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.

gratitude-a-thon day 2070: the choice is yours

Everyday we choose. What’ll it be today?

It’s forgetting that it’s always a choice that can trip us up.

Yes, some days are inherently booked with better things than others. Some days have all the makings of the seven rings of hell, filled with plans that flip on the anxiety alarm, set off a fire of fear, prompt one to not just get back under the covers, but under the bed.

But when we remember that there’s a choice we have in how we process, things that can feel bleak can take on an air of okay-ness. I’m not saying it’s time to schedule a parade when you have a scary medical thing, or you lose someone close, or you are worried about the state of the world (I’d be worried about you if you weren’t), I’m just saying to take a look at how you choose to experience a situation. Often when you can look at things with an eye toward hope, a dose of gratitude and a feeling of possibility, those things can feel better than expected.

Today I choose. Everyday I choose. This is the win. Buckets of gratitude for that.

mother-a-tude-a-thon: they’re everywhere

My mother’s been gone for a very long time. Since before I had kids, or was even a real grown up. She was, as Christina said to Mere long ago on old school Grey’s Anatomy, my person. Death doesn’t change that. She’s still a North Star for me, guiding me when I’m hopelessly lost. “Be positive,” she’d say. “Put two feet in one shoe and march,” she’d say. “Talk to everybody (she was as good as a NYT reporter in getting the deepest secrets from anybody), use garlic, eat good food, you can do anything it is you want to do, you’ll figure it out, go shopping, watch a movie, wear nail polish, go to the beach, LAUGH AS MUCH AS YOU FUCKING CAN,”

My garlic-loving, hilarious, and adorable mom. (Yeah, she smoked. A victim of the times. And it’s what ended her life at a healthy 73, too.)

I have never stopped needing her and she has never stopped being there for me. Because mothering is a slew of things, but one of them is being right there to emotionally connect in that moment when someone is in need of some major care.

So many people have taken over for my mom, over the years. And that’s really how it is, there are like, a million mamas out there who show up for you when you need some major mothering. Relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors. A few weeks ago it was the great guy in the meat department at Whole Foods. Sometimes it’s an understanding co-worker, or the person behind the counter at CVS. When you get right down to it, good mothering can come from anybody.

The cutie pies, Ally at 3 month, Jake at 3 years.

So, here’s to you, all of you who take the time to listen, care and help someone who needs some mom time. Here’s to the biological moms, the adoptive moms, the single moms. Your job is endless, timeless and selfless. It’s of the utmost importance in this crazy world we’re living in. You are a beacon, a model, a VIP to those who receive your momminess.

I am so damn grateful for my own mom who gave me the grit to go when I didn’t want to and the grace to laugh at the rest. I am also grateful to the women and men who have mothered me when I became motherless. You are noticed, appreciated and loved. Happy Mother’s Day to all. You know who you are. Pat yourself on the back and make something with garlic in it.

gratitude-a-thon day 2068: when you learn what you thought you already knew

I’ve been thinking about how odd it is that you can actually learn a thing over and over and over again and you think you know it, and you talk a good game about it, but then, something happens, or somebody says it with just the right lilt, or the exact wording that was meant for you, and CYMBAL CRASH, you REALLY understand it, in the middle of your heart, in the center of your soul, in the smartest recesses of your brain.

The longer you live, the more you understand the world is like one of those precious Christmas decorations, made from such equisitely delicate glass that it has to be housed in six pounds of bubble wrap to make sure it doesn’t break while waiting in the closet for its month of December freedom. And when it does make it to the tree, it’s guarded by a fleet of Queen Elizabeth’s British soldier people to ensure its safety. There are sooooooo many things that can go hideously wrong. I don’t even need to go through the ugly list, because you know. You know all the awful things that can happen in this world.

This past weekend, it hit me hard, in that way that it can, when it hits you just right, that I suddenly knew that whatever good things, or even semi-good things that happen should be celebrated with a parade. Like a full parade with not even just one, but multiple marching bands, and a lot of baton twirlers (does anybody twirl anymore, do you think?) and gaudy floats, maybe even some Budweiser horses, and of course balloons, a big bunch of balloons. It struck me between having to say goodbye to my beloved 14 year old dog who was human to us, and watching my husband test positive for Covid over the weekend, after we worked as hard as an emergency room doc. to dodge it over the past two years, that there are an unlimited amount of nightmarish things just lining up to pull us down to the ground. And so, with all those bullets flying, it really firmed up my committment to embracing the good, the okay-ish and maybe even the not so miserable.

I knew this before. I learned this long ago. A hundered times at least. But until this weekend, as I mourned my dog, and worried about my husband’s voluminous snot, I learned it for real.

And so, I’m here to say, we throw a party for everything that doesn’t suck from now on. Or, at least we focus on everything that’s good with a magnifying glass the size of the Empire State Building, doubling up on gratitude. Get out the fireworks, light some sparklers, and bang some pots. It took me this long to learn what I thought I already knew. It will probably take me a little time to implement, but just know, every one of you is invited to the party.

gratitude-a-thon day 2067: running on empty

I’m a little depleted. When I think about why I realize it’s post-Trump, post-Covid, post-my husband having two orthopedic surgeries within two months, post-the loss of my dog, with the current Ukraine war thrown in as a kind of cherry on the top.

How do you fill yourself up when you find yourself limping to the gas station, about to stop in the middle of the street because your tank is a big, fat empty?

I find a few things helpful.

I like to walk. Whether it’s through town, up and down hills, in a park, around a reservoir, arboretum, river or pond, I like to put one foot in front of the other, breathe in the air, stick my face up to the sun and move. I like to do this pretty much any day of the week. I also love yoga and pilates, but being outside and moving through the world, with a friend, or just my music is like a rocket ship to Planet Better.

Being with friends is another fuel. Whether I’m texting them, on the phone with them (does anybody talk on the phone anymore–yes, me) or seeing them in person, surrounding myself with people who love me is like getting a blood transfusion to the mood.

I love a flower. Or two, or two dozen. I like giving them, getting them and planting them. I like arranging them, and just plain looking at them like a kid staring at a candy display wondering which to choose when his mom has told him, “Just one.” Whether I’m feeling good or not so good, flowers are my constant companions. I’m never without them–summer, spring, winter or fall– and I have to say, it feels like they always bring some sort of good juju into my house.

I like to work. I look at my work like a puzzle and I’m the one who’s going to find all the right pieces. I like the challenge, I like the focus, I like the pulling an idea out of my head that never existed before.

I am obsessed by stories. Tell me a story in the form of a movie, a tv show, a book, an article, a tweet, a TikTok, a YouTube, or a letter and I’m good. Entertain and engage me and I both relax, recharge and feel a particular kind of happy.

I think there isn’t much better in the world of humans than laughing, so if I can get there, in the laughing space, I get an energy surge that could fly me to the moon.

(I would say being with my dog, but now that he’s gone, the thought of him just makes me cry (A LOT) , so leaving that off the list……)

What do you do to get your mojo rolling when it’s out of town? Grateful for the ideas. Hope you have the best weekend.

gratitude-a-thon day 2066: grief

Grief is a magician. You will think you have your feelings of loss under control and then up they will pop up, like the groundhog on his day of seasonal reckoning. Be prebared to be caught unaware. The waterworks will begin no matter where you are. You can be talking to the funny guy in the meat department at Whole Foods, or driving your car, or in the middle of a work meeting and suddenly you will be in a puddle of your own making. With absolutely no notice you can be diminshed by tears, engulged in the deepest emotion, brought to your very knees to the ground. And there’s no telling how long this can go on. Nope, don’t go do any betting on grief’s timeline because you’re going to walk away a loser.

Riley as a puppy with his lifelong companion, Tige (14 years without a wash).

And do not think that the loss of a dog cannot put you into this elusive state of pain. Because I am here to tell you that they very well can. In fact, because they become implicit in your everyday life, like say, an arm or a leg, they can throw you down faster than Ali could master his opponent in the ring. Down. For. The. Count.

I miss my dog. We said goodbye to him last week and I miss him as if he was part of my living, breathing body and now that part is MIA. I am dazed and confused by the world without his constant presence. I cry so much I look like a monster from a Hulu original series.

The sense of loss seems senseless to those who aren’t “dog people.” “You must feel better today, right?” they say. They don’t understand. They have no comprehension of the love, the fun, the simpatico an owner and a dog can feel for one another. They can’t contemplate the closeness or the bond. Life without a dog cuts out a giant portion of some of the happiest feelings a human is capable of. Talk about grief, I feel it for those poor people who miss out on the good love, the pure love, the devoted and loyal love of a dog.

Every noise I hear, I think it’s him. Every day as I go through my mental checklist, there he is, until I remember that he is no longer here, but now resides in the land of endless green grass, and long stretches of beach, where steak grows on trees and days and nights are filled with shenanigans.

But for me, there are crying jags and the constant nagging pain of thinking I’m missing something. I am, I am missing my 14 year old relationship with my guy Riley, with the Andy Rooney eyebrows, the penchant for sleeping on laundry, clean or dirty, the single-minded adoration of eating and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade welcome he would greet us with whether we were out for a minute or a week. I miss that love. Damn, I miss that love. And I am oh so fucking grateful for it. That dog gave me everything and I think I returned the favor. He made me better. There is no question in my mind that he made me a better person. And although I was convinced he would one day, he did it without talking! I will carry Riley with me for the rest of life, which would be a little easier if I could just stop crying.

gratitude-a-thon day 2064: the best, the worst and will smith

And here we are, the morning after the slap heard round the movie-loving world. Listen, I get the whole sticking up for your woman thing, but to march up on stage and smack the comedien host for a joke? That’s just some really bad theatrics, an optics nightmare for a publicist and plain and simple unacceptable violence. In fact it’s actually called assault in the legal world. Better reactions are obvious–for instance not laughing post-joke, and instead nodding your head back and forth as Jada did, and mouthing “no” would have adequately gotten the point across. Or, walking out of the arena while Rock was onstage would have also been a high road way of showing disapproval. I gotta say, I thought I’d see good fashion and bad fashion and what the hell were you thinking fashion, but not a moment that was upsetting, embarrassing and took focus away from other’s who were being honored for their career bests. I loved Will Smith’s performance as Richard Williams, but Will Smith himself, not so much after that dramatic turn.

BUT, let’s get to the clothes! It was mega fun to see people back on the carpet without that pesky accessory, the mask. So many really brought the looks this year. All that isolation made for some good sartorial choices. Of course, not everybody planned wisely. And if they did, what fun would that be?

The no good, very bad red carpet looks you’d avoid wearing unless you were being held hostage by Putin.

BILLIE IE didn’t-know-what-to-wear-so-I-wore-something-all-of-my-fans-could-fit-into-with-me LISH.

Remember when Carol Burnett tore down the drapes and wore them in her take-off of Gone with the Wind? That’s where my head went. We know Billie likes a voluminous silouhette, but this was all-out circus tent chic. Look at her expression. Even she knew this was a roomy disaster.

EVA VAN BAHR gets religion.

In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit, what in God’s name do we have here? I love the bag. I mean, carrying around a full-on head seems kinda fun. But this is all-out atrocious. Even the cherubs couldn’t save this look. Amen.

Knock knock, who’s there, oh, it’s MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL.

I don’t love an architectural dress to start with, but lined with decorative door knockers AND an actual HOOK and I’m just out. Yes, she can direct, yes, she can act, but no, she should not be able to dress by herself ever again.

NAOMI great SCOTT, I forgot to press my dress.

Perhaps you can’t see it in this pic, but the hem of the cape, as well as the bottom hem of this dress looked like it’d never seen an iron in its ugly little life. Unflattering, giving her a tummy where I’m sure there probaby isn’t one, and calling up chest shields from ancient times, this was a head to toe no. She played Jasmine in Alladin, but this was no Disney princess look. Next time say Press to the Dress.

JESSICA CHASTAIN may have The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but not for colors that match.

I love the top of this gown. Talk about color matching your hair to your dress–winner, winner, chicken dinner. But rust and lilac? That’s like ketchup on cereal, mud on ice cream, Will hitting Chris–just wrong.

TRACEE ELLIS ROSS who’s boobs were the boss.

Oh boy, one wrong move and those girls are leaving home. Good thing she donned her cape when she presented, or we could have had a full-on Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl moment. This Mickey Mouse top is ill-fitting and well, in my humble currently-wearing-my-flannel-dog-pajamas-right-now-opinion, just ugly. But the necklace, yeah, I’d like to have that little gem around my neck.

MAYA I’m going to be comfortable or I’m not going RUDOLPH.

You get to a certain point where you look at a waistband like it’s an evil spirit who will eat your family. But orange you just a little sorry you donned this peignoir-inspired triangle, Maya?

DIANE just because you can write, doesn’t mean you can get dressed up WARREN.

She has about a bajillion hit songs, but this suit was just unsuitable. I mean, I know, pants are her thing, but the wearing o’ the green with black? No. A necklace that belongs on another look? No. A gold heart pin that has no simpatico with the silver at her neck? No. That’s a no, a no, and yes, a no.

And those who hit it outta the Dolby Theater, clear into my fashion BEST EVER diary. There were lots of Do’s here, so had to cut it down to the the Do-iests.

ZENDAYA As MC Hammer said back in the day, “U Can’t Touch This.”

This head-to-toe bit of heaven knocked me out, but not before I kept repeating the word “perfect” on a loop. My co-watchers were like, “shut up, already.” But I couldn’t contain my overwhelming adoration and began to sound like a broken record. My sister called to say, “This is it, right?” (Boy, does she know me.) This combo of classic and modern is just so 100%. It’s casual glamour, it’s modern cool, it’s the fucking best look I’ve seen in years and years. I would marry this outfit, but I’m already married.

LUPITA NYONG’O is a go (and a glow).

God, I love bling. Bring the bling, I say. But never has it hit the carpet like this dress. This was like “DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET, THIS IS THE NEW BRIGHT.” I really loved this look. And while some people might say it’s too much, I found it to be just enough. The hair kept the whole thing modern and that smile, well, it’s always as bright as the dress.

KIRSTEN DUNST red it right.

This was like The Great British Bake Off had a frosting contest and the winner got to cover Kirsten in it. If only she’d worn matching lipstick, this would have been a 10, but even without, the sublime fit and simple hair were pretty close to perfect.

SOFIA CARSON just tulling around.

I am all about tulle. If I could get away wearing it on a daily basis, I would.(Can you see me in my LuLu’s with some tulle on the ass?) This dress is every single thing. The shape, the volume, the color. This dress still has me drooling. Her hair scores an A and her makeup is on point. This is princess meets perfect.

VANESSA HUDGENS has grown up and out of high school.

Sleek and sparkly, this is one gorg number. Vanessa has brought a lot of great looks to the carpet this season, and this one kills. Hair is modern, but glamourous for a really stunning look.

Ok, people, aside from Worst Scene in an Academy Award Show given to Will Smith, what were your faves? Please share. We need the fun.