There are kids in the neighborhood screaming and riding scooters and playing basketball like everything is normal. I watch them whiz by my window with all that anything-is-possible-ness, big smiles, adventurous eyes. I like hearing them because it reminds me that things used to be normal and that they will be again. “Go faster,” one of them implores.
I wake up in the morning and remind myself that I will not be doing anything I usually do. I have to blink a few times to remember that we are in quarantine and the only time I will go out today will be to go for a walk with a friend and take my dog out. Otherwise, we are home, on lockdown. My husband has just gone off some medicine that makes him immunosuppressed and we’re not sure when his immunity will show back up to protect him, so we’re protecting him and really, everybody else we know. Because that’s the thing, you might be just fine if you get CO-VID 19, but you might pass it on to someone who will die. I am known for my hyperbole, but this is no exaggeration. People are going to die, mostly older people and those with underlying conditions, but make no mistake, they will not be able to fight this ugly monster that’s come to visit.
The government can’t seem to get it right, except for Anthony Fauci, who if you listen carefully to will make you want to get under your covers with a bottle of tequila. Trump is literally talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has not prepared the country for this new visitor and he can’t put up a wall that will stop it, so he’s pretending it’s nothing. He sounds like he’s doing an imitation of Alec Baldwin doing an imitation of him. He has become useless without his big crowds to cheer him on. It’s being revealed in real time what a preposterously bad leader (and person — the “Chinese” virus) he is. Him and his “tremendous” 15-word vocabulary. Yeah, we’re in really good hands with Dr. Trump.
But there are crocuses coming up in my garden. And although it snowed yesterday morning, winter is mostly gone now. I cleaned out my sock drawer! My yoga class went Zoom yesterday and it was fun! I was on a group chat last night and we all started dancing together and more importantly, laughing and feeling connected. And yesterday, my daughter got her LSAT score and she did well! We celebrated like she had become the first female president. I mean, when the chips are down and you get a win, you have to make the most of it. We went full-on candles and wine, mini-banner, sit down dinner (ok, it was leftover chicken and a killer fried rice, in which I used all of our carrots and celery and the last of our onions :(, but you can’t waste food when you don’t know when you’ll be able to get to the grocery store again.
These are pretty terrifying times. But I implore you to seek out the things there are to be grateful for. Because they exist and they are what will help us to maintain some sanity, some hope. At some point, this will be over, but what it will have done to each of us and to our world, may be life-altering. Use gratitude as a protective shield to the crazy around you. It can’t prevent the virus, but it can prevent you from forgetting what’s good in your life.
2020. I thought by now we’d be jet-pack flying around, a la The Jetsons.
A new year is always so full of hope. It’s a little like that back-to-school feeling, where you sharpen your pencils and get on all those projects you want to kill, but times 1,000.
I used to make all sorts of resolutions. In fact, I used to write down the things I wanted to say goodbye to and burn them, then make resolutions. This year I didn’t do any of it. But I do have several things I am working on. More patience, more kindness, more writing, more meditating, more gratitude, more laughing. But my number one resolution is to elect a Democrat to the White House, the end. That horror show that calls himself president has gotta go.
Gratitude to the hope that another year escorts in. (Setting my sights on flying by 2030.)
Yesterday we were reminded of the great neighborhood we’re lucky enough to live in, the way a teeny, tiny act of kindness can make us feel all warm and glowy like a fire in a fireplace on one of those frigidly cold winter nights Boston can throw at you.
Two Halloweens ago, a little girl and her friends came to the door and my husband, a rabid Smarties candy fan, asked her if she had any. He said they were his faves and he’d trade her some of our candy for her Smarties. She willingly and happily obliged. The next two years in a row, she came to the door with Smarties she’d actually bought for him. We both thought it was adorable and last year she was with her Dad and we thanked them profusely and we all had a giggle. We asked where they lived and they told us around the corner, but neither of us really took note.
Yesterday, Christmas day, my husband woke up to get the newspapers from the porch and there outside the door was a paper bag with Holiday Smarties! C’mon, really?! That sweeter-than-Smarties little girl brought Peter Smarties for Christmas.
There are so many completely awful and horrible things happening in the world, so many stories of unfairness, neglect, lying, cheating, poverty, terror, political insanity, immigration horror, terrifying climate change. The world just going completely mad. But this little moment of unexpected kindness seemed like a tiny little Christmas miracle. One person giving another a little bit of out-of-the-blue fun, a moment of sheer joy, a minute to forget all the bad and remember how transformative showing someone a little sliver of kindness can be.
Gratitude to the absolutely adorable girl, who we don’t even know, who took the time to be thoughtful yesterday. You reminded us that despite everything, kindness makes us better, changes our outlook, and always, always, always matters.
This is our major holiday here at the gratitudeathon, (like you didn’t know that). But here’s what’s exciting about it, you know, besides the turkey and mashed potatoes. MASHED. POTATOES (please sing those words in the tune of the Hallelujah chorus), is that there are people that might actually recognize the good juju of starting a gratitude practice today. Yeah, they might see the light, in between the infernal green bean casserole and those tasteless turnips. They might feel the total awesomeness of being in the moment long enough to latch onto all they have. Gives me chills, or is that just the gross weather today.
I will be spending the day with my best people, my family. I will be cooking and there will be football and maybe a game and maybe a movie and we’ll all remember who isn’t with us anymore and tell some funny stories about them and we’ll all be on the same side of politics, so the only thing we’ll be fighting over is who has to take the dog for a walk in the rain and amen for that.
The older I get, the more I recognize that simply being with the people I love is it. It’s as it as it gets. And I feel gratitude for that finally dawning on me. Things change, people move, get sick, pass on and all you can do is love them the very best you know how while they are here. Sounds very simple, and maybe a little boring, but I have found it’s actually all of it.
I hope your Thanksgiving is chock full of the people and the foods you love. And I hope, I really hope that maybe this year you find gratitude is something you can take with you from the table in a doggy bag. And if you have any leftover mashed potatoes, send ’em my way, wouldja.
Some days it’s easy for me to wrap myself in gratitude–noticing the tiniest of things–a person who holds a door for me, the garden outside my house, the way my dog’s fur feels. Other days, my mind clamps onto something negative and it permeates my thoughts and colors me dark and stormy.
Staying positive is a task. Feeling gratitude takes time. What I mean is we have to slow down to notice what it is that’s good. Gratitude is adept at hiding if you’re going over the speed limit. It demands your attention. Sometimes I have to put it on my TO DO list to remind myself to head for the light in a methodical way that wakes me and shakes me to the rightness of the world. But the thing is, if you’re woke to this trick, it can actually change your mind. Check out this article and some of the work done at University of California, Davis that shows scientific data on how gratitude can actually alter our heads for the better.
I’ve had a lousy week. I won’t even go into it, but there has been a bug bite allergy the size of a small country on my leg that itches like someone is tickling me with a feather (Is it Jeffrey Epstein–what, too soon?) a knee injury for both my son and husband and a few other absolutely shit things. I was in a foul, read MISERABLE mood yesterday, feeling overwhelmed and angry and frustrated. Gratitude was missing, a droopy plant beaten down by the summer sun, in desperate need of resuscitation.
But this morning I woke up and slapped myself across the face after trying not to touch my bite, which I WANT TO SCRATCH LIKE I WANT TO EAT A BAG OF POTATO CHIPS, and gratitude came rising up in me, like a fiery fire. “Stop,” it said, “Pull yourself together, girl.” Sassy, that gratitude. “Time and modern medicine will heal you all. Get some gratitude on for that, wouldja please.”
And this is true. One hundred years ago, my bite and the knees could have meant death or a life of impairment. Now we have RX remedies and surgery. Now we have Netflix.
And so, with that, I once again bow to the intelligence and power of gratitude. A little goes a long way. If you get off course, just get back on. Gratitude, will open its arms to you and welcome you home (even if it gets a little snitty in the process).
I am constantly trying to understand life (like that’s possible).
Why do things happen the way they do? I’m always running after a theory.
“Positive things happen for those who work hard.”
“Good people get what they deserve.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“Life is a fucking crap shoot.”
And just when I think I’ve hit on something that makes sense, something will occur to obliterate that thinking and I am once again wandering aimlessly trying to find the white paper on the reasons the chips fall where they may.
Is it all random?
I give gratitude today for the good times, things, people in my life. Bad stuff happens that challenges us, pushes us to places we never want even to visit, leaves us asking why. Which is the reason that the periods of our lives that we feel happiness, must be celebrated and stored up in our souls for when the bad times come, uninvited, undeserved, unwanted.
So, I did it, I turned 60. This is the thing about birthdays, no matter how you feel about them, they’re coming for you. You never get to say, “Hey, I”m busy, can we do this another time?” And while I was dreading it, with a deep feeling of panic, it walked in, sat down and there we were.
The 4,000 year old wall that makes up the fourth side of the Mercer Hotel. Yes, it’s even older than I am.
The gorgeous hotel courtyard .
Peter inspecting the breakfast bar.
But, where we were was Barcelona, Spain. In a beautiful boutique hotel with a bed covered in rose petals and a bottle of bubbly in a bucket with a rich chocolate mini cake that read “Happy 60th Birthday.” Let me just say right here, this could take the sting out of turning 107. So, yeah, my advice, if you’re dreading a birthday, is to get the heck out of dodge, put yourself in another place and ride it out. The “after” is almost always tolerable, it’s just the before that bites you in the ass.
A joyful sculpture on the walk down from the Montjuic Caste.
Watching Barcelona vs. Madrid in an Italian Sports Bar. Delish pizza. For me a very welcome change from the smell of fish.
Even the garbage is pretty.
Who doesn’t want these? (Seems like they must have given them to Ally when she arrived.)
Ally showing us Pompeau Fabra University, her school.
Roof of La Pedrera,
Ally’s dorm lobby.
Another gorgeous street in the El Born.
Ally’s dorm. And YES.
The three musketeers. Trinity College. Go Bants!
I love this picture.
One thing that was really super cool is that I got to do and see something that I had always wanted to do and see. We drove the five and a half hours from Barcelona to Bilbao, where the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum is located. Since the first time I saw this whack-a-doodle building in a magazine, 20 years ago, I have imagined seeing it in person. It captured my attention in an almost obsessive way. It always felt far away and like I probably would never get there, but once I knew we were going to Barcelona, I was sure I would make this side trip happen. And it did not disappoint, in the least. And the inside is just as great as the outside, not only in its architecture but in its works–beautifully edited and I would have to say, actually perfect. It’s overwhelming to turn a dream into a reality. I know this sounds like a Disney commercial (cue up It’s a Small World, if you want), but I don’t know how else to put it–I had always wanted to see that museum and I got to, after 20 years. That’s damn good shit.
A giant Jeff Koons Puppy made of violets stands in the front of the museum.
Jeff Koons “Puppy.”
Interior shot of the Guggenheim.
From the hotel room, we could see the museum!
The ocean in San Sebastian.
The whole area around the Guggenheim is spectacular.
There was literally, like an eight page cocktail menu at the beautiful Hotel Maria Christina. My “super” cosmo at the Maria Christina Hotel in San Sebastian. Eat your heart out Carrie!
Peter had a drink that took 15 minutes to make. The bartender was like Mr. Bean in the Love Actually scene where he’s packing up the Christmas necklace Alan Rickman’s buying his secretary.
In the elevator of the Miro Hotel.
I’d like this in my backyard
Just a beautiful door.
I loved these trees. Dr. Seuss, right?
Loved this jewelry store name.
More “Suess” trees in S.S.
We saw so many beautiful places. Spain is so much older than the US, that no matter what you’re looking at, it’s hundreds of years older than the most historical monuments you can find in the U.S. This means even the ordinary is a treat to look at. I loved the Joan Miro Museum, located high on a hill and overlooking the city of Barcelona. I’m not terribly into abstract painting, but his work has always captured my heart. The Picasso Museum is special, not just for the work, but also for the old, restored building it resides in. Gaudi is everywhere, including the sidewalks of Barcelona, which are flowers. You can only imagine how much I loved this! The Real Alcazar, a royal palace in Seville is breathtaking. This place is surreal. In scale and architecture, its beauty is a 2,554,987 on a scale of 1 to 10. Go to the Dali museum if you don’t want to do LSD, but want to feel like you have. And of course, we saw numerous churches, extravagant and lovely, rivers, the sea, the steps on which some character in Game of Thrones died, a seaside town dressed in nothing but blue and white (oh, my beating heart).
Girona. A must-see.
This ice cream shop was as adorable as it was DELICIOUS. Rocambolesc. Owned by famous foodies. Worth the wait. I wasn’t even hungry and could have eaten my way through all the unique flavors and jewelry-like topping.
i just loved this pretty plate!
Looking out over Girona.
A girl and her dad.
The hills of Girona.
Outside, where else, the Dali Museum. This was worth the entire trip–to see this sign!
One of the fairy tale streets that make up Cadquez.
Eiffel Bridge, yup, that Eiffel.
It was a magical trip and I thank Linda Plazonja for giving me so many tips. If you haven’t been to her site, click her name and you’ll be there. And if you think her website is beautiful (it’s one of my fave sites ever) you need to go on a trip with her. She is the absolute Travel Queen, with a thorough knowledge of a place and a gift for seeking out the extraordinary. You can also have her plan your trip. (CAN’T RECOMMEND THIS EMPHATICALLY, ENOUGH–YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY!)Also, I have to shout out the Mercer Hotel in Barcelona (which Linda pointed me to, of course), which acted like our home away from home, which we kept leaving and coming back to. Exceptional and thoughtful service in a sleek and modern boutique hotel that’s built into a 4,000 years old wall).
Not really, but there was a little bit of L.A. in Sevilla.
The Real Alcazar.
The Real Alcazar and one of the best things I saw on the trip.
A lovely street in Sevilla.
Sevilla Cathedral, at night.
Back of the Sevilla Cathedral.
The stunning Sevilla Casa Del Poeta.
Tile work was extraordinary.
So, gratiud (this is Spanish for gratitude, in case you thought I left off the “e.”), so much gratitud for a mind-expanding, dream of a 16 days. I am 60. And I am just fine.
My daughter took a bus home Sunday night at 9:15 pm from the middle of an area of Hartford that is sketchy at best, missing four classes because a boy she grew up with overdosed on opioids and she couldn’t stop crying. A freezing cold vigil and a funeral and girls gathered in our den trying to make sense of it ensued. There’s no town that’s immune from this kind of horror, anymore. I have not been able to stop thinking of this boy’s family. Of the kind of Thanksgiving it would be for them this year, and for that matter, every year going forward. Their boy will always be missing. Time will lessen the profound sadness, but it will never go away, like the sun popping up every morning, or the waves perpetually kissing the shore.
Yesterday I was with my family for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. I felt a deep gratitude to have all of us healthy and doing well. Life seems precarious these days. In the last two months, there have been some horrible losses in my vicinity. Which doesn’t include the bigger picture of watching California experience the largest fire in the state’s history and all that comes with and several senseless mass shootings (a common and seemingly acceptable occurrence by our government), and more insane and ugly things coming out of our president’s mouth on the daily.
It has become more and more clear to me that perseverating on any good that comes your way is essential to maintaining a sense of balance in the face of all the difficult. Be on high alert for the good stuff. There’s plenty of it. Begin with all that leftover turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes for starters (did someone say mashed potatoes).