Life and Yearning in the Big City

 

big city lightsSadie Frost, one of the characters in ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW, is partly me. All my characters are in the sense that they came from my imagination, but Sadie and I have something in common—an awe of what I can only call Success in the City.

Growing up in Connecticut, New York was (and is) the ultimate measure of cool. Connecticut can be a lovely place to live, filled with pretty towns and abundant farmland. But it’s not cool.

orchardWhen we were little, our parents would take us to NYC for a day, and it was so different and amazing. We’d see kids our own age walking down the street, often alone, and be amazed at their confidence, their knowledge of all those streets. How could we be the same age, and yet so different? They had life skills I still lack, growing up in the beautiful countryside as I did.

Sadie goes to school in New York, and wants to become an artist, the kind who shows in SoHo and is recognized in sleek restaurants. She looks around at the in crowd and wonders, same as I did (and do)—how did they pull it off? How do they afford to live in those buildings, or buy a dress that costs $4000 (more than ten times what my wedding dress cost)? What do they do for a living?

brownstoneI married a New Yorker—McIrish was living in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn when I first met him, then Chelsea, then Greenpoint, so ahead of the wave. He knew which subways to take. He had a black leather jacket, oh, hell yes, he did. But his sweetness (and poverty, let’s be honest) made him a normal person. Not one of those New Yorkers.

The first time I went to meet my agent, I got to the city two hours early. I walked up Sixth Avenue and made sure I knew which building was hers. Then I went across the street to the Hilton and hid in the second floor ladies room, sitting on a stool in front of the mirror, telling myself I had an agent for a book, and I belonged here. It didn’t work. I was still shaking when I met Maria, still in awe. I still am, let’s be honest.

A couple of years ago, I left Harlequin, my first publisher, to work with Berkley, a division of Penguin Random House, the biggest publisher in the world. It was a thrilling, terrifying and momentous career move, even written up in Publisher Weekly.

champagneOnce again, I took the train into the city. This time, I knew where to go and didn’t need two hours of self-affirmation. The executive team took Maria and me out to lunch at a beautiful restaurant, and the head honcho ordered champagne and oysters, and we had a wonderful, fun meal. As I walked back, I passed a little Irish pub called the Pig and Whistle. My dad and one his friends used to go there, way back when. I thought about my father, gone so many years, and said to myself, “Hey, Dad. Check this out. Your little girl is a successful author, and her publisher just took her out for a champagne lunch.”

9780593199855It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t, to be honest. Even in middle age, I’m still a kid from a farm town in a little state, still wondering how on earth people make it in the big city and
what it would be like to live in that posh apartment building or townhouse. I still can’t bring myself to buy shoes or clothes or jewelry that could feed a family for a week or a month or a year. I wouldn’t want to.

Sadie—and my younger self—find out what success really means. It’s being yourself—your best self—working hard and taking care of the people you love. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Don’t forget that preorders benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and if you buy two copies, you can get a free short story. Details at www.kristanhiggins.com/always-the-last-to-know. Thank you, gang!

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Real Life Confessions From Lockdown

 

You know, we’re all doing our best, I like to think, except for those who are doing actual harm and being idiots during this pandemic. Most of us are doing our best, right? I’m social distancing, looking out for friends and family who might be lonely, donating to some good causes. I’m also doing the following.

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The deliciousness!

Eating Reese’s peanut butter chips for dessert. Or dinner. For years, I chastised Dearest Son on stealing these chips from the baking cupboard and would tape notes to the bag: “Do not eat these, thief!” or “I know it was you, Declan,” said in my best Michael Corleone accent. Then, however, I discovered the sheer joy of eating them not in a brownie, but just in a bowl. They’re tiny and delicious and I regret nothing. I have apologized to Dearest and thanked him for introducing me to the joys of Reese’s peanut butter chips. “It’s good,” he said, “because they’re too sweet so you don’t eat that many.” I didn’t understand what he meant, but he’s a good kid just the same.

Renewed my vows to ice cream. Sure, my beloved doctor told me I had “hereditary high cholesterol” (thanks a lot, Dad). And sure, I started using fat-free half-and-half (what the hell is in that stuff, anyway?). I also gave up ice cream in what can only be described as an act of heroism. No more. Uh-uh. If I’m going to get COVID and be hospitalized and maybe intubated and possibly die, I want my last meal to be fat-full, thank you very much.

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I’m yawning just looking at this picture.

Napping. A lot. After getting ten hours of sleep. Is it self-care? Is it depression? Am I mentally exhausted by global stress? I don’t know. What I do know is I love sleeping. I love napping especially. I take all the throw pillows off the bed, create a fake husband out of the to reflect my body heat back to me, pull the shades, pile on the blankies, call Luther and Huckleberry and leap into bed with a smile on my face and a podcast on my phone. Within minutes, I am asleep. Does this affect my nighttime sleep? Not at all. We all have our gifts, and sleeping is mine.

All pasta, all the time. I don’t like cooking for myself. Sure, I’ll make a cocktail with seven ingredients, muddling herbs, twisting lemon rind like a boss. But cooking bores me. I can, however, boil water. Ten minutes and three ingredients later, dinner is served—linguine with olive oil, pepper and parmesan. My version of mac and cheese.

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Me. (Oh, please, of course it’s not.)

Did I mention cocktails? The days are long, the sun doesn’t set till after eight, and so I have plenty of time to coat a glass with the smoke of burnt rosemary (I’m serious) and add a few dashes of lavender oil to a gin and tonic. McIrish and I both love to engage in mixology, but let’s face it. I’m better at it than he is. (Suck it up, honey.)

Watch reality TV. Oh, Higgins, you were so superior all those years, saying you didn’t watch The Bachelor or Real Housewives. Who’s addicted to Married at First Sight, though, huh? I am! I love that show! I have shed tears of joy over that show. I have yelled at the TV. I don’t know who I am anymore.

Well, there it is, gang. We’re doing what we can to allay our fears and anxieties. Now go watch something trashy and eat some ice cream. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Be safe. Be happy.

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Aqua Notes

 

aqua notesA few years ago, a friend sent me a gift: Aqua Notes—a waterproof notepad you can stick in your shower via suction cups, and a special pencil. She said that since the best book ideas strike in the shower, I could write them down.

Well, that turned out to be false. The Aqua Notepad has never been used for a book idea. Instead, McIrish and I use them to write sappy notes to each other. I draw cartoons of dogs, cats, bunnies, Santa. We wish each other well and thank each other sometimes— “Great job finishing your book, honeybun!” he might write. “Thanks for taking care of my mom’s driveway!” I’ve said.

We loved the Aqua Notes, so we started buying new notepads after we used up that first one. Now we have five or six stored in a keepsake box. It’s a sweet little documentation of our marriage.

One time, McIrish wrote “Thanks for the great shag!” The kids saw that one and were suitably horrified that their parents were still at it. McIrish and I felt quite smug. I had a girls weekend and forgot to take it down before letting my friend take a shower in my bathroom, and she wrote “Joss was here!” together againwhich made me laugh so hard. Our cleaning lady has never commented on it, bless her.

I drew a picture of Willow with angel wings after she died. Before I went to the Cape, I drew a picture of a shark off the coast of Cape Cod with my assurance that I would try not to be eaten. McIrish doesn’t usually draw, and his handwriting is so terrible that sometimes I have trouble deciphering what he says, but it’s always more or less the same. Have a great day! Love you! Glad you’re home!

If I were ever to write a book on how to have a happy marriage, I’d include Aqua Notes, I think. A small way to show your partner your love and appreciation. A way to horrify your kids, which is just a bonus. A marking of the ordinary days, when you had enough time to draw a cartoon just to entertain your sweetheart and let them know you don’t take them for granted.

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Willow

babywillowThe first time we saw her, she trotted over to us, the heart-shaped mark on her chest—the reason we chose her—pure white against her black fur. Her tail wagged, as if she knew we were hers. She was right.

What we didn’t know was that Willow had been traumatized somehow in the first twelve weeks of her life. She was terrified of people, men especially…except for McIrish. She loved the four of us, she loved my mom, and that was it. Otherwise, she hid, peed in terror and trembled.

declan and baby willowBut at home, she was joyful. That’s the only word for it. Joyful. Every day began with a race around our five acres, barking at nothing, the speed of her border collie heritage evident as she pivoted and herded whatever was at hand…children, leaves, tennis balls, birds. As a puppy, she refused our cat’s haughty rejection and won him over by her constant delight in him. Eventually, they’d snuggled together, and Huck would rub his head against her chin.

willow&squickenThe kids adored her, of course. She was the family’s dog. Every day, she came with me as I drove the Princess to school. She came to pick up Dearest after cross country. We trained her to roll over, stay, catch a treat. She never quite mastered “come,” but if I said, “Do you want to sleep on Mommy’s bed?” she’d bolt in from the dark and wait to be hoisted onto the mattress. She knew the words “Cape Cod,” “ride,” “cookie, as well as the kids’ names. She loved Dearest Son and slept on his bed; she loved the Princess as her sister.

As she got older, she started to trust people more. First Shaunee, then Jen, then Stacia, for whom she had a soft spot. When we adopted Luther, she took him under her paw…Luther, who was afraid of other dogs, loved all people, and Willow, who was afraid of people, learned that she was missing out on pets if she kept her distance.

imagejpeg_0When the Princess brought her boyfriend home, all six-foot-four of him, Willow hid. It was a magical day a good year later when she allowed him to pet her with his foot, and eventually, with his hand. She and Luther shared a mat at night, as Luther was needy.

Willow loved my mom and knew where the treats were kept; every time she went in Mom’s house, she sat in front of the pantry door, waiting as my mom insisted she never gave our dogs treats.

When the twins from next door came over, she herded them, barked at them, jumped into the trailer to protect them as we played Sea Monster vs. Pirate. She loved our front porch and sleeping in dirt. She didn’t mind baths, and she was so silky and shiny afterward that we couldn’t resist petting her even more than usual.

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Willow loved swimming; she’d break through the invisible fence and jump into the pool, barking in delight. Same at the ocean, where she’d take her own leash in her mouth and run into the water, no matter what time of year.

When McIrish was at the firehouse, Willow slept on the bed with me, a perfect lady curled up near my icy-cold feet. Such a comfort to feel her there, all forty pounds of her.

The cancer came fast and hard. We only had three weeks from diagnosis to death. But in those three weeks, our love for her was shown even more. She came to the Cape for her last few good days, running once again into the water, charming a toddler, wagging and sniffing and sleeping on my bed. I had the comfort of having my beloved dog next to me during the pandemic, the only living creature I could cuddle without reservation. Those four days were among the happiest of her life. Long walks along the ocean, the trails of Cape Cod, the occasional swim, rolling in the sand.

She took a turn for the worse the fifth day, and our fears were realized. A week after she had come to see me, we had to say our final goodbyes—The Princess visited her to say goodbye. On the final day, when her breathing had changed and her ribs could be felt, we called Dr. Kumar. Dearest Son, her beloved, carried her in, and the three of us said goodbye.

Oh, the heartache of losing such a pure love! The beauty in a good death, the sorrow of losing a friend who has walked you through a decade of life. The mourning, the tears, the gratitude. From the moment we adopt a puppy or kitten, this day is on the horizon, that dreaded fact that we will, in most cases, outlive our beloved pet.

And yet, as I write this, I picture Willow barking at the waves, trotting on the beach, snuggled on my bed, offering her tummy for a scratch.

She was such a good dog. We were so lucky to be her family. As Will Rogers said, “If dogs don’t go to heaven, I want to go where they are.” I know she’ll be waiting.

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A little less irritation, a little more gratitude

IMG_4565It’s lonely to be social-distancing, to be unable to live like we’re all used to. We’ve put our house renovations on hold for the time being, feeling that tearing off the walls was ill-advised at the moment, and I’m glad we did. However, I was already moved in here at our Cape house before the pandemic, and now I find myself kind of stuck here, away from my family, who has told me to stay put. They’re all home, and they can’t be positive they’re not carriers yet, so I’ve been banished, as it were. I don’t even have my doggies with me, and now there’s a travel ban in my state, so I don’t see getting them any time soon.

IMG_9976So I’m lonely. I miss my kids. I miss McIrish. We Facetime at least once a day, usually twice, and I get glimpses of home and the pets. I’ve talked more on the phone in the past three weeks than I have in the entire year.

But really, how lucky we are, aren’t we? We have so many ways to be in touch: phone, email, social media, Facetime and Skype and Zoom. I send my family picture, they send pictures to me. As far as isolation goes, I’m very, very lucky.

A lot of us can get caught up in feeling blue, or sorry for ourselves or irritable with these restrictions. But when you think about what others are facing, it’s hard not to be grateful. On my Facebook page, I’ve been posting daily about the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know about the scientists, doctors and nurses who are fighting this virus with everything they’ve got, but there are others in the fight as well, folks we might not think of immediately. For example…

Veterinarians and vet techs and all who work to take care of our pets.

Farmers and farm workers who work endlessly, growing our food, keeping us in stock, getting up before dawn to care for the land and the animals so the rest of us can eat.

Lab techs. They handle all those samples, blood draws, sputum cultures and God knows what else, and I’m sure they’re under pressure to work extra fast and accurately.

Working parents who are now juggling work, child-rearing, care arrangements and everything else while still trying to make a living.

Stay at home parents. I absolutely loved being a stay-at-home mom. Best, most rewarding and hardest job I ever had. Can’t imagine how hard it is these days, not being able to go to the library or trying to keep the proper social distance at a park or playground.

Pharmacists and pharmacy workers. Whether they’re in the hospital or in a drugstore, they’re the ones doling out medicine to the sick, giving advice, calming down fears.

The cleaners at the hospitals, clinics and offices who decontaminate before, during and after the sick are treated. They protect the patients, doctors, nurses, paramedics, other medical professionals…and the rest of us in the herd.

The CNAs and other nursing assistants who do so much of the nitty-gritty work of healthcare, often at minimum wage, risking their own health and that of their families to care for the sickest among us.

Teachers! All of you who’ve had to scramble to get those lessons online, who are answering questions via your computer, putting in countless extra hours to keep educating our kids.

Truck drivers, warehouse workers and grocery store clerks who make sure our food gets to us. It would be the apocalypse without you, and we know it.

Thank you, everyone who has no choice but to work out in the world these days. We’ll stay home so you can do your jobs and be safer. God bless.

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Things to do while self-isolating

 

Which is scarier: the zombie, or Brad Pitt's Little Dutch Boy haircut?

Which is scarier: the zombie, or Brad Pitt’s Little Dutch Boy haircut? 

For us writers, self-isolation is a way of life. I’m also the wife of a firefighter and an empty-nester, which means I know how to have a wicked good time all by my lonesome.

But maybe the coronavirus is forcing you to stay home, and it feels unnatural and weird. Netflix only takes you so far, and you shouldn’t have chosen World War Z for your movie last night.

Here are a few tips for how to pass the time.

Play Twister alone. No chance of germ swapping, plus a workout.

Who's to say self-isolation has to be dreary?

Who’s to say self-isolation has to be dreary?

Become a mixologist! You’re home, you’re not going anywhere…now’s the time to put that ancient bottle of tequila to the test. It may well kill some germs (but not the coronavirus, just to be clear).

Bake! If the world is going to hell, don’t you want to be eating dessert when it happens?

That person on the couch over there? That may be your spouse! Don’t go crazy, though…keep a six foot distance and reignite the romance the old-fashioned way: flirtatious eye contact, the flash of ankle, the dropping of a latex glove (which you should pick up yourself, obvs).

Scour. There’s nothing like the smell of Clorox Clean-Up in the morning.

Nap. It’s the game of kings, I hear. Or at least, it’s my game. Also, it sparks creativity and, if you’re very, very good, brings dreams of Robert Downey, Jr.

You've got this.

You’ve got this.

It’s time to learn all the moves to Thriller. You meant to do this thirty years ago and now you have time, minus the harsh judgment of others who may be jealous of your talent or victims of your flying elbows.

Try a new recipe with that stuff you just brought home from the supermarket. It’ll be fun! Beef, chocolate, bottled water, toilet paper, kidney beans…run with it.

Look at that tickle face! She wants to cuddle!

Look at that sweet face!

Force your cat to snuggle. They love that.

These are serious times, gang. Stay home. Wash your hands. Be careful. Read books. Be well.

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Home yoga

I’ve been doing home yoga these past few days, using a YouTube tutorial on our TV. It hasn’t been pretty.

I can hear my cartilage tearing.

I can hear my cartilage tearing.

There’s a huge difference between taking a yoga class and doing yoga in your living room. I have to move furniture. There is no statue of the Buddha. No gentle music. I’m not used to the teachers on YouTube…I’ve been with John, my beloved yoga teacher, for years now, so I don’t even have to open my eyes to know what to do. I don’t wear my glasses with John, but I have to with home yoga. On the TV, the lithe young teachers press their foreheads to their locked knees. In my living room, my glasses fall the floor as I bend and grunt.

Lady, go home and stop shaming the rest of us.

Lady, go home and stop shaming the rest of us.

That’s another thing. The noises, which I’m capable of suppressing in class due to shame, come out of me at full volume. I groan. I gasp. I growl. I wonder if I’m in the final stages of life. Agonist breathing, they call it. It sounds about right. I hop to keep my balance, then clutch the armchair for balance. Am I just really bad at yoga, and John is too nice to point it out? After all, I was asked to leave the very first session of a class called Salsa for Beginners. “But…this is a beginner’s class,” I said after the warm-up period, where we were to learn the one-two-three-snap, five-six-seven-pause.

“Yeah,” the teacher said, not bothering to make eye contact. “Just…practice at home, and maybe you can come back someday.” We both knew that wasn’t going to happen. I gave him a disapproving look and went out for a cheeseburger.

Is anyone else thinking about mosquitoes?

Is anyone else thinking about mosquitoes?

Every time I’ve taken a yoga class out in the world, I’ve been the worst one in the room. The teachers come to correct me. I silently resent them. Leave me alone with my humiliation, I think. Go help that other person levitate, okay?

John knows I have balance issues, so we don’t do a lot of stuff that makes me fall. The YouTube people have no such empathy. “Put your left foot on your right thigh, raise yourself to your tiptoes and bend your knee till you’re at the floor.”

Sure. Once I master that, I think, I’ll cure cancer. I attempt eagle pose, which is where you stand on one foot and wrap your extremities around each other in a complicated pretzel pattern. I fall into the coffee table.

I notice later in the day that I have scrapes on my knuckles. Rug burns, I think. It makes me look like I’ve been bare-fisted brawling. “Were in a fight?” I imagine someone asking, gazing at my bloody hands. “No,” I’d say. “Yoga.”

Beware the cats.

Beware the cats.

My dogs love when I do home yoga. Hooray! they think. Mommy’s on the floor to play with us! As I hold plank position, Luther licks my ears. Willow barks and sometimes jumps on my back, as McIrish has tried to teach her how to give me a massage if I’m lying on the floor. Huck the Cat molests my arm, and if I try to free it, he starts biting and scratching me, so I have to stay still and let him gnaw on my fingers. Follow your breath, I’ll think as he wrestles me, as Luther moves onto licking my chin, as Willow’s sharp barking makes me wince. Empty your mind. I spit out dog hair and try.

Sorry if I let you down, Buddha.

Sorry if I let you down, Buddha.

Something is better than nothing, John tells me when I describe my home yoga attempts. Good for you. Is it, though? I almost set my hair on fire yesterday because I tried to recreate the peaceful atmosphere of the studio. Igniting myself would be bad for McIrish’s career. “Your wife did what?” I picture his fellow firefighters saying, guffawing. They have little mercy for idiot moves. “Poor Mommy,” the Princess would say in that lovely yet condescending way graceful people have toward those of us who lumber. “Do you have a video of it?” Dearest Son would ask. I get it. I’d watch that, too.

It’s all about the journey, the literature says. Do the best you can. You’ll keep getting better. I have to take that last one on faith.

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Dear Brides~

bouquetSweethearts! We are so happy for you, because you are taking this big, important step, and really, we adore him/her and think it’s all wonderful. You bet we’re coming to your wedding! We can’t wait!

But here’s the thing. We don’t want you to stress. We don’t want or need you to give a year of your life to planning this one short day (half-day, really, or evening). We’re there to see you start your marriage, which hopefully will last for decades. We want you to enjoy this time, not bleed over it.

We don’t care about your save-the-dates except to say “Aw!” at your picture and then write down the date on our calendars. We don’t care which font you use in your invitations. You don’t need to hire a designer to create a website dedicated to your coupledom (honestly, we’re only using it to see where you’re registered).

dressYou don’t need to try on a hundred wedding dresses in front of a judgmental posse. Wear something comfy so you don’t faint or break a rib if you laugh. We want you laughing. We want your ribs intact. Oh, your engagement and wedding rings? Very pretty. We don’t care how big or small the sparklies are, or if there are any sparklies, really. It’s not about jewelry.

We don’t care about your wedding aesthetic. We actually don’t even know what that means. If your bridesmaids’ dresses are ugly, well, that’s actually kind of fun for us. We don’t care what flowers are in your bouquet, because all flowers are pretty. We don’t need flowersyou to get your makeup done by a professional—look like you, honey. We love you. We love your face. We don’t want you looking like a Kardashian. Ditto, your hair. It’s gonna look gorgeous no matter what, up, down, half up, curled, straight, doesn’t matter. You don’t need eyelash extensions, and even if you get them, we probably won’t notice. We won’t care about your manicure.

We don’t care how many bridesmaids you do or don’t have. Be surrounded by people who love you…not people who compete with you, or people you feel obligated to include. Go easy on those bridesmaids and be understanding if they don’t have the time and money for all the festivities you may want thrown in your honor. Getting married is great! But it’s not the social event of the century, and you are not the future queen of a nation (probably). You’re just a woman marrying the person she loves, and that is truly lovely. Don’t exhaust your friends with demands and events and duties. It’s supposed to be fun…for everyone.

Please don’t lose weight just to be a small size that day. If you’re trying to eat healthier or whatever, great, but don’t do it to look thinner on that one day. We love you just as you are, and honestly, we probably won’t notice if you’ve lost 20 pounds. You are beautiful right this minute, especially to us.

cakeListen, honey. We’re not going to remember your decorations, the shade of the petals your flower girl drops, the dress your future mother-in-law wears. We don’t care about how tall the candelabras are. We don’t care what flavor your cake is, or your groom’s cake, or the cupcakes. We’re sure they’ll be yummy.

We want to see your happiness. Your smile matters so much more than all those details you worry over. We want to feel you made a great choice, and so did your honey, and that when you say your vows, you’ll mean them.

As guests, here’s what we’re hoping for: some tasty food (but our hopes aren’t high, so don’t fret). A few cute little kids dancing. Maybe we’ll see some old friends, or those cousins we haven’t seen since we can’t remember when. We’d probably like to dance ourselves, since we don’t do that enough. We definitely want the chance to hug you and wish you the best.

cutest coupleSome brides think the day is all about them. It’s not. It’s about your people, watching you and your betrothed become legally wed. It’s about two families. It’s about a community who wants the best for you. We hope that 25 years from now, we’ll look back on your wedding with some vague and blurry memories and say, “They were so in love. How wonderful that they still are!”

My darlings, I give you this wedding wish: may your wedding day not be the happiest day of your life. May those be the simple days, the ordinary days when the sky looks so pretty, or your baby smiles at you, or your spouse laughs at your joke, and your heart is filled with simple and pure contentment. And may those days number in the thousands.

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So bad it’s great

missed opportunity

What might have been

I really, really wanted to see Cats as a family this past Christmas break. Not for the singing or the makeup, but for the sheer horror of what was called the worst movie of all time. So bad it’s good, you know? Dearest Son was immoveable, alas—the lad has a will of iron, so we missed our chance to bond over laughter. We have already planned to tie Dearest to a chair when he comes home next and boot this movie up on Netflix.

matthew from downton abbey

He crazy.

Now that the little ones are back in college and grad school, McIrish and I have been watching some real crap. The other night, it was Apostle, starring Matthew from Downton Abbey. He’s a drug-addicted former missionary rich guy from historical England who must save his kidnapped sister and her bad hair from a religious cult where there’s a freaky old woman who is also a goddess and she’s tied to a tree in a barn and is force-fed human blood so the harvest will be plentiful. Just sit with that a minute. It must be noted that I admitted to McIrish that I’d been picking a bunch of losers lately. He picked Apostle.

sorry, sissy

To my sister: I’m sorry.

I quite enjoyed 47 Meters Down, starring the mom from This Is Us. It delivered on all elements I love in a movie: sisters, pretty summer dresses, great white sharks eating people, being stuck underwater. The big black moment comes when the mom from This Is Us must drag a fresh air tank toward her. She is trapped at the bottom of the ocean, running out of air, you see, and her sister is bleeding to death because of a shark bite. Our heroine must snag the fresh tank, drag it toward her and reattach her scuba hose to the tank, then find her sister, despite the shark cage pinning her leg. This is where my believability stopped. She can hold her breath AND figure out hoses and valves? I clearly would’ve died. I have trouble putting a battery in the remote. I’d like to think that, were my sister counting on me to save her, I’d come through, but I think Hilary and I both know it wouldn’t have ended well.

I fell asleep on In the Tall Grass, in which people wander around in a field and can’t find each other but stumble upon corpses. It was too much like real life, in which McIrish is working outside and I call him and call him because the cat has killed something, but he’s too engrossed in soil filtering or plant relocation and doesn’t hear me.

action hero supreme

Quality entertainment.

Any action movie with Gerard Butler will entertain me. I like his bad American accent and rugged face. Whether or not he’s saving various heads of state or their kids or killing bad guys from a prison cell or running around with a spear whilst scantily clad…I’m in. Did I watch Gods of Egypt? Yes, I did, and I’m only a little ashamed. (Note: I just found a movie of his I haven’t seen called Machine Gun Preacher, so we know what I’ll be doing this weekend.) It’s Gerard Butler, people! What’s not to love?

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This mortal coil

 

I’ve been reading a lot of books about death lately. I don’t know why. I’ve always been a bit maudlin, which I think is part of my Hungarian-Catholic upbringing. We’re wary of being too happy, always waiting for God to notice and strike us down (see Book of Job).

orleansMost on my mind these days is burial. I’m kind of against it for myself…it takes up too much land and feels so unnatural: embalmed in a casket with a cement-lined vault. I do like cemeteries, though, and especially old cemeteries. My good dog Luther and I recently took a walk through a really pretty one on the Cape and happened upon cluster of gravestones for a Higgins family. My people, maybe, from generations ago. Luther was super excited in the cemetery; he has a bloodhound’s nose, and I had to stop him from digging more than once. I imagined being caught by the cemetery guard: “Oh, it’s nothing! My dog is just digging up one of my ancestors…it’s fine! Thanks!”

arrowsAfter listening to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, cremation holds a lot of appeal. I just don’t like the industrial part of that…if a crematory was prettier—like a Japanese Zen garden, for example—I’d be all in. But going to what looks like a Costco warehouse for my body’s final moments…nah. I’d rather go out on a pyre on a lake, you know? One of my future grandkids shooting a flaming arrow…wicked. I wonder if that’s legal.

jae rhim leeThere are other options I quite like—a black cat suit imbued with mushroom spores. You get buried looking super chic, and mushrooms break down your body, filtering out all the bad stuff. Eventually, you’re high-grade compost. McIrish could use me on the dahlias we both love. (Such a suit was invented by Jae Rhim Lee; I watched her TED talk and was enthralled. Enthralled, I tell you.) Luke Perry, one of my fiercest celebrity crushes, was buried in such a suit, so if it was good enough for Luke…I told my mom about these mushroom suits, and she screamed, then gagged. Not for everyone, I guess.

lutherI’ve also heard that the human body can decompose in just six weeks if you bury it in woodchips. Again, so simple, so close to nature. But then I picture the Luther trotting in from the field, something suspicious in his mouth. My survivors would be horrified, sitting there on the porch. “Luther!” Dearest Son would say as the Princess wept. “Drop Mommy’s leg! Drop it! Drop!” Luther would obey, but Willow would grab the extremity and race joyfully around the field, her barking muffled by my rotting leg. Hey. They’re dogs. They’re disgusting and will eat anything, maybe especially a loved one.

I’m an organ donor, so best case scenario is that I go out a hero, saving numerous lives via transplant. In case that doesn’t happen, the next best
thing would be to leave my body to science. I like thinking that I’d finally go barbieto medical school, fulfilling that dream. But then I learned that I could just as easily be used in experiments, such as “Let’s see what will happen if we drop this cadaver off a cliff.” No, thanks. Even in a med school, I could be akin to the Barbie Styling Head for some plastic surgeon wannabe who used me to perfect an eye-lift. No, thanks. If I can be used to, say, educate the one who will cure cancer, I’m all in. I draw the line at my mortal remains being used to help make women feel insecure about aging.

Well, hopefully I won’t die any time soon. But it never hurts to have a plan, just in case.

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