The Wolf King Reborn


I am the Wolf King.

Or at least, I used to be the Wolf King.

Lately I’ve been The Old Dog Who Can Hardly Get Down The Stairs.

What can I say? Time goes on, and arthritis hits hard.

For the past few weeks, I have had to contend with the humiliating prospect of a young pup, constantly jumping up to nip my ears or grab my collar. Always trying to get me to jump and play.

Annoying little fool. I have gone along with him as often as I could, but sometimes I just wanted to smack him. I have barked and growled at him so much that my royal voice is getting really creaky.

Today was a sunny day, and the air was crisp and cold. The yard was filled with fresh white snow, and birds filled our feeders.

The puppy, so foolishly named “Lennie,” was whining to go out. Woman Who Feeds Me made those sickening little cooing noises at him, and soon he was wearing his blaze orange collar.

I stood, slowly and regally. I do not beg to go outside.

But I don’t say “no”, either. I waited, aloof and calm, as the Woman Who Feeds Me put on my bra…. I mean, my Wolf King harness.

We headed out into the cold.

For a few minutes, I walked calmly alongside the Woman. The small, annoying puppy ran in circles around us, barking and yipping and racing in and out of the woods.

After a while, I noticed that my leash seemed very lax. I was able to wander away from the Woman Who Feeds Me without feeling the tug of the leash. Hmm.

Suddenly, a truck pulled into our driveway.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I remembered that I am the Wolf King; the protector of our castle.  I began to bark. I ran toward the truck.

A though went zinging through my head.

“Hey! I’m running, and there’s no leash.” I glanced back at Woman Who Feeds Me.

Sure enough, she looked guilty.

“Tucker, come!” she called. She held out a tiny cookie.

One. Tiny. Cookie.

Ordinarily, I would walk on hot coals to get one of those cookies. But now. Now the cold wind was rushing through the woods. The smells of deer and moose and birds and fox came wafting toward me. I lifted my head. I sniffed.

I looked back at Woman Who Feeds Me. Her hand was out. Her voice sounded stressed.

I looked forward, toward the woods. I saw the puppy, running free, racing in circles.

“Tucker?”

My old eyes met the worried eyes of my Mistress.

“Adios!” I barked. And I raced like the wind away from the yard and into the woods.

Oh, OK. Mostly I didn’t really race. I sort of lumbered. And limped a bit. But I still went into the woods with the puppy dancing around me.

It was glorious. It was heaven. It was freedom, remembered from a time long ago.

It. Was. The. Best.

After a while, Woman Who Feeds Me, Annoying Puppy, Poopie Baby and Young Woman With Treats all went back inside the house. They called me to come.

But I would not be tempted back inside.

No. The Wolf King decided to sit outside of the house. Resting in the deep snow. With freezing ice pellets sticking to my niblets.

My back was aching like you read about, what with all the running through the woods, jumping over fallen trees, avoiding puppy kisses, and climbing over snowbanks.

I kind of wanted to go inside. Back to the fire. And the heat. And the cookies.

And the couch.

But I remained firm. I stayed out for hours.

I was so proud of my freedom and my strength.

Eventually, as I dozed with my paws held over my half frozen nose, I smelled the intoxicating aroma of cooking chicken livers. The window to the living room had been opened, and the simmering pot placed on the ledge.

“Oh, Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled. “Have you no shame?”

She was trying to lure me back in.

But I would NOT be moved.

I stood erect ( except for my bendy spine and my splayed-out back legs.) “NO!” I barked with royal strength. “No! I will not yield to the liver! I am the Wolf King and I am FREE!”

I lasted a full four minutes before my aching back, my shaking legs, my frozen niblets and my empty belly got the better of me.

OK. So I came back in.

I got all warm. I ate my liver. I let the Woman and the Baby cuddle me.

I came back in.

But really? I only did it because I could hear that puppy whining for me to come back home to him.

I can’t resist the little goof when he gets all kissy like that.

But don’t be fooled.

If they drop that leash again, I’ll be off.

The Wolf King will be back. You can count on it.

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Still as handsome as you ever were.

This Is Just Unfair


I mean, seriously.

Seriously?

How am I supposed to get anything done when I spend all day with this person:

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Really?

I’m supposed to put her down and give her toys, then go do the freakin’ laundry?  I don’t think so.

This child is 8 months old.  By rights, she should basically still just be a little blob of babiness.   But, no.

She is a full on DIVA.

What am I supposed to do?

Every time I tell her, “Play by yourself for a bit. I’ll be right back,” she makes a face like this one:

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Where are you GOING?

How can I walk away?

This is completely unfair.

I mean,  yes, sure. I agreed to watch the baby this year.  I did NOT agree to sit in a love soaked stupor 4o hours a week, looking like an idiot.

I did NOT agree to melt into a puddle every time this child smiled at me.  I didn’t think I would be giving up the basics, like going to the bathroom, or reading the news, or doing the dishes.

This is just NOT fair.

Look at that face.

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Wait, watch this!!!!

You know you wouldn’t be able to walk away either.  Admit it.

So. Not. Fair.

 

Ah, Miss Ellie……


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Rockin’ her Daddy’s hat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life was very, very good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is a very beautiful thing.

Beautiful Day


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It’s gray outside. Small pellets of sleet are falling on the frozen mud in the yard. A very cold wind is blowing.

The news is dominated by war, murder, anger, ugliness and fear.

It is a Beautiful Day!

My right hand is typing this, while my left cradles the warm, sweet blanket wrapped bundle of my sleeping Granddaughter.

In the past few days I have received news of a new baby girl and two brand new beautiful baby boys born to people I love.  I have heard news of another little one on the way.

And I am reminded that winter always ends. Political races always conclude. Wars wind down and borders shift. Old fights are ended and reconciliation is always a possibility.

Life continues. Every birth is hope renewed. Welcome, beautiful children! We love you and need you so much!

 

Ah, the smell of dirt…..


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I wonder if perhaps I was a farmer in my past life?  I wonder if I had to stay inside my dark, cold wooden house through the long New England winters, waiting for the first approach of spring, when I could start the long season of growing once again.

Maybe in a past life I was settler in the wilderness of the New World, trying to find fertile soil to start a plot of corn and beans for my family.  Can’t you just picture me, in a mob cap and homespun dress, using a wooden pitchfork to turn the soil on the first warm day of late winter?

Well, I can.

I’m sure that I was totally in tune with the earth in a past life. I’m positive that I was able to turn plain old rocky soil into something so rich and fertile that it fed my growing family throughout the winter.

How do I know this?  Huh.  Easy!

Because I swear to God, I love the smell of dirt in February and March!  I love it.  It’s like the best combination of aphrodisiac and power drink.  I stand outside on days when the snow has receded enough to uncover clumps of semi-frozen mud.  I tip my head back toward the barely warm sun and I breathe in so deep……!! My lungs expand, my oxygen level increases, my brain wakes up from its winter hibernation.  I come alive again.

This morning is one of those mornings.  It is very, very warm outside; almost 40 degrees! Paul and I walked the dogs, and I only had on a sweatshirt.  The snow is nearly gone. Only little piles of filthy ice pellets remain.  There is a thin layer of mud everywhere.  I squished my way through it, loving the thick gooey feel of it under my boots.  I could smell that rich, heavy earthy smell with every step.  Dirt! Good old New England dirt! If I poked it with a stick (which of course I did), I could feel that the earth is still frozen solid.  Even so, there was a layer of thawed muck on top of the frozen ground, and that was full of promise.  The dead grass is even turning slightly green in some spots.

I know that the trees are still completely bare and that there isn’t a butterfly or a bee in sight.  Still, the tips of the daffodils are visible.  I can see shoots of daylillies and iris pushing their way through the dead leaves in my garden.  If I squint my eyes just right, I can see little swelling buds on the tips of the lilac branches.

And I can smell dirt. Soil. Earth.

My pioneer farmer Colonial past self recognizes the smell and rejoices.  “Huzzah!”, she shouts.  “Tis nearly Spring!”

 

Comcast Wants to Kill Me


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I am not a young woman.  I can only take so much pressure before I blow.

I have high blood pressure, for God’s sake.  You just can’t mess with me like this, or heads are gonna explode.  OK, only one head and its mine, but still!

Damn you, Comcast!  You are definitely trying to kill me.

I know that Comcast complaints are not new, but you really have to hear this.

It all started innocently enough.  Paul and I are looking to cut some expenses, now that I am retired. As we looked over our monthly finances, we noticed that our XFinity is costing us a boatload.  Well over 140 a month!   Yikes!

So, we decided that we’d get ourselves a Chromecast device and give up Cable. All we need to do is contact Comcast and tell them we want to switch from the whole XFinity thing to just plain WiFi.

So I go to Comcast.com.   I try to log in to my account.  But I have forgotten my password, oh dearie me.  Easy, right? I click on “forgot my password”.  I get a box that says,” If you want your new password, enter your PIN”.  My PIN?  My PIN!

I get up and start digging through files (these are the moments when it is good to be married to a packrat with OCD…he keeps all this stuff!)  At last, I find a document that includes my PIN.  Right.  The one that Comcast had to send me through the mail, because they couldn’t email it to me. The one I had to wait a week for the LAST time I tried to get customer service from Comcast!

So, I enter my PIN.

And……I get a message that says that they will now CALL ME on my Comcast landline.

Which would be fine, except that we don’t have a phone anymore.  I mean, not a landline phone. Nothing that I can plug into a jack to ANSWER the STUPID phone call to tell me my password!

So.  Thwarted.

OK.

Deep breath.  Sip of coffee. Pat the dog for a minute.  Blood pressure goes down, I can feel it going down because my pulse isn’t beating in my temples anymore.

I decide to call the Customer Service line. Ya know, just to see if they can help me.

I pick up my CELL PHONE and dial the 800 number.   I get this recorded message: “I’m sorry. This service is not available at the moment.  Please hang up and try again later.”

Temples begin to throb. Another sip of coffee. Pat the dog.  He gets off the couch, throwing me a dirty look over his shoulder. “Sorry”, I mumble as I realize that I was patting him into a concussion.

Deeeeeeeep breath.   Yoga breath. Contemplate adding some Kahlua to the coffee.

I decide that I can “try again later” and I turn on TV, just to relax. I want to watch CNN. You know, just so I can check to see if anything is blowing up, or if anyone is shooting up a school.

But CNN won’t load.  I wait about a minute, then suddenly the screen fills with Sesame Street.  I try CNN again.  Sesame Street again.

Does Comcast read minds? Do they KNOW I’m trying to ditch them?

I try MSNBC.  I am NOT making this up: It sends me to FOX News.

I click off the TV.  Temples pounding, eyeballs pounding.  I wash down a Tylenol with my coffee.  Really, really, really deep breaths.   Now I’m dizzy on top of enraged.  I take out the Kahlua, just in case.

OK.   Recap.  I can’t log on to my account because I forget my password.  They can’t give me a new password because they refuse to call the phone I use; they insist that they have to call me on the phone I don’t have.

The 800 number is “not available at this time.”

Wait!!!! I bet there is an online chat service!!!!  Back to the website.  YES!!!! “Chat with one of our Customer Service Experts”.   I click.

I get sent to a blank page showing only the words: “This services is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.”

There is a sudden loud high pitched keening sound filling the room.

I realize that its coming from me.  I rush to the kitchen, dump out the coffee and fill my mug with Kahlua.

Sobbing just a little, I open up my banking site.  I remove Comcast from my payee list.

I gotta believe that when we stop paying them, they’ll find a way to get in touch.

I settle back on the couch to watch Sesame Street.

 

Hearts and Broken Hearts


Sometimes I just want to roll back time.  Just back, back, back.

I have been in love with my husband since we were 17 years old. That’s 42 years.  Holy crow.

Sometimes I wish that I could wind back the movie reel of my life, and see Paul as I saw him so many years ago.  What did I think of him when I met him at the tender age of 12? Did I notice him at all on the first day of seventh grade?  Did he notice me?  What did we each see and feel when we became friends over the next few years? What exactly was it that made us begin to see each other differently, to fall in love? I think I know, but I wish I could go back.

I wish I could go back to see.

I wish I could wind the clock back, back, back.  Back to the time when my Dad was still alive.  Back to when he used to play with my children. Back to when I could hear him laugh. Back to the night when we ate cioppini together and laughed and slurped and dunked our bread into our dishes.

Back.

There are times when I wish I could roll it all back and back and back again.  Sometimes I miss my own childhood. I miss being the little girl who was so carefully taken care of. I would like to see my world through that girl’s eyes once again. I’d like to go back to the easy days.  When finding a little bag of Fritos in my lunch was the most exciting thing in a week.  When my biggest problem was the mess in my closet.

Back to the day when my siblings and I were a pack, like a bunch of puppies. When loving each other was effortless.  Back to when we could give each other “noogies” or “Indian Sunburns” and scream and cry, but be best friends again an hour later.

I wish I could roll it all back.  I wish I could go back to those days with the knowledge and the wisdom that I have now.  I would look at each of those people, my husband, my father, my big pack of brothers and sisters, and I would look each one in the eye and say, right out loud: “No matter what.  I will always, always love you.”

 

 

Guess What I Just Remembered ?


Racquetball!

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Who else  out there remembers racquetball?

Anyone?

If I’m correct, racquetball was one of those inexplicable fads that popular culture seems to experience every few years. Like oat bran.  Or leggings.

Something pops up somewhere, people decide its the cool new thing, and presto! Everyone is playing racquetball.

Back in the 80’s racquetball courts popped up everywhere, like dandilions in July. Every mall, every gym, every town had least one indoor racquetball court.  Whoopee!

I had my first racquetball experience around the around the age of 22, as I recall. I was still young and impressionable.  I believed all the people who said that the game was fun and exciting and great exercise.

I was in love! If my beloved wanted to buy us both racquets and very very hard rubber balls to hit with said racquets, I was all about it!

I was still idealistic. For some incomprehensible reason, I believed that even a person like me, a person who had once knocked herself in the nose with a softball bat while swinging at a pitch, a person this clumsy, could still achieve some level of athletic success.

What an idiot.

I remember coming home from work to our tiny apartment, eating dinner and then grabbing our racquets. We put on our short shorts (it was 1978), our high white athletic socks and our sneakers. And off we went. Lookin’ fine.

I remember that there were locker rooms where we could store our jackets or sweatshirts. I remember this because I’m pretty sure it was the first time outside of high school where I actually stepped into a locker room.  There were other women in there, and they all looked confident and sure of themselves.  Some of them even had on sweatbands.

Yikes.

I remember that the racquetball “court” was a cube made out of solid rubber.  I think even the floor and ceiling were rubber.

My voice sounded echoey in there, and I liked that part.  I think I even sang a little the first time Paul and I stepped into our cube.

That was the last part I ever enjoyed.

Because to this day I have no idea of how to play that stupid game.  All I recall is that we were supposed to smash the hard hard hard blue ball into the wall in front of us and then use our racquets to smash it back there again.  Of course, given that the cube was made of the same incredibly dense rubber as the terrible ball, it was almost impossible to know where the ball would go once you smacked it with your racquet.

Sometimes it hit the ceiling, sometimes the wall on the right, sometimes the left.  And sometimes it hit directly in front of your sweaty young face so that it careened back at you at the speed of light, leaving you helpless to deflect it with the tiny racquet in your hand.

The first time that happened, I discovered that I do have some athletic skill after all.  I let out a shriek that could have etched glass, dropped the racquet and hit the floor in less than a nanosecond.

For the remainder of the “game”, Paul scored points while I tried to stay alive. I guess it was good cardiovascular exercise, because I can tell you that my heart rate stayed way way up there the whole time.

We played quite a few times after that.  I never got any better at figuring it out, but I didn’t die either, so I guess it turned out well.

I was profoundly relieved when the next fad involved oat bran muffins.

A Good Kind of Surprise


Now that I have an empty nest, I am used to having nearly complete control over my environment.

I mean, other than the mountains of dog hair and Paul’s habitual pile o’ stuff on my kitchen counters, I have a lot of control of my space.

I now wash, dry and carefully fold the towels so that they are placed neatly on the closet shelves.  The beds are made.  The shoes are either in the closet or neatly lined up by the door. The dishes and cups are clean and dry and waiting in their respective cabinets.

There is very little unexpected and unwelcome mess in my house.

I very very rarely come across a dirty dish on a windowsill.  I am no longer surprised by a pile of muddy clothes in the bathtub.

My life is predictable.

When I open the hall closet, I know which coats and jackets I will see.

Except when I am surprised.

Delightfully, happily, joyfully surprised.

Like today.

I opened the closet to grab my down jacket, planning to step outside to shovel some snow.

And there it was.

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Surprise!

A tiny purple jacket, decorated with pink and blue hearts and circles.  A puffy, warm, cozy little jacket, just right for keeping a baby girl warm.

I must have hung it up there not long ago, when I was sorting through a big bag of hand-me-down clothes. I probably put it on the hanger and nestled it into the pile of coats. Somewhere between my old bulky white coat and Paul’s blue winter jacket, it must have settled in and gotten comfy.

And I must have forgotten all about it.

Until today.

When I pulled open the door and pushed aside the hangers.  And there it was.  Reminding me that my neat, orderly, predictable house is no longer entirely under my control. Telling me that it will soon be overtaken once again by toys and blankets and cast off cups and dirt and leaves and twigs and bandaids and juice boxes.

Thank God!

That pretty little jacket, hanging so sweetly in my closet, reassures me that life continues to go on here.

My nest is not quite so empty anymore.

 

 

Turned Upside Down


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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.

Yup.

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?