gratitude-a-thon day 27: wrapping a gift

I always make a big deal out of a birthday, complete with banner and flowers.

When Jake was little, his pre-school teacher Judy, talked to the class about how everyone has a special gift. Later on in the day, Jake asked Judy what his special present was. She was confused for a while, until she realized he meant what his special “gift” was. (She got a good laugh out of this when she told me. And by the way, no surprise, his gift was “talking.”) Anyway, I have been told my special “present” is wrapping gifts. Kind of lame, right? But, it is some sort of weird and useless skill I possess. Part of it is that I like the idea that someone could get as excited about the wrapping, as the gift inside of it. I mean, why not create something special where you can? Why not go the extra mile for someone? I also like to make something look pretty and know that the receiver of said gift will stop for a moment and feel they were worth the effort.

I shop a little too much for wrapping paper (here’s a tiny selection.) I am going to need another room for it soon.

I am a nut when it comes to shopping for interesting wrapping paper. Or sometimes I just get silly and use odd stuff that isn’t really for wrapping. I am constantly on the look out for beautiful, or printed, or antique ribbon, and any kind of decorations that can live on a gift to give it some star power.

A sample of the ribbon and stuff that I’m always looking for to top off a gift with a little pizazz. (I’m pathetic, aren’t I?)

I admit it’s completely stupid. I know that if the economy tanked (worse than it’s already tanked), my gift wrapping skills would not even keep me in hair dye. But, it is a happy skill. I’ve never encountered a getter, who doesn’t appreciate the to-do that was made to make their gift look as special as I think they are. I have fun and get lost in the doing. I am improving the economy by purchasing so much wrapping paper? Alright, you win, it’s kind of ridiculous,  my wrapping thing, but I like it. And I’m grateful for the chance to do it. And if you were getting the gift, you probably wouldn’t be making such fun of me.

gratitude-a-thon day 26: The “I Dodged That Bullet” Game

It’s the “I Dodged That Bullet” Game. Let’s play.

I play this game with myself sometimes. I recently told my husband about it. Now we both play. It’s called the “I Dodged That Bullet” game. It goes like this: I think of things that I am no longer eligible to suffer from. Generally the thing is on the news, or I read it in a book, or I hear it, and pause and think how grateful I am that I cannot have this thing happen to me, because if it were to happen, it already would have (see, there’s a time frame involved in the rules of my little game.) So like, I’ll give you some examples: My parents did not die in a fiery crash when I was 5, leaving me orphaned and destitute. (They’re both dead, and this is not how they died, and yes in a sense I am now orphaned, but I have never been, nor am I currently destitute, although when I go walk the dog in the morning, I may sometimes look that way.) I knew I was pregnant and did not “get a stomach ache” one day and go to the emergency room, only to give birth. (This happens. I can’t believe it, since I knew I was pregnant with Ally, literally the day you could know–I WAS AT AN AGENCY LUNCH AND ATE EVERYTHING ON MY PLATE AND EVERYBODY ELSE’S PLATE AT THE TABLE. I could barely fit into my skirt, went home, peed on the stick and got a plus sign. I WAS LIKE ONE DAY PREGNANT.) My son did not become a drug addict in high school. (Admittedly, we have a few months to go here, but I think we’re in the clear on this one.)  I did not “die of embarrassment” during adolescence. (I wanted to a couple of times, but I did not.) I was not born with more than ten toes. (I do have a bunion the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, but just ten tootsies.) I did not turn to prostitution in my 20’s to make “ends meet.” (I did work in advertising……) I never dated a physically abusive man. (Can I tell you how LONG THAT WOULD HAVE LASTED?) I was not kidnapped from my house and raised by a cult leader in the back woods of a small farming community (Childhood over, and to my knowledge, I can check this box.) So, do you get it? Maybe you should give it a shot. Although sometimes it’s sad, too. I did not become a ballerina (Nope, and that ship has certainly sailed.) I will never give an Academy Award speech (Although, I am so ready, and prepared to engage and delight the audience.) I am never going to be a wildly successful novelist under 20 (or 30, 40, or 50). I’m not going to be an astronaut. (And glory hallelujah to that. I can’t even imagine wanting to do this. I get motion sick, I’m claustrophobic, and get migraines from barometric pressure changes, so forget being stuck in one of those Beacon Hill closet-sized ships.) It’s a fun little game, and it’s  just one more way to add a little gratitude to your day.

gratitude-a-thon day 25: being a girl

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That’s the thing about girls. We’re really smart.

My friend Jocelyn posted the above HIllary Clinton ad sort of thing sponsored by the Society of Women Engineer’s yesterday on Facebook, and it made me start thinking about the fact that I actually, despite, menstrual cramps, and faulty ovaries, and gynecological mayhem, and PMS, infertility, and pregnancy, and childbirth, and menopause, and having to check and worry about my boobies all the time, and not make nearly as much money as boys do for DOING THE SAME WORK, and being objectified, and glorified, and, beautifIed and dehumidified, I LOVE BEING A GIRL. I like the body better, for one. We girls don’t have THINGS hanging between our legs.(DOES THIS FEEL LIKE IT WOULD BE PROHIBITIVELY UNCOMFORTABLE, OR WHAT.) We don’t have to  shave our faces. (although, as a half Italian, half Jewish girl, you can only imagine, WHAT I HAVE TO SHAVE.) We are not the go-to for shoveling snow, or unclogging the toilet, or helping with math homework, or dragging the smelly trash bins to the street. Anyway, I like to put on pretty clothes, and I don’t mind being the weaker sex sometimes, and if you want to lead when we dance, go right ahead. It’s nice to make men’s head swivel (although not so fun when they no longer do….), and great to bring a man to his knees with your beautify, wit and charm. It’s amazing, life-altering, NO-REAL-WAY-TO-DESCRIBE-IT to be pregnant, making a whole person from scratch right inside of you (If you saw this in a movie, you’d think it was impossible and just plain dumb, WOULDN’T YOU.) It’s incredibly beautiful to be someone’s mother. (which you can’t be if you’re a man.) It’s nice to be a Miss, a Ms, or a Mrs. It must be lovely to be a grandmother. (I will be sure to make sure I am as grand as my name.) I adore being a sister, in a family of only girls, with beauty products and feminine hygiene products, and lipsticks all over the place. I love girl drinks, with umbrellas, and coconut, and girlfriends who will be there when you need them, and make you laugh with juicy gossip and work husbands, and secret crushes and stories of  too much laundry and cellulite, and shapewear, and good movies, and their newest shoes. I adore women, with their strength and seamless ability to multi-task, their compassionate hearts and fierce brains, which often have to be twice as sharp as men’s to get half as far. I love being a girl. It’s good. It’s mostly fun, and there’s no macho crap to contend with. I LOVE MEN, but as for being one, well, I love being a girl.

gratitude-a-thon day 24: movies

Give me a dark theater, or my couch filled with blankets, my family and on-demand, and I’m good. I’m SO good.

I have probably logged in as much time at the movies as Siskel, Ebert, and Leonard Maltin put together.  I am insatiable when it comes to film. And, now with on-demand, I can go to the movies 24/7, naked if I want to. (This is not something that’s remotely attractive to me, or anybody else, but I do like the fact that I could.) Anyway, I love being able to immerse myself in another world, feel someone’s happiness or pain, without having to live it for real. I’m fascinated by good special effects. I can get lost in cool places I’ve never seen before. And who doesn’t get off on an exciting chase scene. But the movies that are most appealing to me, the ones that I generally talk about for days, and tell my sister  that she must see immediately, and should actually stop what she is doing and HEAD TO THE THEATER PRONTO, are the ones that are about relationships. I want an emotional ride, a great love story, a  complicated friendship, or complex family dynamic. And, of course, a good comedy gets under my skin, too. But I’m a pretty harsh critic, judging the plot, acting, cinematography and popcorn, like an academy award voter. I’m no slouch when it comes to movies. When my husband and I were first married, and you had to go to the movie store to rent videos, (can you believe we had to do that, and NOW YOU CAN WATCH THEM ON YOUR PHONE!) we had a whole “old movie” marathon going on. We watched all the classics, like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, All About Eve, Double Indemnity, The original Postman Always Rings Twice, every single one of the Hitchcock movies, and on and on. It was really fun, and I often think about how jealous I am of my kids who still have so many amazing movies to discover, because there’s nothing like the first time. I love the previews, the popcorn,  (I give the popcorn award to Coolidge Corner Theater, plus they have wine!)  and the audience. I find it fascinating to see what makes people laugh and cry. After the movie, I like to analyze, rip apart the whole film, and discuss its flaws and successes. I recently saw Silver Lining Playbook, and boom, a new entry onto the list of “BEST MOVIES I’VE EVER SEEN, ” a select compilation, I don’t add to often. It was deep and funny and explores mental illness, and love, and family. While the New Yorker is usually a reliable source, they didn’t like it, which mystifies me.  But, hey, sometimes even the best reviewers get it wrong. (Unlike me!)

gratitude-a-thon day 21: when a song gets unstuck

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This is me singing. Ok, it’s not me singing, it’s Adele. But it’s how I feel when I sing (and what I think I sound like).

I have a pretty bad case of this thing, which i don’t even really know is an official thing. I”ll call it: “the song that gets stuck in my brain” thing. i can be in a conversation, or working, or watching tv, and my brain is singing, “She’s just a girl and she’s on fire.” The words repeat over and over inside my head on an endless loop. When it’s a song I like, it’s bad enough, but when it’s a song I hate, it’s even worse. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a special CIA torture device to get me to unveil some important national security information–like how much money I spent at Anthropologie, or something. Anyway, good thing I’m not singing out loud and just in my head because well, just ask anybody who’s ever heard me sing. They’ll tell you. If not in words, then in facial expressions. FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO ALLEGEDLY LOVE ME, mind you. Like mom, like child. My daughter sadly has inherited my pathetic and sad vocal capabilities, but she’s the first to make fun of me (although this has been a bonding moment for the two of us also). I was in chorus until third grade, when my chorus teacher, Mrs. Gustafson told me that she absolutely loved me, but that I couldn’t be in chorus anymore because I couldn’t sing. REALLY, MRS. GUSTAFSON, IS THAT HOW WE’RE GOING TO HANDLE THIS? I was sort of devastated, and asked my mom if I might develop a better voice as i got older. i think she told me yes, which is the right thing to have done, since I was still living in a 10 year old world of “anything is possible.”. The thing is, I have all the intonations right. I know the timing. I can even dance in the perfect rhythmic groove to every moment of a song, BUT I CANNOT HOLD A TUNE, HIT A NOTE, OR EVEN HEAR THAT I’M NOT DOING EITHER OF THOSE THINGS. It’s so sad, because I know I would have been a great singer, you know, except for my damn voice. What I really mean, is that I have the SOUL of a singer. I can feel a song in my gut. Some people can sing, but they don’t’ really feel the music, which is actually as bad as singing like I do (although admittedly, it sounds better). Music is such an emotional endeavor. And I’ve got that part down. Yep, I’m freaking Adele in the shower. Aretha Franklin in the car. Whitney Houston (before she got so into drugs). You should catch my performances in the house when everyone is at school and work. They are sell outs (truthfully, it appears that even Riley thinks I suck). Anyway, I am so grateful when the song that gets stuck in my head (“so call me maybe” ) somehow gets unstuck. It’s like music to my ears (I HAD TO, DIDN’T I?!).

gratitude-a-thon day 20: spring will be here in 49 days

Winter is prettty, I admit it. But only for like, one day.

Making my way through this winter has been challenging. Actually making it through WINTER IN GENERAL has become challenging because as time goes by, I HATE THE WINTER LIKE I HATE WRINKLES, AND LIVER, AND ANN COULTER. I grew up sledding, and building snowmen and ice skating everyday after school, and weekends, too. I liked winter back then. It was, like everything, FUN. In high school, I fell madly in love with skiing. But at the end of college, I herniated a disc in my low back, and my dreams of being Suzy Chapstick disappeared. I went a few times post back diagnosis, and tried not to move while I skied, and finally gave it up entirely in my mid-twenties, after going on a Vermont Ski weekend, with a bunch of fabulous skiers. I looked fate in the eye, when I took the wrong chairlift, which dropped me on trail that was 18 colors beyond my skill level, and covered in a deadly, glistening layer of ICE. I tumbled down that  alpine luge slope like a crumpled piece of paper in the wind, and the terror that filled me at the thought of hurting my back even more, caused me so much anxiety, I had a “crazy girl on the mountain” kind of moment. I actually screamed and cried like I had broken MY WHOLE BODY. I never set foot, or rather MY feet in a pair of ski boots again. And that was that, the last thing that had made winter fun for me was done. Anyway, sure, the snow is pretty for like approximately one day. Then I’m ready for spring. I hate the clothes, too — layers and layers of clothes to put on, just so you can bear leaving your bed.

I cut my friend out of this photo, so I look even weirder than normal, BUT WOULDJA LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE COAT?

You should see the coats I wear. They’re basically sleeping bags with holes for your feet. I am sure people are impressed with my winter weight loss, come summer, since I look about 50 pounds thinner  when I’m not toting around the “down comforter” coat anymore. Also, I CANNOT walk around in the winter without my shoulders hunched up to my ears like Frankenstein. They just won’t go down. And you know, like,  THAT’S VERY ATTRACTIVE. And then there is the sweating. I layer myself all up to go outside, but when I go back in, like to grocery shop, or holiday shop, I sweat like I am in a Viking oven baking at 500 degrees, and very much resemble someone having a major heart attack. Again, the attractiveness factor here cannot be ignored. So, I’m grateful to be counting the days (just 49 more) until spring (and what with my math skills, it could be here even sooner).

gratitude-a-thon day 19: Obama’s Gun Violence Proposals

Connecticut School Shooting
It could have happened anywhere. It shouldn’t have happened at all.

The gun thing. There are two sides of it. And yet, I can’t imagine anybody not THINKING EXACTLY LIKE I DO HERE. I can’t help myself. It seems clear to me. BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS. WHO NEEDS ASSAULT WEAPONS TO HUNT, OR PROTECT THEMSELVES? WHO NEEDS ASSAULT WEAPONS UNLESS THERE IS A WAR GOING ON AND YOU ARE A SOLDIER ON THE FRONT LINES OF SAID WAR, or you are a hit man in a Scorsese movie? And even then, I hate them, even when they’re pretend. BECAUSE WEAPONS KILL PEOPLE AND I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS (and I don’t actually understand why we can’t do what we tell our kids to do when they’re little and trying to solve a dispute: USE YOUR WORDS). As the whole country was shocked by the Sandy Hook shootings, I too, was devastated. Not because I knew anyone, but because it could have been my kids, or your kids. Having grown up in the town next to Sandy Hook, it felt even more real to me than some of the other unspeakable things that have happened concerning guns over the years. I could imagine the streets, and the kind of people who live in Newtown, because that’s the kind of place I’m from. People scream “Second Amendment.” I say let’s mature with the times, shall we? There are no more militias, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The second amendment was written a very long time ago. THE ONLY ARMS I’M IN SUPPORT OF BARING ARE THOSE OF MICHELLE OBAMA. I say, let’s all pray, or meditate, or whatever you do internally when you want something to happen (I do a sort of a mixture of a prayer/meditation/plea/wish/beg/make-a-deal sort of thing.) that the President can create an environment where Congress will thoughtfully put aside “politics” and the Republican vs. Democrat mentality, and pass the proposals that will at least take some guns out of our hands. Yes, I’m also for more funds and less stigma when it comes to mental illnesss, too (but that’s another post). Right now, let’s get rid of the magazines, unless you’re talking about The New Yorker, or People. Sadly, it took one mentally ill person to shoot up a classroom full of six and seven year olds to make something happen, to cause outrage, to get people talking. Let’s not wait for more children to die in the safety of their school, or street. It’s time. No background checks at gun shows? Let’s remember that we’re all people. Let’s use our words as weapons here, and act as our best selves.