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

 

 

Aw, what’s a little pneumonia anyway?


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A New England Autumn

It’s funny. I was just sitting here, feeling the nice cool autumn breeze. So refreshing!

For some unfathomable reason, I started to think about that time a few years ago. I had been fighting asthma for a few weeks, and no matter what I did, it seemed to just keep getting worse. I was a fifth grade teacher at the time, and I had to talk all day. I had to talk over 25  happy ten year olds. I had to talk over the sound of the kids in the hallway and the kids in the cafeteria.

My throat was always sore and I was hoarse. And the asthma was making me short of breath and a little dizzy.

I remember that I was on two different inhalers, an antihistamine by day and a different one by night, a nose spray and some herbal things.

That cough just kept building up on me. But you know what? I was a typical working woman. I just kept plugging along. I didn’t miss one day of school.

Finally, though, I did break down and go the doctor. He told me that I had a fairly serious case of bronchitis and was “well on the way” to pneumonia.  He changed one of my inhalers, added prednisone and a strong antibiotic.

He suggested that I take a few days to recuperate.

But I was a fifth grade teacher, with 25 kids depending on me. Plus, it was the week of our annual three day camping adventure in the woods of New Hampshire. I tried to drink extra water and eat well. I went to bed early when I could.

I didn’t stay home, though. I didn’t go to bed.

Actually, I packed my bag and grabbed all my medicines. Then I got on the big yellow bus and took 75 fifth graders on a camping trip in the cold rain.

You know why?

Because I’m a woman. I just didn’t think a little pneumonia would be that big a deal.

Ya know?

 

“I’m Rubber, You’re Glue.”


If you’ve been watching or reading about the American presidential election for the past year or so, you will no doubt have noticed that one candidate is acting more like a child than a world leader.

Naturally, I mean no disrespect to children, but you know know what I mean.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made a name for himself by acting like every elementary school’s playground bully. He insults people, he swears in public, he threatens violence against everyone he dislikes.

He pretends to be more powerful than he really is, and expects everyone around him to grand him the same level of worship that he grants to himself.

Some of his quotes are beyond unbelievable. When asked by a journalist whether he honestly considered it proper to praise the dictator Vladimir Putin, Trump said:

“If he says great things about me, I’ll say great things about him.”

Just like a fourth grader. An immature fourth grader.

Now I think I have an explanation for Trump’s sudden fixation on Hillary Clinton’s health. He is playing the classic frustrated kid game of “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

You remember that, right? It was usually the response you got when you were trying to argue with the most annoying kid in the class because he won’t stop making fun of everyone.

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Think about it. “I’m rubber, you’re glue.”

Trump runs a completely fake foundation. The (ahem) Donald J. Trump Foundation has no employees other than the Trump kids. Trump uses the money donated by third parties to buy himself presents. The IRS has serious concerns about them falsifying records.

Ergo: Trump keeps demanding a federal probe of the Clinton Foundation, which is an actual world wide philanthropy.

Trump demonstrates symptoms and evidence of several disorders. There has been speculation that the man has a language disorder, an attentional disorder, a serious personality disorder and possible Alzheimer’s or dementia. He has steadfastly refused to release his medical records. He’s tried to get around the demands by releasing a ridiculous fake letter that was mocked by the whole world.

So what is Trump doing? He’s claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has a brain injury, seizures, even a language disorder herself. Conservatives are going crazy trying to come up with some phony information about her health.

Seriously! It’s “I’m rubber and you’re glue.” What makes it so frustrating is that its working. I don’t hear anyone in the media talking about the Donald J. Trump phony Foundation. I don’t hear them speculating about why the man can’t finish a single sentence, or what the hell he’s trying to hide by trying to fake his medical records.

He’s rubber, she’s glue and it’s making me crazy.

Let me leave you with one thought, though.

Trump keeps repeating the insulting “Crooked Hillary” name for his opponent. He just loves to yell about her being a crook.

Yeah. We know exactly what that says about him.

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A gift, a mystery, a puzzle, a charm


389026_4188736874199_1803145186_nI so want to think of myself as a writer. I want to believe that I am one of those who are gifted enough to throw a net around the terrible beauty that is life and capture it for us all to study.

I wish I had that talent. I wish I had the magic that it takes to identify each emotion and name it and hold it up before our eyes. I wish I had what it takes to polish each feeling and rub off the useless fragments on its edges. I would love to believe that someday I’d have the gift of truth in my hand so that I could open my fingers and let everyone understand what it is that exists underneath the confusing mass of tears and laughter.

I wish I could do that.

Right now, though, I have to lower my head into my hands and accept the fact that one single day can hold so much joy and so much pain. I have to let go.

Life is just such a fucking gift. Every day. Every minute.

Today I cooked with 20 little children. Some were there because they want to learn more about cooking. Some were there because their parents have to work and this was a safe and fun place for them to spend a summer day. Some were tired. Some were sad. Most, though, were filled with the innate joy that is childhood in a safe place. They laughed, they joked, they asked me 20,000 questions. They shouted, “Me! Can I? I’ll do it!!! I’ll go first!!!” They smiled at me, they thanked me, they complimented me on my cuisine, my gray hair, my “Best Nonni” apron.

Today was joy.

It was also 95 degrees while I was frying felafel and making pita bread. I sweated so much in the first hour that when I raised my arms to push my hair back, I wondered who had brought in the goats and why thay smelled so bad.

I was exhausted. My legs hurt from standing for 7 1/2 hours. My back hurt from leaning over the table to show them how to mince, stir, knead. My arm hurt from stirring.

By the time I got home and stepped into a cool shower, I was feeling sort of sorry for myself.

Then my husband came home. He looked upset. I asked what was up.

He told me that one of our oldest friends just lost her daughter, very suddenly.

What? The young woman who died (What? DIED????) was the first baby that any one of our friends had. We’ve known her for her entire life. She was vibrant, alive. A young Mom. A teacher.

Everything changed then.

How is such a thing possible?

What the hell does life even mean if something like this can happen?

Overwhelmed with grief for our friends. Desperately wanting to hold each of my children. Wanting to tell them how much I love and need them.

How can life do this? How can God?

I don’t understand.

I certainly don’t understand well enough to write anything that can help to make sense of a day like this one.

All I know is that every goddamned day is a GIFT. And we have to embrace each one. Every hot, sunny, humid moment is a gift. Every baby girl covering herself with butter to express her desire for a nap is a gift.

Every rainy, cold, boring afternoon is a gift.

Every aching muscle is a reminder that you’re alive to feel it. Every night of insomnia is a night of time to think and remember and dream.

And every single phone call or text from a child, no matter what the reason, is a gift from the Gods of the loving universe.

Tonight I go to bed achy, sad, joyful, grateful, grieving.

I wish that I could cover it all more eloquently, but I can’t.

Life is both a gift and a mystery. Let’s just embrace that.

For Orlando and Aurora and Newtown and Littleton …….


 

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

“Ban the Muslims, keep the guns.”   

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

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

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

 

“Righteous Anger”

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

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

It was a typical Friday evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, Betsy!  What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, I’ll be careful…..”

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

She grumbled a little, then gave a sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

“I need to pee.”, I complained.

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

“What if he goes out to dinner?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were also two angry old ladies on a mission.

And we were armed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Open the damn door, Warren.  NOW!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At last we were ready to go.

Betsy started the recorder and I began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, beautiful child.


Twenty four years ago today I gave birth to my third child. My baby. My last hurrah. The icing on our family cake.

This boy.

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This fine young man.

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My gentle hockey player. My thoughtful activist. My handsome, sweet Tim.

I’m sitting here in my living room this evening, glass of red wine in hand. I’m listening to “Pachelbel’s Canon in D.”  We had that on the radio on the morning of June 11, 1992 as we drove east, toward the rising sun. Our two other children dozed in their carseats behind us. Paul and I held hands, listening.

This was my third birth. Number one was the practice child. I was terrified heading in to deliver her. Number two came with some delays and some confusion. I didn’t know that what I was feeling was labor as I went to the hospital to be “induced” with him.

But with number three, I felt as if I had finally arrived. I knew what to expect. I was ready.

And he came with no scary surprises.  He came into our lives on a bright, sunny day. I looked at him and my heart melted.

Happy birthday, beautiful child. Happy birthday, beautiful young man.

Thanks for being as loving and sweet as you were when I first gathered you into my loving arms.

And thanks for being the best brother to Matt, who greeted you in the hospital 24 years ago by throwing a leggo train at your head.

I adore you both.

Thanks for being a fabulous and supportive brother to Katie, and a wonderful Uncle to our Ellie!

You made us a whole family.

Smooch.

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My three biggest achievements.

Just Ellie


Sometimes when I am holding my granddaughter,  I think just for a moment that I am holding her mother. The soft smell of her hair, the silky cheek on mine. Just for a tiny slip in time I think that I am cuddling my own baby girl again.

Once in a while, when she is eating her lunch and grinning at me with her tiny teeth, I see my older son in her face. Just for a second, my heart catches and I am sure that I am back again with my own baby boy, making him laugh by pretending to eat from his sticky fingers.

And when she sleeps, soft and warm and so trusting on my shoulder, I sometimes drift to sleep myself. And when I wake, I think, just for a tiny piece of frozen time, that I am holding my baby boy. The same sturdy little body, the same gentle breath on my cheek. Just for a bit, for a split second, my mind hops back and I think that I am holding mine again.

But most often when she is doing her funny, rhythmic scoots across my floor, she is just Ellie. She is funny, smart, sassy. The frowns as she tries to figure out which plastic cups fit together and which can be stacked. Her tongue curls up over her lip as she tries so seriously to pull herself up to her feet.

She is herself. She isn’t her Mom, or her Uncles. She is Ellie. She is enough. She is just right.

And I love her so much its just plain silly.

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Tired of insanity


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

Just sick of it.

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

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

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

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

I am just so sick of it.

‘Beware Of Socialism And Slavery In Our Schools!’

“My Job Here Is Done”


When I started this blog, way way back in time, I was mourning the fact that my time as Mommy had come to an end. My children had grown up and had fled my little nest. I was totally crushed, completely bereft. I was a basket case of a grown up woman, weeping into my tomato sauce with no one left to cook for.

Well.

Times have changed.

My children are all on their own two feet, all are gainfully employed if not ensconced in a career.  All of them are financially independent.

So what.

In the past three days I have realized that all three are also emotionally independent. And to my great surprise, that’s just fine with me.

I’ll start with my oldest, my one daughter, my Kate. She is an extraordinary teacher who gives her all to her class. She took the kids on a two day field trip into the mountains of New Hampshire, complete with snowstorm.  She left her baby daughter at home with her husband, for the first time in Ellie’s nine months on earth.

And Kate was able to appreciate every minute of this special time with her students, even though she had left her baby girl behind. She watched her students grow, and learn, and take risks. And she came home to tell me all about each child, each step, each moment of growth. And she did it with tears in her eyes.

She is all grown up. My work here is done.

And yesterday I got a message from my baby boy, my youngest. It read: “What food recommendations do you have for the stomach flu?”

Poor kid had been sick with a Norovirus for 24 hours.  Naturally, I called him back and told him exactly what he should be doing.  Which was exactly what he was already doing.  He knew what he needed, but as he put it, “Sometimes I just like my Mommy to know that I’m sick.”

My work here is done.

And then there was the Facebook Message this morning from a pastor in the small town where my sons live. His status today was about how grateful he is to have my sons (MY SONS) in his life because of their talent, the joy that fills their lives, and their willingness to help others in the community.

My work here is so obviously DONE.

I am content. My children are not rich or famous or in possession of a lot of stuff. But they have made a difference.

I am a happy, serene, blissfully unemployed Mamma tonight.

(Good thing Ellie still needs to learn how to make ravioli.)

Chance Encounters


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

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

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

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

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

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

When our eyes met, the man quickly looked away.

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

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

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

“Thank you!” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He straightened up, and looked at me.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

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

“Michael,” he answered holding out his hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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