gratitude-a-thon day 340: lorrie moore

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I’m reading Lorrie Moore’s latest, Bark. It’s a collection of short stories that are unmistakably her. She has this off kilter sensibility that makes me both raise an eyebrow and relate thoroughly. I’m not exactly sure how she does this.

She’s funny, too. But she writes about sad a lot. One of the most memorable stories I’ve ever read ever, ever, ever, was in the New Yorker in 1997. It was called People Like That Are The Only People Here. It’s about a couple finding out their baby has cancer. It’s a punch to the gut, with some zingers. I looked up the author and have been a groupie since. But the writing in that particular story knocked my doors from their hinges. It has literally stayed with me for 17 years. Like I read it five minutes ago. That’s writing.

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Some of the books you should immediately read.

I’ve read everything Lorrie. Here’s a link to all of her books. Having this new book makes me feel like I have a secret stash of happy. And like a I do with a good piece of chocolate, I will try and read slowly to make it last.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 370: perfect, perfect Gwinnie

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If you ask me, I think Chris is dodging a bullet. I mean working as a movie star and being a lifestyle guru is just so stressful for Gwyneth, who knows what that woman might be capable of in the years to come.

Dear Gwyneth,

I am so sorry that your marriage hasn’t worked out and that you will be “consciously uncoupling.” Since you’ve now made it clear that working on a movie is so much more difficult than working in an office, I imagine divorcing will be so much more difficult for you, too. I mean, there are the houses to unload, the division of money. Who will get to keep the masseuse, the chef? I hope you’re drinking a lot of Kombochu, because you are going to need your strength.

I imagine Tracy Anderson will give you a lot of solace, and ab exercises so that when you get back out there after your grueling movie schedule, you’ll be able to attract your next victim, I mean man. I hope he will understand how much stress you are under with your job. It’s just so hard. But you know, as your book says, “It’s All Good.”

Also, I hope you will keep teaching us how to live the most perfect life with your goop newsletter. I’ve so come to enjoy reading about your perfect diet and your perfect style. The way you live is just, well, perfect.

And here’s to you as an actor, giving us so much of yourself, which may have even contributed to your “uncoupling,” conscious, or not. Stress on the job will do that, what with that two week travel to Wisconsin and all. I mean, do they even have stores there? You just sacrifice so much to give us movies, you remind me a little of those two firefighters who just lost their lives in Boston.

Anyway, good luck Gwyneth, I hope you always wyneth.

Toni

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 339: keeping my sense of humor: bathing suit season

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This is just the suit for me. Maybe I was born in the wrong era.

To me bathing suit shopping is a little like being held prisoner in some back room with one hanging light bulb and aksed why my body hasn’t remained 25? “Look at all of your flaws!” the bathing suit police would yell at me. “We shall keep you here without food, until you can look good in zee bazing suit.”

Guess what, guys, I’m 55 and moderately thin, but zee bazing suit, unless Spanx has made a head to toe version, is never going to be my best look, despite the fact that the location you wear zee bazing suit, is the place I love most in zee world. Ah, the irony.

Anyway, this gave me a chuckle. And I think I’ll take a few of her hints when I embark on the hunt for the least conspicuous suit. I wish I had that 90 year old grandma she’s talking about. And a dressing room with mood lighting.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 338: small bites friday

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Hey wait, I thought there was a treat involved. Dogs react to magic.

The mother of invention.

A girl and her dog (you know I’m helpless in the face of pooch pics).

micro, macro, beautiful.

I’m a sucker for any before and after’s. Here’s a fun one. You can play too. Just get out your pictures.

Mindy Kaling’s not only hysterical, she’s smart.

New Lorrie Moore out now: Bark. Can’t wait to read.

Kim and Kanye on the cover. Team Sarah Michelle Gellar–who cares?

Listen, marriage is hard. I’ve been at it for 26 years, but I’m just a little grateful the perfect Gwyneth, who’s been selling us how to live, isn’t so perfect after all, but perhaps just a marketing genius.

This is a little like that old game “Mystery Date,” but way better.

I can’t really believe these are paintings.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 338: the guys who fight the fires

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A fireman walks down Beacon Street last night.

Imagine seeing a fire. My instinct is to run as fast as I can away from it (i’m brave like that). But for some people, they gear up and dive in like an olympic athlete plunging into a pool for a score. I think they’re crazy, that I share no DNA with these people, that maybe we even come from different planets or galaxies, but hell to the yes, am I ever grateful these men and women exist.

Today my gratitude goes to the men who fought a nine alarm fire on Beacon Street yesterday, a block from where I used to live. The insane bravery and complete unselfishness that it takes to be a fireman is alien to me (not that I am not a giver, but I just don’t consider giving my life, when I give). Two men, Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy were both killed just doing their jobs. Eighteen people were injured. This is really unfathomable to me, that there are people who do this everyday, rush fiery flames to keep the rest of us safe. It’s a job description in which losing your life isn’t even in the fine print, it’s just outright on the top line.

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This was a monster fire, causing major havoc downtown.

My best friend in fourth grade, Linda’s dad was a volunteer fireman in our town. I used to like to listen to their emergency scanner. I think back on how Donald used to do exactly what those men did yesterday, when that box in their dining room used to squawk, and I can’t believe I didn’t realize I should be kissing that man’s damn feet every time I was over there.

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I watched this footage last night. And all I could think was, ARE YOU CRAZY, THOSE ARE REAL FLAMES.

Anyway, I remember realizing the courage and conviction of firefighters and all emergency workers during 9/11. They got my full respect in a brand new way. And since then, I’ve had two brushes with them in my own house, where each time, they ran smack right into our stupidity within minutes (once for a candle left unattended, which almost wiped up my entire closet of photos, from back when you got them developed at CVS, and another time when my husband put a rubberized pillow in the dryer, which burned out the engine of said dryer, and caused the need for a brand new washer and dryer–note to self, give explicit instructions when Peter’s doing laundry). They don’t hold back, they are there to save you and your house. To serve and protect. Plus their often hunky and sweet, as an added bonus.

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A Jumbo tron message at TD garden last night.

I always say thanks when I can to a firefighter. I always pull over really fast when they’re zooming down the road with their sirens blaring. I always smile at them in a way that shows my deep respect when I see them on the street. My son Jake is pledging a frat right now and he talks about the “brothers,” but if you really want to see a brotherhood, it’s these guys. And today, I thank them. All of them. For yesterday and everyday.

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Condolences to the brothers at Engine 33.

gratitude-a-thon day 337: happy birthday to the third kid: riley

 

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Vacation Riley. He loves the Vineyard.

Today is my dog, Riley’s birthday. He’s six. The alphabet fails me when I try to describe the connection I have with this animal. I’ve tried to do it before, but it always sounds trite and silly.

But it’s not.

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He’s always good for a cuddle. And who doesn’t love a cuddle?

Riley has healed the guilt and pain I’ve carried around since I was a kid about being the accidental murderer of two of my dogs. Not once, but twice, when I opened our front door to go out, first Sam, then a few years later, Rusty met their instantaneous demise by meeting a car driving down the street. I was only 12, the first time and maybe 14 the second. The sadness was unbearable, the guilt worse. It seemed to me that dogs equaled pain, and who needed that?

A full on campaign by my kids prompted me to find Riley, and it took six months of research that spanned the country, and multiple near misses only to get a thrice forwarded email about a family only five minutes from me who had bought a puppy and had him flown in from Minneapolis, but who, advertised as hypoallergenic, was not, and made the dad sneezy and miserable. His photo was adorable. When I inquired, I found that he was actually the breed I’d been looking for. I thought this was a little too coincidental, and even though we’d been searching for a girl, I agreed to meet this adorable boy. We met him at Emerson Park, where I’d coincidentally raised my kids, and fell in love almost instantly. We had him and all his gear two days later.

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Riley seems to have intuition about when I’m feeling sad. He was a great support to me while I was in Connecticut for Uncle Louie’s funeral.

I have a home office, so while I go to meetings and am not exactly a stay at home mom, I am here a lot. So, Riley is like my office mate, and best friend. If I so much as go into the bathroom, he comes in with me. We share a perfect love of warm blankets and steak. He always knows how to make me laugh. We love to walk on a sunny day. We like to cuddle up and watch good tv. We really like the beach, and long conversations, in which I seem to do all the talking (although I am certain he will one day participate with more than just his face).

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He is allowed on all of the furniture, and he often sleeps in our bed, but he loves his little bed a lot, although we had to put it on the same level as ours to get him to use it.

Riley was diagnosed with a back issue a few months ago and I cried like someone died. This confirmed that maybe I really did give birth to him, since I have had a bad back since I was 21. While the treatment of bed rest (ha!) and puppy advil seemed to cure him, only a few months later, he was yelping in pain again. Four visits to the vet confirmed he had Lyme Disease and crystals in his urine, which could give him kidney stones. Yesterday was his last day of the miserable doxycyclene, which has left him lethargic. Now we’ll have to treat the stupid crystals with more antibiotics and a special diet, which consists of a nasty tasting dog food and no people food. He seems to be favoring his back legs and I’m so worried that he will have pain for the rest of his doggy life.

But I’ll be there, as I have been, because I love this animal like I love my kids. Go head and judge me for that, but he’s just as important to me. Really. Not exaggerating.

So, happy birthday to my third child, co-worker, co-pilot, comedienne, outdoorsman, award winning sleeper, sweet, adorable and charismatic boy. You have made my life so much better. I’ll always try to do the same for you.

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This is Riley as a puppy with his other best friend, Tiger. Tiger has been with Riley since he was three months old. And although he’s now squeak box-less, has no eyes, or mouth, and is like a dirty rag, every night we have to play a couple rounds of “Tiger Fetch” before we call it a day.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 366: national penis day

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What’s with the penis “house?” Not to mention the Elvis impersonator haircut.

Ok, who knew. Really, who knew that in Japan they have National Penis Day? This takes balls, am I right (and by the way there seem to be none of those in sight). I must say that it might be one of the funnier things I have ever seen. And boy oh boy, did I need a good laugh. Of course, for equality’s sake, I’d like to see a National Vagina Day, too. Who’s in?

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Are they like penis baton twirlers?

gratitude-a-thon day 365: grateful for Louie

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This is Uncle Louie’s truck. A long time ago, he used to use it to sell fruits and vegetables on the back roads of Connecticut. His son Paul brought it up and parked it outside the house as we mourned.

It’s been a week since I last posted. Death will do that to you. Especially if it’s someone you love very, very VERY much and you will be helping to make the funeral happen. And that was the case. Yes, I know that at 91, you have gotten a longer run than most, but still, this death shook me like a martini at Harry’s Bar. I felt raw and numb, and disoriented and grateful and like I wanted to cry about everything bad that’s ever happened to me since kindergarten, all at the same time.

The thing is, the experience of losing Louie, had some moments where gratitude was monster big. Beautiful flowers and cards, meaningful and supportive words from friends, all felt like a warm blanket on a 2014 winter night (or March day, for that matter–it’s 16 out there this morning, people). It’s sort of amazing what a few words will do for a person when they’re in pain. If you ever think, “I should send a card,I should call” but then you get busy and forget, get unbusy and do it. You might just have an overall impact on someone’s shitty experience that will make a profound difference.

Two of my oldest friends, one from fourth grade, and one from freshman year of high school came to the wake and surprised me. Seeing Linda and Steph really soothed me. It was an effort for them to come, but it was a game changer for me and really helped me through an unspeakably painful night.

Being with my extended family, who came from all over the place to mourn the loss of our family’s patriarch, was perhaps what I am most grateful for. Because it reminded me where and what I come from. I am made up of aunts and uncles and cousins, and drop in visits, and picnics and days at the beach and weddings and babies and holidays and shared happiness and sadness. I grew up in the belly of an Italian family who nurtured me and gave me security to be the person I am on this day. I carry that family with me in my heart whether I’m grocery shopping or using my favorite swear word (say it with me, “fuck”). They give me strength when I feel like a 95 pound weakling. Although the first generation all lived in the same town, we’re  now all spread out in California, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Now we don’t see each other unless there’s a funeral. And that, is maybe sadder than the funeral itself.

Anyway, I am back to the blog I’m so grateful to and the readers who I appreciate enormously for making me laugh and cry and continue to remember to be grateful every damn day. And while I didn’t think this was what I’d write about to celebrate my 365th post, I guess that’s what makes life interesting. As Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” But maybe it’s a good way to celebrate the gratitude-a-thon’s year anniversary, being grateful to a man who gave me a dad when I didn’t have one, and modeled a really beautiful way to live: in the present, doing what you love to do.

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This was what we called “Big Lou’s garden.” He loved to grow things. His is one of my most favorite backyards.

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gratitude-a-thon day 364: small bites friday

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This isn’t exactly a gratitude, it’s just a question, WHERE IS THE FUCKING PLANE? This is what I think, in case anybody cares, and nobody should, since I have no aviation knowledge whatsoever, except for that I don’t think it makes any sense that those things stay in the air to begin with. I think that the plane was hijacked by terrorists, and on the way to doing whatever they were going to do with it, the pilots or passengers put up a fight, and the plane crashed. I don’t know where but that’s what I think. Here’s where the New Yorker comes down on the issue.

I’m really grateful to my art director partner and friend Stephanie Zelman. She is talented and all that, but she is so good to me. All the time. No matter what. And I love her for it.

YES!  No limits, baby.

Nice article on tv finales. And we know I love me some good tv.

Best use of Facebook. And in Massachusetts, yet! Love.

More good closet storage solutions.

Scandal: yeah, OMG, indeed.

I love anything Jackie O. These photos, included.

Right now it’s 18, but tomorrow will be 54. Migraine alert.

So grateful for all the messages from friends about the passing of my awesome uncle Louie. I am very, very sad. Your thoughts and love make me feel better. Thank you. A lot.

gratitude-a-thon day 363: a guy called lou

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Uncle Louie, a.k.a, Lou Lou, Big Lou, Buster. This was the last time I saw him.

The thing about life that is so not great, is the death part. I want to accept and embrace it because I know that it’s the mandatory ying and yang, but it’s so deeply painful that I want to kill it like I want to kill this goddamn winter (and then death would be dead, ha!)

Death seems to get more copy, seems to be showier and more painful than any of the joyful parts of life. But really it’s not. If you think about the first time you fell in love, or you achieved something that seemed utterly unachievable, that inaugural moment when your eyes laid themselves upon the kind of blue ocean that can only be described as magical, the split second when you learn you’re having a baby, and then a little later when that baby comes tumbling into the world from seemingly thin air. A big belly laugh with friends, a cuddle with your furry family member, an exceptionally fine meal (or for that matter, a really greasy one). Maybe it’s only when you’re in the middle of the pain of loss that it seems to weigh so much more than happy does.

My Uncle Louie died Tuesday night after having what appears to have been a massive stroke. He was 91. That’s old. He had a full, great, and long life. He was the child of immigrant Italians from Calabria. He was a guy who sought joy, worked from the time he could walk, sold vegetables on a truck on the country roads of Connecticut, served in the Navy, was in the seminary, went to Fairfield University, taught history to loads of adoring students. In the summer, he bought houses, rehabbed them and sold them. He was a master gardener, and made his backyard into a magical bunch of flowers and food that would make Martha Stewart drool. He became a realtor when he retired from teaching. He was a school council member. He loved to cook, and even more to eat. He and my dad would have contests to see who could get chicken for the least amount of money a pound (God knows what they spent in gas doing this). He could build stuff, he could make things, he could fix whatever you had that was broken. He loved the beach the way I do. And nobody could pinch a cheek like Uncle Louie. He was in perpetual motion, not a guy who hung around to rest. He was a husband for 63 years and a dad to three amazing boys. And in my head, to me, too.

My mother has been gone for 22 years, my dad for 12. My aunt and uncle’s house was the place I visited and stayed when I went home. They were like parents to me, and like grandparents to my children. We spent every Thanksgiving at their house, last year being the first time we ate turkey without them (because of our trip to see Jake in Barcelona). This is a tradition that fills me up when I am down. We vacationed with them on the Vineyard and in Italy. We laughed. A lot. And we ate even more.

Because my mom died so long ago, sometimes I would stare at Louie because he looked like her. If I stared long enough, I could make his face into hers and pretend she was alive. I loved to share my kids with Louie because it felt like I was in some way sharing them with my mom, who never got to meet them and died a few weeks after I’d been told, “Your insides are a mess, you’ll never have a baby.” On her death bed, she told me I would indeed have a baby, and she was right.

When you get 91 years, and fill them up with good things the way Louie did, death shouldn’t be a time of sadness, but of celebration of a life well lived. I know it was time. It was probably time several years ago, as dementia had taken away his speech and most of what had made him, him. But I’m unspeakably sad. Sad in a way that goes deep, deep into the center of me. Sad in a way that makes me want to cry about everything awful that’s happened to me since kindgergarden.

You see, this is the last of the six siblings of my mom’s to die. This is it. I have nothing left of her.

But I’m grateful. Oh, I’m so grateful that I knew this man. He gave me so much, much more than he knew. The only thing that’s keeping me from crying all day is thinking about Louie, and my mom, his sister Louise at the all you can eat seafood and pasta bar in the sky. Buon appetito, guys. I love you.