Military Rules?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s why I say that.

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

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

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

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

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

Honest! I don’t!

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

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

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

Now.

About your Russian connections….Colorado Soldiers Return Home

 

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Crazy pants night thoughts


It’s been a long few days. Lots of emotion. A lot of bruises. Good food. Good drinks. Too much rain. Far too many long, long, sleepless nights.

So here is a sampling of the crazy pants thoughts that stroll through Nonni’s mind in the dark of night.

What do you think? Been there, thought that? Or am I a total nutcake?

  1. What the hell is mesothelioma and why is it advertised every 20 minutes on TV? Did I miss something, or are half of my acquaintances really at risk? CREEPY!
  2. I think that funny, innocent, misguided woman on the Progressive ads is wonderful. If I didn’t already have good car insurance, you can bet I’d go to her.
  3. When did women realize that we actually hold ALL the cards in our relationships? I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when it was a very big deal for women to say that we weren’t going to wear skirts to school in the snow and ice. When did we finally realize that no one could tell us what to wear? As a grandmother now, I often think about this question. It sort of just passed us by and became life as we know it.
  4. Why did we think that breastfeeding made babies better or healthier? Why did we attack each other for our baby raising choices? And have we smartened up about all this yet? Are we ready to support each other and not condemn each other for our parenting choices?
  5. What the hell is the latest theory about allergies, anyway? I had three kids, with dogs, and cats. They all had HORRIBLE allergies/asthma and I beat myself up for years because I had pets in the house. Yeah, but…..Now they say being with pets is the best thing for allergic kids. ????
  6. Why is that if I spend 100 hours and 100 dollars planning my garden, I still end up realizing that the best plants I have are the “volunteers” brought in by the birds?
  7. Why are the little birds, chicadees, sparrows, finches, so much braver and more assertive than the big, showy cardinals and bluejays?
  8. Do dogs really know when we’re sad? How can my crazy little “Devildog” Puppy know when he should come up slowly and lick my ears and cheeks until I feel better?
  9. Do young women today suffer from the same “Perfection anxiety” that dogged every woman in my generation? Do they worry about perfectly clean kitchens? Color coordinated bath towels? Organized closets?
  10. Is aging a gift or a curse? Is it too sad to know what you can’t do anymore, or is that a freeing realization as we head into the next phase?

What do you all think?


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

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

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

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

Ho hum. How routine.

How safe.

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

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

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

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

How delicious!

 

For Orlando and Aurora and Newtown and Littleton …….


 

I wrote this short story three years ago. I posted it then, and I felt better.  So I’m going to post it again tonight. I’m doing it because I was on Facebook and Twitter. And I am disgusted and disheartened by what Americans are saying to each other.

“Ban the Muslims, keep the guns.”   

“My automatic weapon didn’t kill anyone today.”

“What don’t you understand about the 2nd Amendment?”

So. I am so man and so frustrated.  This story is my fantasy. I wish I had the courage to really do it.  If you like the story, pass it on. Maybe we’ll all feel better.

 

“Righteous Anger”

It was Friday afternoon, an hour after the last kid had gotten on the last bus.  I was packing up some weekend work when my best friend, Betsy, popped her head into my classroom.

“Glass of wine before we head home?”, she asked hopefully. Before I knew it, we  were seated at a table at Joe’s, a bowl of popcorn chicken bits in front of us, matching glasses of white wine in our hands.  We started off talking about the week, as usual.  Which kids were having trouble with the math, which kids were way behind in their reading and which parents were driving us nuts.  We sipped and laughed and ignored the calories we were scarfing down in those greasy little blobs of chicken fat.

It was a typical Friday evening.

Then the news came on.  We were sitting across from the bar, and the screen was in full view. We didn’t pay too much attention to the first couple of stories, but suddenly the screen was filled with the smirking face of Warren LaDouche, head of the American Gun Owners Gang.  As usual, he was managing to keep a straight face as he somberly explained all of the reasons why it was necessary to arm public school teachers.  I don’t know how he manages to avoid breaking into gales of maniacal laughter when he says things like, “If every teacher were armed and ready, they would be able to respond to these attackers in a timely manner.”

Betsy grimaced, and took a healthy slug of her wine as LaDouche  went on with fake sincerity, elaborating on his plan to have armed guards standing at recess and loaded guns in every classroom.

“This guy is just sick!”, Betsy hissed, leaning forward across the table so far that she almost landed in the chicken bits.  “I know!”, I hissed back.  “I cannot believe that  NO one out there is calling him out for this crap!”

“Its so obvious that AGOG just wants to sell more and more guns! They don’t give a damn who dies in the process!”

“Everyone knows that they are paid for and supported by the gun manufacturing companies.  But the government just refuses to stand up to them!”

“I can’t believe that people are listening to this crap! They are actually thinking about making us carry guns instead of making the damn things illegal and getting them off the streets!”

We sat there for a while longer, sipping, eating, listening to the bullshit coming from the screen.  The wine ran out just as the news report came to an end. We had lost our happy Friday night mood by then, and we were quiet as we paid the bill and headed out to our cars. I threw my purse onto the seat and turned to give Betsy a hug goodbye.

Uh, oh.  I knew that look.  Betsy was frowning and puffing out her lips in deep thought.  She twirled one lock of greying hair around her finger in what I knew was a sign of concentration.

“Bets,” I began, but she put her fists on her ample hips and launched right in, like she always does.

“What if we do something ourselves?  What if we take some kind of action that just cannot be ignored?  I mean, this is just not right!  I refuse to carry a rifle in my classroom!”

The image of Betsy, armed and dangerous, almost made me laugh, but I knew better.  She was serious, and she was mad.  And she was my best friend.

I sighed, and said, “I don’t know what we could do, hon.  But if you think of something, you know I’m right there with you! I’ve got your back. Have a good weekend.”

By the time I got home and started dinner, I had all but forgotten the press conference and the conversation after it.  My husband came home. We had dinner and talked and then I settled down on the couch with my knitting.

It must have been about 10 pm when my phone suddenly rang.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am usually out cold by 10 pm on a Friday, and I was in fact already under the covers when the call came in.  I would have ignored it, but I always keep my phone close by in case my kids need to reach me.  I picked it up, located my bifocals, and saw Betsy’s name on the screen.  What on earth…..?

“Hey, Betsy!  What’s wrong?”

“I have a plan. Don’t say anything, don’t argue, just listen to me.”

I took a deep breath, settled back on my pillows, and listened to her.

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And that’s why I found myself on my couch two days later, my laptop open and my credit card in hand.  My heart was hammering away, and I could feel nervous sweat pooling under my arms.  I had gone to several web sites to find the best deals, and now I was ready to order.

“It’s perfectly legal”, I told myself as I got ready to click “Add to cart”.  The fact that what I was about to do was legal was the root of the whole problem.  I sat up straight, gulped, and hit the button.

As promised, my purchase arrived within a week.  I read the little “how to” pamphlet that came with the packages, and called Betsy to see if she had read hers.

“Sarah, this is ridiculously easy!! I can’t wait to try them out.”

“What?!  You can’t try them out!  Betsy, don’t!”

“Oh, I’ll be careful…..”

“Betsy! No! You’re the one who made up the plan! You said we’d wait until the last minute so no one would know!”

She grumbled a little, then gave a sigh.

“OK. Then I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

The next morning, early, I kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek, and grabbed my very heavy bag.  I placed it carefully in the back seat of my car, and headed out to pick up Betsy at her house.  I had told my husband that I would be away for the next few days, the first part of April vacation, relaxing with my dear friend.  I had lied.

After Betsy placed her own very heavy bag in my trunk, we headed onto the highway.  As we headed south, she reached over and squeezed my hand.

“We are doing the right thing, Sara.  Someone has to do this. They haven’t left us any choice.”   I nodded, but kept my eyes on the road in front of me.

We reached our destination without any problems, in just under 5 hours. We parked on the street across from the surprisingly modest house.  We waited.  We ate the last few M&M’s in the bag between us.

“I need to pee.”, I complained.

“Hold on, hold on.  He’ll be here soon, I’m sure.  I called his secretary this morning, remember? I told her we wanted an interview, and she said his last appointment today was at 4.”

“What if he goes out to dinner?”

“Oh, just hold it, will you?  Sheesh. You’re a teacher, for God’s sake. You can hold off for hours.”

Just as I sat back to wait, a big gray car pulled into the driveway.

“It’s him!”  Betsy clutched her chest, breathing hard. “Oh, my God, oh, my God!”

“Calm down!  We have to get over there, quick!”

We piled out of the car, straightening our skirts and pulling down the backs of our sweaters.  As we hustled across the street in our sturdy Dansko clogs, each of had a big “teacher bag” over one shoulder.

We looked like two middle aged elementary school teachers. Because that’s what we were.

We were also two angry old ladies on a mission.

And we were armed.

As we approached his driveway, Warren LaDouche cast a wary glance over his shoulder.  I smiled with every ounce of fake cheer I could muster.

“Oh, my goodness, Betsy, you were right!”, I squealed, “It really IS Warren LaDouche!”  I waved my free hand as I scurried up the long drive.

“Mr. LaDouche!  Oh, my goodness!  Please, can we have your autograph!” That was Betsy, huffing and puffing with excitement as she hurried up behind me.

Just as we had predicted, ole Warren was so full of self-appreciation that he fell for our story right away.  What could be less threatening than a couple of chubby older ladies? He smiled at us, showing yellowing, uneven teeth.

“Can we have your autograph? Please? We’re teachers!  We’ll just be so excited to show your signature to our friends back at school! You’re, like, the hero of the schools!” As we chirped and fluttered around the smiling man, we had maneuvered him closer to his back door, and the car was now between us and the neighbors.  It was nearly dark, and we knew that there was very little chance that anyone would see what was about to happen.

I gave the signal that we had agreed upon. “Let me just grab a pen from my bag!”

Warren still stood there smiling as Betsy and I simultaneously reached into those big canvas bags and pulled out the semiautomatic handguns that we had purchased on line.  Mine felt like it weighed a thousand pounds as I swung it up into the shooting position that I had seen in the pamphlet.  My arm hurt already, and I was pretty sure that I was about to have a heart attack and wet my pants, all at the same time.

“Open the door and walk inside, Warren.”  Betsy sounded slightly less panicked than I felt, but I knew that this was the key moment. If he believed us, we could pull this off.  If he laughed in our faces, it was all for nothing.

The thought of having spent almost $2,000 for nothing sent a jolt through me.  The thought of this man allowing ever more deadly guns to be brought into our schools sent a wave of rage right behind it.

I surprised myself by jabbing the muzzle of the gun right into Warren’s pudgy midsection.

“Open the damn door, Warren.  NOW!”

He was breathing fast, and his beady eyes were scanning the street, but Warren reached for the door.  He inserted a key and took a step.  I kept the gun firm against his waistline.

“You two have no idea what you’re doing.”  I was gratified to hear that Warren’s voice was shaking.

“Oh, you’re wrong, LaDouche.  We followed AGOG’s advice to the letter.  We have our guns, two bags full of ammo magazines and all the time in the world.  You were right! It does make us feel more powerful to have these things in our hands.”

As we had planned, I held the gun on Warren while Betsy checked him for weapons (ew…..).  We were slightly amazed to find that he was carrying a handgun under his jacket!  Yikes!!!  He hadn’t even tried to reach it!  We exchanged a look of terror as Betsy emptied the chamber and put the gun in her bag.  I pushed Warren into a kitchen chair, then Betsy pulled his arms behind his back, and attached him firmly with two pairs of handcuffs (also purchased on line without a problem).

We stood looking at each other, our eyes huge, our mouths hanging open.

I was still flooded with adrenaline, but I was starting to shake.

Betsy dropped into a chair that matched Warren’s, her gun clanking against the table.

I suddenly remembered my earlier problem, and gasped, “Betsy!  Keep the gun on him!  I gotta go!”

Somehow, I managed to find the bathroom and use it without shooting myself.  I washed my face and made my way back to the kitchen.

Warren was sitting quietly, looking steadily at Betsy’s gun.  He looked smaller cuffed to his kitchen chair than he had on TV.

For a moment, I just stood there.  All three of us seemed slightly stunned by the events of the day.  But time was moving on, and I knew that we had a lot to do.  I gave myself a little mental head slap, and turned to Betsy.

“OK, kiddo. Get the iPad out.”  She looked at me blankly for a minute, then smiled.  Betsy loves new technology, in spite of her age, and she was excited about the video we were about to make.

We spent a few minutes arranging the items on Warren’s kitchen table, finding a good spot to prop the iPad so that the sound and visual quality would be as clear as possible.   We sat ourselves at the table, with Warren in view behind us.  We had explained our plan to him, and that’s when he had finally come out of his stupor.

“You stupid bitches!”, he had snarled, “You can’t do this!  No one will believe you.  You can never outmaneuver AGOG!”  We finally had an excuse to do what we had been hoping to do all along.  We were teachers. We had been teaching ten year olds to recognize and appreciate symbolism in literature.

We gagged ole Warren with an ugly green dishtowel. How’s that for a metaphor?

At last we were ready to go.

Betsy started the recorder and I began.

“Hello, my name is Sara Williamson, and this is Betsy Manchester. We are elementary school teachers with the Braxton Public Schools.  We are armed.”  (The camera cut to the two guns, and the huge pile of ammunition clips and magazines beside them.)

“We have just kidnapped Mr. Warren LaDouche, chairman and spokesperson for the American Gun Owners Gang, commonly known as AGOG.”  (Betsy moved the iPad camera to Warren, who by now looked both ridiculous and apoplectic.)

“This…….man…..is trying to convince the American people that we will all be safer if we allow every citizen to own as many weapons as he can carry.  He wants you to believe that by carrying a weapon, you’ll be protecting yourself from so called bad guys.”

I held up the gun and clip that we had taken from Warren in the kitchen.

“Well, he was carrying this when we grabbed him.  We pulled out our guns before he pulled out his, and that was the end of his resistance.

Being armed with a dangerous weapon did not do one single thing to keep Warren here any safer.  As you can see, we took his gun away, and now he’s handcuffed to a chair.  We can shoot him time we want to.”

That last line made me gulp a bit, but I grimly went on.  Betsy was handling the filming, saving each clip and keeping the camera pointed accurately.

“Ladies and gentleman, you can see that Warren LaDouche and his friends at AGOG are full of….” I paused to find a proper word.  After all, I am a teacher of young children.  “Full of horse manure.  They are lying to you.”

“Let’s think about background checks, shall we?  AGOG and its supporters feel that there should be fewer required background checks.  We are here to tell you that even the ones we have now are not anywhere close to sufficient.”

I held my gun up to the camera and said, “No background check can keep you safe if guns like these are out there in public.  We bought ours from a licensed gun dealer online.  We both went through the required background checks.  We passed with flying colors. You see, we have no criminal history and we have never been diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness.”

Now I stood up, gun in hand, and walked over to Warren.  I pointed a shaking finger at him.

“This man wants you to believe that we should bring guns into our classrooms!  He wants you to believe that we can kids keep safe, we can keep our families safe, we can keep our movie theaters and grocery stores and neighborhoods safe as long as there are guns flooding all those places.  As long as we run background checks to look for criminals who intend to do harm.”

I was working up a head of steam now, thinking about the little ones in my classroom, thinking about those babies at Newtown, thinking about Aurora and Columbine and the streets of every city in the nation.  I held up my gun one more time.

“I’m here to tell you, right now, that more guns will NOT keep you safe.  Background checks will NOT keep you safe.  Anyone can get mad enough and desperate enough to use one of those guns for its intended purpose.  Even two aging fifth grade teachers can get angry enough to buy guns and use them to kidnap and threaten someone they hate. We passed the checks, we paid our money, we bought these guns legally.  And we can use them right this minute to blow Warren LaDouche to bits.

Think about that when you consider whether or not we need to ban guns like the ones that my friend and I are holding right now.”

I nodded my head to Betsy, and the camera went off.   I started to cry.  Betsy came over and put her arms around me.  We held each other for a few minutes as we cried.  Our guns lay forgotten on the kitchen floor.

Three hours later, Betsy and I walked into the police station in Warren’s home town.  We had spent the time at a local Starbuck’s, fueling up on lattes and scones.  Betsy had spliced and edited the movie clips into one short film, running for about two minutes in length.  Then we had uploaded it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter. We had emailed copies to all of the major news outlets, including CNN.  We finished our drinks, ate the last crumbs of our last desserts as free women, and headed out the door.

As we entered the police station, we were recognized almost immediately.  We held our heads up high as the buzz raged around us, and the Captain was summoned.  We remained silent as we handed him our note, giving the location of one angry but unharmed Warren LaDouche and telling him that our guns were unloaded and stored in the trunk of the car. After he had read the note, the Captain scratched his head, told his men to go get the guns and free LaDouche.  Then he escorted us, fairly politely, into his office.

“Weren’t you ladies scared about what you did?  Aren’t you worried about the consequences?”

I gave him a withering look, and smoothed out my wrinkled skirt.

“Captain, we teach fifth grade.  Nothing scares us.”

Tired of insanity


I am getting so damned tired of hearing people behave in reprehensible ways in the name of “protecting” children.

Just sick of it.

“I will protect children from the evils of drugs by making their poverty stricken parents take drug tests before they get food assistance!”

“I will protect children from the evils of slavery and socialism by keeping them away from those awful public schools!” (No. I did not make that up. Read it here.)’

And the latest version of “I am a better parent than you,” comes in the form of a screaming, ranting “Christian” woman spouting off against Target for allowing people who LOOK like, DRESS like, THINK like, IDENTIFY as, and want to be considered female to pee in the women’s bathroom.

Please read this article, first published on LiberalAmerica, and think about what it means to be a “good parent.”

I am just so sick of it.

‘Beware Of Socialism And Slavery In Our Schools!’

History and Morality


This has been a very stressful time for political junkies like me. My conservative friends have been aghast watching the Republican Party devolve into civil war. They have found themselves facing the awful thought they’ll need to either vote for Donald Trump or defect from the party.

And they can’t stand the thought of voting for Hillary.

And my progressive liberal friends have been disheartened to see Bernie Sanders come So. Close. and yet fail (in the absence of a miracle) to get the nomination. Now we are faced with the same distasteful choice. Vote for Hillary or defect from the party.

In my world, this has lead to a lot of arguing and quite a bit of bitterness.

“If you don’t vote for Hillary, you are voting for Trump!”

“If you vote third party, you are wasting your vote!”

And on and on. I get it. I do. I profoundly fear living in a country lead by an egomaniacal, power hungry, delusional tyrant.

But after a LOT of thinking, soul searching and historical research, I am convinced that I just cannot vote for either candidate. I want to try to explain why.

First of all, I do not believe in a two party system. The Constitution does not mention political parties at all. In fact, George Washington said this in his final address as President:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

So political parties could allow greedy, power hungry people to take over the democratic process and use it for their own power?  Huh.

And John Adams said this in 1789:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

I humbly agree. Two parties in opposition to each other means total gridlock, constant swings back and forth, no compromise. Which describes our government perfectly.

But of course, the U.S. doesn’t really limit itself to two parties. There is a Libertarian running for President. There is a Green Party candidate running.

So why aren’t they in the news? Why haven’t you seen Gov. Gary Johnson on CNN? Why hasn’t Dr. Jill Stein been on Meet the Press?

And why haven’t they been at even one televised debate?

Here is my second reason for not voting either D or R.  These smart, capable, sane candidates are not being heard because the two parties are owned and operated by Big Money. And Big Money wants to keep its Big Profits.

There is an election debate commission that is dominated by Democrat and Republican leaders. THEY decide who gets on the debate stage.

And here is my third reason. The media and the two parties are completely enmeshed and intertwined. You can find stories about huge media company donations to Clinton on conservative sites and you can find the same about donations to the GOP on liberal sites.

I went to the site “OpenSecrets,” which I highly recommend. It exposes the donations made to all candidates by all donors. There are a whole bunch of articles about the ties between media and the two big parties.

So here I am. Faced with pressure from the left to vote for the Democrat. Faced with the fact that I truly fear a Trump Presidency.

But also faced with the fact that as long as I continue to play the game with the two corrupt parties, I am part of the corruption. As long as I refuse to stand up and say “Enough!” and cast my vote for the person I believe will be best for the country, I am part of the problem.

I wish that the millions of people who plan to “hold their nose” and vote R or D would join me in choosing a third option.

We do NOT have to be stuck in this corrupt system. But we have to work together to take the process back.

John Adams would thank us.

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Chance Encounters


I took Ellie to the grocery store today. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I felt full of energy and strength.

So off we went to the supermarket, armed with an extra diaper, some wipes, a few graham crackers and our grocery list.  I put the baby into the seat in front of the cart, but realized quickly that the straps were too darn small to go around her, even at her tender age of 8 months.

So we went through the store with me carefully holding both of her hands as I steered the cart. When I needed to dash away to grab an item off the shelves, I did it with my heart in my mouth, fearing that she’d topple out and I’d lose my favorite job as “Nonni in Chief”.

We were doing fine, except for the fact that every adult over the age of 19 had to stop us to say how adorable Ellie is. Truth to tell? I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I kind of loved it when strangers would smile at her and she’d look up at me with those deep brown eyes for reassurance.

Anyway, as we made our way through the store we were greeted by two grampas, one grandma, a doting aunt and three young mothers.

I thought that we were on our way out the door when I suddenly noticed that Ellie was staring up with serious intensity at someone off to our right.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a tall, thin man in a tattered black sweatshirt.  He was looking at Ellie with the same seriousness, but I saw that his blue eyes were rimmed with red.  He had a scruffy beard and lank, not-too-clean hair.  His arms were cradled, holding an array of tall beer cans.

When our eyes met, the man quickly looked away.

“Wow,” I said to him as we passed, “She’s really looking at you so seriously!”  I smiled in his general direction, but didn’t think too much about it. After all, I had just spent an hour chatting with various strangers who had paused to admire the baby.

But this time it was a little bit different.  As I made my casual comment, the tall man met my eyes with a look that almost seemed like a  mix of hope and embarrassment. He tilted his head forward a bit, his black hood falling almost over his eyes.

“That is a really beautiful baby,” he said solemnly.

“Thank you!” I replied.

He stopped walking, and I saw that his hands were shaking a bit. He looked me right in the eyes with a sadness and intensity that tugged at my heart.

“No,” he said. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say that.”

I didn’t know how to answer him. I had such a clear image of this man, struggling and sad, gazing in silence at beautiful children.

We both moved on, and found ourselves in the same checkout line, where my friend Martha was waiting to ring us up. I caught her eye as the scruffy man placed his beer cans on her counter.  Before she could finish his order, though, he turned abruptly and walked back to Ellie and I.

He reached out his right hand, his fingers stained and bent.  He gently touched the soft hair on the top of her head, and leaned close to her face.

“My God bless you, beautiful baby, every day for the rest of your life.” Ellie looked at him, serious and intent, meeting his gaze.  I was silent, not sure of what to say.

He straightened up, and looked at me.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Karen,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Michael,” he answered holding out his hand.

We shook hands, and I was surprised at how strong and sure his palm felt in mine.

“Nice to meet you, Michael,” I said, “Good luck to you.”

“Good luck?” He laughed, and pointed to Ellie sitting quietly in the grocery cart. “I already have good luck.”

I have no idea where Michael is tonight. Whether he is warm, safe, fed, comforted.  But all afternoon, as Ellie and I had lunch and played and sang and as I rocked her to sleep in my arms, all I could wonder was this. Was Michael someone’s Daddy? Did he once hold a baby of his own and gaze at her with love and tenderness? I don’t know.

But I do know that at one point in time he was some woman’s son. He was the beloved baby cradled in someone’s arms.

Whatever has happened to this man in his life, I find it profoundly beautiful that he has kept his gentle spirit intact, and that given the slightest encouragement, he is still able to share that spirit with strangers.

Plus Size? Plus What?


I’ve been thinking about the strong reaction that comedienne Amy Schumer had to having her image published in a “plus size” edition of Glamour magazine.  I’ve been thinking about it because I honestly have a whole LOT of reactions to the whole issue.

Number 1: Who the hell needs to buy a magazine called Glamour anyway? Most of us are living in the burbs, trying to keep the laundry done, the dogs fed, the bills paid and the fridge stocked. Glamour? No one I know has the slightest idea of what that word even means.

Number 2: What the F* is “Plus sized”? Plus what? Like, “You are a woman, with extra”. Extra depth? Extra personality? Extra cellulite? What?

Number 3: Amy Schumer is fabulous. Smart, funny, articulate, warm, open and beautiful. In every way.

This whole thing just strikes a real nerve in this old Nonni.  I will tell you a story to explain my anger at this entire pile of bullshit.

When my oldest child, my daughter Kate, was 14 years old, she won an award for a piece of art that she had created. She was invited to the Massachusetts State house for a special reception with other award winning young artists.  I was so proud of her!

In preparation for the big event, I took my Kate shopping for a dressy pair of pants. We went to the mall, and into a popular store for young people. The salesgirl met us, asked a couple of questions and took some measurements. “Ooooooh,” she sighed to Kate, “Wow! You’re a size 00!”

That means “double zero”.

Kate looked at me, unsure of how to respond. My mama bear self reared up right then. I sure as hell did know how to respond.

“Excuse me?” I asked in my frostiest voice. “Are you telling my daughter that she is less than zero?”

The young salesgirl blinked at me. “Um. Yes. She’s so slim. She’s in a size double zero.”

Now here’s the thing.  My Kate was barely pubescent.  She had always been thin, but that was party because she’d had some health problems.

I absolutely hated the fact that at the very cusp of womanhood, my beautiful, tender daughter was told that the smaller and skinnier she was, the more admired she would be. Even more than that, though, I was completely appalled that the smallest size pants in that store were telling a woman “You are even less than nothing!” And: “We love that!”

I blew off a little steam at the poor salesgirl, and hauled my young artist out of there.  I stood her in atrium of the mall, my hands on her shoulders. I looked into her big brown eyes. “Kate,” I said, “You are young. Young women are often thin. You are lovely. You are going to get bigger and even more beautiful.”  She nodded. I’m pretty sure she had no idea of what had pissed me off so much.

So we went to Sears, where the sizes ran in actual numbers.  We got the pants, and a nice white blouse. We went to the ceremony in Boston, and we had a lovely time.

But here’s the point: Sizes need to run in normal, predictable ordinal numerals.  You know, the smallest would be “1”, the next would be “2” and so on.  No “Double zero”. No “Zero”. No “Plus”.

Women should be able to buy a pair of jeans without being told how the people who buy a magazine called “Glamour” choose to to rate us.

Amy Schumer, you are a goddess.

And so is my still slim daughter.

 

Fading Away


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I haven’t written here for quite a while.

I haven’t even updated “The Nonni Chronicles”, my record of my granddaughter’s latest accomplishments.

Why, you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Because I have realized that I need to try my level best to figure out a way to make some money off all of these words.  I mean, I retired last June, and my income fell by more than 50%.  But my expenses didn’t.

Now, I need to tell all of you that I do charge my daughter for the daycare that I give to our Ellie. (gasp! looks of horror! head shakes! pursed lips!)

Yes.  Yes, indeed.  I do feel awful about this.  I feel horrible. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Having that baby girl every day is pure joy.  I am NOT exaggerating.  If I didn’t have her here every single day, grinning at me with her two tiny teeth, resting her head on my shoulder to sleep, eating breakfast and lunch with me……I think I would surely be in therapy for at least one mental disorder.

Having her here is such a treat!

But, alas, I digress.  I have to find a way to pay the damn bills.

So I have applied for literally EVERY online tutoring job there is.  Nothing. No response. Nuttin’.

And I have applied for every blogging job out there, too.

Nope. No go.

So. Sigh.

I am working on a book.

STOP that laughing!

I already wrote one novel. But its about a middle aged woman who realizes that she should retire from teaching and……yeah.  Boring.

So, I am now writing a more upbeat, hopefully funny women’s story.  With some sex.  And a fast pace.

Whatever.

All I can say is this: Sorry, sorry, sorry to the few folks who really follow this blog! I am letting you down. I know it!

It’s just that after diaper changes, bottles, naps, walks, essays, blogs, laundry and tutoring, I am not sure that I have much left to report.

Oh, but there is this!  Whenever I try to talk to a friend, sweet Miss Ellie opens those big brown eyes and starts to yell (and, yes, I mean  YELL) “RAH. RAHRAHRAHRAHRAH!”

Good Lord, I do so love that child.

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RAH!! RAHRAHRAHRAH!

Ah, Miss Ellie……


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Rockin’ her Daddy’s hat.

Way, way back, in the dawn of my history, when Paul and I were very young, we used to think about the upcoming weeks and tell ourselves, “I’m glad there is something to look forward to!”

Which means, of course, that there were times when we’d look at each other and think, “Ugh,  there is nothing to look forward to!”

I look back now, at my 22 year old self, and I think, “Are you kidding me? You’re twenty something, and you don’t think you have something to look forward to? You only have your ENTIRE LIFE, you idiot!”

But at 22, I wasn’t thinking that way. I was thinking, “What wonderful adventure is out there for me in the next week?”  I was young. I was foolish.  I didn’t really get it.

And then, at the wise old age of 29, I gave birth to my first child.  My wonderful, beautiful daughter Kate.  And everything changed in an instant.

Suddenly, I knew that I had “something to look forward to” for at least 20 years.  Every morning with my baby was a new beginning.  Every bath time was a treasure. Every meal an adventure.  I was enraptured, enamored, in love, entranced, enthralled.

Life was very, very good.

And then it went on.  Kate’s brothers were born, and the rhythm of my life was set.  I was a happy, busy Momma, and every passing week meant something new to look forward to. There were milestones and holidays and vacations and camping trips.  Birthdays and new schools and sports and plays and music.  Life was one big streak of “something to look forward to”.

And then they all grew up. And they moved away and started their own lives.

There suddenly wasn’t quite so much to look forward to, you know? Life was still happy and full, but the magical moments were gone.

And now, here I am, the full time day care provider for my little Ellie.  Now I am back to the days of making pancakes for someone who will light up with joy at the new taste. I am back to singing brand new songs, and reading exciting new books.

Tonight, when supper was over, I put our leftover coconut rice into a bowl.  I added an egg and some cream and cinnamon. I baked it for 20 minutes.  It smells fantastic.

I will go to bed tonight with something to look forward to.  I will give my beautiful Ellie a bowl of rice pudding for her breakfast tomorrow.

Life is a very beautiful thing.