The Day I Just Plain Sucked


Have you ever had a day where, from the moment you open your gritty eyeballs, you just can’t get anything right?

Have you ever had the kind of day where every god, goddess and bad guy in the universe is seemingly engaged in a conspiracy to prove that you are a total waste of molecular energy? The kind of day where, if you could just quiet the roaring of your overflowing toilet, you’d actually hear the sound of distant maniacal laughter?

No?

Welp. I have.

In fact, as you have probably already surmised, I had one of those days today. And, yep, you’re right. You’re going to hear about it.

Let me just set the stage first, alright?

Today was the last full day in the life of my beautiful old hound dog, Tucker the Wonder Puppy. Also known as “The Wolf King.” At the age of 12 and a half, Tucker has walked his last walk, chased his last frisbee, eaten his last beef bone. He is losing his vision, and can barely get himself up or down the stairs, even with lots of loving human support.

It’s time.

The call has been made, the appointment is set. Today is his last full day on this lovely green earth.

So of course, last night Paul and I were up at 3 AM easing him down the stairs and out the front door to poop. We were up again bright and early this morning doing the same thing. We are sad, tired, nostalgic, sick at heart.

We are not at our peppy best.

And this is the first full week of school, which means that it is Nonni’s first week of trying to juggle a three month old and a two year old, both of whom miss their Mommy all day long.

All of that would have probably been more or less OK, except that it was also pouring and pelting buckets of rain all day. And I somehow messed up the bottles so that the wrong nipple was on the wrong bottle and poor baby Johnny could barely get a drop of milk all day.

Oh, and I invited my granddaughter’s best best friend and her Momma to come over to visit today. Because…why not?

So.

There I was.

New company at my door. Rain pouring down. Old dog whining on the rug. Puppy yipping, jumping and relentlessly trying to mate with the young woman who came to visit. Baby Johnny desperately trying to get milk, to no avail. Two year old Ellie and her bestie, Hazel, trying to work out the fine points of sharing while Ellie shrieked “ELLIE’S TOYS!” at about 95 decibels.

I was trying to bake a gingerbread cake, but it was in process when our guests arrived, because I had spent an hour sobbing over my old dog and I was behind schedule. I was trying to control the puppy, but I have honestly never seen him so determined to fuse himself with a human while yelping and yipping nonstop and shedding at the same time. I was trying to help Ellie with her sharing while simultaneously trying to get her to stop screaming at the top of her tiny little lungs.

I wanted our new friends to look at me and think, “Wow! Nonni sure is on top of things! What a lovely nurturing figure she’d be in our lives!”

I failed.

I failed wicked.

Instead of looking calm, serene and loving, I looked insane, sweaty, tearful and overwhelmed.

I mean. Jesus. This is NOT my first rodeo. I swear; I really can host lunch for a mommy and her adorable, sweet little girl! I CAN!

Except that today, I couldn’t.

Get this.

I offered them lunch, saying that I had lots of cold cuts and peanut butter and jelly. “Sure!” said lovely young Mommy. “We love peanut butter and jelly!”

So I went to get it out. And I discovered that…….

…..I had no bread.

None.

So I served peanut butter and jelly on graham crackers while the baby cried and the puppy howled and the old dog moaned and the wind blew and the rain poured down.

I. Absolutely. Sucked. Today.

My only hope at this point is that lovely young mommy and sweet little best friend will give us another chance. Maybe when old dog is gone, puppy is calm, the weather is good, and I’ve remembered to shop.

Sigh.

I guess you can’t win ’em all.

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Please!!! Please can I lick your face off????!!! 

 

 

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All Worn Out


I am done. Worn out. Run down. Squeezed dry.

I am just absolutely sick of all the Americans who are determined to pounce on every reason to gripe, point fingers and complain about each other.

A hurricane came roaring into an American city. It blew over homes, businesses, churches, schools, animal shelters, restaurants and used car lots. It poured more water onto one spot than we’ve ever seen.

Human beings are dying out there. They are dying in their flooded houses, huddled on their bureaus on the third floor. Old people are shivering in the cold water. Babies are crying and scared.

This is a true, honest-to-God disaster.

And I can’t help them! I can’t rush in from the safety of my New England home to rescue terrified families. I can’t bring medicine to sick people, or take home drowning puppies, or jump in my kayak to deliver clean water.

It breaks my heart to watch and be unable to help, other than writing a check.

In light of all that, may I please make a request?

Dear conservative friends and family,

For the love of God, Barack Obama was NOT president during Hurricane Katrina. Stop with all that “Where was Obama during Katrina?” crap. Just stop.

This is not Hillary’s fault. It isn’t Obama’s fault, or Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s fault. The DNC didn’t cause this and you can’t pin it on Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow or antifa.

It was a hurricane. It was nature. It happened.

Now people, our fellow American citizens, our fellow humans are desperately tying to survive.

So. Just. Stop.

Dear liberal friends and family,

I do not care, not one bit, what kind of shoes Melania wore to Houston. I don’t care that Trump sounded incredibly self-serving at his press conference down there. Hullo. Have you ever heard him NOT sound self-serving? His narcissism is NOT the point today.

Texas needs help, and Congress can provide it. So can we please move on and forget that after Hurricane Sandy a bunch of Texas political hacks refused to vote in favor of a relief package for New Jersey? Now is not the time to play “I can be as big an asshole as you can.” Americans need help. End of story.

Also, I know that some people out there will try to post images that feed a particular racial narrative (the looting black men, the white rescuers, etc). But does it really help any of us to be on hyper alert searching ahead of time for those posts?

There are a million other images out there that show the young black men saving elderly white ladies, and black officers holding onto white children.

All I can say is that I have been more or less glued to the news for the past week. I have heard story after story of plain old regular folks coming out to save others.

Today I was listening to NPR, and I heard an interview with a young man who had come from his safe Texas town to another flooded out community. He came with his boat and his cousin in tow. The young man had one of those thick-as-molasses Texas accents that in normal times makes me think “redneck.”

I’ll be painfully honest, in normal times, I would have immediately pegged him for an ignorant southern hick. I would have assumed he was a big Trump supporter and that he was probably a racist.

All that because of the way he says, “Yes, Sir, I heard they was needin’ boats out bah the freeway.”

But I listened to his words as he was answering the reporter. He said that he’d come down with his boat because he has a license to navigate it. He cousin came because he’d served two tours in Iraq as a medic, and he was able to help anyone with medical concerns.

And with a little laugh this humble young man said, “I figured we was at least kind of qualified to help.”

When the reporter asked him why he would risk his life for complete strangers, he was clearly taken aback. He said, “Well, Sir, if it was your Momma or your Grandaddy in the wattah, wouldn’t you wan’t someone to come ‘n hep?”

So please, dear friends. Give it a damn rest. Stop the finger pointing, the name calling, the anxious and angry posturing. I’m pretty sure that when the water goes down, all the bullshit will start back up and I’ll be more than ready to jump back on the “Trump is insane” bandwagon.

But for now, can we just please do our best to stay positive, and let everyone heal up a bit?

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What used to be…


For so many years, this was the week when I felt my energy rise and flood into every pore. This was the week when I thought about the new kids who would be in my care for ten months. It was the week when I unpacked the boxes of new folders, new notebooks, new pencils, new markers, new crayons.

For so many years, this was my week of starting over.

THIS would be the year when I’d finally understand the science curriculum and I’d engage the kids in such excitement about heating and cooling! Or THIS would finally be the year when I’d be able to make perfect small math groups so that every single child would finally grasp the wonder and joy of multiplying fractions.

The last week of August, for this teacher, meant a chance to really get it right. To forget the errors of the past, to embrace the shiny new textbooks of the new year, and to charge forward into a year of challenge and growth.

The last week of August is the time to shrug off your doubts and open your heart to your new classroom family. It is a chance to reinvent yourself and to create a new, harmonious home for your teacher heart.

I used to love this week.

Now I am in a different place. Now I watch my teaching colleagues set up their classrooms, label their desks, put names on their hallway cubbies.

Now I sit at home, feeling the cool evening air. Now I set up the pack n’ play, string the toys across the top, and organize all of the toddler snacks.

Now I sit back and appreciate the cool breeze. I think about the apple farms and the local parks. I plan trips to the lake, knowing that the only people there will be young mothers and happy grandmothers, all of us chasing little ones who are too young to worry about the first day of school.

Life is a big old circle. And I am riding around and around.

 

Oh, But I’m Afraid.


I’m sixty one years old. I’m white. I am happily middle class. I speak English as my first language. I was raised as a Christian. I’m heterosexual.

I have every kind of privilege there is, other than being a man.

There is going to be a big right wing rally in Boston tomorrow. It says it’s about “free speech”, but the speakers are Nazis, white supremacists, racists.

There is going to be a big counter rally nearby, as well as a march to the spot where the alt-right is gathering.

What do I do?

I am so conflicted.

Here is a bit of my thinking.

Don’t go:

• I live an hour and half from Boston

• I’m a 61 year old Grandmother

• There are younger, more fit people who could go.

• It might be violent. I don’t want to get hurt.

• There are people who depend on me! My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be healthy and whole.

Do go:

• For my entire life, I’ve wondered why more German people didn’t stand up to the Nazis. I assured myself, time and time again, that if I had been there, I would have done something to stop them.

• I’m as safe as anyone can be. White haired, white skinned, pudgy; I make a ridiculous target for anyone who wants to look like a tough guy.

• My grandparents gave up everything they knew…home, language, family, livelihood….so that they could raise their family here in the United States. They came for inclusion, acceptance, safety, prosperity.

•My father and his brothers, first generation Americans, went to war to fight the Nazis. They fought in Germany and even in the homeland of Italy. THEY would certainly march here if they were still alive.

• I was a teacher. I made it my life’s work to support and encourage and nurture children. At no point did I EVER say “but not the black kids” or “not the Jewish kids” or “not the Muslims.” As a teacher, as a nurturer, it is my obligation to stop bullies. Adult bullies, armed to the teeth and ready to murder anyone who isn’t one of their sick group, those are the bullies that I have to Stop. Right. Now. However I can.

• There are people who depend on me. My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be a model of courage in the face of evil.

So I’ll be joining my brave husband, and two of our progressive, courageous friends tomorrow. We will go to Boston. We will do what we can to be really safe and secure.

But we WILL stand up for our Black/gay/Jewish/Muslim/Asian/Latino/trans/disabled/fill-in-the-blank neighbors and fellow citizens.

Honestly, we don’t actually have that much of a choice.

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A Time To March


I’m horrified, shocked, furious about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville this weekend. White Nationalists, whatever the hell that means, marched supposedly to protect the statue of a man who committed treason 150 years ago and then lost a war.

How to pick a winner, right?

They wore Nazi insignia. They gave the Nazi salute. They chanted about the Jews “replacing” them.

Their true goal, obviously, was not to stand up for old dead Robert E. Lee. It was to provoke a fight with all those awful people who they believe are trying to take away their white male role as masters of the continent.

They succeeded. There was fighting. There was death.

They got their headlines.

Now these radical deplorables are planning to march on Boston. The capital of the state where I live. They want to chant their pathetic racist drivel on the streets where Sam Adams rallied patriots to action in the 1770’s.

So what should I do?

I don’t want to drive my 61 year old self into the city. I don’t want to march on a nice late summer day. I don’t want to risk being hit, or shot, or run over. I don’t want to give these pitiful bullies so much of my attention.

But.

My first job as an adult was interpreting from Russian to English and back again for Jewish immigrants who were arriving here from the Soviet Union. I helped them find housing, took them to the doctor, took them shopping.

I heard their stories.

I saw the numbers tattooed on their arms. I touched those tattoos.

How can I NOT march to stand up for the old Russian woman who told me how she had run away from the invading Nazi’s? She was 7 months pregnant, and had a two year old in her arms. The Nazi’s came to her village and she ran into the woods. The soldiers shot, and she was hit in the face. Still she ran. She got as deep into the forest as she could go before she collapsed.

When I knew this woman, her face was creased with an ugly red scar. Her speech was slurred by the path the bullet had taken across the roof of her mouth.

How do I not march for her?

And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t march against the rise of fascism, knowing the stories from the siege of Leningrad, when the Nazis blockaded the city? I remember a Russian Jewish woman with wide blue eyes. She could no longer see when I took her to the doctor in Boston, but those eyes were filled with sorrow when she told me the story of her father walking the streets in search of food and coming home with part of a dead dog to feed his children.

She talked about her mother cooking their shoes to get some protein out of the leather.

My father fought the Nazis. He was only 18 when he enlisted in the army. He was at the Nuremburg Trials.

I lived through the civil rights era right here in the US, too. I remember seeing the marches, the violence, the struggles. I remember the day that Martin Luther King was murdered.

Are we really going to let the clock go back, Americans? Are we going to embrace the slave owning and race baiting past of the country?

Are we going to sit back and let the Nazis come in here and take our country? Are we going to allow our President to get away with condoning their violence?

Personally, I think I’ll have to go and walk the streets of Boston and stay as safe as I can while making my voice heard.

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When I Get Very Old


When I get very old, if I’m lucky enough to reach that milestone, I will give up my struggles to be perfect. I will eat brownies for breakfast and have ice cream for dinner, if that’s what I really want.

I’ll stop trying to be thinner or stronger or smarter or more accomplished.

When I get very old, I’ll lounge around all day in my pajamas and read trashy novels while eating a bag of chips.

You might wonder what has inspired me to accept the blessings of very old age.

Well, it was the Wolf King that did it.

I’ll let him explain in his own words.

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Only a week ago, I still needed my leash.

As soon as I woke up today, I knew that something unusual was going on. Man Who Walks Me was climbing up and down the stairs, bringing chairs and tables out into the yard. Woman Who Feeds Me was rushing around, cleaning the kitchen.

Puppy Lennie was barking and squeaking and being a general pain in the rear, as usual, even when I woofed at him to cut it out. By mid-morning, I had a headache.

I also had an idea.

I have seen this kind of rushing about many times in my long years. It always means that a lot of humans will be at our house, talking loudly and eating for hours. It always means dropped cheese and other delicious delicacies.

I was excited. At my age I show my enthusiasm by plodding around the living room and slowly laying myself in whatever spot is most likely to be in the way of the bustling humans.

I am the Wolf King. I will not be overlooked.

Today the bustling and preparing went on for quite a while, and slowly more humans arrived. I knew most of the early visitors. There was the Young Woman Who Used To Hold Me, and her newest tiny poopy human. There was the Young Man Who Used To Chase Me and his friends who always call me “Good Boy.”

I greeted them with some royal woofing, then flopped in front of their feet.

After some time, all of the humans went outside of the house and onto the lawn. Puppy Lennie still shrieked in his ear-spitting way, but he had been banished into the back fence.  I remained alone inside.

I woofed once. Softly.

I whined, a little bit louder.

Why wasn’t I outside, where the cheese would be? I wanted to be with my humans, who regularly drop food, and whom I love. But I would not beg.

Settling my chin on my royal paws, I commenced moaning pitifully with each breath.

Finally, Woman Who Feeds Me came into the house. She called my name, and I raised my wise old head to see what was up.

“Come!” I heard her say cheerily. “Come outside!”

I carefully pushed myself up on my elbows, raising my shoulders and finally balancing on my front paws. I was breathing a little fast, but it might have been the thought of cheese that had my heart rate up.

Slowly, carefully, I managed to get my back end off the floor, and I tottered toward my mistress. She called me to the front door, so I hobbled down the stairs. I prepared to have my leash clipped on, and lifted my head with regal dignity.

Nothing.

No clip, no leash.

Just Woman Who Walks Me, telling me to “Come outside.”

I looked at her in surprise. What was she asking me to do?

She stood there, right in front of me, and it was as if every dream of the past 12 1/2 years had suddenly come true.

She was holding the front door wide open.

Cautiously, I stepped toward the door. Act cool, I told myself. Pretend nothing strange is going on.

I took one step over the threshold, trying to look completely calm. Nothing to see here, folks, just the Wolf King, stepping out the front door with NO LEASH.

If I could have whistled, I would have.

As I got out onto the porch, and looked at the crowd of humans with food in their hands, I picked up a little speed.

“So long, suckers!”

I meant to run. In the old days, if I managed to get my nose out the door without a leash, I took off like a hound out of hell. I’d hit the woods, race around the house, bark at every human who dared to approach.

Man. Those were the days. Chasing squirrels, howling at the moon, rolling in dead stuff. And only coming home when I was good and ready.

I remember those days. My goal was always to go a little farther, stay out a little longer, bark a little louder.

So I tried to take off as I passed Woman Who Feeds Me. I shuffled with as much speed as I could muster, but my back end just wouldn’t keeping up.

I made my way across the grass, then chose the perfect spot to rest my royal self on the grass. I picked a spot as close to the cheese and pepperoni eaters as I could. I lowered my butt and carefully let my front end follow it down.

I allowed the peasants to approach, and to pat me as often as they liked. Many of them dropped cheese.

It was a peaceful day. My favorite small human came to bring me popcorn and crackers and to pat my royal head. Man Who Walks Me gave me extra love. Also cheese.

I am very old. I am ready to give up my quest to be the Royal Runaway, to travel farther and stay out longer. I am ready to go outside without a leash and stay in one place. I will let myself sleep in the sun while the human drop bits of tasty food all around me.

I am still the Wolf King.

 

Touching My Soul


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When I was a self conscious college student, I spent way too much time discussing questions like, “What is art?”

I never really understood. I read classic literature, but I was the kid in the back of the class on “Anna Karenina” who couldn’t get past the mother walking out on her kid. I remember an hour long discussion of how Tolstoi used the symbol of the rowan tree in his work. I squirmed. I wiggled. I finally blurted out, “Oh, my God! It’s just a tree! He just put it in there because they were in a forest!”

I was not the best student at interpreting artistic metaphor.

I have tried to look at contemporary and abstract art. Honestly, most of it just looks to me as if a bunch of kids walked through spilled paint and did the happy dance on a canvas.

Art?

I dunno.

But last night I think I finally figure out what “art” is to me.

Last night Paul and I and some of old friends went to see a performance by Rhiannon Giddens. I have been listening to this woman’s music for the past nine or ten months. But seeing her live?

Oh. Dear Lord.

I finally know what art is.

Art reaches way way inside of you. It pokes you, not so gently, and it makes you look at yourself. Hard.

Ms. Giddens is, as far as I am concerned, the embodiment of the Goddess.

As I listened to the sound of indescribably gorgeous, rich voice, and as I watched her move with grace around the stage, I imagined myself describing her to my granddaughter, Ellie.

I have to tell you that Ellie already loves Rhiannon’s music. She comes into my house and chooses her music every day. It is usually either  “Melanie” of Upstate Rubdown, “Allie” of Birds of Chicago, or “Annon” of “Rhiannon Giddens.”

The child knows good music when she hears it.

But last night, seeing Rhiannon Giddens on stage, moving, smiling, playing, singing, I kept trying to capture the words to describe the experience to Ellie.

“Rhiannon is….” I don’t want to say ‘beautiful’, although she surely is. I don’t want to reduce her to another lovely face.  I don’t want Ellie to think that beauty is the standard to be most admired.

No. There are so many more substantial words to describe her, and to describe the meaning of “art”.

Art hits you hard. It rocks you.

Art doesn’t apologize.

It makes you look at your real self. It makes you want to be better than you were just a moment before.

Now I think that art makes you question yourself in the best ways. It challenges you to grow.

Rhiannon Giddens is an artist. Last night her music made me cry. It made me question my role in the life of my country and of the world.

This is what I will tell Ellie.

I admire Rhiannon Giddens and love her music because of the woman that she is.

She is powerful. She is strong. She doesn’t apologize for her views or her reactions. She is tall, and dark and loud and glorious. She sings like a sweet angel. She sings like an avenging angel.

She is my understanding of art. She’s my challenge going forward.

Wow.

What a concert.

If by chance you do not know the music of this woman, you owe it to yourself to listen to her.

Rhiannon Giddons/TED

 

Taming The Devil Dog


We find ourselves in a difficult place these days, in terms of our doggie parenting. Our old Tucker, the Wolf King, is winding down in his last days. He slowly wanders into the edge of the woods when we take him for his very short walks. He stands in the ferns, looking out into the places where he used to run. He breathes deeply, lifting his old white nose toward the sky.  He closes his eyes, sighs, then turns to look back at us.

“Remember?”  His brown eyes shine for a moment with the memory of freedom and youth. He sighs again, and turns slowly back toward the house.

We go inside. He lies down. We pat his head, and sit beside him.

But at the very same time, we are faced with the youthful exuberance of our puppy, Lennie the Devil Dog.

Lennie is joy in the form of a mutt. He wakes up every morning with the overwhelming desire to lick our faces free of every sleepy molecule. His next best wish is to have his back scratched and his ears rubbed, hopefully at the same time.

He wiggles hi entire body, from his nose to his tail, waiting for one of us to stand up. He is overjoyed when we do.

He runs. He jumps. He tries to lick our chins. He whines. He dances. He begs to go out. He begs to chase the birds.

He bites the leash, digs in the yard, whirls in circles, pounces on his doggie pals.

Lennie is….

Youth.

He is energy overpowering self-control. Excitement over contentment. He is competitive wrestling instead of walking in the woods.

So how do we tame him? How do we make some peace between our wild child and our brave old man?

One of our strategies is to take him with us on trips.

So today Lennie the Devil Dog came with me on a two hour trip to Western Massachusetts, to the gritty working class town of North Adams. I handed him off to my son and his lady, and went to get some work done.

When I came back two hours later, Lennie had been to the dog park. He had walked around the city. He had met new people and new dogs, and had sniffed his way from one side of town to the other.

He was hot. He was tired. He was thirsty.

Lennie had spent some quality time with other young souls, and he had found his place. Lennie was supremely and gloriously happy.

Tonight I am sitting in my living room. Old Man Tucker is resting on the deck, his noble gray nose on his paws.

Lennie the Devil dog is passed out on the rug beside me, his twitching paws and muffled yips a testament to the excitement of the day.

Ah, youth.

There’s nothing like it.

And it’s exhausting.

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Military Rules?


So this will be a very quick post. I’m sleepy, it’s late, and we have had a long and emotional week.

I’m thinking about the President, and his most recent “rule by tweet” effort to distract us all from his Russian connections. By this, of course, I mean his out-of-the-blue decision, delivered in 140 characters, to ban all trans-gender people from serving in any capacity in our military.

I have a few reactions to this idiocy, but they are really all pretty much the same thing.

Let me start by explaining that I am a very boring, heterosexual woman married to a heterosexual man. In fact, we’ve been man and wife for 39 years now. Holy old folks. We have raised three heterosexual children who do not seem to be struggling with gender identity.

I say all of this to prove my non-gay, non-trans bona fides. I am straight, white and middle aged.

So when I heard that the President has decided to ban all transgender people from service in our military, I hope you will appreciate the fact that my very first reaction was “Is he out of what passes for his tiny little mind?”

Here’s why I say that.

We have a volunteer military in this country. Everyone who serves to protect and defend us is a VOLUNTEER. As in, “Dude, I could have just become a plumber.” Instead, each and every one of the men and women who carry guns for our military forces is there because they chose to be.

So kudos to all of them! Why on earth would we care what genitals they are carrying under their regulation uniforms? Why would we care who they are attracted to? Or how they see themselves, in terms of their own personal gender? What possible difference could any of that make to any of us?

I have the supreme luxury of NOT carrying a gun into battle. I have the security of knowing that none of my three straight children will be forced to carry a gun into battle.

Soldiers of the United States, I salute you, I thank you, I honor your service! I do NOT care if you call yourself Carl or Carol. I just don’t.

Also, modern warfare is plenty expensive. We spend 10 billion or so dollars on ONE aircraft carrier. I really, truly don’t mind paying for medical care for our soldiers. I don’t mind having my tax dollars go toward their cardiac medicine, their psychology visits, their knee replacements or their gender confirmation surgeries.

Honest! I don’t!

So, Mr. What-Passes-These-Days-For-A-President,

Please reconsider your ridiculous, pointless, vindictive, prejudiced policy on allowing non-traditional gender identifying soldiers to help protect and defend these United States.

Those of us who sit safely in our living rooms, rolling our eyes at your obnoxious tweets are grateful to all who have volunteered to keep us safe. ALL of them. EVERY single one.

Now.

About your Russian connections….Colorado Soldiers Return Home

 

A Parable, Perhaps?


Three acorns fell from the oak behind our house.

One landed softly in a pile of old rotted leaves. The second landed half on the soft leaves, and half on an area of pea stone. The third acorn fell onto the driveway.

After two weeks, the first acorn had sent two roots into the ground below its shell. It had simply and effortlessly split that shell and grown its two tender roots to feel the soil and search for moisture and nutrients.

The second little acorn had split in exactly the same way as his brother, and had sent out two little roots to look for life. One root found itself safely encased in leaf mold, but the second root had to struggle and bend and search-reach-search until it finally found a tiny space between the stones, where it desperately dug itself into the earth.

The third acorn simply lay where it had fallen. There was no nurturing earth below it. There was nowhere for a root to take hold. The shell of this acorn stayed whole. No roots were ever sent out into the world.

Six months passed, and winter was giving way to spring.

The first acorn had produced a little tree. It had a thin, straight trunk and three sets of leaves. As the spring sun struck it, it worked happily to make new leaves and to reach toward the sky.

The second acorn had also sent up a trunk, and had managed to make one set of leaves. His trunk leaned hard to the left, because only half of him was supported by good soil. He worked hard. Harder than he thought he’d ever work. Each day was a struggle, but he kept on reaching, reaching, reaching for the sunny sky.

The third acorn sat on the hard blacktop of the drive. It had been frozen, and thawed and frozen again. There was one crack in the bottom of the acorn shell, but no root had come out. There was nowhere for that root to go.

Another six months passed with the seasons. The first little acorn was long gone. In its place there stood a small but sturdy oak. Tiny branches sprouted from its growing trunk, reaching easily toward the sky. It had soil and rain. It had strong roots to benefit from them both. It had taken its place in the woods, and could grow and thrive and one day drop its own little acorns onto the earth below its feet.

The second acorn had also created a little oak, because it landed just on the edge of the drive. This oak was thinner, and not quite as straight as its brother, but it also had three sets of leaves and was reaching ever higher toward the sky. This little tree might make it, if no car drifts off the pavements, and if no new owners decide to repave. It is more vulnerable to drought and wind than its brother, but if all goes well, it could one day be a full grown oak tree, too.

The third acorn is gone now. It never opened, never sent out a shoot, never had its chance to grow into a tree. It simply fell in a place that couldn’t support it, and it died before it had gone through one winter.

So.

Was the first acorn smarter, more caring, more deserving than the others? Was the third one guilty of some unknown crime? Was the little oak that faced a lifetime of struggle somehow at fault for landing in an imperfect place?

Of course not. We all know that. We all know that for acorns and oaks, life or death is just the luck of the draw. We don’t think that there is a God who chooses which acorns will do well and which will end up as food for a squirrel.

So was it the mother oak’s fault that some of her offspring fared better than the others?

Nope. We wouldn’t even ask that question. And we wouldn’t ask why one oak tree dropped its acorns on fertile soil while another only had pavement below.

Life is what it is. Fragile, amazing, random, unplanned.

Just as no God sits on a mighty throne deciding which acorn should survive, there is no God deciding who should have children easily and who should be infertile. There is no God passing judgement on which children will thrive and which land on pavement.

The oak tree isn’t responsible for the fate of the acorns. Every oak is designed by nature to drop those acorns onto the very best soil. But no oak has control over whether or not that happens.

Life is a miracle. Life is a gift. Lift is a matter of where we land, and what nutrients we can reach, and how close we are able to get to the sun.

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