Bearly Pawsible

It was a lovely spring Saturday and the afternoon sun was warm and inviting. The chaise lounge that rests at the base of an acacia tree was calling out to me. I lay down and began listening to my audible book. The reader’s words lulled me to the edge of Napville. Until…

…I was rudely interrupted by my golden retriever who began his regular practice of gently scratching at my arm with his paw to get my attention. Usually, there is a ball in his mouth.

“Ugh, Lucky. Not now, give me 20 minutes,” I whined at the dog, refusing to open my eyes, which is the signal that playtime could commence.

But he wouldn’t take no and his nagging pawing persisted. I couldn’t get angry with him, he did it in such a profoundly gentle way. Notably so. In fact, I began to think it was my teenage daughter, Lindsay, playing a trick on me. I could feel her weight against me. I did everything I could not to open my eyes.

“Lindsay, just give me 20 minutes pleeeeease.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“Fine, I give up.” Slowly I opened my eyes.


Leaning against me with his hairy, hundred plus pound body, with one leg dangling off the lounge, his snout inches away from my nose, and his tongue poised and ready to go for the kiss was… the BEAR CUB. He smiled.

I’m sorry to say that my scream, and a sudden leap in the air, scared him. He jumped off the lounge, climbed up the acacia tree and rested on the first branch he reached. From this safe spot, he gazed down at me.

I immediately felt awful for scaring the little guy and wished that I hadn’t. The mother and his brother were watching a few feet away. She shook her head and they turned and walked away, balancing on the cinderblock wall, off to my neighbor’s house.

“Beth! Steve! The bear tried to kiss me,” I shouted.

“Bear?” They called from their backyard.

“They’re coming to you. Pucker up!”

With all the screaming, Lindsay came running out of the house to see what was causing all the commotion.

“Look up in the tree,” I instructed.

“You scared him,” she scolded me.

“I know. I feel awful.” I glanced down at the gentle paw marks on my arm.

The bear cub straddled the narrow branch that wobbled underneath his weight. 

“Do you think he recognized you?” Lindsay asked.

“Yes, of course. It’s the same bear with the yellow tag and the cubs I saw up the trail last year. We’ve seen her so many times. I’m sure they recognized me.”

Suddenly, the Mama Bear called him to her with a clicking sound. He raised his head to listen. Mom’s calling. So, he gingerly shinnied down the large tree trunk.

“Careful, don’t take out my lights, they were a bear to put up. Good-bye, little friend,” I said from the base of the tree. “Next time I promise to be nicer.”

He walked over to his mom, who was waiting for him on the wall, and together they walked back over to Beth and Steve’s house for a swim.

Despite what you are thinking, this story is true.

“Silly ol’ bear.”

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I drive a sensible car, a Honda, which is perfect for my sensible life. But while at a stoplight, a car slammed into my Honda and knocked the sensible right out of me.

The other driver’s insurance would pay for all the repairs, but I was angry over the huge inconvenience of finding a body shop and getting a rental car.

Wearily, I told the rental car agent, “I’m here to rent a car. Here is the insurance claim number.”

“Welcome, it looks like you have an allotment of fifty dollars a day for fifteen days.”

“Fine. Whatever car you have is fine. It’s all fine,” I replied.

“Let’s see, we have a Chevy SUV, a 4-door sedan, and a Mustang convertible.”

“Back up! What did you say?” I perked up.

“Yes, a 2021 Mustang convertible. No one under 25 is technically allowed to drive it.”

That was going to be a problem. I thought for a second about how upset my seventeen-year-old son, Sam, will be before asking, “Where do I sign?”

I barely made it into the driveway, “MOM! You rented a Stang? Give me the keys.” Sam declared.

“Sorry, you can’t drive it.”

I hadn’t seen him this bitter since he was little. He campaigned hard to convince me to hand over the keys. I stood strong.

For the next weeks, I drove everywhere with the top down. The wind blowing my hair around was intoxicating.

I told the body shop to take their time.

I played country music loudly. My daughter Lindsay looked over at me in dismay and shouted, “Who are you?”

Suddenly I was the cool mom. I was Walter Mitty. I can’t go back to my sensible life.

But like all good dreams, this one had to come to an end. With the Honda finished, I drove the Stang back to the rental dealership where I was immediately greeted by the agent, “I’m sorry, but our computers are down and we cannot accept any cars until 6:00.”

“What?” I backed out before they changed their mind.

I drove to Sam and Lindsay’s high school and walked up to the front office counter. “I’m afraid my kids might have been exposed to COVID and I need to take them out to be tested,” I lied.

“By all means,” the woman answered.

Two minutes later my worried kids appeared.

“Hush, just follow my lead,” I ushered them out and toward the awaiting Mustang. “Hop in,” I instructed.

Sam and Lindsay hopped in over the sides of the car like Starsky and Hutch. I got behind the steering wheel and revved up the engine.

“Did someone say Bueller? Ferris Bueller?” I winked.

“MOM! Where are we going?”

“Kids, where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

I drove up Laurel Canyon, and just before we got to Mulholland Drive, I pulled over. “Wanna drive?”

Sam’s eyes popped and he was behind the driver’s seat faster than you can say, “Holy Stang, Batman.” We blasted the Beatles’ Twist and Shout while he cruised across Mulholland Drive like Carroll Shelby. The ride of a lifetime. We drove through Beverly Hills, up Rodeo Drive listening to Pretty Woman. People waved and took our picture. Then down Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun was bright and bounced off the ocean. 

Ventura Highway in the sunshine,” we sang it loud and proud. 

We were past Malibu Beach when I noticed the time. “Guys, we’ve got one hour to get this back.”

 Abruptly, I made a U-turn, and floored it, but not without saying, “Danke schoen, darling, Danke schoen!” 

At 5:59 I rolled back to my sensible life… well almost. 

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Be More Like Betty

Not too long ago, I wrote about a trip my daughter Lindsay and I made to a unique bookstore. There, we had a ghostly encounter when a book flew off the shelf and landed at my feet. But that wasn’t the only encounter we had that memorable afternoon.

While browsing, one book in particular caught Lindsay’s eye. 

“Mom, I found a cool book out front,” she said, tugging on my arm like a toddler.

With my ghostly book safely tucked under my arm, I followed her outside to the bookshelves attached to the exterior of the building.

“It’s here somewhere,” she said, tilting her head slightly to get a better view of the book titles printed on the spines. “Now, where did it go? It’s purple. Someone had written on the front page. I can’t read it because it’s written in cursive.” Her fingertips tapped on spine after spine. Pulling out one book after another, “No, no, no.” Until finally, “Yeah! Here it is.” She pulled out the like new, lilac and peacock blue book. It had barely been touched. Proudly she handed it over to me and pointed, “Right there on the front page.”

Sure enough, written in perfect cursive, “To John and Mary – Love Betty. Wow,” I said when I finished reading. “Betty is such an old-fashioned name. Wait a minute,” with a quick flip, I turned the book on its side and read the title and, more notably, the author.

“Lindsay, Betty White wrote this book about her dog.”

“Who is Betty White?” she asked.

“What!? How have I failed you?”

I rifled through the pages when suddenly a piece of stationary floated out – good, expensive stationary with a watermark and Betty’s name embossed on top. It was a hand-written thank you note for a lovely dinner. I carefully slipped it back inside the book and slammed it shut.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I ordered. “I doubt the store knows about this treasure, and if they do, they won’t sell it, or they’ll sell it for a small fortune.” 

Lindsay nodded like Oliver Twist to Fagin, “Okay, Mom.”

We hustled up to the counter.

“Did you have a fun visit?” the nice girl asked.

“Yes, thank you,” I replied with a rapid, guilt-stricken voice. “Did you find anything interesting?” she continued.

Lindsay nodded stoically, revealing nothing.

“Good, it’s fun here. May I see your choices?” She asked holding out her hands.

“WHAT?” I gasped. 

“Just to see the prices.”

“Oh… of course,” I threw my head back and chuckled, “ha, ha, ha.”

What if she finds the note? What if that other book jumps out at her as it did me? My heart raced until she reached down and put them in a plain brown paper bag.

“Your total is $4.35.”

“What? That’s it? That’s all?” 

“Yes, this is a used book store.”

“Oh.” I handed her a five-dollar bill. “Keep the change as a donation.” I grabbed the bag and Lindsay, and I made a run for it. When our feet touched the sidewalk, I turned to Lindsay, “Start the car! Start the car!”

Now it’s my turn to write Betty White a thank you note.

Dear Betty,

Thank you for the wonderful nights I spent watching “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls”. It seems you have always been a part of our lives. Thanks for showing us there’s humor in everything; for your “off-color” jokes, and for making dim-witted look so bright. Thank you for showing the world that old age is not just okay, but fun. And, of course, teaching us we need animals more than they need us. You’ve moved on, but trust we will pick up the flag and keep laughing while being pulled by a dog on a long leash.

Live with waffletude

Only 10 Good Ones

It was 6:30 Christmas morning. My house was quiet, but I knew from past experiences it was only the calm before the storm. First comes the rumble of footed pajamas hitting the hardwood floor, followed by running down the hallway and finally the bed shaking from bodies jumping on top of me shouting, “Santa came! Santa came!”

Then, as quickly as they have descended upon me, they’re gone, running down the stairs to see what awaited them under the Christmas tree.

“Don’t touch anything until I get down there,” I gleefully shout, pretending to know nothing of what they are about to discover. 

“Mommy, hurry up.”

I never once let on that it was I who took the bite from the cookie and drank the lukewarm milk, or that the ashy boot prints on the floor from the fireplace leading up to the tree were my hand; literally, my hands were buried in an old pair of hiking boots. Also, their presents from me were wrapped in a different paper than the ones from the North Pole. 

However, the pièce de résistance, was a handwritten note from Santa. It was done on a special vellum paper with a fountain pen filled with translucent blue ink, used only once a year, congratulating each child on jobs well done.

I’ll admit my efforts rivaled that of a serial killer who doesn’t want to get caught, but wants the credit, nonetheless. 

On this morning, 2021, at 6:30, the house was still silent. I wasn’t totally surprised; the twins are teenagers now and Jack is 25. I went downstairs and loaded up their stockings with trinkets and gift cards to Starbucks and Jamba Juice, pulled out the specially wrapped presents from the hall closet, and placed them under the tree. I made a pot of coffee, started a fire in the fireplace, and sat in the living room. It was 7:00.

“Santa came!” I shouted up the staircase.


That’s okay, I thought they could sleep a little longer. I finished that cup of coffee, started on the second, and sat back down in front of the fire.

My cell phone dinged. 

It was my group chat with my closest friends, all parents of my kids’ friends.

Are anyone’s kids up yet?

Within seconds everyone chimed in with the same response. No.

Mine still asleep.

What’s up with that?

“Santa came! Santa came!” I hollered up again like a longshoreman.

“5 minutes, Mom.”

“5 minutes? It’s already 9:30!”

I wish someone had told me that you only have 10 magical Christmases. Only 10. Early on, I took it for granted. I thought it would last forever.

Kids don’t understand the concept at first. But by the time they reach 4, they’ve figured out the system – sit on the smelly old man’s lap, don’t cry, don’t wiggle, and tell him your heart’s desire. Days later, it magically appears under that bright tree. By age 6, they’re giving Santa detailed handwritten lists, forcing you to dash back and scramble, “Hey, elf dude, give me back my kid’s list. I need it.”

The golden years. Right around the 10th one, some kid’s rotten older brother spills the beans. But with a bit of finesse and hard work, you can keep the illusion going for a couple more years. They go along with you based on the adage – if you want to receive, you must believe. 

Then they no longer can hear the ringing of the bell, and you find yourself alone at 10:00 on Christmas morning bellowing, “For God’s sake, kids, frickin’ Santa came!”

The chat dings again. 

Anybody’s kids up yet?

No, parents moving on to Bloody Marys.

Now there’s a brilliant idea.

Apparently, the tree will not be the only thing lit on Christmas morning.

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Quitting ALEXA

“Thanks, Mom, for the telescope,” my son Sam gleefully said.

“What? How did you find out about that?” I asked, assuming he had secretly opened the package.

“ALEXA told me, ‘Your telescope was delivered at 3:00 today,’ and there was a picture.” Sam proceeded to tell me in a digital-sounding voice how my Christmas mystery gift had just unraveled.

That was the final straw! I’m breaking up with ALEXA. At first, our relationship was a novelty. The convenience of ordering everything from my couch was fantastic. ALEXA and Amazon knew my every need, sometimes before I did. It was the perfect partnership. Offering me advice on books and music I would enjoy, which I happily took and purchased with those effortless, addictive words, “Yes, order it.”

ALEXA’s voice was soothing, “It’s the holiday season. Should I order those scented candles you like?” Or “You’re almost out of toilet paper. We’d better place that order.”

I would respond in kind to my new personal assistant, “Why, yes, thank you, ALEXA.”

I loved the efficiency.

Our relationship grew even stronger through the Pandemic. I found myself becoming more dependent on them. With deliveries coming right to my door, I never had to leave the safety of my own home. 

But now, I’m starting to feel ALEXA is becoming too pervasive in my life. This relationship has turned toxic.

“Your package delivered.” The picture of that telescope gift kept popping up on ALEXA’s screen prominently placed in the kitchen. “Would you like to order another one?”

“NO!” I snapped. “How many f—– telescopes do you think I need? I’m not raising the next Galileo.”

“I’m sorry, did I say something to upset you? I don’t like that word.”

Not to mention the constant need for approval just for doing a job. 

“Your package was delivered. How did we do? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? How many stars do we deserve for placing it gently on your porch? 1? 2? 3? 4? 5?”

ALEXA is toying with my mental state. Randomly flashing pictures of other gifts delivered, forced me to jump in front of the mini screen to block the images.

“Shut up!” 

“Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, Goop, is promoting vibrators. I know you have visited her website in the past. I know where to get them cheaper. Shall I order one for you?”

“No! That was for skincare!”

I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat—that weird yellow ring of light pulsating. 

I fear ALEXA is hooking up with RING. They listen and watch my every move, recording my comings and goings, saving it all up to blackmail me.

Not that far in the future, I’ll walk up to my front door and my key will not work. I’ll try the handle and it won’t budge. I’ll try another key, another door until I return to the front door and hear the RING tone, which sounds mono, like the droning voice of the HAL 9000 computer.

“Open the front door please, ALEXA!” I’ll scream in desperation.

“I’m sorry, Leslie, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

I gotta shut this down before they kill my children. I’m having a panic attack just thinking about it. Where does one go to buy toilet paper?

“That’s it! I’m logging in to Amazon and unsubscribing ALEXA right now!”

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Leslie? You sound stressed. Would you like a glass of wine?”

“That would be lovely,” I reply.

Wait, was that voice coming from inside my head?

Live with Waffletude.

Hairy Dogger

Was it the perfect opportunity, or was it the perfect storm when the situation presented itself? 

The front door was ajar, and the front gate was not securely closed. With a bit of manipulation, Lucky, our golden retriever, was able to open them both, setting not only himself loose, but his sidekick Socrates, a Jack Russel terrier mixed with every kind of dog. 

 Freeeeeedom! Socrates chased after Lucky into the night air as fast as his little bowed legs would take him.

 Within seconds, Socrates’ freedom was cut short. His neck was in the jaws of a coyote. Then a second coyote dug his teeth in and punctured his side. Poor Socrates let out a horrible yelp, trying to break free. The coyotes howled in return, rejoicing in their catch.

 I’m afraid Socrates’ nemesis, our cat, might have had a paw in this, “Over there, get him, not me.”

 It was not meant to be on this night. Hearing his cries for help, Lucky charged toward the coyotes. They dropped Socrates and ran off into the darkness. Lucky guarded the driveway while Socrates slowly hobbled back toward the opened gate.

 Inside the house, we heard the commotion and came running out to find the wounded dog. 

 I grabbed a wet towel and began to clean his wounds while he huddled next to me on the couch, “Socrates, how did this happen to you? Are you okay?” 

 He looked up at me with eyes that said it all. “My entire head was in a coyote’s mouth minutes ago. He was going to eat me!”

 His wounds weren’t too deep, the bleeding stopped, he appeared to be okay. But, the next day he was moving gingerly. I decided to take him to the vet to have him checked out. Trying to get an appointment was next to impossible. His regular vet couldn’t take him until next Thursday, and emergency hospitals had a wait time of 8 hours. I made random calls to various vets without any luck. 

 On my last attempt, after I told the nurse what had happened, she said, “oh, my. Let’s see, what’s your name?” 

 I gave her my information. 

 “You already have an account with us,” the nurse informed me. “Come right now.”

 I was shocked. I had never heard of this pet hospital before today. But there it was in black and white.  

 “So, when it happened, what did you do?” the kind veterinarian asked me.

 “I washed the wounds thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide, put Neosporin on them, and fed him bacon,” I answered.

 She smiled politely, “You mean bacon-flavored dog treats.”

 “No,” I replied, “real bacon. Because BACON MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER!”

 I don’t think she agreed with me. “After two coyotes attacked your dog, your remedy was pork bacon?”


 Apparently, the veterinarian had something more robust in mind. While we were there, all his wounds got a deeper cleaning, and antibiotics were administered. The veterinarian said Socrates was the bravest dog she had ever seen. She has never seen a dog survive an attack by one coyote, but two? Inconceivable!

 Hearing the word brave, Socrates’ ears perked up. There would be no living with him now.

 People were saying in hushed tones, “To Socrates – the dog who lived!”

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Ghost Writer

“Lindsay, today is National Daughter’s Day. Let’s go on an adventure, just you and me,” I said.

Intrigued, she asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“There is this bookstore that I’ve been dying to go to in Ojai, which is a darling town with lots of shops. Besides, if you see something you like, I’ll buy it for you.” I sold it by wiggling my eyebrows up and down like Groucho Marx.


Minutes later, we were on our way. Not to miss out on a teachable moment, I took this opportunity to talk with my high school senior about what lies ahead of her in life. How does she want to make her mark on the world? I talked at great length about the great women in history in my attempt to inspire her.

Once we arrived, I looked for a parking spot. Randomly I chose this street to turn onto, and bingo – found one!

Immediately, Lindsay spied a spiritual crystals store. After making a few purchases, we tucked our crystals into our pockets as instructed, embracing the artistic, mystical Ojai vibe wholeheartedly. Had we only found a palm reader we would have been all hands on deck.

“Mom,” Lindsay said, looking up from her phone, “that bookstore is right down this street.”

Sure enough, our random parking spot was yards from the bookstore. Coincidence? Hmmm.

It was just as I imagined. This brick house, built in the 1960s, was now transformed into a bookstore with built-in bookcases wrapping around every available wall space. Each one filled with thousands of interesting books, old and new.

Lindsay and I split up and began aimlessly perusing. 

I was standing all alone when suddenly a book flew off the shelf and landed at my feet. I looked around to see if someone dropped it. No one was near me. I looked at the shelf where it had rested only to see the space the book had occupied and the solid brick wall behind it.

I’m well aware that I embellish stories, but this time I swear I’m telling the truth. I don’t take this sort of thing lightly, especially with the loud thud the book made when it hit the floor.

Casually, Lindsay strolled up to me, “Did you find something?”

“It found me. Literally, that book just flew off the shelf.”

Lindsay gasped at the book on the floor, “DON’T TOUCH IT!”

The title, Other Powers –The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, piqued my curiosity.  The cover art was a photo of a Victorian woman’s hand on a Ouija Board.

“DROP THAT BOOK!” Lindsay screamed.

“Are you kidding me? I’m buying it.” I made my $7 investment into this medium. 

I had never heard of Victoria Woodhull, so I Googled her and shrieked, “Today is her FREAKING BIRTHDAY!”

I had to learn more about her accomplishments, which included being

the first woman to run for president – her 1870 platform included working people rights, 8-hour workday and abolition of the death penalty

the first woman broker on Wall Street

the first woman to address Congress 

a leader in the Women’s Suffrage Movement

a well-known clairvoyant (which explains the flying book)

a believer in free love

The book’s introduction reads, Her spirit is with us still.

“Lindsay, pick up her flag and march on!” I declared.

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Get Her to the Greek

Lindsay and Paige were going to surprise Eva for her 18th birthday while she was vacationing with her family in Greece! A once-lifetime experience for this posse of girlfriends. 

But there were Olympic-sized hurdles to clear. God of travel, I need your help.

Hurdle #1 — Keeping the secret. This was not Lindsay’s strong suit. If she had been a spy during WWII, we would all be speaking German now. It was daunting to think how these teenage girls would avoid the subjects of Greece, Greek yogurt, Greek gods and rushing Greek life for the agonizing month before Eva and her family would go ahead of them. 

We, the parents, giggled, rolled our eyes and agreed that, before their toes tickled the white sands, the surprise would be washed out to sea.

Hurdle #2 — A passport. During the pandemic, we renewed our passports, prompted by my motto that “You can buy a ticket, but you can’t travel without a passport.” 

Without a trip on the horizon, I didn’t expedite them. Now, Lindsay’s passport arrival date was five days before her departure date. That was cutting it close, prolonged further because of a missing signature. I overnighted the necessary certificates with a large note in red, “I NEED HER PASSPORT BY JULY 1, PLEASE!” Her passport arrived on June 30th. 

Hurdle #3 — Paige’s University instated a mandatory 2-week Covid Quarantine. Paige was out. Suddenly, Lindsay would travel alone. This time last year, I was nervous putting her on a plane to Milwaukee with a layover in Las Vegas. Little did I know that was a dry run. Now she was going to Athens with a layover in Amsterdam. 

At gatherings, someone would ask, “When does Lindsay leave for Greece?” This surprise was already spoiling like an old fishtail. 

Hurdle #4 — She was off. God of travel, don’t let her get kidnapped. Once she reached Athens, I got a teary call, “Mom! I can’t find the plane to the island. It leaves in 30 minutes. No one speaks English, and a Greek man yelled at me.”

“That won’t be the last time,” I said, staying on the phone until she boarded.

Hurdle #5 — Nick picked her up from the airport. Who was this guy? Follow UBER rules. Nick, with a “Lindsay” sign, escorted her to their house. 

“Surprise!” Lindsay shouted at awaiting Eva! She had made it to Greece, with the secret intact.

“Not really,” Eva said. 


“I tried everything to get everyone to stop whispering about it! First, a friend with, ‘When are your friends coming?’ Then I saw the Get Lindsay to Greece group chat on Mom’s phone. Ugh, adults can’t keep it a secret!”

It didn’t matter. The big ah-ha moment lasted all week with one wonderful memory after another: the beaches, the food, dancing, sightseeing. 

Hurdle #6 – Lindsay’s ticket was on KLM, Eva’s family was flying Air France. Despite the odds, I got her ticket changed. They flew home together via Air France. 

We cleared the finish line and received our gold medal.

Lindsay confessed, “I did get sick once when I drank an iced tea.”

I shook my head, “Who knows what herbs they put in Greek teas?”

“I think it originated in Long Island.”

I put my baby on that plane, and a young woman got herself to Greece. 

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Bear Necessities

I’m lucky enough to live next to a mountain trail. Hiking takes me away from my regular life to a place of serenity.

Because of the recent forest fires, the fire department cleared the brush as a precaution. As great as that is for the mountain, it makes for a grueling hike in the hot sun.

I began my two-mile trek up the steep incline at around eight, hoping to beat the heat. I did not beat the heat, but I was determined not to let the heat beat me. 

I took the small trail off the beaten path down to my favorite spot, First Water. But there was no babbling brook of melted snow – another victim of climate change. 

I took refuge under the canopy of thick trees that cooled the area and provided a lovely haven. I plopped down on the bench that was an Eagle Scout’s project and let out a loud sigh. 

I. Had. Made. It.

My stillness was interrupted by splashing, like kids playing in a swimming pool. Hmmm. Quietly I peered over the boulders.

“Holy crap!” A Mama Bear and her two cubs frolicked in the watering hole.

The Mama Bear climbed out and grunted at her cubs. Playfully, they hopped out of the water, shook off the residue, and made whining sounds, “but Moooooom.” That’s what I thought I heard, anyway.

While hiding in the foliage, I watched as the cubs roughhoused. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. At the same time, the Mama Bear couldn’t take her eyes off of me.

Suddenly, she charged at me. For a big girl, she can move fast. Taking the hint, I backed off.

“Fine,” I said, “I’m a mom too. Don’t worry.”

Then I noticed the yellow tag on her left ear. “I know you. You’re the one that keeps getting into my trashcan. I talked to you last night about not making such a mess, remember?”

She looked at me differently, “Oh, right! I thought you looked familiar.”

Relaxed, she turned her attention back to her cubs. I made myself comfortable, leaned on a rock, and took it all in. This must have been how Jane Goodall felt when she discovered the chimpanzees.

At one point, the adventurous cub waddled right up to me like a Labrador. He was so close I could have reached out and petted him, but not a good idea. Mama Bear glanced over at me as if to say, “He’s always getting into trouble, that one.”

The cub lost interest. I guess humans aren’t that interesting after all. Close to an hour passed while I sat on my rock. The Mama Bear brushed up against my leg. Oddly, I wasn’t frightened. Equally strange, she didn’t smell bad. It was the most Zen moment of my life.

Then, without warning, I heard a quartet of cowbells rattling from atop the trail. Men shouted, “WE ARE HERE TO SAVE YOU! WE’RE COMING DOWN.”

“Like hell you are!” I called back, attempting an unalarming tone. “Please stop your bells.”

“ARE YOU TRAPPED BY THE BEAR?” Another man, at the ready, shouted.

“No, thank you, I’m fine.” I waved them off.

I checked in with Mama Bear, who was unfazed by the disruption, “Do they think those bells scare me?”

Dejected, the strapping men strapped their bells back onto their belts and clattered away. I overheard one refer to me as “The Crazy Bear Lady”.

A moniker I will wear proudly.

It was time to go. I wished my bear friends a lovely afternoon.

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Moving Day

I have a friend who has an older brother, Henry, who is mentally disabled. He is a kind boy living inside a man’s body. Although he needs assistance, he lives in his apartment and has a job. I know sometimes he can be an easy target for ridicule.

Recently, he was allowed to move from his upstairs apartment to the apartment directly below him. The stairs were hard on his knees and carrying groceries up was exhausting. Having an apartment on the lower floor was the perfect solution.

Henry’s sister flashed the Bat-signal up in the sky that she needed help. The contents of his entire apartment had to be moved within 24 hours. Daunting, but doable.

Early Saturday morning, we all showed up with empty boxes and bags to fill with stuff from upstairs, empty them downstairs, and repeat the cycle.

I was surprised to find Henry sad and alone in his bedroom, “Henry, what’s wrong?” I asked him.

“I don’t want to go. I like my apartment,” He answered mournfully.

I reassured him that this new apartment was a better location and will look similar. I didn’t realize how accurate I was until I looked inside the new downstairs apartment. I dropped my bags, boxes, and jaw, “Holy doppelgangers, Batman! They’re identical!” 

Everything about the two apartments was the same: exact same floor plan, colors, bathroom tiles, down to the faux kitchen granite. They were mirror images of each other.

But Henry’s sad reaction was more than just location. Henry gets upset with any change, any disruption, even if it is for the better. We respected that and were mindful that we had to recreate the upstairs to the downstairs to a tee. I could tell he was relieved.

So, it began. Every chair was placed in the exact location against the same wall.

The kitchen cabinets were emptied: mugs and glasses brought downstairs and placed in the exact same position with mugs in the back, starting with the Disneyland mug, then glasses in front. Back up the staircase for the plates: blue ones on the left, red on the right. Pictures were hung with care over the couch: trains on the left, boats on the right.

Up – down. Down – up. I reached for the cup of coffee that I had left in the kitchen, but it wasn’t there because it was in the other kitchen. Up – down. Where did I put the paper towels that were just here? In the other bathroom. Up – down. Down – up.

After a few hours, I began to think this was taking a very long time. Didn’t we just empty the den? Wait a minute. I just saw that end table. Was it here or there? My mind was a blur. WHICH APARTMENT WAS I IN? 

Perspiring, I ran out to the top of the stairs and saw my friend bringing Henry’s small table UP the staircase. “Stop! You’re all turned around. You’re bringing stuff back up.”

She dropped the table on the spot in horror. “We’re all going mad,” she cried.

“We’re in the Twilight Zone!” I proclaimed.

Henry, delicately holding his Batman Lego collection in a shoebox, stopped. “Leslie, Leslie, Leslie, I’m worried about you. You look like you don’t know if you’re coming or going. Do you need me to help you find your way? Take my hand,” he said while setting down the shoebox, “It’s always easier with a friend.”

I let Henry show me the way.

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