She was a fighter. Graceful, tough, and tenacious, she never had it easy, but she never shied away from hard.
Her mother died the day before her high school graduation. Her husband had aggressive testicular cancer in his third year of Harvard Law School. She took notes for them both, as she took care of him and their young daughter. When her husband was offered a job in New York, while she was doing her last year of law school, she asked Harvard if she could transfer to Columbia, but still, be granted a Harvard law degree. They denied her, only to change its policy years later. After graduating from Columbia, she didn’t get any job offers from law firms. She finally got a clerkship with a federal judge, because her mentor threatened never to send him another law clerk if he did not. Her first Supreme Court victory, Reed v. Reed. The 88-page brief she filed in that case, an inventory of all the ways in which law served to reinforce society’s oppression of women, became famous in legal history as the “grandmother brief,” on which feminist lawyers drew for many years. I could go on and on, and on and on, but instead, you can read this superb and comprehensive New York Times obituary for the full story of a woman who never stopped trying to show that women and men should be treated equally.
Every person in the United States owes this superhero immense gratitude because she not only helped us live better, more fair and just lives, she taught us how to live–with passion and purpose. Even when she was battling cancer, her never-give-up attitude allowed her to continue fighting for what was important to her, what was important for us.
If you ever doubt that good things, extraordinary things, can come in small packages, consider the five-foot, 100 pound Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the very best of what we can be. And I hope her dying words will come to pass, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” As usual, she was fighting for what is fair, and what is right. We should all do the same.
And so with pandemic pandemonium still full tilt, the summer 0f 2020 ends with an anniversary, a birthday, and a death. Yup, all in one weekend. We just needed someone to give birth for the full monty.
33 years ago.
I celebrated my 33rd wedding anniversary on Saturday. We got married on Labor Day weekend to remind us that marriage is work! And after more than three decades I can confirm that as fact, but it’s also fun and funny and awful and stupid and the best thing ever and did I mention, a lot of work! Our kids are home, those people we made during this marriage, and I might add, the best thing we have ever done, so it was a little different. They gave us breakfast in bed and that night we went to the North End for a socially distanced and delicious dinner outside at Mare. I got a cool bouquet of flowers and wine from Winston’s and check that box, we’re onto 34 years.
The next day we headed down to my sister’s on the South Shore for my brother-in-law’s birthday. We had a decadent lunch of steak and salad and swiss chard and this rice thing my sister makes which is disarmingly good. We took a walk on the beach and just hung out in their backyard. It was so nice to be together. This is what you realize during this hideous virus, that the simplicity of just being together with people you love is every little thing.
Monday morning we got the call that Peter’s dad had passed. He’d had Covid for two weeks and went straight downhill like an Olympic skier. He had been living in a memory care center with Parkinson’s, and while not able to do a whole lot, he was content and loved seeing Peter’s brother and sister and grandchildren and brand new great grandchild, who all lived nearby. But in case you don’t believe the power of this virus, by the sounds of it, it runs through an older body like a fucking tsunami.
Peter’s dad was the child of a Holocaust survivor, who, with the help of nuns, escaped from a camp and came to Ellis Island with his wife and seven year-old son. His wife died quickly of a brain tumor and having been a wealthy Viennese lawyer,, with no English in a new country, he gave his child over to foster care, while he went back to school to become an accountant. Peter’s dad went to a few foster homes, before landing in a permanent one, where he also saw his dad. It was a challenging start to life for him, but he worked hard and went on to UPenn and get his Ph.D in chemistry at Northwestern, where he met Peter’s mom and went on to become a prize-winning chemistry professor at SUNY Buffalo, who helped lots of students go on to find their own success. He had three kids he adored, loved classical music, art, symphony, and peaches, blueberries and corn(!), with great passion. He played piano, swam a mile a day until he became ill, and spent as much time as he could at his house in the Finger Lakes, which he cherished. After an unexpected divorce in his early 60’s, he grieved hard, the bounced back and was lucky enough to find the most fabulous woman to enjoy his later life with. His kids revered and loved him. His was a life well spent and a shiny, bright example of resilience, that thing that keeps us afloat when we could be at the bottom of the sea.
This is what we do in the time of Covid. We still celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and grieve deaths. It’s different, but we don’t let that which is important and vital go unnoticed. It’s harder, it’s more challenging, but it’s also more necessary not to allow this unspeakably awful virus to ruin what’s important. It’s already taken too much from every one of us. Gratitude for a long marriage, a loving brother-in-law and and the end of a life of, “Fall down seven times, get up eight,” that will never be forgotten.
It’s full-on election season. And although I love to exaggerate, this is fact–It’s the most important election in modern times (and I’d contend maybe ever).
I know who I’m voting for. I know I am going to march to the polls that day, barring natural disaster, (and who knows what 2020 has in store for its last big hurrah), and vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I happen to think that the other choice is not only dangerous, but cataclysmic, disastrous and could make our country unrecognizable. Get your passports ready, people. I, myself am looking at Italy.
I’m not telling you who to vote for (Joe Biden), but just telling you that this year you have to make a plan to vote. The current president is making it complicated with his post office cuts, his wonky rhetoric about voting twice, his ignoring Russian and Chinese interference. So, make a plan now (https://www.vote.org.) It may seem early and unnecessary, but if it is, so be it. If everything turns out hunky dory and it’s easy to vote this year, what did you lose, the little time you invested in making your plan. Better that lost time than not getting to use your voice.
And man, wouldn’t it be nice to bring back integrity to the white house. Wouldn’t it be great to not have this low grade fear about what stupid lie the president has done or said or tweeted that insults one group or another of us, or another country, leader or way of life? Wouldn’t it be gosh darn great to feel like the leader of the free world was intelligent, surrounded by other experienced, intelligent people, who have integrity and grace? Wouldn’t it be fucking amazing to have a president who had compassion and empathy? A person who knows how to unite and doesn’t get up in the morning thinking about how to divide us.
Right now, we still have the right to vote. That vote is your voice. And if we’ve learned anything from the past, in particular the last election, EVERY VOTE COUNTS. It matters. It’s vitally important. So, whether you’re going to vote by mail, or in perso, make a plan, a solid plan how you will get your voice heard, how you will cast your ballot. If you never vote, start now, if you think it doesn’t matter, slap your face, if you don’t care, reconsider. We may not always have the right to vote, but I’m grateful that right now, we still do, so get your hiney to the polls, or the ballot box, or the post office. Ask someone for a ride, an assist, help. This is it, people. Make your plan to vote right now. And vote like your life depended on it, because, and this is the truth, no fake news here, it fucking does.
I have been feeling that low-grade depression Michele Obama recently talked about having. I know I’m not alone. Our world is upside down. But this week, I got a big dose of an SSRI, called the Democratic National Convention.
I couldn’t even imagine how they could possibly simulate the frenzied excitement of a real convention on Zoom. And the first night, I was feeling wobbly about it, but as the week wore on, each night’s pace quickened and with it my pulse. I began feeling something that’s been missing for the past four years: hope. Yeah, the Democrats have pulled off the task of not only making the case against Donald Trump, but making it for Joe Biden. I know, I was already a believer. I was already voting for him, because I know Trump is more dangerous than a serial killer and with his response to the pandemic, about 172,000 times more successful, but still the convention gave me more than just a clear choice, it gave me a shot of optimisim.
Biden is as different from Trump as an egg and an elephant. Joe is a man of faith, raised Catholic and who sill relies on that faith to pull him through the rough patches. He was raised by working-class parents to be humble, to understand that nobody is better than he is. He has endured some of the most excruciating losses one can experience in not just losing his wife and baby girl in a car accident, but also losing his son Beau to brain cancer several years ago. He is a people person, a compassionate man who connects with everybody, from the elevator operator, to the CEO, grandmas to presidents. He has been a public servant since he was in his 20’s, so basically his whole adult life. He believes in everybody, despite race, creed, or gender. And he knows right from wrong. He served as second in command to a black man and now he has chosen a black and Indian woman to be his second in command, firmly planting himself as a “For the people,” all people politician.
Contrast this with Donald Trump who doesn’t have religion (hell, he doesn’t even have a dog). His biggest loss to date is the inheritance he squandered because he isn’t, as he alleges he is, a very good businessman. He was raised with money from day one in a family with a sketchy moral character if any at all. He never shows compassion for anybody, except, oddly those who commit crimes and get caught. For them he always seems to have a, “That’s very sad. I wish them well.” He’s a divider, working as hard as he can to tear us apart instead of bring us together. He is a racist, a sexist, a white supremacist. He hates immigrants. He demeans those who are less fortunate, makes fun of those with disabilities, has a childish schoolyard nickname for everybody. He spends ample time on Twitter and watching Fox news.
He exaggerates everything, from the inconsequential to the very important. He does not believe in science. He doesn’t believe in climate change. What he does believe is that “one day the pandemic will just go away, like a miracle.” He thinks cheating is ok. He appears not to know or understand the constitution. He has a vocabulary of approximately 25 words, featuring “great”, “tremendous,” “very,” “huge,” “incredible,” and of course the phrase, “and everybody knows it.” He surrounds himself with crooked people–seven of his closest associates have been indicted. He takes no responsibility for anything he may have done that’s bad, quick to blame others. He thinks little of democracy and cares even less about anything or anybody except himself.
The contrast is stark and abundantly clear. Joe is for the people, Trump is for himself. This is just a fact and you can find hundreds of examples of this in just the last four years.
Anyway, the Democratic Convention gave me a big dose of hope. Just the possibility of not having Trump as our leader, and having someone who has a moral center, experience, good judgment, and a big tent attitude instantly lifted my spirits. Having Trump as our president has been like having a three-year-old as a babysitter. He is, as Barack Obama said, not able to do the job. And whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you really have to consider that another four years of Trump could undo our democracy, could put in peril your children’s futures, let alone our own.
Just the thought, just the very thought of having an adult in the oval office buoys me. And gratitude for that. Hope is everything. And when you have someone at the helm steals it, that can’t be construed by anybody as a good thing. And everybody knows it.
One of the things this pandemic has been reminding me of is how little control we have over anything. Life is like a three-year-old—so wonderful, amazing, incomprehensibly adorable, and at the same time so impossible, unpredictable, and completely deplorable. There are so many things we have zippity doo daa control over and yet we’re convinced we have the code that will make things go exactly the way we want. (Pardon me while I snort laugh). Hell, it’s soothing to think you have the remote, but the ugly truth is that there’s one thing and one thing only that we can be 100% in control of every single minute of every single day. Which is–drumrolll please–how we respond to our world. That’s the only sure thing. Disappointing isn’t it.
This pandemic paired with the immensity of the upcoming presidential election (Yay, Kamala! I love this historic and super smart pick) has people tense, frustrated and downright scared. Everybody is grabbing for control wherever they can find it. But you know where they can find it. Inside themselves, in their choice of reactions. Hey, I’m just being real with you, here.
Are you like, what are you kidding? You want me to be happy about staying inside, wondering if my kid’s are going to get an education, worried someone I know will die of Covid, terrified Trump will get another four years and America won’t be America anymore? I’m not telling anyone to be happy. That’s entirely up to you. But I am telling you that you can take the pretty, peaceful country road lined with wild flowers, or the superhighway bordered by strip malls and fast food joints to get where you’re going. You choose.
In simpler terms: you decide the way you’re going to process the world and the twists and turns and whack-a-doodle stuff that comes out of nowhere like a tropical rain storm. You are allowed to be in a crap mood all the time because you can’t stand what’s happening, or you can figure out what’s good about it (BECAUSE THERE IS ALMOST ALWAYS SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT EVERYTHING) and go from there. It’s kind of a lot of responsibility to have to choose, and I’m not going to sell you a bill of goods that it’s easy to take a shit sandwich and make it taste good, but are they serving it with potato chips? Are you eating it with good company? I’m just sayin’.Look at the whole picture while you’re down there in that hole of bleakness.
Gratitude goes out to choice. Ours. It is not easy, but we get to choose our attitude from the attitude closet every single day. Yup, your choice.
Is one day merging into another? Are you thinking about if this will ever be over, not when? Does your dog give you the evil eye when you get the leash? Have you begun to reminisce about the good old days when you could go to a restaurant, grocery store, friend’s house without a mask, gloves nestled on your face and hands, and fear in your heart? Do you want to throw a rock through your computer so you don’t have to do one more Zoom call? Do you constantly wonder how the president can sleep at night with all that blood on his hands keeping him awake?
Mmmmm. I feel you.
So, what to do? How to greet the days with a hopeful smile and not a desire to pull up the covers for another round of Ground Hog Day.
Here are the things that have been getting me through this thing. Maybe they will help you. Maybe they won’t. Better than nothing and reading this will take up some of the too much time you have on your hands right now.
Be seriously nice to yourself. I always find this stupid when I read it in an advice column, but you know what, this is a good thing to do, especially for the sensitive among us (who me? UH HUH). You don’t have to be the most productive. You don’t have to turn out gourmet meals for the fam every night or become Martha Stewart of the laundry room. You don’t have to best this thing. You just have to get through it and stay sane.I have lots of days where I’m just not accomplishing what I think I ought to be able to, but I’ve given up on chastising myself. Now If one day is productive, yay for me, if another is not, I don’t condemn myself to cleaning the toilet for the next two years.
Connect with your people. Sometimes it can even feel hard to do this, but I’m going to get all parental and say,”Do it or go to your room.” Connection is the lifeblood of a good life. In the end it all comes down to those you love. While you might have to isolate physically, don’t isolate emotionally. A phone call is better than nothing. A socially distanced walk will do.
Set goals. Hey, if you’re up for it, set a lofty one, but if not, how bout getting your tupperware situation under control? (I have too many bottoms and not enough tops and I don’t know where those tops are, but I imagine they are mingling with the orphan socks that go into the laundry, but mysteriously never come out). How about taking an online class, or learning another language (Duolingo is great). Give yourself a homemade facial, start a blog. Doing something that you might not be able to do because you more or less can’t do the things you normally would do can make you feel like this is an opportunity instead of a punishment.
Make fun of the president. Nothing boosts your immune system like laughing and never has their been a president who does more stupid things in the history of the office. Follow Sarah Cooper. Your welcome!
Do something nice for someone else. This always makes me feel better than the person I’m doing the thing for. When I was little I never understood the “It’s better to give than to receive” saying. But as an adult, I’ve learned it’s the money shot. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing. Ask a neighbor if they need anything at the store. Send a snail mail card to a friend (I have a friend who keeps mailing me the cutest cards and it really perks up my day). Call or text someone you haven’t been in touch with for a long time. And if you want to do something nice for the entire country, because you don’t like the current leadership (or total and complete lack thereof) do something with one of the many organizations that are out there, like Force Multiplier. Do something, anything to make someone else happy and you’ll get the mood boost.
Think about what you’re grateful for every day, not just Tuesdays, or once a month. (What, like you’re reading the gratitudeathon, and you didn’t think I was going to tell you to get your gratitude in check?) This is a no-bullshit, free, accessible way to help yourself rise up. Set a time to do it. Sit your hiney down and think about the good in your life. Again, it doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something you can identify as positive. Focus on that thing. My son is home from California and will be here for at least another month. He could never be here like this if it weren’t for crazy Corona and the fact that his agency isn’t going back to the office until 2021. Booyah! Gratitude gone mad. I’m thankful every single day for this one.
Yeah, so that’s about it. This thing is hard. I know there are many people out there who aren’t doing well and it makes me terribly sad. And I will be honest and say that I’m not doing well every day. I have awful down days where I just want to scream at my husband (he seems to be the best target), stop being a responsible adult, abandon my work and run away with the dog. But I’m pretty sure this is normal under these abnormal times. So, whatever you’re feeling is acceptable (I mean, except if you’re can’t move from bed depressed, send out an S.O.S and get some professional help). Take care of yourself, whatever that means for you. This cannot last forever. It will probably last for a while and continue to change our lives for a good long time, but not forever. Nope, it can’t last forever. (and neither can Trump’s presidency either. Talk about gratitude!)
I am on vacation. It seems wrong and the antithesis of everything that is happening in the country, but here we are on the Cape for a week. There is some guilt involved for me, but I also see that taking a break from the barrage of crazy Trump, the pandemic, Portland, politics and the serious break with reality that Kanye’s having (!) and all the other awful news is necessary to be able to get through the world right now. Hey, you gotta do what you can to save yourself. Put the oxygen mask on first, or you won’t be able to take care of anybody.
We have been going to the Vineyard for the past 30 years, but that seemed too much this year with the ferry dictating our arrival and departure. Who knows when you might need to go to the hospital. So, we rented a house near close friends who are here for most of the summer and we are having a lot of fun. FUN. Can you imagine? Don’t get me wrong, everybody is wearing masks everywhere you go, and some things are closed and the traffic is minimal (which is a stupendous side effect), but the beach is stunning, with a sandbar that goes out for what feels like miles and actual warm water! I have been swimming! I can never get into the water for more than a warp speed moment to cool down when it’s super hot because New England beaches are generally cold as winter. I just might be a Bay kind of girl.
Anyway, yes, I feel sheepish to be on vacation while things are going to hell in a Corona infected handbag right now, but I am also feeling some much needed happy seeing my kids together, having my son home from California, spending time laughing with good friends. It’s also adorable to see all the kids, who grew up together catch up on their lives reminiscing about their childhoods and cracking up.
So gratitude for a getaway. I think we have to take care of ourselves, not just physically, but mentally during this country’s nightmare. There have been whole hours I have forgotten what’s going on while I’ve been here. And that’s not just good, but I think it’s necessary to keep putting one foot in front of another without wanting to step in front of a moving train. Can you get away? If even for like, a day? It helps.
I have to work hard these days to focus on gratitude. It’s not that it isn’t lurking behind every corner, it’s just that there are so many obstacles trying to obscure it (a pandemic, Black Lives Matter, a lying, cheating,100% insane, murderous president, humidity).
Of course, this is when gratitude is most needed when you are stuck in the muck of a world in trauma. So, here are the five things I’ve been most grateful for in the past two weeks:
Hamilton. I was fortunate enough to see this on Broadway and didn’t think it could possibly translate in movie form, let along on tv. But guess what, it does, and beautifully. In fact, I caught words to songs I hadn’t caught in the live performance. We are currently playing the soundtrack around the clock. This is worth getting Disney for a month and canceling. It will remind you of how we’ve had other tumultuous times in our country and also how brilliant Lin Manuel Miranda is and also that there is nothing like a musical to get you in a good mood (The King!)
The Lincoln Project. This is a Republican organization trying to bring the party to its original mission. In doing so, they tell the truth about Trump. Their videos are informative and, well, brutal. If I were the president, I’d be curled up in a fetal position after watching one of these. This is the latest. It makes me giddy.
Cauliflower rice. Ok, you might think I’m scraping the barrel here, but this is my gratitude list, so back off! I used to make this fresh, but it seemed to always come overcook. I just tried the Jolly Green Giant frozen version and it somehow seems to come out exactly right. And they have it with broccoli in it and other veggies, too. This stuff is great. I doctor it up with garlic and onions and sometimes put in a cup of real rice, too. This low cal treat is a frozen food staple in my kitchen these days.
4. New sneakers! I have difficult feet. Just search “bunions” on this site and you can read all about them. So, finding sneakers that accommodate the wide front of my foot, while hugging the narrow-ish back of my foot has been a job in itself. Until a few years ago when I found a Nike version that was perfect. I just kept buying them every 8 or so months, thinking how great it was that I’d found something that felt made for my feet. Well, as all good things come to an end, so did the Pegasus Zoom 33. Sigh. Nike discontinued them. Heartbreak. Foot ache. Covid had begun and no stores were open for me to find a replacement. I kept wearing my beat-up Nikes, while I was walking more than ever, and hoping they’d hold out. So, Marathon Sports opened the other day, and if you’ve never been there, shout out. They fit you and assess your gait and will bring out as many sneakers as you need to get you the Cinderella fit you deserve. I got some Asics that are so comfortable and padded, I feel like I’m walking on a trampoline. Talk about a spring in your step.
5. Flowers. I cannot get by without some blooms. My little garden is in full swing right now and I appreciate it every time I go outside. I also get high from other people’s flowers. Walking around the hood, more than normal during Covid has given me a brand new appreciation for the gardens of others.
What’s keeping you going these days? What are you grateful for?
Ok, so last week I had a little combo stomach/headache/nausea thing (although whenever I’m nauseous, I always wonder if it’s just the fact that Trump is president). It wasn’t going away, so I emailed my doctor, wondering if I could be one of those people who gets weird Covid symptoms. She suggested a test. I drove to Needham, where a very nice nurse, with a mask and plastic face shield, dressed like she was the first Beth Israel employee to go into space, stuck a Q tip up my nose straight through to my brain (it didn’t hurt, but it did surprise me). I do not have Covid. Gratitude. (Also, I feel better, although still nauseous every time I think about Trump.)
Yesterday I watched a really good Zoom talk sponsored by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities called Confronting Systemic Racism: Policing, Mass Incarceration & Black Lives Matter. These were some extremely intelligent and accomplished people, including Brookline’s own super-smart Select Board Member, Raul Fernandez. I learned a lot, like did you know that Massachusetts has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, and even that’s extremely high. There are informative and engaging talks, books, and people out there offering us free education and I for one am taking advantage of it. The more I know, the more I can do the right thing that’s in my heart, which over the years, was not actually the right thing, as it turns out. Gratitude.
Massachusetts Covid rates are consistently trending downward. No, we’re not out of the woods, but at least we’re going in the right direction. And more good news about this state I live in: The Boston Globe reports, “The vast majority of Massachusetts residents see racism as a systemic problem, believe police treat Black people differently than everyone else and support sweeping changes to policing, a new poll found.In the wake of hundreds of protests decrying racism and police brutality across Massachusetts, a strong majority of residents in every age group, race, and region said they back the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Suffolk University survey for WGBH News, The Boston Globe, MassLive, and the State House News Service.” Yessiree, I love that dirty water! Gratitude.
Despite being an incredibly tumultuous time in history, there are loads of things to be grateful for if you look and set your intentions on finding them. Hoping you are safe and fighting for what matters right now.