Dog Is My Copilot


The other night I had a very sweet dream. I dreamed that I was asleep, and that my Dad was hugging me. I could feel his arm around my shoulder, and hear him breathing in my ear.

My Dad has been gone from us for 11 years, but I still feel him beside me. I can still see his smile, and his uplifted eyebrows and his loving gaze.

I miss him every single day.

So my dream was sweet, and touching, and it gave me enormous comfort.

That arm around me. The gentle breath in my ear. The feeling of being loved.

As I slowly came awake in the light of an early winter dawn, I realized that my feelings of Dad were only a dream. He was no longer here with us. He was gone.

And yet.

There was definitely an arm around my shoulder, and it wasn’t my husband’s. There was a gentle breathing in my ear, but I could hear Paul snoring and I knew it wasn’t him.

I rolled over.

And found myself face to face with Bentley, our beautiful basset hound-labrador mix.

His front leg was, in fact, over my shoulder. His soft breathing was right at the level of my ear.

And I started to laugh. I laughed so hard, in fact, that I woke up my husband and had to explain what was making me so silly at 6AM.

You see, as I started to think about it, I could totally understand why I had confused my doggie with my Dad.

Both of them were given the special gift of being able to recognize people’s moods as soon as they were felt. Dad would ask me how I was doing when I was a mess of a teenager, seeming to know when I needed to talk even before I did. In the very same way, Bentley has the gift of showing up for a snuggle as soon as my spirits begin to sink.

Dad always gave unquestioning support just when a person would need it. Sometimes he’d just quietly sit beside me; Ben does the very same thing. He knows when my grandkids are sad, or upset, or not feeling at their best. He climbs up, sits beside them, and just gets ready to listen.

Dad and Bentley. I had to smile.

And the physical similarities really struck me, too.

Dad had short legs. Bentley is a basset hound. Nuff said.

Dad had a broad chest, and big shoulders. Ditto for Mr. Bentley Bass.

And the eyes; The big, warm brown eyes. Eyes that look right at a person and give them the feeling that their every word is a treasure.

Of course, not every feature can be complimented. The slightly large nose? Yup, and yup again. Two big schnozzolas. The bit of extra weight around the middle? More to love on both of them!

Dad had big ears. Bentley has ears so big that they get wet when he drinks.

And the personality quirks can’t be ignored, either. Both my beloved Dad and my darling doggie could be described as highly food motivated. Bring on a good meal, and Dad would be there before the table was set. Rattle a plastic bag, and Bentley will be in the kitchen before you can put it down.

Not to say that either could be called picky. Bentley will eat a bug if it’s the only thing around. I once heard my Dad say that the wine he was drinking was terrible, but he wasn’t about to let it go to waste.

When the kids get silly, and start to race around the house, Bentley joins in with delight, even when he clearly has no idea of what is going on. He’ll run in circles, bark happily, and chase kids up and down the hall for hours. The joy is the point, and he would never miss a chance to express it.

Dad was so much the same. I remember in my earliest childhood, sitting on his lap watching The Three Stooges. He would howl with laughter as he watched, and we all knew that a big part of his pleasure was in sharing the moment with his kids.

But for all of his joyfulness and all of his love, my Dad was also a very black and white thinker. Right was right, wrong was wrong and he rarely noticed a shade of gray. He could be rigid in his way, and very stubborn. He saw the world through his own lens.

My dearest doggie is the very same way. While he clearly loves his humans and delights in our happiness, he also sees the world through his very own eyes. ALL food is his food; if our other dog tries to eat at kibble time, Bentley is likely to stand over both bowls. It takes a stern human and some physical reorganization to get him to focus on only his own dish.

If we ask him to get up from the couch, or leave the kitchen while we cook, he will sit perfectly still and ignore us until a treat is proferred.

“Sure, I know what you want, ” he seems to be saying, “But I have my own way of approaching this problem.”

So much like Dad!

I’m not sure that I actually believe in reincarnation, but if I did?

Welp.

A sweet, smart, big old lug with a love of food and fun, and a tendency to gaze at me with his big brown eyes?

It could be either one of two beloved souls.

Feeling Thankful. And Full.


This was just our appetizer table. What can I say? We’re Italian.

This could be the usual gratitude post, about how incredibly lucky I feel to have such a loving family and friends. As I’ve done every year since I started this blog, I could be waxing poetic about the wonderful abundance of food, how much I love having people to feed, how lucky we are to be able to afford so much deliciousness.

Obligatory Turkey pic.

But the truth is, I’m getting older, crankier and more tired.

So yesterday was glorious. It was. My Mom is still here eat turkey with us, and that is a blessing for sure. We celebrated the birthdays of my little sister sister and my nephew, complete with an amazing chocolate cake. We drank a lot (as in a LOT) of prosecco. My youngest son was here over night with his fiancee and we had one of those funny-in-retrospect conversations about political philosophy while soaking in the hot tub.

Politics never came up once.

Good times!

But by nine o’clock this morning, I was home alone with my dogs, a boatload of leftovers, and a vat of simmering turkey carcass. I put on some Netflix documentaries, downloaded a few podcasts (shoutout to Stand Up with Pete) and settled in to relax.

And now, NOW I am truly grateful.

I’m grateful that my daughter and her family spent the holiday with her husband’s family. I mean, sure, I missed the kids….but I don’t mind sharing them with another set of grandparents who love them to pieces and whom they adore. I missed my middle child, who spent the holiday with his future in-laws. But again, I’m so happy that he has another family who loves him and his fiancee.

I’m grateful that my dogs didn’t get away with stealing too many bites of food (OK, Bentley licked a pumpkin pie, but we sliced that part off.) I’m grateful that the turkey was wicked juicy even though I was just too tired to brine it. I’m grateful that nobody said “quid pro quo” at any point and that we all agree that Gentleman Jack is a gorgeous bourbon. (Thanks, Uncle Joe!!)

Mostly, though, I’m grateful today that I can still put on a big meal. I’m grateful that my son shared some nice smooth weed with me (my vape has been banned in Massachusetts), so I got some good sleep. I’m grateful, god help me, that my dear husband had to work today and I got to stay home.

I’m grateful for no humans around.

I’m bad, I know it.

But I sent everyone off with leftovers! I got the laundry done (I’m an idiot. Used cloth napkins.) I did a good job!

So today, after making then big mason jars of turkey stock, I’m thankful to have a few hours to sit here like a big lump of lard with a piece of pie on my knee, whipped cream floating on my coffee and the promise of a huge turkey salad sandwich in my immediate future.

Life is good.

I hope you all had more than enough of food, family and fun. I wish you all a lovely nap!

Clearly, I Didn’t Think it Through


Oh, what was I thinking? What the hell on earth was I thinking?

Since I spend so much time at home with toddlers, there are moments when the house feels way, way, way too small. The toys seem to all pile up in one place, and the running around in circles starts to feel just a little bit claustrophobic.

I guess that’s why, in a moment of mental weakness and overwhelming crankiness, Nonni here got the brilliant idea of cleaning out the basement and making it into an additional play space.

Oh, smart old Nonni! Won’t it be lovely when you can send the kids downstairs to play with the doll strollers, the blocks, the climbing structure and the awesome interconnected tunnels?

The kids and I spent a full week organizing, cleaning, moving stuff around and setting up a toybox.

Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!

What a fun, warm, wide open playroom we’ve created! Hoo-rah!

So.

The kids now play in the spare bedroom (lovingly referred to as the “nappy room”), in the kitchen, in the living room and dining room AND in the basement playroom.

How freeing to have more room.

I’m not kidding. When things get a little tense, and the kids can’t seem to agree on one single thing, it can be miraculous to have a whole new place to fight…..I mean, “to play”…..There are new items to fight over, new games to invent and play, new furniture to jump on.

But if you are reading this little memo, you might already have found the flaw in my ingenious plan.

Right?

Right.

If one child is in the living room, deeply involved in pretending to be a dragon, at least one other child is in the basement. Nonni, for all her marvelous nurturing powers, can only be in one place at a time.

Ergo: wherever I am at any given moment, there is a tiny person with the lungs of a town crier in the other space. And that child will be shrieking “NONNI!!!!” so piercingly that it’s a wonder the cops haven’t been called.

I swear to you, sometimes I’m sure my ears are going to bleed.

I’ll give you a couple of examples of the challenges I face.

Today my sweet Ellie was in the dining room, playing with a nice tray full of kinetic sand. Johnny decided to head into the basement playroom to “Play Rescue Riders”. I was washing dishes.

Suddenly, I heard a death shriek from the basement. “NONNI! HELP! COME NOW!” I dropped the waffle dish in my hand and ran toward the basement.

Aaaannnnnnd, at the very same moment……”NONNI! COME HERE!” Ellie called from the dining room. I ran down the stairs, yelling over my shoulder, “Wait, Ellie! Hang on!” I threw open the playroom door, ready to grab Johnny and head for the Emergency Room. I swear, my phone was in my hand, all ready to call 911.

And there he was, sitting calmly on the old sofa in the playroom, a plastic box in his hands. “You help me open dis?” he asked.

Once my heart stopped scrambling around in my chest, I opened his box and said, as sternly as I could, “John, do NOT scream like that unless you are hurt! If you need me, come upstairs and get me.”

“OK!” he grinned cheerfully.

I trudged back upstairs, to where Ellie had been reduced to sobs and had not stopped chanting, “Nonni, come here. Nonni, come here. Nonni, come here……..”

“OK,” I think I sounded reasonably calm. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I wanted to show you what I made.”

I looked at her creation, told her that it was fabulous, then repeated my message. “You can’t scream for me like that, honey. Not unless you are hurt. If you need me, come get me.”

Yeah.

Sure.

The message apparently was never received because this afternoon our friend Bel came to spend an hour or so with us. Her visits are totally the highlight of every week. We all love her to bits. Bel is, like Ellie, four years old. She is funny, sweet, creative, kind and energetic.

She also has the voice of an operatic soprano trying out for her first solo aria. The girl can etch glass with that voice.

And so by the end of today I found myself racing from room to room, from one floor to the next, answering shrill cries of “NONNI!” They seemed to be coming from everywhere at once.

Now I’m not a newbie. This childcare gig is not my first time around the manipulative toddler block. I know that 9 times out of 10 the screams don’t mean severed limbs.

But. These are not my kids. Neurotic old woman that I am, I am not quite prepared to ignore the ear piercing shrieks of little children.

Holy fatigue, Batman.

So.

I have a new plan.

I’m thinking that from now on, the kids and I will enjoy our days safely closed in one room. The smallest room I can find. I’ll lock the door and keep us all within each other’s eyesight.

That way when someone screams “HELP! NONNI, HELP ME!” I will immediately recognize that the problem is a doll’s sock and not an invasion of zombies.

And I will hopefully prevent the impending heart attack.

Please Help Me, I’m Losing Myself


I am turning into a 1950s wife. I am almost Harriet Nelson (Google it, kids).

I was born in 1956, when women wore dresses and pearls while making dinner for Dad and the kids. I was born in a time when Mom’s stayed home and scrubbed the floor while Dads went off to the office to do manly things.

Which means that I grew up in the 1960s, when women were burning bras and demanding birth control. I went to college in the 1970s. I marched, I read Gloria Steinem, I became a feminist.

When I married my high school sweetheart, we both went into the relationship with the understanding that we would be equals. We shared the shopping, the cooking, the dishes, the laundry duty. We both went to graduate school, and we both embarked on professional careers. We were a part of the generation that defined the idea of work-home balance. We both worked. We both cleaned bathrooms. We both took the car in for inspections.

When our kids came along, the pressure to keep that balance increased exponentially. With both of us working, there were lots of frantic early morning near-fights, with both of us whisper-shouting behind our bedroom door,

“I CAN’T STAY HOME TODAY! I have a meeting….” “Your turn to take him to the doctors! I cannot miss another staff meeting!”

There were nights where dinner was a frozen pizza, too, but those were few and far between. I might have been a feminist professional, but I was also an Italian Mamma. I cooked. But he cleaned it up. For 37 years, we kept up our balance. We both worked. We both raised our kids. We were a team, and we were equal.

Then the kids grew up. They moved out. If you can believe the audacity, they all set out on lives of their own.

Paul and I kept working and sharing the home chores. The balance that we’d established held its shape and all was well.

Until I suddenly and very unexpectedly found myself retired from my many years of teaching elementary school. That’s a different story and has no real relevance here. Except that my unceremonious departure from teaching set me on a totally new path that has had few little bumps. My forced retirement, very very luckily for me, coincided with my new life as a grandmother.

I left teaching in June, a month before my daughter gave birth to our first grandchild. And I was given a huge, unexpected, glorious gift. I got to be the stay-at-home woman taking care of the baby.

As “Nonni”, I was able to stay at home on cold rainy days, snuggling a baby and baking muffins. As a retired teacher, I was able to wrap the baby and myself in a warm blanket and listen to good music while it snowed outside our window. As the stay at home caregiver, I had no more commute, no more paperwork, no more meetings, no more conferences and best of all, no more forced ‘professional development’. I was free. At last, at the age of 59, I was free to indulge my nurturing, caring self and just sit around rocking a baby. It was fabulous.

And it mostly still is. Except that now there are two grandchildren, ages 2 and 4. And now there is a messier house. And more food to be cooked, served, cleaned up.

Now I find myself preoccupied with things that I never ever noticed in my first 37 years of marriage. In my first 60 years of life, in fact. I can’t stop organizing drawers and closets. Yesterday I moved my socks and underwear drawer into a new spot, switching it out with my jewelry and random sundries drawer. It felt good to do it, even though I know that after more than 3 decades of everything in one place, I’ll be dead before I remember what I’ve put where.

I am spending a ridiculous amount of time cleaning things, too. I mean, if we have managed to live happily for all these years with crud in the bottom of our deck slider, why do I have to scrape it out every week now? Why? Why am I vacuuming the windowsills? And why am I compelled to make new recipes? Complete with dessert? Every friggin’ night? What the hell.

I even have matching cloth napkins and tablecloths now. And what’s even worse? I love them.

So please, dear fellow women of a certain age. Please help me. At the point in my life where I thought I’d be wearing funky black hats and writing poetry, I am scrubbing bathroom sinks and buying scented soap. I have lost my hippy, feminist self. God help me, I have turned into a 1950s housewife.

The Quid Pro Quo Problem


Donald Trump and his good buddies seem to be having a really hard time figuring out how to address the question of whether or not there was a quid pro quo in the Ukraine situation. I mean, its kind of amusing to watch them bouncing around trying to figure how to talk about it.

There was no quid pro quo!

Trump has said it, Giuliani has said it, Mulvaney, Sondland, Pence. They’re all saying it.

Until they get confused and say something entirely different. Something along the lines of “Sure we refused to give Ukraine any money until they did what we wanted. We do that all the time!”

But “There was no quid pro quo!”

The problem, of course, is that the phrase ‘quid pro quo’ means “The giving of one valuable thing for another.”

Why are the Trumpsters having such trouble with this phrase?

I have a thought about that.

I think it goes something like this:

Bring me my quid pro quo!

There’s Donald, seated behind the “resolute desk”, seething and stewing about Hillary’s emails and Pelosi’s walkout. He grinds his teeth, glances up at the TV, then hits the call button on his desk.

“Bring me my quid pro quo!”, he snarls.

“Sir?” the befuddled secretary asks.

“My quid pro quo! Bring it to me! I’m pretty sure it’s in my sock drawer.”

“But…..”

“Just do it!”

A hasty conversation ensues between the frantic secretary and the Acting Chief of Staff. Mulvaney enters the Oval.

“Mr. President,” he begins.

“I want my quid pro quo. I heard that many past Presidents have refused to use theirs. I heard that some people say you can’t use it. But I’m gonna use mine!! I want my quid pro quo. I’m gonna use that thing so much, like the world has never seen! It’s made gold, right?”

“Ah….well, see, it isn’t actually an object, sir. A quid pro quo is a Latin phrase. I think it means something about withholding food from foreign guests.”

“That’s it! We’ll quid pro quo the shit out of them!!! We invite Shifty Schiff and Screamin’ Nancy over for dinner, and then……bam!!! We refuse to give them cake!!!”

“Sir, I don’t…….”

“We’ll see who wins the quid pro quo then, won’t we?”

He gleefully rubs his hands together.

Mulvaney walks out, scratching his head and muttering, “no, it means foreign guests……”

An hour later, Rudy Giuliani appears on CNN, his beady little eyes darting left and right as he waits for Chris Cuomo to introduce him.

When Cuomo asks about the quid pro quo, Giuliani starts to spit out words as fast as he can think of them.

“Here’s the thing, here’s the thing, why aren’t we looking into the DNC and what they did and Joe Biden and Hunter, here’s the thing, there was no quid pro quo! There was golf and there was talking about it, great talking, talking and it was on the phone, and yes, why aren’t we investigating Crooked Hillary because she probably asked the Ukrainians to hide her own quid pro quo, who by the way, was here illegally while golfing with Bill Clinton and anyway, everyone had cake!”

Cuomo looks immediately outraged and begins to shout over Giuliani which makes the little lawyer twitch and spit.

It made the rest of us turn off the set and pour a drink.

I wish this story seemed a little more farfetched.

“Company” is Coming


Quick! Dust that shelf!

When I was a young adult, I felt completely comfortable coming home to my parent’s place. It was the house where I’d grown up. One bedroom was “mine”. I knew where the dishes were kept, where the good Scotch waited, where the extra towels were kept.

Coming in the door was coming home. Just like I’d done about a million times before. Key in lock, door pushed open, “Hi, Ma!” as I came up the stairs into the kitchen.

Home.

But gradually, as the years went by, “home” became the apartment where Paul and I lived. It became the house we rented when our first child was born. Then the house we bought to raise all three of our children.

Visits to my parents house became visits.

I realized that my parents would plan special meals for our visits. They’d put on a tablecloth. I started to ask permission to have a glass of wine or a bowl of ice cream.

I was a guest, in my own home.

Weird, but cool. I felt like a real adult.

I never wondered how that felt to my folks, though.

Then my kids grew up. They moved away. They all have lives. My daughter lives only a half a mile away and brings her kids here every day for me to care for while she and her husband are working. So she still feels pretty comfortable here, and has no worries about opening the fridge for a snack.

But my sons live two hours away, and we only see each other every couple of months.

When they come home, I notice that they are happy to grab themselves a beer, or toss a load of laundry into the machine. They seem to feel like this is still more or less “home”.

But something bizarre has happened to me, the momma.

It’s scary and it’s weird. Me no likies.

Yesterday our son Matt and his fiancee were planning to come for dinner. We haven’t seen them for a bit, and I was looking forward to catching up. I did what any self respecting Italian Momma would do. I shopped, I baked, I roasted, I sauteed.

But I also cleaned the kitchen. I threw the trash and washed the can. I cleaned the bathroom and put out new soap. I adjusted the sofa pillows and swept the floor. I vacuumed the steps.

As I was washing the doggie nose prints off the living room window, I suddenly stopped, vinegar soaked rag in hand. “What the hell am I doing?” I asked myself. “Did I seriously just clean the toilet for the kid who I potty trained in this very room?”

I shook my head at my foolishness, gave myself a little smack, and went back to cleaning the windows.

Then I straightened up the pinecones on my shelf and changed the batteries in all the Halloween lights.

My kids are “company”.

Holy crap. Time must be flying.

Thanks, C-Span!


Image by MHowry

So before you go accusing me of being a super boring politics nerd, I have to tell you that I don’t watch C-SPAN all that often. I mean, sure. Sometimes I tune in to the morning show where the obviously sedated extremely calm host takes calls from both right and left as they discuss the topics of the day.

But I rarely watch actual Congressional hearings.

Today, however, my close friend told me that her daughter-in-law would be giving testimony, and would be on the live coverage. That sounded pretty exciting to me, so I tuned in right at 10AM to see her give her professional and well respected opinion on issues of national security.

I clicked on the set and was both surprised and nauseated to find myself listening to the brain melting drone of Mitch McConnell as he scolded the Democrats for not passing a spending bill.

Oh, the hypocrisy.

I switched over to C-SPAN2, where I was forced to endure a series of Congressmen moaning and gnashing their teeth over the terrible danger that vaping is posing to our youth. One after the other, they got up to declare (with surprisingly straight faces) that they will NOT stand by and simply DO NOTHING while the health and safety of our youth are at risk!

Each one sounded more sincere then the one before. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that this was group of national leaders who would do just about anything to stop a classroom full of six years old from being shredded into bits by a crazed gunman.

I kept flipping the channels back and forth, hoping to see my friend’s smart and articulate DIL.

Instead I was treated to a bunch of wrinkly old white men complaining and whining about the other wrinkly old white men who weren’t playing fair. “They won’t follow the rules!” was followed by “THEY won’t follow the rules!”

The language was most likely more sophisticated than what I am offering here, but this old retired elementary school teacher knew exactly what she was hearing.

Having mediated at least 1,000 recess and classroom disputes in my career, I know that what I was hearing was this:

“I want to play it MY way!”

“But I want to play MY way!”

“No, me!” “No, me!”

“You’re a doody pants!”

“He called me a doody pants! YOUR a doody poopy pants!!!!”

It was…..ridiculous. It was absurd. It was disgusting and demoralizing and it was validating.

It was proof positive that this country absolutely must move beyond the two entrenched, corporate parties.

Otherwise I fear that no one will ever have a chance to listen to the wisdom of those who actually run things every day. Instead we will be left with the choice of tuning out completely or subjecting ourselves to the worst juvenile behavior that any fifth grader could even imagine.

Donuts and Martinis


I know what I want my future to look like.

I’m 63 years old. My kids are all adults and the grandkids have started to arrive.

Life is mostly fun and interesting and pretty enjoyable. Most of my body parts work the way they should and I can still take care of myself and my house. I don’t grow as many vegetables as I used to, but I can still weed a flower patch and grow a decent pot of herbs.

My life is on the downward slope of the proverbial hill, but I’m not yet rolling out of control.

So it’s all good.

Because I’m still healthy, happy and fully engaged with the world around me, I continue to work at staying healthy. I eat well, if too much. We live in a part of New England where we can easily buy local vegetables three seasons of the year. I love to can tomatoes and freeze batches of fresh veggies, so all year long we can eat fresh, local food.

We also eat fresh, local meats, eggs and chicken. No nasty chemicals in our meats.

I’m a good Italian cook. too. No preservatives or precooked foods on this lady’s table! No jars of sugar filled spaghetti sauce. No canned soup with all its sodium. Just fresh and home cooked food. Healthy as hell.

I exercise, too. Sort of.

I mean, I’m not sweating at the gym, but I have my garden, my dogs to walk, and my toddler grandkids who spend every weekday here with me. I run up and down the stairs dozens of times a day, chase tricycles, rake leaves while the kids jump in the piles, and cook and serve all day long.

You get it. I’m active.

I also take my medicine just as prescribed. One for blood pressure. One for fibromyalgia. A fish-oil pill for the old brain. Magnesium for the muscles. Papaya extract to increase my platelets.

In other words, as of this moment, I have every intention of staying healthy, staying active, squeezing all the good juice out of life.

I’m at an age where I think it makes sense to try to keep the old heart beating.

But.

My mother is 89 years old. She still lives in the house where she and Dad raised six kids. She’s still funny, stubborn, determined and stoic.

But she is smaller than the huge personality that she used to be. She has closed in. She is thinner, shorter, more stooped and bent. She is the tiny version of her old fiery self.

Mom is less opinionated than she used to be, which is both a blessing and a curse. Life with her is easier than it once was, but I miss my strong-willed warrior woman Momma.

Mom taught me to cook. She taught me how to choose the right spices, how to make the best meatballs, how to be patient while a good stew simmered. Now she lives on frozen foods or the meals that her children bring her.

She can’t really cook anymore.

And my Mom no longer drives. She used to ride her bike around our town, to work at the local school, to Curves, where she worked out and made friends. Now she doesn’t even drive a car. She doesn’t shop, unless one of us takes her for an abbreviated trip to a local store.

Her world is shrinking around her shrinking frame.

Even our house has changed. It was once the hub of our social lives, filled with happy toddlers, kids on bikes, teen aged musicians, neighbors and relatives at every holiday. It was full of noise, delicious smells, loud and laughing voices.

Now the house is neat and quiet. It feels outdated and quaint.

It feels lonely.

One old lady and her old gray cat now live in a house that used to hold a family of 8 and our various dogs and cats.

It makes me sad.

So I’ve made a plan for my future. I think it is a good one. I think it makes sense.

Here is my brilliant plan

From now until my 80th birthday, I have every intention of continuing to take care of myself. I will eat my healthy veggies and monitor my wine intake. I’ll garden, and I’ll walk my dogs. I’ll stretch and use my hot tub to stay limber. There will be no better medical patient than me. Every doctor’s order will be like one of the Ten Commandments.

But on the morning of my 80th day on earth, I will change things up and take my future into my own hands.

I will give up cauliflower and broccoli. No more fish oil pills for me. No walking briskly, no frozen veggies, no organic soaps.

No. Instead, I will have a breakfast of many fresh donuts and as much esspresso as I can swill. Lunch will be martinis and wicked fattening cheese. Maybe some good olives. And bread dipped in tons of olive oil.

I’ll snack on more donuts and finish the day with a pitcher of more martinis. Vodka martinis. Dirty, lemon, pomegranate, chocolate for dessert.

I will lie on my couch all day with donuts on the table, a bag of chips at my feet and a martini in one hand.

If all goes as planned, I will not have to slowly diminish and leave my house sad and lonely. I will not watch myself slowly shrinking and losing everything that has made me myself.

Instead, I will quickly succumb, leaving my children and grandchildren with a fabulous story to tell about me. And I’ll cross that famous rainbow bridge and find myself free of all pain and grief, and ready for the next step.

Good plan, right?

Who’s in?

Big Small


When my kids were little, they used to describe the weird feeling of having a fever as having “big/small”. They said that the world felt small, tucked tight around them. But their hands and feet felt big, as if they were filled with helium.

The strange part is that I knew what they meant. I got it.

Now that I am an old lady with sleep and pain issues, and am a happy user of cannabis at night, I REALLY know what they mean.

The room is small. The sounds are big.

So. I was thinking about all of this bizarre focusing in and out and size changing today. Because I was home on my own all day, and I read, watched and listened to WAY too much news.

My focus on my world was BIG. I was forced to confront a crashing stock market, a raging fire in our Amazonian “lungs of the world” and two new cases of deadly EEE in my state.

The big world is terrifying to me right now.

I am afraid of the ticks (lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis). I am afraid of mosquitoes (West Nile Virus, Triple E). I’m scared of getting a sunburn because my Dad died of melanoma.

But even more scary is the fact that the oceans are rising, the largest forest on earth is on fire, and the Russians are promising to create and deploy a new super weapon.

I can barely force myself to leave my house!

If I shop, I’m afraid of e-coli in my produce. I’m afraid that some pissed off guy with a gun will decide to shoot up my grocery store.

The big picture is freakin’ terrifying.

So I turned my focus inward. I made it smaller.

I rubbed my doggies’ bellies. I walked them through out quiet neighborhood. I chatted with my friend and her beautiful one year old daughter.

Looking at the bright blue eyes of that little beauty, I started to think that all was well. My focus was back on my immediate and beautiful world.

I looked at the flowers in my yard. At the crazy weeds jumping out of the fertile earth. I laughed at the ridiculous pumpkin plant that it now ten feet up in a tree.

It felt safe. I felt comforted.

But then I got home. And looked again at Twitter.

The big came back; the lies and insanity of our President hit me in the face.

I clicked off and scrolled through pictures of my grandchildren.

I thought about my own kids. About how deeply and purely I loved them when they were little, and how much I love them now.

Big focus: My retirement fund is melting before my eyes.

Small focus: My house is clean and calm and comfortable.

Big: The world can’t live through this much climate damage.

Small: My yard is blooming effortlessly, and the grass never went brown.

And so it went, my focus and my fear swinging wildly from the worst to the best of feelings.

The oaks are full of acorns. We may have a cold and snowy winter. But I have a freezer full of corn, beans, peas and carrots.

Social media is full of rage and hate. But my grandchildren, my dogs and the lovely little girl next door are full of unconditional love.

Phew.

I need to learn how to keep my focus on the little things, and keep the big things in my peripheral vision.

Staying Humble


Many years ago, when I was a tender girl of ten, I joined our elementary school orchestra. I had no idea what I was doing, but the idea of an “orchestra” was immensely alluring.

When it came time to choose an instrument, if I remember correctly, I wanted to choose the violin. I loved the idea of being able to create the gentle sounds I’d been hearing on my Mom’s “Nutcracker Suite” album. I wanted that violin.

But alas for me, there were too many girls who wanted to play the violin, so I was assigned to try the viola. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was still a beautiful stringed instrument. I accepted it happily.

And it was love at first screech. During that year of joyful musical exploration, I discovered the glory of harmony. I discovered the power of playing music with friends. I experienced the amazing mind buzz of hitting the rare perfect note.

It was so much fun, and so inspiring, that even 53 years later I can still remember the smell of the resin on my bow. I can remember how cozy it felt to be on our school’s small stage when the curtains were drawn every Thursday. That was when the strings would practice together while the rest of the grade was at recess. I loved those lessons!

I still remember that my viola was number 82, and that the case was lined with purple velvet. I used to rub my thumb along the velvet. So rich! So elegant!

I loved every minute of rehearsal, of practice, or screaking away on my instrument in my bedroom. I loved the full orchestra rehearsals on Friday mornings. I loved our concerts.

I loved it all.

Unfortunately, I had to give up my viola lessons at the end of that year. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for two kids’ music lessons, and it was my sister’s turn to take up the viola. I gave up my beloved number 82 with many tears.

(I still haven’t forgiven my sister, just for the record. Every few months, I call her up and moan piteously.)

Anyway, the years went by. I grew up. I still managed to sing harmony a lot, and I even tried a very brief stint of playing the guitar. But in the back of my mind, all this time, the idea of returning to the viola as been lurking.

So. Recently a good friend of ours took up the saxophone. He’s our age, and not much more musical than I am, but he threw himself into learning his instrument with joy and abandon. He was my inspiration.

I decided to take up the strings and the bow once again.

My younger brother (aka, the musical genius) had a spare violin hanging around his house. I learned that a novice like me should start with the violin and then move on to viola if all went well. I happily took Dave’s violin.

I signed up for lessons.

I rubbed the resin on my bow.

I made hideous zombie noises on my lovely little violin, but I was thrilled. It was all so familiar! So wonderful! I remembered the movements, the feel of the strings, the shiny glorious wood of the instrument!

Huzzah!!!!

Luckily for me, there’s a fabulous local teacher who was undaunted by the specter of an old lady rookie. I went to my first few lessons, learned my scales, practiced my basic fingering.

It has been so much fun!

My teacher, Susan, is endlessly upbeat and joyful. Her smile is the most encouraging thing I’ve ever seen. Even when I continually run my bow across two strings at once, she smiles. When her chickens run out of the yard at the sound, she still smiles, and encourages, and makes tiny adjustments to my wrist.

With Susan I feel like a musician.

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to arrive at her house yesterday, ten minutes before my lesson time. I took out my instrument, tuned it with my phone app, and resined up my bow.

From the lesson room, I heard the sound of the same familiar song I’d been working on for two weeks.

Not Tchaikovsky, but still, it was a song.

It was someone working on two of the five variations of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” that are the first lesson in our Suzuki violin book.

That someone was doing OK. A little slow on the fingering, but not bad. The student did hit a few extra strings, (maybe more than I do) but it was still cool to hear it.

“Ah, another novice,” I thought.

As the other student played, I quietly played along on my own. I heard Susan’s voice, as joyful as always. I smiled to myself. “Self,” I told me, “You actually play a little bit more smoothly than this person.” I had an image of another woman, younger than me, but struggling to get the combination of finger placement, bowing and rhythm all correct.

“You’ll get it eventually,” I thought to myself as I smugly packed my instrument back in its case.

I heard the door to the lesson room open, and two women’s voices chatting happily. I made out the word, “Good job!” and “Thank you!”

I stood up, ready to head into my own lesson.

And a teeny, energetic little 6 year old boy came careening around the corner, his mother trailing behind.

“Hi!!!!” he called to me. “I just played my WHOLE SONG!!!”

Susan was still cheerful and smiling when she found me standing with my mouth wide open.

(“violin” by Stiller Beobachter is licensed under CC BY 2.0 )