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.


About your Russian connections….Colorado Soldiers Return Home


How to Handle Disruptive Students


Lesson number one on how to handle your classroom:     Show the kids some respect, connect with them, be a human.  This will earn you some degree of respect which is the only real authority that you will ever have.

Lesson number two:  Understand that you can never make a person do what you want him to do.   Accept the fact that your classroom is not your kingdom. You are not the supreme ruler.  Until you understand that the classroom is a community of people with a shared goal, you will never have control.

Lesson number three: You will be defied.  You will be questioned.  Weren’t you ever an angry adolescent, even for a minute?  The hallmark of adolescence (and in fact of childhood itself) is to test the limits, to question the rules, to challenge authority.  Work with all that passion, for God’s sake. You are a teacher because (theoretically) you want to have a hand in shaping the future. If you wanted to be a tyrant, you probably should have picked another career.

Lesson number four: Keep you eye on your goal.  You are here to teach this material to ALL of those students in front of you. ALL of them.  So if one student is disrupting the lesson, your goal is to return to the teaching. It is not to assert your superiority, your strength, your power over that student.

Final Lesson: If the situation deteriorates, and you simply cannot teach your lesson to ALL of those kids in the room, then remember that your goal is to calm things down.  Your job is to deescalate the confrontation.  If you need help, call for help from an educational expert.  Maybe your principal.  Maybe the school psychologist or counselor.

For the love of god, do NOT call the police just because some little girl defied you in front of the group.

It is not a crime to say ‘no’ to an adult. It is not a crime to be angry. It is not a crime to be an unhappy teenager.  You don’t call the cops to move a girl out of a public school classroom.

And if you do, and if that big, strong, uniformed officer STILL doesn’t have enough authority to control that child, then the school had better take a good long look at itself, and its culture and how well it is reaching its goal of educating all students.


I was a public school teacher for a LONG time. I have taught kids with Oppositional/Defiant Disorder, ADD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Learning Disabilities and unnamed behavioral challenges. I have had kids swear at me, threaten me, throw chairs at me, refuse to write or do math or look at me or leave the room.    Never once, not ever, did it even occur to me that it would the right thing to do to use my superior physical size and strength to overpower that child. Never once have a laid hands on a child in anger.

The video from S. Carolina is absolutely disgusting and truly appalling.  I fault the teacher who has been completely unable to create a respectful environment in his class. I fault the school for its lack of planning for how to respond to a defiant teen. I blame the administrator for calling in a police officer, a person trained in crime control, not in developmental psychology or best educational practice.  And I fault that bully of an officer who let his ego and his biceps bring violence into a classroom.  As a “School Resource Officer”, it was his job to do the absolute opposite, and to prevent just that kind of violence from happening.

And don’t bother telling me that the girl hit him first.  Just don’t even go there.

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?

Wishing for Ignorance

A gull on Assateague Island.

Sometimes I just don’t want to know.

I don’t want to know that thousands of my fellow citizens are actually considering casting a vote for a guy whose only credentials include being a rude loudmouthed braggart.  They think that amassing millions of dollars and badmouthing politicians make him “honest” and “outspoken.”

I don’t want to know that those people are ignoring his racism, his misogyny, his self love…………..  I don’t want to know that they have forgotten what happens in the world when a strong nation decides to support a dangerous xenophobe who encourages them to blame all of their problems on those pesky inferior minorities.

Sometimes I just don’t want to know.

I don’t want to have to face the fact that some people in my country are so filled with hate and viciousness that they would take away health services for poor women by making up ugly lies about those who provide those services.  I can’t stand knowing that some people can so torture and twist the English language that they use the phrase “pro-life” to defend their illegal and immoral actions as they literally threaten the lives of medical workers who provide cancer care, screenings and- most ironic and enraging of all- who provide contraceptive care to women in need.

Sometimes reality is just too much for me.   I don’t want to believe that I actually live in a country where some of our “leaders” encourage more of us to carry guns in theaters, churches and schools.  I don’t think I can stand the realization that the money from the NRA means more to my government than the lives of little children or innocent old ladies.

There are days when I tell myself that I really need to turn off the TV and the radio.  I tell myself that I can’t change anything. I can’t make people think of Hitler when they listen to Trump. I can’t make them own up to the fact (the actual fact!) that Planned Parenthood prevents far more pregnancy than it ends, or that only 3% of its services include abortion.  I try to convince myself that there is truly nothing I can do to end the out of control spiral of gun violence in my country.

There are days when I want to be a Hobbit. I want to live in the Shire, where my greatest concern would be planning for the “Party” and weeding my beautiful garden. There are days………

I don’t understand.


I don’t understand.

Every day I tell little children, “It doesn’t matter who started the fight.  You both have to stop.”

Every school year, I help very young children to manage conflict. I work so very hard to show them that we are all part of one community.  That our differences are so much less important than our similarities.  I spend hours and hours helping young children to learn that might does not make right; that even if you are hit, it does not make it right for you to hit back.

I don’t understand.

Why don’t adults understand these basic lessons?

More specifically, why don’t the men who control the armies understand these basic lessons?

Dead Israeli babies are not brought back to life by dead Palestinian babies.  Dead Palestinian Grandmothers are not avenged with the deaths of Israeli Grandmothers. Burned out Jewish villages are not more valuable than burned out Moslem villages. Terrified, cowering Moslem families do not feel safer knowing that there are terrified, cowering Jewish families across the border.

I have been observing and mourning this conflict since 1973, when I participated in a foreign exchange program that sent me to Tunisia, to live with a Moslem family.  I knew nothing about Islam, I knew nothing about North Africa, I knew nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict.  I was a teenager who was on her first adventure.

But while I lived with a wonderful, loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent Islamic family, I learned a great deal about the struggles between the two cultures.

Years later, I took a job as an interpreter for Jewish Family Services, working to resettle Russian Jews into the Boston area. And while I worked with many wonderful, loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent Jewish families, I learned a great deal about the struggles between the two cultures.

I cannot pick a side in this terrible, pointless, tragic war.  I cannot engage in the argument of who started it, or who is retaliating for what.

I am so sad and so frustrated as I watch the bombs arc back and forth, murdering children in their beds.

If I ruled the world, Mothers would be put in charge of every military power on earth. Mothers would serve dinner, kiss their babies goodnight, and then turn to the fights over land and water and oil and power and trade.

I don’t think that other Mothers understand this madness either.

Falling in love again

My Granddog, Izzy.

My Granddog, Izzy.

Oh, man.  Its happening again.

I am like one of those women in a bad romance novel.  I go into the relationship reluctantly, determined to maintain my distance.  The first few interactions are difficult, to say the least.  There are fights, tears, one misunderstanding after another.   I become utterly convinced that this will never work out.

Then it happens, just like in those Harlequin books.  There are unexpected tender moments, a brief cuddle, a kiss on the cheek.  There comes a moment, when I least expect it, when I find the two of us side by side, gazing into each other’s eyes in a house that is suddenly empty and quiet.

And I fall in love.  Even thought I told myself I wouldn’t do it.

I am so weak.  Such a pushover.


The object of my affection moved into our house about a week ago with her owners, my daughter and her fiance. They also came with a cat, but that is a story for another post. My focus now is on my granddog, Izzy.

We have met Izzy before, of course.  The kids brought her one afternoon for a visit, which took place through the flying fur of two old home-protective dogs meeting one young interloper.  It wasn’t pretty.

They all came back and spent the night here at Christmas.  We managed.  Barely.  Kate and I kept the peace by acting like two of the meanest recess ladies ever; we basically stood in the middle of the living room all day, and every time one of the dogs so much as twitched a whisker, we pointed at the offender and made the famous Cesar Milan “TSCHHH” sound.  All was quiet, but no one relaxed.

So when they all needed to move in with us last week, I was pretty anxious. I knew I’d be fine with the humans; my daughter and I are ridiculously compatible, and having her come home is easy and fun and welcome.  Sam is newer to us, but is a big warm teddy bear who stepped right in and became Paul’s instant sports buddy.  The human relationships are fine, truly.

Its the dogs that have been the challenge.

My big dog, Tucker, is mostly just a sweet old dope.  He never fights and never growls. He is a pacifist.  Sadie, on the other hand, is determined to protect the homestead.  She and little Izzy have fought from their first meeting.  It was a girl-girl throwdown, with snarls and teeth-baring and attempts to rip off ears.

That first week with everyone together was tough.  There was the unexpected outbreak of war when Izzy wandered into the room where Tucker was asleep; we barely managed to pull them apart.   Then there was the moment when I stupidly tried to feed all three at once.  I had barely opened the food bin when all three were gnashing teeth and barking in rage.  If Sam hadn’t been there to haul them back, at least one would be earless now.

So I wasn’t feeling all that kindly toward Izzy for a while.  She just wasn’t my type, you know?  Kind of pushy, strutting around with her little black nails tapping on my floor. Sadie and I agreed that she was just a little too cocky, too perky, too in-your-face.  We agreed that she had to go.

But then it started, slowly.  The morning when she greeted me with a big slurpy cheek kiss, then laid her head on my foot.  My cold heart melted just a tiny bit.  And she knew it, too, she knew she was reeling me in.  She started to sit beside me while I was working; I’d look up from my math papers, and she’d be gazing at me with those big brown eyes.    I noticed her trying to ingratiate herself with my dogs, too.  Oh, she was subtle, but she knew exactly what she was doing.  She started to sniff Tucker in all the right places, and he began to trust her.  Then it was walking side by side with my Sadie, trotting along like they were the best of friends.

I didn’t realize what was happening at first.  I hardly noticed what I was feeling.   But this morning, it hit me.  And it hit me hard. Paul had taken our dogs for a hike, and Kate and Sam were still asleep. It was just me and Miss Izzy.  And we went for a walk.  She trotted beside me all around the neighborhood, and she kept glancing up with her goofy doggy grin.  When we got back home, I gave her a cold drink, and a little doggy treat.  I sat on the floor, with my back to the sofa.  Izzy settled right beside me, her chin on my knee, her left leg draped over my thigh.  She gave a big sigh, rolled that brown eye my way, and went to sleep.


I’m in love.

“It warn’t no thang.”

I am pretty sure that I just came off of a life altering experience.

I think that the past three days were one of those pivotal times that we look back on with reverence, once they are safely implanted in the rearview mirror.

On Sunday evening, just as the long hot day was winding down, we got a phone call from our son, Matt.  He was one week into what he had hoped would be a month of hiking on the famous Appalachian Trail. I had spoken to him on Friday, and found him to be exquisitely happy and incredibly proud of himself. He was beating his expected mileage, had met a bunch of wonderful people, and was happily enjoying the solitude and the camaraderie of the trail.

I hung up on Friday thinking that he was as happy and as safe as could possibly be expected.  But what I didn’t know was that on Saturday and into Sunday, he was caught in drenching rain, and his waterproof boots had become completely soaked. He had broken out in horrific blisters which had erupted and torn and left his feet as mangled as hamburg.  At 5PM on Sunday, faced with a ten mile trek to the next shelter and nothing dry to wear, he called us for a pickup.

As I drove the two hours to get him, I was so afraid that he would be upset with himself. I wasn’t sure if I would be bringing him back to our house (my hope!) or to his (my assumption) or even to a local inn for a night of rest and rehab (my worry).   I didn’t want him to be thinking that he had let anyone down.  I worried that he would be hurt or ill, and that I would want to play Mommy when he wanted to feel like an adult.   I drove through the mountains, through the rain, unsure of what I would find when I finally got to the elusive trailhead where he waited.

But I didn’t need to worry, as it turned out.  He was tired, he was sore, he was soaked to the skin.  He was most definitely let down that his plans had not worked out.  But he was also philosophical and mature.  He was able to tell me in the first ten minutes of our ride back home to my house that this had been a learning experience.  He had brought too much with him, had carried far too much weight.  He had underestimated the impact of all that weight and all that water on his skin, and he had blistered in a way that went beyond anything he could have predicted.

He knew that he had made mistakes, but he also knew that he was learning from them.  He told me that he wanted to come home to rest and heal, but that he wanted to go back out there for at least the last week of his planned month of vacation.

I drove him home, determined to be supportive, but not to treat him like a child.  I gave him a bed, and a meal, but didn’t wash or dress or medicate his wounds.

And that felt just right.

My son is an adult. He is smart, and capable and strong.  I found myself relaxing and enjoying the realization that he would ask for what help he needed it, but would handle the rest by himself.

He stayed with us for two days and two nights.  It was fun and relaxed and easy.  I did what I wanted and needed to do; he did what was right for him.

Tonight his younger brother came to pick him up and drive him home.  The younger one (my baby boy!) is covered in poison ivy from his feet up to his knees. He is sore, itchy, possibly infected and most definitely very uncomfortable.

I gave him some benedryl, some calomine and a package of Aveeno.  I made a nice big dinner, gave everyone a good round of hugs and well wishes, and I sent them on their way.

And I am so happy to have had them here, so happy to have been useful.  And I am so happy to be sending them back home, so happy to be able to relax.

I think I’ve hit a milestone in my Empty Nester Journey!

They came to visit, they came to be healed, they came to see Mommy, but it wasn’t a big old weepy event.  It was just my big old grown up kids, stopping by for a bit to see us.

“It warn’t no thang”, at all. It was just life the way it is right now.

“That’s kinda stupid.”

My favorite part of every school day is “Read Aloud Time.”  I love to read to the kids.  I love the looks on their faces as they react to the action in each story.  I love it when I try to stop, and they beg me for just one more chapter.  Its the closest I’ll ever come to getting a curtain call, you know?

A few years ago I was reading the book “The Liberation of Gabriel King” to my fifth graders.  The book is set in Georgia, during the Presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.  It is a great story, and I often use it to begin the school year, as the main characters are an unlikely pair of best friends who are about to enter fifth grade, one with enthusiasm, one with total fear.

The subtext of the story is the racial tension in the South in the 1970’s. The book talks about bigotry, racial prejudice and even the KKK.  The children in the story have to learn how to stand up to these things, and how to face their personal fears.

As I read the book to the class that year, they asked a lot of questions.  One of the reasons I love this book is because it leads to such rich and interesting discussions.  Ten year olds are honest, and they’re very curious.  They keep asking questions until they find out what they want to know.

I remember one particular little boy in that class. He was a serious, quiet kid.  Not a great student, but just a really good kid. He was the kind of typical fifth grader who spent a lot of our day waiting for recess so that he could play ball with his friends.  But he was a thoughtful kid, insightful in his own way.  I’ll always remember him for one comment that he made, as we were discussing racial prejudice.

One of the other kids had asked, “Why did some white people think black people weren’t as good as them?” (Note that past tense ‘did’, please).  I tried to explain it briefly, referring back to the history of slavery, doing my best to shed some light on a dark story.  “But why would they think that?”, the kids kept asking.

You should know that my class at the time had a few students from Asia, South Asia and Central America, but none of them were African American.  All were equally bewildered by the descriptions of racial prejudice, but all of them wanted to understand it.

I remember looking at the group, feeling somewhat at a loss. But I remember that particular little boy, slouching back on the rug, both hands in his pockets.  He had on a baseball cap, and his eyes were shaded.  I remember him saying,  “So let me get this straight.  Some people back then thought they were better,  just because their skin was lighter?  Well, that’s kinda stupid.”

Don’t you love it?

As I watched the news coverage of the Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality yesterday, I pictured a classroom of the future. I pictured a cute kid, ball cap tipped rakishly over one eye.  I imagined him saying, “So some people back then thought that one kind of marriage was better than another kind?  That’s kinda stupid.”

Another perspective.

I always think that I am right.

I am very sure of my opinions, my thoughts, my points of view.  Generally speaking, I trust myself.

I rely on certain routines; my daily predictable activities comfort me, and make me feel safe. They make me trust my beliefs and my ideas. My routines give me a sense of security about the rightness of my life.

When I come home from school, my first task is to make dinner. As an Italian woman, I do not take this task lightly. Nevermind that there are no more children to feed, or that my even tempered husband would be happy to have some leftovers or a sandwich.  I am the Mom, and I cook.  So every evening, at about 6:30, I begin to bang the pots and pans, to simmer the garlic, to saute the veggies.

This is my routine; it keeps me both safe and sane.

When dinner is over, and night has fallen, I make my lunch for tomorrow, set up the coffee for the morning, and pick out my clothes for the next day.  I check my email, do the evening’s corrections and lesson plans, and organize my work bag.

Then I go outside, and sink into the soothing waters of my hot tub.

I only go in there at night.

I lay my head back, and gaze up at the night sky.  When it is clear, I look into the mysteries of the Milky Way band, and feel infinitesimally tiny.  I float, and think, and feel all of the pressures of my life slip away.

When the moon is up, I bathe in its silvery light, feeling as if my skin and bones can soak up the serenity that it sends to Earth.

On cloudy nights, I gaze into the mist, awed by the mystery that it holds above me. On clear nights, I stay out in the briny heat until I catch a glimpse of a shooting star. Only then do I feel that I have seen the magic that will keep me and mine safe for another night.

I only go out to my deck, to my hot tub, when all is dark and quiet.   This is my routine: this is my safety.

Today I was home from school for a very rare sick day.  To tell the truth, I could have gone in and been with my class!  All I have is a nasty cold.  But I am learning to listen to my not-so-young body, and to respect it when it asks for some rest.  Last year, my October virus lingered until the spring, and I never regained my usual vigor.

So today was my second day of staying on the couch. Of reading and drinking tea and letting my body fight its battle.

It was very, very boring.

As dusk was settling in, I found myself feeling truly restless. My back was sore from too much couch time. My wrist was sore from too much computer time.  Although the sun was barely beginning to set, I decided to head to the hot tub for a soak.  I knew that I was going out at the “wrong” time, and that my experience couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as my usual nighttime float, but I went anyway.

And I am sure that you know what I am going to say.

The sky was the most beautiful, icy, snowfall blue.  A blue that was barely there.  The pine trees were a deep and rich and velvety green, seen from below as I raised my eyes.

And the tip of every leaf, on every birch and oak and cherry and ash, was dipped in perfect gold.  A gentle sunset breeze moved through, and every gilded leaf did its dance.

I lay back in the embrace of the water, no longer aware of my body, and my eyes were caught and captured and held by the glittering beauty of the sunset as it painted the underside of every arching little leaf.

If I hadn’t broken my routine, moved out of my usual script, tried something just a little bit different, I would have missed those moments of truly exquisite beauty.

I wonder how often my “set” perspective stops me from seeing a miracle?