Monthly Archives: March 2014

What I am grateful for, items 1 – 21

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There’s this sign in the Bronx that looks to be advertising gratitude. I pass it on the train at a point when I am pointedly not grateful for being on the train (I have a two hour commute). Last ride home, I was reminded of some sort of gratefulness project wherein I was asked to make a list of 50 things for which I am grateful.

I found it! Dated 3-3-99 (from the last century, oh my) and while I read it I recalled writing the items I wrote that rang true and the items that felt falsely writerly and the items that sounded daft but I kept them anyway, to reach the asked-for 50. Here are those from the rang-true category, because they still do (ring true):

friday night

a little boy with a new haircut

woodsmoke against a winter sky nah

a baby out of a bath

white restaurant napkins

a quiet mind

a child slipping her hand in mind

compassion

contrition

the smell of tomatoes

the state of grace

a child’s face lit by birthday candles

a curve in the road

an act of courage

a porch light left on for me

a kind word

church bells

“a good grey thread”

“a small good thing”

a handsome man

the honor system

Won’t you tell me yours, dear reader?

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A letter from gladys

A letter from gladys

I’ve been meaning to start an online family tree for years and went so far as to gather letters and documents from my mother. Apparently, her mother — my grandmother and one of the least sentimental people on the planet — had a genealogy project cooking too, although never completed, as far as I can tell.

Here is an excerpt from a letter she received from some sort of cousin/in-law/auntie named Gladys, whose gimlet-eyed account of her family members makes me hoot.

Ruth was pretty when she was young, but these later years, she has sort of left herself go and is so out of shape, she is like a ball. She is short and broad and does not wear any garment at all and left her teeth go to pieces too.

Woodrow is just as careless as he can be, works in a Structo factory, and doesn’t seem to care how he looks. He too has left his teeth all got to pieces and never cares if he has a hair cut either.

Woodrow, as I imagine him.

Woodrow, as I imagine him.

And you should see their home place. It has never had any paint on the buildings since they were built. And so run down it is awful. They have no bathroom, only an old outside toilet that is falling down, tipping sideways and all but impossible to go into, we were there two days this fall, and the plaster had started to fall off the kitchen ceiling and a big hole there with more to come off. Oh my, I have said enough.

uncoupling

The words of the week: conscious uncoupling. Is this the opposite of what young people do: unconsciously couple, also known as drunken hookups? 

It is Gwnyeth who is repackaging divorce as consciously uncoupling. How nice people divorce. People so well-mannered (and wealthy) that squabbling over money would be untoward. 

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I’ve always wanted to do this

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Arranging a bookshelf by color, that is. Makes for some odd author couplings: Anne Lamott squashed by the Chicago Style Manuel (she’d hate that), Philip Roth’s When She Was Good lying under the Violet Fairy Book.

Another thing to think here: I’ve officially run out of things to do. Oh suburbia, I am so over you (I know I said this last Sunday too).

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yay

Thinking about an article in the Sunday Styles section about the breathless, grammatically suspect way women — let’s insert “of a certain age” here —adopt the girl-speak of the internet. Yay! Adorbs! Awks! Yikes! Hot! Um…no. Um..what? Part of this is expedience. There are so many conversations spinning across social channels and I’m not even including Twitter here because I don’t tweet (never, ever follow @dianedico unless you like silence, in which case do). If we feel we must drop a comment into one of them, even while a dozen others seem to be making the same demand, we use the fewest number of words to express our wholehearted enthusiasm. Nothing is really said other than “I noticed the photo you posted and because we’re friends or ‘friends’ I need to respond with something more than ‘like.'” But the way it’s said tends to sound like the babble of a middle school corridor between classes: #Adorbs!

Is it expedience or is it that teenagers created online language and, when showing up in their online world, we adopt the customs of the country*. To fit in? To not sound like weird grownups? WTF?

*The Customs of the Country” is favorite Edith Wharton novel because it’s about a midwestern girl, Udine, who tries to fit into Manhattan society with only middling success. Here I am, fresh from the Midwest circa 1983, trying to fit in at a party in Chelsea with my friend Lulu. I’m the one in the velvet bustier, she’s wearing not one but two turtlenecks. Why was this? I don’t recall.

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This is what 70 looks like

Another in the series of what women “of a certain age” look like: Miss Ross on her 70th birthday. In a word, supreme.

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until someone gets hurt

“It’s all fun and games…” is how this warning starts.

Something you swear you’ll never say until you do say it, prompted — no provoked — by your children who are like little insane people when they play. An aside: they can also come off as little drunk people (although they’re not), garbling words, falling down, hollering like fools.

This admonishment applies to new love affairs and, come to think of it, long marriages as well. But best not to tell yourself this too, too much. You may never get hurt but you’ll also never have fun. Or games.

And that is my relationship advice for the day.

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Police Find Mom Hiding in Bedroom at Teen Party

Remind me to dedicate a whole chapter to a scene like this one. No judgment: being a mom of teens is so perilous.

Looking for love, settling for crazy

Oh how I enjoyed Delia Ephron’s new book, whose title goes something like Mother, Sister, Wife, Dog. I had never read a word she has written. Judgmentally, I had categorized her under a word like schmaltz: funny the way Billy Crystal is with his mild observations about in laws and L.A. traffic. I knew she was associated with her sister’s work, also schmaltzy: When Harry Met Sally (there’s Billy again) and Sleepless in Seattle.

But her writing is so particular, so spare and lovely. She doesn’t do that thing that women writers do, putting themselves on a stage, mic in hand, offering up their feelings in suspiciously tidy packages. I say suspicious because if you’re talking about how you felt in the past — well, that’s just your story about it. Worst offenders here are those published in the Modern Love column, those “wise” and wry and wistful and worst of all whimsical musings about love gone wrong. With some kind of wrench thrown in, heavy-handedly: He was actually gay! She was in love with being in love with him, but not actually in love with him! Clunkity, clunk, clunk, clunk.

However, New York Times, if you’d like me to write one, I’d be more than happy.

More than happy, is what exactly?

Anyway, best line in the book is this one: looking for love, settling for crazy. It was about twenty-something women — like Lena Dunham’s Girls or Frances Ha — searching for another and others and themselves. But it applies to women at my age and any age, come to think of it.

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Sleepless in suburbia

They happen, these sleepless nights, to women of my age and stage in life (by that I mean menopause). My mind wanders to The Change, that vague euphemism that would describe any kind of passage: adolescence, middle age, death. Passages, how dated must that book sound right about now? Here’s another, of the packaging persuasion: Kotex…Because. (Because you have your period, it goes without saying, so why hint at it at all?) Let’s not even get into how they were once called “feminine napkins.” Why all this coyness, people?

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These are the things that go through my mind as I lie awake, eyes open to the darkness, with only the LED readout on the cable box (3:34, 4:06, 4:23) to keep me company. Worrisome things loom large in the dark, assuming menacing shapes, just as a hatrack becomes a crazed and skinny meth addict, most probably with a knife in his hand, and the shadow made by the armoire might just be a hulking animal, poised to pounce. A boneless gorilla ghost, as Ramona would say. (This is a reference to Ramona Quimby’s night terrors, during her first experience of not sharing a room with Beezus.)

One kind of crazy-night-head is filled with a to-do list of tasks that are large and small but don’t differentiate themselves in that way: pack up computer charger — the work of just a moment — has the same heft as do something about the novel my agent declined to represent and learn Spanish. More common are the anxious nights when I think about Oliver’s health and my career and marriage and money and other massive topics that can’t really be “done.” Especially not while lying in bed in the dark.

Like so many women of my age (defensive much, Diane?), I have tried medications to remedy my poor sleep quality as my doctor, now my ex-doctor, put it. My first few months on Ambien were miraculous: one pill infused me with the deliciously druggy heaviness of a cup of Theraflu, my prior sleep aid of choice. Better still, Ambien kept me under until Steve stirred in the bed next to me at dawn. A revelation! A night passed without effort on my part!

But Ambien’s effects faded after awhile, just as my ex-doctor said they would. So it was on to the next, an  older— this adjective was from him and it struck me as odd — antidepressant that worked less well on moods but better as a sedative, knocking me out cold and leaving my mind pleasantly blank, at least at first. It was June, I think, and day after day the weather was pleasantly mild and the sky was a pleasant, untroubled blue and my mind was pleasantly empty and unruffable. The kind of mind that might call menopause The Change and might enjoy the book Passages.

I think I stopped taking sleeping medications round about the time I broke up with my doctor, which had to do with a fight I had on the phone about scheduling a mammogram. (No, it was for another reason, but I won’t go into that now.) I also never liked the guy. I didn’t like that he was a guy (not his fault) and I didn’t like that after treating Oliver for ADD, without success, he couldn’t recall who Oliver was a couple of years later.

“I have so many patients,” he said. “Maybe if I saw him.”

Oliver called this doctor Pazer (his actual last name) and then Paze and then Pazedog and then CrimePaze. Oliver now has an endocrinologist — which is attached to why I worry about his health — whose real name is Dr. Pons, whom Oliver calls Ponzi Scheme. He calls random people randos (many kids do this) and also Marlon Randos.

Oliver renames his world to suit his skewed and sardonic take on it.

Me, I just lie awake and worry about it. And him.

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