A letter from Miss Sadie


 

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Sadie, the elegant and beautiful

Dear Mistress,

I know this is hard for you. I am sorry.

I have tried very hard to stay strong and healthy. I exercise every day by walking with the Master and the Wolf King. I try to chase squirrels as often as possible, but those fuzzy little bullets have become faster over the years.

Since I’ve come here to live with you, life has been sweet. My fur is brushed and clean. Thank you! You have done such a good job of keeping my ears healthy, and my nails clipped.

I wish I could stay longer. I do.

Dear Mistress,

Remember how you used to take me to the vet?  I am a good dog. I am a very good dog.

I can always tell when you are nervous or unhappy. You smell sort of sharp and electricky. On those long rides to the vet, back when my skin was super itchy and peeling, I used to love looking out the window and feeling the movement of the car. But I could tell from your smell that you didn’t feel happy.

Remember all those visits? I liked that nice vet with the soft touch and the very crunchy treats in the jar.

You didn’t like that place, though. I could tell that you were especially unhappy when we used to go stand at the big desk before we went home. You would take out that little plastic card and you would start to smell worried.

I don’t know what “ring worm” is, but thank you for taking it away!

Man, that was itchy.

Mistress, I know that you used to cook for the Wolf King and I. I saw you with the chicken, and the liver, and the rice and carrots. Thank you so much!

You were great.

Dear, sweet Mistress.

I remember those nights with the thunder storms.

I am a good dog. I am so sorry for all the times I dug into the closet and threw out all the shoes. I am sorry for all of the drool that I put on your pillow, but I was so scared of all the noise! I tried not to shake, but I was terrified of the flashing lights. I wanted you to hold me, and you did.

I remember how the Master used to go downstairs with me to sleep on the sofa so we could be away from the storm.

You and the Master have been so good to me.

The Wolf King has been interesting, too. I love him, the big dopey face. I know he’ll miss me, too.

Dear Mistress,

This is just how it goes. I’m old.

I’m very, very old.

I need to go and rest soon.

Will you be OK?

I hope that someone will come to lie on your front steps all day to keep you safe. I hope that you will soon have someone to get up with you in the night when you cannot sleep. I hope that there will be another dog here to walk with you and Master.

Dear Mistress,

I will try my best, because I am a very good dog, to lie down quietly in the yard and simply go to sleep. I hope that you don’t have to put me in the car and take me to face the needle.

I will try, dear Mistress. I don’t want you or the Master to be upset. If I can do it, I will go softly. I will lie down and I will go to sleep.

And I will cross that bridge and run and play and I will be young again. And I will wait for you.

Love,

Miss Sadie

 

 

I Wish You Flying Dreams


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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”

How trite….


So I worry that my posts are incredibly trite.  I mean, now that I seem to be pretty much over the sadness of the empty nest, and I’m finding ways to fill my new retirement days, I suspect that anything else I post for a while might be coated in a sweet, spun sugar wrapping.

I seem to have become completely bipolar.

I am either steeped in the sadness of having no purpose, or I am floating on a fluffy pink cloud of baby love.

Oh brother.

But, really, I don’t think you can blame me. I don’t!  There have been weeks this summer when nobody on earth really needed me to even get out of my bed.  There have been long, sad days where the only living being who greeted me with joy were the four legged kind.   I do love my doggies, but it just wasn’t the same.

But today was one of those sweet, candy coated days where I said “I love you” to all three of my kids.  A day where I got to have lunch with one child and dinner with two. Plus friends for both meals! AND our baby Ellie at lunch and at dinner.

I love having a houseful of people to feed.  Call me crazy, but I love it, love it, love it! I makes me happy to have people at my table, eating the dinner, sipping the wine, laughing and talking and waiting for the yummy home made dessert. I love the conversations and the jokes, even the ones I don’t understand.

Then add in the fact that at tonight’s dinner I got to see my completely independent, totally non-conformist boy cuddling my first born grandchild in his big strong hands…..well.  What can a middle aged woman say at a moment like this one?

Ellie and her Uncle Matt.

Ellie and her Uncle Matt.

My boy and the little girl of my little girl.

Of course my heart melted into a puddle and ran right out my nose……….

I know. It’s completely trite and totally predictable.  How boring. Ho-hum.

Sorry.

Because this was a WONDERFUL day with my loving and gentle children and the apple of all of our eyes.   We do love each other, and we sure as heck do love that little Ellie bean.

I won’t make any excuses.  Sorry for the treacle.

This is a pretty good life.

But what did you do all day?


But what did you do for me today?

But what did you do for me today?

When I was a young wife and mother, I never had to answer the question, “But what did you do all day?”   You see, I married a man who appreciated having a wife who kept the house organized, who made the dinners, who took care of the kids.

And for most of the years of my young mommy life, I also worked.  I juggled the pressures of a long commute, three young kids, and a teaching job.  I shopped, I helped with homework, I took care of the various allergies and asthma needs.

Paul and I shared the home chores (after a few arguments and struggles, of course; he’s only human!). Sometimes I felt like they all took me for granted, and sometimes I got pretty damn cranky.

But most nights I dropped into my bed with a feeling of worth.  I could always look back on my day and think about the hugs and kisses I’d given out, the meals I had cooked, the conversations I’d had with my precious kids.  Most nights, I felt pretty damn good about myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Then the kids grew up, and moved away.  My nest was empty.

But I still had my job. I still had my students, the children who needed my smiles and hugs and words of support.  I still had the feeling each night that I had made a small difference in the world that day.

And now here I am.  Retired before my time; forced out of the roles I loved. The kids grew up, which was in the natural order of things.  And the expectations of my school changed so much that I was pushed right out the door, well before I was finished with my teaching life.

What do I do now?

I know, I know.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be the full time day care provider for my granddaughter. I know myself well enough to know that as soon as that happens, my sense of self-worth will be restored.  Loving and nurturing a child is the greatest job there is; I know that!  I believe it, with all of my heart.

Still.   Here is what makes me scratch my head and wonder.

Why, after having raised three healthy, happy children, do I still feel that I have not earned a time of rest?  Why, after having taught and encouraged and diagnosed and treated hundreds of children, do I not feel that I have given enough back to the world?

Why do I feel, on a sunny Monday in October, that I have no right to simply sit down and read a good book?

I don’t know.

I can tell myself that I am good person, that I have made life better for a whole lot of people.  I can tell myself that I have influenced the lives of so many children over all these years.

Its just that I don’t quite believe myself.   I have to get up every single day and find a way to accomplish something.  If not, I am restless, anxious, adrift.

But I make a list of chores to do every day.  And if I cross things off my list: ah, then I feel that I have earned my time to myself. Did I shop?  Did I clean out a closet? Paint a wall? Write a story?

Did I organize a drawer, take the dogs to the vet, write to Congress, pay the bills, can some applesauce, plant the bulbs, order Christmas gifts?

I know that all of these things are tasks that should be done.  I know that doing most of them is simply a part of life.

What I don’t understand, though, is why I feel useless and unsuccessful on those days when there is nothing on the list.  On days like that, I feel that I am unworthy of the afternoon nap.  Undeserving of the time to read.   On days like that, I make things up and put them on my “list”.

“Take morning medications.”   “Walk dogs.”   “Throw away all the old socks in our drawers.”  “Repaint the garage doors.”  “Find a cure for cancer.”

My list, on days like this, ranges from the mundane to the impossible. My logic in this endeavor is to include items that I can do automatically (“Take shower”) and therefore cross off the list.  But I also always include items that no one would have foreseen, so that when I lay myself down to bed, I can tell myself, “Wow, you sure are a useful person.”

I wonder why I still don’t feel worthy of a day off?

Mind over Momma


Sadie, aging far more gracefully that some of us.

I can’t tell if I’m dying or not. What do you think?

So I should know by now that my old dog Sadie is practically a mind reader. She is more sensitive to human emotion than most mental health professionals could ever hope to be.

I should know that by now, right?

I mean, ever since she came to us, some 7 years ago, Sadie has been reacting to my slightest emotional expression.  If I cry over a sad movie, she lowers her head and stars to shiver, gazing up at me with her big sorrowful eyes.  If one of us raises our voice to yell at a bad move by one of the Red Sox, she slinks downstairs to hide behind the furnace.

When we laugh, she wags her tail and pants like a puppy.

When I’m scared or worried, she comes to sit beside me, leaning her solid body against me to give what can only be described as a doggy hug.

So when Sadie fell ill with a mystery disease, and began to experience everything from diarrhea to excess thirst to a caved in skull, we thought it was the beginning of the end.

We started to talk softly around her.  There was a lot of, “Oh, poor old girl!  Poor baby. Oh, my poor baby girl.”  We started to think that we should give her extra love, extra treats, extra hugs and brushes and walks.

Over the past three weeks, our fluffy old girl began to really slow down.  She was sleeping most of the day away.  She stopped wagging her tail and spent hour after hour hiding behind the couch.

Her stomach got worse, her symptoms increased. We talked about euthanasia. We consulted with the vet.  We tried to spend quality time with our beautiful old girl.

She kept getting weaker. She no longer stepped out onto our deck as we arrived home, singing and jumping around in her joy at seeing us again.

And last Friday we debated whether or not we should go away for the weekend with our friends. They had invited us to spend three days out on Martha’s Vineyard in their new boat.  I really, really, really wanted to go, but I felt guilty.  What if the old girl gave up the ghost while we were away?  Paul and I talked it over, then decided that it would be OK to leave the dogs in the tender care of our youngest son, Tim.  We knew he’d be careful and would appreciate Sadie’s fragile state.

But we forgot that Tim is only 23!  He isn’t thinking “end of life care”.  He apparently came in the door full of life and youthful energy.  He brought a friend.  They cooked, they went into the hot tub, they listened to music. I’m sure they laughed a lot and hung out with friends and drank beer.

They gave Sadie her medicine, but I guess they forgot to pity her or sniffle over her. I don’t think they ever remembered to say, “Oh, you poor old girl…..”

So, yep, you guessed it.

As we drove down the driveway after our weekend away, both dogs raced out onto the deck, both barking and singing and howling with pleasure.  Sadie danced around, her tail going a mile a minute, her big furry face filled with a happy doggy smile.

She’s been full of energy ever since.

I should have figured.  As long as I keep thinking of her as a spry old broad, she’ll keep acting like one.

Way to go, Tim!  Way to go, Miss Sadie!

That Perfect Gift for Mom


This post is for all of those lovely young women who are considering pregnancy/dreaming of pregnancy/in the middle of pregnancy.

You know those pesky gift giving days (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Mom’s Birthday….) when you just can’t figure out what to give your Mom? Those relentlessly repeating days when you are supposed to present your mom with a lovely gift, all tastefully wrapped and accompanied by a ridiculously drippy card all about love and flowers and dancing angels…..You know what I’m talking about! I know you do!

Well, here’s the secret that they don’t tell you in the “how to please your Momma” textbook.

Your  Momma doesn’t actually need another #1 Mom coffee mug, or another pair of Ultra Comfy Slipper Socks.  Or a gift certificate to the local grocery store.

Nope. She doesn’t.

If you really want to make your Momma happy, and fill her heart with love and gratitude and joy and hot chicken soup, this is what you should do.  I promise you, this is a fail-safe, guaranteed Make-your-Momma-happy plan.

Here’s what you do:

You go into labor, and you insist that your Mom be in the room with you. You labor for hours with your Mom in the room.  You let her sit back and watch as your husband, her “you’re not my real kid” son-in-law strokes your forehead and whispers how much he loves you. You allow your Mom to rub your back when the pain hits, and you let her run down to the cafeteria when you crave a treat.

If you really want to give your Mom the ultimate gift, you let her stay up all night with you as you labor. You let her sleep in a chair so that she can watch over you as you sleep.  You let her reassure you in the deepest part of the night, when you are Googling “Epidurals and Hard Labor”.  You allow her to refill your ice and water cup. You let her share the “breathe” routine with your husband.

When its time for the doctor to come and check your progress, you reach for your Mom’s hand, and the two of you think together “please, please, please, please say 6 centimeters!”   When the doctor looks up with a surprised grin, you let your Momma yell to your showering husband, “Honey, hurry up! It’s time to push!!!!”

You let your Momma stand there and watch you as you do the hardest work of your life. You let her cheer you on as you push and breathe and growl.  You hold the hand of the man you love best in all the world, and you let your Momma watch you.

And when at last that beautiful baby is born, you let your Mom and her “You are really one of mine” son-in-law embrace and shed a few tears together.  You let her watch as that young man cuts the cord and you allow her to watch that very first moment, when you snuggle your little one on her chest.

THAT my friends, is the ultimate, not to be beaten, never forgotten gift to a Momma. After this, you’ll never ever need to buy another coffee cup in your life.

Thank you, thank you, Katie and Sam!!!!  I love you!

A woman of words


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When I teach my fifth grade students about poetry, I always start with a lovely poem about writing.

“Take a pen in your uncertain fingers”, it reads, “and trust that all the world is a bright blue butterfly, and words the net to hold it.”

I love that idea, the thought of holding all the world within my words.

Maybe that’s why I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking in words.  I try to be “mindful”, to simply relax and rest and be.  I try to turn off my thoughts, my words, my judgments.  I sit in a quiet place, I breathe in deeply.

I look at the warm evening sky, this first lovely evening of spring.  I sit in a quiet place.   I try not to think, to simply look, to observe, to be a part of the moment.

But I can’t stop the words from flowing. “I look at the feeder, at the remains of the suet that I put out last night.  I see the clumps of seeds and fat, piled and spilled across the deck, a reminder of the orgy of feeding that must go on all day, when I am not here. I scan the trees.  No birds.  Did they hear me come out?  Are they afraid?”

I sit, I am still.  I breathe.  “A swoop of wings, a flutter near my ear.  A chick-a-dee, of course!  That bold little bird, he won’t let me scare him away from his dinner!”

It makes me smile to see him, perching on the tip of pine branch just above me.  Cocking his head from side to side.  He calls out, “Chirrup!”

“As soon as his call fades, a flurry of wings and twitching tails, all flowing over the roof of the house and into the pines above my deck.  I pick out each one, watching them as they line up on the branches.  A pair of slate gray juncos, like proper little nuns, waiting their turns to eat.  A nut hatch, his long sharp beak stabbing one bit of suet after another off the railing.  A gentle phoebe, hopping along the deck and finding scattered seeds.”

A tiny flash of brilliance catches my eye, and the words increase in speed. “A goldfinch!  Wearing his bright spring coat, wanting to be brave enough to land, but flying instead from the rooftop to the branch and back again!  Finally, he gets his courage up, and flings himself onto the feeder.  Looking nearly panicked, he gulps down a few quick bites, seems to cast a wary eye my way, then shoots straight up into the sky.”

I laugh to myself.  I wonder why I don’t just grab a camera.

I guess its because, for me, nothing in life seems real until I have tried to capture it in the net of my words.

My misanthropic dreams


I love words. I love how they feel on my tongue and how they hiss on their way past my lips.

I love their meanings, their symbolism, their ability to grab an emotion and wrap it in luscious sound so that it brings pleasure just to say it out loud.

“I am”, I pause, “a misanthrope.”

Right now, I am.  I am, truly, an old curmudgeon who loves no human company.   I walk into the darkness of my bedroom, the TV noise fading behind me. I cross into the shadowy bathroom, closing the door so that I feel alone.  I don’t turn on the light.

I lean on edge of the sink, my palms holding me upright as I gaze at my shadowed face in the mirror.

“I am a misanthrope.”, I say.  I nod to myself in response, gray hair lifting in the breeze of the open window.

“I don’t like anyone.”, I tell the frowning face who looks back at me from the dark mirror.  “Not. Anyone.”

Misanthrope.

I don’t want to talk to anyone, please anyone, feed anyone, hug anyone, give to anyone any more.

I want to buy a tiny house on the beach, where I will spend my days collecting shells on the waterline, and my nights gazing at the stars in the silence of my living room.

Misanthrope.

I don’t want to smile or chat or agree or coddle or suck up or reassure or support or argue.

I want to be the only human in my world.

Misanthrope.

What a word.  What a wonderfully awful word.

Misanthrope:
mis·an·thrope
ˈmis(ə)nˌTHrōp,ˈmiz(ə)nˌTHrōp/
noun
 
  1. a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.
    Jolly_Miss_Misanthrope

Islamists?


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I find myself in an odd place.  I know I’m not alone, but I still want to share this strange experience with you.   Maybe I can make some sense of things if I do.

Forty two years ago I was an exchange student. I was seventeen years old, completely and unbelievably naive. I was sent to Tunisia, to live with an Islamic family.   I had a fantastic time!  I’ve written about my experience before, thinking about how comforting it was to find a family across the world that was so very much like my own.

But in the past three days, I’ve been really looking back, and thinking about my time in Tunisia.

I remember that my family had an Uncle, a jovial man of middle age, who was a retired general in the Tunisian military.  He had a lovely little house just outside of Tunis. I remember going there for dinner. I remember that he hunted for little birds, which he brought back to the house in the afternoon. They were dressed and cooked and served over couscous. I remember that he was so proud of himself, and I remember that the dinner was delicious.

I remember, too, that the same smiling, stocky Uncle took me and my Tunisian sisters to the famous Bardo Museum.  I don’t remember many details, but I do recall that the grounds were absolutely lovely, that the exhibits were amazing and inspiring. I remember a mosaic stone floor in the courtyard, and I remember that we were given a special tour because the Uncle was a member of the military.

I watch the news now, as we talk about “Islamists” and “terrorists” and I am struck by how we use the terms interchangeably.  I think about the fact that most American parents now would never send their innocent daughter to live in Tunisia.

And then I close my eyes, and I remember what happened to me when I had to travel across the country by myself, on a bus, to a city I’d never seen. I remember that I got onto the bus in tears: I knew that I was saying goodbye to a family I’d grown to love very much.  And I knew that I would most likely never see them again.

It was the last week of my journey, and I was leaving my host city of Kairouan to join up with the rest of the exchange students in the coastal city of Sfax.  My Tunisian family said goodbye to me at the bus station, and I boarded a big old bus to head southeast.  I was sobbing as the bus pulled out, so I barely noticed the old woman with the chickens in the seat behind me, or the man with the two small goats who sat in front of me.  I wasn’t really aware of the handsome man and his wide eyed son who sat in the seat across the aisle.  At least, I wasn’t aware of them until the man reached across the aisle and patted my shoulder.  He murmured gently in Arabic: I didn’t understand him, but his face showed sympathy and caring.  It made me cry a little harder.  The man and his son moved across the aisle to sit with me, and he kept talking and patting my back.  Little by little, we found a way to communicate. He introduced me to his son, I told him about my Tunisian family.  We gestured, we nodded, we gazed out the window at the passing desert together.

I remember that we came to a stopping place, where small boys sold water from huge clay jars. I remember the man buying me a water, which I sipped gratefully from a shared cup.

And I remember arriving in Sfax, and getting off the bus.  The man and his son embraced me, and he handed me a gift.  It was a beautiful handmade clay ashtray, shaped carefully from the red soil of the country.  I remember him pressing it into my hands, his long white robe touching his shoes as he leaned down toward me. “Pour toi” he said, and I thanked him.

I don’t know his name, and I can’t recall his face.  But his kindness to a weeping young stranger has always stayed with me.

And I remember what happened after I got to Sfax and the bus pulled out.  I sat in the bus station, as I’d been told by our group leader to do.  I’d been told that I should stay in place and wait until he and the other students arrived. So I waited.  And I waited.

The day went by, and sun began to set.  I was the only foreigner sitting in the tiny, dusty bus depot. I began to notice a group of older men, middle aged, in traditional robes.  They stood around, speaking softly to each other, but eyeing me as I sat alone on my bench.   I tried to look confident, to ignore them, but I was starting to worry.

Now this was well before the time of cell phones, and there was no way for me to reach my friends or my group leader.  All I knew was that I was supposed to wait, and that the sun was beginning to set.  I didn’t know what to do.

Finally, I remember, one older man, sporting a full gray beard and bushy eyebrows, came to where I sat. He began to ask me questions in Arabic, which I barely spoke.  I managed to finally understand him, and to explain that I was waiting for others.  He looked upset and began to speak urgently to me. Finally, through a combination of Arabic and broken French, I came to understand that no more busses would be arriving that day, and that the man and his friends were worried about leaving me alone on that little bench.  They asked where I was headed, but I only knew that last name of my group leader, whose family home was my destination.

I remember that the group of men argued and waved their arms and shook their heads as they shot me worried glances. I can only imagine their thoughts.  “What is wrong with those crazy Americans!? They send a little girl halfway across the world and leave her on her own in a strange city?”  They didn’t know what to do with me!

I don’t remember how it happened, or how I managed to understand it all, but I remember that I was placed carefully in the back of a cab, and that the name of my host was given to the driver. I remember that we drove all around the city, and that the young cabbie stopped over and over again to ask if anyone knew where my group leader’s family lived.

At last, after dark, I was brought to the house where I would spend the night.  I don’t have any idea who paid the kind cabbie for his long trip, but I know that it wasn’t me.

I look back now, and I am so touched and so astonished at the gentle, unselfish kindness that was heaped on me that one day in Tunisia.

And I think of the word “Islamist”.  I think of those thoughtful, gentle, fatherly Islamic men who took such care of me that day, with no possibility of reward.

I don’t understand how the Islam that I learned to love could have been twisted into the horror of what happened at my beautiful Bardo Museum.

I don’t understand it.

I find myself in a strange and sad place.

You see, for me the world “Islamist” brings to mind gentle, funny, generous men who go out of their way to take care of strangers.

Letting it go


OK. Let.It.Go.

OK. Let.It.Go.

I just had a birthday.

At my age, this is a big deal.

I mean, I’m not ready to pull the dirt over my head quite yet, but I’m not exactly dancing around and celebrating my “double digits” either,  if you know what I mean.

I’m getting on in years.  Getting long in the tooth.  No longer a spring chicken.

If you think about the average life span in the US, I’m past halfway to home base.  Way past halfway in fact.

So birthdays are definitely a time for reflection.

Last weekend, I reflected.

“Yay, me!”, I reflected. “I am still active and working and learning and enjoying my food and drink. I still have fun at the beach and I can still dance at weddings.  Yay, me!”

“On the other hand,” I reflected, “I can’t hula hoop any more.  I can’t eat too many beans. And I don’t know any of the songs on the radio.”

So I’m in that funny space in life. The one where everyone who sees you thinks you’re on the downhill slope, but you still feel like you’re new to the game.

And as I have reflected and thought and sipped on a few refreshing beverages, I have come to some conclusions that can only be reached by wise old owls like me.

And I’m willing to share my wisdom with you. Lucky, lucky you.

I have realized that its time to let go of some things.   I’m ready to let go of beauty.  I had some, once.  But I don’t have to worry about it any more.  The hair is silver, the jowls are jowly, the boobs are heading south.  Let it go.  I am happy to hand off the gift of beauty to my daughter and my young colleagues.  I will celebrate your glowing skin, your silky hair, your tiny waists.  I will raise a cup of hot mocha with whipped cream, and happily cede the joy of beauty to you.

I am willing to let go of fashion trends, too.  I have never actually understood the whole “spring colors” thing anyway, so what the hell.  I am willing to admit that I still buy Levis when I can get them.  I wear Dansko clogs because they stop my knees/hips/back from aching all night.  I do not understand leggings and I never will.

And I am so so happy to never again have to think about this year’s eye shadow tones!  Let it go, let it go.

I am happy to let go of the pressure to say “yes” to every request.  “No”, I am happy to respond, “I cannot volunteer at the local food coop. I’m old. I’m tired. I’m resting.”

“No,” I can now respond.  “I won’t be available to work for two weeks this summer on the newest version of a reading program.  I will be lying on my back on a beach.  I won’t be awake enough to help.”   Let it go, let it go, let it go.

But even as I am letting go of the frivolous, the superfluous, the unnecessary, I am happy to embrace a whole new world of joy.

I am ready to embrace my free time.  I’ve earned it, dammit, its mine.  I am not going to gum it up by writing elaborate lesson plans on how to add fractions.

I am ready to embrace my sick days, too. I’ve saved them up for 22 years now; when I wake up with a terrible headache or a burning sore throat, I am no longer going to make some tea, swallow some ibuprofin and hope for the best.  Nope. Now I am going to log onto the sub folder, click on “sick day” and go back to bed.  And maybe I’ll watch a marathon of “Dog Whisperer” while I eat my chicken soup.  Who cares?  I am embracing my mortality.

Time has gone on.  I had a birthday.

I will let go of my frustration over changing educational fads.  I will embrace my joy as I talk with my sweet students.  I will let go of my sadness at no longer being relevant, and will embrace the freedom that comes from being ignored and left alone.  I will let go of my “mommy” days, and will embrace my new role as the funny, happy relaxed “Nonni” who makes the awesome cookies.

Time to Let It Go.