There’s no thunder in Heaven


Sadie checking her email one morning.

Miss Sadie. Quiet Wolf. Sadie Pants. Sadie Pantalones.

My Sadie Faced Child.

Sadie McGrady.

Mrs. McGillicudy.


She had so many names, it’s a wonder she ever came when I called her! But she was a good dog. She was a very good dog.

Yesterday Miss Sadie spent all day sleeping in the sun on our front walk. We checked now and again to be sure that she was still breathing.

When she came in late in the day, she ate her supper and let us pet her, but she kept pacing in circles. Around and around, searching for a peaceful place, finding none.

She tottered, leaned against the wall, panted. Lay down, got up to circle again.

My nephew Jim was here with us. He talked to her, patted her big warm head, watched her stumble into the walls.

He told me what I knew, but wasn’t ready to hear.

Sadie needed her rest. She was suffering.

“But her tail is wagging,” I said. “She ate her food.”

He repeated that she was also pacing, stumbling, panting. I knew he was right. I thanked him as the tears poured down my face.

It was a long and difficult night. We knew that we’d be saying goodbye to her this morning. We fell asleep with her at the foot of our bed, one last time.

“Maybe she’ll have more energy tomorrow,” I thought.

But it was a long and restless night. She paced, and circled and tried to put her face into the corner of the room. She dug at the door of our closet, the way she used to do during thunderstorms.

I got up three or four times, gave her medicine, stroked her thick, glossy fur. She was trembling from head to toe.

Something was coming for her, and she was afraid, not knowing what it was or where it was hiding.

We held her, we talked to her.

When morning came, she wanted to go back outside, to lie on her step. Paul let her go.

After a while, he took the dogs for a short walk.  Sadie was stumbling and limping, but holding her mouth open in joy as she smiled into the cool fall sunshine.

Then into the car we went.

We were holding her when she died. Her head was in its comfort seeking spot, leaning against my chest. Both Paul and I were stroking her, telling her how much we loved her, thanking her for so many great years.

She took one breath, then simply folded gracefully to the floor, stretched out in the sunshine coming through the window. Quiet and resting at last.

Bye, sweet Sadie McGrady.

You were the doggie of my dreams. You walked through the woods. You helped me dig in the garden. You chased squirrels and deer with complete abandon.

You slept on my side of the bed, and leaned against my pillow when one of was sad or scared.

I watched you leap over stone walls when you were an old lady. You inspired me to keep loving life as long as I draw breath!

I shouldn’t be surprised that you went to your rest with a full belly and a wagging tail.

After knowing and loving you, I hope to do the very same thing.

Good night, honey. See you when I cross that bridge myself.

A letter from Miss Sadie



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.


Miss Sadie



Just Clowning Around

When I was a little kid, Bozo the Clown was just about the coolest character there was.

OK, maybe he wasn’t quite as awesome as Rex Trailor, the TV cowboy, but he was still pretty fun. I used to watch Bozo on TV all the time. I even went to see him live one time! It was great.

Clowns were silly, funny, amusing. They used to be the grownups who didn’t act like grownups. We used to love clowns!

Now I find myself completely baffled and not particularly sympathetic when entire university campuses are put on lockdown because someone has allegedly spotted a (cough, cough) clown.

I mean, I understand the fear caused by the appearance of adults in strange makeup who try to lure kids into the woods. That original report by a little boy in S. Carolina was definitely spooky.

But now we have an entire country shaking in its boots because of…….clowns. Countless invisible clowns who haven’t actually done anything. Not one has been caught, arrested, or even questioned.

Seriously, folks? I mean, really?

In a world where families live with the constant threat of barrel bombs dropping on their homes, we are scared of clowns?

In a world where people have to fight for every bite of food for their children, we’re staying up at night because a guy with red nose is standing on the street?

I fear that we have lost our collective minds, America.

Last night I saw a message on Facebook warning people in my small, sheltered New England town to “Stay safe! Clown sightings in town! Keep windows up in your car!”

Why? Because he might squirt you with a flower on his lapel? He might squeak his nose at you?

Fellow Americans, we need to get a grip. The world is a beautiful place. There are so many things to love, enjoy, savor in the world around us.

And there are things to fear, too. Ignorance, hatred, greed. Fear those if you need to feel afraid. Superbugs, wars, famine, drought. Those are actual threats to our well being.

But clowns?

Come on. If you are living in fear of a clown, you have to admit that life for you is pretty damn sweet and you are actually incredibly safe.


This could be my baby

The world is always a sad and scary place. If we look closely enough, we can always see the tragedy, the suffering, the loss.

Sometimes, though, the reality of how horrific life can be is there before us and we can’t look away.

The image of the dead baby boy on the beach in Greece was one of those times. How could I look away from it?imgres

When those images come crashing into our lives, forcing us to face reality, we feel a sense of helplessness and rage.

I know that I am overwhelmed when I see what human being do to our own babies. I am at a loss. I am adrift.

I’m not a religious person, and this is one reason why.

Today I turned on the news and was confronted with a video of a young man, about the age of my son, weeping as he cradled a wounded baby girl in his arms. She had been buried in the rubble of her home when it was bombed by the Syrian regime. He had worked and worked to dig her out, and now he held her as doctors wiped the blood off her face.

He sobbed and he prayed. His lips quivered and tears coursed down his cheeks. He looked down at her little face, and she looked up at him.


It could have been my Ellie.

An innocent, sweet, little baby girl. Bombed by her government. Left to die in the ruins of her home. Where were her parents? Was she alone in all the world?

Would she live? Where would she go?

I watched the video and I sobbed.

I hate this feeling of helplessness. I HATE that this happens and I can’t fix it or stop it or even understand it.

That could have been our Ellie, bleeding and trembling in a stranger’s arms.

I went on line to try to help. I sent money to Medicins Sans Frontiers.

I still feel completely useless and completely helpless.

Please watch this video. Please click on one of the links below and do what you can to help.

Save the Children


Doctors Without Borders

These organizations are less well known, but are doing good work.


Memories of Motherhood

This post started out to be humorous, but it just changed. Very suddenly.

Oh, life, you funny old thing.

I spent today, as I do every Monday through Friday, with my best buddy, my heart, my love, my granddaughter Ellie. I am in love with her eyes, her grin, her crazy curly hair. I am in love with the shape of her nose and her long fingers and toes. I practically swoon with pleasure when she waddles across the room to throw herself into my arms.

I get to snuggle every day with her warm little head pressed to my cheek. I get to hear her say, “Hi” when she comes in and “night, night” as she falls asleep for her nap. I have no more work stress, no more long commute. No paperwork. My only boss is my first born child, who is definitely not bossy.

Today I thought to myself, “I don’t remember motherhood being this perfect and sweet!”

Yes. I did jinx myself.

Our Ellie is a little peanut of a girl. We try to give her high calorie foods because she’s just tiny. She eats like a starved wolf, but she doesn’t seem to put on weight. She did NOT get her Nonni’s metabolism.

However, she poops more than the average baby. Or the average horse, I’d dare to say.

So this afternoon, after having fed her breakfast, played with her, put her down for a nap, changed her poops twice and given her a bath, I found myself faced with yet another poopie diaper and a little red bum. I said to her, “You stay naked for a bit, and I’ll run downstairs real quick to get the laundry.”  I figured that the air would be good for her skin.

I left her in one of those cute onesie shirts with the snaps between her legs open and the front and back flapping along in the breeze. She stood at the gate at the top of the stairs and I ran down, pulled the clothes from the dryer and raced back up.

There she stood, bent forward at the waist. Playing with both hands in a lovely puddle of pee all over my floor. She was literally splashing it.

I burst through the gate, threw the clothes onto a chair and scooped her up. Her shirt was soaked. The floor was soaked. Her hair was….well….soaked. Back into the tub. No more empty hamper. I washed the floor as I held Ellie on one hip.

Holy exhaustion, Batman. I just remembered that motherhood is not all warm snuggles and adorable shampooed curls. Motherhood- and grandmotherhood- is back aches and endless repeated chores. And puddles of pee.

Then I logged onto Facebook so I could show nice clean Ellie the pictures of her new baby cousin.

I saw a picture posted by a young relative. A beautiful young woman in our family sent a happy birthday message to her 95 year old Great Grandmother.

And I thought, what a gift! To live long enough and well enough to celebrate with a great grandchild. Wow.

So tonight, as I sink into my hot tub with a glass of wine and get ready to clean up the dozens of toys on the floor and the mess on the table, I’ll appreciate every bit of today. I’ll hold onto the kisses and the laughter. And I’ll make myself enjoy the memory of that baby girl splashing in a puddle of her own pee on my floor.

Ya gotta love it.


What the absolute f*ck?

I know. That’s just such an improper headline. I know.

But my sister Liz showed me the most hilarious little video that had that as the punch line, and now its in my head.

And when I tell you what has happened to me in the past week, you will also feel the need to say that same phrase.


Let’s begin three weeks ago, more or less.

I realized that every now and then, when I sipped my nice hot espresso, my lower left molar would go into a screaming fit of pain. My mouth would fill with saliva and my left cheekbone would start to feel like someone was jamming a hot spike into it.

Now, I am not stupid.

The fourth or fifth time that happened, I realized that I needed to call the dentist. So….a week or so after I realized that I needed to call, I looked up the number.

A few days later, with “call the dentist” at the top of my To Do list, I started to notice the same hot spike feeling if I ate something cold. Or sweet.

So I called.

See? I am not an idiot. I called the dentist and I got an appointment for three weeks later.

Yay, me!

This past weekend I went down to Pennsylvania with my sister Liz, who is better than I am at everything. I love her in spite of her awesomeness, and the two of us laughed our way down the  highways toward Lewisburg Pa, where we were going to meet our brand new great niece.

On the way, we stopped for coffee.

I was driving. Liz was looking at the map and chatting away. I took a good deep swig of the hot coffee and I felt the entire left side of my head explode.

My left eye watered as I drove. My heart hammered in my chest. My vocal cords made an involuntary “eh-eh-eh” sound.

I needed to have my tooth yanked out. But I kept driving.

After a half hour or so, the pain faded down to a dull roar. All was well. I knew I could make it another week before my appointment.

Liz and I went to Pennsylvania. We met our gorgeous little great niece and we celebrated with her wonderful parents. It was so so sweet! And my jawbone cooperated without having a screaming fit, so I was very happy.

Last night I got home, and unpacked and chatted with Paul. I went off to bed feeling happy and relaxed.

Hahaha. Silly, silly me.

As I went to bed, I popped in the little rubber mouth guard that I’ve been using for the past 5 years. It stops me from grinding my teeth and breaking all my molars. It’s not a big deal.

I fell asleep and had a lovely dream about the new baby.

Then I woke up. It was 3 AM. Something seemed off.

As I came more fully into consciousness, I noticed that the tip of my tongue felt very very strange. It felt like sandpaper. It felt like a bloated balloon. It felt like a big, bloated, sandpapered balloon.

I ran the scratchy balloon across my lower lip.

What. The. Hell.

My lower lip was just wrong.

I got up, fumbling for my phone to give me some light. I stumbled to the bathroom and quietly closed the door so I wouldn’t wake Paul up. I turned on the light, and made my way to the mirror.

Holy horrific images!

There was a face looking back at me. Its eyes were ringed with wrinkled, puffy sacks. Its gray hair was standing up in tufts all over its head. It had a big nose and a HUGE, pendulous, swollen lower lip hanging out over its chin.

It was my scary, creepy Uncle Salvatore staring back at me from my bathroom mirror.

The shriek that came out of that mouth would have roused the dead.

Luckily, I realized that the sound was coming from me, and that the distorted face was the result of some kind of crazy allergic reaction. I pulled out the mouth guard, took a long cold drink of water, and tried to think of what to do.

My mouth was burning, swollen, itchy and numb at the same time. I took a Claritin and some herbal antihistamines. I laid back down in my bed.

I tried to sleep, but my giant lip kept finding its way between my teeth. Finally I dozed and I woke to another day.

I have no idea why my body decided to react to the mouthguard after all these years. I have no idea why my lip turned into a giant raw wound filled with hot coals. I don’t know if any of this is related to the nerve in my lower jaw that definitely needs to be removed as soon as possible.

All I know is that as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror in the middle of the night with my gigantic lip throbbing in pain, all I could think of was the final line of that video Liz shared with me.

“What the absolute f*ck?” could be my motto today.

What am I supposed to do with the world’s biggest lower lip?



I was thinking tonight, as I walked outside after supper, that I get some contentment from knowing that every fall will feel the same.

I know that every late summer the air will start to smell sharper. I know that the days will stay hot, but the nights will turn cool.

Even though it hasn’t happened yet this year, I know that the leaves on the Burning Bush will turn bright red. I know that the goldfinches will lose their color and that the turkeys will start to march through the yard every morning.

I was thinking that in a way it’s kind of boring. It’s predictable. After 26 years in this house, I know what color the leaves of every tree will be. I know that the pine needles will turn golden and that some will fall. I know that the snow will come to cover the stepping stones that I’ve placed in the garden.

Ho hum. How routine.

How safe.

Then I started to think of life  as seen through the eyes of my sweet granddaughter. Ellie is in her second autumn, but last year she was barely aware or alert. This year she notices every falling leaf. She laughs out loud at jack-o-lantern faces. She smells every marigold as if it is a miracle.

Every day when we go outside, she searches in the garden for “nomonos”, her favorite little cherry tomatoes. They are almost gone, and I understand that. For Ellie, this is an affront to her sense of order. “Where are my orange snacks?” I can hear her thinking. “I want to come out here every day of my life and eat sweet tomatoes!”

Life just goes around and around in such a repeating circle. Ellie doesn’t know that yet.

I think that the secret to loving life is to always find a way to see the circle as new. For me, that means surrounding myself with children. To them, every day is a brand new adventure.

How delicious!


Lies Told By Lying Liars

Sometimes I have to step away from the news. Even the news I write over on Liberal America.

Sometimes things happen that make me so mad I scare myself.

Today was one of those days. I watched news coverage and read a whole lot of online news. I was nauseated by all the reporting on the Orange Menace. The Cowardly Liar. The Dump.

He Who Shall Not Be Named.

I was disgusted, but I didn’t explode.

Not until I started to write about a new ad that the damned, accursed, loathsome NRA has taken out to run in key swing states.

It is an ad that is calculated to create unreasonable fear in citizens so that they will behave in a particular way.

It’s terrorism. It’s all lies. I was shaking and in tears by the time I finished it.

It’s a damn good thing I’m a pacifist……

Please read this. Please share it with your friends who live in those key swing states.

“NRA’s Dramatic New Ad Targets Women”Uzi_of_the_israeli_armed_forces



In a world filled with war and anger and violence, hope is becoming so hard to find.

People yell and argue and struggle and sneer. You start to wonder where it will end. You start to wonder if there’s any hope.

Then you go away fro a couple of days. You go to a struggling little working class city where the old red brick mills are being turned into art galleries. You go to hear music.

At first you think the ticket price is too much, but you grudgingly give in. After all, the real reason for your trip is that your sons live in that small city. They love music. They make music of their own. You think its sweet to hear them sing, but you don’t think of them as “real” musicians. You just want to go for the weekend to be near them.

They are just your “boys.”

You buy the tickets. You make the drive out to the Berkshires in Western Mass. You listen to the radio on the way, even though you know that hearing Donald Trump lie and lie and argue and lie again will only make you lose that last tiny thread of hope.

You get to the festival. You walk into the sprawling brick building that once housed a textile mill, but which is now home to the famous Mass Museum of Contemporary Art. You hear fiddle music. People are streaming in, smiling, humming. So many of them carry instruments.

You walk through the lobby, out into the courtyard of the museum. You are surrounded by families, laughing and talking. There are three stages, in three sizes, and from each one you hear the sounds of fiddles and mandolins and guitars. You hear voices harmonizing and feet stomping.

This is the “Fresh Grass” Music festival that happens in the small city of North Adams, Mass, every September.

The air is full of the delicious smells of food, beer, herbal smokes.

Every part of the Fresh Grass Festival is wonderful. Inspiring, encouraging, rejuvenating.

Children dance, parents laugh, there is music around every corner.

And there are particular moments that bring hope back into your heart.

One of those moments happened on Saturday morning. Our sons, our baby boys, were playing music with some friends at one of the “pop up” stages at the festival. Now, let’s be clear. “Pop up” means “You aren’t on one of the big stages and people will either wander by and hear you, or they won’t.” It is strictly for Newbies in the business, but even that is pretty damn special. Some of the headliners at this festival are major talents. Music is their career and they are starts.

Our boys make music for the joy of it.

The space where they performed was a long, rectangular room with lofty ceilings. The acoustics were amazing. Almost like being in a church. The boys and their three friends had acoustic instruments and they started to play to a basically empty gallery. Little by little, though, the soaring harmonies and ringing strings brought people in.

It was the strangest thing for me. People who didn’t know any of us were simply entering the room, having paid good money to hear live music. They stood, they listened, they smiled, clapped, danced. Some asked “Who are you guys?” They talked to each other about how much they were enjoying the sound.

And I was standing there, thinking. “Wait. Those are my baby boys! How did they learn to sing like that?” I can’t describe it.

It wasn’t only pride that I was feeling.It was also a kind of loss.  It was a sense of just how far my children have come, and how they little they need us now. I was as amazed by their talent as the rest of the room was, and that feeling brought me to tears.

And the setting made it special, too.

My beautiful sons and their talented young friends were creating a gorgeous harmony in the big gallery. A gallery that was dedicated to images of atomic bomb tests and explosions.

At one point, a family came in to listen. Two little sisters, aged about 5 and 7, sat on a bench in front of the band. They had flaxen braids, bright blue eyes, and pink and cream skin. They wore matching pink dresses. They were incredibly beautiful. They sat on the bench, each with her mouth slightly open as they nodded along to the music. They were watching the boys. I was watching them.

Beyond them, on the gallery wall, the brightly colored images of death and destruction had been reduced to simple art.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, I had hope again.

Two beautiful children were ignoring the images of war as they took in the sounds of blended voices and instruments.

Maybe they were making some dreams of their own. Maybe they’d want to grow up to make music. They were thinking of those dreams, and not of the mushroom clouds in framed glass beyond where they sat.

That is hope.


Aw, what’s a little pneumonia anyway?


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?