Who Am I Kidding?


As a slightly past middle aged woman, I know what it is to deal with insomnia. Sometimes I lie down at 9 pm and I’m asleep at 9:03. Of course, on nights like that one I wake up at 10:30, 11:03, 1:35 and 3:40 before getting up at 6:30.

But there are other nights where I toss and turn from 10 to 2 and finally fall asleep at 3, only to wake up at 6 with a headache.

So why in the world would I even consider sleeping with not only my aging husband of 40 years, but also our two dogs?

Why?

It. Makes. No. Sense.

This is my typical night, just so that you understand the pressures at work here.

I go to bed. Paul is in the living room, watching sports. The dogs, Lennie and Bentley, are beside him on the couch. I settle into my bed, ice pack in place on my lower back. I sigh. I settle back. I curl up on my left side.

And I hear the inevitable “ticky-ticky-tick” of Lennie’s claws as he comes down the hall. I lie still on my pillow. Lennie jumps nimbly onto the bed and settles himself into a tight curl somewhere around my legs. I fall asleep to the sound of Lennie’s gentle, rhythmic breathing.

I come awake again around midnight. The covers are now tight around me, and my butt is exposed to the cool night air. I can tell, as I roll over, that Paul has come to bed and is sound asleep beside me. Lennie is still at my feet, on top of the covers.

But Bentley is stretched out to his full length on top of the covers between Paul and I. He is happily dreaming and is totally at peace.

I roll onto my right side, slightly annoyed that I am lacking coverage on my chilly old bottom. I try to pull up the blankets, but find that I am thwarted by the two dogs who are snoring on top of the quilt.

“OK”, I think, “This is ridiculous. I need to sleep. I need my blankets. I need my bed.” I get up, thinking that I will go to the bathroom and then come back to dislodge the hounds and reestablish my human superiority.

I walk back to the bed, my phone in my hand for light. I see Lennie, curled up and sleeping like a baby at the foot of the bed.

Lennie

Gah! Why are you waking me up???

I decide that he’s OK. I mean, he’s only at the foot of the bed. He isn’t really impacting my sleep. Much.

So I turn to the other guy. To the soft, sweet, silky puppy who insists on sleeping so close to me that we seem to be fusing at the spine.

“You need to move!”, I hiss, as I slip back under the covers. “I am really REALLY tired!”

I push him off of me.

He softly and silently turns into everyone’s favorite stuffed animal. He melts. He becomes totally inert. He shloops himself onto my chest.

Benney

“Ugh”, I whisper. “Get OFF!”

He snuggles just a tiny bit closer. He lifts his soft, silky snout up toward my cheek. He lays his head against mine.

“Sfhshshsfsh” he breathes into my ear.

I try to resist. I do. I straighten my spine. He straightens his and continues to breathe into my ear.

I want to be strong. I want to move him off of the bed and onto the floor. I mean, seriously! What kind of badass woman lets herself be pushed around by a puppy?

I wait for just a second. The warm, soft fur lying against my neck feels good. The gently repetitive breathing on my cheek is oddly reassuring.

“I’ll get you guys off in a minute.” I tell myself.

Then I curl onto my side, feeling Lennie’s warmth against my feet. I sigh, and pull the covers up over my shoulders. As I do, I realize that Bentley is under those covers, his softly sleepy head resting next to mine on the pillow.

We all fall asleep.

I’m a soft touch. I’m a jerk. I’m an aging old lady who loves waking up in the middle of the night with both arms around a warm little body.

Yeesh.

Who am I kidding?

I’d rather sleep with these snoring, shedding, gassy little guys than without them. And that’s the honest truth.

Who Is At Fault?


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I used to be a teacher. For many years, I was one of those people charged with keeping our children educated, safe, confident and skilled. One of the many charges that I took so seriously during those years was the charge to prevent children from bullying each other.

I was a fifth grade teacher. My students were ten and eleven years old. I was told that if they bullied each other, part of the fault was mine.

I understood. My classroom spent time every single day talking about how to interact with civility, with kindness, with generosity. I remember talking to them about the fact that they did NOT have to be friends. They did NOT have to like each other.

“But, here’s the thing,” I would tell them, “You are all members of this very same classroom community. You must treat each other with respect and care. If you don’t, our entire community will suffer. We will not achieve our goal of learning what we are supposed to learn if you are mean to each other and if you fail to support each other.”

And I taught them that if anyone of them became a bully, they all had a moral obligation to stand up to that bully and to protect the victim. I taught them not to be bystanders. I taught them not to let the bully get away with intimidating the weaker members of our community.

Those children understood what I taught. More importantly, they carried out those lessons every single day. To quote one of my students, some five years after he had left my classroom: “We learned that we were all really friends. In Karen’s classroom, everyone stood up for each other.”

So here I am. Four years after my retirement. Wondering how it is that we expect ten year olds to understand and carry out lessons that our actual highly paid, internationally renowned leaders fail to grasp.

How is it that we ask our fifth graders to stop being bullies, to stop intimidating each other, to stop calling each other names, but we let the most powerful people in the country do exactly that? How is it that we expect our youngest children to act in ways that we don’t demand of our so called “leaders”?

When Donald Trump calls his adversaries names, when he labels them as “enemies”, when he asks his followers to attack them, he is behaving in all of the ways that we won’t allow our children to do. He is the absolute epitome of the ignorant, hateful bully on the playground.

The bully that every public school teacher is expected to stop in his tracks.

So.

Where is Congress in this current bullying situation? Where are the leaders of the GOP? Where are the people who we expect to protect us from the ignorant, hateful bully on the national stage?

Why are they acting as bystanders, those silent observers who encourage the bully by not stepping in?

If we can demand that our public school teachers stop bullies, we can damn well demand that our members of Congress do the same. We can demand that our nation’s governors stand up the bully. We can demand that our media outlets stand up to that bully, and that they label his lies as lies.

If you all can ask the average classroom teacher to do it, then you better be absolutely sure that on Nov 6 you will be voting for people who will do the very same thing in Washington.

Bullying is wrong. It’s wrong on the elementary school playground and it’s wrong when it happens on the national stage in front of hundreds of people at a political rally.

Our leaders should be held, at the very least, to the same standards as our public school employees.

 

 

Levels of Comfort


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I am getting older. I am a woman, as they say, “of a certain age.”

What this means is that my body parts are no longer the same as they were in 1970. Gentlemen, if there are any of you reading this, you might want to look away. For this is a story of how we older ladies seek comfort.

Let me start by remembering the years when I was a working woman. I used to have an entire wardrobe of “work clothes” to choose from. These items were crisp, professional, fitted, buttoned and up to date.

They were fine, but they weren’t relaxation clothes. Back then, I also had an entire wardrobe of flannel shirts, loose jeans and soft sweatshirts. Comfort and style were opposite goals.

Then I got older. I became a teacher in a school that valued personal choice over style. I created a closet full of “comfy but professional” skirts, pants, sweaters, vests and blouses. I wore those from Mon-Friday. On the weekends I was back to my jeans and flannels.

And time went on. I became a cranky old teacher. Then I became a retired old teacher.

Now?

Now I am Nonni-in-charge. Now I can go from Sunday to Sunday without ever actually leaving my house.

I no longer have professional, crisp, stylish clothes. Now I have skinny jeans, black jeans, leggings and a range of loose fitting t shirts and sweatshirts. Now I have comfy clothes and “I don’t give a f*” clothes.

Now, my dear ones, now it all comes down to the bra.

Yup.

The girls, as I like to call them, are no longer the perky little lasses that I used to put into sleek sweaters. Now they are a couple of droopy old broads who just want to skip over breakfast and get straight to happy hour.

So now my “formal” vs “informal” wardrobe is ALL about the bra.

I’ll explain what I mean.

If its a normal day, and I’m going to be here in the living room with Johnny and Ellie, I put on my “comfy” bra. This little item is made of cloth. It has NO elastic at any point in it’s design. It holds the girls up….sort of….but it doesn’t put any stress on anyone. It just sort of holds everybody in place. It’s sweet. It never pinches.

I love this bra.

But if I know that the mom and dad of one of my very favorite toddlers will be coming to drop her off and pick her up?…… Well, that’s a day when Nonni puts on a comfy bra with a couple of pads inside. This bra is comfy, but not as comfy as the one above. It sort of pretends that the ladies are still fine upstanding citizens. It makes the sweater look like it belongs on a wise woman, instead of a creepy old derelict homeless lady.

The comfy but padded bra is my “semi-formal” look.

But what do I do, as a stay at home Nonni, when I am going to be visited by an elegant, sophisticated, incredibly intelligent woman of the previous generation? What do I do if this woman is one of my most admired ladies, and if she is coming to see her great grand children?

Well.

I can’t exactly put on my best silk sweater: I will have goldfish crackers regurgitated on me at some point today. I can’t wear a skirt or a dress, because I will no doubt find myself on my hands and knees picking up marker caps before the puppy can eat them.

I can’t dress up like a professional.

But I CAN wear an actual bra.

Not a soft cup, comfort providing, sports bra. Oh no.

When I know that I must do my best to impress, I get out my favorite soft sweatshirt, my jeans leggings, and my best lacy cupped bra. I put that thing on, strapping the ladies in for a ride. “Girls,” I tell them, “We need to make a good impression!”

And I go through my day, perky old ladies on full display.

I feel so formal. So professional.

Tomorrow, when its just me and the kids?  Floppy ladies all the way.

 

Just a Ripple in Time


Girls at play

I was standing outside today, watching the kids play. It was a beautiful, cool fall day. The leaves were swirling around in the wind and the kids were running up and down the driveway. The smell of the air was musty, leafy, wet and so familiar.

I remembered walking through piles of fall leaves as a kid. I watched my grandchildren kicking the pine needles and leaves in front of themselves, and I remembered how the crumbly mix used to remind me of old cereal left in the bowl. I could feel myself back 50 years ago, walking through the neighborhood where I grew up.

As the kids raced by me, shrieking and howling and spinning with that special toddler mix of joy and unbounded energy, I realized that I was standing in Momma alert mode. You know what I mean? Johnny was running off to my right, and Ellie and Ella were off to my left. I stood with my feet apart, my hands clasped behind my back. I could survey the entire yard that way, keeping everyone safe and in my view, while still keeping my distance to let them play.

Ellie

There was, I swear, a little ripple in the air, and I suddenly realized that I had stood in that very same spot, so many times, watching different children run and play.

For a moment I almost felt dizzy. I looked hard to my right. Where were my little boys, my Matt and Tim, who used to ride bikes up and down this very same driveway? I turned to the left. Where was my baby girl, my Katie? Shouldn’t she be chasing her friend Jessica across the grass on this beautiful day?

I tilted my head back, looking through the branches of the pines at the bright, clean sky.

Of course my little ones weren’t there. They are grown now.

The shrieking, jumping, dancing little whirlwinds in front of me are Kate’s children, and Jessica’s.

The sky is the same. The grass is still my grass. My house stands right where it has stood for all these years. Some of the pines have come down, and there are newer, smaller trees. But the wind is the same, the smell is the same, the crushed brown mixture of cereal bowl leaves and needles is just the very same as it has been for all of my adult life.

I stand in the cool sun, my hands clasped behind my back. I close my eyes, just for a moment, standing perfectly still.

I hear them laughing and calling, I hear those playful voices. In this moment, I am not sure who it is I’m listening to.

 

Saving George


happy-spider-cartoonOh, brother.

In an effort to prevent my beloved granddaughter from sharing my ridiculous arachnophobia, I think I sort of went too far.

First of all, I hate spiders. I know, on an intellectual level, “spiders are good for the environment, they eat the bad bugs, they can’t hurt you” blah, blah, blah. Still, I wake up at least twice a month from the world’s most vivid dream that a HUGE BLACK HAIRY SPIDER IS ABOUT TO DROP FROM THE CEILING ONTO MY FACE!!!!!

I hate them.

But I am a good Nonni. I am a wise Nonni. I am an enlightened Nonni.

Yay me.

Last week, my sweet granddaughter Ellie looked up during breakfast and asked, “What is that scary scary thing on your ceiling, Nonni?”

It was a very small spider. As in, wicked small. Like the size of a sesame seed. It was black and had 8 cute and tiny legs. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to teach about the wonders of spiders. I figured if I did it right, it might just spare Ellie 45 years of night terrors in which a giant spider lands on her face.

“Oh,” I said with a benevolent smile. “That’s our kitchen spider. His name is….um….ah….George!”

“Hi, George!” Ellie chirped, before returning with serenity to her waffles and blueberries.

As for me, I kept an eye on ol’ George. He seemed pretty calm, just moving his way long the ceiling, without ever once giving me the idea that he might intend to pounce upon my actual face.

I was cool. I was calm. The kids and I have been smiling at and chatting with George for about a week now. All eight of his tiny legs have remained the same size, and he has never once made any effort to come off the ceiling.

Nice George. Good George.

Nonni was pretty impressed with her ability to stave off severe arachnophobia. Nonni was doing the hippy environmentalist yay-me dance all week.

But. This morning, while Nonni was trying to get a pot of espresso going, she heard this little tidbit:

“Oh, good morning, George!! You got really really big last night!”

Holy heart attack.

I snuck into the dining room, where I found Ellie smiling down sweetly at a HUGE, HUGE, H-U-Fucking-GE wolf spider on the floor under the dining room table.

To my credit, I said, “Oh, my. Oh, gee.” instead of “What the HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU????? THAT IS NOT GEORGE!!!!”

We paused for a moment. Ellie had a waffle bit on the end of her fork. Johnny had a blueberry in each hand. I had a spatula the size of Minnesota in my hand.

“Nonni”, Ellie looked at me with her beautiful innocent eyes. “Please save him!”

Heart pounding. Every horror movie since the dawn of movies flashing before my eyes.

I do NOT want to scare her! I don’t!

“Sure, honey. Let me try! I sure would love to save George’s wicked big Uncle….Tony…..”

I grabbed a juice glass and popped it over the giant spider on the floor. Said giant spider immediately hurled himself upside down against said glass. Every single inch of Nonni skin crawled.

Then I took a piece of sturdy but thin paper and slid it under the glass. Uncle Tony was writhing, but he was contained.

“Oh, look, Ellie!,” I cheered “I captured him!”

Only no I didn’t.

Uncle Tony got one horrifically articulated claw under the glass and pulled himself out from on top of the paper. In less than a nanosecond, I could envision his horrible bendy legs rushing over the side of the glass and right up my sleeve.

With a soprano shriek worthy of the Metropolitan Opera, I hurled the glass, the paper and old Uncle Tony out onto the floor. Then I backed up, sat on a chair with my hand on my chest, gasped and said, “Um….no, no I didn’t.”

At this point poor Uncle Tony was desperately trying to escape by rushing across the floor toward the wall. Unfortunately for him, he was pounced upon our intrepid/stupid puppy dog, Bentley, who tried to snuff the spider up his nose.

The horror of that thought propelled me out of my chair, cloth napkin in hand. I dropped the cloth onto the spider and stomped down with so much force it probably left him as nothing more than a stain.

Gagging, I scooped up the cloth, rolled it into my hand, shoved it into a plastic grocery bag and stuffed it down into the trash. Which I then tied into a knot.

I was gasping at that point. I was soaked in sweat.

I fell into a chair and looked up to see both Ellie and Johnny staring at me with huge brown eyes.

“Nonni, did you KILL him?” asked Ellie.

Gulp. “Yes. I’m sorry honey. Sometimes we try to save our spider friends, but it doesn’t work out.”

Ellie looked at me solemnly.

“Good.” She said. “He was creepy.”

She took another bite of waffle.

 

Nothing Lasts Forever


When I was young, and newly in love, the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas was a big hit.I loved that song. I still love it. I love it for its harmonies, its tender thoughts, its melancholy.

I remember being a young wife, thinking, “I don’t want all of this beautiful life to simply fade into the wind! There has to be a way to make it all last!”

But you know what?  Now that I am a grandparent, I have a very different feeling about that song. I feel differently about the idea that nothing lasts forever.

Now, instead of feeling bereft at the thought, I feel comforted.

Let me try, in my limited way, to explain what I mean.

At the age of 28, I was so filled with life and new love that I thought the world must surely embrace and celebrate my feelings. I knew that I was only one tiny person in a wide world of others, but the strength and the depth of my feelings were so intense that I could not believe they would ever go away.

Then I gave birth to my first child, my perfect, most beloved, most cherished little girl. When I held her in my arms, it was impossible to me to imagine that the universe could fail to recognize the power of my love and the impossible gravity of her life. As I rocked her against my heart, I could not believe that there could exist a time in universal history when her life would not have the power to move us all.

I honestly did not believe that anyone else had ever felt this same miraculous love. I thought we were unique.

Back then, “Nothing lasts forever” was the worst thought that I could possibly hold in my head. I held myself firm against the very idea. I WOULD keep my love for my children alive! I would! I took photos, I wrote notes, I kept cards and letters and little mementos. I loved my kids so hard that I thought I had created an eternal monument of my devotion.

We were here. Our love for each other was too strong to ever fade. We mattered in the life of humanity, and I refused to believe that at some future point we might simple cease to register.

“Everything is dust in the wind….”

I hated that. Hated it.

But time has passed. Time has changed my view.

Now.

Now I have a whole different view, although it’s no less loving and embracing and proud. It is just maybe a bit more wise.

Now I understand that the love my grandparents felt for their children was every bit as intense, as strong, as deep as what I felt when I first held my own. Now I understand that the families that my grandparents created were meant to be islands of strength in a world of turmoil, but they were not ever meant to be eternal.

My maternal grandmother, my Nana, was such an important figure in my life. She was the matriarch. She was the hostess of the holidays, the provider of Sunday dinners, the center of our Italian-American existence. She was Nana. She was the center of it all, of all of the family tradition on my Mom’s side.

But when she died, I began to realize that her time in the spotlight had died, too. I mean, I still teach her recipes to my granddaughter, Ellie, but they don’t help to bring the real, true Nana into existence. Nana was the center of my Mom’s life, a huge part of my life, an important person in the lives of my children.

But Ellie doesn’t know her. Ellie and Johnny will never hear the sound of her laugh or eat a piece of apple that she sliced for them. They will never have the “Nana” experience that we have had.

Because they can’t. They shouldn’t.

Life can’t be all about the past. It can’t be a ceremony of love for those who have come before us. Life has to be about life, about this moment. It has to be about the people we hug and touch and love every day.  Life has to be about the new loves and the new families and the new memories that shape the world today.

So.

I don’t think I’ve don’t a very good job of expressing this at all, I truly don’t.

But let me end by saying that I am now happy to be “Dust in the Wind.” I know that for every day of their lives, my children will remember me and think of me with love. I know that my Ellie and Johnny will live every day of the rest of their lives knowing me and understanding my love for them.

As for their children? I hope that they grow up having heard my name and maybe a funny story or two. They don’t need to hang on to my old possessions or my faded photos.

Love goes on. Love moves from one family unit to another.

That’s just the way it should be.

Nana

Nana with her great grandson, Atticus. 

 

So Just to Sum Up


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Feelin’ like a crab.

Here we are, in 2018, in the United States of America.

We have a President who got elected in spite of bragging about sexually assaulting women. He has been married three times, and cheated on a pregnant wife with a porn star. He has made fun of a woman who came forward to state that she’d been sexually assaulted.

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

We have a Congress that is made up of people who are only worried about getting reelected. Other than possibly Heidi Heitkamp, they don’t care about who did what to whom, who supports equal rights for the Americans who actually pay their salaries, or who is totally biased against half of us.

Appoint an accused sexual predator to the Supreme Court, even though he just went on national TV to scream about his promise to strike back against half of the country and half of Congress? No worries. As long as you get reelected, who cares?

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

And now we have a Supreme Court that includes not one but TWO credibly accused sexual predators.

Awesome.

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

In fact, as a grandmother who has lived through my own widely accepted and lightly dismissed sexual harassment, I’m pissed.

As the mother of a young woman who escaped rape only because she wasn’t at the bar alone when her drink was poisoned, I am beyond outraged.

As the grandmother of a beautiful little girl who has had to learn at the tender age of three to say, “Don’t play with my braids. It’s my body and I get to choose,” I am enraged. I am furious. I am disgusted.

But what is worse is that I have lost what little bit of faith I had left in my country and in my government.

No matter what happens, I will never ever ever believe that the Supreme Court has an unbiased view of the cases before it. I will never ever ever believe that my members of Congress have my needs or my protections in view.

And until the current President, the man who is so proud of his sexual predator past, is taken away and replaced by someone with a shred of integrity, I will not be able to believe that the Executive Branch of this country has the interests of any women in mind.

I am not only not feeling patriotic tonight, I am feeling an absolute disgust in my government. I am not proud of my country. I am not happy to be an American.

In fact, if some other country would take me and mine, I’d be there tomorrow.

 

 

I’ll Cook My Way Back to Sanity


We are living in horrible times. We are witnessing the destruction of all that two generations of women have worked to achieve.

As far as I am concerned, we are seeing the complete collapse of the two party system in the US. I’m pretty sure that 90% of us would vote of “None of the above” if they were on any ballot.

So.

What’s a sad, angry, anxious old Italian lady to do?

Yup.

I’ll cook my way to relative sanity. l have bone broth on the stove. There’s a nice sourdough starter on my counter. I have canned tomatoes for sauce and locally sourced ground beef and pork for the meatballs.

I can’t make Mitch McConnell go up in a puff of smoke for his hypocritical bullshit. I can’t save the Supreme Court of the US from becoming infected with a total and complete lack of impartiality.

I can’t make Mueller hurry the freak up and get that awful, ugly, ignorant, hateful, nasty egomaniac out of office.

I can make ravioli and roasted peppers and maybe a nice ricotta pie.

If there is a Heaven, I will still be at least relatively sane when this insanity comes to its inevitable end.

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Not So Blind Justice


lady-justice

I thought that the Supreme Court was made of lifetime appointees because avoiding the need to be elected or re-elected would them to be impartial.

Aren’t judges supposed to interpret the law without political bias? Aren’t they supposed to be free of political influence and political pressure?

Wouldn’t you want all judges to approach their jobs with an open mind?

Now, I’m not completely naive. I understand that we all have our core beliefs and that we all come to our work with our own personal histories and experiences.

But.

A person who expects to be appointed to a lifetime position on the highest court in the  United States of American had better be able to demonstrate that open mind in public. He damn well better show his impartiality to the duly elected men and women who will be doing the hiring.

Read these words from the opening statement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

As I told this Committee the last time I appeared before you, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure.

I agree with him.

Now read his testimony in front of that very Committee:

This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.

Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, quote, “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly — publicly referred to me as evil — evil. Think about that word. It’s said that those who supported me were, quote, “complicit in evil.” Another Democratic senator on this committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.” A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.

The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. But at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking.

Those efforts didn’t work. When I did at least OK enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.

Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits.

When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford’s wishes. And then — and then as no doubt was expected — if not planned — came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

The man has shown his extreme bias.

He isn’t open minded or impartial.

He is unfit to serve on the US Supreme Court.

Whether or not he was a high school drunk, whether or not he sexually assaulted a young woman, this man is NOT FIT TO SERVE AT ANY LEVEL ON THE FEDERAL BENCH.

The end.

He spoke the words above after taking an oath to tell the truth. Let’s believe him.

 

You Can Learn a Lot From Dogs


You really can. Dogs can be such fabulous mentors. Such great teachers.

You know, like role models.

I’ve learned a lot from my dogs over the years. For example, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much your aging hips hurt, you should still run through the woods when you get a chance. I’ve learned to age with grace and humor, and to keep my mind in the present moment, rather than wondering about the future or obsessing about the past.

But I’ve learned a whole bunch of new things in the past 5 days. I’ve learned these lessons by watching my new doggie, Bentley, as he integrates himself into our household.

I’ll give you the general description of the situation here, and I bet you’ll see those lessons, too.

We have to start with our boy Lennie, also fondly known as “Devil Dog.”  He is a jumper on guests, a licker of faces, a yipping, barking whirlwind of joyful dogginess. He has learned our household rules in the almost two years that we’ve had him.

He’s adorable. We love him!

Lennie and John

Two sweet baby boys in the winter of 2017.

Lennie does well with the grandchildren. He is loud and feisty, but he’s gentle, too. They get along very well, which brings us nothing but joy.

But recently we felt sad for Lennie. Our older dog has been gone for a year, and Lennie seemed to be in need of a canine buddy.

So we decided to adopt the world’s cutest, goofiest little boy, Bentley Bass. Bentley is a basset hound/lab/pointer? mix. He’s short, sassy, shiny black and so full of love that it practically oozes out of his velvety ears.

Bentley took about 3 minutes to get to know Lennie. It took him one transit of our house to learn where the goodies are.

It took him one nanosecond to recognize the grandkids as his best source of snacks/toys/hugs.

He’s so. so. so. lovable.

Ellie and Ben

“I bet she drops snacks.”

But here are my observations of how my two sweet dogs differ, and what that means for them.

I have two young dogs who want the best doggie toys. One of them barks every 2 seconds, shows his hackles and his teeth, threatens death and destruction over the blue nylabone.  The other stays quiet, sits back for a minute and waits until the barker is in full throttle.

Then he gently grabs the nylabone and brings it onto the couch to chew.

The hysterical screamer, Lennie, keeps yipping, jumping in circles and basically threatening to annihilate his little brother. Meanwhile, Bentley happily enjoys the bone.

The same is true with food. Lennie barks, yips, backs up and shakes his head when I put down the two matching bowls of kibble. You can practically hear his thoughts, “You just better keep your pointy nose in your own dish, buddy! Don’t even think about eating mine!”

And as he does, Bentley stands quietly at his own dish, eating his meal without any stress. He’s usually all finished and happily back on the couch (with the nylabone) before Loud Lennie has taken a bite.

Bentley growls and fake bites with Lennie as they play. He is brave, solid, unshakable as his bigger brother rolls him over. He grins, nips, pulls on Lennie’s ears and makes sure that everyone knows he’s just having fun.

When the kids are eating breakfast or lunch, and Lennie whines and begs for a bite, Bentley calmly and quietly inches his way forward into the room. If I tell him to leave, he does. But when I look away, he silently moseys back in and gets a few bites from Ellie and Johnny. If I reprimand him, he lowers his sleek head and gazes up at me with his gentle eyes.

“Oops. Sorry, Momma.” He says it so clearly. I can’t be mad.

When the two dogs come onto the bed to sleep, Lennie prances around, turns in circles, yips a few times and makes it generally known that he is the man in charge. He’ll take the best spot, thank you very much.

But of course, while he’s posturing, Bentley lays himself down beside me with his head on my pillow. He hasn’t said a word, but he’s taken the prize.

Oh, what a lesson there is in that!!!!

This goes on all day.  I hear Lennie yelping, arguing, barking and when I come to see what’s going on, there’s my Bentley, chewing on one dog toy while calmly lying on top of three more.

Bentley does not shoot off his mouth, although I have heard him bark twice in five days. He doesn’t posture or make a big deal of things. Bentley stays calm, stays friendly, and quietly gets himself what he needs.

Don’t you wish he could run for President??

The boys

“See, Lennie, I really am a good kid.”