Why cellphones don’t belong in classrooms

A senior public school in Toronto has banned the use of cellphones in the classroom.

They all should.

This topic has been hot for years, but debate regarding which outside influences should be permitted inside a classroom has been around forever.

Back in the day, I wasn’t allowed to have food or drink or a calculator with me; I also had teachers who forbade knapsacks, no doubt because I might be hiding food or drink or a calculator in one. Schools draft policies delineating what students can wear because it only takes one girl showing the bottom of her butt, or one boy showing the top of his, for educators to say “enough.”

What do all of these things have in common? They’re distractions. Some distractions are difficult to control, like the raging teen hormones that make many teachers’ jobs a nightmare at times. Some are easy to control, like blocking out the window in the door so kids aren’t glancing at who is in the hallway outside.

But cellphones are the perfect storm of distraction, their immediacy trumping all else, including reason. I don’t blame teachers for not wanting to compete with them.

The argument rages because it seems counterproductive to remove technology from a learning environment when it should be seen as a tool, not a traitor. The problem isn’t that cellphones and tablets aren’t amazing; it’s that they’ve reduced us all to having the attention span of a 6-year-old in an arcade. Good multi-tasking is not a real thing, nor is it something to brag about. It just means you are doing, through either choice or necessity, several things in a half-assed way instead of one thing well.

Consider that cellphone use in a car — especially texting — has now surpassed intoxication as the most deadly behaviour taking place behind the wheel. I’ve done both (controlled circumstances, closed course) and can vouch for that. Drunks are at least trying to focus on the road, whereas texters aren’t even looking at the road. But the science goes deeper than even the physical aspects of the application. Your brain, while engaged with a cellphone, has effectively shut out everything around it. When the thing it is shutting out is a classroom, we have a problem.

I’ve heard arguments from parents and kids alike. Parents can be the worst transgressors of all. I know parents who will text their kids, knowing they’re in class.

Seriously? What is wrong with you? If Ari texts me, the first thing I ask is where he is. Not to make you roll your eyes, but folks, if you’re not part of the solution, you really are part of the problem. You have to backstop your school by insisting your child is respectful to the teacher and the other students. That means learning something. That means not cheating others of learning something.

When there is some horrific shooting or lockdown on the news, there are always the requisite anecdotes of students using their phones to establish contact to relieved parents outside. I get it. But you will never get good legislation from emotional circumstances.

Cellphone use isn’t just about people playing with toys; there is a very real physical addiction to the devices, and an incoming text sets off dopamine receptors in your brain just like a slot machine paying out or a drug addict getting a fix.

To the kids who think they’re perhaps being singled out: you’re not. Very few adults are able to disconnect from their phones. Maybe by instituting curbs in your behaviour, we can start to get a grip on our own.

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Your trash, my Dad’s treasure

The cars ahead of me slowed inexplicably, something that happens more and more often as this once-a-town, now-a-city continues to push at its seams.

We have too many stop signs and traffic planners who can’t spell synchronicity and the fact remains: it is getting harder and harder to get anywhere.

And here we were again, a chain of cars ahead of me slowing to a stop for no discernible reason.

Then I saw it. A pile of household goods at the foot of a driveway. Hmmm.

A set of built-in bookcases from a 1960s rec room, a white industrial sink with a trail of rust from tap to drain and a bike frame. My city calls this Bulk Waste, when you can periodically put to the curb oversized household goods for disposal.

My father called this good garbage day.

Some households note important dates on the calendar, like anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas. Sommerfelds noted Good Garbage Day. My father would prowl around in whatever station wagon we currently had, declaring treasure amongst other people’s trash. My mother was humiliated, because this was before the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra was being chanted by schoolchildren everywhere.

The problem was my parents were one of those epic, romantic mismatches; Mom was the neighbourhood Avon lady and my Dad saw nothing wrong with rapping on a door and telling the homeowner that whenever they wanted to get rid of that lumber down the side of the house, to just call him and he’d come take it away in his station wagon. My mother didn’t actually die of mortification, but she came close on more than one occasion.

Some people can take a castoff appliance, rewire it and declare it new. Some can refinish wooden furniture. Some can upholster, paint, reinforce and rebuild. My father could do none of those things. He would take things that others had thrown away, bring them home, and tighten up some lagging section with various sized bolts which would ultimately just remind us why someone had thrown it away in the first place.

I learned a lot at my father’s elbow, driving around town like some crazy version of Bonnie and Clyde — if Bonnie and Clyde were father and daughter instead of killer romantics and held up garage sales instead of banks. It’s not like you had to drive a hard bargain: junk put out with the garbage is pretty much garbage. But you did have to get there early, because the best parts of Good Garbage Day could be over in the blink of an eye.

I was more enthusiastic about this form of retail when I was younger. I recall a small table on castors that I trundled home after school one day, one of its wheels missing and making the trek somewhat taxing. No matter; I’d found a mostly-intact table, for free!

My Dad stared at the missing castor, and promptly poked around until he found a huge bolt that could be made level to the remaining three wheels. My table no longer wheeled, and was a little tippy, but it had a back story. It would take me several decades to recognize that this describes some of the best things in life, including many of my people.

After silently cursing the backed up cars picking over my neighbour’s castoffs, I came home to a note from my sister, Gilly. She said earlier in the day, she’d been caught in weirdly slowing traffic. When she realized it was Good Garbage Day, she’d thought of Dad.

Twenty years on, we still think of you, Pop. Holding up traffic and cherry-picking the neighbour’s garbage.

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First came the mom-cancelling headphones

My laptop started doing weird things six months ago, but I found a way to wiggle something back into place and if I held it just right, it still turned on.

I knew then it was on its last legs, and like everything you solve with a MacGyver fix, you know it can’t last forever. The problem? As long as the fix is fixing, you forget you have a problem.

The other day, it finally crashed for the last time. I took it to Ari and asked what I should do. He glanced at the purple screen, pushed a couple of buttons and pronounced it dead. It promptly went black, as if it had just been waiting for its last rites.

“I told you it was going,” he told me, needlessly.

“I get it. But I need to replace it right now. I need this for work,” I reminded him.

“Best deals are online. But if you pay extra, we can get it shipped here by tomorrow.”

“How much more is it?”

“Forty-five bucks,” he replied.

I told him we would not be paying for express shipping. When it showed up the next day anyway, I vowed to never pay for express shipping for anything, ever.

I’ve got a new Chromebook, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a computer so easy to set up. Ari had been pushing me in that direction all along, but the idea of new computers or phones makes me miserable. I do not like change; my world may look like thinly disguised chaos, but there is a very real and complete method to my madness. The slightest ripple in my daily structure leaves behind fault lines, and I wonder when I became so precious.

If you’ve moved to Chrome, you’ll understand how the Google Cloud works. All your things get automatically sucked up into the computer cloud for storage, instead of on the actual computer. This cloud then sits above all your devices, so as I change from phone to laptop to desktop to iPad, everything tags along for the ride.

It’s fly-around Internet at its very best, and I know I should have listened to my kid sooner. After years of fumbling with losing things, backing up and then losing the backup, and cut and pasting work to pass from one device to another, I now have the full autonomy my son has been barking at me about for a couple of years.

As I was patting myself on the back for setting up the new laptop myself – a first – I heard Ari talking with his buddies. It seems someone else’s mom was shopping for a new computer, and I heard them all chime in with the same advice Ari had given me.

“Yeah, tell her to get a Chromebook,” said one voice.

I liked hearing all these computer geeks recommending the same thing. I can’t keep up with a technological world that is moving at warp speed, and it’s tough enough sussing out the automotive features I face each week. I’m grateful when Ari spares me the hassle of sourcing the computer issues, and I think it’s sweet that he knew the Cloud would make my work life a lot easier.

I passed through the room a few minutes later, still liking the little glow I felt in having all these kids ready to give advice to those of us less skilled. And I was just in time to hear my own kid adding to the conversation.

“Chromebooks are definitely the best way to cut down on the dumb mom questions,” said Ari, and his friends all cheered.

Brats.

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You can make a powerful political statement just by staying home

If the current political climate has you a little knotted, you’re not alone.

If you’re a thinking, caring, informed individual, it has been impossible to go about your business unaffected by the roiling turmoil going on to the south of us.

To anyone who thinks all of those decisions being made don’t impact Canada, I’d like to slap them upside the head with a few lessons in history, geography, economics and ethics.

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably unfollowed or muted people over the past few months. Maybe even family members. Maybe especially family members. What once simmered just below the family dinner gravy line has broken free of the surface like a hooked shark.

These are painful times.

I’m unapologetically outspoken in my beliefs, and that has frayed – and sometimes fractured – my relationships with friends and colleagues alike. I can live with that, because we are living in times where a tyrant can seize power and shake the world to its core and glance in the mirror and smooth his matted hair and laugh.

But we’re not helpless, and we don’t have to corrode who we are in spite of the hate and vitriol that is seemingly everywhere. I have many American friends, and I’ve told them I won’t be coming to visit them until their 45th president is reined in. I’ve also made clear I will not accept work trips. Economic sanctions have long been a global approach to punishing countries that punish its citizens, and we have the power to adopt that peaceful strategy.

Stay home this year. Or perhaps for the next four, I’ve no idea. One thing I do know is that Canada is one of the most fabulous places on earth to spend your vacation time and money, whether you have a little or a lot. Heck, a New York Times story just put it at the top of its list for travel destinations. I’ve been all over most parts of it, and I suggest on this, our 150th birthday, you spend your dollars at home.

Our national parks are spectacular, and for 2017 the federal government is throwing open the gates to them and providing free passes. Whether you fly and book into hotels or drive and camp as you go, there is no bad way to see this amazing country.

Rent an RV if you’re brave enough, though contact me for tips on that. It’s trickier than it looks.

Newfoundland is like no other place I’ve ever been, and it will stay in your heart forever.

Northern Quebec will let your kids test out the French they’ve been learning with some of the most patient people I’ve ever met.

Those ads for the Maritime provinces? They’re not lying. It is just that lyrical there, and the history comes alive.

Experience the often crazy weather in Calgary and trek through the Rockies and Banff.

We have hot springs in northern British Columbia (Liard), and glacial lakes in the Yukon.

Dawson City has to be seen to be believed.

Maybe your roots are on the prairies, like mine are, and the kids need to see what you, or Grandma and Grandpa, have been talking about.

Our major cities have all the dazzle of many of our American counterparts.

It costs a great deal of money to plunk a pair of mouse ears on your kids’ heads and stand in lines on hot asphalt. We live in the most amazing country on earth, and this year more than ever, I suggest you show it to them, and to yourself.

Appreciate this magnificent country.

Invite your American friends to join you.

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I’m not changing the world, the world is changing me

Like many people, I watched the United States election with not just a sense of worry, but one of dread. I was in Miami for work on election night, with colleagues from several other countries. It was a defining moment to be on American soil, especially to be so geographically close to a country the incoming president had promised to punish, and indeed, who would commence to do just that immediately.

I’ve always had conservative friends, though more who tack left. I was raised as a conservative and until so many reached this fever pitch, polarizing hatred of each other in recent years, I could always find common ground with most people. But an electorate driven by fear and lies will never be a sound one, nor will it capitalize on the best that all individuals, and communities, have to offer regardless of political stripe.

I also have many American friends, and as I sat watching the swells for a peaceful march on Washington, D.C., take shape, I knew I had to do something. I had to support friends who wanted no part of an administration that would trample women’s rights, civil rights, and the environment, promote bigotry, racism, xenophobia and homophobia.

I called a friend in New Hampshire and told her I was coming down to get her, and we were going to Boston to march. She asked if I had room for two more. Within an hour of saying on Twitter that I was going, a reader contacted me and said she’d knit me one of the famous pink hats. She did it the next day and I picked it up on my way.

Here’s the thing: I’m a rules kind of person. I made sure the press car I was driving had the requisite permission forms to take it over the border. I calculated how much money I would need and changed it up here. I had to read websites on how to go to a march because I’d never gone to one. And I got down there and was surrounded by 175,000 other people who were pretty much saying the same thing.

I had some fear at the back of my brain. After the Boston Marathon bombing four years ago in this same place, I’d have to be a fool not to. There was trepidation underneath the sea of pink hats and handwritten signs, and there was concern surrounding all those strollers and children. But more importantly, there was an overwhelming sense of hope.

You’ve probably read reports that the marchers were a bunch of bored white housewives, but that is wrong, and unfair. Nearly 30 per cent of Boston’s population is made up of immigrants; in the GTA that number is 52 per cent. When an incoming administration starts taking a bead on women and immigrants and those in the LGBT community, it is possible for citizens to feel the weight of many targets on their back.

I’m not changing the world, but the world is changing me. The new U.S. administration is now also going after scientists, eliminating funding and silencing those who produce facts that get in the way of the made up nonsense that even their spokespeople can’t name. “Alternative facts” are lies. Threatening to destroy the work done by NASA and dozens of other government agencies who deal in nonpartisan science is chilling.

Our scientific community was similarly attacked by our former prime minister. To pretend we can ignore what’s happening is foolish, because every decision being made down there affects us too.

Not sure what I’ll be wearing to the Science March, but I’ll be there.

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Boycotting a whole country

I kept finding a mess at the side door, and picking up all the crap and wondering why the kids were just throwing recycling on the floor and not putting it in the bins, and then emptying the bins. That is a Kid Job, not a Mom Job. Over and over, tins and boxes on the floor.

Turns out Ari was finding stuff all over the floor and tidying it up as well, and thinking I was just tossing egg cartons and cans without looking. He was picking them up and thinking, “Mom really needs to stop doing that.”

Heard a bunch of noise last night as I was finishing up some work. Marco was also doing some work.

marco recycling

That’s all I got for tonight. I’m just sitting here watching the world burn. Brought back a bottle of Tito’s on my last trip to the U.S. I’m glad, because it looks like it might be my last for a while. I will not be taking any holidays or doing any work trips to the U.S. until this tyrant is reined in.

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Revisiting their childhood. If Mom can find their gear

“Do I have skates?”

Every parent has heard this question. Out of the blue, with little tethering to logic, you will be asked to think back in your child rearing Rolodex and know the exact location of baseball mitts, badminton racquets, combination locks and hockey pucks.

This can be a year after the last sighting of these things, or it can be a decade. Or more. Even if the child in question has moved out, you are still supposed to remain the repository for everything they accumulated in childhood and may one day require.

Ari, 22, and his buddies decided to go skating last week. I don’t know what precipitated it, only that all of a sudden Ari was tossing through years of skates in the garage and basement, like Goldilocks ransacking the Bears’ cottage. The boys spent a lot of time at an outdoor local rink near the house when they were younger but after its demise, they’d hung up their blades.

Jesse had been living out in Calgary and skating there; Ben plays hockey regularly; Emerson and Ari both had fond memories of skating prowess, if not exactly any recent evidence of it. They returned from their first rink excursion with a reality check firmly in place.

“You should have seen Emerson, it was so funny,” laughed Ari. “He can’t turn right!”

I told him it wasn’t fun to laugh at his friend, especially when you’re wearing a red plaid hat with ear flaps that makes you look like Elmer Fudd.

“We’d get going OK, then they blow the whistle to go the other way and Emerson couldn’t do it.”

“And you were amazing, I presume?” I asked him.

“No. I can’t stop. And turning left is awkward. We’re going back tonight,” he continued.

Ah, the tenacity of youth.

“So how do you stop?”

“By crashing into the boards,” he replied. “At one point, I was totally out of control and heading right for this dude, and all I could think to do was grab him in a big man-hug so I didn’t run him over. So I did that.”

“And what did he think of this?”

“He didn’t look amused,” admitted Ari. “But Emerson was going to land in this group of little kids. He grabbed the boards instead, but …”

By now Ari was laughing so hard, he couldn’t talk as he acted out Emerson flailing to avoid taking out innocents.

“Were the kids OK?” I asked.

“They were laughing at us. They’re like, this tall,” he said, gesturing to his waist, “and thought we were idiots. They could skate circles around us.”

They were back at it the next day, and the next. Taryn, Ari’s girlfriend, scooted to her Mom’s to find her skates, proving my theory yet again.

After the boys had been skating one afternoon, Ari and Taryn made plans to skate that evening when she got off work. She came home to get ready, and heard Jesse and Emerson pile into the front hallway. She looked at Ari.

“What? They wanted to come, too,” he said.

This is a group of kids that do almost everything together. I looked into the boys’ faces, and saw that Emerson just wanted to learn how to turn right, Ari just wanted to learn how to stop, and Jesse just wanted to laugh at both of them.

It took me a moment to understand why Taryn was sighing about the group date. She was envisioning a young couple skating gracefully holding hands instead of her boyfriend giving random strangers man-hugs and plowing down groups of fourth graders like so many bowling pins.

I reminded her that the Elmer Fudd look was already a bit of a romance killer.

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Did someone say bowling?

In an effort to give all those near and dear to me a reason to survive the recent holidays, I announced that I would be having a bowling party. The fact that the end of the holidays landed on my birthday was merely a coincidence resulting in several bottles of wine and other lovely gifts. It was not the intent, but it’s hard to find fault with the result.

It was casual and not very well thought out; I simply posted a cute picture of some bowling pins on Facebook and told anyone who wanted to come, they could. I called a bowling alley near me and asked how one might go about doing this, because the last time I did it was for someone turning eight.

Turns out there is such a thing as an adult bowling party, and I was having one. I called it Superbowl 2017 because I was certain the name wasn’t already taken.

Bowling Alley Dude cut me a great deal when I told him there might be as many as 20 people. He just asked that I call the day before and confirm the numbers. I called the day before and told him we were up to 40. It appears bowling is one of those secret things everybody likes to do but never admits to, like reading their horoscope or watching Judge Judy.

I am a terrible bowler. Worse than that, I’m an embarrassing bowler. But the beauty of bowling is that no matter how badly you suck at it, you have fun. Sometimes the fun comes from laughing at watching people like me bowl.

When I got to the alley, Bowling Dude handed me a stack of white papers and told me to have everyone make up teams of six. I looked around the crowded, dark alley and saw all these people I knew who didn’t know each other. I instructed them to make themselves into teams.

This was fairly easy for my sisters and my kids and their friends, but there were many there who only knew me. I found out later that was indeed how most people got acquainted.

“So, how do you know Lorraine?” they asked.

As I watched strangers cheer each other on throughout the night, I realized there are far worse ways to form friendships, even ones that only last a few hours.

I watched Ari and his friends sharing pitchers of beer – sad to say, they’d made me their designated driver for the night – and bowl with the enthusiasm and ease of still having all their original parts. I watched other friends consider their replaced hips or wobbly knees and wonder how much this was going to hurt in the morning.

I had youth on my team: some kids the same age as my sons, as well as a couple of friends of my own. Our scores were all within a few points of each other; one lad laughed that it was like all of us trying to be the tallest gnome. Nobody broke 100, and I don’t think anyone broke a sweat. But we laughed and we applauded and watched similar score sheets across the eight lanes that were hosting my party.

People met my sisters, their families, and my high school English teacher. They met my co-workers and some grade school friends. They met car industry people, and people I’d worked with 30 years ago. They met a couple I’d met by writing about their daughter, and a man I wrote about last year.

Not everybody bowled, but everyone participated.

Next year the invite will again stand open. Cheap, cheerful and inclusive.

Bet we get more than 40.

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That time I made something awful. No, the other time

Ari’s girlfriend, Taryn, is very much the cook around here.

I’ve had to put a special set of shelves in the kitchen just to hold the various equipment she requires to feed us. Rice cooker, wok, food processor and many other things that mystify me occupy this space.

She bought a mortar and pestle in the summer; this I did recognize, and was happy. I’d always wanted one to smoosh spices with. The other night I eyeballed it, sitting there on the shelf, neglected, and thought I’d surprise her with dessert.

“Taryn, do you want dessert?” I yelled up the stairs.

“Yes,” she replied.

This is what I like about Taryn. Ari would have first ignored me, then asked what it was, then asked for something different, then told me how to make it. Taryn just said yes.

Before you think Motherlode has fallen off some kind of wagon and bumped her head, I have not started making recipes that result in dessert. Imagine, instead, something a 6-year-old would invent. Now that we have the bar where it should be, this is what I made for Taryn.

I chopped up a banana, dumped some chocolate pudding on it, smashed some peanuts in the mortar and pestle and put the peanut crumbs all over it. Thing looked so fabulous, I made one for myself. It’s not exactly “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” but at least I used up two bananas before they went bad.

I delivered Taryn’s to her and she made appropriate little appreciative noises because, as everyone knows, it’s kind of hard to go wrong with chocolate, peanut and bananas, even if you’re me. I took mine off to bed to fire up some Netflix and be all decadent.

After a few bites, I realized something was off. Then I realized something was wrong. Then I realized something was very, very wrong. My mouth was burning. I bolted back to the rec room and looked at Taryn. Her eyes were wide, and she had suspended partaking of her fabulous dessert.

“I tried to just scrape the peanuts off,” she explained, quietly.

Such a trooper.

When we first got the mortar and pestle, it sat on the counter for a day or two, as we debated what we should bash in it first. Dried rosemary seemed like a given, but we were still using a lot of fresh herbs from the garden that didn’t require much smashing.

We also grew a lot of hot peppers this year. Tons of very, very hot peppers. Once they started growing, they never stopped. We had hundreds. We were putting hot peppers into everything but still, we were pulling more every day.

Taryn decided to make her own hot pepper sauce but noticed that even with gloves on, all the chopping was a chore. She didn’t have a food processor yet, and of course I’d forgotten that I have one, used only once, still in its original box on the shelf behind the Christmas decorations.

We used the mortar and pestle for scorpion peppers. It was washed and dried and put away. Four months later, it was the scene of a peanut crime that led to what was quite possibly the worst dessert in culinary history.

It wasn’t a serendipitous discovery, nor a celebration of finding that elusive new flavour that will be named after you. It was a cheap chocolate peanut and banana fire in my mouth.

The thing now sits on the counter, glowering at me. Or smirking, I’m not quite sure. I no longer trust what it holds deep in its marbled veins.

Taryn has asked me to stop experimenting.

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My children do exist. Now I have proof

You’d think in this time of pictures, pictures everywhere that I would be inundated with moments of, or even with, my sons.

Stacks of their childhood photos are jammed in boxes and bins and albums all over, until they mysteriously seem to peter out somewhere in their teenage years.

famThe sad fact is, when I go on trips and everyone is eagerly passing around their phones showing off their darling kids, I’m scrolling through dozens and dozens of pictures of my cats refusing to admit that they all look the same. While someone is showing me a photo of their 4-year-old, I can only show them a shot of Christer when he was four — 21 years ago.

Last year when the kids started asking what I wanted for Christmas, I’m sure they were waiting for my usual “nothing” because I really don’t want anything. I am a low-maintenance person who hates being given things I have to dust. But I surprised them and told them I wanted something very specific: photos.

I knew it got too late, but I am also very patient. This year in October I reminded them that I wanted pictures. I knew one of their friends is an excellent photographer; I knew they would have to juggle four schedules; I knew they’d all have to agree on a place and a time. Like a company insisting on some team-building exercise, I was being crafty.

On Christmas morning, I opened the pictures. And started crying.

Between the four of them, Christopher and Pammy and Ayrton and Taryn, they had given me everything I’d asked for. I had a group shot. I had one of just my sons, one of just the girls, one of each couple, and individuals of the boys. They’d shot them at Mount Nemo just before the leaves turned, a perfect forest backdrop with beautiful natural lighting. Shelby and Alfie, the pups, are in some shots: a true reflection of these four young people’s lives.

They’d framed everything for me, amazing pictures with a bonus one of Alfie, who poses whenever you pull out a camera. Taryn sent me the link so I can have them on my phone and stop comparing my cats to other people’s kids. I can finally prove I didn’t invent my sons in order to have a career.

We drove to my sister’s for dinner later that day, my happy tears dried but the warmth remaining in my heart.

“Hey, what’s that?” asked Ari, indicating a huge new complex as we drove past.

“Looks like a seniors’ residence,” I said.

“They could stack a lot of old people in there,” he mused.

“Cut it out. It looks pretty nice, actually,” I said. “You never know where you’re gonna end up.”

I actually know exactly where I’m going to end up, and so does everyone who knows me: in a small cottage by a lake, writing and talking to chipmunks. It’s always been the plan.

“Maybe we’ll put you in there,” replied Ari.

I scowled at him from the passenger seat.

“You’re not putting me anywhere,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it homey,” he continued, smiling. “I’ll set up super-fast Wi-Fi, put up some photos …” he nodded at the bag at my feet. I was bringing my new pictures over to show my sisters.

“You gave me these photos so you could put me in a retirement home?” I asked him.

“And Wi-Fi! Don’t forget the Wi-Fi!”

Oh, I’ll have Wi-Fi. And I’ll teach the chipmunks how to send emails.

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