We are quiet people.

It has always been so. That’s probably what drew the two of us together in this noisy world.  And since the children grew up and left us, our house has been even quieter.  So quiet, at times, that if not for the sound of the television in the family room when one of us is down there, there would be no sound in the house at all. It’s the way we live.  It’s what we are accustomed to.

And so, bringing a young, 21 pound hound into our lives has been an adjustment, to say the least. Lilly, you see, is a beagle with a lot to say.  She is a real loud mouth.

If the wind happens to blow a leaf across the sidewalk outside, she feels compelled to tell me with a throaty “ROOOOOO!!!!!  Mom! There’s a LEAF outside! LOOK!”  If Libby the Lab comes to visit and presses her nose against the sidelight to let us know she’s there for a treat, Lilly sets to bleating uncontrollably on the other side of the window until we DO SOMETHING. When it is time for dinner, Lilly’s internal “I’m hungry. Feed me!” ear-splitting donkey-braying commences. I’ve made a list of the various triggers that set her off. In addition to the three already mentioned, she barks, howls, screams, or woofs at:

  • birds in the yard
  • other dogs in the yard
  • any and all knocks at the door, real or imagined
  • the kids next door
  • her stuffed rabbit
  • the timer on the washing machine
  • the timer on the microwave (see a pattern here?)
  • ringing telephones, cell phone or otherwise
  • dogs on television (why, oh why are there so many commercials with dogs barking on them? I want to know.)
  • lady bugs in the screen porch
  • spring peepers in the swamp across the street
  • her reflection in every window
  • cars
  • pretty much everything else that moves or makes noise

If she was a two-legged creature instead of a four-legged one, she’d already have been kicked out of class by some frustrated teacher for disturbing the peace. There would, no doubt, be a conference with her apologetic parents and suggestions regarding medications to try and good therapists. Good thing she’s a dog. But Lilly just finds the world so darn interesting. How can she NOT tell anyone who’ll listen?  It’s a beagle thing.

That said, for all of her bleating and braying and and general peace disturbing, there is one time when she’s quiet as a little tri-colored mouse. In fact, no matter how many times I’ve pleaded with her to tell me, she seems not to grasp that the very best, fastest way to get the attention of a human, when a small beagle needs to use the great outdoors to do one’s business, is to bark. Just. bark.

So, yeah.  In addition to trying to find the magic word to get her to stop talking, we are working on that around here. Uff da.  Good thing she’s cute.

Knowing when to say something, and when to keep one’s mouth shut, is a challenge for us all, isn’t it? Cute, or not.

Clan of the Mother Bears

“Perhaps it’s human nature: We want to shield our children from pain, and what we get instead is life and heartache and lessons that bring us to our knees. Sooner or later we are handed the brute, necessary curriculum of surrender, we have no choice, then but to bow our heads and learn. We struggle to accept that our children’s destinies are not ours to write, their battles not ours to fight, their bruises not ours to bear, nor their victories ours to take credit for. We learn humility and how to ask for help. We learn to let go even when every fiber of our being yearns to hold on even tighter.”
Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment

It is snowing. Again.

Just fluffy wisps instead of sloppy flakes like the ones yesterday that collected on the bare branches in the woods and melted an hour later. Today, the snow is anemic, an apology. Even Mother Nature has to know that snow in April is just dumb. Despite the fits and starts of spring around here, the birds are singing.  Isn’t that sound one of the loveliest gifts that early April offers? Winged creatures do not trouble themselves with being mad about a little snow in April. They do not sit in bud-less branches scowling and shaking their wings at Mother Nature.  Birds know that Spring will come when it comes. They know how to give up control.

This morning, a young mom I know and love like a sister is in a hospital waiting room. Her oldest daughter is undergoing heart surgery. This friend of mine is a really good mom of four amazing humans. Last night, when I texted her to ask how she was holding up pre-surgery, I got the response that I was expecting.  Two words. “I’m not.”

What a dumb question.

My friend hates surprises. A hole in her child’s heart was a huge, grossly unwelcome one. She believes that if she can just stay on top of her game and remain vigilant that the monsters under the bed of this thing called Life won’t touch her babies. And like most moms, she would stand in front of truck to protect her kids because she is a mother bear. But, here’s the deal. Today, the monster truck bearing down on her sweet daughter is congenital and out of her control in the most frightening of ways.  She can’t do a single thing but pray and hope that the surgeon brought his A game into the operating room to repair her child’s broken heart.  It is hard , SO hard, to be both a mere mortal and a mother. My young friend’s own heart will break a little bit today, as the universe reminds her of this fact.

Knowing what we can control, and what we simply can’t, will do that to a mother bear’s heart every time.


A map of the”us”

I am an “Uber” novice.  The Girl, on the other hand, is a pro.

During our recent trip to San Diego, she was in charge of our transportation needs from our hotel to everywhere we wanted to go. You guys. Did you know that it is possible to use an app on your phone to get a ride from a stranger with a nice, clean, car? Now, I’m still not even really sure what an “app” is, to be honest. I still consider the Internet and whatever “the Cloud” is to be some type of evil magic. Yes. I know. I suffer from some weird generational paranoia when it comes to technology. And so, it is no surprise that I found the fact that my traveling companion could simply look at her cell phone, tap her little fingers, and have a driver appear in front of the hotel ten minutes later utterly amazing.

I remember wearing out boxes of colored pencils in Mr. Waller’s “jog-raphy” class in junior high. You, too?  Maybe that class, like so many others, is now obsolete because nobody has to learn to read a map in 2016. Each of the Uber cars was outfitted with a small screen and a voice telling the driver where to turn as we wound our way through palm-lined residential streets and along highways during our trip.

On the first day, when we arrived at our destination, I pulled out my wallet to pay the driver. The Girl and driver looked at me like the dinosaur I am. You GUYS. Did you know that it is possible to be taken anywhere by a stranger with a nice car in a strange city and not even exchange any money at the end of the trip??  Apparently, the app takes care of the payment process, too. Wow.

We are really living in amazing times, aren’t we?

Our drivers were a window into America in 2016. One young man in a Prius had come from Istanbul in search of the American Dream. A former software developer who’d chucked the grind in the Silicon Valley, his dream was to move to Maui and jump from cliffs into waterfalls which I guess is as good a dream as any. And then, there was the grandfather from Armenia in the Civic. His opinion of the American Dream? “Work all the time. Never close your eyes to sleep.” We met a retired school teacher – turned Uber driver who’d spent his life in San Diego, and a young woman with four kids who shared her stories of sneaking into Tijuana as a teenager to drink beer who said that she’d ground her kids for life if they pulled the same thing. There was the tall African American man in a Lincoln Navigator with tinted windows and rap videos playing on a screen in the back seat and others, as well. Picking up travelers in one location and dropping them in another. And in between, telling their stories to a dinosaur from a faraway place called Minnesota.

Technology. Every day, it makes one more thing obsolete. It forces dinosaurs to evolve and adapt, which is good for the dinosaurs.

But it will never replace the need to tell our stories about  where we are “from” to other members of the human race. It will never replace the need to share our hopes and fears and dreams with other living, breathing, human beings.

Isn’t THAT amazing?