The Wintry Sun


She was standing alone, leaning on a black metal cane.  She was small, thin, not quite fragile, and supremely alert.  She watched us with obvious interest as we slowly drove down the bumpy drive toward the old gray house.

We stopped the car, and I got out.  We had driven past an empty horse paddock, outlined with worn split rails.  Both of us had chuckled at the hand painted sign that stood along the driveway: “Caution: deaf dogs”.  There was a battered three sided garage on the left, filled with broken farm implements, part of a tractor, and a blue four door sedan bearing the bumper sticker “War is not healthy: Sick of it yet?”

I smiled broadly as I stepped out of the car.  The old woman watched me with interest, her wrists crossed on the top of the cane.

“Hi!’, I called. “We’re with the Bernie Sanders campaign.  We are looking for Diana?”

She nodded, but didn’t smile. “That’s me.”

“Oh, good!  Hi!”, I repeated, stepping closer.

She was slim, almost gaunt.  Her hair was dyed a bright orange/red that made me think of henna, cut short and straight.  She wore dark blue plastic framed glasses, but her eyes were bright behind them.

“I’m enjoying the sunshine”, she told me happily.  There was snow on the ground, but the air was warm and the February sun very bright.  The sound of dripping came from every part of the tin roof behind her.

Diana wore a faded yellow sweater over a pair of denim overalls.  Brown leather boots were on her feet.

She still hadn’t smiled, but I forged ahead with my mission to “Get Out the Vote for Bernie”.

“I want to make sure that you know about the primary election on Tuesday, and I hope that you’re still planning to vote for Senator Sanders.”

She nodded her head vigorously. “Oh, yes, I’m pulling a ballot for Bernie”, she stated firmly.  “Isn’t it all just the most ridiculous show this year?”

I smiled my agreement, noting her British accent and wondering how long she’d been in this country.

“That Trump”, she snorted, “I can’t even imagine! What a lot of nonsense.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the election, sharing our stories of mingled horror and amusement over what we had been seeing.  As I gently asked her how committed she was to voting, and reminded her of her polling place and time, I noticed a hand written sign on the rusty storm door of the house. “Please do not let the big white dog outside.  She is blind.”

A beautiful gray and orange cat sat behind the glass, watching me with bright yellow eyes.

“We run a sort of assisted living place for old animals”, Diana stated when she saw me looking.  “We have an old pony, two deaf dogs and one blind one, and two old cats.”

At last she smiled, a mischievous grin that lit her round face. “And my husband and I, too, of course.”  She lifted her left wrist, showing me a black brace. “I tripped on a board in the barn.  Broke two bones.”

We smiled at each other for a moment, then she tilted her face back toward the sun. “I’m just enjoying the sunshine”, she said again, “I don’t dare go too far, you know? I don’t dare tumble again.”

She lowered her head to look at me once more. “But I’ll be out to vote for Bernie on Tuesday, as long as it isn’t too snowy. I was from England”, she said, “But now I vote in America.”

She straightened a bit, looking toward my parked car.  “And who is your driver, dear?”, she asked me.

“That’s my son, Matt”, I answered. “Keeping me company.”

“And he’s a Bernie man?  Bless his heart!”

We chatted for a few more minutes, with the melting snow pattering down from the eaves behind us.  It was a beautiful spot, surrounded by pine trees and snowy fields.  The sun was warm.

I don’t know if we managed to garner a single vote for Senator Sanders today, but it was well worth the long drive and the time spent walking in the snowy streets of New Hampshire.   It was worth it to have met Diana and to share her great pleasure at standing in the late winter sunshine today.



Turned Upside Down


How I spend my days

Life is such a funny old thing, isn’t it?

I remember way back when I was in my twenties. There were definitely times when I stayed up more than half the night and then slept through half the day.  That’s just what we did back then, you know?  Friends would be getting together to see a band in Boston at 11 pm, so we’d head out at 10:30 and get back home at dawn.

I remember those days. I do!  Lots of Scotch, lots of dancing, maybe a stop at an all night diner for waffles before the sun came up.

Then we grew up.  Got jobs.  Got married.

We gave up the all nighters in favor of early to bed and early to rise.  We became responsible.

When Paul and I had our babies, the day/night thing got sort of all mixed up again for a bit.  I remember those middle of the night nursing times, watching really really bad TV (this was before the 500 cable channels) and trying to stay awake long enough to change a diaper.  I remember stumbling through my shower and getting through a full work day when my brain really wanted to be completely unconscious.

Once I was co-leading a social language group with our school counselor.  I had been awake every two hours all night to administer a nebulizer treatment to my son.  We were all sitting on the floor of her office in a circle. I had a cup of coffee on the rug in front of me.

I woke myself with a loud snore.  Ten learning disabled kids were staring at me.  The counselor calmly stated, “Karen had a bad night’s sleep.”

Then my kids grew out of those difficult nights, and life settled into a pretty normal cycle. We are awake and productive by day, we sleep by night.  I understood this concept.  It fit quite well into my daily life as a teacher.  All was well.

But now I am retired.  I have no pressing need to be articulate, alert or entertaining during daylight hours.

Now I spend my days as Nonni, and life has settled back into that old familiar upside down pattern.

Now I wake up early, shower and have my coffee.  I am alert, happy, awake and ready to go.  My sweet Ellie comes to spend her day with me, and we have a wonderful two hours of cuddles and books and toys.  Then there is a bottle.  Then there is a blanket, and a yawn, and that warm sweet bundle of baby relaxation settled herself on my chest.  The recliner goes back, my cheek rests on her head, and the snore fest begins.  I sleep the deepest and calmest sleep of my life while my hands cradle that round little diaper wrapped bottom.

And after a couple of hours we wake up, and there are diaper changes and snacks and books and some toys.  There is tummy time and sitting time and music and another bottle.

And the cycle repeats itself.


I pretty much sleep my way through half of my daylight hours.  With that beautiful child held tight in my arms, I am so happy and at peace that my dreams are filled with rainbows and ponies and fairies and glittering stars.

Its the BEST.

But all that daytime sleep means, of course, that I am usually awake in the darkest deepest part of the night. I get up, I make tea, I read a bit, I stroke the dogs.

And I don’t mind at all.

My life is turned upside down once again, putting me back in touch with my youthful, carefree self.  Reminding me of my young mommy self.  I can watch the moon set. I can sit alone on my couch and think about life.

I know that tomorrow Ellie will come.  And we’ll play and laugh and eat, and then we’ll cuddle up and sleep our peaceful sleep together.

Life is such a funny old circular rhythm, isn’t it?


My Get Rich Scheme


I spend a lot of time at home now that I’m retired.  And for a fair amount of that time, I’m lounging in my recliner with a sleeping baby on my chest.

Which means, of course, that I watch way too much daytime TV.

This can be bad.  Especially on days with marathons of “Houston Animal Cops” or “Haunted Amish”.

But sometimes watching endless hours of TV can be inspirational, too.

For example, I think I have finally found my Get Rich Scheme.

I am going to invent and market some kind of medicine!

I’ve figured out the whole medical marketing thing, and let me tell you, it is pretty damn predictable.

Step 1: Identify some kind of physical ailment.  It can be anything from chronic diarrhea to heart disease to a fading libido.

Step 2: Give that ailment a name that you can immediately turn into an acronym or a set of catchy initials.  Have you noticed this trend on the medicine ads?  “I have IBS; ED; Low T; OBS; DNV”    I don’t know when sickness became the Alphabet Game, but its part of the pattern, so I’m gonna use it.

Step 3: Come up with a drug to treat the ailment. (OK, this part might be hard, but I’m a good cook, and vodka seems like a cure all to me. I can do this!)

Step 4: Name the drug.  You MUST create a name that sounds both encouraging and serious.  The name should definitely include at least one of these letters: x, z, j.   Even better if you can include more than one. (Right? Zyprexa, Xarelto, Xeljanz).  These names inspire confidence in the patient! “Wow, my doctor must be a genius if she can pronounce that name…….”

Step 5: Film your commercial.  You must film it someplace that looks like Pleasantville USA, with wide tree lined streets, impeccable homes and manicured lawns.  There should be children on bikes, smiling and lifting their sweet faces to the gentle breezes.  Your main focus should be on your patient, who has to be an attractive, vibrant middle aged man or woman with perfect teeth and just enough smiley wrinkles to look convincing.  This person has to move in slow motion through Pleasantville, smiling, eating, going to the park, kayaking, dancing or doing yoga very very gracefully.  You must include a voice-over in which your patient refers to the disease as “MY CSR” or “MY OBS”.

I am not at all sure why these beautiful slow motion patients all seem to have such loving relationships with their diseases, but they do.  They all use the pronoun “my” as if the disease is a dear dear friend who has become a very part of their soul.

Personally, I refer to my illnesses as “the goddamn fibromyalgia”  or “the f’in arthritis”. I do NOT want to make them any more comfortable in my body than they already are. They are not welcome. They are not “mine”.

But I digress.

Now that I have laid out the five steps to fame and fortune, its time to brainstorm a bit. I’ll be right back.


Eureka!  I’ve got it!

The commercial opens with a tall, slender, middle aged woman looking into the distance. Close up on her face. Her blue eyes are warm and gentle.  There are a few small crinkle lines near her eyes.  She brushes back her chin length hair, and hooks it over one ear. Her hair is thick and shiny, a dark blonde delicately laced with silver.

As the camera pulls back, we see that the woman is looking into a gorgeous flower garden, where all kinds of things are in bloom at the same time, even though in real life, they would all appear in different months.  The woman is holding a pretty straw hat in one hand and a rake in the other.

A rich alto voice begins to speak as we watch the woman moving in slow motion around the fantastic garden.

“Before my AOA, I used to garden all day from dawn to dusk. But when I started to experience fatigue, pain and an overwhelming desire to lie down and pull a blanket over my face, I lost my will to prune.

Luckily, my doctor diagnosed my symptoms as an acute case of Achy Old Ass, or AOA.  He prescribed Jazubax, and now I am back to drowning slugs in beer.”

We see the woman laughing in slow motion and elegantly placing the straw hat on her lovely head.

A man’s voice comes on next. “If you are one of the millions of Americans who is living with AOA, ask your doctor of Jazubax is right for you.”

Close up on the woman, leaning in to smell a rose.

“Thanks to Jazubax, I haven’t napped in weeks.”

The image fades and the same man’s voice comes in, speaking at a rate that would put Alvin and the Chipmunks to shame.

“Jazubax is not intended for use by those who have arrhythmia, nervous tics or anxiety. Side effects may include rapid heart rate, increased rate of speech, a compulsion to clean under the bathroom sink at 2 AM or sudden heart attack.  Do not use Jazubax if you are allergic to caffeine, Red Bull or vodka shots.”


I think I’m onto something.  If you don’t believe me, just watch a little daytime TV.

The Pioneer Child


Yummy Veggies, Nonni!!!!

Well.   It was certainly an interesting day in the life of this Mamma Nonni.

My Ellie and I were invited to a baby shower in honor of one of my young former teaching colleagues, and I was beyond excited to be going.

In the first place, I think we have established the fact that I am somewhat baby crazy.  I mean, what could be more hopeful, inspiring or uplifting than the promise of a new life?

But in the second place, this would be the first school-wide event that I would be attending since my sudden retirement last June.

I desperately wanted to be there!  I really admire and love the teacher who is about to become a first time Mom. She will be such a lovely and loving mother, and I am so happy to be able to help set her on that path.

But I also wanted to be there because I really miss being part of the wonderful community of professionals that I left behind last June.

And my sudden departure from the school in the spring had left me feeling very shaky about my place in that community. Would I still be welcome? Did I still have a place in their hearts and memories?  I wasn’t entirely sure.

When I was invited to this shower, I knew that I had to attend.   I wanted to be there for the baby and the Mom, but I also wanted to be there for ME.  To remind myself that I had done good work for many years at that school, and that I really could always come back for a visit.

So this morning Ellie and I got ready for a big day back at my old school. Her Momma had dressed her in a cute little onesie that was both gender neutral and adorable.  We had a morning bottle and a morning diaper change. We had our AM nap and some floor time sitting up and stacking blocks.

All was well.

I started to get us ready for departure a full 30 minutes before our deadline.  I packed the diaper bag with extra clothes, a clean burp cloth, a rattle and three bottles of milk. I made sure that Mavis Hamwater, Ellie’s favorite rag doll, was close at hand. I put on my good clothes, brushed my teeth, slid in some earrings.

And scooped Ellie out of her swing.  I leaned in to kiss her neck.

Ewwwwww.  Cheese.  Really old cheese.

My baby smelled like spoiled milk.

Quickly, fully aware that I wanted to arrive at school before bus dismissal time, I stripped her down, washed her up and popped her into an adorable pink onesie and cute purple socks.  I buckled her into the car seat and sped on down the highway to the place where I had spent so many hours, days, weeks, months, years.

As we got closer to school, my heart began to race.  Would I still be welcome? Would anyone notice or care that I was here?

I pulled into the parking lot, smoothed back my hair, and got out of the car. I double checked the diaper bag, and then lifted my sweet Ellie out of her car seat.

And I felt the slimy warmth of the bright yellow ooze that was leaking out of her back side. What on earth……?

Ellie has begun to eat solid food.  Her poop has gone from benign deposit to toxic sludge, all in the space of a week.

Holy Poop, Batman!

My sweet baby girl had produced enough toxic waste to coat herself all the way up to her hairline. In fact, as I looked closely in horror, I could see that there was poop actually IN her hair.  And up to her neckline.  And down to her knees.  And there was poop dripping from her backside, down her legs and onto the pavement of the parking lot.

There was poop on my sleeve and on my hands and even under my fingernails.

What the hell was I supposed to do?

I couldn’t gather her up and carry her into the school building: I would have been covered in sticky yellow goo and I did NOT bring any clean clothes for myself.

No. I would have to change the poor kid in the parking lot!

So I opened the back door of the car, and laid the baby down on the seat.  It was very cold out, and a pretty hefty snow squall had hit us just as we’d arrived at school.   I knew that I had to strip off all of poor Ellie’s clothing, but I didn’t want her to freeze!

So I draped her crocheted blanket over my shoulders as I leaned in the backdoor of the car.  As fast as I could manage it, I pulled off her clothes (smearing more poop in her hair) and then wiped her down from head to toe with wet wipes. In spite of the fact that the car was running and the heat was on, the poor little baby was shivering in the cold by the time I got her all cleaned up.

I put on a new diaper, and a clean onesie and a new jacket.

I wrapped her in a poop free blanket, and gathered her into my arms.

And as I walked back into school, I started to think about those brave Pioneers that I used to teach the kids about, back when I was a fifth grade teacher.  I remembered the stories of strong, unshakable mothers who raised their children on the open plains.  I pictured myself as just such an explorer, courageously facing the unknown.  I straightened my spine, lifted my head, and held Ellie close to my heart as I walked back into the school that I hadn’t seen in more than half a year.

I felt like a Pioneer Grandmother with her Pioneer Child.  Entering the wilderness, heart in her throat.

Until I was greeted by so many familiar, beloved faces, greeting me, welcoming my Ellie, celebrating my return.  “We miss you!”, they said.  Mothers of students, teachers of students, and most importantly, the students themselves.  “Come back to us!” “We wish you were here!”

I held my little Ellie, so happy to have her in my arms and in my life.  I embraced my friends and my students.  I was so happy to be back.

Suddenly, I saw myself not so much as a Pioneer, but more as a settler, secure in her place on the village green.

Happy Baby, dear Laura!  Thank you, thank you to my friends and colleagues and to the wonderful kids who greeted me today! I miss you all!


Political Correctness?

Ambivalent_FaceLike everyone else in this country, I have been bombarded for the past several months with the term “political correctness”.
You know, as in, “It’s about time we stopped all this political correctness.”  And “Finally, we have a candidate who isn’t worried about being politically correct.”
So I decided to look up the term, to see if it is, in fact, an avoidance of “political correctness” that Donald Trump is demonstrating in his comments.
Here are a couple of typical definitions of the term.
po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness- Google definition
  1. the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.


    Political Correctness-
    1.demonstrating progressive ideals, esp by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp concerning race and gender

OK.  I get it.

To be “politically correct” is to speak in a way that avoids insulting or offending others who are in a somewhat weaker positions.

That seems clear.

So I looked at some of the comments that people have claimed are being made in an effort to “avoid political correctness”.   (I put aside the intriguing question of why one would choose to be offensive or insulting…..)

Quote Number One:

“When these people walk in the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello! How’s the weather? It’s so beautiful outside. Isn’t it lovely? How are the Yankees doing? Oh they’re doing wonderful. Great.’ [Asians] say, ‘We want deal!’”

— Trump discussing Asians at an August 2015 rally in Iowa

Quote Number Two:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”June 16, 2015

Quote Number Three:

“You can be politically correct if you want, but are you trying to say we don’t have a problem? Most Muslims, like most everything, I mean, these are fabulous people. But we certainly do have a problem, I mean, you have a problem throughout the world. It wasn’t people from Sweden that blew up the World Trade Center.”  International Business Times

This of course, coming after his call for a “Total ban on all Muslims coming into this country.”

Quote Number Four: On opponent Fiorina:

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Trump exclaimed in the magazine. “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

OK.  I agree; this language is most certainly not politically correct.  However, I also found another definition for the speech from this man.  Below I have included a much more accurate and precise description of what I hear when I am forced to listen to him speak.


  1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Bully- Google Definition

gerund or present participle: bullying
1.”use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”


It is one thing to avoid using vulgar language in an effort to sidestep a real problem. I suppose it is somewhat weak appearing to some people if a leader references “those of various races” rather than specifically saying “Black Americans”.  It’s another thing if a leader stands up and says, “All the blacks are criminals.”   And it’s yet another to use that ‘n’ word that so far even the Donald has avoided.

I’m OK with honesty.  In fact, I admire it quite a bit.  I’m OK with calling specific people out for their behavior when that behavior is dangerous, cruel or offensive.


But I was a teacher.  I despise bullies.  I have a zero tolerance policy for them, especially when they want to run the country.

So, I will temporarily throw my own progressive political correctness out the window and say what I think.

Donald J. Trump is a boorish, foul mouthed bigot. He is a hate filled misogynistic racist. He is offensive, ignorant and egotistical and he uses the vocabulary of a fourth grader.

There. I said it.

Notice that I didn’t label all middle aged Christian white male billionaires as dangerous blowhards.  I’m bigger than that.


Last thought: a quote from a ten year old, said to me recently. “I don’t get why grown ups like Trump. If he was at school, nobody would ever play with him at recess.”


I Hate to Brag. Wait, no I don’t…..


So ahed of the curve, this family

I have been following, with great interest, the recent study out of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

You know, the study that says that we need students who are more concerned about how they can help others than with how they can help themselves.

The study that is entitled “Turning the Tide”.

I am intrigued by this study because I so completely embrace and welcome its message.  I admit that after having fought through so many years of watching public education turn into a race for top scores, I find it somewhat frustrating to see that those ideas that I have always believed are suddenly being embraced by the pinnacle of educational wisdom.

I am trying to stay positive about this shift, and not to be bitter about it.  And you know why?

Because I have somehow managed to raise three young adults who encourage and inspire me to remain positive and who seem to always understand varying points of view.

Let me put this another way:

Paul and I have raised three children who were way, way ahead of the educational curve. All three of them grew up understanding that test scores did not equal personal worth. All three grew up understanding that the greatest sense of happiness and fulfillment would come from what they could give back to their communities.

One of my children is a teacher. One is a teacher aide in a school for severely emotionally challenged adolescents.  One is a success coach for people in a struggling community who have been given jobs in community services.

None of my kids went to the Ivy Leagues.  None has a three figure income.

But here is what they have: jobs that make them proud.  Jobs that give back.  Jobs that take care of others.

And here is what they have that I could not have predicted: Communities of other young, inspired, altruistic people who work hard every day to fill their communities with learning and art and music and kindness.

My sons are surrounded by other “Millennials” who make sandwiches for the homeless and put on shows with local artists and who support small farmers and local businesses.

These young people are the anti-80’s generation.

They knew, even without Harvard telling them, that life is not about making money.  Life is about making friends, giving back, enjoying life, giving love and getting it back.

My children are way ahead of the curve.  They are my inspiration and my teachers.

My kids and their incredible community of caring friends are the reason I have so much hope for the future.

I hate to brag, but either Paul and I did an amazing job, or we managed to not screw up the natural tendencies of our kids. Either way, all I have to say is, “Gee, Harvard, took you long enough to catch up!”

Gee, Harvard, Ya Think?


So apparently there is a new study out of Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Well, of course there is. That’s what they do.

Anyway, this particular study has caught my eye, my ear and my ire.

This is a study of the college admissions process, which Harvard has suddenly decided is too focused upon standardized test scores.  Yep.  Harvard has miraculously come to the realization that students need more than a list of high scores in AP classes and SAT’s and other acronymed tests in order to succeed in college and in (ahem) life.

This is, of course, NOT a surprise to any teacher in the country.  It is not a surprise to all of the groups of teachers and parents who have been pushing back against the increasing pressure to have all children succeed on the same standardized measures. It is NOT a surprise to the Badass Teachers Association, or “BATS”, of which I am a member. It won’t be a shock to United Opt Out, which I fully support.

It sure as hell isn’t a surprise to me, and I didn’t even apply to Harvard.

We should not be surprised that our “top” scholars these days are anxious, insecure, dependent upon adult affirmation and external rewards.  We start testing kids in kindergarten, and we don’t stop until they drop out, get that Ivy League Degree or end up in the hospital.

We should not be surprised that High Schools and Universities around the country are reporting increasing rates of depression, anxiety, school phobia and alcohol and drug use.

We tell five year old babies their “reading levels” so that they can choose “just right books”.  In other words, we rank order the kids from the minute they get in the door of our public schools. We give them reading tests, spelling tests, handwriting assessments, motor screenings, math tests.  Worse: we tell them the scores.

One of the hardest fights for me in my last few years of teaching was my insistence on not holding young readers to their tested reading levels. I refused to label the books in my classroom library by “reading level”.  I WANTED kids to try to challenge themselves!  I understood that it feels good to plow through a book that seems tricky.  You feel kind of smart at the end!  I also understood that “reading level” didn’t measure the child’s interest in the text. It didn’t measure the power of reading the same book that your best friend is reading so you can talk about it on the way to school.

I hated the reading assessments. Not because I didn’t want the kids to show progress, but because I did.

But I was told to measure them. I was told to give them their levels.  To show them their math scores. To make sure that they felt the pressure to improve, improve, improve.

Don’t even get me started on the pressure that they felt to pass the MCAS and now the PARRC.

Let me just tell you that I once had a child with autism who took one of those stupid tests with me.  He was smart, a strong reader, intuitive, an excellent  math student.  But he was autistic.  He tried to take the MCAS, but it was too much for him.  He gave up and tore it in two.

Then he put his head down and sobbed.  “Now I’ll never graduate from High School”, said this fourth grader. “I’ll never go to college or get a good job or get married.  And I would have been a good father!”

So guess what, Harvard?  This old teacher lady didn’t need your study to tell you that test scores aren’t the best measure of student success.  She didn’t need it to let her know that kids today are so anxious about “success” that a lot of them have forgotten about “happiness”.

Coming Full Circle


Making a snow angel at my ripe old age.  Because my friends still think we’re all 16!


I have thought a lot about this post.

I mean, A LOT.

Usually when I write,  I just sort of  notice that a thought  is fleeting through my tiny brain. I grab my laptop,  jot things down, hit publish and call it done.

Not this time, though.

This blog post is SERIOUS business. There will be editing for a change.

I need to get this right!

Because I have reached a new point in my writing life: this time the people I’m writing about are probably going to read my words.

Yeah…no pressure!

And I really, really want to get it right this time! I really want to capture my thoughts and my emotions because I am pretty damn sure that I am getting very, very close to discovering the meaning of life.

The reason for our existence.

The source of longevity, health and true joy.


Let me back up a bit, if you don’t mind.


Me, once upon a time.


We found each other when we were still children.  We were in classrooms together. We sat at the same lunch tables. We went on field trips, played on teams, shared pajama parties and crushes and dances and dates.

We were friends.

When we were 17, we thought that those friendships would last forever. How could they not? When you watch people grow up, you know them at an almost cellular level.  When you share experiences like first kisses, first beers, first hangovers, secret cigarettes and adolescent rebellion, you feel like you’ve got so much info on each other that your lives will always be entwined.

But time went on for us, as it always seems to do.  We headed for colleges and jobs and marriages and kids and moves and travel and illness. We grew up, we found other connections, we tried on different lives.  We became our serious grown up selves, and that was a very good thing for all of us! We had good lives, all of us. We were lucky.  We were mostly happy. We persevered.

And years flew by.

We no longer thought of each other every day, or even every month. We didn’t know each other’s children. We no longer knew each other.

We thought that we had  somehow become different.

I shouldn’t speak for the others, but I know that I believed myself to have become completely changed from the girl I once was, even though I had happily married one of that very group.  I believed that I’d become different from my past, from those teen aged friends. I believed that what we had once had in common was no longer valid or true.

So when a chance came up for us to reconnect after more than 35 years, I was less than enthusiastic. I was sure that all of the other women would be thin and fit and gorgeous and successful. I was afraid that all of the their kids had gone from the Ivy League to Wall Street or Madison Avenue or Boardwalk and Park Place.  I was curious, but more than cautious.

But we got together. We reunited for a weekend, carefully and politely.

And it was nice.

So we did it again.

And again.

This past weekend, a bunch of us gathered in Maine at the beautiful old house of one of that High School group.  She and her husband, another alumnus of our suburban town, had invited us up to ski and skate and tromp through the snow.

And it was THE BEST.

You know why?  Not because of the fabulous food that we all chipped in to buy and cook, although that was pretty great.   Not because of the gorgeous historic old house and the warm fires burning there, although those were incredibly cozy and welcoming.  Not because of the snow, or the beautiful woods or the wine or the chance to get away.

It was fantastic because it was………I guess it was so special because we all…….well…

Because it was so easy.  It was so natural and so real.  Those of us from the old High School crowd walked around in our sweatpants and our fuzzy socks. Our spouses slouched around with “hat head” and old jeans and comfy slippers. We weren’t afraid of each other or comparing ourselves to each other.  We shared our struggles and our aches and pains and our worries.  We listened and we commiserated and we laughed.

And there, my friends, you find the “meaning of life”.

World renowned philosopher that I am not, I will now share this key life lesson: Its all about the connections you make.  Its all about the connections you keep.  Or the connections that you recreate. (And I owe this insight to my husband, who was a part of that original group and who pushed me gently into that first reunion).

I can sum up the magic of this past weekend in two short vignettes.

One was when I pulled one of my friends into my arms, and exclaimed with joy, “You look fantastic!”  There was a time in our lives when that statement would have meant, “You look sexy and beautiful and young and fashionable.”   Now it meant, “The sight of your familiar and beloved face is just exactly what my heart needs at this moment!!!!”

The other was as we said goodbye this morning, heading off into the snowy morning.  We all hugged, High School pals and spouses. “Let’s do this again soon!” “Come see us in the spring!” “Let’s go sailing!” “When can we come back?”

And we all meant every single word.  We absolutely without a doubt WILL get together again to laugh, eat, play, get silly, reminisce and laugh some more.

THAT is the meaning of life.  This time I KNOW that these friendships will be a part of me for the rest of my life.

Thank you, thank you dear friends!  I hope I did us justice here. If not, just pretend you loved it, OK?

This Man is REALLY Scary

He was born into great wealth and the power that goes along with it.  He grew up privileged and pampered.  He had access to the best schools, so one can assume that he is reasonably well educated.

He claims that he is highly intelligent, courageous, morally upright and scrupulously honest. We have to take him at his word on all of this, but he assures us that its true, and his supporters and inside circle agree with him.

This man seeks even more power than he already has.  He wants to be the leader of the strongest country on earth, and he wants to dictate how other countries will respond to him.

He is known to bend the truth into such convoluted knots that it is almost entirely unrecognizable. He claims to have witnessed events that clearly never happened.

Perhaps because of his wealth and the power that comes with it, he believes that he has the right to imprison people, to prevent them form crossing borders, even to kill them.

He loves weapons, and has shown his commitment to bombing his perceived enemies into oblivion.  He works hard to keep the people in his country afraid and angry at anyone who isn’t exactly like them.

He is not a particularly attractive man, by any standards, and yet he is consistently involved with gorgeous women.  Further proof to him, perhaps, that he is a man of power.

He is dangerous to the people in his country, and to the world at large. He is an over inflated, self-serving bully who must be contained.

Can you tell which of these two I am describing?



I Wish You Flying Dreams


Sometimes a song reaches out and captures your thoughts in a way that you can only wish you had expressed yourself.  There are songs with lyrics that resonate so clearly that you find yourself shouting, “Yes!” when you hear them.

Sometimes a song explains feelings and thoughts that you didn’t even realize you were having.  A song like that taps you on the shoulder and says, “This is why you dream.”

I found a song like that last September.  My sons invited me to come to a music festival in North Adams, Mass.  The “FreshGrass” Musical festival features folk and bluegrass music performed on the grounds of a Mass Museum of Contemporary Art.  I went out, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t heard of most of the performers, but I was looking forward to spending the weekend with my boys.

On the first morning of the festival, about an hour after I had arrived, I was sitting in the courtyard of the museum as a band performed. It was hot, sunny, beautiful outside.  The music was melodic and sweet. I was alone, waiting for the boys.  A beautiful young woman came walking through the crowd, carrying her baby girl in a silky wrap. The woman was slim, her head held proudly. She had gorgeous dark brown skin, big dark eyes and soft curly hair in a white band.  She wore huge mother of pearl hoops in her ears.  She caught my eye because of her beauty and her graceful walk, but also because my daughter had the very same wrap to carry her little daughter, and I was a new grandmother entranced by every baby.  The little girl was the image of her mother, right down to the soft curls, except that her hair was a golden red instead of black, and her big eyes were sea green.  I met the eyes of the mother, and we traded a smile. “Beautiful baby”, I mouthed, and the beautiful mother grinned, showing adorable dimples on both cheeks. “Thank you”, she mouthed back.

She passed into the crowd and I settled back to listen to the music.  I was profoundly glad that I had come to the festival right then. I love those little “connection” moments.

About an hour went by, and the second band was ready to play.  I was with my son, Tim, standing in the crowd, feeling the hot sun on my face.  The band took the stage. “Birds of Chicago“, the sign on the stage read.  The lead guitarist was a tall, thin young man with red curly hair.  The singer? Well, the singer was my beautiful young Mom, in her mother of pearl earrings.  The same big eyes, the same amazing smile, and the voice of an angel.

As soon as the music began, and I heard them sing, I was pretty much in love.

Wow! I’m 59 years old; its been a long time since I found a band that caught both my ear and my heart the way that this one did!

I loved the set, I loved the whole festival.  There were moments of hilarity involving a whiskey flask disguised as a tube of sun screen, moments of joy as we all danced in the light of the setting sun, moments of delight when some small band lit up the night.

I had a great weekend, and I came home happy.

And in love with Birds of Chicago.

So I bought their music and started to listen to my favorite tracks. One in particular grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go.  It’s called “Flying Dreams”.

The idea  of the song is this, “I wish you flying dreams; I don’t wish you wings. Cuz if you grow those things, they’re everything. There’s no more dreams. There’s only silence in the night.”

How cool is that? How perfect? How exactly does it sum up what so many of us think?

“I don’t want the answer to my dream; I want the dream itself!”

For me, this song really encompasses what I wish for my children, and for my students, and for my granddaughter.  It makes me think of the smiling little curly haired girl.

How wonderful it is to have dreams, to dream of flying, to dream of soaring, to dream of rising to the most incredible heights. So much more powerful than it would be to have real wings, and to come to the end of those dreams.

I wrote this blog tonight thinking of my sons, who are still dreaming.  I wrote it thinking of Ellie, my granddaughter, who hasn’t yet learned to dream.

And I wrote it thinking of Tric, the author of the WordPress Blog  “My Thoughts on a Page”.  Her son has just embarked on an educational adventure, and is chasing his own dreams. I hope that his mom finds comfort in this beautiful song.

Happy New Year to all of you.  I do wish you all “flying dreams” to lead you with joy into 2016.

Watch this video; see if I’m right about this!

“Flying Dreams”