gratitude-a-thon day 477: learning it yourself is the only way to learn it

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Isn’t it funny that you can go through the dark woods and over the white capped river of learning the hard way, and nobody else will ever benefit from your journey, because everybody has to go through their own carnival ride walk themselves? Isn’t that just dumb? Doesn’t it seem like it would be good if we could help one another make life the teensy tinesy bit easier?

BUT NO.

I mean, isn’t that just fucked? Your kids will not learn anything from your experiences, in fact, you’ll be really lucky if they’ll even listen to you (they will be texting, of futzing around on their phones, or if they’re really bold, watching a movie while you’re trying to impart your hard won wisdom). They will not benefit from the kind of heartbreak that almost wrecked you, the class that gave you hives, the time you got fired, the smack down by a boss who made you wonder what kind of wild animal had raised him. You know why? Because they have to go through the same stuff solo, and until they do, your experiences will just be bad background music they can ignore.

I try to sneak in some of the hard won knowledge I’ve gathered in conversations with my kids, in hopes that they might be able to avoid some of the bumpy roads I took. They smirk, they roll their eyes, they just plain pretend I’m not talking. So, you know, it’s working out really well.

I listened every once in a while, when I was a kid. But the real wisdom passed down to me (for which I am eternally grateful), didn’t really penetrate until I was older and had already learned by trial and error. Just another part of the system that seems a little off. Bumped, bruised and scarred, we get it when we get it. And all that’s really important is that we do get it (not that you can pass it on to anybody, because you can’t). This thing, it’s a one man mission.

gratitude-a-thon day 476: small business saturday, where to shop

It’s Small Business Saturday, which means if you’re shopping today, you should shun the big guys, and go small. Head to the independent businesses who put their heart and soul into it the whole year. Support the industrious and artistic store owners who will talk with you, tell you where they found that fabulous pair of earrings, or where that platter was handmade. Here are my picks for the stores to hit today (and everyday):

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1. Joanne Rossman, purveyor of the unnecessary & the irresistible, 6 Birch Street, Roslindale.

This pint sized store is packed with the quirky and unexpected. Joanne is as interesting as her shop, and while it’s a tiny place, I promise the longer you stay, the more you will find. Don’t forget to say hi to co-owner Rita Rose (Joanne’s super cute pup).

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2. Shake the Tree, 67 Salem Street, North End, Boston

This adorable store, nestled in the heart of the North End means you can shop and get a lobster claw at Mike’s Pastry at the same time. Ah, life is fucking fabulous! Marian Klausner’s store used to be located in my hood, and I was a frequent visitor. But when she moved, her inventory became even more my style, including a great selection of jewelry (I got a Wendy Mink necklace there last Christmas that is like the flowers on the background of this site, and that I CAN’T SEEM TO TAKE OFF), plus clothes, ceramics, and other cool gifts.

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3. Good, 133 Charles Street, Boston

Beautifully edited selection of jewelry, accessories,  home, and gift, this lovely store has been one of my go to’s for special gifts for years. Recently expanded, there’s now more Good to go around.

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4. Portobello Road, The Street, Chestnut Hill

Ah, the cashmere, the jewelry case, the designer I’ve never heard of, but now want a closet full of. Portobello Road is a not just a great store to shop for your friends, it’s the place you want your friends to shop for you. The help is stellar, (I LOVE JOANNE), and the inventory will have you swooning. Kudos to, as I like to call them, the “Ina’s,” Marina and Kristina, who’s style and smarts have made this into one of the only boutique shopping experiences in Boston.

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5. Simple Pleasures, Richmond Square, Providence, RI

Admittedly, I don’t get to this shopping mecca too often, but it’s a store after my very own heart. The small brick building is so cute, I want to live there, and it’s chock full of all sorts of cool stuff, from jewelry to clothing, gifts and “other.” It’s only an hour from Boston. And I promise, it is a total pleasure.

gratitude-a-thon day 475: what you bring to the table

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This was the “before.” The “after” won’t load. Something seems wrong with the wordpress media thingy today, or it’s editing me!

 

I’m still full.

But I did make the best turkey of my turkey making career. It was my Uncle Louie’s recipe, (which  my sister Joni, wrote about when she was writing for the Globe and if you want a, like PERFECT turkey, bookmark this for next time you make a bird). Joni was so worried about my skill (or her not having a good turkey to eat) she sent me a couple emails full of important instructions for not fucking up, including a video by Alton Brown on how to truss a turkey,(which, p.s. I had never done before, and I think might have made a difference, but seriously you had to be like a sailor, to do his knots and stuff). Anyway, she was right, because we remembered that last year my Christmas turkey didn’t cook properly (read RAW) and while we salvaged some of it to eat, we threw the rest out).

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grateful for: ally (and everyone else who came to the table).

 

This was the first Thanksgiving without the Turkey Master, and fill-in dad, my Uncle Louie, and the first at my house, and not at my Aunt & Uncle’s in like 25 years. Connecticut came to us. And we rocked it. I did, however miss the double stop at Rein’s Deli, which is a tradition (ah, the rye bread).

And there were pies. We had seven pies for 10 people. Um, yeah. We’re sort of pie people.

Grateful. Damn grateful for the weather holding up, and the turkey working out, and the company of family. They shouldn’t really call this Black Friday, as much as Full Friday.

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gratitude-a-thon day 474: happiness lies in the littlest things (like the stuffing)

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The thing we have that’s closest to a national gratitude day is here. The one day when it’s required to stuff yourself (and then keep eating), and think of something you’re thankful for, because your Aunt Edith won’t let anyone up from the table until everybody has thought of at least one thing they’re grateful for, dammit.

Ah, family.

I’m always droning on about this practice of gratitude, because quite frankly I think it’s the key to happiness. Doesn’t that sound so, well CHEESEY, so BAD HALLMARK CARD-Y? Of course it does. That’s why it’s hard to talk about this subject in a real way without turning people off because they think they’re listening to some sort of sermon, and who has time to listen to a sermon filled with cliches?  But the true identity of gratitude is much quieter. And simpler. It’s not flashy, or cliche. It’s as real as it gets. Because it’s all about noticing real things. It’s easy to dismiss the teeny tiny stuff that makes our lives better, and which not everybody has. Why, just since I woke up, here’s what I could focus on that could set the tone for the rest of my day:

1. My bed is absurdly comfortable. Like I-could-stay-in-it-forever comfortable.

2. My dog is at the bottom of the bed in his little bed, which is probably not as comfortable as mine, and I love him  like I gave birth to him (and still think it’s possible I might have).

3. The guy sleeping next to me has been there for 27 years (not always in such a comfortable bed) and works with me (at varying levels of success) everyday to create a happy life.

4. My toilet flushes. I could be peeing in a hole, outside. And c’mon, you gotta be grateful not to have to clean up your own poop.

5. I have internet service. It connects me to the whole freaking world!

I will stop now, lest you think I am just over the top (but jeez, what would you expect here at the gratitude-a-thon). I don’t want to be that. But I am like everyone else, in that when you find something you think is five stars, you want to share it with others.

There’s all sorts of gratitude challenges and books and messages out there. Maybe you think it’s all crap. But it’s not. Really. It’s not. All I’m going to say, is think about it. I swear it’s as good as that turkey, those buttery mashed potatoes, and the fantasy of telling Aunt Edith to just shut the hell up.

Happy Thanksgiving. xoxoxo

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 474: love’s in need of love today

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Dennis Leary said something about racism that’s important to consider:

“Racism isn’t born folks. It’s taught. I have a two year old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.”

Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

As we spend the day tomorrow celebrating a holiday that revolves around being grateful, I say, let’s also take a moment to think about those who have less to be thankful for, about those who feel unempowered at the most basic level, about how you just don’t know what it’s like to be black if you’re living a life of lily fucking white privilege. And when I say privilege, what I really mean, is a life where you are given the benefit of the doubt at every turn.

As Stevie Wonder sings it, love’s in need of love today. Send it in, guys.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 473: grateful there wasn’t more violence, but that’s about all

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I wanted to write a light and airy post today. I wanted to talk more about gratitude, when so many people have their minds on it, as they bake pies and consider the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and those silly hats with the buckles. Thought I might take this moment to engage someone to consider getting into the habit of gratituding. You know, strike while the turkey, I mean iron is hot, kind of thing.

But I can’t think of anything, but Michael Brown’s family this morning, who has not only lost their child, but has also been smacked in the face by a Grand Jury who appears to have been watching Wheel of Fortune instead of listening to the case. How else could they have reached the conclusion not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown? 

Indicting Wilson would have meant a public trial. If indeed the Grand Jury was correct in their assessment of this case, would it not have been better to have played this thing out in public? This thing, which has made lucidly clear the fact that although we have an African American president, this country is still riddled with racists.

Ferguson erupted in violence last night. Under a banner that said “Season’s Greetings,” the police marched in a line down the street throwing tear gas into the crowds of people who were feeling angry and  powerless. I am not a violent girl, but I had rage last night. I wanted to go out on Elm Street and protest. I just knew my voice wouldn’t be heard. And you know what? I’m guessing that’s what every one of the citizens who were being gassed in Ferguson felt like last night, like their voices weren’t being heard either. Take away power and you take away dignity.

What are we doing?

I haven’t got any answers. But I think we just all need to be clear about one thing. And that is that if you think racism is no longer a thing in America, you are 100% wrong. It’s still alive and kicking. It’s still one of the issues of our time. It’s still killing us.

Here’s what Michael Brown’s family had to say in response to the announcement:

“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”

“Let’s not make noise, let’s make a difference.” Yes. Let’s try and do that. In the name of Michael Brown. Because would this have happened if Brown had been white? It’s a simple answer, and I’m pretty sure it’s no.

 

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 472: it’s not just the turkey, it’s the gratitude

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is no gift buying insanity. There is no tree and associated needles from tree in your house involved. It’s a holiday devoted to being thankful. A nation-wide call for gratitude. You can only imagine how we here at the Gratitude-a-thon (meaning me here at the Gratitude-a-thon) feel about that. AND in order to gather your grateful thoughts, you get to fortify yourself by eating with friends and family. Sweet Jesus, What’s not to love?

Yesterday, after making three, count them, three lasagnas for Thanksgiving (a little side dish a la my Italian heritage), I on-demanded an Oprah Super Soul Sunday show with Paul Williams (remember him–he was a famous singer songwriter–think Kermit the Frog and the Rainbow Connection, plus about a billion other songs, and even won an Grammy last year for Album of the Year with Daft Punk). Anyway, the interview was about a book he recently wrote with his friend and colleague, Tracey Jackson. about Gratitude and Trust, Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life. Williams discusses his recovery from drugs and alcohol. And Jackson discusses her recovery from her shopping addiction (she wrote Confessions of a Shopoholic). It’s interesting stuff, because they are clear about the fact that we’re all sort of in recovery from something and that gratitude is always right in it with you. Jackson said a really great thing at the end of the interview, when O. asked her what she hoped people would get from the book, and she answered, “It’s better to love than be right.” Boom. That’s some profound pre-turkey day fat to ponder. Kindling up that book today.

My life is 10 million miles from perfect, but I swear to you that it’s better with gratitude. The more I stop myself and notice what I do have, versus what I don’t have, the better I sleep, and more importantly live, when I’m awake. As you’re in prep mode for the turkey and fixin’s, to see relatives you love (and could live without), consider all the stuff you have to be grateful for. I’m telling you, it’s not just that wildly delish turkey and pie that makes you feel good on Thanksgiving, it’s the gratitude.

gratitude-a-thon day 471: what’s it going to take?

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Another day, another school shooting. Don’t worry if you missed it, there will be plenty of others. Maybe next week. Or next month. Or maybe even tomorrow.

It’s ordinary now, to go to grammar school, high school, or college and expect that a student might turn into a rabid John Wayne. It’s a graduation requirement now that you know what to do if a guy with a gun comes into the library, or the art room, or shows up in the fucking hallway telling you that he’s going to kill you. Kill you, right there in the confines of the place your parents send you to because for years and years it’s been a place that was safe to spend the day learning.

But it’s different now. Now it’s different.

We have lockdown drills. We had one just the other day at Brookline High School, which my daughter missed because we were visiting her brother at a big university where a gunman could show up tomorrow. Or tonight. Who knows. It’s a thing now. It’s a thing to kill people at school. Kids at school. KIll them dead, because you’re depressed, or because you’re unhappy, or because nobody is paying enough attention to you to notice that you need some assistance, or just because you can get a gun, and in moment of despair, that gun can speak the words that you cannot.

This is our country 2014-style. Kids not only have to cope with being cool, they have to cope with thinking about who it is in their class that might bring a gun to school tomorrow and kill them. Um. Yeah.

And what are we doing, we adults, we educated adults, educated during a time when people brought lunch boxes to school and not weapons, WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THIS?

I can tell you what we should be doing. We should be standing in the middle of every street in D.C. until there are stricter gun laws and improved mental health care coverage. We should stand there and block traffic with signs, screaming at the top of our lungs. Because this, killing kids, in the prime of their lives, in the place they go to learn, is unacceptable. It’s just fucking unacceptable. What’s it going to take to get you there? A text from your own child that says: “There’s a gunman in the library. I love you.”

gratitude-a-thon day 671: don’t project

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I will be buried in a pair of bee-u-tiful high heels, if it kills me (and dead would be the only way I could get these puppies on, I might add).

 

Full disclosure, there was this one little part of California that wasn’t so good. It was the night I fainted. Yup, dead away. On the floor. After hitting my head. Uh huh.

So, we went to dinner with the pledge class of the frat and met all the parents and kids. It was fun. I had walked a lot (on my brand new foot, which worked perfectly. PERFECTLY, I TELL YOU), and I had not had like even a sip of water. This is a little problem I have (shout out to Colleen here, who has the same problem, and who is constantly challenging me to drink more than she drinks, which is easy because she drinks nothing). I rarely get thirsty. I have to force myself, REMIND MYSELF to drink water. And it’s funny, because I live in a family of major league hydration experts. They are constantly ingesting liquids, like the world will be out of water tomorrow (hell, I guess it could be, so maybe they’re even smarter than I think). Truthfully, they’re into Gatorade and Shmadorade and diet soda, and Vitamin water, and stuff like that. I’m pretty much a straight up Smart water girl, that is, when I remember to be (which isn’t really all that smart).

But I digress.

Anyway, I had a few margarita’s on a somewhat empty stomach, with little hydration, and had myself a fine time at the dinner. We got home, rented a movie and then all promptly fell asleep. I take medication before bed (for menopause if you must know), and woke up and realized I’d forgotten to take it. So, I hightailed it to the bathroom, about seven steps away and took it, went back to bed, and about 10 minutes later was irritated by the bathroom light, so I decided to get up and turn it off. I put my feet on the ground, and then next thing I knew, Peter and Jake were screaming “TONI, ARE YOU OK, MOM, MOOOOOOOM?” I was on the ground, next to the bathroom light switch, having hit my head, but WITH ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY OF HOW I GOT THERE OR WHAT HAPPENED. Peter and Jake came running over to me. I was totally disoriented, and worried I might have a concussion. I couldn’t quite believe that I’d just fallen down, my full weight hitting the ground hard. I couldn’t conjure up the memory. My head was killing me and my side was sore. Everyone settled, and I stayed up reading Amy Poehler’s new book on my Kindle just to see if I could read, which I used as my concussion test (I’m medical like that). Ten minutes later I had to go to the bathroom, and when I got up, I blacked out, (I often do this, just for a minute, on account of I have low blood pressure). I sat on the bed and was fine in seconds. I fell asleep thinking I could be like Natasha Richardson and die in the night from like a brain bleed, but I was too tired to care, so I went to sleep and took the risk (with a note attached to remind the fam to jam my feet into some gorgeous high heels, before they buried me).

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These would be another option for my burial. Although the bow might be a tad too big. Thoughts?

 

In the morning my head was sore, but not the issue. My side was KILLING ME.  I couldn’t take a full breath, I couldn’t get up from bed without a major amount of searing and horrific pain. We had a full day ahead of us, so I sucked it up, but I was sure I had broken a rib. I muddled through until we got home. Actually sitting on the plane was pretty comfortable, since I didn’t have to move. I went to Ally’s end of year soccer party when we arrived home, and could hardly catch my breath enough to talk, because the pain was now also in my chest.

I emailed my doctor, but she couldn’t see me until today, so we’ll see what she has to say. Meanwhile, I’ve been taking valium from my tooth extraction, and Advil, and icing and heating,  and mostly laying in bed. I did have a massage on Tuesday, where my loving and wonderful masseuse thought I might have a rib out of place. I definitely felt a bit better after my visit with her.

And this morning, I feel a little better, too. But fuck, I am sore. And I’m pissed, too. For months I’d worried about my foot inhibiting my having a good trip to see Jake, when I should have been worried about fainting. You never know, do you? That’s why you gotta be grateful for what’s right in front of you, and not project. Lesson learned. Ouch.

gratitude-a-thon day 670: they get it, when they get it

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Here. This was Jake’s room senior year. CAN YOU EVEN? (This awesome photo was taken by the wildly talented Rania Matar.)

 

I’m not a tiger mom. My kids have been clear about the fact that Peter and I had certain expectations of them, but I have not been a demanding, meany cat mommy. I’ve subscribed much more to the school, and lived in the era, of “prasie your children for breathing” parenting. I still coo when the dog poops (he’s almost seven).

Encouragement is king. But to me, coddling is not so cool. Peter is a bit of a cajoler, while I am more of a straight shooter. I offer praise heartily, but if I have to ask you 57,000 times to walk the dog and you tell me that he doesn’t really need a walk (which has been on his schedule for his whole life), I’m no longer on your side. I think the parent child thing should be a little bit quid quo pro. We do stuff for you and our family, you do stuff for me and our family. That just seems like a good business practice, right?

But like many other parents of my generation, we didn’t demand a whole lot in this area, and I’m here to say that we probably messed up. Yes, indeed. My daughter’s room looks like her brother’s before her, a tornado of clothes on the floor, an unmade bed, papers from school strewn about like tumbleweeds. My son, who’s dorm room, I just saw for the first time this year, is still decorating in early “Pigpen”. Clothes spilling out of the closet, a bed that smells of alcohol (I took a nap in it, and got drunk on the fumes), and shoes all over the place. His poor beleaguered roommate had clothes hanging in his closet, worthy of a spread in Real Simple magazine. Yes, despite my nagging, whining, and yelling about keeping their rooms clean, I might as well have been talking to the grass in the backyard for all the good it did me, or my kids.

I once got an A on an English paper in high school. This was a cause for celebration and I was really proud of myself (I was not an A student, although I should have been). I showed my dad. He held it for a minute, and then said, “I can’t read your writing.” I will never for as long as I live, and well after I die, forget this. But I did go on to become a writer. So there’s that.

Have I failed as a parent not to have taught my children how to responsibly take care of themselves when it comes to their personal belongings? Probably. But what I’ve realized is that there are some things that can only be learned through trial and error. At some point, some roommate, or romantic partner will hate the way my kids fail to tame their mess and things will change. The same goes for Ally’s snide responses to something she doesn’t want to do that we ask her to do, or Jake’s inability to complete a task he knows is important, when he’d rather watch a game, or go to a party. There is, plain and simple, only so much a parent can do. And what we fail at, has to be learned another way–out there in the real world. Is that bad? Should I feel pangs of guilt and like Fiona Failure? I could, but I’m not going to. I’m going to stand by and encourage as the real world responses to their imperfections force them to make some changes, and secretly think in my head, “I told you so.” See, kids get it when they get it. Sometimes it’s because of you, and sometimes it’s despite you.