Wait, Who Am I Taking for Granted?


So you guys sort of know me by now. I’m a nice lady. I love babies and little kids and puppies. I watch shows about unicorns and neighborhood helpers and Scottish Vikings with talking dragons.

I try wicked hard to be appreciative of all the people in my life who are helpful and kind. Thanks, nice grocery store produce guy who always smiles and says hello! So grateful to you, kind stranger who holds the door to the library open for me!

You get the idea.

I work hard to be the kind of person who will have acquaintances come to my funeral just because “She was just such a nice lady!”

But the pandemic has made my efforts to be nice and grateful ever more challenging.

In the first place, I’ve hardly ventured out of this house since March. Sure, I go to the local grocery store, the pharmacy and the (cough, cough) liquor store. But I haven’t been in a position to tip a waitress for months. I haven’t been mingling with strangers or chatting with people I meet around town.

It’s hard to stay tuned in to everyone around me as my circle continues to shrink.

Today I realized that there are people who appear in my life every day, but whom I hardly ever acknowledge.

I’m talking about you, dear beloved local small town mail carrier!!!! In our case, the mail carrier is a woman who leaves doggie treats in the mailbox. She knows the names of all of the dogs and all of the kids on our entire side of town. She is so warm and friendly that my grandkids sometimes use old boxes to play “Laura Brings a Package”!

I used to think I was appropriately thankful for Laura. But now?

Oh, my dears. We are in pandemic mode. We are staying home. We are staying safe.

We are happily embracing the perfect excuse to sit on the couch and order stuff online. I mean, sure, I used to sit on the couch and order online before this whole pandemic thing, but I used to pay at least a little attention to the weight of what I ordered. And to the frequency. And the cost.

Way back in the BC era (before Covid, obvs) I used to feel slightly guilty as I’d click “place order”. I thought that I was a bit too lazy, a bit too entitled, a bit too privileged, if you know what I mean. I’d feel mildly embarrassed as Laura unloaded my small-to-medium-sized packages. And I’d thank her, wave to her, talk to her face-to-face.. Those were the days.

Now things are different.

In the first place, I have shed every semblance of guilt associated with online ordering. Back then I was a lazy old wench. Now? I’m a forward thinking, neighbor protecting, smart woman.

And I have embraced the “no touch” delivery, too. So when my dear friend the mail carrier comes by, I usually let her drop the goodies on our porch. I don’t go out to greet her even though I enjoy chatting with her about music and life and politics and pets. I stay safe in my house. On my couch. With a cup of tea in my hand. Because….Covid.

But yesterday I realized that things have changed. I became aware of the fact that I have officially become an ignorant, selfish old bat who totally takes other people for granted.

I learned this ten minutes after Laura dropped off our “mail” on the doorstep. As she drove up, I relaxed, ignored the delivery, finished what I was doing. Then I casually strolled down the steps and opened the door.

And HOLY FREAKIN’ HEAVY. There was a box the size of a Volkswagon on my porch. And three more packages on top of it.

I was able to bring the top box inside the door, but I had to use both arms to lift the second box and then, after a minute, the one under it. By the time I had brought all three boxes upstairs into my living room, my arms, neck and shoulders were aching. I looked at the giant box outside my door. I tapped it. I pushed it. I tried to rock it back and forth.

I gave up.

It weighed roughly 698,350,287,650,001,293 pounds.

And I’m not exaggerating.

When my young, strong, healthy daughter arrived at my house, the two of us managed to wrestle the giant box into the front door. It only took us about an hour.

We used scissors to get the box open.

Oh, my goodness, hahahahaha! Look at that, I said out loud. Two 25 pound bags of birdseed!

Hahahahahaha.

Yeah.

Awesome for the birds. More awesome for me.

NOT so awesome for Laura, the wonderful, kind, hard working mail carrier who I now take totally for granted.

So.

Here I am. Looking for some advice.

What’s a really good Christmas gift for the person who has delivered ten badillion pounds of boxes to Nonni’s house, just so that Nonni won’t have to step out the door?

Anyone?

Feeling Thankful. And Full.


This was just our appetizer table. What can I say? We’re Italian.

This could be the usual gratitude post, about how incredibly lucky I feel to have such a loving family and friends. As I’ve done every year since I started this blog, I could be waxing poetic about the wonderful abundance of food, how much I love having people to feed, how lucky we are to be able to afford so much deliciousness.

Obligatory Turkey pic.

But the truth is, I’m getting older, crankier and more tired.

So yesterday was glorious. It was. My Mom is still here eat turkey with us, and that is a blessing for sure. We celebrated the birthdays of my little sister sister and my nephew, complete with an amazing chocolate cake. We drank a lot (as in a LOT) of prosecco. My youngest son was here over night with his fiancee and we had one of those funny-in-retrospect conversations about political philosophy while soaking in the hot tub.

Politics never came up once.

Good times!

But by nine o’clock this morning, I was home alone with my dogs, a boatload of leftovers, and a vat of simmering turkey carcass. I put on some Netflix documentaries, downloaded a few podcasts (shoutout to Stand Up with Pete) and settled in to relax.

And now, NOW I am truly grateful.

I’m grateful that my daughter and her family spent the holiday with her husband’s family. I mean, sure, I missed the kids….but I don’t mind sharing them with another set of grandparents who love them to pieces and whom they adore. I missed my middle child, who spent the holiday with his future in-laws. But again, I’m so happy that he has another family who loves him and his fiancee.

I’m grateful that my dogs didn’t get away with stealing too many bites of food (OK, Bentley licked a pumpkin pie, but we sliced that part off.) I’m grateful that the turkey was wicked juicy even though I was just too tired to brine it. I’m grateful that nobody said “quid pro quo” at any point and that we all agree that Gentleman Jack is a gorgeous bourbon. (Thanks, Uncle Joe!!)

Mostly, though, I’m grateful today that I can still put on a big meal. I’m grateful that my son shared some nice smooth weed with me (my vape has been banned in Massachusetts), so I got some good sleep. I’m grateful, god help me, that my dear husband had to work today and I got to stay home.

I’m grateful for no humans around.

I’m bad, I know it.

But I sent everyone off with leftovers! I got the laundry done (I’m an idiot. Used cloth napkins.) I did a good job!

So today, after making then big mason jars of turkey stock, I’m thankful to have a few hours to sit here like a big lump of lard with a piece of pie on my knee, whipped cream floating on my coffee and the promise of a huge turkey salad sandwich in my immediate future.

Life is good.

I hope you all had more than enough of food, family and fun. I wish you all a lovely nap!

Better than I thought


A couple of years ago, just before New Year’s Day, a friend of mine from school posted an idea on Facebook.  It showed an image of a mason jar, tied with a colorful ribbon. Inside of the jar were folded slips of paper.

The idea, she explained, was to make ourselves more mindful of the really happy moments in our lives.  It was a way to focus on the positive and to remind ourselves that life, after all, is usually pretty damn sweet for most of us.

“Cool”, I thought at the time. “I’ll do it!”   So from January 1st of 2014 to January 1st of 2015, I folded up those little papers and saved them in the jar on my kitchen windowsill.  It was a useful exercise!  I felt a certain benign pressure to fill my jar, so I was more attuned to those moments of happiness than I normally am. I noted them, appreciated them, documented them and saved them up for later.

And on January 1st of 2015, I started a new jar.  And every time I had one of those “life sucks” days, I reached into the old jar to unfold one of my little treasures, reminding myself of just how lucky I am.

Today I decided to go through all of the little papers in that first jar.  I pulled them all out, organized them into piles by topic and thought about what they could teach me.

Well, the first lesson was glaringly obvious:  This is a pretty great life I’m leading here! The next time I whine or moan, anyone of you who knows me has my permission to smack my upside the head and hand me my jar. Seriously.

The next lessons were a little more subtle.  For instance, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that fully 1/4 of my notes referenced my children.

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Happy Moments With My Kids

Everything from the life-changing (“At Kate’s wedding: Matt mouthing the words “I love you” during the ceremony) to the mundane (“Sitting around watching sports with Tim”).  There were notes about conversations with Kate, shared jokes with the three of them, visits at unexpected times.  Notes about having one home for a few days after oral surgery (“Sorry that he’s in pain; happy that he’s here”) and notes about driving through a huge thunderstorm and coming out into a rainbow with another one.    My kids are my greatest pride, my greatest pleasure, my deepest love. No surprise there!  Kate got married in 2014, so there were lots of notes about that!

I was a little more surprised to see that another 1/4 of my happiest moments happened in my classroom.

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And Happy Moments With My Class

There were so many more of those notes than I realized! I can only include a few here, because so many had the names of children on them, and teachers like me observe confidentiality.  What struck me was that a lot of them came from interactions with former students, as well as the kids I was currently teaching.  One boy had come back to visit and had given me a note that said, “Thanks for being a loving and hilarious teacher.”   I was delighted beyond measure that those were the two adjectives he chose for me! What could be more important to an 11 year old boy than both love and hilarity?  A lot of the notes referenced hugs, and several talked about laughter and jokes and mud filled field trips.  None mentioned a test or a lesson or a score.

It isn’t surprising, I guess, that I found so much pleasure in the presence of my students.   What I learned from reading the notes, though, is that I should not be surprised at the depth of my sadness at having retired suddenly last June.  I was ready to give up the stress and the pressure and the conflict with administration.  I most certainly wasn’t ready to give up the joy, the laughter, the hugs or the muddy adventures.  I wasn’t ready to walk away from the kids; in 2014, they gave me as much happiness as my own children.   In some ways, although perhaps it shouldn’t have, that fact surprised me.

So what kind of notes made up the remaining 50%?  Well, I have to laugh! They were an almost even mix of my observations of nature, and random moments when I found myself alone at home with my hot tub, good food and good drinks!

For example, there was the very eloquent observation: “Gorgeous full moon and cotton clouds tonight!”  There were moments when I noted the budding of the lilacs, the return of the humming birds and the heady smell of rosa rugosa.

But then there were the wonderfully gleeful notes like the one that said, “Home in a mini-ice storm- read, made soup, watched a marathon of ‘Ghost Hunters’, sweet!”

So what have a learned from my mason jar?

I have learned what I already knew in my bones. My life is wonderful. I am indescribably lucky, and grateful to be so.  I love children. All of them, not only my own. I love what they give me. I love the fact that they seem to love me back.  Above all else, I love to be with children.

But I have also learned a couple of things that I didn’t know.  The natural world feeds my soul in a way that I didn’t really appreciate until now.  Next year, I will be more careful to spend time out there in the woods and fields and beaches.

And in spite of my very social nature, sometimes all it takes to thrill me is a little time with just myself for company.  Especially if that time comes with seafood, cold Prosecco and some cheesy TV.

Happy New Year to Everyone!  I wish you many little notes in your mason jars of life!

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Happy Moments With Me