grandson, I was “nice and squishy.” 

So I got a Fitbit. I vowed to slim down. I promised to count my steps.

If you are even a little bit aware of current fitness ideas, you will know that a “fit” person is supposed to take a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. With a Fitbit on one’s wrist, one can carefully plan where to walk in order to reach the magic number.

At first, the very idea of walking so much seemed out of reach. I mean, really? I live in a small house, how many steps could there be in the average day of an average old lady?

It seemed somewhat out of reach, I’ll be honest. I thought I’d have to go “hiking” in order to reach the magic number. My young, healthy sons told me about how they had to plan extra walks to make it that far. In the middle of the worst lock-down days, one of them even made a video of himself walking around and around in his own apartment, book in hand, just to get the last couple of hundred steps.

I thought that hitting 10,000 steps would be a major stretch for my aging, squishy self.

But, guess what? 

I underestimated the physical benefits of being old. I did not anticipate the wonderful impact of a wicked bad memory.

As it turns out, people my age take a whole boatload of extra steps every day. 

I’ll give you an example.

This morning, with my Fitbit on my wrist, I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen. I turned on the coffee pot, then realized that I had left my phone in my room. Back to the bedroom, where I noticed that my bed wasn’t made. Took care of that, went back to the kitchen for coffee. Remembered the phone again. Back to the bedroom. Decided to do laundry, so I grabbed the hamper and headed downstairs to the laundry room. Back to the kitchen, where I poured the coffee and sat down to sip. 

And I realized that I still didn’t have my phone. Back to the bedroom.

You get the idea, right? I took around 500 extra steps, just trying to grab my phone.

In the course of a single day, a nice mature person like myself might go into the bedroom five or six extra times. We might go all the way into the garage to take a chicken out of the freezer, then come back upstairs after leaving said chicken on top of the dryer. And down we go again.

So, see?

It is actually way easier for older people like me to hit 10,000 steps than it is for our 20 something kids to get that far. 

I might still be “squishy”, but you better believe I am getting way, way, WAY more than 10,000 steps a day just going through my day.

Grace Under Pressure?


You know, when I’m daydreaming and sort of just fantasizing about life, I picture myself as a person who would display enormous grace under pressure.

I imagine myself hearing scary news and reacting in a calm and measured way. “Well,” I imagine myself saying to my doctor, “I’m just so happy that I live in a time when there are good treatments for this disease.”

I see the looks that my dear family would share. “Isn’t she amazing?” I imagine them murmuring. “So brave.”

When I picture myself (too often these days) facing a world on fire, a world where the grid has gone down and the food supply chain is broken, I see a strong, brave woman. I see myself channeling my inner Ma Joad, bracing myself to face the danger with a sturdy back and an unflappable courage.

In my head, I am always serene but strong. I do not waver. I smile through the darkest moments. I rise above the challenges that face me, ready to take on any struggle in order to take care of those I love.

I am, of course, completely full of shit as far as this fantasy is concerned.

I know this because for the one and only time in my life (so far), I have a couple of minor medical issues facing me. I am not dying. I do not have a terminal illness. I sort of have more of an annoying few days of medical tests to make sure I don’t need some medical intervention.

Should be nothing.

But it’s something.

The reality of my life is this:

I am not a serene, calm, accepting older woman who is ready to take on any challenge. Instead, I am a scared, whiny, weepy mess of a woman who wants to curl up under my covers with a box of cookies and a glass of wine. I want my kids. I want my mommy. I want a boatload of m&ms.

I am disappointed in me, to be honest. I’m afraid that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, I won’t be the one to organize the neighbors into a rescue force. I won’t be the kind and wise lady who sets up a foraging team to feed the kids in town. I doubt that I’ll be the resilient leader who looks at the reality of the situation yet manages to stay hopeful in the face of disaster.

I suspect, to my chagrin, that if I get scary medical news in the next few weeks I’ll start whimpering and I won’t stop until I’m either all alone or no longer capable of whimpering.

I don’t want to be a horrible and wimpy aging human. I don’t.

But I’m not sure how to turn myself into the person I see in my head.

Any suggestions?

Finding Joy in Small Moments


It’s really, really hot outside. It’s so humid that going outside feels like taking a nice long walk through a bowl of soup.

A hurricane is on its way up the coast, washing away our planned boating trip off of Cape Cod.

My local hospital and doctor’s offices have been completely screwing up the first potentially serious procedure I’ve ever had to have done.

And I just finished an 8 week excruciating process to wean off of a medication that helped me with pain, sleep and anxiety.

I’m cranky, kids. I’m wicked cranky.

But you know what?

We got bunnies this year!

I’ve lived out here in semi-rural Massachusetts for over thirty years. I’m used to seeing deer out there. Don’t get me started on the ever present squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, mice and raccoons. We see skunks, foxes and coyotes. We’ve even had bears a few times.

But this summer is the summer of the bunny rabbit. Adorable, soft, bright-eyed little bunnies are everywhere, twitching their little bunny noses and flashing those little white puff ball tails. We have bunnies living under fallen brush, beneath the branches of our overgrown rhododendron and snuggling in the tall grass at the edge of the yard.

And they make me smile every time I see one.

Sure, having a tiny ball of fur hopping around has been known to turn my dogs into slavering, howling beasts, but even that is kind of funny.

Just now one little bunny friend, whom the kids and I have named “Lily”, was calmly working her way through a patch of clover about two feet outside of our dog fence. Bentley and Lennie were hysterically barking, racing back and forth along the fence, threatening to tear her limb from limb.

She just kept munching.

I had to laugh. The dogs were determined to get her. She knew they couldn’t.

I loved it.

For a few minutes I forgot that the Gulf of Mexico caught fire this week. I stopped worrying about the ever increasing number of clinically insane members of Congress. I even forgot to be mad at my doctor.

Just a fluffy little bunny, but her sassy attitude sure turned around my bad mood.

Now I need to go see if I can find some turkeys. Those things are freakin hilarious.

Self Reflection or Self Loathing?


Photo by Albert Dera on Unsplash

When I was a teacher, a great deal of my time was taken up with helping children to manage their social lives. A lot of time was spent helping the kids deal with their anger and frustration as they interacted with other kids.

I have a very clear memory of one intervention. A little boy had been somewhat unkind to his classmate. He didn’t think he’d been mean, of course. He thought that he had just stated the obvious. But his “obvious” was painful and cruel, and his classmate was in tears.

I let each of the kids express themselves, without interruption or response. Then I addressed the child who had been rude.

“Do you think you should apologize to your classmate, and tell them that you didn’t intend to be hurtful?”

His response was unsurprising, but it was also frustrating.

“Why do I need to say that I was bad?”, he asked.

I took a breath.

“Nobody is calling you bad,” I began. “In fact, I know you well enough to know that you are not a bad kid. You are not mean. But your words hurt your classmate.”

It took some time, and a good deal of patience. But eventually, this little ten year old child was able to apologize for the actions that had caused pain. He was able to talk to me about the fact that he hoped he could learn not to say hurtful things.

So.

Self-reflection was a gift to this little boy. Self-reflection helped him, as it helps all of us, to move forward towards a better future. This tender hearted little person chose to look closely at his actions so that he could slowly and carefully become a better human being.

Self-reflection.

The chance to look at our actions, our words, our beliefs. A chance to improve ourselves as human being, in an effort to make the world a somewhat better place for other human beings.

Seems like a worthy activity for a ten year old, right? Stop being mean on the playground. Stop saying mean things. Don’t laugh at your friends when they struggle. Be kind. Be good. Be helpful.

Every adult I have ever met in my 65 years of life would applaud the efforts of this little child, and would congratulate him on trying to be a better person.

So.

Why is it so upsetting and unpatriotic when we ask our country to do the same self-reflection? Why do so many Americans see this kind of introspection as an attack?

I don’t know.

But I don’t like it.

As an old white lady, I am certainly full of self reflection when I look back on the beliefs of my childhood. I was raised in an upper-middle-class white suburb of Boston. My parents were first generation Americans who thought of themselves as open minded and accepting. And they were, within the context of the 1960s in Massachusetts.

I certainly believed myself to be a nice, non-racist, good person.

But you know what?

When I went to college and met people from a hundred different backgrounds, I realized that even though I meant well, I had whole lot to learn about the world around me. I learned that the United States was NOT always seen as a benevolent and kind benefactor. I learned that in spite of what I’d been taught, slavery was not a short term, temporary financial system that helped to create the “greatest nation in the history of the world.”

I learned a lot.

And I am still learning.

I am learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre. And the history of the KKK. I am learning about the horrific crimes committed by the CIA in the 50s and 60s.

I am reflecting on the history of the country in which I live. The country where I was born. I am looking at this nation with the eyes of one who wants to be better. One who wants to understand what lead to our triumphs and to our losses.

I am self-reflecting.

Shouldn’t we all be doing that? Shouldn’t every citizen of every nation be looking at their history and assessing what has been good and what has been a mistake? Shouldn’t we all be emulating my young student as we try to become something a bit better than what we were before?

For most of my adult life, every time I’ve questioned the actions of my government, I’ve been met with something akin to the phrase, “America; love it or leave it!”

The implication has always been that if I question any aspect of my government’s actions, I must hate America and I should immediately leave.

I’ve been called a “Russky” and a “Commie” when I’ve questioned the wisdom and morality of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been told that I should pack up and move to China when I’ve complained about the inflated power of corporate lobbyists in the creation of our national laws.

Worst of all, though?

The worst part of this, to me, is the fact that I have been accused of “hating” my country when I question her commitment to equality.

Because I believe that Black Lives Matter, I’ve been told that I hate the American dream. Because I have stated my support for gender equality and full acceptance of my gay fellow citizens, I’ve been told that I despise the very ideals on which this country was founded.

And so I find myself troubled, angry and bewildered. I find myself with only one response at hand.

“BullSHIT”

That’s all I have to say to those to want to claim that any self-reflection on the part of this American society is an exercise in self-loathing.

I question the founding principles of this nation, which were based upon the rights of land-owning white men.

I question the legitimacy of our story line, in which we crow about our love of “equality” and “freedom”.

I question the wisdom of pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, and of demanding that our children blindly do the same.

I am reflecting deeply on the creation of our country. I am acutely aware of all of the good that has been accomplished within our borders. I am grateful for the fact that my grandparents were welcomed here as immigrants, even as I acknowledge the fact that it was their desperation and their willingness to work for pennies that opened that door to them.

I am an American.

I am a teacher.

I am aware that without self-reflection and an honest look at ourselves, there can be no progress, no growth, no better future.

Because I am an American patriot, I believe that it is my duty to reflect honestly on all that has made this country successful. But I believe just as firmly that is my duty to reflect honestly on all of the mistakes, failures, crimes and injustices that have paved our way to this moment.

America: Love it by asking every single day that it become something even better and stronger than it was yesterday.

I Absolutely DID See Color Today


And that’s a very good thing.

What a great day I had today.

It was very close to 100 degrees here in Northern Massachusetts. Not a good day to do yard work, but definitely a perfect day to go to the lake nearby.

Our small town doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of culture, or the arts, or fine dining. We are a small, semi-rural community of folks who kind of scrap our way to a decent living. We have lots of woods, tons of deer and rabbits and fox, and more than a few black bears.

We tend to vote Republican, and we consider ourselves to be working class all the way.

We are also home to some incredibly beautiful places, including a gorgeous lake and campground that we often take for granted.

Today my smart daughter invited me to join her and her three little kids at our beautiful Lake Dennison, and of course I said yes. I wanted to find a way to stay cool in this scary heatwave, but I also went because I wanted to play with my grandkids.

And this is where I need to add my back story.

I’ve lived in this small town since 1990. My husband and I raised our three kids here. I’ve been to Lake Dennison a hundred times or more.

But today I realized that times have changed.

Thirty years ago, when I brought my kids to this beach, every face was white. Every single one.

But today was different.

Today I helped my grandson as he shared toys with an adorable little boy with brown skin and a Spanish speaking Momma. We all laughed and my daughter and I shared stories of motherhood with this funny, warm, sweet woman and her child.

And today I got to chat with a beautiful young African American woman as she snuggled her 4 month old niece in her arms. The baby looked at me with an intense frown and a look of total concentration. Then her entire body seemed to react to me and she grinned, showing two of the deepest dimples I have ever seen. She opened her brown eyes wide and raised her brows. She looked at me as if she knew me, and my heart absolutely melted right into my sandy bare toes.

Today I played in the water with a bunch of kids who had blond hair, brown hair, red hair. I laughed and splashed with kids whose carefully observing parents were black, brown, Hispanic, Asian, French Canadian and white.Every single one of the adults was hyper alert. Every single one talked to their kids about the fine art of sharing beach toys. Every one smiled back at my smile and every one shared our stories about “it goes by so fast!”

And I saw those people.

I saw them for our shared humanity. I saw them as people who were just like me in our desire to escape this awful heat on the shores of our little lake. I saw them as other parents, other grandparents, other caretakers of children.

But I also saw our differences. I saw. And I celebrated the gift that my grandchildren are given every time they have a chance to meet and play with children who have a different ethnic and racial background than their own.

I’d be totally lying if I said that I didn’t recognize the racial differences between my family and those who sat on the sand beside us. I did see it. I did recognize it and think about it. I was totally tuned in to the Asian Mom and her Black husband who brought their three kids to the beach. I was acutely aware of the folks speaking Spanish, and to those who were speaking accented English.

To me, one of the best parts of this refreshing day was my awareness of just how multi-cultural and inter-racial it was.

But even better than that is the realization that my grand kids were only aware of their interactions with other kids. Other kids.

THEY didn’t see race or ethnicity or language or economic status. All they saw was a day full of new friends, a chance to meet new kids, a life after the pandemic lockdown. They looked at the crowd of humans and in their minds, the group was broken down into two groups: close to my age and not close to my age.

Kid/potential friend vs adult/not a potential friend.

This is what gives me hope for our future.

While Nonni was happy to be in a multi-racial place, my grandchildren were creating a world where the only question that mattered was whether or not the person in front of them was a potential playmate.

I love this.

I feel uplifted.

Children give me such hope.

Exhausted in the USA


Good God in Heaven.

I am exhausted.

I am morally worn down, emotionally defeated, psychologically damaged and socially bankrupt.

Why, you ask, am I so completely done in and unable to function? I’ll tell you.

Politics, that’s why. Way too much of my time and energy has gone toward trying to make some sense of the American political situation. I have finally come to the conclusion that there is no longer any sense to be made here, and any effort to understand and react to what goes on in this government is a total waste of time.

I’ve been a political junkie for years. I follow the news, read avidly, listen to podcasts and get updates from Reuters and the Associated Press. I fondly remember the days of yore, when political news reflected actual facts and real events. It used to be fun to debate with family and friends who felt differently that I did about various laws and policies. Those conversations used to feel like a wonderful exercise in logic.

Those were the good old days.

It’s different now.

Now we are faced with a total absence of reality in our political discourse. Progressives like me find ourselves trying to argue with a stream of lies that come flying at us like bullets from an AR-15.

How are we supposed to respond to statements and accusations that are complete fabrications? How can we use logic and facts to counter ideas that are at the same time illogical, frightening and completely fake?

I know; politicians have always used “spin” to shape public perceptions. I know.

But what we see today is different. It isn’t just one party choosing its words carefully to influence our opinions. No. What we see now is a group of elected officials who are absolutely making up lies and repeating them over and over again with such passion and sincerity that they sound like reality.

How does an intelligent citizen fight back against a phantom? How does a thoughtful person run a sward through a ghost?

It’s exhausting.

I find my mind racing, trying to form a coherent explanation for why everyone needs to stop ranting and screeching about Critical Race Theory being taught in public schools.

I mean……..what the hell?

There are American citizens actually fighting each other, physically fighting, because they don’t want their kids indoctrinated to hate white people. Even though NOTHING LIKE THAT IS BEING TAUGHT ANYWHERE. CRT is a set of legal interpretations, put forward by legal scholars. It’s been debated and thought about for decades.

But hundreds of thousands of people believe that CRT is a new book, or a curriculum, or a sinister plot to brainwash our children. Why? Because political leaders keep repeating the lie. Over and over and over again.

Trying to form a logical response is impossible.

As a progressive American, I’d like to be talking about our overinflated military budget. I’d like to be gathering information about the benefits of universal healthcare coverage. I know how to find data to support my opinions. I like doing that!

But I can’t fight against the lie that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by the Chinese who magically substituted fake ballots on bamboo paper for millions of real completed ballots. I can’t figure out how to use logic to point out that multiple audits, studies, searches and lookbacks found NO fraud. Millions of dead people did not vote. Ballots weren’t changed after the fact.

It’s exhausting trying to think of a possible response. I can’t do it.

There is no Jewish Space Force. There is no international group of pedophile cannibals trying to take over the world. Joe Biden is not a Marxist and the radical left isn’t trying to turn our children into mask-wearing robotic automatons. Nobody is coming for the damn guns.

And while we’re at it, the people who violently attacked the US Capitol and tried to assassinate the Vice President and members of Congress were NOT “tourists”.

Lies are lies, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Trying to push back against them is just too much for this exhausted, aging lefty. I think the fight is out of me.

I just don’t know how to respond to the combination of crazy, ignorant and dishonest that has taken root in Washington DC.