gratitude-a-thon day 2079: what i know about marriage

We got married on Labor Day. We joked it would remind us that marriage is work!

That was 35 years ago today.

And although we thought it was funny all those years ago, we were perfectly right. Marriage is work. A lot of work.

Here are the top 10 things I’ve learned while I’ve been on this rollercoaster ride:

  1. Love is the foundation. We fell in love at first sight. Yup, it really happens. We were both smitten immediately. I told a friend the next day, “I just met the guy I’m gonna marry.” The beginning was a long-distance Boston/New York romance. We walked every square inch of both cities. Everything felt like when The Wizard of Oz goes from black and white to color. As time wore on, the magical newness love became genuine caring love. As we, early on, faced things like my mom’s illness and death, and infertility, it was the basic, deep-down love we had for one another that sustained us. It will change and go in and out and up and down, but it must remain. Love is not all you need in a marriage, but a marriage won’t last without it.
  2. Respect yourself and each other. Sing it Aretha. A marriage without respect is going to crash and burn faster than you can say “Do you know a good divorce attorney.” This is the part where you both have to make sure you’re independently doing and being what gives your lives meaning and giving one another the encouragement of like, a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. I don’t mean you have to want to do or feel what the other does, you just have to believe in them enough to be cool with whatever it is. ALSO, you have to both respect the third party–the marriage. Treat it as its own entity. There’s you and there’s your partner and there’s your marriage and all three need their due.
  3. Trust me. If you don’t feel safe in a marriage, trouble is coming for you. If you think your partner isn’t doing what’s best for both you and your relationship, things aren’t going to last long. If either of you is in a constant state of curiosity about the other’s commitment, it’s dooms day.
  4. Honestly. Lies aren’t welcome here. Be truthful with your partner. Whether it’s something you don’t like that they’re doing, or someone you see that you fall in love with, don’t go sneaking around behind their back. If you had enough respect and love to marry your spouse in front of all the people who mean the most to you in the world, then have that same respect and love to be honest with your partner. The end.
  5. I do and I will. Commitment means that barring a major natural disaster that renders you helpless or dead, you will be there for one another and the marriage. No questions asked, no considering otherwise, no kidding. This is not for the faint of heart. We’ve faced some tough stuff during our more than three decades. And every marriage will. But this is where you show one another what you’re made of and that you and your marriage are as important to one another as you are to yourselves.
  6. Laugh. Life is amazing and horrible and fun and mean and miraculous and cruel and incredible. And so is marriage. If you’re not laughing at yourselves and your marriage, you’d better get packing and look for a new place to live on another planet.
  7. Make time for one another and have some fun for crying out loud. Having a good time together is always important, but especially after you have kids, who can easily demand every second from you. Get a babysitter and have a once a week date night when they’re little. It feels impossible, but even if it’s a couple hours, on a walk, for lunch or dinner, at a coffee shop, do it. DEMAND IT. We need fun to fuel us. Make time to enjoy each other independently. It matters. A lot.
  8. Make new friend, but keep the old. Have couple friends and independent friends and pay attention to each. Friends are good for marriage because their good for people. Sometimes a friend can see what you can’t and help you through a rough patch. Couple friends can make you stronger. (NOTE: Couple friends can get divorced and this will cause your marriage suffering. It’s really hard……)
  9. Do stuff together and apart. It’s great to have shared interests, or to create some. Doing things together can give you a sense of, well, togetherness. Whether you’re both movie maniacs, music buffs, or golfers, go and do as a couple. But also, make sure to do what your spouse doesn’t, as well. Staying independent is good for staying together.
  10. Fuck. Whether you have sex twice a day, or once a month, maintaining a physical relationship is vital. It bonds you and makes you feel connected in a way nothing else does.

I’m no expert, but I know a little something having kept this ship afloat for this long! And now I say to Peter, thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for all the times you’ve been positive when I’ve been realistic. Thank you for standing by me like a glue stick. Thank you for always loving me and our children and our dogs. Thank you for believing in me, at times, more than I believed in myself. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for making me laugh. I love you. Here’s to the next 35.

gratitude-a-thon day 2077: the simple to the sublime

Gratitude doesn’t have to be big, or loud, like a parade, or the cymbals crashing together at the end of a marching band number. It can be small and muted, like a library. or the quiet car on Amtrak (which I can never understand how anybody can manage, like quiet talking–REALLY?!). It can be imperceptible to others, even. It can be itty bitty, like the perimeter of an ant.

The theory behind gratitude is simple. It’s just making yourself aware of the good in your life. It not only helps to keep you in the present, it also helps to keep you clean. That is, not allowing yourself to let privilege take over, to become a slave to our “I want, must have, need to get” culture, to live in a way that celebrates what you do have and disregards what you don’t have.

In hyper focusing on what we want vs. what we have, we lose what’s right in front of our faces. You live in a “future” life instead of a “right now” life. That’s not to say that being ambitious or wanting to excel, or become more is bad. It’s good, but only if along the way to your ultimate goals, you make sure you’re not blinded from all the positives you experience on the daily. Because it’s that awareness that keeps us in the day, that means we’re living the game in real time, that ensures we’re understanding our fortunes are many if we’re looking for them.

Gratitude is a mindset. It’s easy to feel, but only if you keep it front and center, only if you remind yourself that it’s as healthy as a serving of spinach, only if you make it like brushing your teeth. It’s ours for the taking. And it’s as limitless as air. Stop for the minute after reading this and ask yourself, “What am I grateful for today?” Share if you want, or just keep it inside to fuel you for the day.

gratitude-a-thon day: adderall

In the category of, so, this is interesting, it’s never too late, funny how something bad can turn into something good. I took Adderall today. For the first time. Even though I have had ADD since I was finger painting in round-as-an-exercise-ball, Mrs. Stecker’s Kindergarten class at Center School. Today was the first time I ever took medicine that addressed attention issues. And the only reason I took it wasn’t to address my attention issues. It was to address the preposterous exhaustion which the Covid I had two and half months ago, left behind.

So, while I was very, very lucky to receive Monoclonal Antibodies for my extreme case of Covid, I was pretty fucking sick and sorry, that’s the nicest way to say it that I can think of, and besides you know me, I would marry the word “fuck,” but I’m already married. I literally wondered how I would get to the bathroom, a few feet from my bed for the first three days of my pandemic pandemonium. After my M..A infusion, which I actually had to lay down for, on account of I didn’t have the energy to sit up, I felt better, like I could actually get to the bathroom! Hot damn! But I was still tired. Really tired. And so I stayed almost entirely in bed for the next 12 days. I only left my bed to go to my daughter’s college graduation (delayed two years because of Covid), or I’d have played Sleeping Beauty for another week, or so.

After the graduation, I dove back into work and working out, but I found I was still pretty tired, draaaaaaaaaaaagging myself around the world. And then I began to socialize and return to normal, old life (although it’s hard to even know what normal old life even is after the two bizarro years of Covid quarantine, right)?). but I was still tired, like go to bed early, take a nap, and want to take another nap and still feel I’d been to seven frat parties and had run thirteen marathons on top of four triathlons. I was tired when I woke up after sleeping 9 hours, tired when I did pilates, tired while I was doing work (although I noticed my brain was doing just fine, none of that long Covid brain fog). Name a thing I did and I can tell you I was tired doing it. In fact, last week, I found myself so freaking tired, I started to cry and realize that the fatigue I found myself in was just not in any way normal. So, I finally contacted my doctor and she tested me for Lyme, the results of which I’m waiting for, but her assessment was that she thinks it’s likely just the remnants of Covid. She does think it will go away and she doesn’t think it’s long Covid, but she does think it’s the trash the damn virus left in its wake. So, she said to help me feel better, i.e. more awake, that she thought I should try a low dose of Adderall.

What?

Huh?

I hadn’t even considered taking something that would wake me up, I was just trying to find more hours in the day to sleep, which of course, wasn’t even working. But considering the fact that I have ADD and the fact that this epic exhaustion is, well, exhausting, I agreed to give it a try.

In case you are wondering at this point why I never addressed my ADD, this is for you. Fair question. There was no ADD when I was a kid. There was “TALKS TOO MUCH,” and “DOESNT WORK TO HER POTENTiAL,” but no ADD. And so to make a long story short, I learned to understand the way my brain worked and figured out how to make it work for me. It wasn’t always easy, and I would have learned more when I was a kid had there been the knowledge about ADD that there is today, but I never felt the need to seek medical intervention when suddenly ADD and meds appeared on the scene like an explosion later in my life. By then I’d lived with it a long time and even when both of my kids were diagnosed when they were young and took Adderall, I was never tempted to give it a try. I knew how to focus. Maybe not just like everybody else, but I had my tools and tricks and tips and it didn’t feel like an issue for me. Also, while some people think ADD is a horrible malady, and until you figure it out, it can be a challenge, I do not because it comes with lots and lots of cool characteristics that I really value, like mega creativity and empathy and curiosity. Also, many of the people I’ve met and known who have it are extremely smart and are super interesting thinkers.

But today, the 20th of August, 2022, I took Adderall. And I not only needed no nap today, I got a whole bunch of stuff done. And I was AWAKE while I was doing it. Sweet baby Jesus. What have I been missing all these years? I am hoping my doctor is right and this is just a side effect that’s sticking around like one of those nasty flies who buzz around your room at night sometimes in the dead of summer because you’ve left the windows open and there’s a damn hole in one of your screens, but in treating it, I may have just found a new and more effective way of doing my day! Can you teach an old dog new tricks? I’m not sure, but you can give an old dog a new drug and watch her do tricks she never dreamed of. Gratitude, once again goes to the miracle of modern medicine. I’d probably be president if I’d had this stuff when I was little.

gratitude-a-thon day 2075: pupdate

A little update on the new girl in town. We picked her up at the airport two weeks ago tomorrow and she walked into our lives like she picked US from a breeder, instead of the other way around.

There was no awkwardness or “where’s my mom and siblings” whining. She immediately burrowed into each of us. She is as playful and rowdy as a pack of two year old’s pre-nap. Her energy is like fireworks on the Fourth. Her infectious and dazzling personality is an addiction–you don’t want to be away from it for too long.

I didn’t know if I could do this–get another dog after I lost Riley. I wasn’t sure I could fully love another animal to the depths I loved him. I wasn’t sure there might not be guilt. I wasn’t sure I had the unlimited energy one needs to raise a tiny puppy. I was only sure of one thing–I really missed having a dog.

I needn’t have worried about any of it. Daisy is a little gift I somehow became the recipient of. Who knows how the stars lined up, how the God’s committee meeting went, how the luck of the draw zeroed in on me. But I got another dog and in 13 days time, I am overwhelmingly in love.

In the last two weeks there have been several times where I have felt so much rightness, so much, and i kind of hate this word, because it just sounds like the Hallmark channel ” joy.” I thought I might break out into song. Maybe I was a canine in another life. I don’t know, but I guess I feel the best when there is a dog I can love in my everyday world.

So, that’s my new dog story. Little Daisy is doing just great and as for me, I am on gratitude overload.

gratitude-a-thon day 2074: dog days of summer

The dog days of summer are coming early around here. In fact, they begin Monday, even though it’s not August yet. Drum roll, please. We’re getting a puppy!

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she? And um, don’t worry, she won’t be wearing a bow!

We said goodbye to our 14 year old Cavachon, best friend, constant companion, and jokester Riley a few months ago, ok to be exact, on April 8. At about 12. While he was on my lap. With tenderloin in his mouth. The trauma of watching him deteriorate from severe dementia, arthritis, and a heart problem was as deeply painful as having Trump in office.

The last six months of his life were like watching water drain from the tub. My husband and I were at odds about how and when his life should end. Which just made everything worse. I cried a lot. And I couldn’t imagine what life would be without this dog. But I did know i loved him so much, I had to let him go, because he was suffering and that felt wholly unacceptable.

The aftermath was grief I can only compare to when my mom died. I was engulfed in a sadness so deep, I could barely climb out of it. I felt entirely broken.

While Riley was getting less and less present, I decided I would never want to go through the pain of losing another dog and was at the end of my fur-ball-loving life. The long goodbye was brutal. The constant worry and heavy sadness I carried around with me like a stack of luggage–the deep anger I felt toward whoever made the decision a dog’s life should end well before their owners, wore me out.

But with the world’s problems mounting up like a Jenga game, I had to reconsider. With the combination of our seriously insane political system, a country divided, climate change upon us, Russia, once again a threat, the horrors of the war in Ukraine, the constant Covid craziness, gun violence, and then the final blow of a terrifying Supreme Court overturning abortion, I knew that I needed to find unadulterated joy wherever I could.

A dog?

Yup. I began slowly poking around to find one. Stopping people on the street to ask about theirs. I still cried at the mention or thought of Riley, but knowing that I could feel the intensity of happy from having that boy as my family and bestie made me realize that I was going to embrace the goodness of another dog, the bond, the tenderness, the all out love.

A note here, yes, I did consider a rescue. And I know many rescue dogs that are amazing, but I had a close personal experience with a very good friend that was horrible and lasted for a considerable amount of time, ending in her having to ultimately give this dog away, because of his aggression, and that made me just too scared to take this route. So, go ahead and judge me as you will……it wasn’t the right thing for me at this moment.

And so, a Cavapoo girl will be joining our fam on Monday. Her current name is Ally, which just so happens to be the name of my daughter! We thought it might be a sign. Of course, we’ll change it. And that debate is on right now!

I’m sure I will cry when we get her and thoughts of Riley will go through me. But I hope he would want me to pass on the love I had for him to another dog. I hope he is running in fields of steak. I hope that he knew how much he was loved, how he changed me for the better and how I will never forget even one day of him. This dog will not be a replacement. She will just be a continuation. Gratitude, big, big gratitude for dogs. To me, they are quite simply one of life’s most perfect parts.

Fuck You Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett

We knew it was going to happen. And yet, my heart did a River Dance beat when I heard it on the car radio. An anger started to form in the center of my chest. Within seconds it felt like hot lava. The MSNBC voice continued, in shock. A fleet of The Handmaid’s Tale women appeared in my brain, walking in nice uniform lines. I would look terrible in one of those hats, surely someone can design something more attractive for this real life 2022 version of that prescient story.

Runway ’23?

Once again, being a woman is unimportant. So unimportant that a whole bunch of men are making decisions about our bodies. Our. Bodies. The ones we live in. They’ve taken away a 50 year Constitutional right. Alito called Roe vs. Wade “egregiously wrong.”

I listen to the news all day. I connect with friends. I scan social media, The New York Times, The Boston Globe. One of my old college besties calls me screaming. She is livid. We are both yelling into the phone about the decision. She speaks of two miscarriages she had and the D&Cs she had to have afterward and that now that D&C would be considered an abortion. I hadn’t known those were unlawful. I had the same thing and it was so sad because I’d lost my pregnancy. The news made me even angrier. The lava was beginning to stain the rug.

My sentiments exactly.

And the worst part is the women this will impact the most are women with no money, no resources, nowhere to go, nobody to help. Hey Clarence, who will pay for these unwanted babies? Who will raise them? Amy, uterus to uterus, tell me, are you feeling good about yourself?

I had friends over last night to celebrate one of them’s birthday, as well as her being granted her PhD. Of course we toasted her, but all of our rage was on display. All of us have daughters. We discussed the gross fact that gay marriage is likely next on the chopping block. Two of the women are a married couple. The vodka & lemonade helped, but the lava was flowing.

There has been much said and there will be much more said by people more educated and erudite than I am. But as a woman, I can say this, don’t fuck with women. We will outsmart you, fight with every hormone we have in the streets to defend our own bodies and one another’s, figure out ways to help women who need abortions get them safely. What did that ridiculous Helen Reddy song say–“I am woman, hear me roar?” We will not take this. We will not let a Supreme Court that’s anything but supreme lead us backwards. We will escort each other through this terrifying time. AND WE WILL VOTE TO MAKE CHANGE.

And there you go. Gun owners have more rights than all you people with a uterus.

A few resources: Mad About Roe, Here’s How to Help Women.Now. article in NYT. Give to Glennon Dayle’s Together Rising. And of course, Planned Parenthood.

Oh, RBG, if you weren’t already gone, this would kill you.

gratitude-a-thon day 2073: living in a state of hope

A friend told me today that her brother, an old high school friend, who’d had a bone marrow transplant months ago in Boston and was recovering here, was finally going back home to Maine (to a big, fat neighborhood celebration, mind you)! She said he was excited and doing well, but of course, one always worries.

When cancer comes to visit, it’s usually pulling a sky high luggage cart of worry. Will the other shoe drop? I responded from my gut. The gut that lived the shoe dropping life when my mom had cancer. We lived from scan to scan. Just in my mid-20’s with all my big life in front of me, I worried incessantly about the battle my mom was waging for hers.

But as I told my friend, I watched my mom do an amazing thing at the time. She learned to live in a state of hope. She kicked carefree and shallow concerns out of bed. Those disappeared in about a half a minute’s time. But what she came to have was actually better. Because when you live in a state of hope, the days are more colorful, the people around you are more important, the food you eat tastes bigger and brighter, the laughs you laugh are longer and deeper and goddamn life affirming. The truth is, it’s where we should all be living, but generally we’re too busy, too spoiled and take too much for granted to remember to pitch our tent there.

I had a good think about this today. I am quite sure that living in a state of “i have to,” or I want that,” or “this sucks,” or “why, why, why” (wah, wah, wah) is never a very worthwhile neighborhood. But living in a state of hope means living for what can be, all the sparkling possibility, residing smack in the moment we are given, while knowing that life can jump any curb it wants to at any time it wants to, but still believing. Isn’t it funny, as in bizarre, ridiculous and stupid that visiting the edge of life can often put you at the center of it? Just another reminder to live where it matters, to stand in the day, to be grateful for all you think can be.

dad-tude-a-thon: day 2072: the father i never had

I had a dad who was complicated. On the one hand, he was quirky, funny, extremely smart, always with his nose (his very big nose) in the Times or New Yorker or a good book. He loved classical music, theater, cooking and antiques. On the other hand, he had a vile temper and he loved to drink more than he loved to be honest about the fact that he loved to drink. This was his downfall as a dad and as a person. And it left many deep wounds in its wake.

Peter’s Dad is to the left, I’m hugging my dad, and Peter is about to hug his mom. Yup, our wedding, almost 35 years ago. I didn’t have any idea how Peter would be as a dad, but I knew he was a deeply loving guy and that seemed like good dad stuff to me.

So, when my husband and I decided to have kids, which took three years because of my infertility (but that’s another story), I knew only that he seemed like he would not be a father like the one I’d had.

From the minute our son Jake was born, Peter was obsessed, delighted and enamored. He didn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night to feed our crying baby. And unlike me, he could easily roll with the exhaustion that came with a tiny infant’s schedule. He was infinitely patient as Jake grew. A trait that had eluded, and still eludes me. Peter was a perfect match for Jake’s extremely active body and mind. I think he had him throwing a ball as soon as he could hold anything. When Ally was born three years later, with a personality that was a little more challenging, Peter instinctively knew just how to handle her. Again, his patience and my lack thereof, made him daddy of the year. While I was more of the disciplinarian, Peter was the endlessly patient parent who could stand by during tantrums and sibling rivalry. HIs work on Alzheimer’s disease, which was very important to him, was still important, but he made time with his kids a priority. He would work until 2:00 AM to spend the daylight hours with them.

Of course with every plus comes some minuses, and in this case, Peter really did hate to, and still hates to discipline the kids. That was a challenge for me, but his other daddy traits were so stellar that while it irked me to no end, I had to ultimately accept the good with the bad. Because guess what, that’s what you have to do in a marriage–compromise.

Because our kids have been so lucky to have a dad who went to not just every game, but every practice, who showed up at each school event, whether it was a class breakfast, play, game, or conference. He coached baseball and basketball, he was the designated driver for Ally’s 1,870,833 years of soccer, a fan at Jake’s baseball, basketball and lacrosse games. And of course he was the consulate cheerleader for all the difficult and hard orthopedic sports injuries our kids endured. He was the homework guy, the obscure answer guy and the ultra positive you-can-do-it guy.

If you don’t have a dad who gives you what you need, you always wonder what that might be like. Well, I was able to find out all that I’d actually missed. Over the last 27 years, it’s been clear that Peter was the father I never had.

Gratitude for the time, effort and love and the always being there-ness that my kids got in the father department. And happy Father’s Day to one of the greats. We all love you, Peter.

gratitude-a-thon day 2071: vaccinated boosted, and oh shit

After being unusually careful for the past two years, shunning fun, ignoring the lure of indoor restaurants with fancy cocktails and delectable menus, cancelling travel to anywhere but Whole Foods, seeing only a few friends, getting vaccinated and boosted, and thinking my mouth was a mask, Covid finally came to call.

Over the Covid years, I was exposed multiple times that I was aware of and I’m sure many more I didn’t even know about, and even though my whole family got it, I never did. It became sort of a joke that I must have had it and didn’t know it along the way. Or I had it in a past life that gave me immunity! But the devil finally showed up and man, he was as harsh and ugly as I’d always worried he might be.

Anyway, I’m here just to say that you should still be wearing your obnoxiusly annoying, face altering, hard-to-breathe-in mask, because even though Omicron is not the bully on the playground that Delta was, it got me good. And let me preface that I have always had sort of a weakish immune system since a few childhood illnesses that required me to eat a big bunch of antibiotics, so I have had my share of flus and viruses that totally put me under, but this thing, this thing January sixthed me from head to toe. It ravaged me, with full-on body aches, low-grade fever, chills, extremely painful sores on my tongue, a dog bark cough, a sore throat, stomach cramps and diarrhea. And the exhaustion factor was as deep as the middle of the ocean. For the first three days, I could just about stay up for 30 minutes without drifting into a coma-like sleep. I could barely make it to the bathroom. I HAD NO APPETITE. Now, let me just say here that I have an appetite no matter what. If the world were nuked and we were trying to figure out how to go on, I’d be hungry. There have been very few times that I’ve lost my appetite, and in fact it’s a joke in my family starting with my mother, who, whenever she was sick (including when she had lung cancer) would eat her way through it. When we’d question her, she’d say, “You’ve got to keep your stomach open.” I couldn’t. She’d have been disappointed in me.

I was very lucky to have a doctor who knows that I get sicker than most people when I get sick and was able to send me for a Monoclonal antibody infusion at Beth Israel. It was easy, except for the getting out of my bed and getting dressed part. Plus you got to lay down and sleep afterward while they watched you to make sure you didn’t have some weirdo reaction. WIthin about 29 hours the heavy symptoms began to fade. The exhaustion and cough did not. I was basically in bed until a few days ago when I climbed out, slapped some makeup on and attended my daughter’s college graduation, which was two years post when it should have been for the exact reason that I was struggling to go–Covid. Pulled out of school hastily, denied the senior week antics every student dreams of and having to deal with the disappointment of a cancelled grand and big deal graduation with family flying in ready to celebrate, my daughter and the rest of the class of 2020 were cheated. The big graduation Heist. But that’s just another of the selfish characteristics this virus has boasted over these two years.

Not the graduation we’d imagined, but a fantastic day for the Trinity College class of 2020. We’re so proud of this girl, who spent her Covid years in law school.

I am on the mend. But I’m still really tired and still have a cough, but a chest x-ray revealed my lungs are clear so that’s a big positive. I just need to take it slow and get a little better everyday. But as far as being careful out there, just telling you that while some people experience Omicron as a slight incovenience, a minor cold, or no symptoms at all, I did not. It was actually the sickest I’ve ever been. IN MY WHOLE LIFE. So, get boosted and wear your mask, despite having the fatigue of living a stunted life, it’s better than the fatigue you get with the virus. Gratitude goes to the magic of medicine. Oh yeah, and my amazing daughter, the official graduate.