gratitude-a-thon day 475: what you bring to the table

IMG_2787
This was the “before.” The “after” won’t load. Something seems wrong with the wordpress media thingy today, or it’s editing me!

 

I’m still full.

But I did make the best turkey of my turkey making career. It was my Uncle Louie’s recipe, (which  my sister Joni, wrote about when she was writing for the Globe and if you want a, like PERFECT turkey, bookmark this for next time you make a bird). Joni was so worried about my skill (or her not having a good turkey to eat) she sent me a couple emails full of important instructions for not fucking up, including a video by Alton Brown on how to truss a turkey,(which, p.s. I had never done before, and I think might have made a difference, but seriously you had to be like a sailor, to do his knots and stuff). Anyway, she was right, because we remembered that last year my Christmas turkey didn’t cook properly (read RAW) and while we salvaged some of it to eat, we threw the rest out).

IMG_2788
grateful for: ally (and everyone else who came to the table).

 

This was the first Thanksgiving without the Turkey Master, and fill-in dad, my Uncle Louie, and the first at my house, and not at my Aunt & Uncle’s in like 25 years. Connecticut came to us. And we rocked it. I did, however miss the double stop at Rein’s Deli, which is a tradition (ah, the rye bread).

And there were pies. We had seven pies for 10 people. Um, yeah. We’re sort of pie people.

Grateful. Damn grateful for the weather holding up, and the turkey working out, and the company of family. They shouldn’t really call this Black Friday, as much as Full Friday.

IMG_2795

IMG_2801

gratitude-a-thon day 71: easter

images-1
I love to decorate eggs. I did dozens and dozens when I was a kid.

My dad was Jewish and my mom was Catholic. When they married, they decided to give up their religions, and raise their children with no religion, allowing us to choose when we grew up. (Course, this was impossible, since we did not have any religious education.) But we did have all the Catholic holidays, because my mother’s family, who all lived 15 minutes away, were Catholic. And the town I grew up in was all Catholic. (I will get into this in another post in more detail one day.)

For my family, Easter is a re-birth of the earth and a celebration of spring. And getting really creative with eggs. And a reason to eat a lot of candy. And a lot of ham. And more candy. With candy for dessert. Topped off with a midnight snack of candy.

Hope you and your peeps (get it!!!!!)  have a happy day.

gratitude-a-thon day 58: Choice

images-1
Is she perfect? Maybe. Can we all be like her? I don’t think so. I’m not even sure I would have wanted to be.

Recently, I watched that show Rock Center on On Demand, which is a decent sort of a show. and because it’s taped, I can just fast forward to the best stories. I’m always a sucker for a magazine show, although none has ever been as smart or good as 60 Minutes. Anyway, I just watched Sheryl Sandberg interviewed. And then it seemed everywhere I looked, there was an article on her. I read a lot of them and it left me feeling grateful.

Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s COO. She’s a billionaire, and is still just 43. She has written a book called “Lean In,” which is about helping more women gain entry into positions of power in the workplace. She says women should, “lean in” to business, not be afraid to take risks and go for the bigger jobs.

Now, while I love the idea that a hugely successful women is out there breaking down doors for my gender, I am also feeling like this is a bit of a repeat. I think we’ve heard this “you can have it all” thing before. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we visited this feminist ground prior to Sheryl’s book? This woman is clearly is a superstar. She has her undergraduate degree from Harvard and her M.B.A from there, too. In rapid fire pace, she went from being an economist at the World Bank to becoming a chief of staff for Lawrence H. Summers, then Treasury secretary. Her next job? None other than a little start-up called Google. And then in 2008, she went to Facebook. This woman is smart, attractive, and hard working. She’s also married to a really successful entrepreneur, the CEO of Survey Monkey, and she has two kids. She has the whole enchilada. And good for her. But can all women have what she’s having? Is it realistic to think that all of us can get things to line up like Sheryl? Hmmmmm.

While things are wildly different and better for women in the workplace, in just my lifetime, I know there are more strides to be made, more changes to seek, more equality real estate to own. And I”m all for it. I am. i think women are amazing. I think, in many ways, they’re smarter than men BECAUSE of their biology. We are made to be multi-taskers. We have to know how to juggle a lot of balls, because we’re the ones who biologically grow and birth the babies. And I believe because of that our compassionate side, a more innate and developed characteristic of females, could do the world a lot of good. So, I get it and I embrace this idea that women should seek more high powered business positions. But……

But wasn’t the whole point of the women’s movement to give us choice? Wasn’t it to say, if you want to work in business and have a career, you can, and if you want to stay home with your children, you can. And if you want to do both, you can. I thought that was what the women’s movement had created for us: choice. Now I know Ms. Sandberg is trying to push us forward, but does she realize we don’t all get the golden education, the uber mentors, the husband/business partner that makes it all possible? From where I sit, you gotta have a lot fall just perfectly to make this thing work, and STILL YOU’RE GOING TO MISS STUFF. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE SHIT BOSSES. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO WEIGH AND MEASURE THE CHOICES YOU’RE MAKING. YOU’RE GOING TO MISS DANCE RECITALS AND BASEBALL GAMES, AND THE DAY YOUR KID WAS BULLIED ON THE PLAYGROUND. YOU ARE. I’M TELLING YOU. YOU ARE. I just don’t believe you can do two things at once and have them both work perfectly. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible.

And let’s discuss those women for whom Harvard isn’t an option, and for whom working is a mandatory. Let’s talk about women who hold down two jobs because they’re single moms, or because they’re husbands are out of work, or because they just plain need more money for their families.

I’m just one woman. One story. But for me, I appreciated having the choice, as imperfect as it was. I have been grateful to get to do both, but I sacrificed, and when push came to shove, I chose not to pursue the kind of career I might have if I hadn’t had children. Ultimately, for me, my kids won out. AND I’M GOOD WITH THAT, GRATEFUL FOR THAT.  I’m grateful that I even had that choice, because many women don’t. I have been lucky to work in my profession in a less high powered way, than I might have had if I hadn’t become a mom, but I carved out a way that worked, and continues to work for me.  I made a choice that was better for my family and better for me. And that’s what I thought Gloria Steinem was trying for. I say to Sheryl Sandberg, “You go.” But I also say, “We can’t all be just like you.” Life isn’t perfect for women who want to have it all. It’s possible, but it’s not perfect.

gratitude-a-thon day 51: the genius bar

images
Guilty as charged.

Fuck and shit.  And damn and hell. And all the other bad words you can think of. Is there anything worse than when you get the spinny ball of death on your laptop? Yes, why yes there is. It’s called the black screen. Which is what happens when your computer crashes. As in, crash lands into the trash heap pile of all those near and  dearly departed laptops who’s last beep, ding, or crumple of paper sound was made right before they went into a permanent sleep.

 Well, yesterday, after watching the spinny ball for a while, my computer ceased breathing. Time of death: approximately 4:38. The screen went black and my stomach lurched like a real person had passed on. How could I feel so deeply horrible and emotionally pained at the thought of losing my computer, a machine with no heart or soul? I’ll tell you how, and perhaps you’ll understand. I DONT’ BACK UP REGULARLY. I am not a good backer upper. NO, I don’t generally fly with a back up plan. So, when i saw the screen of doom, I knew it could mean much more than the loss of my original MacBook Air. It meant the loss of years of my work. (Not to mention at least four in-progress gratitude-a-thons.)

 And so it was with sadness in my heart and terror in my wallet, that I made my Genius Bar appointment and waited. It didn’t take long for the Genius to announce that my hard drive had indeed moved onto greener pastures. I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. And while the poor Genius was smart, he had not been trained to handle a sobbing woman who has just experienced a profound loss. Shouldn’t he have pulled out some Tequila and allowed me to swig a shot? Wasn’t it a bar, after all?  He did ask me if I needed a minute, but a minute wasn’t going to touch the grief. But alas, I had things to decide. Decisions to make. Did I want to bring it to another private company who may be able to retrieve my information? Did I want them to replace the hard drive?  Did I want to stab myself in the eye with a fork for not having taken seriously a message that appeared a week ago, which i cavalierly ignored, because I was too busy and not technically savvy enough to heed: “Your Startup Disk is Full.” Could this have been the beginning of the demise of my computer? Could this have been the warning sign? The gateway drug? I asked some questions, none of them probably made much sense, although this is what one does when a loved one dies. My Genius answered sympathetically. I decided against the expensive retrieval options, and started looking at replacement models. Yes, just like that, not dead for more than a day, and I was into an upgrade. Before the power cord was even cold….I had two really great guys work with me to make the right decisions and answer all my inane questions. They were young guys, and really smart and very sweet to me, which an old and widow, like me really appreciated.

I went with another MacBook Air. It’s being christened right now, with this post. I’m so grateful that I have another chance to start again. I will be going for my first One on One lesson today. I will learn to care for this Mac properly and I bought something called Time Capsule, which is a wireless back-up, which seems like I would want, even if I didn’t have a computer, it’s such a good product. Anyway, there it is. May my old MacBook rest in peace. Along with all my work from the past five years. Shit. Fuck. Sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m still grieving.

gratitude-a-thon day 46: perspective

I took a class with Nancy Slonim Aronie several years ago on Martha’s Vineyard, and a one day workshop in Boston before that. She is one of those people who sort of changes your life. If you’re into writing, or into having a really cool experience, you should take a class with her. Her son was diagnosed with MS when he was 27. Struck down in his hunky prime. But what Nancy learned from the experience of having a profoundly sick child, informs much of her teaching, and it had an enormous effect on me. I was lucky enough to meet Dan, and he was some kind of special guy. He lost his valiant battle back in 2010, but I’m pretty sure his spirit is flying free, now that he’s ditched that body that gave him such a hard time. I always find the above video to be a reminder of perspective. I think perspective is almost as transformative as gratitude. And I’m grateful to Nancy for both.

gratitude-a-thon day 45: the kids are alright

IMG_3933
The eye. Day two. An inch lower. An inch. And I would not be sitting here today. I’d be in a nice wing of a nice psychiatric facility.

This weekend was a powerful reminder of how much control you don’t have as a parent. It was the kind of emotionally charged, fight or flight misery that comes from not being able to do a damn thing to help your kids feel better. Ah, but let me back up and give you the full scoop.

IMG_2614
Ally’s team last year after winning the State Cup.

Ally is on an elite club soccer team. The girl is great. She is very close to her team. They travel frequently, and are very bonded to one another. The team won the State Cup last year, and after that gave the girls contracts. Some girls got a full year. Some got a half year, with a review. It has been a rather stressful six months for Ally, knowing that every practice, every game, was a chance to show her coach she was a worthy player. Saturday was not only a tournament, but also the day of reckoning.

As I was watching the second game, Jake’s face popped up on my phone. “Mom, I was playing lacrosse and a stick hit me and my helmet cracked and it cut above my eye and my friends are taking me to the hospital for stitches. Just wanted you to know”.  His voice was calm. I don’t have to describe my response BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT IT WAS. It was part babbling infant mixed with howling hyena. I did manage to say, “Call me as soon as you’re at the hospital.” I got off and told Peter, who said, “Oh, he’ll be fine.” Immersed in the game, he left me to my psychotic worry. I was already freaked out about the idea that Ally might not make the team, and couldn’t even eat the fabulous lunch a parent had made for us at her house, because my stomach was in the Olympic gymnastics event. Now, I had Jake to worry about. Did he have a concussion? Would the doctors know to do a plastic surgery type of job on him, and not slap together some stitches that would give him a weird scar. I called him over and over again, but he didn’t answer, so I called Jessie, his girlfriend, who I knew could use the magic power of her girlfriend-ness to get through. She calmly told me not to worry and that he was going to be fine. She told me she and her mom would go to the hospital if I wanted, but she said he seemed to be doing ok with his friends, and things were pretty straight forward. (Jessie is the best.) I felt 1% better. I continued to think about leaving and letting Peter and Ally get a ride home with another parent, but decided against it, knowing Ally might need me.

After playing two games in a tournament OUTSIDE, I might add (you know, where there is still SNOW and stuff) Ally stood on the sidelines with her coach to get her review. Peter and I stood several feet away, like statues, observing her profile for any signs of the outcome. Almost immediately, I could tell she hadn’t made it. I knew that the billboards for “Difficult Parenting Ahead” would be popping up any minute. Peter was in disbelief, as all signs had made him think her place on the team was safe. When it looked like they were wrapping up, I forced Peter to go and talk to the coach. I knew if I went over, bad things would come out of my mouth, and I might not be able to control my hands, or feet. Ally walked toward me and one of her other team mates, and told us both the news. She would play down a team for five months and be guaranteed a contract for 2014 on her current team. The coach wanted her to get more playing time, to play the whole game, instead of just 15 minutes, in an effort to improve her play. And although, I saw it as the coach’s commitment to her development as an even stronger player than she already was, it was not a scenario we’d ever considered. And for Ally, it was the first defeat she’d ever encountered. We went to the car and the tears started. There was some wailing. There was some sobbing. There was a lot of snot. Ally did not want to talk. This was hard because that’s all I want to do when something goes wrong for me, but I had to respect her process, so I sat quietly crying in the front seat. Peter drove like a zombie. Ally handed me her phone with a picture of Jake’s gash that was already circulating on Facebook. I have never felt queasy around anything medical, but I actually almost threw up. One inch, maybe less than one inch, and his eye would have been gone. GONE as in not there anymore. No question. One inch lower, and he would have been been blinded.

We sped home from Hopkinton, but not in time to get to the hospital. Jake was already on his way home. He looked very much like he’d been in a fight with Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky, his forehead bulging with swelling, his eye practically shut. They had managed to sew his eyebrow together, and was given the directions not to exercise or do any heavy lifting. (oh great, the garbage was on me now.) I was already sorry he was playing lacrosse this year. As if Ally’s response to her news hadn’t already put me in a state, Jake just iced the cake.

My guilt for not having been there for Jake, AFTER HIS FACE WAS SLICED OPEN, was the size of  Detroit, no Texas, no Switzerland (it’s prettier). But the truth was, that he appeared to be calm and ok (unlike moi). He had handled it just fine, was matter-of-fact (but clearly shaken)  and taking it in stride in a way that surprised me. He’d had to miss the second playoff BHS basketball game, but as the Super Fan that he is, was following it on his phone like the president follows breaking news. Maybe Jake was ready for college after all. Maybe this was just to show me how ready he was to be on his own, because if this happened next year at this time, I wouldn’t be there either.

Ally continued to cry. She cried herself to sleep and actually woke up crying. I barely slept, I felt so out of sorts, so parentally unproductive, as in I could do nothing to help either one of my kids feel better. The events of the day were on a loop in my find, and kept me up most of the night, until I finally just called it at 5:00 and got up. I was meeting my roommate and old college friend, who I lived on Newbury Street with right after school, for the first time in 28 years, back down on Newbury St. for brunch. I was going to be really cute, what with the crying I did the day before and the no sleep! Anyway, I left Peter sitting with Ally, whose crying had made her look a lot like a blowfish, and who was still sobbing. I considered canceling my plans, but Peter had a way with Ally that made her talk, which I didn’t possess. These two have the most endearing and incredible relationship (which is a whole other post).  They are a lot alike and speak the same emotional language. I knew she was in gifted hands.

I didn’t check my phone until after the brunch, but Peter had texted that the coach had contacted him to see if Ally could play the last game in the tournament, because another girl was sick. He said he was going to let her decide. I called him. He said Ally was icing her eyes, and they were on their way. This is how my daughter and I differ. If I were in that situation, I would have folded, and said, no, because I would have been too upset and embarrassed, and plus I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see my swollen eyes, and plus I would have been hating the coach so much, I might not be able to control my words, and also I would be so upset, I might have already enrolled in the witness relocation program. But Ally de-puffed her eyes, got on her cleats and was given a hero’s welcome by her team. She was the starting forward, and scored a goal within minutes of beginning the game. Her entire team embraced her, and she even got a surprise hug from her coach. She came home in a completely different frame of mind, having been supported by every girl, the coach, and the parents, and seeing that that this move was to make her an even stronger player for 2014. This was Ally’s first real bit of adveristy. And while she got a good tear duct workout, she rallied in record time. She’s done a lot of great things in her little life, but this was the most proud I’d ever felt of her. The girl not only has great athletic ability, she has great character.

As for Jake, he looked like a five year old who’d gotten into his mother’s purple eyeshadow on Sunday morning. The swelling was worse, and his eye was almost shut. He sat on the couch all day watching a mix of sports and movies. His fab girlfriend came over, and together we gave Ally a standing O when she walked in the door, high from her success.

This is what parenting can be like. Things happen to your kids, and sometimes there’s not a NUTHIN’ you can do about them. And the pit in your stomach feels like the cast of Riverdance is doing their thing in there. But it’s Monday, and we seemed to have survived. And I think, although we’re all a little wearier, we’re all ok. And most importantly, my kids showed me who they have become. Adults.

gratitude-a-thon day 43: Mama Bears

Mama-and-baby-bear

Lately, I seem to be reading about mom’s who are facing stuff that is hard. Like, really hard. In the most recent (mammoth) issue of Vogue I just read an article by Emily Rapp, who writes beautifully about her experience with living, loving and losing her sweet little boy Ronan, who was born with Tay-Sachs Disease. As I read, I could feel the pit in my stomach growing to the size of a small midwestern farm, not because this story had anything to do with me, but because as a mom, I could feel what it would be like if it did.

Which brings me to another blog, that of Jane Roper. I met Jane for like 5 seconds many years ago, at a writer’s group that I was thinking of joining, but quickly realized was made up of writers that were quite a bit more experienced than I was. (Translation: Writers who were way fucking better than I ever could be at writing.) But the cool thing was that I got to meet Jane, who was an advertising copywriter, like me, and had just been accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was exceptionally friendly and nice. Since then, I’ve watched her success from afar, as she’s given birth to twins and written two books. And then, recently, I ran into her blog and read with rapt attention about how one of her adorable twins had received the diagnosis of leukemia. At five. It made me once again, hold onto my chair,  because, well, I of the vivid imagination, could imagine how difficult this would be to go through. (By the way, Jane is such a gifted writer, she even makes cancer funny.)

Lastly, I found a blog posted by a Facebook friend, which really made me think. The blog is by Julie Ross and is called George. Jessie. Love. And it’s about Julie’s child Jessie, who was George until his 10th birthday. And I thought Jake not making the basketball team was a parenting challenge. When I think of how brutal kids can be at that age, I can imagine that parenting a transgender child must require some superb mommying. Julie shares her experience with honesty and wit.

Why I’m fascinated by, and grateful for all these stories is because, in each case, I see and feel the Mama Bear that’s at the helm, and she  inspires me to dig deeper in an effort to be a better mom, myself. None of us know exactly what we’re signing up for when we give birth. And the  baby comes, and the love that you feel is so powerfully big, so all encompassing, so passionate and deep, that what you do know is, nothing will ever be the quite same again. And it hits you in an instant, that  you will do whatever it is you have to do to keep that child safe, happy, healthy, and able to be their best selves forever more. You know it, like you know the sun will make it’s way to the center of the sky the next day, and will go into hiding 12 hours later.

And that’s what I love about these women. The unexpected, searing pain that can come with being a mom and doing your job can sometimes feel unspeakably impossible. But never undoable. These are dynamic examples. I’m grateful that these women, courageous and honest, are able to share their experiences so eloquently, and show us that in good times and bad, being a mom forces us to learn and grow and find beauty and love in even the most difficult. And that at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

gratitude-a-thon day 43: Niagara Falls

By now, you probably know, what with all the beach shots and the flower pics and the whining and complaining about winter, that I AM NOT A GIRL WHO LIKES THE COLD. Well, on our recent trip to Buffalo, we took an hour and drove up to the American side of Niagara Falls. (We didn’t have our passports, so we couldn’t go to the bigger, even more dramatic Canadian Falls.) I’m sorry, but there’s just no other polite way of describing one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the Modern World, other than to say HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT.

IMG_1487
You can’t capture the big or the cold in a photo, but let’s just say BIG and COLD.

First of all, it is mammoth, like a moving Grand Canyon. Secondly, it is cold, like one of those nights when the temperature drops to -10, and your heat doesn’t work and you have no pajamas. Thirdly, everything is FROZEN SOLID like you’re in a life-sized fridge. The river is choppy, white water-ish ,because of the force of the Falls, or I should say, it would be choppy if it wasn’t FROZEN IN PLACE LIKE A STATUE.  Literally this water has STOPPED COLD. It’s like a Batman villain showed up and waved his hand and said, ok, FREEZE. Also, the drop down to the river, is pre-tty big. And you’re staring at this rushing water, and the backdrop of white, and it’s a little disorienting, so you think maybe you might fall, like into the freezingness of this awful place, and you just want to go back to the car (Ok, maybe I’m just talking about me, here.) Anwyay, the power of this thing, was just mind blowing. We were all sort of shocked by its intensity. Even the unimpressible kids were impressed (It really takes something big to get a lifted eyebrow from a teenager these days.)

IMG_3913
Everything around the falls is frozen solid. SOLID. Kind of pretty, but I wish there was a “Niagara Falls, The Heated Version.”

Even though I hate the cold, like it was evil itself, I was grateful to have seen the falls. I hadn’t been there since i was 8 and went with my family to Expo 67 in Montreal. I was terrified then, too. And I remember we went on The Maid of the Mist, which was the boat which goes under the falls. As young as I was, this just did not seem like an intelligent idea to me. Anyway, when you see something as big as NIagra Falls, it reminds you of how small you are. And how big the world is, and that you are just a little part of it. And sometimes that’s a really good thing to remember.

IMG_3920

gratitude-a-thon day 27: wrapping a gift

IMG_3382
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.

IMG_3713
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.

IMG_3720
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.