A Quarter of a Century


It was March 30, 1990.  It was a cold day, raw and wet, the way that early spring in Massachusetts so often feels.

I remember that Paul had gone to work in the morning, and that I met him later in the day.  I got my little girl dressed.  My beautiful first born, my sweet Katie, my little girl.  I packed her little pink backback.  Snacks, a juice box, a coloring book and crayons, paper so that she could draw.  Two or three little books.

We got in the car to drive the hour or so that it would take for us to get to the lawyer’s office.

I was pregnant.  About twenty weeks. I was excited, tired, a little bit anxious.  This was a big day for our young family!

I parked the car, took my baby girl by the hand, carrying her backpack and my purse.  I put a hand on my belly, knowing that this day was an investment for the baby boy I carried as much as it was for the little girl who skipped along the sidewalk by my side.  We walked into the lawyer’s office. I remember feeling awkward, off balance, a little bit giddy.

I remember the long polished table, the pages and pages of documents. I remember being mostly aware of Katie, of hoping that she’d stay quiet. I remember her chatting, laughing, showing me her pictures. I remember her bright spirit filing up the room.  I remember signing, and and signing and signing again. I remember glancing at Paul, my nerves probably showing in my anxious smile.

And then I remember that it was done.  We were officially home owners.

We’d done it.  We had signed a mortgage.

We went to the new house, where Paul shook up the bottle of champagne that I was dying to sip after 20 weeks of abstinence, and let it fly off the deck and into the woods. I remember Katie laughing. 10928170_10205765881363753_4035390159804004719_n

The details are fading now, but the feelings are still there.  The thoughts and reactions, the gulping sense of “Oh, my God….”, the excitement as I looked out at OUR trees, OUR woods, OUR yard.

This little house, this modest place in this struggling town, has held and cherished so much that is the best part of my life. My children learned to read here, learned to ride bikes, learned to set the table, learned to make pasta here. This is the home where we hosted our first family Christmas party.  This where they went Trick or Treating, where they found their first Lady Slipper, where they walked our first dog.

This is where they held birthday parties. Where they got ready for their first dates.

This is home.

Twenty five years have gone by now.  So many old trees have come down, so many new plants have been added. The deck has been rebuilt; my beloved hot tub has been added. The basement, once a cold damp storage room, has seen a wood stove, a pellet stove, bookshelves, a big TV. It has housed too many hockey games, and it has hosted an entire heavy metal band. Now it holds books, and games and a not-very-much-used elliptical machine.

Twenty five years have gone by.  Where I was once the pregnant mother, now it my daughter who is awaiting her first child. She is due on the very same day, twenty five years later, that I was told to expect her younger brother.

That little girl is a woman now.  She is almost a Mom in her own right.

The house needs work, the yard has changed, the latest dogs are getting older.

A quarter of a century has passed.  Everything has changed.  Nothing has changed at all.

A Day in the Life


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It’s pretty hard to be a public school teacher in the US right now.

We are in the middle of administering the annual state tests here in Massachusetts.  You know, the ones that are supposed to assess a fifth grader’s ability to read, but really assess his ability to read ninth grade level materials and then write a pithy, on point analysis in one sitting.

Yep.  Those awesome tests.

The ones that are beginning to count more and more toward our teacher evaluations. The ones that help to decide which schools are successful and which aren’t.

The tests that use words like “spectrometry” and “minutiae” and “chirring cicadas”.   For ten year olds to decipher.

I don’t feel very good about myself during these tests.   You know why?

Because I have to make kids sit still for 5 hours in a row.

Because I have to tell them that I can’t explain what the word means.

Because I have to hope that they will remember to “include evidence from the text” when they compare the article on scientific discoveries in a far distant part of the world to a poem about nature.

I don’t feel good about myself on test days.

This year, I don’t feel particularly good about myself as a teacher at all.  I am aware of my age.  I am acutely aware of my obsolescence.   My outdated pedagogy.   I feel a little bit useless.

I am sad.

At the end of these long, tiring days, when my back aches and my legs feel weak, I walk slowly to my car, wondering if I have done a decent job today.  I think about the kids, so young and fresh, so eager for the energy and life of youth.  I worry.  Am I failing them because I am too old to connect with their lives?  Am I failing them because I don’t know the latest research on reading comprehension?  Am I too cranky? Too worn down?  Is the constant struggle to meet the standards taking away the soul of my classroom?  Do they wake up in the early mornings wishing that they could stay home and avoid me and my lessons?

I don’t know.

I am sad.

Then I get to my classroom, in the early morning light.  I turn on the Smartboard, move the trash barrels into place. I gather yesterday’s worksheets from the “hand in” bin.  I boot up my computer, make a morning message that pokes fun at the testing. “MCAS”, I write. “Mango Chocolate Awesome Sauce”.  I put out the morning work, file corrected work, turn the compost.

I’m still sad.

This isn’t why I became a teacher.  To make children fill in bubble sheets.  To make them “restate the prompt” and “find evidence from the text.”   I am not here because I love data or because I think its a good idea to measure each child’s ability to copy the writing style of a so called “educational expert”.

Still.  I am a professional.  I do what is expected of me.  I greet the kids, make sure that each has a freshly sharpened number 2 pencil.  I remind them to bring in snack, to have a book on hand.  I chat with the nervous ones, hug the tearful ones.  Two are clearly sick; I hand them tissues, remind them that they can get water when they need it.  I run a short, quiet “morning meeting”, then get them all into their seats.  I remind them that I believe in them.  I remind them that we will have some “math fun” when all of this is over.

I hand out the answer booklets.  And the test booklets.  And the erasers and highlighters.  I read the directions. “Cheating in any form is forbidden.  You may not use dictionaries.  Or cell phones.”  I take a breath.  I remind them to “Make a dark mark” and to “erase completely any mark that you wish you change”.

I am sad.

As the kids settle in to take the test, lollipops or Jolly Ranchers arranged in neat rows on their desks, I click on my email.

And I read this, coming from a colleague whose son was in my class a couple of years ago:

Hi there,
I tried to find you this morning to let you know that you will be reviewed by the MCAS scorers this summer.
The 7th grade long comp prompt was:
write about a teacher/coach who has made an impact on your life…..my son wrote about you:)
He was bragging that he wrote 10 paragraphs…..
Thought this would make your day.
xo
Wow.
This didn’t make my day, my friend. This made my week. My month.
This made me stand up taller as I walked around my classroom.
This reminded me that sometimes it is enough to love the kids and love my job. That sometimes I am doing a really good job just because I am able to make a connection to a struggling learner who isn’t sure that he has what it takes.
I am no longer sad.
I am so incredibly happy that this wonderful young man remembers me as someone who helped him to grow.
This is why I teach.
Thank you, my friend! You’ve given me the courage to keep it up for a little bit longer!

Islamists?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t understand it.

I find myself in a strange and sad place.

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

Power


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I’ve been thinking about power lately.

I’ve been watching the news, and reading about the events in the world around me.  I’ve been wondering a bit about the many situations where the power seems so unequal.  The places where one side seems to have so much more authority and power and control than the other.

For example, the US is far more powerful, economically, politically and militarily than Israel. And yet. Israel seems to have the upper hand in the relationship between them. Netanyahu speaks; Obama listens.

Funny.

And I think about friends of mine who are the adults, the ones with the jobs, the people who pay the mortgage. And yet.  Their tiny squalling children seem to have all the power in the relationship. They give in to ever cry, live in fear of every complaint.  That is real power!

I look outside my window. Winter is a waning, fading force, yet it seems to hold complete control over our moods.  That’s power.

I look out at my suet feeder, and I watch the tiny chickadees chasing away the big strong bluejays.  Such assurance! Such strength! Such pure unadulterated power.

So where does this “power” come from?

I don’t know.

Maybe it comes from a sense of self-respect.  I have noticed that people who respect themselves tend to have an innate sense of their own worth.  That must give a person some internal power.

Or maybe it comes from an inner poise, an ability to control the sharpest and most tender of emotions.  Maybe true power comes from an inner core of calm that holds a person erect and upright, even in the face of the most outrageous pressures.

I don’t know.

But I’m thinking of trees.  Trees that I have watched for many years as they bend and sway in the wind.  Trees that bow down low, as if they are giving in, when the worst storms come raging through.  I am thinking of how I have seen those trees stand back up again, straight and tall and incredibly strong, after the latest tempest has blown itself out and died.

And I’m thinking of people in my life. People who somehow withstand the very worst that the universe can throw at them.  People, young and old, who maintain that sense of self, that inner core, that poise and calm, no matter how unreasonable the pressures that assault them.

I can only offer my praise, my sense of amazement and my most pitiful attempts to lend a hand.

I don’t know where you get that power, my dear ones.  I only know that I am in awe of it, and of you.

The Eyes of the King


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I am the Wolf King.  I am a mighty, mighty hunter.

I fear no thunder, no fireworks, no Boom Monster in the cold winter night.

I am the Wolf King!   Hear my howl!

Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me know all about my howl. They have heard me on the nights when I’ve escaped, pursuing the elusive squirrel through the woods. They have reveled in the sound of my howl as I called to the moon from exactly two feet outside their open bedroom window.

And they know my howl when I wake up in the night and I want to walk from the living room to the bedroom. When I want to travel the long lonely way down the hall.

They hear. And they obey.

There was a time when I owned the hall.  In my youth, I could walk up and down from the bedrooms to the living room with barely a pause.  I was bold, in my youth.  I loved to hear the tickety-clicky sound of my fabulous toenails on the laminate flooring. There were nights when I strolled back and forth all night long, patrolling the darkness, the sound of my toenails proclaiming that all was safe.

But then, everything changed.  The Wolf King was humbled.

It all started when Man Who Walks me decided to add a device called “Fan” to the room where the Dust Eater lives. Naturally, I already have an innate aversion to the Dust Eater.

I am a dog.  I sometimes shed.

OK, in the warmth of spring, I shed enough to knit a couple of new dogs every other day.  But still.  I do not appreciate the times when Woman Who Feeds me swoops down on my resting place with the screaming suction of the Dust Eater.  As that evil wand devours every bit of dust, dirt and (sadly) my butt hairs, I whimper in fear.

I do not like the Dust Eater.

But when Fan joined him, and stood in the doorway to the Dust Eater’s room, I knew that I had met a new enemy.

You see, as the years have passed, the mighty gleaming eyes of the Wolf King have grown somewhat dim.

I can’t see shit in the dark anymore.

And so one gloomy night, as I wandered down the hall, I heard the whirring growl of the fan suddenly coming at me from the left.  I turned my head, but all I saw were shadows.

I jumped about 4 feet in the air.

And I mean all four of my feet. In. The. Air.

Now that was a howl for the record books.

And as I came crashing down again, the tickety-clicky turned into “screeeeeek” and my ass went left while my head went right.

Ouchie.

Since that fateful night (which I think of as “Attack of the Killer Fan”), I am no longer the brave protector of the hallway.  I no longer patrol all night.

Now I fall asleep on the comfortable cushions of my couch. I snooze and snuggle in the blankets that Man Who Walks Me always drapes over my shoulders.  I fart and twitch and do all those wonderful doggie things that my kind enjoy as we rest.

But around 5 AM, every single day, the heart of the Wolf King awakens. I rise from my comfortable bed, aware that Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me are far down the hall. They need my protection!  Plus, there’s an orthopedic dog bed in their room.  I place my front paws on the laminate floor.  My eyes try to adjust, but the floor seems to have no color, no solidity, no firmness.  What if I slip again?  Me no likey the ouchies!

I leave my butt on the couch, and my front paws go sliding around on the floor. I frown, I shake my head, making my ears flap-flap-flap.  I try to howl, but only a pathetic whimper emerges.

Slowly, shakily, I get to my feet and tickety-clicky across the living room.  I stand at the entrance to the hall.  All is darkness. All is shadow.  The Dust Eater sleeps, but I cannot tell if the Fan has returned.  I take two steps forward….click, clicky…..I whimper “heeeeeeew”.  I pause.

All is shadow.  I reach deep inside, to where the spirit of the Wolf King hides.  I call to him.

I take another step….tick…tickety….I whimper louder……”HEEEEEEEEEW”.

This goes on for about an hour

……ticky….click…..heeeeeeemmmmmmm…..clicky….tick…tick…….h’wwwweeeem……click….tick……HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

At last, at last, my cry of desperation is heard.  Man Who Walks Me emerges from the darkness, hair askew, pajamas sagging.  He mumbles something gruffly, and flicks on the hall light.

Hey! Look at that!  No monsters, no fans, no slippery icy surface!   It’s our hallway!

I lift my head and focus my Wolf King eyes.  Proudly I saunter down the hall, tickety-clicky,tickety-clicky,tickety-clicky.  I sink into my comfy orthopedic bed.

I consider howling, but think better of it when I hear the sounds coming from Woman Who Feeds Me.

All is well for another night.

Letting it go


OK. Let.It.Go.

OK. Let.It.Go.

I just had a birthday.

At my age, this is a big deal.

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

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

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

So birthdays are definitely a time for reflection.

Last weekend, I reflected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time has gone on.  I had a birthday.

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

Time to Let It Go.

Is This Too Creepy?


My daughter is pregnant, expecting her first child.  I spend time with her every day, because we commute to work together.  So I hear her talking about the fears that she has already about hurting her baby.  “I can’t eat soft cheese”, she tells me “Because it might have listeria.”  She is avoiding some fish (mercury), all cold cuts (listeria), alcohol and caffeine (obviously), hot baths, salicylic acid, ibuprofin, face wash with chemicals……..

I smile inside, and a little piece of me thinks, “Oh, brother!”   But then I think about how intensely and completely parents love their children, how overwhelming and overarching that love is, how immediately we understand that we would give up all of our comforts, our routines, our favorite foods….that we would give up our own lives in a heartbeat if it would protect our babies.

And I think about my own babies.  I think about how much I still love them, even after all these years. Even after raising them to adulthood. Even though I can’t really remember the details of my pregnancies with them.  Even though they are no longer a part of my day to day life.

I still feel them in my heart, in my soul. I feel them in my DNA.

I am still acutely aware of their existence in the world.

And I am acutely aware of their absence in my home.

When my firstborn was about a year or so old, we left her for the first time overnight.  We had a party at our house, and we had fun.  I loved being able to socialize and to relax.

But I missed her so much, it was if one of my limbs was suddenly missing. I felt that phantom pain in my heart.  “Only 14 more hours,” I told myself as I went to bed that night, the first night in over a year when I’d been separated from my child.  The first time in more than two years, if you counted the months when she’d lived within me. “I can do it. Only 14 more hours.”

As the years went by, and my children grew, I learned to last more than a day. I learned to live without them for a week.  A month.  A semester.

But here’s the funny thing: even after all this time, I still get to a certain point where I begin to crave my children like an addict craves a drug.

I get to the point where I HAVE to see them, hug them, assure myself that they are OK.  I need to feed them, I need to ask about their lives. I need to hear their laughter.

I need to touch them.

Is that really creepy?

See why I miss them?

See why I miss them?

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Three Little Words


I wake up thinking of three little words.  Those simple, familiar words that can make my heart sing.

I haven’t heard those words in such a long time. My heart is cold, and heavy.  I yearn to hear them, just one more time.

Time goes by, day after day slipping past, one exactly like the next.

I go through my routine, day after weary day, barely thinking as I carry out each monotonous task.  I make the coffee, butter the toast, wrap in my heavy coat and scarf, and head out the door. My husband moves through his parallel routine, the two of us barely speaking as the grey light of dawn leaks through the heavy curtains.

I endure the familiar, frustrating commute, my nerves frayed and ragged.

The day drags on, and my heart is increasingly heavy.

I gaze out the window of my classroom.  I draw in a ragged breath, and I sigh.

I miss those words.  I miss them so much.

There was a time when I took those three little words for granted.  A time, not so very long ago, when I barely acknowledged them.

Those three magical, familiar, comforting words.

I shiver, pulling my sweater close.  Oh, what wouldn’t I give now to hear those three delicious words?  I wouldn’t take them for granted now! I wouldn’t ignore them, or take them as simply my due.

No.

If I could only hear those precious words spoken softly today!  If I could only hear them again, my joy would be boundless. I would fill the room with laughter.  I would throw my arms wide and embrace the world!

If only I could hear those beautiful words again.

“Hazy, hot and humid.”

The Monster in Our House


 

I am alert, awaiting the Monster.

I am alert, awaiting the Monster.

There is a Monster at our house.

On cold, dark winter nights, he pounces and the deck BOOMs and the foundation shakes. He must have enormous jaws because sometimes I feel them snap so hard that I’m pretty sure the walls are going to crack.

I do not know where he lurks in the warmer months. I assume he hibernates in the woods. Maybe he moves to Canada.

But as the temperatures fall and the ice threatens, the Boom Monster emerges.  I can sense him.  I can smell him in the dark.

I am a good dog, as you know.

I am loyal, and obedient.  When I sense the approach of the Boom Monster, I do my best to protect my Master and Mistress.  I try to warn them of the danger.

Usually they are sound asleep when the Evil One approaches.  So I know that it is my duty to alert them.

I do this by panting as loudly as possible from the safety of my nice warm doggy bed.  Alas, the Master and Mistress are aging.  (I can tell this from the graying of the fur around their heads).  They do not hear as well as they once did.

They usually just keep snoring.

I raise the volume of my panting.  I rise from my cozy bed to stand over them. Sometimes the Master wakes up when I pant 500 breaths a minute into his face.  The Mistress usually just rolls over.

If the panting has not woken them, I move to step two.

I am a good dog.  I desperately want to protect my humans.

I add some drooling to my panting.  I make sure that it drips directly onto the Master’s nose.

At this point, the Master usually reaches out one arm to pat me.  I shudder and shake violently, determined to arouse him.  He mumbles, “Good girl, good dog.”

I know I am a good dog. I get it. Now get up!!

I begin to panic.  The Monster pounces, the house shakes, I continue to pant, drool, shake.

Nothing. They sleep.

My heart is racing.  The roof may fall in any minute!

“Alert! Alert! The Monster is coming!”

I decide to dig frantically at the door to the closet.  The cheap metal door.  It clangs, it bangs, it slowly creaks open with the sound of a haunted house.  This will surely send my message!!!!!

I turn to look back at the bed where the Master and Mistress continue to snore. Seriously? What does a good dog have to do to save these people?

I shove myself into the closet, continuing to pant, drool and shake.  I start digging, throwing shoes and boots and slippers out of the closet toward the bed.

Still nothing.

Back to the bed. I go around to the side where the Mistress sleeps.  Shake, shake, pant, pant, drool on her face.

She pulls the covers up.

“BOOM!!!!!”  

At last, the Monster attacks with enough force to wake the humans up. The Master sits up, groggy.  He reaches for his phone.  At last!   Is he calling the police?  The National Guard?  Homeland Security?

He turns on the flashlight app, and shines it on my face.  I let my eyes bulge.  I pant with even more force and let the drool flow.

He flops back down, pulls the pillow over his head.

“Lie down,” he says faintly, “You’re a good dog.”

I give up.  I shove myself into the back of the closet, where I have dug myself a safe little cave of shoes and old sweaters.  I turn in a circle, panting and drooling and shaking.

Dear Humans,

I am a good dog.  I am a very good dog.

But the Boom Monster is out there.

You guys are on your own.

Brain Freeze


To begin with, its been wicked, wicked cold out.  For weeks.  Like, really cold. So cold that your nose can’t run, but you can experience snotsickles.

I woke up yesterday and looked out my kitchen window.

Holy Hell Frozen Over!   -20 degrees!!?

I could hardly believe it. I didn’t want to believe it!

But I live in the age of Facebook, so I grabbed my phone and took a picture. I wanted to show everybody how stoic I am, how strong and brave!  I snapped the photo, I posted it, I went to work.

And I decided to share my awesome photo with the kids.  So I put this up on my Smartboard:
1908293_10205648301544331_2526677894090993749_nAnd the kids walked in.

And started laughing and pointing.

“Oh, my God!”, they crowed, “Where did you get this picture of a witch?”

Yup.

They completely ignored the low temp, which was all I saw.

They were totally caught by my scary reflection, which I never noticed.

Goes to show you: kids always see the world in new and exciting ways. They find a way to laugh, and to make me laugh.

Even when its twenty below, and the scary old witch is me.