The Sound of Elementary School


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Ah, the magical sounds of elementary school in mid-December!  Such sweet music!  Truly.

Of course, I am not always able to appreciate the subtle loveliness of children’s voices in the week before the big vacation break.  I sometimes fail to appreciate the joy that they are sharing on the first day of Hannukah and a week before Christmas.

Sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, I find my own voice raised to scary levels as I desperately try to corral them long enough to walk down the hall to music.  There are moments, I must admit, when I am hard pressed to find the positives as 24 just-about-hysterical ten year olds attempt to work together to solve math problems in this sugar heightened time of year.

At times, it is all I can do to remain calm as I patiently repeat my mantra, “If you can hear my voice, clap once. If you can hear my voice, clap twice. If you can hear my voice, clap three times.”   At any other time of year, there is silence by the time I get to three.

Today I had to resort to, “If you can hear my voice, clap seventeen times and then stare at anybody who is still talking.”

Sigh.

But you know what? The joyful noise manages to penetrate through to me in spite of my hoarseness and my minor frustrations.

The joyful noise of happy, excited, well loved, well nourished children seeps into my ears and my heart and my soul, and I end my December days thinking, “I am so incredibly lucky to be here.”

Here are some of the sounds of our school in the past two days.

One of my little girls was dancing around in the meeting area, twirling and flinging her arms out with joy.  Her hair was flying, and her gorgeous turquoise eyes were gleaming. “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, she sang in a husky voice.  I was trying to gather the children for a math lesson at the time.   “Honey”, I said to her, “I can see that you’re excited for Christmas.”

“No, I’m not!” she replied as she twirled, “I’m Jewish!”

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Two little first graders were walking in from recess, holding hands.  Both were flushed with the cold, and both were singing. “On the First Day of Christmas, my chula gave to me….”  The tiny blonde waved at me with the hand that wasn’t holding her friend’s.  Her black haired, dark eyed friend grinned at me, and the song resumed, “A partridge inapin free!”

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And there is the sound of tapping, drumming, clanging, pinging that goes on all day as little restless bodies do their very best to contain their excitement and hold in the giddiness.  Tapping on the desk, drumming on the book, clanging the pen on the back of a chair.

They can’t help it.  Music is joy, and they are joyful.

Sometimes I want to smother that joy, just for a second. Just so I can get them to sit still while I hand out the math paper.

Then I think of the children in other places, where war is raging, or famine is rampant. I think of children who are sad, or scared, or lonely, or lost.

And I look out at the churning mass of December joy in front of me, and all I can do is sing.

“On the first day of Christmas, my chula gave to me…….”

Time For Some Serious Smiting


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I feel the need to write a post to God tonight. Or least a post about him. And his whereabouts.

I have been listening to the news again.  And I can’t help asking about God.

Where is He? Where the hell is He?

I’m not all that religious, really.  I don’t know if the God I am looking for is the one who was born in the manger, the guy with the long dark hair and soulful eyes. I’m not sure if the God I am waiting for is the one who Mohammed talked about, or the one who Buddha revered. I’m not sure if He’s the guy that my Jewish friends are praying to, or the one that that was once thought to live in the mountains or the God who lives in the trees.

Whatever.

I don’t have a preference, actually. I just want to see or hear from God himself.  I am in need of some Godly reassurance.

I mean, every time I read anything about God, he seems to be all about peace and harmony and forgiveness and love.  He seems to be the God of a reasonable life.

So, pardon me, but where in God’s name is God?

A bunch of psychopathic lunatics decide that, in the name of God, they will attack a school and massacre as many children as they can possibly massacre.  Seriously?  Hello, God, you out there?  You couldn’t send a lightning bolt for this?

A twisted angry man in Pennsylvania decides to get back at his ex wife by murdering her and her entire family and then killing himself for good measure?  Ah, yo?  Allah, you listening?  Where ARE you?

The world is seething with war, most of it waged in Your name.  You couldn’t make even a cameo appearance for this nonsense?

I read about the horrors that are happening in Syria, about the babies dying in droves as the men with the guns duke it out over who will control the money and the military.  I read about the actions of the twisted, demented maniacs who callously behead innocents in the name of Islam and then post the videos on YouTube.   I remember the images from Newtown.

And I can’t help but ask, Where in all of this sickness and death is the God of mercy?

Dear God/Allah/Buddah/Vishnu/Jesus/tree spirit/Zeus: if you’re out there (and believe me, I’m not saying you aren’t), can you please, please, please flex your mighty hand, and drop it with a gloriously resonant thwack onto the heads of all those who murder in your name?  I beseech, thee, O Holy Person In Charge, can you please, please, please use some of your Heavenly power to smite the living crap out of those who slaughter innocent children?  Can you please reach down from your place on the throne of eternity and squash the life out of every single human who thinks that it is acceptable to commit murder just to make a point or just to even out the pain or just to express his psychopathology?

God, you seem like a very sweet and caring soul.  Don’t you think this would be a really good time for you to part the slivery clouds and send forth your thunderous voice to the mortal souls below?

You might want to say something like this, if you get a chance to reach out to those who carry out these horrors.  You might say, “Cut the shit, all ye who act in my name. I am the God of death and pestilence and if you touch the hair of one more innocent child, I will fill your bowels with the molten lava of Vesuvius.  You commit these acts of the devil just one more time in MY name, and I will smite the crap out of every single one of you.  And I am NOT fooling around.”

I’d feel SO much better if you’d do that. Just this once.

In Memory of Sandy Hook


Last week our school practiced the “Lockdown” drill.  Kids were scared. I was scared. Everyone in the building hated that we had to do it.

But everyone pretended that knowing how to lock the door and turn off the lights might magically keep us safe if the worst ever happened.

It wouldn’t it.  Nothing we could do could keep us safe if the worst happened. And we all know that.

I wrote this post two years ago today, when I got home from school after learning about Sandy Hook. I’m reposting it today because every single word of it is still true, and still what I feel.

We can’t lock our children in classrooms to keep them safe.  We can’t legislate sanity or cure mental illness. We can’t eliminate anger and bitterness and obsessive hatred.  There is really only one logical answer, and no one wants to admit it.

Please read the words of a sad, angry, very frightened teacher, written through tears on the night of the Newtown massacre.

“They Trust Me”

Word Study


141209-cia-torture-report-1104a_09398f637fb46da2dd915ffd044a9259One of the fun things about teaching children to read and write is that we get to do what is called “word study”.  We look at the spelling, we break the word into its component parts, we think about Greek and Latin roots.  Its so fun!

I love Word Study because it helps the children to be more precise in the language that they use in writing and in speech.  Word Study lets me be very clear when I tell them that the word “like” means “to enjoy” or “to feel affection for”.  So, like, they shouldn’t, like, you know, like put it in front of, like, every other word in the sentence when they, like, tell you what happened during, like, the, like, French and Indian war.

Of course it is incredibly important for our young people to be very precise in the words that they use when they speak or write. Of course it is.

We wouldn’t want them to use misleading or euphemistic language when they grow up to become the leaders of the free world, now would we?

It has been an interesting few weeks for a teacher who engages in word study, let me tell you.  I was fascinated to read about the tragic events in New York, when a young black man was killed while walking in his own apartment building.  He was shot by an NYPD officer.  Oops, sorry, he wasn’t “shot”.  He died “due to the accidental discharge of a firearm.”   Gotcha.

It has been even more intriguing for a word study person like me to hear about the recently released torture report.  I mean, I thought that “torture” was a pretty clear idea.  Especially if you look at US law.  There’s a clear definition of torture and it pretty much means just what you’d think. It means inflicting severe physical or mental pain on someone under your control.

But as I listen to the guys who actually ordered it, condoned it, sanctioned it and believe in it, I am hearing about things like “EITs”.   They don’t say, “We tortured the guy until he told us what we wanted to hear”, they say  “He revealed valuable information after undergoing EITs”.   If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was a cosmetic procedure.

At the very, very least, they should be saying “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.  I think we all know how these techniques are “enhanced”.  They use processes like “rectal rehydration“.  And waterboarding (also known as “near drowning”).  Pretty damn enhanced, huh?

And lest you think I am simply anti Republican, let’s think about the drones that the current President is using to blast apart the bad guys in the dusty old middle east. Oops, pardon me.  Let’s think about the “UAV”s (“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”) that are dropping death onto the heads of terrorists and innocents alike.

You have to admit, it sounds much cleaner and much more moral to say that our government uses UAVs to neutralize a threat than it is to say that we used drones to kill a guy and his family.

It is much easier for us to feel good about ourselves when we tell the world that our EITs resulted in actionable intel than it is to say that we tortured a guy until he squealed and gave up his comrades.

I am not here to debate the morality of war, or the morality of torture, or the morality of dropping bombs from the sky on people who can’t strike back because the bomber is unmanned.  For me, as a teacher and a mother and a believer in the sanctity of human life, there is no debate.

What I am here to say is this:  If you are going to torture people and drop anonymous bombs on them and nearly drown them and shove water up inside them until they scream, at least have the courage to admit to what you are doing, and don’t try to hide behind the nuances of the English language. If you honestly believe that you are doing good and operating on the side of decency when you keep someone awake for 150 hours while he is chained naked to the ceiling, at least have the courage to say that you believe that sometimes it is morally right to torture.

Admit to your beliefs, admit to your actions, name them for what they are, and accept responsibility for carrying them out.

Thank you, Dad.


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My Dad loved to work with wood.  He told me that he loved the feel of the wood in his hands, and the look of the grain while he was working with it.

My Dad taught me how to refinish furniture.  We had an old maple dresser, a roughed up piece of furniture that Paul had used in his childhood.  I looked at it and saw the scratches and dents, and wanted to throw it out to buy a new one.  But Dad looked at it and saw treasure.  He showed me that the drawers had been made solid and strong, without a single nail or screw. He taught me the words “dovetail” and “mortise”.  He taught me that maple is one of the strongest, most durable woods, and that it is now so expensive that I’d never be able to buy it.

“Look,” he told me, pulling out the drawer, “You’ll get rid of this, and you’ll end up with particle board drawers and a laminate top. It won’t last ten years.”

We brought the old bureau into Dad’s garage, and he showed me how to strip it of its varnish, how to sand it smooth.  He taught me to use a “tack cloth” to remove the wood dust, and then the two of us stained the now gleaming wood.  I thought that we would put varnish on it, to protect it, but he told me that we should use wax instead.  So we waxed it, we smoothed it, we polished it.

It was beautiful.

i put it in my daughter’s room, and later in my sons’.  It was filled with pajamas and shirts and socks.  It had stickers applied, and wax dripped on it from various candles.  But it was still beautiful.  And sturdy.

My Dad was creative.  He used his love of wood to make beautiful gifts for his grandchildren.  When my boys were very small, Dad made them wooden trains.  One for each of them.  Every car was lovingly sanded and shaped and put together.  Every car was inscribed with the name of the little boy who owned it.  They used to lie on the living room floor, pushing those trains around mountains of pillows, using them to transport plastic “army guys”, letting them crash down the stairs.    I can see them now, two little tow headed boys with big green eyes, dressed in red pajamas, so deeply engrossed in their games that they don’t even see the Mother who stands there watching them with so much love.

My Dad is gone now.  There won’t be any more furniture refinished, or trains built, or sheds put up in the yard.  I miss him every single day, but I miss him most at Christmas.

So this year, as I was thinking about decorating for the holiday season, I picked up the wooden trains from where they had been resting on the living room floor.  They had been sitting, untouched, under the branches of a big old dragon tree, gathering dust. I brought them into the kitchen.  I wanted to clean them up, but I knew from Dad that I shouldn’t immerse them in water. Instead, I wiped them clean with a damp cloth, then rubbed every bit of them with lemon oil.  As the shine returned to the wood, I could see the grain in each piece.  I ran my fingers over the lovingly carved names, and put the trains together again.

I placed them on the shelf above my front door; a place of honor.  There they sit now, with a Christmas candle, and a basket of greens, and a pretty wooden sled that my Aunt Ann gave me years ago.

I am looking at them now. So sweet.  So well crafted. So filled with memories and with love.

I wonder what I will be able to create when it is my turn to love a grandchild.

Thank you, Dad!

Mea Culpa


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I know this is absurd. Last week one dog wrote a post, this week its the other dog.  But here’s the thing: this dog really has a great story.  I swear, I am NOT making any of this up.  Paul and I came home Monday night to find a mystery in our house.  A major mystery…..Sadie would like to explain what happened.

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Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading this post.  I am eager to confess my crimes.

I am a GOOD dog.  A very good dog.  I come home when I am called, even when I am outside on my own, off of my leash.  I lift my paw when someone says “paw”.  I only poop outside.

I rarely escape from the fence.

OK, there was that one time when the Master forgot to fully close the spot between the gate and the back steps.  I tried to ignore the gaping hole, but……Well.  Let us just say that my baser instincts prevailed.  I got out.  I took my partner, the Beautiful Dope, with me.

The Master and Mistress were most unhappy.

I have not escaped since.

I am a Good, Good Dog.

And that is why I am now so wracked with guilt.  I must confess. I must tell my story.

It was a lovely, sunny day.  The yard was warm.  The lovely snow had melted into the earth.  The Beautiful Dope (he calls himself “The Wolf King”, but I know better) yipped and barked and asked me to go outside with him.  We went out onto the deck, and down into the fenced in yard.  Ah, the sun was sweet!

We did what dogs do on lovely days. We walked around the fence, smelled some old pee, put down some new pee, sniffed the wind, barked a little at the leaves and the grass.  It was wonderful.  After a while, I found a place under one of the bushes where I had dug up all of the grass back in the summer.  I sniffed, I dug a bit, I peed a few times.  I decided to go under the droopy bush for a while.

Aaah. Such pleasure.

I laid in the soil……um…mud….for a while.  It felt very soothing.  After a bit, I came out from under the bush.  My fur was wonderfully thick and coated.  I felt fabulous.

I headed into the house for a drink of water.  Up the deck steps, in through the little doggie door, across the dining room and into the kitchen.  I took a delightful cool drink, then did what doggies do.

I shook my head.

Brrrrrrrppppppp!  The sound of mud droplets hitting the floor was like music to my ears.   I wandered around the living room, shaking my head as I went.   Brrrrrrrrpppppp!  Such a wonderful sound!

I climbed up onto the leather couch and had a satisfying nap.  The mud that encrusted my ear and neck crumbled onto the sofa and pattered onto the floor. I barely noticed.

I am a dog.  We like mud.

And then the day moved on.  It began to get dark.  The Beautiful Dope started to make noises about dinner. “I wanna eat, I wanna eat, I wanna eat”, he whined on and on.

“Soon”, I told him. “The Master and Mistress will be home soon.”

It hit me like a thunderbolt.

Gahhhhh!  I was suddenly in a panic.  The Mistress would be home soon!  The MISTRESS! The one who constantly cleaned the floor!  She would be home soon!  She would be furious if she saw the mud!

She would be horrified by my filthy, clumpy fur!!!

Oh, dear Lord, what should I do!!!!????!!!!

Let me repeat: I am a GOOD dog!  Unlike some dogs I could name, I am never in trouble!

I began to pace around in circles, leaving more mud droplets behind me.

What would the Mistress want me to do?, I asked myself.  I pictured her, my dear Mistress. I pictured her brushing my thick, black fur, and calling me, “beautiful girl”.  I got a little misty eyed, I must admit.  My Mistress is kind, and gentle and loving. Unless I’m really filthy.  Then she gets kind of……..Well.  There was no need to think about it.

I gulped.  I could feel the fur on my shoulder crusting and clumping. I could hear the clods of dirt hitting the floor.

Oh, what should I do!?

Suddenly, it came to me. If the Mistress was home, she would tell me to “Take a bath”.   I knew that’s what she’d say.  I knew it.

My duty was clear to me.

Slowly, reluctantly, I made my way down the hall.  I went into the bathroom.  I sighed.  I do not like baths.  I do not like the water soaking into my fur, falling into my eyes, making me smell like horrible flowery shampoo.

And yet i knew my duty.

I used my big square head to slide the shower curtain open. Ugh!  A big smudge of mud was left on the curtain.  The Mistress would be displeased!  Red Alert!!!!

I stepped into the tub (oh, man, I hated the cold wet feeling on my paws…!.) I tried to remember what should happen next. Ah, yes, the water should go on!  But how…..? I wasn’t sure.  I tried to use my head, but it was no use.  I rubbed my head all around the faucet, and on the wall of the tub, but no water came out.  I did manage to scrape some of the muck off, which I could tell based on the big brown mud splotches on the tub wall.

I did my best! I tried to get the mud off of me, no matter how wonderful it felt on my skin.

Have I mentioned that I am a very, very good dog?

I turned around and around in the tub, hoping to get myself clean. I did my best.  I did!  I left huge muddy pawprints on the bottom of the tub, to match the big smears on the wall.  I began to wish I had thumbs; maybe then I’d be able to turn the water on!

When it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get any cleaner, I climbed out of the tub.  I did what any wet dog would do at that moment.  I stepped into the hall and shook as hard as I could possibly shake.

Holy mudballs!!!!  The entire wall was now covered in mud splots, the floor was coated in tiny pieces of dirt and mud, the tub was marked by dog-face shaped mud swipes.  And the Mistress would be home any minute…….

What could I do?!   I heard the sound of the car in the driveway.  “Help me!”, I called to the beautiful dope, “The Mistress will find my mud blobs everywhere!”

“I wanna eat, I wanna eat, I wanna eat”, he answered in his usual articulate way.  I do love him, but in a time of crisis , he is somewhat lacking.

The Mistress came into the garage, and began to climb the stairs to the kitchen.  I heard her call out to us in greeting.  The Beautiful Dope raced toward her with his tongue hanging out.  Nothing bothers him, truly.

I, on the other hand, was wracked with guilt.  I lowered myself to the floor, so that my belly was dragging and my head was down. I made my eyes as big and round as I possibly could.  The Mistress did not notice.

I waited.

Within a very short time, I heard her voice, filled with disbelief.

“What the……? Where did all this mud come from?” I heard her entering the bathroom.  The shower curtain slid open. “What?!!  Who….?  Sadie?  Did you take a BATH?!”

I crawled forward, wagging my filthy tail.  “I am a good dog”, I whined to my dear Mistress.  “I am a VERY good dog!”

A Soft Morning


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This post will be brief, but I need to share it.

I woke up this morning, this day-after-Thanksgiving morning, and looked out into the snowy woods.  The sun is rising and there are puffy, gentle clouds floating out beyond the tips of the branches. The sky is the lightest, palest blue, with a touch of gold where the rising sun is painting the bellies of the little clouds.

It is a soft morning. I slept long and deeply, and dreamed of the ocean.

Yesterday I saw all three of my children, and two who are loved by those children, making them also mine. My daughter handled the hosting, making a flawless feast in her cozy old house. My kids were together, and we were there with them. They love each other, a lot. They love us. The torch was passed happily and easily.

It is a soft, soft morning.

I watched some news this morning.  Two little boys, about the ages of my students, were buried in five feet of snow in New York State.  Police and family worked frantically for hours to find them, not knowing that the plow had come and covered them as they played.

At 2am they were located, pulled out, rescued. Alive, and well, and with a story to tell for the rest of their lives. What a soft morning.

In Ferguson, Missouri a community group got together to cook and serve a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those affected by the protests and riots and angry violence.  The TV news showed a black woman about my age serving up big piles of squash and mashed potatoes to young white people who were smiling and thanking her. A stout white woman with puffy blond hair was serving fresh rolls and slices of turkey to a handsome black teenaged boy with dark framed glasses and a blue hoodie.  He was smiling and pointing to the part of the turkey that he liked the best.

They called it a “family dinner”.  They were supporting each other, taking care of each other, sharing good things with each other.

Never doubt that “food is love”.

What a soft morning!

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Now its off to complete the last 9,000 words for my NaNoWriMo effort!

Fennel and Figs


I love Thanksgiving for all that it represents. I love the idea of being grateful; most of us have so many blessings in our lives. How lovely to have a holiday that helps us to recognize them all!

I love the history behind the holiday.  It makes me feel grateful to think about the Puritans celebrating that first harvest.  And whether or not their Wompanoag neighbors were invited or simply showed up makes little difference to me. I love the idea that on that first harvest celebration, all of the people in the area were happy to have had a successful growing season.  I love the fact that this small celebration happened before the outbreak of war between the two groups. Whatever else it was, the first Thanksgiving was a peaceful celebration.

Thanksgiving means a celebration of bounty, of luck, of health, of our ability to survive in harsh conditions.  I love it for all of that symbolism. Even though I am able to feed my family just by going to the farmer’s market or the store, I still feel as if I am one with the rugged settlers of the past who carved out a new life for their families in a dangerous wilderness.

And I love Thanksgiving because Abe Lincoln was the one who made it a real holiday. I love that it gained its status as a national day of celebration out of the President’s desire to recreate a sense of forgiveness and gratitude among us. After our four years of war with each other, after all of those thousands of deaths, I love the idea that this holiday was created to help us to celebrate our continued unity.

Mostly, though, I love Thanksgiving because it is so uniquely made of a mix of so-called “American tradition” and all of the multi-national traditions we’ve brought to the day since 1863.

For me, Thanksgiving will always make me think of figs and dates; those beautiful Mediterranean sweets were always a part of our after dinner ritual on Thanksgiving.  Before the pie, before the sour cream coffee cake made my Nana, we would sit with a big bowl of perfectly ripe fruit, a bowl of nuts and smaller dishes of those luscious dates and figs.

Thanksgiving is full of memories of special family foods, family rituals, family traditions. In my family, the meal used to start with turkey soup, and then moved on to big platters of ravioli.  My Sicilian Grandfather wouldn’t eat turkey, so we had ravioli and meatballs.  Then the traditional meal of turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, squash.  But there was always a dish of fennel on the table, too.  Lovely, crisp fennel that we would dip into a little bowl of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Just thinking of those meals makes me miss my grandparents so much.  Grampa, my Sicilian Grampa, could crack two walnuts in one hand, with no nutcracker. I thought that was the greatest feat ever.  And he would eat roasted chestnuts with us, letting us sip his red wine as we did.  He would eat those plump sweet figs, and talk to me about the fig tree in his yard in Augusta, Sicily, when he was a boy.

And I remember Nana, all 84 pounds of her, eating her Thanksgiving dinner at the big table at my Mom’s house.  She would take dainty bites of everything, from the turkey soup to the pumpkin pie, commenting on all of it as she did.

I will never, ever forget the holiday of 2001, not long after the terrible attack of 9/11.  At that point, Nana was losing her hearing and often simply faded out during large group conversation.  On that day, as about 30 of us sat around Mom’s long table eating, drinking wine and talking, Nana suddenly looked up from her plate and said, “This is so delicious!  I bet that Osama wouldn’t have been so mean if he could have had food like this!”

It was hilarious. We all imagined the US Army ordering up an airdrop of eggplant parmigiana.  What a simplistic idea!  And yet…..there was something so poignant about it for me; Nana realizing and expressing that “food is love” and that if only we could all be nurtured well, maybe we would be more peaceful. Maybe the world would be kinder, if only we all had enough to eat, enough to feel nurtured.

Thanksgiving in our house also meant Liz’s birthday.  My sweet baby sister Liz, my funny, smart, loving, amazing sister Lizzie; her birthday was always on Thanksgiving, or a day or to to either side.  We always stuck a candle in a pumpkin pie, and she was always so good natured about it.  Thanksgiving meant giving Liz her presents, singing to her, hugging her and telling her that we loved her.

I love this holiday because it is about repeating old themes.  Repeating recipes and birthdays and jokes and traditions.  The same foods on the same serving platters, with the same faces gathered around the table, sometimes telling the same stories.  I picture my Dad, seated at the head of the table.  Jovial, warm, funny, pouring the wine and telling stories.  Complimenting Mom on another job well done. My Dad.

But then enough time has gone by, and the faces around the table have changed.  Babies have grown up, grandparents and parents are gone.  The table is different, the platters are new, the wine glasses are from a different set.

This year we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at the new home of our daughter and son-in-law. It feels so very different from all of those celebrations of the past.

But you know what?

There will be fennel, and there will be figs.   And we will remember.

The Wolf King


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Author’s note:  My 9 year old dog got out through an open fence gate yesterday. He spent the next 14 hours roaming the woods and yards in our neighborhood, barking at everything that moved.  We did not sleep.  I’m too tired to tell his story, so these are his words.  I’m just typing for him before I start baking pumpkin breads by way of apology to the neighbors.

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It all started innocently enough.  The Man Who Walks Me was working around the yard, as he often does on weekends.  The Woman Who Feeds Me had gone out in her car, as usual on a Saturday.  There was a Stranger Man working around the house, and my partner and I were on full alert.  We did the usual House Protection Routine of barking, shedding, drooling and wagging our tails furiously.  It was exhausting.

I took a short nap on my leather couch.  Eventually, Stranger Man went away (after more barking, drooling, shedding and wagging) and Woman Who Feeds came back with many bags of food.  She did not give me any of this food.

I noticed that I needed to go outside to relieve my bladder, so I whined at the slider door that goes out to the deck and into the prison yard, where I was expected to pee within the fence.  Man Who Walks Me let me out and I went down the stairs.

And I saw it: the gate to the prison stood open!!!!  I didn’t hesitate. There was no time to alert my partner.  I took off running. I was free!!   I dashed into the woods behind the prison yard, stopping to pee on several tree stumps and one rotten log.  I lifted my nose and immediately picked up the scent of squirrel.

I am a hound.  Such skills are my birthright.  I raced through the layers of fallen leaves, following the delicious scents of squirrel and freedom.  I bayed in delighted!

My primitive cry of freedom must have alerted the neighbors that I was out, because soon I saw Woman Who Walks Baby Hound in her yard.  I rushed toward her, but I am no fool.  I have done this gate escape trip many times before, and I know all of the human tricks to recapture me. Baby Hound was tethered to the Woman, as usual, but I knew that she was using him to lure me closer.  I danced around him, barking and calling.  “Escape!” I told him.  “Wait for the gate to be open!  Freedom! Freedom!!”   Woman Who Walks Baby Hound was speaking in a sweet voice, trying to trick me with her gentle tone.

I was not fooled.  I stayed exactly two inches from her fingertips and when she lunged toward me, I jumped away and raced back to the woods.

I was too smart for her! I was too fast for her!  As I flew over fallen branches I called out to Baby Hound, “Look for your chance and seize it! Freeeeeeeeeeedoooooooommmmmmmm!”

For most of the day I wandered from yard to yard.  I eluded capture by another Woman, who foolishly tired to lure me with a bowl of cat kibble.

My enemies are not worthy of me.

I spent a long time near the house where the food is kept.  Woman Who Feeds Me came out a few times and pretended to be ignoring me as she picked up the mail or walked around the garden.  I was too wily for her, though!  I stayed one foot behind her the whole time, stalking her silently.  I stayed close, just in case she dropped a piece of Milk Bone from her pocket.  She walked into the open garage, no doubt hoping that I would follow, but I was wise to her.  “So long, sucker!” I barked to her as she entered the house.  She closed the door very loudly for some reason.

The Man Who Walks Me tried to capture me, too.  He is my favorite human because he always scratches my ears and my belly and he is a soft touch for treats.  He lets me stand right beside him when he prepares food, so that I get everything that hits the floor.  If I was going to let anybody recapture me, it would be him.  There would probably be some ham as a reward.

But I was not yet ready to give up my freedom.

The humans even sent my partner, Sadie, outside.  They thought she could convince me to turn myself in. “Hey”, she said, in her usual calm way. “Come on in the house.  If you obey them, they let you out whenever you want. Haven’t you noticed that I am allowed to poop in the woods, without a leash?”  She was pretty persuasive, I have to admit.  She reminded me of the cookies in the house, and the fire, and my beloved leather couch.

But I had tasted freedom. I had tasted the joy of digging in the soft dirt under the bushes.  I had delighted in the smell of dead possum, a smell which for some reason never appears in the house. I couldn’t give up now.  I jumped on Sadie playfully, and bit her ear to tell her that I loved her. “No, my friend”, I told her. “I must live out my destiny!”  She looked at me sadly with her big brown eyes.  “Godspeed!” she barked, as she turned to obey the voice of Woman Who Feeds Me.

The sun began to set, and it was getting colder.  I lay on the grass in front of our house.  I was proud. I was fierce.  I was a sentinel, keeping the castle safe from intruders.  No chipmunk, no mouse, no mole would get past my careful watch.  The humans were inside, safe and warm.  No doubt they felt more secure, knowing that I was on guard duty.

When night fell, I found myself freezing.  I shivered in the darkness, but I would not relent.  I decided to stay warm by running through the woods, visiting every yard over and over and over again, while singing my song of freedom.  It may have been the lack of food or the intense cold, I’m not sure, but before too long, I began to see myself as a wolf.  As the King of the Wolves! My voice changed, and my barking grew more and more feral until at last I lifted my head and howled into the night sky.

In fact, I howled every sixty seconds all night long!  It was glorious!

How safe the Humans must feel, I thought. The Wolf King is on duty!

At last, though, my strength began to fail me.  My sciatica was acting up, and the smell of squirrel was starting to make me nauseous.  The sun came up slowly, and I knew that it was time to turn myself in.  I made my way slowly through the still open gate, up the stairs to the slider door.  I gave two sharp yips, sounding helpless and weak, no longer the Wolf King.  Within ten seconds, Man Who Walks Me had opened the door.  There was food in my dish, and fresh water in my bowl!  I saw with relief that no one was seated on my couch. My favorite pillow was waiting for me.

Man Who Walks Me must have been pleased to see me. I think he said something nice about my mother, because the last thing I heard before I drifted off to sleep was “Son of a bitch”.

I can’t wait for my next adventure.

How To Tell If You’re a Teacher


There are “teachers” and then there are TEACHERS.

I’m lucky enough to work mostly with the latter. You can tell who we are, even if you don’t know us well.  We are the ones who are up and blogging at 6AM because let’s face it, there’s no one else around to talk to and we are gulping our coffee so we can get to the 7:15 meeting.

We are the ones wearing comfortable pants because today will be one of those sitting-on-the-floor-wit- the-math-groups days and we don’t that gracefully in either a skirt or (shudder) skinny jeans.

You can tell who we are by the giant bags that we carry around, pulling our spines out of joint so we can respond to all 24 writing journals when we get home.

We have baggy eyes, and if you talk to us, you will understand why.

Sometimes we dream that we are cooking huge vats of pasta sauce and every time we turn around, another one of our students has appeared, so we just keep adding more.    Sometimes we dream that we are trying desperately to get the kids to quiet down and come with us because the room is on fire and we are the only one who sees it.

And sometimes we look all pale and puffy eyed because last night we kept dreaming of the best way to teach long division to kids who can’t recall the multiplication tables!  Over and over, dreams of singing the nines table, tapping out the eights, making posters of the sixes.  There was a grand piano in there somewhere, too, and a woman dressed in a tree costume (luckily, I don’t think it was me.)

So if you happen to see a puffy eyed, wild haired, stoop shoulder crooked old lady walking around muttering “seven times eight IS…..”, just smile at her and wish her well.

Tonight she may dream she’s fighting in the French and Indian War.