We Have Offended An Evil Genie


I’m sure of it.

Somewhere, somehow, in the past few months, Paul and I have definitely offended some seriously evil force in the universe.

If you saw my last post, where I said “It could be worse“, you know that my usually reliable good luck has kind of evaporated. What with the return of Covid, my strange blood issues and upcoming cancer surgery, a big old hurricane coming along….it’s beginning to feel like this might be a good time to huddle on the bed in the pile of bubble wrap.

Because, you know what?

Stuff just got worse.

Yup.

Last evening it was starting to seem as if things were getting better. Hurricane Henri had slipped to the west of us, and our power had stayed on. All of our kids were safe at their homes, and there wasn’t any damage to the venue where our son’s wedding is set to take place.

So around 7 pm, after cleaning up dinner, I told Paul that I was really, really, REALLY in need of a night of sleep. My pattern for the previous two weeks had been to sleep from about 10 to 12 and then to lie awake like a rigid, frantic, panic stricken heart attack victim until around 4AM, when I’d doze for two more hours.

I was tired.

As in: I was so tired that there were moments when I was starting to wonder if I was real or if I was a badly drawn avatar making my way through a pretend universe.

Yup.

Wicked tired.

But it was Sunday night, with nothing on the agenda for Monday. No pressing issues, no incoming storm surge, nothing. So I decided to take matters into my own aging yet hip hands. Now that I had finally weaned off of the loathesome prednisone, I’d knock myself into sweet, sweet oblivion and FINALLY get a few hours of decent rest.

I scooped up a lovely 1/2 teaspoon of what we lovingly refer to as “Kelly’s Magic Butter”. A tasty, herbal butter loaded with the fabulous weed grown by our dear friends.

Now, I have to explain that I have a medical marijuana card from the state of Massachusetts, and I regularly use a few cannabis gummies to help me to manage pain and insomnia. But over the course of two weeks on prednisone, I had found that my nice little indica candies were doing NOTHING.

It was time for the big guns. The big, non-narcotic, safe, tasty sleepy guns. Kelly’s Butter. Yum. I made my toast, I ate my butter, I felt all relaxed and happy. I went to bed at about 8 with a good book and cup of herb tea. Paul was reading in the living room, happy, well fed and untroubled.

I can’t begin to describe how peaceful and happy I felt as the magic butter did it’s work on my achy muscles. I closed my book, curled up with a sigh of pleasure, and I FELL ASLEEP.

Hahahahahaha.

Yeah.

Roughly 40 minutes after my descent into oblivion, my poor hubby gently shook me awake. “Honey, I need help.”

Poor Paul had spent the past hour and a half fighting an increasing bout of abdominal pain. He had gone from “oh, oh, indigestion” to “I think I’m dying” without ever even bothering me.

A fact which is illustrative on two points. A) the man is a saint and B) when I’m on prednisone, you better be facing imminent death before you bother me.

I tried to rouse, I really did. I got out of the bed. I washed my face. I asked a couple of questions about symptoms. I think. I mean, I tried to ask them.

Maybe I just frowned and mumbled something about getting some rest. I’m not sure. All I know is that I was desperately trying to figure out if I was real, to identify the source of the funny music I was hearing in my left ear and to appear supportive of my clearly suffering beloved partner.

In between his bouts of moaning and vomiting, I got myself into a cold shower. I drank about a gallon of water, and I thought I was thinking clearly.

I wasn’t.

I grabbed my purse and told Paul that I’d get him into the car and drive him the 10 minutes to the emergency room.

Luckily, in spite of his pain and suffering, he knew the sight of a kite-high old woman and overrode my suggestion.

We called our son-in-law, who came by to take us to the hospital.

So.

Things got worse, right? M’hm.

Paul spent last night going through diagnostic testing in our local ER. I was there beside him, in a recliner, with a pillow and blanket. Trying to stay remotely coherent.

Luckily, it’s 2021, and I fessed up to the medical staff.

“I have been having some bad insomnia….blah, blah….prednisone….blah, blah…..medical card…….”

The lovely nurse gave a little chuckle, handed me a big pitcher of ice water and left the room.

So it was a lonnnnnnnnnnnnng night of dozing for ten minutes at a time in a plastic recliner, jerking awake every time the door opened or the lights came on or I dreamed that I was being attacked by a giant polar bear.

I couldn’t relax because my hubs was in pain, because my dogs were outside in the remaining hurricane winds, and my mouth was so dry I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pry my tongue off my palate.

Finally, the sun came up, and I called my daughter for a ride home. Paul was headed for surgery, and I was free to collapse.

Except that when I got home, I was too wound up to sleep. I let the dogs in, fed them, sent a few emails out to let people know what was happening. I managed to doze off around 7.

And the texts started coming in at 7:10.

So I was up for the day by 8, and was too anxious, too wound up and way too tired to know what to do with myself.

Given the past month of medical bullshit, I decided that it would be a good idea to “change the energy” in the house.

Yup.

I cleaned the upholstery, vacuumed the entire upstairs, rearranged the living room furniture, changed all the knicknacks on several shelves and burned sage. At the time, I thought that it made sense to make myself as physically tired as possible. Because…..you know…..sleep.

By around 1pm, I was finished with everything. I had cleaned and organized. I had cancelled Paul’s clients for the next two days, spoken to all the key family and friends and I was waiting for a call from the surgeon.

And I waited. Awake.

And I waited some more.

Finally at about 1:30, I called the hospital to check in on my patient.

“Good news” said the cheery nurse. “He did great! He can come home tonight!”

WHAT?!

My heart beat ramped up to about 220, and my head started to pound.

I explained the situation to the nice nurse. I tried to convey the fact that I am an old lady with a bad temper who has slept for about 15 seconds in the past week. “I can’t do it, ” I tried to tell her. “I can’t take care of him. It won’t be safe for either of us.”

Pshaw.

They assured me I’d be fine. They had great faith in me!!!

“Come get him in an hour!”

So. I hung up the phone.

I sobbed. I cried. I swore a little bit.

I put the dogs out so I could get Paul in the house safely. I washed my face. I put some ice cubes in my armpits. I drank some Tulsi tea.

Then I sat down to wait for the call from the hospital, telling me that the patient was ready for the world’s oldest, crabbiest, most exhausted nurse to come get him.

I only had a couple of minutes to feel sorry for myself. Then my phone sent out a shriek, and the TV started to bleat out an alarm.

“A tornado warning has been issued for our area.”

Are.

You.

Kidding.

Me.

I don’t know when or how it happened, but there it is.

We have rather obviously offended a very evil genie.

It Could Be Worse


My Mom is an inspiration.

She is 91 years old, and increasingly frail. She is experiencing dementia. She has been widowed for more than a dozen years.

But in spite of her increasing discomfort and confusion, her frequent comment is “Could be worse!”

It’s kind of funny, and definitely sweet.

And it’s been my mantra for the past few weeks….months….well, you know, about a year and half. I keep trying to hold onto that thought, as each new stressor comes rolling along.

Covid appeared and life came to a crashing halt.

“Could be worse.” I held on, and we kinda got through it.

The election got pretty heated up, and I had the joyful experience of watching the vicious attack on the Capital as it played out on national TV.

“Could be worse.” I might have had to mutter it under my breath a few times, but it got me through.

Scary times, but after all, it wasn’t the worst.

As time rolled by, and the summer of 2021 came along, I realized there were a couple of small medical issues going on in this old body. So I slowly, agonizingly, weaned off of a pain-reducing anti-depressant that I’d been on for years.

Hahahahaha! So. Many. Tears. So. Much. Irritability.

But, I knew that it “Could be worse.” I didn’t lose my mind totally.

Yay, me!

Then came the news that I have a very early, very treatable breast cancer. “Could be worse.” Truly. Could be a LOT worse!

But the biopsy and surgery have both be hugely complicated by an unexplained lack of platelets in my blood. My stress level, unaided by the missing anti-depressant, kicked up a few notches. There’ve been blood infusions, blood tests, arguments with a soon-to-be-replaced hematologist, warnings about surgery risks and a huge, honking hematoma.

I have taken in enough deep breaths to inflate a good sized hot-air balloon. I have whispered “Could be worse” at least 1000 times.

I hung on, more or less, if you don’t count the moment when I almost slammed a carving knife into my new granite counter. I hung on, clutching my yummy gummies and my glass of wine.

It’s all good.

Sorta.

Because the last two weeks, up to and including this very moment, are really, really stretching my ability to be as serene as my Momma.

Here’s the scenario, OK?

Covid 19 is RAGING again. Schools are about to reopen, and more and more kids are getting sick. My beautiful little granddaughter is about to start first grade. There is no state mask mandate. My daughter is a teacher. I have a good friend who is sick with a break through infection, and he is both fully vaxxed and super careful.

“Could be worse.”

I guess.

But humans are acting as if it’s the year 550 AD. Like science has never happened. They are screaming in rage about being offered a free vaccine. They are physically fighting over being asked to wear a 2 ounce piece of cloth while they’re shopping. They won’t give up their “freedom” to get sick, to use up all the ICU beds and to spread the joy to the rest of us.

So the virus just keeps on mutating, and it seems like only a matter of weeks before a more deadly, more contagious version rears its ugly little spikey head.

My stress re: Covid is right back to where it was in February of 2020. I’m more than a little worried that increased cases at our local hospital will push my surgery back or postpone it indefinitely.

Of course, there are all the wider, more chronic world issues adding to our sense of doom, too. Wildfires are sweeping the world, including the Western US. Climate change is accelerating just about to the point of no return. The Afghan government just collapsed and violence and terrorism are once again threatening us.

“Could be worse.”

By now my teeth are clenched as I repeat these words. It. Could. Be. Worse.

Sigh.

My serenity is being tested. Big time.

I’m also on week two of a pretty high prednisone dose, which means that I have slept approximately 2.2 hours in the past week. My eyes hurt, my heart won’t stop pounding, I feel like I’m have the big one all day every day.

And the mood swings. Oi, vey!

By “swings”, what I actually mean is that for two weeks I have been “swinging” between rage and RAGE. With the occasional moment of helpless sobbing thrown in just for fun.

Good times.

“Could be worse.”

So I’m sitting here today, worried that my surgery won’t happen. Worried that I’ll never sleep again. Worried that the human race is too stupid to survive. Worried about school reopening. Worrying about Mom’s increasing frailty.

And watching a hurricane as it barrels up the East Coast of the US and heads right at us. And right at the place where my son and his fiance are planning to be married next weekend.

At a lovely outdoor wedding that was already postponed for a year by stupid Covid.

“Could be worse.”

I guess.

And it might be worse.

Cuz the power might go out and might not come back in time for the wedding. The roads might wash out, like they did in Hurricane Irene. The farm venue might be damaged, the hotels might be damaged.

“Could be worse.”

Seriously?

This is kind of feeling a bit apocalyptic, to be honest.

Maybe I should go outside and double check for murder hornets, huh?

How Being Old Helps Me Get My Steps in Every Day


Photo by Kamil S on Unsplash

A few years ago I noticed that a lot of my friends were wearing big, rubber-encased watches. I saw those friends gazing at their watches as we strolled through various gardens and along a few beaches.

“This is a Fitbit!” one friend told me. “It measures my steps, keeps track of my heart rate, counts calories and reminds me to drink more water!” 

Oh.

As a confirmed non-athlete, I was unimpressed. 

Fast forward several years, however, and I found myself the slightly abashed owner of my own pink Fitbit. Covid was raging, and as a good Italian woman, I had spent several weeks trying to cook my way out of danger. I was, shall we say, getting chubby. Or to quote my adorable three-year-old grandson, I was “nice and squishy.” 

So I got a Fitbit. I vowed to slim down. I promised to count my steps.

If you are even a little bit aware of current fitness ideas, you will know that a “fit” person is supposed to take a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. With a Fitbit on one’s wrist, one can carefully plan where to walk in order to reach the magic number.

At first, the very idea of walking so much seemed out of reach. I mean, really? I live in a small house, how many steps could there be in the average day of an average old lady?

It seemed somewhat out of reach, I’ll be honest. I thought I’d have to go “hiking” in order to reach the magic number. My young, healthy sons told me about how they had to plan extra walks to make it that far. In the middle of the worst lock-down days, one of them even made a video of himself walking around and around in his own apartment, book in hand, just to get the last couple of hundred steps.

I thought that hitting 10,000 steps would be a major stretch for my aging, squishy self.

But, guess what? 

I underestimated the physical benefits of being old. I did not anticipate the wonderful impact of a wicked bad memory.

As it turns out, people my age take a whole boatload of extra steps every day. 

I’ll give you an example.

This morning, with my Fitbit on my wrist, I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen. I turned on the coffee pot, then realized that I had left my phone in my room. Back to the bedroom, where I noticed that my bed wasn’t made. Took care of that, went back to the kitchen for coffee. Remembered the phone again. Back to the bedroom. Decided to do laundry, so I grabbed the hamper and headed downstairs to the laundry room. Back to the kitchen, where I poured the coffee and sat down to sip. 

And I realized that I still didn’t have my phone. Back to the bedroom.

You get the idea, right? I took around 500 extra steps, just trying to grab my phone.

In the course of a single day, a nice mature person like myself might go into the bedroom five or six extra times. We might go all the way into the garage to take a chicken out of the freezer, then come back upstairs after leaving said chicken on top of the dryer. And down we go again.

So, see?

It is actually way easier for older people like me to hit 10,000 steps than it is for our 20 something kids to get that far. 

I might still be “squishy”, but you better believe I am getting way, way, WAY more than 10,000 steps a day just going through my day.

Grace Under Pressure?


You know, when I’m daydreaming and sort of just fantasizing about life, I picture myself as a person who would display enormous grace under pressure.

I imagine myself hearing scary news and reacting in a calm and measured way. “Well,” I imagine myself saying to my doctor, “I’m just so happy that I live in a time when there are good treatments for this disease.”

I see the looks that my dear family would share. “Isn’t she amazing?” I imagine them murmuring. “So brave.”

When I picture myself (too often these days) facing a world on fire, a world where the grid has gone down and the food supply chain is broken, I see a strong, brave woman. I see myself channeling my inner Ma Joad, bracing myself to face the danger with a sturdy back and an unflappable courage.

In my head, I am always serene but strong. I do not waver. I smile through the darkest moments. I rise above the challenges that face me, ready to take on any struggle in order to take care of those I love.

I am, of course, completely full of shit as far as this fantasy is concerned.

I know this because for the one and only time in my life (so far), I have a couple of minor medical issues facing me. I am not dying. I do not have a terminal illness. I sort of have more of an annoying few days of medical tests to make sure I don’t need some medical intervention.

Should be nothing.

But it’s something.

The reality of my life is this:

I am not a serene, calm, accepting older woman who is ready to take on any challenge. Instead, I am a scared, whiny, weepy mess of a woman who wants to curl up under my covers with a box of cookies and a glass of wine. I want my kids. I want my mommy. I want a boatload of m&ms.

I am disappointed in me, to be honest. I’m afraid that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, I won’t be the one to organize the neighbors into a rescue force. I won’t be the kind and wise lady who sets up a foraging team to feed the kids in town. I doubt that I’ll be the resilient leader who looks at the reality of the situation yet manages to stay hopeful in the face of disaster.

I suspect, to my chagrin, that if I get scary medical news in the next few weeks I’ll start whimpering and I won’t stop until I’m either all alone or no longer capable of whimpering.

I don’t want to be a horrible and wimpy aging human. I don’t.

But I’m not sure how to turn myself into the person I see in my head.

Any suggestions?

Finding Joy in Small Moments


It’s really, really hot outside. It’s so humid that going outside feels like taking a nice long walk through a bowl of soup.

A hurricane is on its way up the coast, washing away our planned boating trip off of Cape Cod.

My local hospital and doctor’s offices have been completely screwing up the first potentially serious procedure I’ve ever had to have done.

And I just finished an 8 week excruciating process to wean off of a medication that helped me with pain, sleep and anxiety.

I’m cranky, kids. I’m wicked cranky.

But you know what?

We got bunnies this year!

I’ve lived out here in semi-rural Massachusetts for over thirty years. I’m used to seeing deer out there. Don’t get me started on the ever present squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, mice and raccoons. We see skunks, foxes and coyotes. We’ve even had bears a few times.

But this summer is the summer of the bunny rabbit. Adorable, soft, bright-eyed little bunnies are everywhere, twitching their little bunny noses and flashing those little white puff ball tails. We have bunnies living under fallen brush, beneath the branches of our overgrown rhododendron and snuggling in the tall grass at the edge of the yard.

And they make me smile every time I see one.

Sure, having a tiny ball of fur hopping around has been known to turn my dogs into slavering, howling beasts, but even that is kind of funny.

Just now one little bunny friend, whom the kids and I have named “Lily”, was calmly working her way through a patch of clover about two feet outside of our dog fence. Bentley and Lennie were hysterically barking, racing back and forth along the fence, threatening to tear her limb from limb.

She just kept munching.

I had to laugh. The dogs were determined to get her. She knew they couldn’t.

I loved it.

For a few minutes I forgot that the Gulf of Mexico caught fire this week. I stopped worrying about the ever increasing number of clinically insane members of Congress. I even forgot to be mad at my doctor.

Just a fluffy little bunny, but her sassy attitude sure turned around my bad mood.

Now I need to go see if I can find some turkeys. Those things are freakin hilarious.

Thinking About Our Alien Visitors


Boy howdy. I haven’t been this excited about UFOs since the 1960s, when my big brother used to insist to me that aliens were hovering over our house all night.

I could hardly sleep back then, partly because I was afraid that I’d miss all the UFO excitement and never get the chance to meet the alien beings. And partly because I was convinced that a Martian was going to crawl in my window and eat my brains.

Either way, the prospect of a UFO sighting dominated a lot of backyard conversation back then.

And that excitement is back once again, thanks to an eagerly awaited Pentagon report on UFO sightings around the globe.

I can’t sleep now, either, although that might be due to age more than aliens. Still, the excitement and curiosity have my little brain all abuzz.

What if there really is some distant civilization that has somehow discovered our tiny blue planet? What if they really are hypersonically zooming around our atmosphere and observing us with their weird insectile eyes?

Wouldn’t they have made contact with us by now?

I actually have a theory about that.

See, I was thinking that if the space invaders starting watching us in the 1960s, they may have decided that this planet had a lot of evolving to do before it would be safe to visit. They would have flown over us and observed thick clouds of smoke choking humanity’s major cities. Even from space, they would have noticed the stinking rivers of sludge, the stench of burning coal, and the tar-soaked coastlines.

“Jeez”, they would have chittered to each other, “These creatures don’t even know enough not to foul their own nests.”

They would have been appalled.

Naturally, they would also have seen the fighting, slaughtering, murdering and warring going on all over the place. “Too stupid to realize they’re all the same species,” the boss alien would have sighed. “Let’s keep looking for a safer planet to visit. How bout if we give these beings a chance to work things out? We can come back in 50 or 60 years, see if there are any signs of improvement.”

Off they may have zipped, disappearing into the void in search of something better.

So what if they came back in the early 2000s? Do you think they would have decided to land here and make friends?

I can imagine the conversation as the new and improved hypersupersonic intergalactic vehicle began its approach to earth.

“Sir”, the Vice Boss Alien would have said, “Our instruments show that the pollution problems on Earth have been greatly reduced.”

“Good news, VBA, thank you!”

“Yessir. That is the good news. But that’s about all the good news I can give you. The rest of the story is pretty grim.”

Boss Alien would have sighed through little vents in his upper back.

“Full report, please.”

“Well, sir, it appears that a deadly virus has begun to circulate the earth. The humans are dropping like flies. They haven’t been able to figure out how they can keep themselves safe, even though their rudimentary science has shown them that if they put small pieces of material over their breathing holes, the virus can be kept away.”

“Vice Boss, I’m sorry. You’re not making sense. They KNOW that covering their breathing holes will protect the species, right? What do you mean they haven’t figured it out?”

“It’s very hard for advanced species like us to understand, sir… but these primitive creatures are fighting each other over facts. They seem to be quite superstitious and they definitely don’t trust each other.

Let me explain a little more, sir. You see, they have also found a preventative treatment, a vaccine, that will protect them. But these creatures are unable to cooperate with each other to share the treatments, so some of them are safe, while others are getting sicker and dying more quickly. And some of the sick ones want the treatment, but the healthy ones refuse to take it. It’s basically a mess.”

Boss Alien would have been confused, but he would have studied his instruments in search of something hopeful.

He would have been disappointed.

“H’mmmmm. I see that the slaughtering has continued. These creatures have been killing each other on the same small patches of sand since the last time we were here. They haven’t learned one damn thing, have they? There are still babies starving all over the place, the number of non-human species is dwindling, they’re running out of water…….

…..and it’s a lot hotter than it was last time we flew by.”

The Vice Boss would have looked at his report once more, and then he would have closed the cover.

“It’s definitive then?”

“I’m afraid so, VBA. It’s time to move on.

“There is clearly no intelligent life here.”

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

I Can Quit This Stuff Whenever I Want.


I know I’ve been on this medication for seven long years, and that it has melded itself right into my DNA. Sure. I know that.

I know that this stuff has eased all of the aches and pains of the fibromyalgia that had been slowing me down. It gave me some energy, that’s true. It helped me to sleep. And, you know, even though it’s prescribed for the fibromyalgia, it is actually an antidepressant.

So, ya know, it might or might not have made me a little more serene than I used to be.

I don’t know.

All I know is that as I wrote a while ago, I am ALL done with this liver pickling, dependence-creating Big Pharma non-hippy chemical answer to my problems.

I don’t need it.

I can quit any time.

Which is what I’m trying to do. Really carefully. And very slowly. Because the drug in question, “Cymbalta,” has it’s very own recognized syndrome. Yes, “Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome” is a thing.

Like, an actual, real medically recognized thing. Getting off this stuff is like quitting alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, Bridgerton and weed all in the same week. Or worse.

If you know me, you know that I am a big old baby when it comes to physical discomfort.

So I talked to my doctor, and we decided that I should reduce my dose from the 90 mg I’ve been taking for four years, and go down to 60 mg. I can’t cut it down more slowly because some genius in the marketing department at whichever big pharma company makes this stuff decided that it could only be made in dosages of 30 mg and 60 mg. And they’re not nice solid pills that a person could chop in half; it only comes in capsules full of tiny dots of magical poison. You can’t cut them in halves or fourths.

Eek.

I reduced my dose by 33% and hoped for the best.

And here I am, two weeks later, thinking “I CAN QUIT WHENEVER I WANT TO” and “HOLY ACHING EXHAUSTED BODY” at the very same time.

Sleep has become something of a joke, as I fall happily asleep somewhere around midnight now (instead of 9 pm). I sleep deeply until roughly 12:10, at which point I wake up to pee and remain awake for roughly two hours. I fall back to sleep around 2, wake up at 3, wake up again at 4, and then sleep well from 4 to 7.

(oh, I forgot to mention: yes, I have a medical marijuana card. Yes I use my edibles and now the occasional middle of the night vape. Nada.)

I lie awake and ache in ways that make me wonder how many nerves there actually are in a human neck and back and arms and legs and ribs and feet and jaws. So far neither my ears nor my nose is hurting, but I am expecting both to start up soon.

So all of this is hard.

But I can cope. The world has ice, heat, ibuprofen and menthol rub. I can cope.

Alas, there is one other teeny weeny issue that has made this withdrawal a bit challenging. That would be my experience with what the medical world refers to as “irritability.”

See, I’m getting pretty damn irritable.

I’ll give you a sample.

The other night my beloved husband (the clinical psychologist with a specialty in children and adolescents and more than 30 years of experience) came home from work. As usual, we chatted about our day over dinner.

I proudly explained to him how well I had handled a behavior issue with our 3 year old grandson and his older sister. I told him what I did, how I responded, feeling good about my ability to manage the emotional storms of young children.

My husband, bless his ignorant soul, made a casual comment about my choice of consequences for little Johnny. Now, mind you, he didn’t criticize my choice. Instead, he made a casual comment about the ways that he and I have approached the concept of “logical consequences.”

Honestly, I can’t even remember what he said.

All I know is that he made a comment and the next sound in the room was the roaring of blood through my head. My heart rate went from 70 to 400 in a nanosecond and sweat broke out under my gray hair.

The next ten minutes included poor Paul making attempted comments like, “No, I didn’t say…….” and “honey, maybe this isn’t a good time”.

For my part, I’m pretty sure there was a reference to the fact that he had NO FUCKING IDEA OF WHAT IT TAKES TO RAISE A CHILD because obviously our three kids were raised by me, single handedly. There was a comment about my decades as a teacher and his complete and total lack of any actual experience with kids at any point after 1981.

I have a vague recollection of promising to kill him dead and toss his body under a passing train.

Then I cried, ugly cried with the nasal snot and the hiccups and the drool, for about three hours.

Yup.

I’m (cough, cough) “irritable”.

Please pray for Paul. I will stay on this dose for another couple of weeks, but then I have to drop all the way down to 30 mg, a reduction of another 50%.

I may suggest that he move in with one of our kids for a couple of weeks.

You know what they told us back in our younger days, right? “Kids, don’t ever do drugs.”

I Think Spring is Going to Kill Me


I love spring. I really do. I love the smell of wet earth and the sight of the first few robins. I love Easter, and stale Peeps and the first time we roll out the grill and make some burgers.

But I’m realizing that there are certain parts of the spring ritual that are not really designed for the elderly. Especially the elderly like me who have the kind of memory issues that make us forget the arthritis in our spines and the nerve issues in our necks.

Today was a beautiful day out here in North Central Massachusetts. It’s been a pretty dry and pretty warm March. My crocuses are open and the daffodils and tulips are poking their heads up through the straw that I put over them last November.

Today was the first day of this year when the leaves piled on my gardens were thawed enough to rake. It was the first day when the soil was unfrozen, so that I could scrape back the mud and find the emerging shoots.

This was the first day of the miraculous rebirth that comes around every year. Hurrah! Time to get out there, old Nonni! Grab that rake, sweep up all those mouldering old leaves! Find the thyme plant and the phlox and the yellowish tips of the sprouting tulips!

So out I went, with my grandkids in tow. Five year old Ellie grabbed her child’s rake. Three year old Johnny grabbed a trowel. Almost one year old Max sat happily in the grass, but it was obvious that he wanted to taste some sticks and dirt.

With one eye on the baby and one on the barely surviving stems of my two year old hazelnut trees, I started to rake. And I raked, baby, oh did I ever rake. I sang songs to keep Max distracted while I raked every old leaf off the newest flower bed. I gave simple directions to Ellie and Johnny, who were simultaneously raking, arguing and pretending to be superheroes.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing and it felt fabulous to work hard in the springtime air.

Until it didn’t.

One of the funny/not funny parts of getting older is the way my body can alert me at the exact moment when it has had enough. Like a tornado siren on a summer night, it suddenly shrieks out of nowhere, shocking me into the reality that these old bones are no longer thirty. Every tiny nerve ending reacts simultaneously, which means every muscle seizes up and every joint freezes.

I went from Happy Farmer to Sobbing Zombie in about three seconds.

OWWWWWW!!! My thumb was screaming. A blister! And all the skin came off!!!!

YOWWWWW!!!! My lower back was shooting lightning down both legs and I was bent over at a ninety degree angle. I wanted to drop the rake, but my right hand was cramped into a claw.

Why was my calf cramping? And who applied a vise to my achilles tendon?

I took a breath. And wheezed.

Turned my head to look at the kids. My neck cramped.

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur. Step, ouch! Bend, ouch! Lift 25 pound baby, ouch ouchie mcouchums!!!!

I convinced the “big kids” to come inside with the promise of a cookie. Do. Not. Judge.

I am very happy to report that today is a rainy day.

Huzzah.

There is no reason for Nonni to drag herself out there and scoop up the mountains of moldy leaves. Today is a day for the heating pad, the ice pack and the play pen.

Spring is a time of wonder and joy. It is flowers and baby birds and rainbows.

It’s also a time to check the mirror and look at the wrinkles before getting carried away in the garden.

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

The Puppy to Prison Pipeline


It never fails out here in suburban New England. One dog in the neighborhood lets out a bark, and the one next door feels compelled to answer. Then the hound across the street and the one around the corner join in. Pretty soon the air is filled with the howls and yips of a dozen pups, each one standing as close to their fence as they can possibly get.

So I was thinking this morning, as the canine cacophony made its way around the block, the life of a suburban dog is a lot like life in prison.

No, I mean it!

Think about it. The dog wakes up in the morning. He’s hungry and he has to pee. Can he just head outside and do his business before grabbing a bite to eat? No, sirree. Instead he has to wait patiently until the boss decides it’s time. If he gets frustrated and starts to make trouble, he’ll probably either be ignored or yelled at.

And when he’s finally fed, will he get a plate full of beef and cheese, or at least some toast and peanut butter? Nuh, uh, not in most houses. Instead he’ll get a metal bowl filled with a single scoop of tasteless, overcooked, unidentifiable “food”. Or if he’s lucky, a blob of vaguely meat smelling goop with embedded bits of orange and white stuff.

If he doesn’t eat it, he waits until the boss decides to feed him again.

And what does the dog’s day entail? Mostly boredom, right? He can nap, gaze longingly out the window at the world passing by, and dream of freedom.

If he’s a lucky dog, he’ll get a little time outside in the yard. Of course he’ll be confined inside the fence, or possibly allowed to “walk” alongside the boss. But he definitely won’t get a chance to run into the woods the way he wants. He won’t be allowed to roll himself in a dead animal or dig in someone’s compost pile.

Every minute of his day is controlled by the boss. Will he have a chance to play ball, or fetch a stick? That’s up to the bosses and their moods.

But the most striking similarity between suburban dogs and prison inmates, as far as I can tell, is the way they try desperately to communicate with each other.

Of course, I’ve never stepped foot inside of a human prison, but I do read mysteries and crime novels. I’ve seen Shawshank Redemption about 10 times, too. So I know that lonely inmates yell things to each other from cell to cell. I know that even when they can’t see each other, they call out, make jokes, complain and plot devious methods of escape.

Apparently they sometimes even tap on the walls or bars to send morse code.

They are desperate to connect with others in their same situation. They are determined to share their experiences with sympathetic souls.

Exactly like the dogs in my neighborhood.

Just this morning I was sipping my coffee. I hadn’t fed the dogs yet, but I had let them out the door and into the fenced yard. One of the big dogs down the street let out three loud barks. The little dog across the street from him answered. They went back and forth a couple of times, just short woofs and arfs.

“Nice morning.”

“Gonna be warm.”

“I’m starved.”

“Me, too. And I haven’t pooped yet.”

The next voice to join the conversation belonged to a Shepard mix a few houses past ours. His deep, bell like voice added a note of tension to the exchange.

“I smell chickens! You know the guy across the street is raising chickens, right? Chiiiiiiiiiiiickens!”

“And ducks! Ducks! I smell ducks! I want to eat duuuuuuuucks!”

By now my two dogs were standing at full attention in the farthest corner of the fence. Both had their heads up, noses twitching. Both had hackles raised.

“I WANT OUT!” One of them suddenly howled. “I gotta get outta here!!!” Every dog voice in the area joined the chorus.

“OUT!”

“HUNTING TIME!!!”

“Owooooooooot!”

“GOTTA GOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Within a minute, the air was filled with howls, rising and falling in the morning air. You would have thought that a pack of wolves was out there. The howls were chilling in their desperate intensity.

The hair on my arms rose.

The inmates had to be restrained before there was an uprising.

“Come on inside, sweeties!” I called. “Time for num nums!”

I shook their metal bowls of crunchy food-like bits.

They came inside, but they weren’t real happy. They sort of slouched past me.

I swear the terrier mumbled something about a breakout.

I Am a Bad Mother…..


But I’m a very good Nonni!

Tonight is the last night of summer for my daughter, the fifth grade teacher. I know exactly what this night feels like for her. I taught in the same school district as Kate for more than 20 years. I know the feeling of that last night at home, that last night of knowing that you’ll be there with your babies all day. The night that is filled with the ticking clock of doom.

I remember the feelings of anxiety and excitement as I’d look forward to the first day back at work as a teacher. Those first few days of organizing, decorating the classroom, meeting with colleagues, calling parents, and more meetings.

Exciting, exhausting, thrilling and nerve wracking.

My daughter heads back into school tomorrow, but for her everything will be different this year, because this is the 2020. This is the year of the pandemic. The year of lockdowns and masks and baths in Purell. Nothing will be the same this year.

I know that all of my good friends who are teachers are as sad and scared and excited as my Kate is tonight. I send my love and my sympathy for the angst that I know they are all feeling.

Truly! My heart is filled with admiration and gratitude to every single teacher, administrator, teaching assistant, school nurse and school psychologist out there. What a stressful night it is for all of you tonight!

So I love you. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry to all of you, but especially to my beloved firstborn child, Kate, the teacher. I apologize. Mea culpa. Please don’t hate me.

Don’t hate me because I am so euphoric that tonight is the last night of your summer vacation! Whooie!!!!!!

I will be back in the saddle as of tomorrow morning. I will be Nonni in charge. Nonni on duty. La Nonna di tutti Nonni.

I will spend tomorrow with baby Max, all of five months old. I’ll rock him, change him, sing him ridiculous songs about whales and hearts and Uncles and eyebrows.

He will have my full attention, and he will be my total focus.

Holy baby cuddles, I am lucky!

Max doesn’t really know me yet, and tomorrow will be a big challenge for him. And a day of heartache for his Momma.

But for me? Tomorrow is the first day of my next year of grandchild care. Tomorrow I get to be my very best self.

Tomorrow I will feel useful.

I’m sorry that I don’t feel sad. I can’t help it.

I am NONNI, hear me roar!!!! Bring on the school year, baby. Nonni is ready to roll!