Wow! I had an adventure!


I am basically very cowardly.

I’m scared of getting hurt. I’m scared of falling. I’m scared of falling down an up escalator.

I’m a wimp.

But.

Now that I’m retired, and in my seventh decade of life, I am determined to push myself into new and exciting exploits. So last week, on school vacation, when Ellie would be safe in her Mommy’s arms, I had….an adventure.

I didn’t got to the Amazon to try to catch a piranha. And I didn’t head to Tibet to climb the Himalayas.

Still, for me, this was an awesome adventure.

I flew, all by myself, to the West Coast.

I know. You’re all in awe, right? I was dropped off at the huge, bustling Manchester New Hampshire airport. I flew. Alone. To Philadelphia. Where I had to (gulp) change planes.

And I flew all by my onesies across this beautiful country, all the way to San Francisco. Where I was met at the baggage claim by one of my oldest and dearest friends.

But that’s not all!

No, indeed. After three days with my pal Deb and her family, I flew ALL. BY. MYSELF. to Portland, Oregon. Where I was met at the airport by my friend Joanne, who I met when I was six years old.

So, I get it. Even though this was a huge adventure for me, it isn’t really such a big deal. Most people now jet around the world like it’s nothing.

But not me.

For me, this was a big, big stretch. And that’s why I’m telling you about it. For me, for 61 year old Nonni, this was a gigantic leap out of my comfort zone.

I made myself do it.

It scared me.

And it was fabulous. I got to see gorgeous places I would never have seen if I hadn’t pushed my sorry old self out the door. Places like Berkeley, California.

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If I hadn’t pushed myself out of my cozy little niche, I wouldn’t have had the chance to dip my feet in the Pacific at beautiful Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

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If I hadn’t decided that I was tired of being the world’s biggest chicken, I would never have flown up to Portland to reconnect with my buddy Joanne. The woman who bought me my very fist makeup (Max Factor Rose Cream Blush).

And if I had never gone up to Portland, I wouldn’t have met her hilarious, smart, warm, generous friends. I would never have seen the gorgeous Columbia river and the falls that pour into it.

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More importantly, I wouldn’t have learned that the way to make a REALLY dry martini is to use a spritzer for the vermouth. Amazon has already shipped mine.

People grow in many different ways. I understand that.

For me, growth means pushing and shoving and forcing myself out there into the big wide world. I made myself fly all alone when I was afraid.

I loved it.

Now I need to force myself to become a writer. I need to learn how to submit my stories, my essays, my thoughts for others to review, critique and judge. I need to overcome my fears and just. Try.

Life is constant growth, if you do it right.

I have to say it.

It’s actually pretty fun to be my age.

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My name is…


I’ve been thinking about names lately. My daughter and her husband are going to have their second child soon. We know that it will be a little boy, and they have settled on a name for him.

He will be named for a well loved Great Grampa who died a few months ago. It’s perfect, right?

But I’ve been thinking about how names sound, and the impression that they give. I’ve been thinking about names that sound like a person you’d trust. And names that make you shake your head and wonder if those parents hated that kid.

As a confirmed lefty, I’ve been doing my part to support the Our Revolution movement. That’s the next step in the Bernie Sanders movement, if you don’t know. Very vibrant, very interesting group, and I’m happy to help! So I’ve been doing some data entry for them.

Which means that I have been seeing some amazing names.

I won’t use any real ones here, of course, but to young parents everywhere, let me just say that before you slap a monicker on that adorable little bundle, THINK about how that name will read in 30 years when some old lady is putting it into a data base.

Some names inspire trust. I would want my doctor to be named “Michael Hampshire.” Solid, not too flashy, unpretentious. “Jennifer Worth.”  Yup. She can do my cardiac surgery, for sure.

Other names make me want to write a short story that involves a diner, a lonely waitress and a quietly insane fry-cook. “Sarah Bluette” and “Jace Pratchett” fit right in there, don’t you think?

Then there are the names that you know Mom and Dad chose because they were so adorable and original! They did not picture the kids in sixth grade making fun of little “Sharley McRoggle” or “Kerreigh Koyne.”

And some names make me just feel humble. The names that ring of truth and strength. Names that are unapologetically ethnic or racially proud. Names that mean, “I am not going to melt into the pot, no sir. I intend to be the spice in your potato soup.” Names that are spelled originally or names that hark back to older generations. “Karim” is a personal favorite of mine. “Sasha” or “LiYu” or “Epiphania” or “Dougal” or “Shaquan.”

My mom’s name is Vincenza, but she is known as Zena. That’s very cool.

Our names are, in some odd ways, our destiny.

I was aware of this when I was at the Woman’s March in DC not long ago. I was with my High School friend, Karen. As we moved through the surging crowds to get onto the Metro, we heard a voice calling, “Karen! Over here!” We both turned, of course, and we saw a woman our age, waving to her friend.

All the Karens in the US, it seems, were born between 1952 and 1958. You’re not going to find a Karen in kindergarten, although you might very well find a “Helen,” an “Alice” or an “Ed.”

When I was naming my own kids, I was careful. Paul and I thought about how the names sounded. We like the ‘th’ sound, it turns out. We have Katharine, Matthew and Timothy in our family. But we were also thinking of nicknames.

Being named Paul and Karen meant that we didn’t have a lot of nicknames. There’s not much you can do with the labels we got at birth.

We wanted our kids to have some flexibility. If they became businesspeople or lawyers or politicians, those full names would work. If they became teachers, or coaches or athletes, they’d have cool nicknames. Katie, Matty, Timmy.

Naturally, all three of them now go by Kate, Matt and Tim.

Still. A lot of thought went into those names. A lot.

Yours truly,

“Boots” aka “Karen” aka Kira aka Karima and now known as Nonni.

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Proof That I Am A Lucky Nonni


Oh, I know. You’re all thinking, ‘Here she goes again. Ellie is perfect, Ellie is genius, blah, blah, blah.’

Well, the joke’s on you.

This post is not about Ellie.

OK. Well, not directly anyway.

This post is about the fact that I know I’m the luckiest women in the whole wide world because I get to spend every single day with my granddaughter, AND: her parents are so relaxed they even make ME feel calm.

Let me set the stage.

When I was a young mother of three beautiful babies, I was neurotic. Like, really.

The first time my first child threw up, I didn’t think, “Stomach bug.” Nope. I called my sister, sobbing. “She has a brain tumor!!!”

I am not calm. I am not a laid back Momma.

Nevertheless, in spite of me, all three of my kids have grown up to be healthy and happy adults.

Now I have Ellie. My love. My perfect “do over.” My chance to be the one who stays at home and does the nurturing.

God, I love that girl…..

So far, Ellie has given me the chance to relive all of my most precious Momma memories. I have given her a bottle, rocked her to sleep, held her while she napped. I have read her books, changed her diaper, sat her on the potty.

Hell, I have fed her my meatballs and watched her smear the sauce all over her face and hair.

These are the things that I missed so intensely after my nest emptied. These are the sweet memories that had me sobbing into my pillow at 3 AM.

Ellie has let me relive all of those moments. And this time I am acutely aware of the fleeting and profoundly moving nature of those moments.

I am so grateful to her parents for trusting me.

Still. I am a nut.

Yesterday Ellie came back to me after 10 full days away from each other. I went to pick her up and she was sobbing. “Mommy! Mommy!” she was chanting. Her Dad and I were both unsure of how to make her feel better about having her Mommy go back to work after school vacation.

I sang, I acted silly, I fed her oatmeal (OK, my husband made it the way she likes it…) and then we tried to settle into our day.

Somewhere around midday, I looked at Ellie and saw the drooping eyes, the red cheeks, the sad expression. Our eyes met, and she walked over to me. She settled into the space between my knees, and laid her head on my arm.

“Nanni,” she said.

I felt the heat of her skin.

Our Ellie had a fever.

I texted her Mom, gave her some Tylenol, poured her a cup of cool water. Then I sat in my rocking chair and held her against me. She was breathing fast, the way little ones do when they have a fever. Her head was resting against my cheek. Her hot little hand was holding mine.

I hummed some old songs. The songs I used to sing to her Momma and her Uncles. We rocked. She dozed. Every now and then, she turned to me with those shiny fever eyes and said, again, “Nanni.”

My heart melted right down into my toes.

Of course, I gave her Tylenol, and she perked up in 30 minutes. But still. For that brief time, I was right back in those special, beautiful, meaning-of-life moments, when I was the only comfort for a sick baby.

Mea culpa, mea culpa!

I was sorry that she was sick, and I did what I needed to do to make her feel better.

Still. I freakin’ loved that half hour of rocking her hot little body.

And this is why I’m the luckiest woman alive.

When I confessed this horrible truth to my daughter….when I explained to her how much I loved holding her sick child….she said, “So? It’s not like you infected her on purpose.”

She is a goddess. She let’s me be the neurotic Nonni I was born to be. Her husband is right there with her.

See?

Who in the world is luckier than me?

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Happy, happy Nonni

Layers on layers


I used to think that each of us was born as an unformed little white dot. I thought that every experience added on a layer, and that each layer covered the ones before.

I thought that we were like pearls. Layer on layer of life, constantly growing around us until we became fully formed humans. I thought that process would just keep on going until at last we die.

Some of that is no doubt true. We grow and we change and we certainly learn as we move along the paths of our lives.

But now that I’m on the downhill slope of this life, past the midway point, I have a completely different idea.

In the past few years, my husband and I have reconnected with some of our oldest friends. These are people who knew us when we were young and foolish. When we had no real idea yet of who we’d be.

When we weren’t much more than those unformed “dots.”

These were the people who watched us struggle to learn our limits, and who watched us struggle to define our dreams. They grew with us. Our friendships were more intense than any we’d ever have again, although we didn’t know that at the time.

Eventually, we grew up. We got our degrees. We parted ways as we moved into our ‘real’ lives. We became parents. We launched our careers. We grew into our adult selves.

Layers were laid upon our layers.

Then, oh so suddenly, we found ourselves at the point in our lives where we were no longer “on our way.” We were THERE.

Our children grew up. We became the “old guard” at our jobs.

We thought we were our fully formed, true selves.

But now we’ve hugged and laughed with those old friends. Now I see that its time to peel back some of those layers. Those layers of cynicism, and of fatigue. It’s time to scratch off the layers of unfulfilled dreams, and to let them fly away on the wind. It’s time to peel away the layers of self-criticism and drop them into the passing stream.

Now it’s time to go back to our truest selves, our best selves.

I think that in the presence of the people who knew us at our wide-eyed best we can once again find that inner, innocent self.

I think the pearl is in there, but it takes an old and true friend to help us find it.

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Rock maple and dovetailed joints.


 

32235_398975950898_543400898_4765939_6508281_nMy Dad could do anything with his hands. When we were little, he used to spend a weekend taking apart a car engine, cleaning everything, then putting it back together again.

He could fix leaky pipes, he could paint walls and trim. My Dad could lay down carpet, strip wallpaper, rewire lights, plane the bottoms of doors so they wouldn’t stick.

Most of all, though, my Dad could bring out the life and the beauty of wood.

He made shelves, and little stools and steps and work sheds.

My Dad made my sons tiny wooden train sets that fit together perfectly. Each car had one of the boy’s names on it.

They are still here, in our house. The golden stained wood still gleams. The pieces still fit, 25 years after he made them. They are still beautiful.

Last weekend I drove two hours out to the small city in the Berkshire Hills where my boys live. I got a tour of the classic Victorian house where my son Matt is living.

As soon as I saw the old wooden floors, and the built in shelving, and the gorgeous dark wood bannisters on the stairs, I though of Dad. He would have loved that house!

We went up into Matt’s room, and there I saw his bureau. An old, golden hued wooden bureau, in Matt’s bedroom.

And it was if Dad was standing there beside me.

I started to laugh, but there were tears in there, too.

“Oh, man! I forgot that you have this bureau!” I said, running my hands across the smooth top.

“This is rock maple.” I said it reverently, although I have no idea what “rock maple” is. I could hear Dad saying those words to me, and they were filled with respect and pride when he said them.

So I repeated them to my boy.

This old bureau had belonged to my husband in his childhood. He doesn’t know where it came from, but he grew up with it. When we got married, it became our bureau. It was in our first apartment in the corner of the bedroom. It travelled with us to grad school in New Jersey, and then to our first apartment after graduation.

When our baby was born, we moved for a while back into my parents’ house. We needed to save money and we needed a safe, clean place to live. So back “home” we went.

And that’s where my Dad taught me how to refinish furniture. We took that old bureau, scratched and dinged and dirty, down into Dad’s garage workshop. And he stripped the old stain off, and sanded it, and sanded it again. I learned about the grades of sandpaper, and the use of a good “tack cloth”. I learned to use mineral spirits to clean up every speck of dirt and sawdust.

I learned about the proper use of stain, and how to smooth it on evenly. Dad pointed out the dovetail joints in the bureau drawers, telling me that you don’t see those very often any more.

Together we chose the stain, a very light golden oak that brought out the warmth in the hard, hard wood. Dad showed me every grain in that wood. He showed me how to be sure that every rough bit was smoothed away.

“Like a baby’s bottom,” he’d say when we got a drawer face perfectly smooth.

It was so special to work there beside him. He never got impatient. He never seemed in a hurry. I saw how the wood came to life under his hand. I saw how he was able to coax beauty out of something rough and old and stained.

I had wanted to toss out that old piece of furniture as soon as we could, but Dad was horrified at the thought.

“This is rock maple!” he’d said. “Those are dovetailed joints!”

Together we worked on the old wooden bureau, and I learned that my father was an artist, though he never described himself that way. I learned to be patient when polishing the top of a refinished piece of furniture with wax.

I learned how to listen, to watch, to imitate. I learned how to see the strength and the beauty under the rough exterior.

I learned how much my father loved a job well done, and I learned how much I loved my father.

Last week, standing in that bedroom in that old Victorian house, I caught sight of that beautiful bureau, with my son’s belongings sitting on top.

“This is rock maple!” I told him seriously. I pulled out one of the drawers. “See?” I asked him and  his bemused friend, “These are dovetailed joints.”

They agreed that the bureau is a real beauty. They were smiling at my earnestness.

We left then, turning off the lights and leaving the old rock maple bureau in the dark, in that old, old house.

It’s hard to say how much I love the thought of my son sleeping every night beside that wood that had felt my Dad’s loving hand.

I hope Matt keeps that bureau. I hope he gives it to a child of his own one day.

I hope that he tells that child, very seriously, “This is rock maple, you know.”

 

 

A Puppy, A Baby, And A Nonni On The Brink


Oh, sure. It all sounded so easy.

Of course I could handle a baby and puppy. Pffft.  I used to teach fifth grade! How hard could this be?

See, I pride myself on being a nurturing, loving, patient Grandmother. When I picture myself (you know, when no one is around, and the house is all clean and quiet), I see a chubby, gray haired, smiling woman in an apron. Her wrinkles all match her smiles; there’s nary a frown line to be found on her sweet face. The house smells like delicious food and the floors are immaculate.

Birds are singing, the sky is blue.

You get the picture.

I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect reality to live up to the image.

So. We got a puppy.

We got little puppy Lennie on a Saturday morning. He was sweet, cuddly, full of puppy kisses.

He also peed every 60 seconds, indoors and out. The pee was nasty and bloody.

We spent his first afternoon at the local animal hospital emergency room. Puppy Lennie had come to us with a raging urinary tract infection.

We got through Saturday night and Sunday with 79 loads of wash and 65 floor washings.

Then in was Monday and our best beloved little one year old Ellie arrived. And the sweet, smiling Nonni in the apron turned into a raging lunatic old woman in a hoodie.

See, when you have a puppy, you have train said puppy. Which means that you have to reward said puppy literally every time you say “come” or “sit” or “drop it” or “get the hell off the bed, you stupid mutt!”

Which means that you have to walk around with a pocket full of tiny doggy treats. Hence the hoodie with its handy front pocket.

The raging lunatic part happened at about noon.

Poor Ellie was cutting four molars, and her digestive system was not at its best. It had been a long morning full of, “Lennie, drop Ellie’s sock!” and “Down! Down!” and “Let go of her hair, you menace!”

Ellie was overwrought. Nonni was exhausted. Lennie was having the time of his life.

Then Ellie pooped. She pooped a lot. She pooped as only a teething baby with an uncannily omnivorous appetite can poop.

I laid her on the couch and peeled off her diaper to find a massive smear of disgusting orange human waste and a butt so raw that there were blisters. Poor baby girl!

I grabbed a handful of baby wipes, trying to get off the worst of the mess without hurting her any more as the poor little kid sobbed her heart out. I carelessly plopped the poopy diaper on the coffee table beside me. I figured I could wrap it up and throw it out in a few minutes.

Yep. You called it.

Puppy Lennie, also affectionately known as “the Poop Hunter”, grabbed the unwrapped diaper in his tiny teeth and took off through the house.

He galloped, the poop flew left, the poop flew right. In his joyous excitement, Mr. UTI peed with every step.

Ellie sobbed, and rubbed her sore bottom with her fist, thereby smearing the poop all over her hand, and right into her hair……

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Flash forward 30 minutes. Ellie was safely seated in a warm bath, Lennie was back in his crate with a rawhide.

Nonni was hurrying back and forth from the bathroom to the rest of the house, vinegar soaked mop in hand.

Eventually, after what felt like a week,  the baby, the puppy, the walls and the floors were all clean again.

Ellie fell asleep on a blanket on the couch. Lennie fell asleep on a rug on the floor.

I collapsed onto the sofa. I looked at my elderly dog, Tucker, sitting at my feet. He looked back at me. Our eyes met. Neither one of us smiled.

I’m not sure about him, but I know I still had poop under my nails. I contemplated changing my clothes, but it seemed kind of pointless.

I reached out my stinky, vinegar and poop scented hand and patted his stoic old head.

“You don’t happen to know how to make a dirty martini, do you?” I asked.

He didn’t.

But I felt better anyway.

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I was sure that the next day, I’d wear an apron and the house would smell like cinnamon and love instead of vinegar and poop.

Stay tuned.

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Who, us? What did we do?

A letter from Miss Sadie


 

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Sadie, the elegant and beautiful

Dear Mistress,

I know this is hard for you. I am sorry.

I have tried very hard to stay strong and healthy. I exercise every day by walking with the Master and the Wolf King. I try to chase squirrels as often as possible, but those fuzzy little bullets have become faster over the years.

Since I’ve come here to live with you, life has been sweet. My fur is brushed and clean. Thank you! You have done such a good job of keeping my ears healthy, and my nails clipped.

I wish I could stay longer. I do.

Dear Mistress,

Remember how you used to take me to the vet?  I am a good dog. I am a very good dog.

I can always tell when you are nervous or unhappy. You smell sort of sharp and electricky. On those long rides to the vet, back when my skin was super itchy and peeling, I used to love looking out the window and feeling the movement of the car. But I could tell from your smell that you didn’t feel happy.

Remember all those visits? I liked that nice vet with the soft touch and the very crunchy treats in the jar.

You didn’t like that place, though. I could tell that you were especially unhappy when we used to go stand at the big desk before we went home. You would take out that little plastic card and you would start to smell worried.

I don’t know what “ring worm” is, but thank you for taking it away!

Man, that was itchy.

Mistress, I know that you used to cook for the Wolf King and I. I saw you with the chicken, and the liver, and the rice and carrots. Thank you so much!

You were great.

Dear, sweet Mistress.

I remember those nights with the thunder storms.

I am a good dog. I am so sorry for all the times I dug into the closet and threw out all the shoes. I am sorry for all of the drool that I put on your pillow, but I was so scared of all the noise! I tried not to shake, but I was terrified of the flashing lights. I wanted you to hold me, and you did.

I remember how the Master used to go downstairs with me to sleep on the sofa so we could be away from the storm.

You and the Master have been so good to me.

The Wolf King has been interesting, too. I love him, the big dopey face. I know he’ll miss me, too.

Dear Mistress,

This is just how it goes. I’m old.

I’m very, very old.

I need to go and rest soon.

Will you be OK?

I hope that someone will come to lie on your front steps all day to keep you safe. I hope that you will soon have someone to get up with you in the night when you cannot sleep. I hope that there will be another dog here to walk with you and Master.

Dear Mistress,

I will try my best, because I am a very good dog, to lie down quietly in the yard and simply go to sleep. I hope that you don’t have to put me in the car and take me to face the needle.

I will try, dear Mistress. I don’t want you or the Master to be upset. If I can do it, I will go softly. I will lie down and I will go to sleep.

And I will cross that bridge and run and play and I will be young again. And I will wait for you.

Love,

Miss Sadie

 

 

Just Clowning Around


When I was a little kid, Bozo the Clown was just about the coolest character there was.

OK, maybe he wasn’t quite as awesome as Rex Trailor, the TV cowboy, but he was still pretty fun. I used to watch Bozo on TV all the time. I even went to see him live one time! It was great.

Clowns were silly, funny, amusing. They used to be the grownups who didn’t act like grownups. We used to love clowns!

Now I find myself completely baffled and not particularly sympathetic when entire university campuses are put on lockdown because someone has allegedly spotted a (cough, cough) clown.

I mean, I understand the fear caused by the appearance of adults in strange makeup who try to lure kids into the woods. That original report by a little boy in S. Carolina was definitely spooky.

But now we have an entire country shaking in its boots because of…..um….clowns. Countless invisible clowns who haven’t actually done anything. Not one has been caught, arrested, or even questioned.

Seriously, folks? I mean, really?

In a world where families live with the constant threat of barrel bombs dropping on their homes, we are scared of clowns?

In a world where people have to fight for every bite of food for their children, we’re staying up at night because a guy with red nose is standing on the street?

I fear that we have lost our collective minds, America.

Last night I saw a message on Facebook warning people in my small, sheltered New England town to “Stay safe! Clown sightings in town! Keep windows up in your car!”

Why? Because he might squirt you with a flower on his lapel? He might squeak his nose at you?

Fellow Americans, we need to get a grip. The world is a beautiful place. There are so many things to love, enjoy, savor in the world around us.

And there are things to fear, too. Ignorance, hatred, greed. Fear those if you need to feel afraid. Superbugs, wars, famine, drought. Those are actual threats to our well being.

But clowns?

Come on. If you are living in fear of a clown, you have to admit that life for you is pretty damn sweet and you are actually incredibly safe.

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What the absolute f*ck?


I know. That’s just such an improper headline. I know.

But my sister Liz showed me the most hilarious little video that had that as the punch line, and now its in my head.

And when I tell you what has happened to me in the past week, you will also feel the need to say that same phrase.

Really.

Let’s begin three weeks ago, more or less.

I realized that every now and then, when I sipped my nice hot espresso, my lower left molar would go into a screaming fit of pain. My mouth would fill with saliva and my left cheekbone would start to feel like someone was jamming a hot spike into it.

Now, I am not stupid.

The fourth or fifth time that happened, I realized that I needed to call the dentist. So….a week or so after I realized that I needed to call, I looked up the number.

A few days later, with “call the dentist” at the top of my To Do list, I started to notice the same hot spike feeling if I ate something cold. Or sweet.

So I called.

See? I am not an idiot. I called the dentist and I got an appointment for three weeks later.

Yay, me!

This past weekend I went down to Pennsylvania with my sister Liz, who is better than I am at everything. I love her in spite of her awesomeness, and the two of us laughed our way down the  highways toward Lewisburg Pa, where we were going to meet our brand new great niece.

On the way, we stopped for coffee.

I was driving. Liz was looking at the map and chatting away. I took a good deep swig of the hot coffee and I felt the entire left side of my head explode.

My left eye watered as I drove. My heart hammered in my chest. My vocal cords made an involuntary “eh-eh-eh” sound.

I needed to have my tooth yanked out. But I kept driving.

After a half hour or so, the pain faded down to a dull roar. All was well. I knew I could make it another week before my appointment.

Liz and I went to Pennsylvania. We met our gorgeous little great niece and we celebrated with her wonderful parents. It was so so sweet! And my jawbone cooperated without having a screaming fit, so I was very happy.

Last night I got home, and unpacked and chatted with Paul. I went off to bed feeling happy and relaxed.

Hahaha. Silly, silly me.

As I went to bed, I popped in the little rubber mouth guard that I’ve been using for the past 5 years. It stops me from grinding my teeth and breaking all my molars. It’s not a big deal.

I fell asleep and had a lovely dream about the new baby.

Then I woke up. It was 3 AM. Something seemed off.

As I came more fully into consciousness, I noticed that the tip of my tongue felt very very strange. It felt like sandpaper. It felt like a bloated balloon. It felt like a big, bloated, sandpapered balloon.

I ran the scratchy balloon across my lower lip.

What. The. Hell.

My lower lip was just wrong.

I got up, fumbling for my phone to give me some light. I stumbled to the bathroom and quietly closed the door so I wouldn’t wake Paul up. I turned on the light, and made my way to the mirror.

Holy horrific images!

There was a face looking back at me. Its eyes were ringed with wrinkled, puffy sacks. Its gray hair was standing up in tufts all over its head. It had a big nose and a HUGE, pendulous, swollen lower lip hanging out over its chin.

It was my scary, creepy Uncle Salvatore staring back at me from my bathroom mirror.

The shriek that came out of that mouth would have roused the dead.

Luckily, I realized that the sound was coming from me, and that the distorted face was the result of some kind of crazy allergic reaction. I pulled out the mouth guard, took a long cold drink of water, and tried to think of what to do.

My mouth was burning, swollen, itchy and numb at the same time. I took a Claritin and some herbal antihistamines. I laid back down in my bed.

I tried to sleep, but my giant lip kept finding its way between my teeth. Finally I dozed and I woke to another day.

I have no idea why my body decided to react to the mouthguard after all these years. I have no idea why my lip turned into a giant raw wound filled with hot coals. I don’t know if any of this is related to the nerve in my lower jaw that definitely needs to be removed as soon as possible.

All I know is that as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror in the middle of the night with my gigantic lip throbbing in pain, all I could think of was the final line of that video Liz shared with me.

“What the absolute f*ck?” could be my motto today.

What am I supposed to do with the world’s biggest lower lip?

 


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I was thinking tonight, as I walked outside after supper, that I get some contentment from knowing that every fall will feel the same.

I know that every late summer the air will start to smell sharper. I know that the days will stay hot, but the nights will turn cool.

Even though it hasn’t happened yet this year, I know that the leaves on the Burning Bush will turn bright red. I know that the goldfinches will lose their color and that the turkeys will start to march through the yard every morning.

I was thinking that in a way it’s kind of boring. It’s predictable. After 26 years in this house, I know what color the leaves of every tree will be. I know that the pine needles will turn golden and that some will fall. I know that the snow will come to cover the stepping stones that I’ve placed in the garden.

Ho hum. How routine.

How safe.

Then I started to think of life  as seen through the eyes of my sweet granddaughter. Ellie is in her second autumn, but last year she was barely aware or alert. This year she notices every falling leaf. She laughs out loud at jack-o-lantern faces. She smells every marigold as if it is a miracle.

Every day when we go outside, she searches in the garden for “nomonos”, her favorite little cherry tomatoes. They are almost gone, and I understand that. For Ellie, this is an affront to her sense of order. “Where are my orange snacks?” I can hear her thinking. “I want to come out here every day of my life and eat sweet tomatoes!”

Life just goes around and around in such a repeating circle. Ellie doesn’t know that yet.

I think that the secret to loving life is to always find a way to see the circle as new. For me, that means surrounding myself with children. To them, every day is a brand new adventure.

How delicious!