What I Think of Italy


Wow.

I have waited 62 years to finally set my feet on the soil of my ancestral home. Finally. I have breathed the air of Rome, walked the streets of Naples, toured the history of Pompeii. I have bathed in the waters off of Sicily, eaten octopus and giant shrimp grilled in small local cafes. I’ve had the wine, ridden the trains, busses, subways and boats.

I think I’ve finally gotten a sense of where my family was born.

And it was nothing like I expected, while it was just what I had hoped.

I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m going to try. Because, you know, blogger, writer….that’s what we do.

Italy has a lot of delicious fruits. One of them is a funny looking, yellow melon. It’s kind of bumpy, lumpy and odd looking from the outside. I have no idea what we’d call it in English.

But when you cut into it?

The fruit is sweet, soft, delicate and full of flavor.

That’s how I think of Italy.

From the outside, there is a lot to feel creeped out about. There is a definite problem with trash and litter. Even the most scenic roads are lined with smashed beer bottles and unwanted wrappers. While there are trash containers in every city and town, it doesn’t seem as if they are ever emptied.

The buildings are uniformly old.  Some are truly ancient, and many are simply left to crumble into the landscape. Others were probably built during the second world war, and have stucco facades that are peeling and broken. Some are newer, but even those often have a look of neglect.

The ground is dry and the plants are brittle. Weeds encroach often on small vias and byways.

But.

If you are lucky enough to be invited into one of the dry stucco homes, you will be amazed and overwhelmed by the beauty. Everyone seems to have floors of marble. Walls are painted in bold and beautiful colors. There is art on those walls. There are little touches of charm and beauty.

We have stayed in some very spartan places on our trip. In some cases the faucets were a little loose and shower doors didn’t close all the way.

But every single one of them had lovely decorative touches. Vases, glasses, tablecloths in vibrant colors, pots of flowers on the balconies.

And inside of every house, it seemed to us, there were people who were the very embodiment of kindness and warmth. Even though we speak little to no Italian, people tried to communicate with us. They used words, gestures, facial expressions, more words. The seemed to believe that if they just tried hard enough, everyone would understand each other.

What a wonderful concept!

People we didn’t know helped us to pump gas, to check out in the grocery store, to buy items we needed. People were patient when we repeatedly explained that we couldn’t understand. They laughed with us, not at us, when we made mistakes in Italian. They applauded and complimented us on our meager attempts to master their language.

Italy is like that funny yellow melon. On the outside, you aren’t really sure you want it. But once you cut into it, and taste the sweetness inside, you know that you’ll be craving it forever.

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Molto delicioso.

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One Last Thought Before I Go


I can’t stand Donald Trump. He is a liar. I hate liars. He is willing to turn us all against each other to achieve his own power and his own gains. I hate that kind of selfishness.

But I love a lot of his followers. I love my relatives who have come to every birthday party for my kids, sent graduation gifts, danced at family weddings, made me dinners just for fun. I love my neighbors who kayak with us, go out to dinner with us, share perennials, gripe about the lousy weather and sit through endless town meetings with us.

I despise the media moguls who control our thoughts by following the orders of their corporate overlords. Fox News is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump and his Corporate organization. They’re ridiculous. They aren’t news. I would never look to them for news.

CNN is less obvious, but “Breaking News” every hour on the hour for the past 10 years? Seriously, dudes? One big story per week, with endless repetitive talking heads pretending outrage and tears? That’s your idea of news?

Come. On.

I hate the ugly words that are being hurled around by people who disagree on the latest core issue. I hate seeing people berated for their beliefs, their life styles, their religious choices, their sexual preferences. I hate it. I hate the swears, the offensive remarks, the name calling, the hatred, the plain old meanness.

I don’t love my country, because I don’t know what that means. Am I supposed to love the dirt? The trees? The highways? Am I supposed to love the flag, no matter where it waves or who is holding it or how it is used? I don’t know if I’m expected to love my government? The bureaucracy of it? The big money that owns it?

I do love my countrymen. I love them because they’re also trying to make sense of the struggles we face every day. They want jobs, they want some financial security, they was to know that if they work hard they will be able to provide a safe life for their families.

I love my countrymen because they are humans. I love my fellow humans. I don’t hate the ones who are different from me. I don’t hate or fear the ones who have different colored skin than mine. I don’t hate of fear the ones who are more or less religious than me or the ones who call the divine by a name I don’t recognize. I don’t fear or hate my fellow humans if they are richer or poorer than me, or if they speak a different language or if they live in a different part of this earth.

And I don’t hate or fear my fellow humans, my fellow Americans, my fellow community members because they disagree with my views on gun control or border safety or trade or taxes.

I hope that I am smart enough to find some truth in all the complete bullshit that is filling our world. I hope that I am brave enough to listen when people have different ideas than my own.

And I hope that I am kind enough, evolved enough, thoughtful enough to grant my fellow family members, neighbors, coworkers the right to their own opinions.

I will still work as hard as I can to move my country and my world in a direction that seems the best to me. I will still work as diligently as possible to bring a positive, loving, kind world into being.

But I will try my best to do that without screaming at my friends on the “other side.”

I don’t know if my plan will work. I just know that it’s the only way I can proceed and still feel proud of myself as I look in the mirror every day.

I wish more people shared my view.

It might make us all a lot safer and a whole lot better informed.

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Trying to be my best self.

Leaving On A Jet Plane


Paul and I are about to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in the most wonderful way imaginable. We are about to jet off to Europe for a three week vacation, the longest we have ever taken.

We’ll start in Germany, spending a week with very dear friends. There will be laughing, eating, drinking, music and a lot of catching up on each other’s lives after two years apart.

From there we head South into Italy, my home country, where we hope to connect with distant relatives and learn about my family’s pre-immigration past.

I am SO excited that I can’t even stand it!!!

But.

I’m wondering what I will say when we are asked about the current situation here in the US. I mean, I know that I’ll assure whoever it is I’m talking to that most of us did NOT vote for Trump and despise his policies.

But my bigger worry is how to explain the way Americans are behaving toward each other these days.

How do I explain that half of us think it’s absolutely fine to mock and berate the other half? What do I say about one side refusing to serve food or bake cakes for the other half?

Is there a reasonable way to explain the curses, the vulgarities, the insulting names that each side is using on the other?

Can “Well, they did it first!” be translated into German or Italian without sounding like the absolute lamest excuse given by any kindergartener ever?

What do I say?

I can imagine myself trying to explain. “Well, I know it sounds like we Americans absolutely hate each other, but……”

But, what?

Do we hate each other? Do we really want each other to be humiliated, to be denied hospitality, to be spat upon?

How far away are we from violence in the streets, as rival groups hurl both insults and stones at each other?

How did we get here?

What do I say?

“I don’t know what has happened to us,” I might begin. “I remember when we used to argue at dinner, but keep on passing the dessert plate.”  Maybe I’ll point to the obvious issues with corporate media, and how that has lead to opposing viewpoints replacing factual news.

“I remember when we used to turn on the evening news, knowing that we’d get the same information no matter which channel we picked, but watching our favorite news reporters.”

Sigh.

How do I explain the sheer ugliness and vitriol and rage that has engulfed us all over here in the “land of the free”?

I don’t know.

I share that rage, and in some cases that ugliness and vitriol. There have been a boatload of moments in the past two years when I’ve wanted to strangle the life out of someone in the news.

How do I explain that to people who have lived through the violence and horrors of fascism and World War? What do I say? How do I describe my fervent desire to oppose what I see as immoral, without losing my own moral center?

I don’t know.

I truly do not know.

But before our plane lands on distant shores, I promise that I will have learned to say, “I love my fellow citizens” in at least two languages.

Maybe we should all be memorizing that phrase in English.

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“He likes me.”


I used to teach fifth grade.

I remember about ten thousand conversation where ten year old children were whispering to their friends that “He likes me, but I don’t know if he LIKES me.”

I remember at least 20 thousand conversations where one child confided in another, “I like her, but I don’t LIKE HER like her.”

They were little kids. They were trying to work out the nuances of enjoying someone’s company while a) not necessarily sharing any interests b) not necessarily agreeing with each other c) not wanting to run off and get married and make babies (how do you do that, anyway?)

When I was a teacher of young and innocent kids, these conversations made me smile. They made me appreciate the innocence of youth.

Now that I am a retired old grandmother, and the “He likes me!” comments are coming from the 73 year old, three times married President of the United States, my reaction is somewhat different.

I’m fighting off simultaneous urges to vomit and to run screaming into the night.

Yesterday I listened to Donald Trump’s comments as he left the G7 summit. I listened carefully to his every word.

And I must say, I have not changed my view that this man demonstrates a very significant language disorder.

He made many incomplete utterances. He left out specific nouns and verbs, leaving the impression that his ideas were drifting and pointless.

I suggest that you watch this video. Watch what happens when Trump strays from the script at about 3:18.

Note the incomplete, rambling thoughts.  Note this mess:

“From the standpoint of trade and jobs and being fair to companies, we are really, I think,  committed, I think they are really starting to be committed to a much more fair trade situation for the United States because it has been treated very unfairly…. Last year they lost 800, we as a nation, over the years, but, the latest numbers 817 billion dollars on trade and it’s unacceptable and everybody was told that.”

Say, what?

And then there was Trump’s assertion that our trade and international relationships were “a ten”, because the members of the G7 were reasonably polite to him.

He insisted that the relationships are fabulous because none of the leaders of the developed world stood up and called him a doody pants.

No matter what they thought of the big lying buffoon, all of the OTHER leaders of the free world had enough self control to be at least marginally civil to Donald J. Trump.

Unfortunately, that gave our incredibly immature national leader the impression that all of those other powerful people “liked” him. And that was enough for him.

He assumed that because they “liked” him, he could safely call them names, accuse them of theft, criticize his predecessors who had been dealing with them for decades, and then tell them exactly what they had to do.

He thought that being “liked” meant that nobody would get mad at him, no matter what.

I must tell you, as a former teacher of fifth graders with autism, oppositional defiant disorder, cognitive disabilities, language disorders and other learning and behavioral challenges, that this underdeveloped ability to comprehend the nuances of human relationships is a major problem.

Our country, our beloved United States of America, is in the hands of a person whose intellectual and emotional development has not yet reached the level of a ten year old. A person whose mastery of the English language is both immature and obviously disordered.

I have no idea what it is that goes on the mind of Donald J. Trump, but I am very, very sure that whatever it is, it is based on the ideas and beliefs of a selfish child. I am very, very sure that what he thinks is never articulated in a way that makes any sense.

I am very sure that we are in a very dangerous place right now. This country is being led by a pouting, angry child whose emotional, intellectual and linguistic development are all dangerously impaired.

“I don’t like him. And I don’t know what to do.”29381357345_27b53e0902_b

 

Oh, Mother Nature…


Have you ever had one of those days when everything just seems to be perfect? One of those days where in spite of the day-to-day stresses of bills, mosquito bites and political overload, the universe seems to be perfectly aligned?

Welp. I have.

They don’t come around all that often, but yesterday was one of them.  I woke up to the realization that my colonoscopy was over, I could eat whatever I wanted, and most of my body was pain free. Huzzah!

The day was warm, sunny, gorgeous.

Spring in Massachusetts, brief as it is, reminds us all that Mother Nature must surely love us. The lilacs were passing, but the peonies were just about to open. The irises were in full and glorious bloom, and the grass hadn’t yet turned brown.

My yard, if I do say so myself, was fabulous! “Holy rhododendron”, I thought as I looked out my front window, “I am a gardening goddess!”

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There were butterflies on every blossom. Darling little chipmunks were racing around the bushes. Robins and Phoebes were singing.

Ah, nature!

It was an amazingly natural day. I loved my dear Mother Nature.

Last evening, my husband and I did something we rarely do anymore. We went out to hear good music. We drove about an hour west to meet up with our kids and some of their friends. It was a blast.

Wahoo! Great finale to a great day, right?

Then, after a truly fun and completely wonderful night of great music from Upstate Rubdown, we headed home.

We made the hour long ride home with glorious silver stars shining overhead. We were in a mood of pure elation.

As we made our winding way through the small roads of Central Massachusetts, we found ourselves commenting on how lucky we are to live where we do.

At one point, the headlights of our little car caught the glowing eyes of a possum, and we slowed to watch it amble into the woods. “Eat those ticks!”, we cried, laughing.

We counted ourselves lucky to have seen the funny little guy.

But there were more delights in store for us before we made it home to our beds.

We were absolutely thrilled to see a beautiful raccoon waddling across one lawn in a nearby town. Next we noted a delicate young doe standing in the tall grass along the road, her fur illuminated by the gentle starlight.

Mother Nature, you give such beautiful gifts! Angels were singing. Angels, I tell you.

And then, just as we turned into our very own rural neighborhood,  we found a little family of foxes playing on the grass. How beautiful! Those little golden red faces! The Mamma fox, rushing her babies out of harm’s way!

Oh, Mother Nature! You wonderful goddess, you!!

We finally got home, and congratulated ourselves on having landed in such a beautiful place, so full of the love of nature. We fell asleep to the sound of barred owls calling. How lucky we are, we told each other, how blessed to live in such a gorgeous, natural, sylvan setting!

We fell asleep.

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And we awoke to another gorgeous early summer day.  I got my beloved little grandchildren ready to play outside. I was just so filled with gratitude toward Mommy Nature!

Out we stepped, into the golden morning sun. The flowers were in bloom. The grass was green. The angels were freakin’ singing in my ear.

I moved happily toward the new screen house that we’ve set up on our glorious green lawn. I moved inside the sheltered room.

I looked up. I saw a few bees and flies attached to the inside of the screen. A few as in roughly 5, 000 bugs. All attached to the INSIDE of my bug shelter.

I gulped.

Oh, well, I thought, that’s just part of nature!

“Oh, my!” I chirped to my baby grandson, who was sitting wide-eyed on my left hip. “The buggies flew inside our screen house, honey! Let’s go outside and knock them off the screen so they can fly away and be free!”

I stepped out of the screen house, moved gracefully across the gorgeous lawn toward the outside of the screen. I thought that I could just knock on the outside of the screen and thereby send the zillion icky buggies out the open front door.

I squared my shoulders. “Nature”, I told myself, “It’s all just a part of nature.”

I raised my right hand, preparing to tap on the screen. “Look!” I said to my sweet Johnny. “We can make the little buggies go away!”

At this point there were still angels singing. Mother nature and all that crap were still humming along in my mind and heart.

I prepared to lower my hand so I could knock on the outside of the gazebo.

And approximately 2 milliseconds before I lowered my palm onto the screen, I happened to notice THIS GUY.

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The. Spider. From. Hell.

I did not scream, drop the baby and set the yard on fire.

For which I am extremely proud.

However.

I did decide that the sun was too darn hot for us today. I did bribe the kids with ice cream. I did get us all safely inside where I made everybody strip down, allegedly for a “tick check” but really for a “could the world’s biggest spider possibly be hiding in our underwear” check.

I didn’t lock every door or window, but I did double and triple check every screen.

Holy horror, Batman.

After a nice lunch (eaten up at the highest table and after I checked the floor six times), I got all of us into bed for our afternoon nap. Naturally, I pulled back all the covers and looked under the bed, bureau and bookcase before we laid down. I checked the window screens a few times and stuffed a bunch of pillows between the bed and the wall.

And as we drifted off to sleep, my beloved babies cradled against me, my sweet doggie at our feet, I thought to myself,

“Mother Nature, you fucking old bitch.”

 

Dear American Adults,


Dear fellow American adults,

I submit the following for your edification, enlightenment and possible humbling mortification.

I used to teach fifth grade. The kids in my class were all about ten years old. They were old enough to understand the basic rules of how to get along, but young enough to still need a lot of guidance.

They were kids.

Young, young kids.

This essay is a composite of about 853 such conversations that I had with students over my ten years as a classroom teacher. The names were changed because, seriously, this could have been any fifth grader at any time in any place.

“Karen, I need your help! Jackie was mean to me!”

“Jackie, what did you do to Jason?”

“Nothin. I just called him a fat wussy pants jerk face noodle head.”

Jason sniffles and looks at me with huge blue eyes, filled with righteous pain and anger. “See? He was so. MEAN.”

I sigh. I rub my forehead. I look at the culprit, sitting in front of me in his baggy blue shirt, with his recess sweaty hair in his big brown eyes. He looks away. He knows he did something mean. Fifth graders know mean when they see it, even if it comes from themselves.

“Jackie? What do you have to say about this?”

A shrug. “Well, I didn’t mean it. It was a joke.”

(Are you following this line of reasoning, Roseanne Barr, Michelle Wolf, Orrin Hatch, Ted CruzKelly Sadler, Donald Trump?)

I look at my little student with my most serious teacher face.

“Jackie,” I say sternly. “You know what a joke is. What makes something a joke?”

He drops his head. The shrug reappears.

“A joke is something that makes everybody in the room laugh. A joke makes people feel happy inside. Did your words today make everybody laugh? Did everyone feel happy?”

“No.” It’s only a whisper, but, still, he said it and I am proud of him.

“What you said wasn’t a joke because it hurt someone. It hurt just as much has hitting with a fist would hurt. What you said wasn’t a joke. What was it?”

Now the shoulders are drooping, the chin is almost on the chest. Now my ten year old student is truly feeling bad about what he did.

“I was being mean. I was making fun of someone.”

“I’m proud of you!” I tell him honestly. “You admitted that you were wrong. You are a strong and brave boy. Good for you. Now what do you think you should do?”

Jackie looks at Jason, a classmate he’s known for years. Both boys are teary eyed. Both are tender.

“I’m sorry.”

Jackie thinks that he means it, but I have to push a little bit more.

“OK,” I say. “You said you were sorry. Do you think that takes away your bad choice? Does it take away Jason’s sadness?”

The answer is obvious to any ten year old. A simple, “sorry” doesn’t erase the pain or the hurt. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t screw up. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to make amends.

At this point I would usually let my two students hug or shake hands or say, “It’s OK.” I’d send them back to class.

But before the end of that day, I’d catch up with “Jackie” again, and ask him if he had thought about what he could do to show Jason that he didn’t mean those cruel words. That he had respect for his classmate and that he wanted to make it right again.

In the world of elementary school teaching, this is called an “apology of action.” It is designed to make the one who did the hurting take some kind of definitive action to elevate the one who was hurt. In that world, it means picking the one you targeted for the recess basketball team, or letting them sit in the best spot in the library. It means giving them some of your snack or choosing them for your math buddy.

Ten year old kids are able to understand that “It was a joke” is a very feeble excuse for being a jerk. They were able to grasp that a simple, “Sorry” can’t take away the hurt that words have caused.

They are little kids. But they get it.

Are you listening, adults in Washington DC, Hollywood, the media, the networks? Are you listening?

We know you by your words and by your actions. And we know it isn’t a joke if most of us aren’t laughing.

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To Honor Those Who Gave All


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It’s Memorial Day. Once again, I find myself conflicted as I read the messages and see the tweets and watch the news.

I am an anti-war liberal. A progressive who believes that war is never the answer. I am a bleeding heart liberal.

I came of age during the Viet Nam war, when my brother and my older cousins and dozens of their friends waited every year to find out their number in the annual draft lottery. I came of age during the years when progressives fought against that war by protesting against the soldiers who had to fight it.

Now, from the vantage point of full adulthood, I don’t understand why a stance against an undeclared war turned into anger at the soldiers who were drafted against their will to fight it. Now I am ashamed to have supported that view and that action, even though I was only a young teen.

Since then, I have learned to study our wars. I have read about our oldest wars, going all the way back to King Phillip’s War in the seventeenth century. I have read about the Seven Years War in the mid 1700’s.

I learned a lot about the American Revolution when I was teaching fifth graders. Then there was the Mexican American War, the War of 1812,  and the Spanish American War.

Of course, I have also read about and studied the most deadly, most horrific, most terrible war in our history. The American Civil War was so awful and so damaging that it’s impact is still felt today across the Southern United States.

During my own lifetime, only 6 decades so far, I have lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Iraq war, the second Iraq War, the Afghan War.

I have never fought for my country. I have never been a soldier. None of my children have fought.

So I hesitate, I have always hesitated, to speak up about war. But this year feels different for some reason. This year feels more important.

As I watch our impulsive, narcissistic, supremely self-absorbed President posturing about possible nuclear war, I find myself compelled to speak out.

Did you know that more than a million Americans have died in war during our very short lifespan? Did you know that this country has been at war for 93% of our history?

And even though we have been at war almost without a pause, we have an army that is now made up solely of volunteers. We have a military that is at war across the globe, even though no war has been declared by our Congress since 1942.

So here I am. Coming into Memorial Day Weekend.

I choose to honor, respect and value the million Americans who have given their lives for this country. I choose to honor them by demanding that those who are in power step up and do what is right. To Congress I say, either declare war or bring our young soldiers home NOW. To our President I say, either go to war or declare that we are at peace. And bring our soldiers home NOW.

To those who willingly take up arms for our country I say, be fierce. Be demanding. Make those who send you to your possible deaths explain to you WHY you are fighting. And do not accept the tired, worn, useless platitudes about “defending our freedom” or “protecting the homeland.” You are fighting in places that are so far from our homeland that many of us don’t even know what continent you are on. No one is threatening our shores with imminent invasion.

If you are fighting for oil, they should tell you that. If you are fighting for pipeline rights, you should know it. If you are fighting to maintain American control of foreign soil, you should know that too.

I honor your courage. I honor your sacrifice.

I vow to work as hard as I can for as long as I can to keep you safe, to let you stay at home protecting OUR shores.

Memorial Day is a day for all of us to commit to stopping our endless wars. It is a day for us to remember all of those who have died in service to our military. But it’s also a day for us to demand honesty and openness from that military and it’s leaders.

A flag on your grave is not enough.

On this Memorial Day, I vow to honor our million war dead by working to stop those terrible numbers from rising.

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Are We Really All That Bad?


I don’t travel very much. I have spent the majority of my life in Massachusetts, safe in my comfort zone. I know how people around me generally behave, but I don’t know all that much about other places.

But last weekend my niece got married way across the country, in far off San Diego, in the distant land of California. I really love my niece, and her family. So my sister and I got tickets and headed across this great land to celebrate the big event.

As we set out on our epic journey, I wondered what I would see as I mingled with Americans from all over. Would I see the same hateful, dangerous, sickening levels of racism that are reported over and over again in the press? Would I see people shouting at those who spoke Spanish, demanding that they “Go back to Mexico”? Would I see people spitting on those in middle Eastern dress?

I was ready.

I was pumped up and prepared. I had even internally practiced some of my responses. “Please stop. You are being a racist. Stop.”  Or, “Where were your grandparents born?” I was scared to face the reality of Trump’s America, but I was ready to strike back.

I was channeling my inner Bernie Bro as I got Logan Airport in Boston.

But.

Now that I am back at home in my rural, safe, quiet little New England town, I have to say that I am mightily relieved at the reality that I witnessed on my trip.

My sister Liz and I spent time in Boston, San Diego and Chicago. We mingled with hundreds of humans of all races, ages, ethnicities. We had the pleasure of people watching in some of this country’s largest airports.

And these are some of the memories that I brought back with me:

1. A Spanish speaking family with a beautiful little 2 year old girl was seated across from us on the plane. The little girl shrieked at one point as she watched a movie on Mom’s iPad. Her young parents tried to shush her, but the people seated around them chuckled, laughed and commented out loud about how well behaved she was.

2. An African woman (perhaps from Somalia?) was waiting at one gate at O’Hare. She was dressed from head to foot in a gorgeous deep blue robe that covered her head. She had to little girls with her. They were somewhere between 6 and 9 years old, I guessed. The girls were each dressed in robes like their mom’s, although the colors differed. All of them had deep, dark brown skin. All had gorgeous white smiles. The two little girls were dancing as I walked by, so I stopped to watch. They were whirling around, their blue and deep green robes swirling. They were laughing. Their Mom looked like every traveling parent on earth; tired, impatient, anxious. But she was smiling at the kids.

I gazed around, worried at how people might be reacting to this obviously not “American” family. I saw an Asian man laughing as he watched. I saw a red haired woman smiling at the woman. I saw a group of teen aged typical white kids giggling and smiling at the girls.

3. At one point, Liz and I were in need of a quick food fix. (You’ve traveled, right? You get it!) I decided to grab some spring rolls and rangoon from a Chinese place. I got in line. In front of me were two handsome, youngish businessmen. They were carrying leather briefcases and wearing expensive suits. They were chatting casually as they waited. They were speaking Spanish.

This struck me funny, given that we were waiting for our Chinese food. Then I realized that I was buying food for two middle aged Italians. I glanced behind me and saw a black teen, two blond women, and three more young black men.

Not an Asian in sight.

As we got to the check out, I heard the men chatting with the cashier in Spanish. The only word I caught was “soy sauce.”

4. I saw a young black woman with gorgeous braids holding a door for an older white man. They were smiling at each other as he thanked her and she answered, “No problem!”

5. When we got to our gate in Chicago, needing to catch our connecting flight to Boston, we weren’t able to find two seats together in the waiting area. So I sat down and held our luggage as Liz went in search of a rest room. An Asian man, perhaps Korean, took his bags off of the seat beside me and said, “OK.” as he nodded at me. I thanked him, but he didn’t seem to speak English.

A few minutes later, his teenaged daughter came along and saw that she had lost her seat. “Hey,” she said to her Dad, who answered quickly in his native language. “I’m sorry,” I began, “You can have the seat.”

She wouldn’t hear of it. “No, no! It’s fine” she said in perfect English as she gracefully slid to the floor and opened her laptop.

I was so relieved. So grateful. I saw a big mix of people, all helping each other get through the frustrations and joys of travel. I saw people smiling at babies, oblivious to the color, language or nationality of said babies. I saw young people respecting their elders and elders smiling at youth.

I saw the proverbial “melting pot” in action.

When we were on our way to Boston, I told Liz about what I had observed. I told her that I was relieved to see that “in spite of” the hatred spewed out by the Trump administration, we were managing to rise above it.

Liz is usually more astute than I am, and this time was no exception. She shook her head and said, “It isn’t in spite of Trump. It’s because of him and his awful followers. Everyone is going out of their way to prove him wrong. Everyone want to prove that they aren’t part of his toxic view.”

I think she’s right.

And I love it.

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Joyful, Joyful….


Children have so many skills that are lost to the rest of us. They have such gifts that we have somehow let fade in ourselves.

Today was a cool, sunny day.  It was nice. Not hot, not spectacular, just really nice.

Ellie and Johnny were here, and we spent the morning playing, making pancakes, eating said pancakes, and watching the sweet movie “Trolls”, which Ellie loves.

We ate lunch, and suddenly Ellie looked at me with her huge brown eyes and said, “Nonni! We forgot to play outside!”

As if that was her job. As if she had an inborn responsibility to play outside.

What could I do but agree with her?

Given the cool temperatures, I gave her a pair of shorts and T shirt, telling her it was too cool to play in her blow up pool. I put Johnny in pants and a shirt and a big old floppy sun hat, then greased them both up with citronella bug goo.

We stepped outside into the sunshine.

On my lawn sat a big blue pool. A blow up pool. A ten dollar pool. We had put about six inches of water into it yesterday and the kids had played near it. But we have a very very very deep well here, so the water was absolutely FREEZING. Yesterday Ellie had splashed a bit, but wasn’t able to get herself into the icy water.

But. The water had sat out all night (in the rain) and all morning in the bright sun. By the time we got outside today, it had warmed just enough to entice her.

And off she went.

I sat on a lawn chair, just watching. Johnny touched the water carefully, then sat back down. Up again, touch again, smile at Nonni, sit back down in the grass. That was his schedule for the next hour.

But Ellie?

Oh, my sweet, beautiful Ellie.

Once again this little girl, not yet three years old, has taught me what it means to live a good life.

Ellie raced onto the grass, danced in a circle and crowed, “This is a great day!!!!” Her invisible pals, “Elsa and Anna” were there with her right away. Ellie touched the water and shouted “It’s warm!” Then she peeled off her jeans and jumped into the pool.

For the next hour, she jumped in and out of the little pool, splashing, screaming, pouring water over her head. “Elsa and Anna are washing their hair!!! Look at Elsa’s face!” After pouring water over herself, she’d throw back her head and shriek.

She screamed. She yelled. She howled with joy.

She jumped, splashed, poured water onto the grass, onto her head, onto her feet, onto her baby brother.

And the whole time, the joy was just pouring out of her. Out of ever pore, every molecule, every tiny speck of that little girl, nothing but pure, pure joy came rushing out.

I sat there in awe.

She was the absolute epitome of happiness. She WAS joy incarnate.

She experienced that one hour outside today as one of absolute and total euphoria.

In a ten dollar pool, on a crabgrass and dandelion filled lawn, this sweet, pure soul danced and played and felt herself to be filled with the most innocent and unsoiled joy. She had no thought for how she looked, or who was listening, or what was happening outside of her circle of happiness.

I sat in awe. I watched her. I wanted to cry, because I couldn’t remember ever feeling that must pure happiness in such a simple way.

I watched her. I listened as she threw her head back and screamed, “I love this pool so much!!!!”

Ellie is joy. She is innocence. She is love.

So is every other child on the face of this beautiful, joyful earth.

In honor of Ellie and John, I need to continue speaking out on behalf of all of the joy filled children in this country, in Africa, in Syria, in Iran, in Iraq, in Russia, in Chechnya, in Puerto Rico.

They are joy.

We really need to find a way to learn from them.

pool kiew

When I Die


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Today I attended the funeral of a man who lived for 103 years. He was the father of one of my dearest and most treasured friends. He was a man who lived through so much change, and who seemed to somehow embrace every new step.

This gentleman was a true old Cape Codder, living through the years when the Cape was an unpaved, marshy wilderness. He hunted for ducks in the marsh. He harvested clams and oysters in the shallow waters of the bays.

He served in the Navy, he married well, and he raised two daughters. He was a businessman, a fisherman, a golfer, a true New England “old salt.”

What I loved about his memorial service today was the emotion and love that his children, grandchildren and even one great grandson shared with all of us.

What they said was exactly what I hope and pray will be said about me one day.

“He lived his own life in his own way.”

“He made us laugh.”

“Papa was full of fun.”

And best of all, “He was my friend.”

A great grandson said those words. “He was my friend.”

How beautiful. How perfect. What a wonderful accolade to a life well lived. To know that the child of your child’s child could look at you and see the face of a true friend.

I am old enough now to listen carefully to the words that are shared at funerals. I listen and I hope, and I vow to bend and shape my own life more carefully.

I hope that one day, when it is my turn to step out of this life and into the next, that some young person will speak of me with love. I pray that one of my descendants will be able to stand up and say, with honesty, “She was my true friend.”

With special love to my dear friends Wendy Bearse King and to her beautiful children. A life well lived is the best aspiration that any of us can have.