gratitude-a-thon day 912: the top ten reasons I’m celebrating my empty nest

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My daughter leaves for college tomorrow (you’re all like, “wow, she is so calm, no capital letters, and she didn’t even say “fuck” once in that sentence– wonder if she’s not feeling well). Here are the things I am trying to focus on, since Sunday, August 28, will officially be the first day that I will have an empty nest:

  1. The goddamn shoe pile which greeted one when one came through the door. This shoe pile seemed to actually contain more shoes than I think any of us owned. I’m not sure if Riley (my dog) has been bringing shoes home and adding them, but guess what–this ever expanding shoe pile is history.
  2. When I leave the kitchen clean, it will stay clean, again, unless Riley decides to have people over, which, on occasion, he does.
  3. The laundry will no longer have folded shirts in it, which were placed into the hamper because “I didn’t feel like wearing it, and didn’t feel like putting it back in my drawer, either.”
  4. I will no longer be a practically daily regular at Whole Foods, where people will gawk at the absurd amount of groceries in my cart, and mistake me for Octomom, and the sales help will no longer wonder if I work there.
  5. I will never be caught in the bathroom without toilet paper, BECAUSE I REPLACE IT AFTER I USE IT.
  6. My car will no longer be the depository of rogue water bottles, Panera Bread bags, candy wrappers, or smelly soccer socks.
  7. I will no longer have to look at two rooms that resemble the remnants of a tornado, tsunami, earthquake. I may, however, find Jimmy Hoffa, and have taken note to get my hair done for press shots.
  8. I will not have to pretend that someone else will take out the dog, because they never have and now they never will.
  9. Nobody will ever take my phone or computer charger and tell me they DID NOT TAKE MY PHONE OR COMPUTER CHARGER.
  10. I can make whatever the fuck I want for dinner (my husband would eat the porch steps and tell me what a lovely meal I made).

gratitude-a-thon day 912: kids grow up, and there isn’t any way to stop it

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I had an overnight with my friend Karen in Rhode Island (my new fave state), and on Tuesday night, after some wine, we went out to dinner, and she, like me, has a daughter going off to college (her first) and we were, of course, talking about it in our typical non sequitur way, as in we would be discussing  politics and then scoot over to dorm room comforters–every other sentence pertaining to this seismic shift about to occur, AND HEY, ISN’T THIS THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER.

We started to talk about what happens when you go to college, and how you have to figure out being away from home, and that once you are away from home, it’s different when you go back again. (There may or may not have been some crying during this discussion, OK SOBBING, in the middle of a crowded restaurant.) And it so reminded me of my fortieth birthday when Peter and I left our kids for the first time, and were going away for the weekend to NY, and staying in a fancy hotel and seeing two shows and having dinner with a really good friend who lived there, (but got stuck on the runway because fucking New York was fogged in) and instead of giving up and going home, we went to the North End, ate at Pomodoro, got a lobster tail at Mike’s Pastry (one of the top ten contenders to be in my mouth at the time of death) and went to stay in a luxurious room at the Charles Hotel, where we binge watched movies.

I remember that I went to the bathroom at 11:45 and looked at myself in the mirror and thought, I DON’T WANT TO TURN 40. But in that moment, I saw the futility of there not being one thing I could do about it. That it was what was happening and not one item on the room service menu could change the fact that this was, in 15 minutes, going to be. I hated that realization–that not even ISIS could stop time. In the morning, I was fine. Once that moment was over, I was just fine. But being in the center of knowing there is nothing you can do to alter what’s happening, can be a painful moment.

But it’s that moment, when you understand that some changes have to happen, and nothing can prevent them, that you just have to Sheryl Sandberg into them. That’s what this college thing is, for parents, and for students. There is a change that happens. Your kid begins to have one foot in your house and one foot on his or her campus, and their legs keep getting wider, their body pulling apart, until they are forced to choose a place to stand. And the time leading up to that moment is confusing and hard. And sad. For both parents and children. It is the reckoning. It is also known as growing up.

And the thing about it, is that it is inevitable. Like the sun coming up, like the moon coming out at night, like something completely idiotic coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

As you say goodbye to your college children, know that this change will occur. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow. But remember, it’s what we raised them to do. To fly on their own. And while you may feel regret about their leaving, you know inside, it’s the right thing, and their time to seize the open sky.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 910: a good movie in a drought of good movies

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.13.52 AMI saw a great movie last night. It was a movie by Ira Glass. “This American Life” Ira Glass (in case you were confused it was another Ira Glass–sometimes my stupidity astounds even me).

Anywho, Don’t Think Twice is about an Improv group who are all best friends (actually two of them are a couple, and a couple is always two, in case you didn’t know that, glad to help) and it is the story of how one of them advances his career (actually what he did was get chosen to be on a show that was supposed to be Saturday Night Live, but which is called something else, but I knew, because I’m smart like that), and the effect this has on everybody in the group.

Keegan-Michael Key is the dude who “makes it” and I’d just like to say right now, that guy is going to be a big star. (My husband was like, “He’s already a big star,” and I was like, “He is going to be a bigger star.”) He’s so immensely likable and completely natural. Not to mention he totally slays an impression. Plus, he’s adorable.

The movie explores friendship, envy, career, and ambition. It asks you to ponder the meaning of success. The writing is really good– I snort laughed at least twice.

Also, I would like to mention that the popcorn at The Kendall is completely the best popcorn on the planet (you know I can tend to exaggerate, but I am not at all, SERIOUSLY.)

gratitude-a-thon day 909: what matters

 

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Ever notice how sometimes, if you are looking, you see things that feel like a message?

Take my bulletin board  (I don’t know what you even call it, anymore. It’s a chalkboard that’s magnetic, when I was a kid I called it a bulletin board, so I still call it that, even though it doesn’t have cork, or push pins, but let’s just go with that, or like, you can sue me for mislabeling).

ANYWAY, I decided, with the kids leaving, I should probably clean it. There were a million papers and report cards and postcards and business cards and addresses, and tests and menus and announcements on that thing, all jammed one on top of another.

I ripped everything down and put it in a big pile. And look what was left (NOT EVEN KIDDING, THIS IS WHAT I FOUND):

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There in the corner of the bulletin board/chalkboard/magnetic junk collector board was my family. Jake made these figures in some grade I’ve now forgotten, and I thought they were so darn cute that I always kept them. During all the emotional turmoil of having the kids leave, it felt like the simplest message in the world to see. Underneath it all (the mess, and layers of family stuff) was the four of us with a message above that said “today matters.”

And it does. Everyday matters. And the four of us, imperfect and crazy, matter to each other. No matter what.

gratitude-a-thon day 908: when the pottery barn catalog arrives and you no longer care

 

1449469156325-1When I was younger, the arrival of a Pottery Barn catalog was like rocket fuel for my domestic fantasies. I would settle down in a chair and flip through the perfectly furnished rooms, where everything had a place, and there was scads of square footage for the ideal nuclear family to spread out. I had neither the perfect space, or the perfect family. But I longed for both.

As years went by, and I grew into myself, and actually had a family, I preferred antiques to the Pottery Barn replicas, but I still longed for the idea that catalog delivered–rooms that were never dirty, where nothing but good, normal things could happen– where Johnny got A’s and Sally volunteered at the local hospital, and the mom baked and did laundry and made beds, and the dad had a job that could afford houses for all the seasons of the Pottery Barn collection to fit inside of. Even the dog never had accidents in the house. It was the fucking Pottery Barn catalog, for God sakes.

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Ally leaves for college in 9 days, and today the Pottery Barn catalog arrived. It seemed to taunt me a little bit when I opened its pages. I no longer need the ample spaces, or kick-ass playrooms I used to long for. I am not perusing it with the same eager instinct I have had for the last 25 years, to try and make every room work to its maximum potential. It feels strange not to be thinking about how to perfect my entryway to acommodate the near 20 coats and 30 pairs of shoes we, as a family of four, would have in our seasonal rotation. It’s somewhat strange not to be getting ideas for cool holiday cookies I will make for their classrooms (lest we never forget my gingerbread men and women, which nearly broke my shoulders, or my spider cupcakes, which had me looking for black string licorice in three states).

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Instead, I flipped the pages of the catalog with some sadness for how my house never measured up to these stylist-created rooms, how my longing for organization and pottery barn photo shoot perfection always eluded me, and how those two empty kid’s rooms upstairs would now be a reminder of all I failed at as a homemaker and mom.

I held that catalog in my hands.

And then I threw it in the recycle bin. Fuck you, Pottery Barn. Life is messy. And I did my best.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 907: it’s only 71!

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I am so freaking thankful for the break in heat. I mean, I am down on my knees in gratitude. I am taking in every un-air conditioned moment. I am looking fondly at the cloudy sky and praying for more of the same. I just came home from Africa and it wasn’t as hot as it has been in Boston this last week. I rest my case, and my sweat glands.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 906: olympic gold afterglow

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers smiles during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 643779261 ORIG FILE ID: 540018048

All mine, for cleaning.

It is inevitable that we will compare ourselves to others. I try not to (unsuccessfully), because 1) we all start in different places, and our progress must be measured by not where we are now, but how far we’ve come, and 2) It’s just stupid.

Anyway, isn’t it impossible not to compare yourself to those Olympic athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport? There I am on my pillow-laden couch, watching Michael Phelps, with a wing span of Idaho, and Simone Biles, who is like one of those bungee rides at an amusement park, achieve their wildest dreams, and I think to myself, “SLACKER.”

Actually, at my ripe old age, what I really think is more like “ouch.” Just kidding, my true thoughts are “if you can do that, I can clean my fucking mess of an office. I can clear out my hoarder-ish third floor of years of clutter.”

I wouldn’t get a gold medal, but damn it, I would feel as shiny as one.

gratitude-a-thon day 905: back to the well

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Sometimes when my mind is overflowing with emotions like the kitchen garbage can that nobody will empty, writing can feel like I’m having all my teeth pulled without any of the good drugs. I get stuck in the muck of what I am feeling, and the only thoughts that want to make their way to paper (I mean computer, but doesn’t “paper” sound so much better, and also doesn’t “album” sound so much better than “download” and can we just all agree to use the better sounding word even if it’s not really correct?) But, some things are too personal to write about. They, for instance, might involve other people (like my kids) and And hey, respect.

I think that’s why it’s been challenging to write this summer. I have had more than my share of things to be grateful for, but getting them out of me, while my head is swirling with the “what if’s” and “how will I’s” and “How can it be that my kids are ACTUALLY LEAVING TO LIVE IN THE REAL-ISH WORLD WITHOUT ME” seem to render my fingers useless.

Anyway, I am going to try and get back to my regularly scheduled daily gratitude-a-thon, on account of I know how good it is for me, especially when I am in what I would call, a little bit of a state. That is all.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 904:time’s up

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My head is filled with a thousand emotions–each doing another kind of crazy dance. We’ve got the Samba happening, and a whole area of Disco. We have versions of the Watusi, the Twist, the Bugaloo and the Nae Nae. We have Square Dancing. We’ve got the Macarena, the Salsa, the freaking Frug. It’s a mad house party.

My daughter is leaving for college at the end of the month. My son who was home for the summer, is leaving next week. We will go from four to two. Yup, the classic empty nest syndrome is about to envelope my house.

The feathers are flying.

While hundreds of thousands of people do this every year, I have to tell you that it’s kind of a big deal.

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I remember when Jake was about a month old and realizing the impact of his arrival. I vividly recall thinking to myself, “18 years. You will be doing this for 18 years before you can go out for recess.” After working and not being a mom until I was 35, I felt a certain kind of confinement I had never known when that boy came into my life. It took me some time to understand and embody this new role. But then you fall in love with your baby and you hope you never have to give them up to adulthood.

But time does its thing, and you do. You do have to give over your kids to the adult world. You do have to let them begin their own journeys, far and wide. And what you are left with is another new role. Of course, you know this role, but you haven’t practiced its script in a long time. You need to study your lines. You need to remember how to play this part.

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But the dancing emotions are taking up a lot of space in my head. They’re making me tired and scared. Worst of all, they’re starting to make me cry. It must be all that exercise. Maybe it’s just sweat.

When Ally walks out the door, it will not just be a new experience for her, it will be a new experience for me. I resort to my go to: “If other people can do it, I can do it.” (Or anyway, I hope so.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 902: Muslims are as dangerous as Americans, Donald Trump

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I just got back from Zanzibar, which is 99% Muslim. Donald Trump should go and take a vacation there and see what I saw, and what I felt.

Women in their colorful hijab sweep through the streets. At first you think how hard it would be to wear this religious fashion all the time, (WHAT ABOUT MY JEANS, NO LULU YOGA PANTS, HOW ABOUT MY PERSONAL STYLE?) but then you begin to get jealous when you see the super beautiful combinations and the graceful way the Jilbab flows while walking. The mixture of patterns and hues is totally Vogue Mag material, and damn if this multi-colored wear doesn’t seem to make the world feel like a happier place (I have to admit that my clothing seemed drab and boring in comparison).

The prayers, which are broadcast on giant speakers three times a day waft through the air like the sweet smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven (Damn, I LOVE that smell). At first, this alarmed me and I felt like I was on a Communist movie set, but within a few days, I found the sound soothing. This is a culture who lives their faith in real time. They stop everything and connect to their beliefs three times a day. I had to applaud the commitment and beauty of such a thing.

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Our group was lucky enough to have a guide who was a 22-year old Muslim biochemistry college student. Fatma was not only intelligent, but generous and open and graceful. She was also stunningly beautiful, with big eyes and a killer smile. She invited us to her family’s home for dinner, where we were met with immense warmth and every food she’d witnessed we’d eaten during the lunches and dinners we shared. Her mother must have cooked for a full day to feed the eleven of us. Tradition, when you have company, is to eat on the floor. Which I kind of loved. My favorites: the samosas, fritters, insanely delicious nan, boiled bananas in coconut sauce, and potato thingy I didn’t catch the name of. You eat with your hands, and there are no napkins. I kept thinking how Riley my dog would have loved this set up and been smack in the middle of it, like “Seriously, is this all for me?”

Fatma lived with much of her extended family. Their hospitality was off the charts. There were uncles and Aunts and cousins who stopped by to say hello and welcome us. I felt a little like Kate Middleton (without the small waist, and the face, oh, and the crown).

 

I spoke with Fatma’s mother after dinner. I said to her, “We are all so much more the same than different. We all love our children. We all believe in family.” She listened intently as I told her of the candidate in our country who was so negative, who spewed hate and wanted to ban Muslims. She looked disturbed and confused. I told her how terrifying it was to have such a candidate running for president. We talked about her children, and mine, her birth family of nine, and I told her how wonderful her daughter was, that she had enriched our trip and that we all wanted to bring her home with us. She drew henna patterns on all the girls with a marker. Her grandmother and I had a few laughs together, despite our language barrier, and shared some genuine hugs. Energetic little cousins and nieces and nephews were running around and playing with us. A cousin was getting married and going out that evening in sparkly and beautiful traditional clothing we all oooooohed and ahhhhhhed over. It was an incredible night.

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Just like not all Americans are the same, all Muslims are not the same. Most of them are not terrorists. Just like Americans, some are angry and violent. Most are not. Besides wanting to smack Trump upside the head for the racist, inhuman and altogether uneducated views he espouses, I wish he could meet Fatma and her family. I wish he understood that gross generalizations are not what this country is made of.