Spring calculations

I am a week away from posting grades for another semester. A final exam usually doesn’t torpedo a student who has done well throughout the semester, nor will it save the G.P.A. of one who did diddly-squat for fifteen weeks.  And so, a week from now, I’ll let my computer do the grade calculations and click “Save” and my students will get what they get. For some, there will be celebration and sighs of relief. For others, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s just how it goes.

In terms of weather in Minnesota, April earned an F in my book. She was a complete no-show. I went looking, and found her in Sacramento. I spent two days there for a conference, and then two more days in San Francisco where the birds sang, the sea lions lounged at the pier, and roses were in full bloom all over the city. After months of looking at nothing but snow and more snow, it felt great to be able to walk around in a sweater and sandals. I highly recommend it.

My daughter was my traveling companion. My legs are at least a foot longer than hers and yet, I sometimes struggled to keep up with her as we went from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge. She’s a competent, capable, traveler and an incredibly patient soul when it comes to her mother, who isn’t nearly as young as she used to be. Funny how things like that sneak up on a mom. One minute, you’re the one making all the arrangements and packing snacks to take on the airplane so your kids don’t lose their minds, and the next, your twenty-something daughter is asking you if you’d like a granola bar and trying to distract you during turbulence because she knows you are afraid of flying. It appears we’ve come full circle, she and I.

I’m home now. The foot of snow that was in the yard a week ago is gone, and I have only had to put my down jacket on once since I got back. So…progress. Yesterday, I heard the spring peepers in the pond up the road. The fat little sea lion…er….beagle with the floppy ears is sunning herself in the porch. Life is good.

And, to top it off, May is here. I have high hopes for May.

I think May is going to knock it out of the park.



Ham bone parenting


Lilly the beagle is sleeping next to me on the sofa with her fat, round, bottom wedged against my hip. She is snoring and chasing imaginary bunnies in her sleep, oblivious to parenting worries and troubling world events.  It is good to be a dog.

The veterinarian says we are going to kill her with kindness if we don’t stop feeding her every time she wants a little bit of what we’re having. And so, at least once a month we agree not to feed her any People Food. We make a pact.

Did I mention that she is starting to resemble a tri-colored, floppy-eared beer keg? She waddles. The vet suggested two Cheerios as a treat every time she comes in from outside. She is not only chubby, but smart. She has figured out that the more times she asks to go outside, the more Cheerios she gets per day.

Yesterday, I made soup with the leftover ham from Easter. Guess who got the ham bone?

We are terrible empty nest dog parents, it’s true. If we’d raised our human kids the way we have raised this dog, they’d both be incarcerated by now.

When your nest is empty, you can sleep in on the weekends, and eat cereal for supper if you feel like it. You can drop everything at a moment’s notice and go some place without two kids fighting in the backseat. You no longer have to ask someone else to raise your kids in the event of your untimely death. You can think about retirement. So, yeah..there are definite advantages to being parents of a certain age.  I get that. I do.

Even so, it’s the craziest thing. Your kids do exactly what you’d always hoped they’d do. They grow up, finish school, find jobs, maybe even find someone to love. Someone who’ll take care of them when they’re sick, and hug them when they’re sad, and find them when they’re lost. And you learn the lessons of letting go.

And then, the two of you are back to where you began. Still together, but also alone for the first time in a very long time.

So what do you do? You get a dog and spoil her rotten with things like ham bones. That’s what you do.

And she fills the space that remains in the nest.

And in your hearts.



No foolin’

I wore long johns to church on Easter. If you live in Minnesota, you may also have been sweating through all four stanzas of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today!” on April Fool’s Day.


As a prank, I tried to convince my family members that the white hard-boiled eggs I was serving for breakfast were, in fact, dyed. This may go down in history as one of the worst ideas I have had before my first cup of coffee. As soon as I saw the worried looks of my loved ones, who clearly thought Mom had finally gone ’round the reality bend, I said “April Fools!” so they’d know my marbles were still where they were supposed to be. Women of a certain age, it seems, should never under any circumstances play April Fool’s jokes.

When I was growing up, parents hid Easter eggs in the house for their kids to find on Easter morning. This was a really bad idea since inevitably, an egg or two would stay hidden a little too long. My mother-in-law was a nurse who understood that very bad things could happen when kids found and consumed eggs a couple of weeks after Easter, and so she always hid the baskets instead. I still hide baskets for our big kids. Some day, if I’m lucky, I will hide baskets for grand babies.

We sang the hymns and found the baskets and shared a good meal together as a family. I am still roaming free after the worst April Fool’s joke ever. Our big kids have gone back to their adult lives after one more precious holiday at home. The bouquet of lilies and tulips on the dining room table reminds me that despite all evidence to the contrary, spring is actually a thing.

Tulips are proof that the season exists.

And that, my friends, is no joke.