I saw grass today and it was like being transported to a mythical country.

It’s something for a person raised in the Midwest, who has lived here for 70 years, and just got back from Alaska, to be sniveling with gratitude about twelve blades of grass at the end of the block.

It’s the unique magic of winter. It makes you all happy at the beginning, stoic in the middle, and sniveling and weak at the end.

The winter has definitely contributed to my intermittent bouts of pretend frailty. I’ve made the ice on the driveway a murderer lying in wait so I tiptoe out of the back door to my car like a fairy princess lest I awake the monster. Oh little sweet defenseless me!

It’s disgusting.

After my husband read my post about my cochlear implant battery dying, another episode of weeping defenselessness, he motioned at my closet and said, “You need to put on a power suit and get your act together.” It’s one of the things I like best about him. He is the least emotionally indulgent person I’ve ever met.

He isn’t cold or unfeeling. He just doesn’t indulge a lot of weak talk. Like “I can’t get this project done.” “Nobody likes my essay.” “My life is pointless.” “The ice is too slippery.” He just yawns and goes back to reading the paper. This tactic has kept me going for 35 years. I think he learned it in some deescalation workshop when he was a youth worker a century ago. Ignore lamenting and it will go away.

I’ve come to depend on this reaction of his. There’s no sympathy here, little lady.

Being on the receiving end of sympathy is nice sometimes but it can quickly become a debilitating thing, at least for me. When people feel sorry for me, I get worse. I don’t know what it’s like for other people. I never presume.

Silver Lining

What winter has going for it is hunkering down. It is in the hunkering down that we appreciate things like blankets and dogs. And we aren’t compelled all the time to be outside because it’s good for us.

We took a walk today but it started to rain. So we went home to hunker down.

We had wine and churros after dinner. There are two more churros to have in the morning with cups of strong coffee.

Maybe it will still be raining.


Here’s the question of the day. What is the deal with chewing gum and having gas?

When did this start being a thing?

I mean I’m so dainty and so not wanting to look like some 1930’s gum-smacking dame hanging on Jimmy Cagney’s arm that I only chew a half a stick of Trident at a time. Discreet, I tell you. You could barely tell I’m chewing, I’m like a Texan who moves to New York but still keeps a wee chaw tucked in his beautifully-shaven cheek. Chaw? What chaw?

It took me days to figure out the connection. First there was the puffing up, so bad that I had to lay flat to zip up my beloved insulated skirt so I could be warm and hip at the Iditarod and then the zipper bit into my side like an open pair of scissors. What the goddamn hell? I thought. What is making me so pillowy?

And then, well, there were the consequences, only some of which I heard because, as you know, I’m hearing impaired. If a tree falls in the forest and only one hand is clapping does it still make a noise? I’m not sure but maybe. I acted as though I didn’t hear it regardless. I never acknowledge bodily faux pas. I learned that in 2nd grade. Look elsewhere. Always look elsewhere. A passing child, your companion, a distant bird.

So today I embarked on an experiment to determine if it was, in fact, chewing gum that was causing my puffery – all forms of it – and it seems to be true. No gum all day and I am now svelte and silent. I could model ballet tights, I am so sleek. But I am longing for a toothpick or a cigarette or maybe a No. 2 pencil. No gum, at least not while I’m traveling with a companion. It’s a bummer that now I can only chew gum when I am somewhere alone, by myself for days, wearing a muumuu. That’s what it’s come to.



Cheap Trick

I’m about to have made four meals out of one chicken.

First there was the brined and roasted chicken, then leftovers from said chicken, then a chicken casserole, and then chicken soup. 

This makes me feel like we should be dressed in holey turtlenecks and singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” while we forage around in the root cellar looking for the best rutabaga. Those were heroic days and heroic people, though, and I don’t mean to mock them. 

I know thrift. It’s a place I visit pretty often but I don’t want to live there all the time. 

Still, I think the skills of thrift are valuable and I’m glad I have them. Making food last would be an obvious one, less obvious is the well-developed skill of foregoing, not buying something even though I can, because it is too expensive or I don’t really need it. What I have found is that the wanting is often so slim and transitory that I barely feel deprived.

I frequently used the response that “we can’t afford it” when one of my kids asked for something even though we almost always could. I just wanted them to have that in their heads, that question, ‘can I afford that?’ I don’t know if it worked, I try not to talk about money with my kids, they work hard, what they do with their money is their business. As mine is mine.

Years ago, I teased a friend about how his mother, who was quite well-off, would turn an old dish soap bottle upside down so it could drip its last drops into a new bottle. “Your mother’s rich, why would she do that?” “How do you think she got rich?” was the reply.

Of course, as off-hand comments often do, this made me think – about dish soap, maple syrup, ketchup, and a million other opportunities for impatience and carelessness because ultimately wasting food and things is about those two things – impatience and carelessness. And indulgence, which is something I prize but not about ketchup. I’d always rather have a new bottle of ketchup than the dregs of an old one. But I turn it upside down and let it drip. Or, more honestly, my husband does. He is the thrifty coach in our lives.

The casserole and the soup make me feel like I could get through tough times (well, I have gotten through tough times but not for a long while), that I haven’t strayed so far from my roots of potato soup and boiled beef heart, and that I could slap on the flannel shirt and soldier through catastrophe with the best of them. And I like that. Even if it is ridiculous. I will need more than a chicken to survive the Apocalypse.





A Handful of Lemons: Seven Things I’ve Learned So Far in 2019

Your kids go back to the places you took them years ago but the places aren’t as special as they remember. They’re worn out, faded, smaller than their recollections and they are disappointed. You’re not surprised. No place keeps the glow it had when both the parents and the kids were young.

If people are in a certain mood, say they’re tired or frustrated, any suggestion you make will be taken as criticism. Most people know this but find it irresistible to weigh in on every topic. I’m hoping age brings me wisdom on this habit. As a mentor once told me, “You don’t have to say everything you know.”

A snow day is one of life’s enduring gifts. As a friend of mine once said, “I am always good with not doing things.” I love rescheduled meetings, cancelled classes, closed buildings. It’s like instant dread removal, not that I dread that many things but I dread a fair share of them for no particular reason. A snow day is totally dread-free. Like a pond with no weeds.

The lecture reflex in some folks is like a steel trap around a possum’s leg. Nowhere is this truer than on social media where an offhand remark can spark a torrent of annotated analysis as if the target hadn’t him or herself ever read a newspaper or thought a thought larger than cookie crumb. Remember the sage advice: “You don’t have to say everything you know.”

Marie Kondo. Two things here: 1) getting rid of stuff you don’t love (things that don’t ‘spark joy’; and 2) folding. Plus her bangs and tiny skirts make her fascinating, so doll-like but obviously human and quite rich. I’ve been ditching a lot of stuff I don’t love, using something of an expansive definition so it isn’t just stuff.

Overcoming the first moment of something is a huge deal. For instance, early tomorrow morning I’m going to volunteer at a new homeless warming room. So all day I’ve been obsessing about what door I should go in. This is nuts because if it isn’t one door, it would be another. But the right door is a metaphor for doing something new. But once I find the door, it will all be cool.

Research says there’s a likely connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s. It’s chilling really to think that lackadaisical flossing could bring such a gargantuan punishment. You can’t get all those skipped nights back, you just have to sit your old self down and wait to see what happens. This is a bummer after I had worked so hard on having a regret-free life.

Proper Anxiety Attire

My anxiety today is so huge and weighty and so very, very present that I’m thinking of giving it a birth name and its own gym membership.

I’m not focusing on not having anxiety because that would mean getting more anxious trying to figure out why I’m anxious and doing that just feeds into the thinking that if I can figure out why I’m anxious, I would stop being anxious. As if it’s all a game of what’s wrong with this picture? And I can never find the wrong thing in the picture, the parrot’s wing or whatnot, that is really a fish’s fin or is upside down and it becomes crazy-making which we don’t want because anxiety is plenty enough to have.

It’s better just to put my anxiety on like a hat and just wear it all day. The key thing, though, is to make sure the hat I select is pretty nondescript. Anxiety reflex points me to the closest snood or a combo of a Jackie pillbox and thick black veil. Such headgear would elicit questions.

Why are you anxious?

I don’t want questions because the answer is always “nothing” which is unsatisfactory and seems secretive even when it isn’t.

I also don’t want to infect anyone else with my anxiety which I believe is not only infectious but highly contagious. It makes matters worse if my severely-hatted self makes other people anxious. And it can happen. It’s like I’m the only one who knows we’re about to have a nuclear war but I’m not telling anyone but they’re guessing that must be what’s happening. I’m telling you anxiety can spread like fucking typhoid.

So I’m just going to sit here with my nondescript hat, hum a little, look out the window at the dog peeing across the street, mind my own business, and wait for it to pass, float on down the block to the next house, and tie someone new in knots for a day or two. I’m patient that way.