It’s 3 outside. With the wind-chill, it feels like -29. Although we just got our windows restored, in our 1882 house, the cold air is still doing its best to make our den feel like it’s in the middle of a park in Siberia (do they even have parks there? who would go? Isn’t it too cold?). So, today, after moaning that the den feels like we’re living outside, I got in the car to go buy some space heaters. I was at a light, and there was a man with a sign walking through traffic, an all-too-familiar sight around here. I stopped reading after I saw “homeless”, grabbed my wallet, rolled down the window, and gave him some money (it wasn’t much). “Keep warm, man,” I said. He gave me a big smile and thanked me. I doubt the small amount of money did much for this man, but the encounter did a lot for me. Instead of moaning about my antiquated heating system, and the wind that was blowing through the den, I just sat there feeling ultra grateful that I was not ACTUALLY living outside, like this man, that I had the money to be driving to get space heaters in a really nice car with heated seats to keep me warm, with furry boots on my feet, a long down coat and texting gloves (don’t you love these things!). I was so crazy grateful, I wanted to invite the homeless guy with the sign to live in my extra bedroom! I got to Best Buy and just sat in the car for a minute, thinking about the man, and the randomness of life, and about all the homeless people, and all of their stories, which today left them outside in weather that was made for polar bears, not humans. I sat for a while, feeling sad, and then I got out of my car, cursing the wind, and bought space heaters. Everybody should be so lucky.
Today I am 54. There. I said it. It’s not that easy. In a world that worships at the altar of the young, it’s a challenge to be in the “middle” of it. But you know, it’s also ok. I am also ok. I don’t want to pretend that my life is perfect because NOBODY’S LIFE IS PERFECT (please contact me if your life is perfect, because I WANT TO MEET YOU). But, so far, I have been lucky enough to have had some of the best of it: a man who has loved me for 25 years (I AM THE FIRST TO SAY, I DON’T KNOW HOW), two kids who have forced me to work hard to be my best self, and to accept a kind of unconditional love that is nourishing and enduring and makes me feel the kind of nirvana every yogi seeks (PLUS A FEELING OF WANTING TO SMACK THEM UPSIDE THE HEAD TWICE A WEEK), a big Italian family (many of them now gone) who surrounded me growing up, and now all have lavish hotel rooms in my heart, helping me navigate life, cheering me on, giving me advice, and loving me just because I am, two sisters, who have have acted as guides, protectors, and friends. Without their sisterly love (and jokes) I would never be able to get up in the morning. And I’ve always had the greatest friends, some of the BEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET! And last but not least, the love of a good dog. I’m not sure he’s not one of my real kids (I CERTAINLY TREAT HIM LIKE ONE). And he treats me like the most special person in the world. My boy Riley has given me a kind of happy that makes me think I might really become one of those old ladies with 197 rescues in an old house on a desolate piece of land in Omaha. People will say, she used to be kind of normal, and then she got A DOG. Yup, my middle is ok. Because the view from here is clear. Life is not about money or stuff, but all about people who love you and whom you love (well, and dogs). And the ability to stay healthy, curious, and engaged (and to have a really good haircut, and jewelry that deflects from your wrinkles, and maybe some awesome boots and lots of flowers in your house, and a good bra). So far, my life’s been lucky (NOT PERFECT), but lucky. Happy birthday to me.
I can seriously not tell you how happy I get before, after, and during a manicure. The thought of having one makes me feel like I am a lady who lunches, and who takes care of herself, and this is just one of the naturally mandatory things on the list. "Jeeves, you'll have to postpone my weekly manicure, I must jet off to Paris, unexpectedly." Not that any Tom, Dick or Mary can't get a manicure these days (and don't laugh, I see lots of Tom's and Dick's getting both their feet AND toes done). If you have $10 and hands, you can walk into any one of hundreds of foreign owned nail salons that exist throughout Boston (and everywhere), which can now be found on every block like a Starbucks. I like the during, because someone is beautifying me and I LOVE any kind of beautification I can get. I am boring, though and probably disappointing manicurists everywhere. I never get the super hot red, or near black, that I might throw on my toes. I wouldn't think of going blue, or yellow, or green, and I abhor anything with a pearl finish. I would never consider having a flower, or stripes, or the American freaking flag painted on my nails anymore than I would go to Seven Eleven for a coffee (this is not because I am not patriotic, it's just that I like my nail straight up). I am a manicure purist. I always get the same color. It's called Waltz from Essie, a kind of whitish/pinkish that makes your nails look super clean, and sets off a tan in the most perfect way, and makes me look slightly beachy brown in the middle of winter when I am paler than a blizzard. It makes sense that I love when my nails look pretty, right? I mean you see your hands like 50 million times a day because they're within your field of vision, unlike your face, which you need a mirror to see, or you ass, which you need a mirror in front of you AND in back of you to see. And because, you're doing stuff with your hands all day and night, and they kind of need your eyes to do the right thing, it’s sort of one of the best things you can take care of, especially if your a visual kind of person.
The only thing I don’t like, is the whole Elaine-from-Seinfeld thing. Maybe you remember the episode? It’s where Elaine thinks all the Korean-speaking manicurists are talking about her behind her back, so she brings George’s dad with her, who speaks Korean, and finds out they are INDEED talking about her. I know they talk about me. They say things I can’t understand and they all laugh. I imagine things they might be saying. “She has an IQ of 4.” Does she think that shirt looks good on her?” “Her feet smell.” But, like whatever. The one thing I know, is they’re not making fun of my nails.
First of all, MY APOLOGIES FOR NO GRATITUDE YESTERDAY. I have a good excuse!
I was sitting at my kitchen table with my coffee writing some posts for the gratitude-a-thon on Sunday, when my friend Mindy called me and said, “I have a crazy questions for you, Norman (her awesome husband) can’t come with me to the Green Innauguration Ball, would you like to come? The catch is, we have to leave in an hour.” I was outta my mind thinking I might get to see my not-so-secret crush, Barack, the night before he was sworn in for his second term, but she quickly squelched my fantasy, and told me he most definitely wouldn’t be there. “Still,” I said to myself, “it could be a once in a lifetime thing.” “Shut up,” I said back to myself, “I have too much to do.” “But, you should just go,” I said more loudly to myself. “YOU’VE GOT STUFF TO GET DONE,” myself said even more loudly back. I asked her to give me ten minutes to think about it. I hung up the phone. My husband looked at me and said, “I’ll take care of the homeland, GO.” And in that moment, when I could have easily said no, I said yes. Spontaneity. To steal a phrase from Tom Cruise (when he used to be normal) “Sometimes you just have to say WHAT THE FUCK.” And so I did. While Peter got online and bought me plane tickets, I ran upstairs, threw everything that could be considered black tie into a carry on, all the make-up under 3 fl. oz. that I owned, and called a cab. We arrived in D.C. at 3:30 to sunny skies and 62 degree weather. Our hotel was sleek and modern. We stretched out on the bed for 5 minutes before we both started trying on dresses and polling attendees Mindy knew via text, on the very vital: short or long (I only had short and shorter). Anyway, we primped and hopped into a cab to a truly fabulous, totally renovated, LEED certified, exquisitely furnished townhouse, where I met several people who knew Mindy, my rock star friend. And let’s talk about Mindy for a moment. This is the mom of my son’s girlfriend. People think it’s a little strange that we’re friends, but it’s nothing but normal. Yes, we met because our kids are boyfriend and girlfriend, but we’re friends because we like each other. Anyway, she is the most down-to-earth, unassuming rock star you’ve ever met. She has a long and enviable history in mission-driven work. Currently she is the president (and founder) of a non-profit called Ceres. Go check out their site, which explains everything they do better than I can, but basically Ceres talks to companies about sustainability by appealing to their bottom line. Their pitch: adopt sustainable business practices, or there will be no business. I love that. No environmental pleas to save the planet, just a super smart, black and white argument no business can ignore. Brilliant! Anyway, back to my spontaneous 24 hours. With our V.I.P. I.D.’s dangling from our necks, we waited for a few moments to get our photo taken outside of the Newseum, where the ball was being held.
There, I found myself standing next to my pick for winner of The Voice, the tall, bearded, super namaste, Nicholas David. I forced him to take a picture with me, and attempted to tell him I had rooted for him all season long, loved his music, and his vibe, but instead I just made some sounds that I’m sure convinced him I was from a yet undiscovered tribal community in the bowels of New Guineau. The party was lavish. Eight floors of awesome. And Patriots fans rejoice, there were giant wall-sized tv’s everywhere broadcasting the game (thought you guys could use a little good news, given the loss.). The highlights: Mindy knew everyone. It was fun to watch her mingle. I was hit on by a like 90 year old, but hey, I’ll take it. The entertainment was fabulous. In fact, we headed down to the second floor stage just in time to see Joe Biden
give a little green speech. And then there was music.
Will.i.am sang “I’ve got a feeling.” And there was Trombone Shorty, Sheila E, Mayor Hawthorne, and my guy, Nicholas David, plus a bunch of other people, too. In between, people like Tate Donovan and Bill Nye “The Science Guy” introduced politicians like our own Congressman Ed Markey, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. When we finally left around 12:30, we headed into the street for a cab. But forget it, there were none to be had. Every street corner was barricaded and guarded by policeman. Washington was effectively shut down. I had on sheer sleeves, and a scarf as a coat (it was 62 when we arrived!). Mindy had on high heels that she was ready to get out of, so she took them off, and allowed her dress to drag on the ground. We continued to try and conjure a cab, but instead we walked 12 long and freezing blocks, until we found a rickshaw bike to take us four blocks for $20, but there was a blanket and even though we were almost killed seven times, it was well worth it. We happily stripped and got into our warm pi’s and talked in bed like 7th graders before we fell asleep. We left at 6:00 a.m. for a re-routed ride to the airport, because now ALL OF WASHINGTON WAS SHUT DOWN. I watched people heading to get a space to watch the inauguration and stared out the window at the monumental symbols of our nation’s capitol on Martin Luther King Day and the day our first black president would be sworn into a second term. Spontaneity. Yes.
We here at the gratitude-a-thon have decided that Saturdays and Sundays will just be a visual gratitude. Have a great a weekend. Stay grateful!
I don’t like the whole getting older thing, but as my dad used to say, “There’s only one alternative.” And he was right, so I’ve tried to mimic my mom’s take on getting older. The woman loved it! She did not have one issue with getting older. NOT ONE. While I would rather let my upcoming birthday pass by unnoticed (except for any gifts of the sparkly jewelry variety), my mom never missed a chance to celebrate, and always said, “I feel great. I look great,” on each of her birthdays. Now, she didn’t say that in some arrogant, self-involved way, but in a “Aren’t’ I lucky to be alive, to have made it this far,” way, which you just had to envy. My mother had a real joie de vivre. She saw the best in things, was unreasonably optimistic, extremely warm and hilariously funny, and she REFUSED to let aging make her feel anything less than awesome. She threw a pink plastic roller in her dyed hair (Clairol’s number 36 Chestnut Brown) to give it volume where it began thinning on top, shimmied into a Playtex panty girdle everyday, hoisted her ample breasts into her 38 DD bra, painted her strong, model-like fingernails and toes Misty Mauve from Revlon, donned the best designers she could afford, always put on her red lipstick, stood up straight, smiled big, and welcomed aging like the Munchkins welcomed Dorothy to Oz. She was quite something, my mom. And a very good role model for someone like me (who loves the wisdom of aging, but not the special effects). I wish she could help me celebrate next week, but she died 22 years ago this month: Lung cancer (PLEASE DON’T SMOKE. AND IF YOU DO, PLEASE QUIT TODAY, IF NOT SOONER.). She wore her age proudly, right up until the end, when she donned leather pants and a cashmere sweater to accessorize her bald head, after her first round of chemotherapy. Talk about gratitude. I am so grateful this woman was my mother. She was a special kind of person, and among other things, she taught me not to let age diminish me. Thanks, mom. I’m working on it.
I don’t know what it is, but I am fairly certain that I’m addicted to cucumbers.Yes, people, my gratitude for today is for a vegetable frequently the punch line of a dirty joke. YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET BETWEEN ME AND MY CUCUMBERS. Now, let’s be clear, eating is one of my favorite things to do. I try to keep it on the healthy side, but I LOVE food, and I don’t want you to think this cucumber thing has anything to do with me being a militant vegetarian, not that I haven’t been. I spent seven years in the land of of no meat, but then one day I had a burger, and well, that was that. I’m crazy for cheese. It is possible that I could spend a day eating bacon, like some people spend a day at a museum. I love me a good steak. I’m a fool for pasta. I could eat my weight in bread. I never met a french fry I didn’t like, and you don’t want to leave me alone with whip cream. But I have got to say, that I look forward to my cucumber conglomeration everyday. I prefer the pickling cucumbers, the small, sort of thick skinned little guys, but they’re more a summer thing, and they’re really hard to peel because of their size, but they have the best crunch and taste. I find that Whole Foods often has cucumbers that are bruised and on their way to being inedible (What’s the deal there, Whole Foods?), and that stores like Star and Shaw’s have much more reliably healthy ones. I skin the cukes, then slice them lengthwise, and then into bite sized pieces. I use this ridiculously expensive olive oil that’s so good, I would like to drink it, and which is not my everyday oil (only i do use it everyday for my cucumbers), a sprinkle of course Kosher salt, and a sprinkle of Lemon Pepper. MMMMMMMMM. I admit it’s not exactly a sexy thing to crave, but there it is. Thank you, my little green friends. You make my day!
I can’t even tell you how much I love it when I’m somewhere, and a stranger smiles at me. Generally I’m so disarmed by this unusual friendliness, I look at the person quizzically, wondering if maybe I know them. I quickly flip through my mental book of faces, and try to make an I.D. When I can’t, and I realize I don’t know the person, I try to smile back, but when I start to return the gesture, instead of my regular broad, toothy grin, my mouth contorts into some sort of awkward seizure-like Olympic gymnastics program, and then the person is gone. Now, I don’t know why my mouth does this, instead of just being able to casually return the smile like a regular person would do, but it pretty much seems to happen every time I’m in this situation. I’ve often wondered about it, since i am actually extremely happy and impressed to have someone who doesn’t know me at all give me a smile, because I realize it means they’re just a nice person who smiles at other people, and likely someone who might possibly think that this is something we should all be doing to make the world a slightly better place (which I agree with, if i could just get the action down). But what the hell is going on with my mouth, I want to know? I have considered several options. A) I am used to living in Boston, where people are not terribly friendly and slightly suspicious most of the time, and thus I am shocked by any rogue smilers. B) I am a little bit afraid that the smiler might be ready to take my wallet, or my bag, or my phone, and this is the reason my mouth looks like a cross between a childbirth scream of pain and a sneeze. C) I am not nearly as nice as I think I am. Or, here’s another idea; Having a stranger smile at you is a particularly life-affirming, a sort of physical cue that says, “hey, we’re all people in this big crazy thing together.” And that, quite frankly is not necessarily something you run up against everyday, so when you do, it can take you by surprise, and cause you not to know quite how to act (or in my case, exactly what to do with your mouth). Although there is this one other possibility, which is when my daughter read this, she told me she did the exact same thing! She even showed me what her mouth does, and if i’m doing the same thing she does, I can’t believe people have not run screaming from me before. So, I guess it could just be genetic. Anyway, I feel good for a very long time after a stranger smiles at me, even if I can’t quite smile back.