A hotdog once affirmed my faith in a benevolent universe.

Living with a houseful of apartment-mates offers two options for quarantine diversion: reclusive bedroom hobbies or stepping out into nature. The second pick is readily available to any intrepid soul on a cold Montana day such as this one.

Having already invested large amounts of time in hobby-ish pursuits, my daughter and her co-quarantining roomate opted for a midday hike. Surely this would break the monotony of their cloister until test results were conclusive in one way or the other. The bracing air would enliven lethargy, and spirits would lift.

Even so, the possibility of a hike didn’t seem that enticing – they had done that several times already – yet it was the only choice, save the dwindling amusement they could muster in their boxy confine.

So, out it was.

They hiked on – the crunch and fluff of layered snow underfoot metrinomed their progress through the long silences of their thoughts.

“Hey – wait! What is that?” the lead one stopped, pointing across barren whiteness.

The other lifted her head from her footing to look up.

“Ummmm, (squinting) – I have no idea what that is…..”

“Well, it’s coming this way.”

“Yeah – I see it! But what is it?”

Side by side, in ensuing quietness, they watched.

A beige-ish oblong parcel of considerable size was bumping and dancing its way across the void, reducing the measure between it and them with every rush of wind.

They stood their tracks, mezmerized.

Frigid blasts continued to buffet the bulbous billow, bouncing it erratically off icy sheen. It was a roiling tumble of tan, rust, and yellow, coming at them – full tilt.

By now, their brains were busy trying to label to the frenetic object, but the obvious tag derived from visual cues was instantly rejected as being ridiculous given their location and circumstance.

But, no!

It wasn’t wrong!

The wayward object was confirmed to be exactly what it appeared to be as it careened past them in one mighty gust.

“IT’S A HOT DOG!” shouted the two in unison, immediately taking off after it, their real or imagined infirmities sloughed off in that instant.

Lunging forward in nearly knee-deep, the duo set to chase, pressing after the rollicking inflatable, desperate not to loose this spectacular gift.

A fervent last-ditch-dive by one of them neatly landed the great American meal to rest under their heaving bodies, draped and gasping across beef and bun – complete with condiments.

Did they hoist the sizeable sausage overhead in triumphant portage?

Did they take turns pulling each other on its heft, skittering across snowy expanse in joyful tow?

I’m not sure.

But resoundingly freed of boredom, theirs was a triumphant return home to be sure.

And though the quarantine continued, it was of a different flavor after Frankie blew into their lives. He was the willing subject of jokes, puns, countless retellings, journal entires of the most unusual sort, TikTok videos, and still remains the best downhill launch on a snowy embankment with friends.

If ever you’re in doubt whether the universe delivers to those in need, think of the remarkable appearance of Frankie the Frozen Frankfurter, who saved two good friends from despair and boredom of the most mundane sort.

And don’t merely believe that your prayers will be answered – dare to relish the thought of it.

Serenity Now

My husband is the oldest sibling in his family and I am, too.

He is a full-time teacher – likewise for me.

He stayed home on day shift with our kids for seven years while I continued to teach. After school, I came home to night shift for those years while he worked nights.

What I am getting at is that we are both used to being in charge of people, we are both good at being in charge, and we probably are most comfortable in that role. All important qualifications for two teachers.

One might say that we are Two Head Chefs.

The problem is – we are married.

To each other.

Over the past twenty-nine years, this has lead to many “trials” and almost as many solutions – as one might imagine.

Eventually, we’ve congenially concluded that there are some things that we are better off not doing together if we want to preserve our union.

Let’s put these items in The Serenity Now! bracket.

There are other missions where working together as a dynamic duo works very well.

These items are in The Competent Couple 🙂 bracket.

Here are some examples of each:

Competent Couple:) endeavors are pursuits such as: walking the dog, doing the dishes, painting a room, hosting a party, navigating to a destination (pre-GPS), and pruning fruit trees (this task recently moved from Serenity Now! to Competent Couple:) ranking).

Serenity Now! undertakings are such endeavors as food shopping, cooking, giving the kids unsolicited, off-the-cuff advice while in the same room together, home maintenance repair, and laying out new carpeting.

One might ask-

what is the difference between Competent Couple 🙂 pursuits and Serenity Now! tasks?

Good question!

After careful scrutiny, it becomes obvious that the difference between the two categories is two words:

clear deliniation.

The jobs in the CC column have clear responsibilities that can be separated into sub-tasks that do not overlap.

The jobs in the SN tier have duties that are nebulous and overlapping.

In other words, we rock at things that can be sorted into individual compartments, but we are on thin ice if the job has vague responsibilities that may drift into each other. Sharing some tasks can be dicey, so when we divide and conquer – we are golden.

For instance…

When we paint a room, he does the ceilings and walls with the roller and I tackle the edging and trimwork with a brush. Beautiful.

When we host a get-together, I do the shopping, cleaning, and set-up; he plans the menu and does the cooking. Bada bing!

When pruning fruit trees, he clips, and I hold the ladder. This is a big improvement over last year – don’t ask!

When we do the dishes, one washes and one dries. Presto!

On the other hand…

Food shopping?

Nope. He takes too long and checks too many ingredients.


Nope. I take too long and do things differently.

Home maintenance?

Better off making a phone call.

As our lifetime journey continues, we encounter new things and notice what category they fall into. Maybe as we mellow with age, it will eventually merge into one big list.

But for now, this works just fine.

So, this week we are doing our taxes.

Any guesses?

Training Tips

Over the years I have trained Ollie to love oatmeal cookies (no raisins, of course).

For breakfast he enjoys bits of buttered English muffins with blackberry jam, or banana bread if we are out of muffins or jam. After all, fruit is important.

Salmon (or tuna) with mayo and pickle relish – sometimes on crispy crackers – is a good lunch, while roast chicken remnants with mushroom risotto is a preferred dinner entre. It hardly bears mentioning that corned beef and potato portions are standard fare on St. Patty’s Day.

In a pinch, he is fine with Progresso’s Chickarina soup as a stand-in lunch or dinner, as am I.

It has been a lot of work expanding his diet, but soooo worth it. It is just so convenient to have a dog that loves all the same foods you do, right up to the Rita’s gelati run on a warm summer night (vanilla soft serve layered with rootbeer ice). It makes life so much easier, and we all enjoy meals and outings together that way.

Of course he eats dog food, too. He would prefer to think of it as a mere supplement, so let’s just leave it at that, okay?

Ollie will be twelve this June, and he is as healthy and active as ever.

I know it’s our diet of fab favorites that is keeping him that way.

Good boy, Ollie.

Rooted in Smiles

Teeth are a really big deal in second grade.

They are a regular topic of conversation at morning meeting – who lost one, who is currently losing one, who is getting a new one. They wiggle, they wobble, they amuse some and gross out others.

They are also the most reliable source of income if you are seven.

Sure, sure, you get cash for your birthday and First Communion money from the relatives, but the money you get from a tooth?

Well, that’s money you have earned, my friend.

You have given up a part of yourself (albeit willingly) in exchange for something else.

In my neck of the woods, a tooth under the pillow goes for about five dollars these days, I am happy to know that the value of this commodity is keeping up with the rate of inflation. With twenty teeth in each mouth, that adds up to a hefty one hundred dollars over the course of a childhood. Not a bad gig.

Unfortunately for us, we were forced into the five dollar tooth bracket way ahead of its time. One of our kids lost a tooth on a family camping trip out west, miles away from any hope of cashing in a larger bill for singles. After furtive and frantic late night rummages through our wallets, we resigned ourselves to giving up the smallest bill we had – a fiver – for the single tooth, thereby inflating the going rate by five hundred percent in one fell swoop. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but we knew right then and there we would have to match that price for the rest of our kids and the rest of their teeth.

(It might be appropriate here to note that the Tooth Fairy does not enjoy making deliveries to small pup tents full of sleeping children.)

You can tell a lot about a kid from how they talk about their teeth. There is the “I just yanked it RIGHT OUT!” type – they are generally your thrill seekers. Then there are the meek and tenuous, tentatively probing with fingertip or tongue, not wanting to fuss with it, opting to wait patiently until it drops out uneventfully. A few are anxious even thinking about the loss, thus the actual event itself is quite traumatic, and the possibility of accompanying blood makes it that much worse. Usually, the time-honored trip to the nurse’s office for a tooth treasure box sets things right in quick order. Lucky kids.

So, if you ever find yourself at a loss for what to say to a seven or eight year old, just ask them about their teeth. They’ll go on for hours, and even treat you to a close up, open-mouthed look – especially if they’re in online class with a camera front and center.

They’ll tell you how many teeth they have lost, and how many teeth they are still holding on to. And if you happen to find yourself in the senior plus years of life, you might find this tooth topic strangely parallel to your own musings, and conclude – with surprise – that you have more in common than you knew.

Don’t Pour Ketchup on My Story

Have you been to an Irish restaurant?

Neither have I.

Case in point.

Were not really about food as much as – say, your average Italian, for instance.

Trust me, I know. This living dichotomy is part of our happy home. Oh, we’re used to it by now, but we have had our tussles over it, believe me. Our first big row was over a jar of Ragu. I kid you not.

Over an accumulation of years in our Irish/Italian marriage, I have arrived at the politically dubious, sweeping generalization that food is to Italians as stories are to the Irish.

Or, to properly honor this day, let me reverse that and say stories are to the Irish as food is to Italians.

I am not sure if this is true for the entirety of these two populations, but under our roof, it’s certain.

My husband is Italian, and food is a big deal to him. Planning our wedding reception was the first of my many adventures into this hierarchy of priorities. Throughout the pre-nuptial preparations, his critical concern was curiously over the food:

Would it be excellent? (Apparently, it had to be.)

Would there be enough? (There must certainly be more than enough.)

Will they keep it coming all night? (They absolutely have to keep it coming all night.)

“Stop worrying!” I chided. “No one cares about the food – everybody will be on the dance floor! I guarantee you most of us will miss the entire meal and not even notice!”

My priority was the music (stories) – they were an absolute deal breaker for me.

Would the tunes be excellent? (Naturally, it had to be.)

Would it be live? (Live, and a fiddler was mandatory.)

Would they keep it going all night?(They simply had to play all night.)

Of course it all ended up perfectly fine. Those who love a good feast bellied up to the table and swooned, and those who revelled in stories, took a few bites, bypassed the rest, and danced all night to ballads put to music, choosing their best place as well.

Little did I realize that these predilections were affinities deeply rooted in our cultures, and as much a part of each of us as his curly hair and my green eyes. We now understand that a telling a good story for me is like a preparing good meal for him.

The problems arise when I ruin his meal and he ruins my story.

How does that go? You might ask.

Here is how the-I-ruin-the-meal part of it goes. He makes plans to invite a few friends over for a casual dinner (pre-virus, of course). “Don’t worry, Hon, it will be simple,” he assures me as he outlines the menu. “We’ll start with this, then I thought I’d par boil this, then butterfly it, sear it, then finish it off on the grill. Oh – by the way – do we have any twine? I’m going to need twine. Then we’ll shuck two dozen oysters and have those… (Oh, that reminds me, I have to run out to get some oyster knives), and after the oysters we’ll have this wrapped in that, and then so-and-so is going to bring this, and then I thought I’d try making this upside-down souffle du jour from scratch for dessert.”


In my mind this translates to hours of shopping, mounds of prep, manuevering, cooking, rearranging, clearing, making room, followed by extensive clean up well into the wee hours of the morning in our very tiny kitchen.

For one meal.

For a repast that is good, but…

I would have been happy with cheese and crackers. One charcuterie plate would have sufficed.

“I don’t suppose we could just order pizza?” I say.


And right there, I have done it – I have rained on his parade, pre-emptively ruining his meal before it even began.

And his meal is my story.

Here is how the he-ruins-my-story part of it goes.

I’ll be knee deep, totally invested in a great yarn, a riveting account of some outrageous – and usually pretty hilarious – event, building momentum, leading to the apex of the tale, and suddenly,

“Hon – you have got to be kidding me! There is no way on earth a dog that size weighs that much! That is totally incorrect! That dog did not weigh eighty pounds. A basset hound doesn’t even weigh that much. It was more like fifty pounds – tops.”

And just like that – like a slow, noisy leak in a balloon, my wonderful tale – void of it’s lift – fluffers to the ground, deflated, limp, and lifeless.

Tripped up momentum, marred credibility, thwarted timing.

WAA…….. WAA…… WAA……

So, through the years we muddled along with this chaffing difference in our deeply rooted orientation of what is most important when socializing: the chow, or the banter. Most times things went smoothly, but every so often, we’d trammel each other, get mad, cool down, forgive, let time pass, and then repeat the whole darn thing all over again. I’d complain about the complexity of the menu because “It’s my family and we don’t care about the food!” and he correct me about some teeny-weeny minor point while I was mid-stride in a great recitation.

Then one day,mor

I hit upon the perfect analogy to help us both understand what we were doing to each other.

When I complain about his elaborate dishes, I am almost literally dumping an entire bottle of ketchup over the lovingly braised veal shanks that he has thoughtfully prepared.

And, when he interrupts my poetically licensed anecdote with a completely irrelevant correction, he is ketchup-drenching my story, too.

From that day forward it was better, and we seemed to understand.

So today of all days, let the Irish sing their songs and spin their yarns with gleeful abandon; I trust that you’ll find yourself having a rollicking good time right along with us.

Stories may not seem like much to some, but to us, they’re golden.

They are as good as a great meal – maybe even better,

and you never pour ketchup on a good meal.

The Possibilities are Endless

One of my students loves cows.

In fact, she announced at morning meeting that she is hoping for a cow for her birthday next week. Mindful of the suburban enclave in which we attend school and reside, I can surmise with a degree of certitude that she is unlikely to get the cow. Yet, she remains exuberantly hopeful – and I can’t blame her. She is seven; her reasoning is sound and makes perfect sense.

A pet cow would eliminate having to mow the lawn and buy milk, and according to her generous estimate, their fenced in yard will provide ample acreage for a bovine pet to roam at leisure – rarely do cows crash fences into adjoining neighborly properties. When the weather gets cold or rainy, she will merely lead it to the garage for shelter and safe-keeping.

I know exactly where she is coming from because I was her once.

My passion was horses, and I was desperate to have one of my own. I had done everything that one could possibly do in a suburban family of eight with horses except to invest in ownership, and the time had come for that to change. It was time to take the plunge and make that commitment, I reasoned to myself. After all, I had done the preliminary research. I spent captivating hours reading about the equine species; Margaret Henry had kept me steeped in fodder for years: Justin Morgan Had a Horse, Misty of Chincoteague, and Album of Horses, were biblical in their relevance to my life at the time. I knew all of the famous Triple Crown winners, and the years they won, I could identify every breed, knew what it was used for, and the differences between each. I spent hours upon hours drawing horses. To this day, I can still draw a darn good horse without much effort at all. My ability stemmed from knowing the anatomy of horses so well. As I drew, my brain named the parts: fetlock, cannon, withers, crest, poll. I even accompanied my best friend to her weekly riding lessons, and finagled my way into a stable-hand job for the hour that she was riding each week.

It was clear to me that the only thing left was to actually purchase a horse.

Before approaching my parents about this proposal, I carefully inspected my plan for the customary loopholes and arguments that they would undoubtedly unearth. I prepared clever solutions for each. I was fairly certain that my strategy was without flaws.

My first step was to ask for a ten year advance on my allowance. At a dollar a week, this would provide me with enough cash to buy a wizened old gelding who had been put out to pasture. After all, I was going for a gentle family pet, not a sleek breeder stallion. As for stabling, I couldn’t remember the last time we had squeezed our car in the over-flowing garage, so that was the obvious place for the new steed (after we got rid of the junk). I was more than willing to clean out the garage and do other odd jobs around the house to earn money to pay for its food. And luckily, we lived on a dead-end street with only nine houses. Surely I could cash in on our friendly relations with the neighbors and ask them to turn a blind eye while I rode the trotter up and down the street after school.

It seemed fool-proof.

I still remember the scene as it unfolded at the kitchen table after dinner. I astutely planned it so that my parents were both well-fed and relaxed. I dawdled with dishes until my siblings left the room and then launched my proposition.

As you might have imagined, my grand assertion did not go as swimmingly as I would have liked. In hindsight, my strategy was all wrong; I should never have led off with the ten-year advance on my allowance. It went horribly downhill from that leadoff request, and I never regained solid footing.

At tomorrow’s morning meeting we will find out if there is a new bovine companion in my student’s life. I hope that she has better luck than I did convincing her family of the urgency and feasibility of her dream. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, it is wonderfully magical to be in her shoes. To be steeped in the possibilities of a world without boundaries when you are seven, or eight, or ten, or even older.

I also know someone who wants to be a deer when she grows up.


Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say it’s all right.

Thank you, George Harrison, but in all humility I’d like to modify the last line of your refrain:

And I say – WOOHOOHOO! I wasn’t sure that we’d be coming around again.

It’s more than alright – it’s fantastic!

Let’s call it what it is, folks – it is the best regularly scheduled day of the year.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I joyfully acclaim the start of Daylight Savings Time, which begins 2:00 a.m. Sunday, March 14. In other words – tonight.


On this eve we put the clocks ahead one hour, pushing daylight sixty minutes into the darkness.

What could be better, I ask you?

Sure, sure, I know. some will lament the loss of an hour of sleep tonight. To those folks I give a resounding, “Pish!” Which basically means, are you kidding me?

Are you honestly – for even one minute – thinking that losing an hour of sleep for one measely night is not worth a whole summer of lingering twilight barbeques, long after dinner walks in the gloaming, and days filled with sunshine that give you that really good kind of tired because you’ve been out in it all day and there’s still more of it leftover feeling? More of it left over to finish it all off with a lavender, pinky orangey sunset sky at 8:30 p.m.?

No? Still not worth it?

Well, don’t even talk to me, then! We’re not even on the same planet.

To sit in the summer sun is to be a sponge soaking up water. That is honestly how it feels to me – like I can’t get enough of it. Sure, I sit under a UV floor lamp in the dark months to bridge the gap, and that helps, but it’s not the same. It’s not like sitting on the front steps with evening light still falling on you, warming you while you have those last few sips of coffee (or maybe a glass of wine), blissfully assimilating radiant solar power into your being.

I know that not everyone feels this way about the sun. My husband revels in cloudy days and cool weather. He seeks the understories of trees, large overhangs, and wide-brimmed Tilley hats – going out of his way to reside in shadowy fringes to AVOID the sun at all cost (he is Canadian, so that helps to explain some of his idiosyncrasies). From our polar extremes on this issue we somehow meet in the middle and strike a balance that works. Our perrenial summer challenge is to find a spot on the patio where he can be in the shade and I can be in the sun while still sitting together. No kidding.

Yes, I am well aware that these contrary people exist, but I do not understand them, and today I am not even thinking about you-who-are-in-this-group-of-shade-mongers because today is OUR day. To those who are with me on this, to those of you who turn your face to that golden orb in a sea of blue and mark this as the best day, I revel with you.

We’ve come around again, and

I’m beaming.

Go Mute Yourself

Mute yourself!

Unmute yourself!

Click out and

Click back in!

Pull your mask up!

Please sanitize.

I need your link.

Do you have my link?

Attach the link.

Just click the link

and sanitize!

Are we synchronous?


What’s the difference?

Just sanitize.

Is this my class?

Where’s my class?

Am I in the right class?

I’ve lost my class.

But did you sanitize?

Does this sound familiar to you? A year ago we did not use this language. A year we did not have this language. A year ago seems oh-so-far away. A year ago we could not have dreamed up this reality. To say that this year is unique is probably a gross understatement. Friday will mark the one year anniversary of our altered reality at school. As a result, this banter has become our ongoing, well-worn vernacular. These exchanges are repeated so often – and we know them so well – we probably mumble them in our sleep. They do make sense in context, but out of context – and sometimes even in the moment – they are really quite hilarious.

So, while we’re still in the fray – a little self-deprecating humor never hurts. Just listen…

I can’t hear you.

Can you hear me now?

I can hear you.

Am I frozen?

You’re frozen.

Am I frozen now?

You’re still frozen.

Always sanitize.

Am I virtual or in person?

Is this A or B?

I can’t see you.

Can you see me now?

Please turn your camera on.


Click the link!

That’s the wrong link.


Why not sanitize?

And while we’re at it, do you have your:

doc cam

head phones

ear buds



face shield

six-foot distancing radar


and mask?


Thank you for remembering,

One last thing,

Don’t forget to san-


Planet Random

I think life is like this for people who lose things all the time. Objects come and go, passing in and out of life like a March wind. It might be here, it might be there – it might appear in a sudden gust and then disappear with a whisper and a whoosh, or perhaps linger longer, like a lilting breeze.

I see this unpredictable existence with my students all the time.

Pencils routinely vanish into thin air without anyone ever leaving their seat. No kidding – I’ve looked for them. They’re gone. Homework – and folders containing homework – disappear seemingly at will. Even vocabulary cards that are fastened to folders with steel rings fall off and vanish. Countless glue sticks, markers, erasers, and pairs of scissors are needed for each individual just to make it through a single school year. Nothing lasts – everything is transitory, and should be dispensable – just to save money and frustration. On this arbitrary planet, you learn not to care too much about things because they are just too fickle to invest in.

This is an existence that I am familiar with by proximity only. I rarely lose things. In my world, I put things places, and the next time I look for them, they are still there – in those places. I count on my surroundings to be reliable, and they are. I have expectations of my universe that are routinely met because I live in a world of considerable predictability.

On the flip side, I have close family members who are just as comfortable on Planet Random. Jackets, hats, and gloves are superfluous because they are too hard to keep track of and it’s just easier and less expensive to do without. Besides, it’s not really that cold once you get used to it.

Sunglasses? Meh.

Wallets and cell phones are a frequently-looking-for-them items.

In full disclosure, I did lose something years ago, and it was a biggie. I lost our car keys 300 miles from home on a college visit with our daughter. Naturally it was July 4th weekend, and all garages and mechanics were closed. This necessitated a tearful phone call to my husband who generously and immediately drove the 300 miles to rescue us with the spare set of car keys. I was absolutely shaken to the core.

“Not a big deal at all, Hon”, he counseled, handing me the keys. This was his planet, and things just come and go. It’s just like that here.

I have a son who recently lost his only car key to his only outdated, one-of-a-kind car.

What did he do?

He bought a bike.

Worth a Brake

“Stop the car!” Mom demanded.

“What?!?” Dad questioned. “Here? Now?”

“Yes! Just pull over!”

Glancing in the mirror he deftly braked while steering the car to the right, breaching the white line and spraying gravel, pinging and spitting under the tires. We rolled to a rapid stop on the side of the highway, cars whizzing by us. All six of us in the back – who moments ago had been in various stages of daydream or slumber – riveted our attention to the urgent matter unfolding between our parents up front.

Mom flung open the passenger side door and got out. “I’ll be right back!” she blurted.

We watched in stillness, six sets of eyes squished to the right side windows, peering from the tangle of blankets and pillows in the far netherworlds of the Vista Cruiser wagon, plus my Dad’s eyes up front, too. She side-stepped and slipped down the grassy embankment and eventually stopped way in there, waist high in spring vegetation. What was she doing? We knew it wasn’t a bathroom break. Our mom could easily drive from New Jersey to Michigan without a pit stop if she put her mind to it. Public restrooms were far below her nursing standards of acceptability for cleanliness.

Vegetation swashed and swished around her as she tromped and hunched through the swaying detritus, occasionally wrestling with some unknown something. We could see her only from the shoulders up. Periodically, we looked at Dad. He turned the engine off, returned the look, and shrugged.

We silently watched and waited.

Eventually she emerged. Her arms were full of brown, twiggy stalks dotted with soft, plump nubs of velvet gray.


Flushed with happiness, she opened the passenger side door, and angled her tall frame back in, gently propping the very tall bundle of branches upright between the two of them on the front seat. “They’ll be just beautiful in an arrangement on the dining room table,” she beamed.

She smiled at my dad, and he – well he just looked at her, and then wordlessly facing forward, turned the key. The engine thrummed to life and we pulled off the gravel strip and back onto the highway, pointed toward home. In back, we sank into a familiar mosh of entwined limbs, worn blankets, soft pillows and breath, and the familiar cadence and hum of our car on the road.


I saw them just yesterday in a water-filled bucket next to a sign at the local grocer.

Three bundles for $12 – as easy as that.

Because of my Mom, I just had to have them.