How’d you break your wrist, Higgins?

In an attempt to broaden my horizons and have more hobbies that don’t involve eating popcorn, I recently decided to return to horseback riding. The first time I rode a horse, I was four years old . The horse’s name was Thunderhead and what a magnificent name that was. The horse-girl magic happened , as it so often does, and I was in love.

jennyFor the next seven years, I took lessons and campaigned my father to buy me a horse. This involved many foot rubs, many cards, many snuggles, until, on my 11th birthday, I got Jenny. She was a half broke Appaloosa mare, way too much horse for a kid, but I didn’t care. Jenny could jump any fence, which she proved by escaping from her field and running sometimes miles from home. She had a special preference for our down the street neighbors magnificent green lawn. Many were the times when I was paged in high school by Sister Mary: “Kristan Higgins, come to the office. Your horse is out again.”

Jenny stayed with us until her death 20 years ago. My horseback riding became limited to National Park trips. But I missed real horseback riding and the special way a person interacts with nature that way. I missed the squeak of a leather saddle and the comforting snuffles and snorts and smells of the horse,. And so I sought out a situation in which a horse needed some love and exercise.

Which brings us to Wednesday.

gracieI had met Gracie, a beautiful bay mare with a white blaze. We had meaningful eye contact and blew gently on each other, and she whickered when she saw me, sensing my adoration. I made an arrangement with her owner, and on Wednesday, I went to the farm for my first ride. Before one can ride a horse, one must first bond with her, so I spent an hour grooming Gracie and talking to her and telling her how beautiful she was . I gave her treats and leaned against her and scratched her itchy spots. Then I put her saddle and bridle on and lead her up to the paddock.

There in I found the problem. Gracie is 17 hands, which means she is wicked tall in the horse world. Not being used to a western saddle, I was having a little trouble getting my foot up into the stirrup. Finally, I did, only to have my boot slip out . With one foot in the air and the other on the ground I hopped backward, fell, and heard a noise I hope never to hear again in my life. It’s bad, I thought.

Gracie looked at me with her big compassionate brown eyes. I looked at her, stood up, and draped myself over the fence so I wouldn’t pass out. Well, shit, I thought. You broke your wrist, Higgins. Being a veteran of broken bones, it was easy to recognize that special, hellish pain.

However, this was my first time at the farm, and I did not wish to make a bad impression on the owners. This is always the first thought of a Catholic…It’s my fault, and I’m sorry. So I took a few yoga breaths, patted Gracie, who had come to stand next to me in concern, and led her back to the barn. I tried to take the saddle off , quickly learned that my right hand would not help and did it one handed like a total badass. Then I put Gracie in her stall, gave her a snack, and called my husband, who did not pick up. This is often the case in times of emergency. I called my son instead, and said, “You and Dad need to come get me. I just broke my wrist.”

the cutenessThen, because it was hot, I sat in my car. I called the bookstore where I was supposed to sign books and told them I was on the way to the ER instead. I called my friend and cancelled our plans for that evening. En route to the ER, I called Gracie’s owner and apologized for not putting the tack away as neatly as I would have ordinarily, and also for breaking my wrist. She was extraordinarily nice. Horse lovers usually are.

And so, I get to spend the next five weeks in a sweaty cast. I am learning the dictation feature on my computer and how to shampoo one handed. I will have a new scar from where the surgeon had to put in a plate.

I can’t wait to get back to Gracie.

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The Golden Hour

IMG_2698The other night, as my daughter and I watched the sky deepening toward sunset, I said to her, “Look at the light! I call this the golden hour.”

She laughed and said, “I think everyone calls it that, Mommy.”

“Oh,” said I. “I thought it was a Cape Cod thing.”

“Nope.” She smiled fondly at me.

We sipped our cocktails and resumed reading.

91D11811-D766-4D0B-A852-A49CA81482D1We had such a magical time together, floating on rafts at a kettle pond, cooking for each other, attempting to back down a dirt road when we went a bit too far in house ogling (I couldn’t do it, and we had to change places so she could get us out). We laughed a lot, mostly at each other and ourselves.

My kids were blessed with a prescient grandfather—my dad, who bought this house in the 1970s, when real estate was cheap up here, and a half-finished, rather ordinary house on the Cape was affordable for a middle-class family. All their lives, we’ve come here. We know now that the house is extraordinary, because it’s ours, keeper of our best memories.

We do the same things year after year—Higgins and Gull Ponds, Nauset Light Beach, sunsets on the bay side. We ride bikes and eat seafood and hang our perpetually damp towels on the line. We go to the strange and charming little shops—Botanica, Buddha Bob’s, Vintage in Vogue. We read, sometimes a book a day.

IMG_6378On Friday, Dearest Son came up to join us for a couple days. I made the kids dinner— “Are we having eggs?” Dearest asked, and we laughed so much, since my cooking is a rare thing. (They were then dazzled when I made something rather delicious and interesting.) We watched a movie. Played with Princess’s cat and scolded her for attacking the screens.

Yesterday, we went to the bay side, to the beach where someday my ashes will be spread. Into the cold, clear water we went, shrieking a little (except for Dearest, who is dignified and brave). The Princess plotted her survival should a shark attack us, and I reassured them both that I would offer myself up so that they would live. After we were sufficiently cooled, we went back to shore and resumed reading.

A while later, the Princess wanted to go back in. I did not, being a one-and-done type when it comes to the beach. So Dearest went with her, and I sat in my little rusting beach chair and watched my babies, now 24 and 21, playing in the water with each other as they have all their lives. Their voices floated across the air to me. I could see my son towing my daughter, saw them splash each other, heard his deep voice as he made her laugh.

flannery & declanThere are not a lot of moments when life is perfect. These times are fraught with violence, distress, fear, anger, as time too often is. I’m not the most confident person in the world, and I battle anxiety about being good enough, doing enough good. I worry about our planet, our society, my children’s health, my husband’s safety.

But for this moment, watching my grown children play in the water, best friends still after all these years, life was perfect, and I was smart enough to know it. I drank in that golden hour and appreciated my greatest gifts in life: Flannery and Declan, my beloveds, my darlings, my good, good kids.

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In times of trouble

It is very odd to be promoting a book this summer. Everything is so different: COVID-19 has taken 110,000 lives in the U.S. alone and continues to slither through the country. We’ve watched in horror as yet another innocent black person is killed by a police officer. We watch or attend the peaceful protests in solidarity, then look on in horror as looting and rioting starts. We see innocent people being hurt. We struggle with the inability to tell the good cops from the bad, and the fear that arises from that.

My book release feels very insignificant in this moment.

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A duke, A lady and a BabyAnd yet, in the past few months, I’ve heard from a record number of readers, telling me my books have been their key to sanity. I know exactly what they mean. Farrah Rochon, Kennedy Ryan, Sonali Dev, Kwana Jackson, Robyn Carr, Priscilla Oliveras, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Caro Carson, Vanessa Riley…they’ve all saved me this winter and spring. They’re my heroes. They gave me books of people in trouble, of people scarred with loss and grief and fear, who rose up and took a stand. Whether it was a quiet, personal journey or a confrontation of a bigger issue, their characters walked the walk. They stood by their beliefs and got to a better place, a place where love and safety and happiness thrive.

These books have been my self care, a resting place for my heartsick, worried soul, an example of what we can achieve when we believe.

9780593199855ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW is, as my editor put it, the story of everyone’s family. You’ll see yourself somewhere in Barb, John, Juliet and Sadie, or in Janet, Mickey, Arwen and Noah. They’re all going through heartache, and they’re all going to be okay. Better than okay. They’re going to be better than ever.

I hope you’ll read my book (and the authors I mention above). I hope your souls and your hearts and minds will be soothed by the hours you spend reading. I hope they’ll give you the respite you need to face another day, week, month, year. I hope ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW—and The Boyfriend Project, Queen Move, Real Men Knit, Recipe for Persuasion and all the others— will make you believe, as I do, that better days are ahead.

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St.-Jude-LogoIf you buy ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW this week, my cut of your purchase goes to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, so a little goodness will come out of your purchase.

You’re in my heart, readers and friends. Take good care of yourselves.

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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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