To Honor Those Who Gave All


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here I am. Coming into Memorial Day Weekend.

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

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

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

I honor your courage. I honor your sacrifice.

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

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

A flag on your grave is not enough.

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

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Are We Really All That Bad?


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

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

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

I was ready.

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not an Asian in sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw the proverbial “melting pot” in action.

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

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

I think she’s right.

And I love it.

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Joyful, Joyful….


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

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

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

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

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

What could I do but agree with her?

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

We stepped outside into the sunshine.

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

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

And off she went.

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

But Ellie?

Oh, my sweet, beautiful Ellie.

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

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

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

She screamed. She yelled. She howled with joy.

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

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

I sat there in awe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are joy.

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

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When I Die


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

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

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

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

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

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

“He made us laugh.”

“Papa was full of fun.”

And best of all, “He was my friend.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy Maternal Figure Day


I have to tell you, after a full day of taking care of my best beloved grandchildren, I am more than ever convinced that Mothers are all goddesses.

In fact, so are grandmothers. (ahem, yes. Like me).

But then again, so are teachers. And older sisters. And wonderful Aunts. And kind and loving neighbor ladies.

I’m sorry, men who nurture, we know you are out there, but this post is about women who raise children.

Whether or not you are a woman who has given birth, this homage is to you if you have ever:

  1. rocked a cranky baby to sleep- sure this sounds easy. Right up until your back hurts, your neck creaks, your arms ache and your inner voice begins to chant (to the tune of “lullaby and good night”) ‘Go to sleep, you little creep, or I’m going to sell you…to a creep, so go to sleep, and don’t you make a peep.’  Oh, come on. You know you’ve thought it at least once.
  2. cleaned up spilled milk/juice/yogurt/applesauce/alphabet pasta
  3. pretended to “watch me!!!!!” when all you really want to do it finish your lunch
  4. gone to a hockey game/football game/baseball game/dance recital/class play/elementary band concert/elementary chorus performance/girl scout award or boy scout award ceremony/honor society event when you just wanted to stay home in your jammies with a bowl of popcorn and a good movie
  5. taken an overtired toddler to the zoo
  6. attended one too many little kid birthday parties
  7. bought 73 Yankee candles that you didn’t want just to support the team/classroom/scout troop

This post is for you if you are one of the countless women who has been on the receiving end of a “can I talk to you?” phone call. It is yours if you have ever stayed up all night worrying that some young person is making the mistake of a lifetime. This is for you if you have ever spent hours preparing someone’s very favorite meal as you wait happily for them to appear at your table to enjoy it.

This ode to the universal mother is for every woman who has ever encouraged a child to try when they were afraid, for every woman who has ever hugged a young person and said, “I could never hate you.”  It is for every female family member who has celebrated a birth, attended a birth, encouraged a birth. For every sister, cousin, aunt, grandmother, friend, in-law, neighbor, classmate, work mate who has ever stood by the door so the new Mom could pump, or changed a diaper, or offered to walk the cranky toddler around the mall for a few minutes.

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, in all ages and denominations. Mothers are the sacred society of feminine goddesses who gather together to give and support and encourage life.

Happy Mothers Day to all of the many goddesses who have blessed my life, the lives of my children, and the lives of my grandchildren. You are the meaning of life. You are eternal. You are the truly sacred.

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The divine female. By Misa Chappell

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Let’s Pretend


When I watch my granddaughter Ellie at play, I am reminded of just how amazing and fantastical the world can be. At the very young age of two and a half, Ellie has an imagination that takes her to incredible places and lets her be a hundred different characters in one short day.

She is amazing.

I sit back to watch, and I marvel at how effortless it is for her to create her own world and to inhabit that world with total abandon.

Today, for example, we were outside on the lawn. The kiddie pool was filled and a bunch of toys were spread around the yard. Baby Johnny, at only 11 months, was happy to splash in the pool and touch the water coming out of the hose. He chewed on grass, and kicked his feet. He pulled himself to standing on my lawn chair. He was happy to be in the moment, touching and mouthing every concrete novelty in front of him.

But Ellie. Ellie was in another place entirely.

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“Nonni!” she called, “Elsa and Anna are here today!”

“Hi, girls!” I answered as she ran toward me with her arms wide open.

I’m not sure why Ellie so often pretends to be both Anna and Elsa, but they were on my lawn today. Maybe it’s because the two stars of the movie “Frozen” are sisters, and Ellie is in need of a young companion. Maybe it’s because the two young women in the movie have adventures and face dangers and rush from one exciting moment to the next.

Maybe its the beautiful clothes that they wear, or the endearing little snowman who befriends them.

I don’t know.

All I know is that today, in the 85 degree heat, Ellie rushed all around the yard, from the pool to the bikes to the strawberry patch and back again.

“Elsa! Come with me! We need to go home!”

“I’m coming, Anna! I have to bring these puppies!”

“Oh, no! Nonni, there is a flood and Elsa and Anna have to save the puppies!”

Little was required of me, for which I was grateful. I was busy pulling sticks and bugs out of Johnny’s mouth. But I was so enthralled watching her, listening to her running dialogue.

“Anna, wait! The puppies need to have food!”

“Elsa, come with me! I have puppy food here in my frozen castle!”

I could almost see the scenes she was describing as she ran from the pool to the spot on the lawn where her “puppies” were recovering from their ordeal. She was there. She was Anna or Elsa in that moment. She believed that there were cold and hungry puppies on the grass before her, and as I watched her, so did I.

So now, as the sun has set, and the kids are at home with their parents, now I find myself thinking.

When did I lose the ability to create a whole new world with just my words? When did I stop pretending?

I wonder.

What was the last game that I ever played? Who played with me? Where did I put my own personal “Elsa and Anna” and how did I let them die without a thought?

Childhood is magic.

Watching it unfold before me every day is a gift that I will never take for granted.

 

Food, Glorious Food


I am not generally a fan of food trends. I don’t follow the latest crazes (acai berry, anyone?) My Dad always taught us, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

I eat meat, dairy, wheat, veggies, fruits, cookies and just about everything in between. I am, in a word, an omnivore.

But I am also the friend of some very intelligent, highly informed, super healthy women. When they talk about nutrition, they know of what they speak.

The upshot of these friendships is that I am now living a gluten free life.

The thing is. I don’t have a particular difficulty with wheat. My digestive system is generally pretty reliable, as long as I go easy on the brussel sprouts and black beans.

But I do have fibromyalgia, and I complain a lot. So on one of our women’s getaways we were talking about all of the potential effects of gluten. Most of the women in the room had researched gluten intolerance. In fact, 6 out of the 8 of my pals were not eating gluten anymore.

“You should try the gluten free diet, ” said my brilliant actually-a-real-live-nurse friend Karen. “It might make a big difference with your inflammatory issues.”

“I lost a lot of weight once I stopped eating wheat,” added our equally brilliant (and very tiny) friend Cindy.

So. What could I do?

I came home from our weekend and decided to try it out. How hard could it be to stop eating wheat?

HA.

First of all, I’m Italian. Pasta is my middle name.

Second of all, I am a food snob. I refuse to eat things that are processed and preserved and all that. No fake gluten free pizza dough for this woman!

So I stopped my morning toast, my noon time sandwich, my crackers for snack and my pasta for dinner. I happily ate my meat and more fruits and veggies than usual. I was careful to add in gluten free carbs, like quinoa and rice.

Healthiness, here I come!

Within two days I was shaking. My palms were sweaty. I felt weak. And that reliable digestive system? Holy rumbling grumbles. I wanted a bagel. I wanted ravioli. I wanted toast.

I wanted salt.

By day four, I found myself salivating at the thought of potato chips. I bought a bag of “Skinny Pop” and ate it. I was craving fries. Pretzels. I kept adding salt to my pots of quinoa.

By day six, I noticed that I was tasting things more sharply. Adding a little cumin to my chicken marinade made me feel like Giada DeLaurentiis (without the perky boobs.) A bit of turmeric on my saffron rice? Magnificent!

And by day 7, I had lost three pounds.

What the hell.

I wanted my bagels back, but….three pounds in a week?

As week two got underway, I noticed that I was still shaky, still feeling weak and still craving salt. And the digestion issues were not getting better. Ugh. I would have quit right then, but….three pounds.

So I reached out to my wise women of the village. My super healthy, super aware friend Maureen said, “Your body needs time to adjust. Stay with it.”

I did.

It’s now week three.

I have lost another two pounds. I have mastered the fine points of preparing both quinoa and polenta, neither of which I thought I’d ever achieve. I feel fine. The rumbles and grumbles from my slightly smaller belly have subsided.

But my fibromyalgia and the aches and pains that go with it are unchanged. My energy level is unchanged. Stuff still hurts.

So now what do I do?

Well, I certainly have given all of this some thought.

While I don’t believe that gluten or wheat are hurting me, I sure do wonder how much salt I am taking in with my store bought bread items. I definitely know that bread fills me in a way that other foods don’t, which is why I think I am losing a bit of weight.

Here is my plan.

I am going to limit my wheat consumption to a few times a week. And I’m going to go back to baking my own bread. I even have a yeast free sourdough starter going. I’ll skip the crackers with my cheese and will eat carrots instead. Or olives. Or fennel!

I’ll enjoy my newfound quinoa and polenta skills. Maybe I’ll even master lentil salad. Who knows?

I feel happy to have tried this food adventure. I can tell myself that I did what I could to control the fibromyalgia aches. I have learned that commercial breads, muffins, bagels are loaded with salt and sugar.

At last, at last, I can whip up a batch of quinoa or a big pot of polenta and cheese with basil.

So even though we are heading into the hot part of the year, I’m going to renew my efforts to make my own pasta (which has a really unpredictable success rate), my own bread and my own (yes, I mean it) bagels.

And I’m going to NOT give in to my potato chip cravings.

Instead I’ll eat an entire jar of pickles.

Thanks, wise women of my village! I love youse!

 

“Stand Up For What’s Right, Even If You Stand Alone”


Well, this is a fine kettle of fish.

I find myself, a lifetime progressive activist, in the unsavory position of disagreeing with my “side” on one of the big news stories of the day. It would be easy for me to just sit back and let this relatively meaningless furor rage and fade.

But I can’t seem to make myself keep quiet.

Huh. Maybe that’s why I’m such a bleeding heart liberal; I see what I believe to be an injustice, and I have to speak out about it.

So what has me all huffed and puffed up on this lovely spring evening?

The White House Correspondents Association Dinner, that’s what.

Last night the WHCA held it’s annual dinner, as it has since 1920. The dinner was, as usual, an occasion for members of the general media to meet with correspondents who cover the White House. It was, as usual, filled with powerful members of the media and the government that it reports upon.

Everyone in the room knew that a sharp tongued comic would be presenting remarks and everyone knew that those in power would be roasted and laughed at.

In the past, comedians and other entertainers have poked fun at the administration. The whole room has laughed as the President and his cabinet are made to seem silly or ridiculous. It hasn’t always been easy to be a target, but since 1920, every President has attended the event and has smiled through the humor.

But now we are in the age of Donald Trump. Now we have a President who is so fragile and thin skinned that he refuses to show up for the dinner. Instead, he sends his representatives to take the heat.

We also live in a time when that same President of the United States glibly mocks disabled reporters, calls the media “slime” and “terrible people” and “liars.” He makes up insulting names for anyone who disagrees with him and thinks nothing of making crude and debasing remarks about women.

President Donald Trump is a disgusting pig of a human being, and I’d refuse to speak to him if I ever ended up in the same room. He makes me sick. He is the worst example of greed and selfishness that I have ever seen in my 62 years of life.

I don’t think much of anyone who works for him, either. I have little respect those who represent him.

Take, for example, Sara Huckabee Sanders, his Press Secretary. How she can stand to say the crap she says every day in defense of his actions, I do not know.

But last night, at the WHCA Dinner, she was made the butt of the kind of cruel comments and name calling that are usually made by Trump himself. These weren’t “jokes” because they didn’t call on any clever use of words, they didn’t use irony, they didn’t require a witty turn of phrase. And they were spectacularly unfunny.

So I find myself coming to her defense. I find myself criticizing the speaker (I won’t say comedian. She is. not. funny.)

If it’s “edgy” comedy to call someone a liar and to publicly smear their character, then Donald Trump is a comedian.

If we hate it when Trump humiliates people in public and says things that are spiteful and cruel, then we have to hate it when other people do the same thing.

Fellow progressives, I get it. We can’t stomach this guy. We despise him. We despise his minions. I get it.

It’s easy to laugh at them. It’s easy to post memes that make them look stupid and ugly and somehow beneath us. I’ll admit it; I like it when a whole group of my like minded lefty pals share a good guffaw over the Bloviating Blotus.

Still.

When we behave in exactly the same way that makes us cringe when it’s the other “side” that does it, we have all been diminished. Nothing is better. Nothing is going to get better.

We can all keep ignoring what we know to be civil behavior and we can keep lowering our expectations of ourselves and others. We can keep assuring ourselves that we are the good guys because “they did it first.” We can keep sinking down and down and down.

But if we do that, we all just end up in a hole that’s too deep to climb out of.

I can’t stand Donald Trump. I will work as hard as I possibly can to see him defeated in 2020 (if he stays in office that long). I’ll campaign for progressive candidates and make calls and knock on doors and push for universal health insurance. I’ll march against wars and guns and in favor of public education.

But I won’t laugh at unfunny insults hurled by people who seem to use the Donald himself as their inspiration.

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Scilla Siberica


I was only 31 when my family and I moved into our first home with a garden. We had rented apartments before then, but this was our first single family home. It was only a rental for us, but it was my first experience with real gardening.

The house we rented, my husband, our baby daughter and I, was small and old. But it was kept in perfect shape by our landlord, whose parents had lived there for decades. The back yard of the little Cape held a small lawn and a lovely little shady flower garden, complete with overgrown irises, loads of day lilies, and several clumps of what I later learned were gorgeous purple spiderwort plants. There were two small birch trees and a little winding path through the flower beds.

I was completely enamored of this tiny fairy garden, and spent many hours dividing, pruning and otherwise reclaiming the flowers that grew there.

The front of the little gray house held some treasures, too. A gorgeous and absolutely huge hydrangea grew in one corner. Two beautiful white spirea bushes flanked the front windows.

And in the springtime, all three springs that I spent in that pretty little house, the front garden bed was a mass of little blue flowers. A carpet of gorgeous blue that poked up through the snow to greet the coming warmth.

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I had to do quite a bit of research to identify the little blue flowers as “Siberian Squill” or scilla siberica. Each flower grew from a tiny bulb, only the size of a pea. I learned that the scilla bulbs would spread and form a carpet of bright color every early spring. They arrived with the snowdrops and lasted until the tulips bloomed.

I loved them so much! My little girl and I would pick small bunches of them and place them in tiny shot glasses and diminutive bud vases all around our house. They were my favorite harbingers of spring, greeting me before the earliest crocuses and bringing the hope of warmth back to our frosty New England landscape.

When we moved out of that sweet little rental, and into our first ever house, I brought a small handful of those little bulbs with me. I wanted the beauty of that blue carpet outside my door every spring!

But our new house came without a garden, and with four times as much land to fill as the place we had left behind.

In that first spring in our new place, I managed to carefully and slowly craft one flower bed. I added compost, top soil and a rock wall to hold it all in place. I planted a few annuals, and one or two bushes. And I carefully planted the ten bulbs of the scilla siberica, in hopes of seeing that carpet of blue the next spring.

Well, as any gardener will tell you, the best laid plans rarely pan out.

It has been 28 years since I planted those first ten little bulbs. Every spring I have seen one or two plants, separated by feet of icy mud, poking their heads up into the cold spring air. They always come up, but they are so few and far between that any idea of a “carpet” has long since faded away.

Until this week.

Here I am now, 62 years old. I’ve been in this house for almost three decades. I have flower beds all over the yard, and even a little vegetable patch. I grow irises, and day lilies and coreopsis. There are peonies, astilbes, wild roses and clumps of thyme and oregano. I have daffodils, crocuses, tulips and grape hyacinth. We have phlox, both tall and creeping, myrtle and daisies and black-eyed susans.

Our gardens are fully established by now, and the biggest chore is dividing and eliminating the plants that are overgrown.

And for the first time, the very first time in 28 years, I now have a small “carpet” of lovely blue scilla right out in front of my house.

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I’m totally delighted to see them there, in a clump that promises to turn into a carpet. But I can’t help wondering, “Where in the world have you all been for 28 years?” Why did they suddenly make an appearance this year?

Well, I have a theory.

You seen, by the time the young mother that I was moved into our little grey Cape house and hesitantly took over the garden, the woman who had planted it all had passed on to her next adventure. But I learned from her son, and from some of her neighbors, that she had been such an avid gardener that she’d planted spring bulbs even when she was in her 70’s and bound to a wheelchair.

I had taken the bulbs from the garden of an old lady who simply loved her flowers. I had planted them in my youth and inexperience, but they had mostly stayed dormant. Dormant until this year, when I find myself realizing that I am now an old lady who simply loves my flowers. While I’m not in a wheelchair, my health is such that I can only garden for a short time each day.

I wonder, as I look at my little patch of bright Siberian blue, I wonder if they were waiting for me to reach just the right stage in my life to fully appreciate them.

I never knew the woman who planted those bulbs in front of her little gray Cape, but I feel very close to her tonight.

Scilla Siberica. You really should get yourself some!

My Love For Tammy Duckworth


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I absolutely LOVE Senator Tammy Duckworth. I love her. Love, love, love this woman.

If I could, I’d buy her a birthday card. I’d send her a bunch of flowers. If it was possible, I’d make her a batch of my best Italian meatballs and I’d deliver them right to her kitchen.

I love her.

My devotion is, of course, a little crazy.

I’ve never met the woman.

But yesterday she brought her newborn baby girl onto the floor of the United States Senate. I wasn’t there to see it, but I’m pretty sure that she breastfed that baby. Right there. In the Senate.

Oh, my heart!

Here’s why I love her so much.

I am 62 years old.

When I was a little girl, women were not able to get a credit card in their own name. They had to have a husband, father or “responsible” male relative sign for them. Women like my incredibly intelligent, hard working, efficient Mom were not allowed to serve on juries. They were not supposed to step away from their roles as the “center of the home.”

Women were not allowed to buy property by themselves when I was young.

When I attended Junior High in my upper middle class Massachusetts town, girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. Even though my sisters and I had to walk to school, we were required to wear skirts every day. In the depths of winter, when we had to actually climb over snow mounds to get onto school grounds, we had to wear skirts.

We couldn’t change when we got to school, either, because that would make us “late” for homeroom. I distinctly remember how humiliating it was to stand in the hallway peeling off the pants that I’d worn under my approved skirt. While the boys smirked and watched us.

By the time I got to college in 1974, times had changed. Women students wore jeans to class, and our hair was long and untamed. We felt liberated!

But there were few women in public life. It was understood that men were university Presidents, mayors, governors, Congresspeople. Women had finally started to make inroads into the worlds of business and government, but every female face was seen as a token. A head nod by the elite white males to the modern day.

I grew up, and I got married in 1978, the same year that I graduated from college.

Those were the days of the “mommy wars”, when those women who stayed at home with their young children struggled against the image of the “traditional little woman.” They felt inadequate, because they weren’t out there in the world being smart, income earning professionals. And the women who went to work battled every single day and night against the guilt that came with “letting strangers raise your babies.” It was a constant and ugly battled, framed by men, in which women failed to support each other because we didn’t know how.

I remember when I was a young working mom, seeing a bumper sticker that read “I am a full time Mom.” I cried all the way home, thinking that because I worked to help support my family, I wasn’t a “real” mom. I wasn’t “full time.”

I raised my three children while working full time. I felt overwhelming guilt with every sick day, every daycare drop off, every coffee date with my stay at home mommy friends.

But now.  Now all has changed.

Now the world is a different place. My daughter works full time and has two children. She feels no guilt. She understands that she and her husband share the responsibilities of raising children, earning a living and keeping a house going. My niece recently decided to stay at home to take care of her two little children. She understands that by not paying daycare costs, she is contributing to the household.

Neither of these young moms feels guilty.

And this is why I love, admire and adore Senator Tammy Duckworth. The good Senator has absolutely no qualms about being a working Mom. Sure, her “work” is in the public eye and involves making major decisions about all of our lives.

Whatevs.

Senator Duckworth sees herself as a Mom with a job. She understands that working mothers need to be able to feed their babies. Because of that, she has brought about a change to the long standing man-controlled rules of the US Senate.

Senator Duckworth is bringing her tiny baby girl right onto the floor of the United States Senate, where she will be snuggled, jostled, nursed and diaper changed while her Mama votes on the laws that will govern us all.

I am in awe.

I am amazed.

I understand that the actions of Senator Duckworth will have a very direct impact on the life of my favorite powerful, confident young female.

I can see my Ellie in Congress one day, can’t you?

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“And furthermore, gentlemen……”