gratitude-a-thon day 2016: there is still gratitude

PJs and Riley. That’s how I started my Thanksgiving day.

Hey ho, gratitude fans, it’s the day after we all sat around tables from Massachusetts to California reciting what we’re thankful for. This year there may have been less people around your table, or no people around your table. It was a different kind of holiday, just like it’s been a different kind of year. But despite the unusual and unusually L O N G election season, living in a world of social distancing, mask wearing, and being separated from friends and those we love, and in some cases losing them to Covid 19 (and I’m so sorry for you if you’ve endured this horror show disease), watching our essential workers and our healthcare workers and teachers risk their lives to take care of us all, parents trying to juggle work and kids who are going to school online, people who are in quarantine in bubbles and alone, a country divided and battered and suffering, we still have plenty to be grateful for. We do.

We have the magic of the sun and the moon above us (how do they stay up there, Bueller, Bueller?), the spectacular beauty of flowers and trees and blades of grass, the soothing feeling of sand and the sound of the salty sea. We have lakes and gurgling brooks and rainy day puddles. We have the smile of babies and the love of dog and cat companions who are family (even if they are just internet pictures making you laugh), sunsets that take our breath away for just a sec, pie and crusty bread, and potato chips and mashed potatoes and any potatoes, a cup of coffee extra light with just the right amount of sweet, a stranger saying hello from behind his mask.

We have the freedom to bring our grievances to the street, to call our government and let our voices be heard, to vote. We have the the right to demand better, to insist on better, to get better. We have the great pleasure of being able to give to others, to help others, to do our part.

We have laughter and funny and silly and giggling. (Among the BEST of what we have to be grateful for.)

We have a vaccine on the way (yes, not now, but soon). We can be grateful for some of the things we’ve learned while we’ve had to slow down, like patience, and generosity and how important what’s important to us, is.

We have a new president who believes in science, rational thinking, integrity, compassion and unity (member those things), who doesn’t tweet lies, or say lies, or believe in lies. We have a new president who wants to help bring us together and not divide us further.

We have a lot of problems as a country. But we also have a lot of hope. And after four years of of being deprived of that, I choose to be grateful for it, to embrace it hard and long and fully.

What are you grateful for? What is it that you can find, no matter how small, that you are grateful for?

gratitude-a-thon day 2015: getting to know my own kids

When Jake, my oldest kid left for college, I mourned for a year prior, crying at every major occasion, as “the last.” When he finally boarded the plane for his first semester in Barcelona (a January admit to USC, he chose a program in fab Spain to spend his initiation into college life), I had my final sob session and went home to get used to a new life without him in the house. (When he came back and we had to pack and bring him out to sunny L.A., I had to go through the whole thing again!)

When Ally left for college in Connecticut, it made me an official empty nester (unless you count Riley, who is not allowed to go to college, and besides he’s smart enough and knows everything that’s important about life without a higher education), but she was also playing soccer, so we saw her every week of the fall, and her school was close enough for us to drive to and back from in a day if we felt the need to see her cute face (unlike Spain and California, which were a much more difficult story).

With the house all emptied out, I began to hunt for the good in the situation (that’s what we do here at the gratitude-a-thon, find the sunny side of the street). No more 17 pairs of shoes in the hallway. Less laundry. When I left something clean, it would be clean when I came back to it (how novel!) And of course, the best part–if I didn’t get to the grocery store for food, or I was too busy to cook, and we had to have cheese and crackers for dinner, or take out, it was just fine. You honestly, no exaggeration, could serve my husband a piece of rug with a side of curtains and he’d tell you how absolutely delicious it was. My kids, not so much.

Picture by the AMAZING Rania Matar!

Jake and Ally would come back and visit, and that was always fun, but the house was now mainly ours and the benefits of our freedom and having a whole lot less responsibility, and of course, re-bonding with one another, was nice. It was fun. It was good. We traveled. A lot. We were leaning in to it.

All of which is to say, I never thought we’d all live together again, in this house, like before. But guess what, Covid 19 had other plans for us (and maybe you, too). And here we are, the four of us, all cohabitating once again, but this time, everybody is an adult! (Well, everyone but my husband, who can still be a bit of a child sometimes!)

And it’s, well, unexpectedly interesting! And definitely the silver lining of this truly bizarre moment in history.

With Jake living in LA, I’m not so sure that we’d ever get to spend this much time with him unless we were having something like a pandemic. Having not lived with him in more than six years, I’m getting to know him in a way I haven’t been able to do, despite visits, Facetime, texting, Instagram messaging and phone calls. It’s fun to see how he handles his his job as an assistant account executive at an ad agency (especially in the later hours of his work day, which with the time difference, make it 9:00 here). I admire his ambition and work ethic. He loves to cook and has a way with the grill. He’s got a great sense of humor and continues to be a thoughtful guy, like he was when he was little. He’s very self aware and is always up for constructive criticism that will make him a better person. On the down side, he’s not any neater than he was when he was a teenager (ugh) and GOD FORBID HE SHOULD PUT A DISH IN THE DISHWASHER, or do something the first time you ask him to, but he’s always happy to walk the dog, or run to the grocery store for a quick shop.

Although we’ve spent a good amount of time with Ally during college, I’ve learned a lot about her, too, since she’s been home, after we unceremoniously said goodbye to her senior year by piling her stuff hastily into the car, on March 13. She, too, is as messy as she was when she was younger, she has more laundry than the rest of us put together, and at least 16 of those 17 shoes in the hallway are hers, but she’s actually attending law school during this total shit show! And she’s killing it! She had her apartment in Hartford, and was excited to be starting law school at UConn last August, but then, like so many schools, the whole shebang went virtual. I couldn’t quite imagine how it was going to work out for her, but I have to hand it to her, she’s doing incredibly well, super engaged, going big on class particpaion and making friends. She is constantly schooling us in all she’s learning and I am half thinking the four of us could probably pass her exams in December! She’s also been our go-to on all things social justice, as it’s one of her interests and something she focused on in college. She’s become very self-aware and is actually realizing she can be wrong sometimes (!) And she keeps us laughing our heads off. If law doesn’t work out for her, she has a career in comedy as a back-up. The girl is funny.

Have we fought? Yup. Do we sometimes want to clobber each other? Uh huh. But the truth is, I keep thinking what an extraordinary thing this is to be able to spend not just a visit, but actual day-to-day time with these two adult people who used to be little in this very same house. And really, given the circumstances, we’re doing damn well together. We have celebrated Ally’s at-home, online graduation, fended off a rat infestation in our backyard, survived the twice broken downstairs bathroom door, acted as co-workers as the four of us working in unison, laptops going in different rooms, looking like the Apple store, had a blast during a socially distanced week on the Cape, sang happy birthday three times at dinners in outside restaurants in varying degrees of cold (ok, one was on the edge of a patio), grieved Peter’s dad, “G-dad, who died of Covid, stopped making fun of my hoarding of toilet paper and paper towels, rallied around Peter finding out he has to have a shoulder replacement, lived through an election season that was like no other, with incessant news watching and accompanying anxiety, one absentee ballot and three MA voters, and a Joe & Kamala victory, in which I actually banged pots, old school, in the street, and nursed the dog through anesthesia for a teeth cleaning in which he had a tooth pulled and had 7 growths removed with 20 stitches. No, we’re not singing Kumbya on the daily, but we love and adore each other and it’s very clear we’d do anything for one another (unless of course it has to do with cleaning or laundry). I mean, this is a stressful time for all of us, but being together has been a bright spot in an otherwise, masked, socially distanced and surreal period of time.

Ally’s birthday dinner at Scampo, on the edge of the patio.

What are you doing that you wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t for the pandemic mucking up your life? I’m getting to know my adult kids in a way I’m quite sure I’d never get to do otherwise. And gratitude, so much gratitude, for that.


Last Sunday I stood in line for 30 minutes at Clear Flour Bakery, which should be called The Crack Den of Brookline, to buy bread to deliver to some friends with a note that said, “Election week sustenance.” I was kidding of course, just trying to help some friends get through the crazy with carbs, but that little note turned out to be prophetic.

The past week has been 1,387,922 years long. Since Tuesday, we’ve been living in la vida limbo, biting our nails, incessantly checking our phones, our computers, our tvs, our radios for news, praying, hoping, wishing, becoming intimately acquainted with Steve Kornacki, his khakis (Kornkhakis), and that little piece of hair that despite being gelled down, always pops up like a Jack-in-the-box, on the left side of his head. We drooled over Rachel’s barn door walls (in quarantine because a friend tested positive for Covid), noticed Rick Santorum was curiously rocking Kamala Converse, gloried in the wisdom coming out of John Meacham’s mouth.

We waited and we waited some more.

We texted friends, as we tried to maintain hope and composure. We tried to work, but who were we kidding. We drank wine and ate bad food. And then drank more wine and ate more bad food. We slept in fits and spurts, our phones beckoning us to check for news. Refresh, refresh, refresh. We waded through our days with the fear that Trump might unleash the Proud Boys and QAnon crowds to make trouble (and not good trouble). We wondered how long this could reasonably go on? We prepared ourselves for the worst, while hoping for the best. We made deals with God. We researched where we could move our lives to and how fast we could get there, in case things went sideways. We cried. We laughed. We napped.

And then Saturday morning, as my family and I were huddled around the tv, for day five, my daughter working on law school homework, my son just up, my husband sipping coffee, Joe Biden’s face appeared, a yellow box with a check mark next to the words that sounded like Truffle potato chips taste, “President Elect.”

Wait, what?

Did Pennsylvania finally come in? Oh yes, it had. And it ushered in with it a collective sigh of relief that could be heard round the world–summed up in a tweet by the mayor of Paris, “Welcome back America.” Screams worthy of Horror pics escaped our mouths, only they were happy screams. We jumped up and down like kids who hear the ice cream tune coming down the street. We kissed and hugged. We toggled stations to see if it was real, and yes, even Fox News, Trump’s shadow administration, had called it for Biden. I opened my front door and let out a holler, a holler that had been living inside me for the past four years, waiting for freedom. My neighbor was banging pots in the backyard and so I joined her. Within minutes, our neighborhood poured into the street, unbridled joy in the form of a kitchen utensil heavy band. We danced unself-consciously, and wanting to hug each other, but masked and socially distanced, settled for yipping and howling and twirling our tired, giddy selves instead. Car horns beeped and spirits visibly rose and people laughed and texts flew into my phone from all over the country, all with the same basic sentiment–THE NATIONAL NIGHTMARE IS OVER. And the week that was turned into a moment of pure and raucous elation. My shoulders, permanently parked up by my ears since that cruel night in 2016 began to melt down my back.

My husband and I drove to Castle Island and walked by the water on an unusually sunny and warm day in November and literally watched the tide turn.

The speeches were filled with optimism and warmth and Joe said, “Even if you didn’t vote for me, i’ll be your president,” and I believed him. And Kamala’s smile lit up the podium and her words, “And while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” echoed out into the deepest recesses of women’s hearts, everywhere.

Yup, after four of a power hungry president who lied, cheated, divided, insulted and murdered our planet, our standing, our children and our souls, Joe Biden, a 78 year old man who’s run for president twice unsuccessfully, served his country his whole life, lost his wife and baby daughter in an accident when he was just 29, and a grown son to cancer, held the office of VP for 8 years, possessing the compassion and empathy you can only have if you’ve been through the worst and come out the other end, and the integrity of the finest gentleman, became the president of the United States. And I felt a feeling I’d totally forgotten.


Gratitude to our country who voted to rebuke hate and division and lies and cheating and bullying and bigotry. I know we are divided. I know we have some enormous problems to face and fix. And I know this ain’t no disco, that it will be hard and painful to right this ship. But there’s an adult in the room again. And I believe, I really believe we’re going to be alright.