articles of faith family gratitude parenting

please, thank you

There’s a secular kind of prayer I make when I fear something in my life is about to be lost. It goes like this: please, please, please, please.

On an everyday basis that thing is my phone and I am asking the Maker (of Apple Products) to reveal it to me as not lost after all. Please, please, please, please, I think. And there it is: my phone, tossed heedlessly into my bag, hidden in the black recesses among sundry other black things: a black wallet, a black notebook, a pair of black tights (whaaaa?). I feel a little spangle of relief; it’s a company-issued phone and I simple can’t tell the tech-support guy I lost another one. On most occasions, I remember to send up a thank you to the Maker that goes something like this: “You have saved me so much inconvenience not to mention groveling on this day and for that I am grateful.”

As a mother of two “children,” now in their twenties, I’ve had far too many occasions to send up that prayer to another Maker, who, although not well known to me, probably doesn’t reside in Cupertino.


Please, please, please, please, I would think as I pounded the playground looking for a lost Lily, who was not over by the swings, not underneath the life-sized concrete hippos, and not where I last saw her at the teeter-totters, before I fell into a conversation with another mother, complaining about our kids, in all likelihood. When Lily is found — trolling for food from the sanctimonious mom who always remembers to bring baggies of raisins and Goldfish — I don’t care that Mother Superior gives me a side-eyed look for losing my daughter and having no snacks. I send up a thank you to Whomever for restoring Lily to me, for making this day a perfectly ordinary one. I remember, at least in that moment, to stop wishing that extraordinary things would happen to me (“Hey lady, you look like a novelist! Got a book we can publish?”) and appreciate just how sweet ordinary life can be.

“Thank you,” I think, brushing the Goldfish dust from Lily’s round cheeks. “I will never complain about my children again.”

Fast-forward many years and Oliver, Lily’s younger brother, has offered to drive to Vermont to pick up his sister from college. It is Thanksgiving break and we are too cheap/broke to fly her home. As darkness is falling, some five hours after he should have arrived, Lily calls to say: “No Oliver.” I try his phone, which goes straight to voicemail but I don’t really worry until Lily calls two hours later with the same message: “No Oliver.” I try to go about my ordinary activities, shopping for the holiday, but my brain is scrambled with anxiety, and the grocery store is making me more nuts than usual: the bafflingly numerous choices when it comes to buttermilk, the throngs of shoppers in that supermarket-stupor of torpid movement, the grocery baggers in their grating Santa hats (it’s Thanksgiving people! If you feel you must wear a holiday topper, why not a pilgrim’s hat?). I am blinded by visions of Oliver, all of them catastrophic: car crashed into a tree or car out of gas and he’s walking down the road accosted by a crazy person or forced to sleep in the car, temperature plummeting, his vehicle black by the side of the black roadway, an obstacle the other car can’t see until … and so forth.

Please, please, please, please, I think, praying, in my way, for my ordinary life to resume. And it does, with an annoyed Oliver calling from a gas station up by the Canadian border, having missed his exit, having had his cell phone die, having had to listen to ten (he: “seriously, mom, ten?”) increasingly frantic messages from me. The next day I am still weak with relief over having both my children — and many other people I love — around the table. And even though the turkey is on the dry side and the gravy is on the thin side and the biscuits are a little weird (wrong buttermilk) and the cranberry relish is hated by all, I couldn’t be more grateful when my guests compliment me on the lovely meal.

“Thank you,” I say to them and also to Whomever. “Thank you so much.”

technology the complaint department what i'm reading

much obliged

I was going to write about “why you hate work,” a much shared NY Times article about how post-recessionary downsizing and “always on” technology conspire to make American employees feel anxious on a Sunday morning about the workweek to come, even while they’re still in their jammies reading about why they’re anxious about the workweek to come.

I like my job. A lot. But I still feel a vague unease about returning to Monday’s onslaught of Replicon approvals (don’t ask), meeting invitations (never has the word “invitation” been so euphemistically used) and “touch bases,” “check ins,” and other super casual ways others have of assessing your progress. The deadline is EOD, no COB, no can we have a peek at 3 or 2 or 1? Are we aligned? Can we find another editor/designer/warm body to work on it? All of which means: why aren’t you done yet?

So now I’m complaining (victim much?) but the real problem is a self-imposed sense of obligation. I can’t stand to have a library book overdue, let alone a deadline blown or a payment missed. I also feel obliged to do something about the arugula rotting in the fridge (“I should eat that”) and the clothes left in the dryer overnight, settling into unsmoothable wrinkles while I sleep.

Or don’t sleep, worrying about salad greens and rumpled sheets and my career and the house we just bought.

I am “much obliged,” a nicety that I think means “thank you.” But the curse or cross it imposes — I allow it to impose — results in my rising from my bed at 4 to blog, but not before pulling all that laundry out of the dryer. Next up:  I’ll prepare a breakfast salad, if only to use up that arugula.

Crazy busy
Crazy busy