What I learned on my social media detox

Hello again! As you might know, I took my second annual social media break from December 15 till January 7.

flannery & mike in the snow

The Princess and her fiancé making a snowman!

It was rather heavenly, gang. Of course, I did miss you and seeing your news and chatting online with you. That’s the very best thing about social media—the ability to connect with readers so easily. But as we all know, hours can slip past as we scroll, click on links, read articles, chat with dozens of friends from around the world. Don’t get me started on Facebook Marketplace, which has filled the tag-sale hole in my world.

the kiddies

When all the presents are unwrapped…

Dearest Son thought that not only should I take a social media break…I should do a social media detox. That is, not go on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at all. Since he is wise, I followed his advice. In order to avoid the kneejerk “let me just see what’s happening” click, I hid my social media bookmarks. For three weeks, during the lead-up to Christmas, the holiday itself, the much-anticipated end of 2020, the Georgia run-off and yesterday’s horrifying breach of the Capitol, I didn’t check in. I do feel it’s my duty as a citizen to be informed of what’s going on in the world, so I wouldn’t commit to a news blackout. But, at Dearest’s suggestion, I started each day on the computer by reading good news, then limited my news time to a non-editorializing source, and only for a few minutes.

Here’s what happened.

I had a lot more time. Like…hours a day. I didn’t realize how much time can be sucked into the category of social media. I thought I spent maybe half an hour twice a day on SM. I was wrong. It was a lot more.

my certificate

It’s official! Who wants their hair done?

During this time, I decided to take an online class in something fluffy but something I enjoy—hair and makeup styling. Readers, I am now a certified wedding hair and makeup artist! It was really fun, and so different from my day job of being alone, in my head. Now I know about contouring and highlighting and pore-minimizing, back-combing and pancaking. I used Sainted Mother as practice, and she looked gorgeous, gang. Gorgeous.

the hutch

The after view.

McIrish and I restored a hutch. We’d bought it on (cough) Facebook Marketplace a couple months ago, and it was filthy, battered, scratched and wobbly. It is now clean, repaired, polished and secured, and I am dang proud of myself. (And McIrish, but we always knew he had those skills).

I did more housework. I love housework…as it says in my bio, I am the descendent of a laundress. My grandmother used to iron my grandfather’s socks. Stains were for the weak, she used to say. Sweeping up pine needles under the tree? Aaaah. So satisfying. Cleaning the stove with a toothpick? The song of my ancestors.

I talked more with my friends. On the phone, via Zoom, even in person in some cases. I helped one friend with an organizational project. I took walks with another friend, and with my husband, trying to get a bit more vitamin D in me.

I tried new recipes (mostly in desserts, but also in a meal or two).

I planned some details for the Princess’s wedding, things only a mother would think of…how to take care of her on her wedding day, how to soothe her nerves and make sure she enjoys the day and everything goes smoothly (and yes, how to do her hair).

I worked on my book. : )

While social media can be wonderful, it can also wall us off from the real world. With balance, it’s a great way to check in with friends and be a part of what is an undeniably real part of our lives: the digital world. But without balance, it’s a way to way to waste time, to fuss over what people are saying, to be gleeful voyeurs while people are skewered for their work or their views…people who aren’t important to your life. It can be a way to procrastinate from our jobs and distance ourselves from the people who might be sitting in the very same room with us.

So thank you, dear Declan, for your wisdom. Your mother loves and appreciates you and is going to find you and smooch you right now.

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An unexpected angel

Well, it’s that time of year, so I’m going to tell you a Christmas story. It’s not the happiest story, but maybe it’s a good story anyway.

When my father was killed many years ago by a drunk driver, I was just out of college at the time and worked for his  company. My dad was a  printer and made those coffee table books and posters for museums like the Met and the Smithsonian. He loved fixing a shadowhis clients. Dad was the king of long-term business relationships…he remembered where a kid went to college, remembered special anniversaries, asked after parents. His clients loved him too. As my father’s employee and especially as his daughter, I felt I owed it to his closest clients to go down to D.C., where Dad did most of his business, and see them in person.

You can imagine how it felt to sit in their offices six weeks after my father’s death and have those folks tell me how wonderful my dad was, to have them cry and shake their heads in disbelief that their old friend was gone. But I wanted to make Dad proud—doesn’t every daughter?—so I let them hug me, thanked them for their kindness and told them how much my father had always loved working with them, and how much it meant to my family and me to know how highly they regarded my dad.

washington-dc-85539_640It was awful. To this day, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Add to this, I didn’t know anyone in Washington. I didn’t want to go back to an empty room, so I walked around, found myself in Georgetown, which was bright with Christmas lights, awash in wreaths and ribbons, all those posh shops and beautiful restaurants, the elegant townhouses and wrought-iron fences. Snow was falling, and the whole scene looked like a Christmas movie. Georgetown truly is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in America.

But I wasn’t really in the mood for a proper dinner. I spied to a Roy Rogers, figured I’d get a burger and maybe go to the movies and distract myself as long as I could before going back to my room. In front of the restaurant was a homeless man, sitting in the slushy snow on the sidewalk. “Can you spare some change, miss?” he asked. “Sure,” I answered. But I don’t have any right now. Come in the restaurant, and I’ll get some.”

homeless manThe guy was white, and he was dirty and skinny, reddish hair. I don’t remember his face too well, but he had a scruffy beard. He followed me in uncertainly—clearly he wouldn’t have been sitting on the street if that restaurant had welcomed the homeless. Up at the counter, I ordered two of everything—burgers, fries, coffee, milkshake (he could use some fattening up). Then I brought the tray back and asked him to eat with me.

He couldn’t believe I’d bought him food. He admitted that he would’ve spent my money on booze, and told me it had been a long time since he ate a square meal (if you could call it that) in a restaurant. “Most folks wouldn’t do this,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me eat with them.”

Before you think this is a story of my goodness, let me tell something. It isn’t. I was nervous. He did not smell good, this guy. I told him I was married (I wasn’t) and that my husband was meeting me in half an hour. I could’ve afforded to give him a hundred dollars, put him up in a hotel for the night, at least paid for cab fare to a shelter, and I did none of those things. I could’ve bought him a lot more than a hamburger and fries.

burger and friesBut he was thrilled, and I admit that it was kind of nice, sitting there under the disapproving gaze of the Roy Rogers manager. My new pal liked that we were breaking the rules…the rule was, he told me, that you had to buy something to come in the restaurant, and he couldn’t afford even a cup of coffee, being that he spent all his money on alcohol. He slept in his car most of the time, though he would go to a shelter tonight. He showed me a very old and tattered picture of a girl—his daughter. She would be in her twenties now, but he hadn’t seen her in a long time, and indeed, didn’t know where she was anymore.

At the end of the meal, I gave Ted the change from my twenty. He thanked me, and I waved as I crossed the street, sort of concerned that he’d follow me, take my purse, kill me, whatever. He didn’t. He just waved, a huge smile on his face. “God bless you, nice lady!” he shouted.

I’m guessing that Ted has died by now. Life on the street, alcoholism, illness…I’m quite sure I’ll never see him again. But I wish I could, because if I did, I’d thank him for giving me the chance to do something decent. I’d tell him how grateful I was that he showed me his most precious possession, that worn picture of his child. I’d apologize for being afraid of him, and thank him for reminding me just how much I had.

starsMost of all, I’d thank him for being nice to me. I was a lost soul that night with an awful ache in my heart…and Ted, he helped me. In the season of angels and miracles and hope, I think that Ted was a sort of angel, because that homeless man gave me a place to sit, a person to talk with, a chance to look outside of myself, at least for a little while.

 

So here’s to you, Ted. Hope you’re okay, wherever you are. And maybe someday, we’ll meet again.

 

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Dream Come True

little declanDearest Son turned 22, and we watched home movies this morning. I made brunch at his request, and the Princess, her fiancé and my mom came over for eggs and bacon, pancakes and donuts. His sister gave him a retro label maker, much to his delight. His future brother-in-law gave him a great t-shirt; McIrish and I had bought him two suits for his future; he’ll wear one as man of honor this spring at his sister’s wedding.

We always had the birthday celebrant give their sibling a gift to thank them for being a great brother or sister. This year, Declan gave Flannery a replica of a mug of his she covets—the one their great-grandfather used to drink from, so now they can both have “Poppy’s mug.” She was very touched.

His godparents came over for a quick visit on the porch (with masks, of course, and six feet apart), and while we couldn’t hug them, it was awfully nice to see them. After they left, we put a candle in Declan’s pancake and sang to him, then fell upon the food like starving animals.

seems like old timesThough we didn’t get a lot of snow in Saturday’s storm, it stuck, and it was enough for sledding. Out we went into the bright, cold air, and took our turns on the sleds, solo or in pairs. Even my mom was game and went down behind Declan, shrieking “Declan, don’t hurt me!” as we all laughed. She later admitted she loved it. She always has.

Inside for more home movies, some of which made us laugh till we cried. Dearest Declan bravely tolerated many maternal shows of affection throughout the day. Then the Princess had to go to work. I baked chocolate chip cookies, and McIrish left for the firehouse. Dearest had a cheeseburger for dinner. We might watch a movie together, just mother and son.

mom and declanOh, it was a perfect day, dear readers! I think back twenty-two years to a very sick mother and a tiny preemie, a terrified husband and father, a brave little toddler. A day like today is nothing short of a dream come true.

What a lucky, lucky mom I am!

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Our most pathetic Thanksgiving ever

dwight schrute

I’d like to file a complaint.

Hello? I would like to enter the contest for most depressing Thanksgiving, please! Yes, yes, I know that many people had depressing Thanksgivings this year, and many more will come home infected with COVID and be even more depressed, but I’d still like to enter. I can? Thank you!

This year, we had planned a wonderful, anti-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. We didn’t ditch the gratitude part…it was more the turkey-with-all-the-trimmings we opted to skip. The Princess and her fiancé went to visit his family, so it was just the three of us—Dearest Son, just home from college, McIrish and me. Sainted Mother was quarantining with her COVID-infected brother (he’s better now, thanks!). The only nod to tradition was that I made a pie.

And that was the first harbinger of doom. I’m a really good baker. I’ve won many blue ribbons at the local fair. Apple pie? I could do it in my sleep. The crust was perfect, mind you, but I couldn’t find the apples McIrish likes best. So I substituted with another tasty apple.

Which was not good for pie. Nay. The pie was soupy. Soupy, I tell you! I was, in a word, ashamed. This just doesn’t happen to me. My reputation took a hard hit. Oh, the boys were kind about it, but I could see the despair in their eyes.

what we pictured

What we pictured.

We had planned a movie marathon and a Chinese food extravaganza. I have been dreaming about this sort of non-Thanksgiving for years, and 2020 gave me my chance. On Thanksgiving morn, we lounged around in our pajamas, eating donuts and not watching the parade. Around 1:00, we decided to order the food. Pulled up the menu and went a little crazy adding things—dumplings and sesame noodles, egg rolls, moo shi pork, spicy scallops with garlic, and yes, General Tso’s chicken. The list went on and on, because we had no food in the house, not wanting to go grocery shopping and expose ourselves to the masses the days before Thanksgiving.

Then, we hit “order.” A moment later, we got the message that online ordering was not available today. “They must be so busy,” said I. After all, so many people were having micro-gatherings. Chinese restaurants would be killing it today.

So I called. The phone rang and rang. “Wow!” I said. “I can’t even get through!” After several fruitless redials, I tried another establishment, painstakingly entering the dozen or so dishes we wanted. This time, my online order went through.

A moment later, the phone rang. “Hello?” said a woman. “This is Great Wall. We’re closed today!”

“You are?” I said, stupefied.

They were.

I called five more places. They were all closed. Every single one. Even the ones listed as “Open on Thanksgiving.”

not as pictured

The real deal was not as shown.

McIrish, always great in an emergency, came up with an alternate plan. “I’ll run to Stop and Shop and grab some frozen Chinese food, but I have to go now, because they close in 40 minutes.” Off he and Dearest dashed.

“Get PF Changs!” I called. “They’re great!”

Well, they’re great in the restaurant. In the frozen food category…yuck. They’re awful. Everything smelled weird and turned to mush. Even the crispy green beans were tasteless. We had to open the windows to get rid of the smell.

But, we were still grateful, damn it. “What movie do you want to start with?” I asked. Dearest read from his list of movie choices. He and I had never seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and what better time to see a classic than on Thanksgiving afternoon?

We ate the nasty food, all of which tasted the same, and gave the movie a shot.

It’s a classic, you say? It was awful, we counter. “How long is this movie?” I asked several eons in.

“It just won’t end,” said Dearest.

Screen Shot 2020-11-30 at 12.33.21 PM

We had high hopes.

We all felt the movie had aged poorly with its awkward, slow close ups and “realistic,” meandering and repetitive dialogue. The plot was unbelievable—can one really steal a school bus, charter a boat and procure a prostitute when one has no money and is in fact an escapee from the state mental facility? The last 10 minutes were action-packed, or so I hear. I dozed off.

At least there was soupy pie for dessert. I skipped it and got some ice cream instead. Dearest retired to his room after a brief discussion about who should be blamed for choosing Cuckoo’s Nest. McIrish and I then poured ourselves some wine and watched reruns of The Crown to console ourselves.

i'll never quit you

Vanilla ice cream, you never fail me.

As holidays went, it sucked. But you know…we have each other. We have our health. Our pets. Our snug little house. And for that, we are truly thankful. Also, for ice cream. For PF Changs frozen food, not so much.

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Day in the Life of a Writer

it's not like this

This is not what it’s like.

People often ask me if I write every day. The answer is no. But I work every day. Every single day.

When you’re a writer, it means everything you in order to produce
a book is A) done alone and B) comes from your brain. There is no curriculum. There are no substitute writes who will drop in and write a chapter or tweak a character because you’re sick. If you take a vacation, in the back of your head is the page count, lying ignored. You can’t help yourself…you have to add a few notes here and there.

You talk to your friends about your characters and their lives. You ask them for input, maybe. You research. You might join a forum or a Reddit thread about people who’ve been in those positions. Maybe you interview someone. You visit the setting, if you’re lucky, and you fill pages with notes to make sure your book will deliver an appropriate and multidimensional representation. You take classes or workshops from time to time. You answer reader mail and post online. You reply to professional emails. You mentor other writers. You’re always editing or promoting the book you last finished.

LOL

LOL…no. Not like this, either. Come on.

So it’s a mixed bag of what exactly you’re doing…at least, for me.

But when I hunker down to write the first draft, here’s my routine.

Wake up.

Caffeinate.

Find a quiet spot (my office, or the upstairs couch, depending on how cold or hot my office is, or our little house on the Cape).

Start a sentence.

Then, hopefully, the writing gods will be good to you. You’ll finish that sentence and write another, or maybe many! You’ll continue until soggy-brain sets in…it might be ten hours, it might be 45 minutes. You decide that you’ve started in the wrong place. You revise. Or you don’t. You just keep blasting through, years of experience telling you this can be fixed later.

more like this

It’s more like this.

When you stop and rejoin humanity, it’s through a Twitter check, or a news check, or a family member who, you vaguely realize, has come in and might be talking to you.

Repeat as many times as possible. J

That’s where I am now, gang…hoping for the writing gods to smile on me. Brain cluttered with details that I’m trying to sift out and sort. Sentences begun and finished. Begun and deleted. Begun and revised.

Wish me luck!

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Li’l Flannery

I bought a human head.

Okay, okay, I bought a fake human head. But still.

first day of school 2007

My bébés on the first day of school, 2007

I’m going to be doing my daughter’s hair for her wedding in June, and here’s the thing. The Princess doesn’t love to have her hair done. There’s a window in which she’ll let me practice on her, and then the window closes. I’m pretty good with hair, having once had long hair myself, and having been the kind of mommy who loved braiding and brushing my daughter’s hair.

My grandmother used to French braid my hair, and I loved it. My own sainted mother had more of a sadistic approach to hair—the “Hungarian water torture” in which she dumped ice cold water over our heads to rinse the shampoo, or the time she just cut off my ponytail because my hair was tangled, and she lacked the patience to comb it out (I still resent your Prince Valiant jokes, Mother!). And so I vowed that, should I have a little girl, I would be the kind of mother who knew how to do hair.

And I was. Flannery went off to the first day of school for twelve years with French braids. Every day, she’d sit on the living room floor while I brushed and styled her hair. She had hairbands and barrettes and clips. She still lets me brush her hair—it’s incredibly thick and silky, and it’s a Zen-like experience.

Thence cometh her engagement. We looked into having a professional stylist do her hair on the wedding day, but those services are few and far between on Cape Cod (and ridiculously expensive…$800? For one person?). “No matter!” I said. “I can do something.”

And, bless her, she trusts me. So we’ve had two “sessions” in which I’ve given some lovely wedding updos a try. Flannery winces and sighs and, a couple of times, has admired the end product. But wedding hair is not first day of school hair. Wedding hair has to stay in place. It has to have texturizing spray and dry shampoo and heat protection and flat ironing and back-combing and ten thousand bobby pins, and my daughter’s time is limited.

IMG_6873So I bought Li’l Flannery here. She is a practice head made just for these purposes.

I love her.

When I got the notification she had arrived at the post office, I texted McIrish. “My head is here! Please pick it up!”

Li’l Flannery has immediately become a family joke. I sent the Princess a picture of her new sister. “Is she your favorite daughter?” she replied. That night, as I was in the bathroom, McIrish poked LF’s head in and asked, “Do you need anything?” resulting in my screams. Later, when he was asleep, I clamped her to the counter and combed her hair over her face so she’d be the first thing he saw when he got up for work in the morning.

I took her to the Cape with me this weekend, figuring I could practice up here. Texted the family and said I had locked Li’l Flannery in a closet and feared for my safety. The next text said “Mommy isn’t here, and Li’l Flannery doesn’t like you”…as one does on Halloween.

IMG_6878I’ve become quite fond of Li’l Flannery. We did hair last night till one a.m. and she did not complain once about my pulling those little neck hairs. I’ve perfected flat iron curls and a French twist on her. I’m sure Real Flannery will be quite pleased in our next practice session.

For now, she is clamped to the counter, patiently waiting for me to do some writing and then perhaps wash her hair.

Hey. It’s a hobby.

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My first lousy best friend

This is the story of a friend who tried to tell me for years that she just didn’t like me very much, and how I ignored her very strong messaging.

Barbarosa—not her real name—and I were high school friends. She had a boyfriend; I did not. Her boyfriend was great, and the three of us hung out together all the time. I think her parents didn’t like him, but if I was there, acting as a de facto chaperone, it was okay. Back in the day, I thought they just wanted to hang out with me. We got along great. I didn’t like him that way, so it was very amicable, and we laughed all the time. They were pretty much my entire social life through high school.

balloonsWhen Barbarosa went to college, she’d invite me down for the weekend, especially if there was a party, and proceed to ignore me at said party. I’d find myself alone, trying to talk to strangers who were not my classmates, while Barb talked with fellow students. It was awkward. She went to a very prestigious college, and when people found out I was not a student, they’d move on, more interested in talking to their fellow brainiacs.

But it was nice, wasn’t it? I’d tell myself. At least she wanted me there. I’d invite Barbarosa to my college, too. She never came. She broke up with her boyfriend, who moved to another part of the country. I was mad at him on her behalf, so I never wrote or talked to him again.

left outAfter college, she took a job in a very tightknit community, and she loved it. She lived just 20 minutes from me. Being that she was my best friend, I figured we’d hang out all the time. But every time we got together, she’d have one of her fellow coworkers with her, and they’d talk about issues in the community, issues that I could not weigh in on because I didn’t work there. If she threw a party, she’d invite me, and once again, I’d be the odd one out. When I asked if we could hang out just the two of us, she’d say yes, then turn up with a work friend. It’s an awful feeling, being left out, especially when you’re with an alleged friend.

Still, when my father died, she was wonderful. She came to my wedding a few years later. I went to hers. I loved her parents, especially her father, who taught me to parallel park, a skill I’m still proud of to this day.

Then a job opened up in her community, a job that was perfect for my skill set. How great it would be on all levels! A super job, with the added benefit of being in Barbarosa’s world! We could be close again I interviewed. They loved me. They told me that I was the most qualified candidate they’d had, that I was perfect for the job, and they’d call the next week. You know that feeling when you hit it out of the park? That was me. A grand slam.

Barbarosa invited me to a night out that week. There were lots of her work friends, including the wife of the big boss. I had once babysat for her kids years before. When Barbarosa had told me the big boss’s name, I said, hey, small world, I babysat for them once. The little one had had a meltdown, and when I reported this to the parents at the end of the night, the mom had flatly denied that her child would ever do that. Even though I was a babysitter who was much in demand, they never called me again.

photo by Amanda Tipton

(photo by Amanda Tipton)

Obviously, I wasn’t going to bring this up.

Barbarosa did. She told the big boss’s wife that I was up for a job, and then, in excruciating detail, she told the babysitting story. She repeated the words the wife had said to me—her kid did not have tantrums. I sat there, horrified and shocked, and watched the wife’s face change. Barbarosa brayed with laughter like it was a great story everyone would enjoy. She had never had a great sense of humor, and I remember believing she just didn’t realize it wasn’t funny.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I stopped calling Barbarosa to see if she was free. I was always the one to initiate, and I was tired of it. She could call, I thought. But she didn’t.

She did let me know when her father died. He’d been in the hospital for a long time, a fact I didn’t know. I was so sad I didn’t get to say goodbye…he was one of those adults whose friendship and encouragement meant the world to me. I went to his funeral, grateful that at least I got to do that.

It was the last time I saw Barbarosa. I’d run into her mom occasionally, and after I got published, she would say that she and Barb had wanted to come to one of my signings, but, well, you know…life was busy. Her mom always looked so embarrassed that they hadn’t come.

The sad thing is, it took me decades to realize that Barbarosa had never liked me that much. It took me decades to realize she’d invited the boss’s wife to that night and told that story with the exact intention of tanking my job chances. Once, I had served a purpose—chaperone, security blanket, whatever—and when that service was no longer needed, our friendship was over.

I have better friends now. I’m faster on the uptake. I’d like to say that this one friendship opened my eyes, but nope, I’ve made plenty of friendship mistakes since then. It took a therapist to tell me that I was allowed to be discerning, and this wasn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned so much in the past decade or so, things I wish I’d know way back when.

CF full coverWriting an advice book on friendship…making a podcast about female friendship…it’s been therapeutic. It’s been wonderful to hear people say, “Oh, my gosh, me too!” and tell Joss and me their stories. It’s been wonderful to talk about what we deserve as friends, and how we don’t have to waste time with people who aren’t the true blue type. It’s been cathartic to acknowledge the times I myself haven’t been a good friend, or made mistakes. It’s been amazing to make space for the women who really show up, really love me and are deeply, deeply loved in return.

So I hope you’ll buy our little book, which Joss and I think is packed with good advice and stories of women who’ve been as baffled as we’ve been. I hope you’ll write to our podcast or tune in and listen, laugh with us and save yourselves the time and heartache spent on the Barbarosas of the world.

To buy the book (which would make a great gift, just saying): www.bitly.CFtheBook.

To listen to the podcast: www.crappyfriends.net.

Take good care, my friends! Don’t settle for anything but the best in people, and give them the same.

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To All the Songs I’ve Loved Before

 

Some songs have had all the life squeezed out of them. Let’s face it. Songs that are so familiar they’re just white noise. It doesn’t mean the artist isn’t talented, or the song wasn’t once great, but I find myself barking at the radio from time to time, saying, “Enough already!”

scenesFor example…let’s start with one of my favorite artists ever. Billy Joel. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is a song I’ll listen to every chance I get. Uptown Girl? STOP IT. No. Enough. Why play that crappy little song when you could play, I don’t know, 649 other Billy Joel songs that are far superior? Until the Night. New York State of Mind. Miami 2017. Rosalita’s Eyes.

I’m pretty much done with the Beatles forevermore. Oh, I loved them! Don’t throw trash at me! But enough already. I Wanna Hold Your Hand? No. I do not. I reject you, Paul, John, George and Ringo. In My Life is still beautiful to me, but even songs like Hey, Jude, which I once loved and can still sing word for word, just don’t hit me in the heart anymore.

Born in the USA. Okay, first of all, anyone who thinks this is a patriotic song about how great it is to be American needs a hearing check. It’s about the lack of opportunities in the blue-collar towns of the US. It’s about how we shouldn’t have gone to war in Vietnam. Besides, Bruce Springsteen has so many better songs! Born to Run. Thunder Road. The Rising. Philadelphia. Much more poetic and heartfelt. Also, Born in the USA doesn’t have a great beat, and I can’t dance to it.

bowieLet’s Dance by David Bowie. Again, one of my all time favorite artists. The only celebrity whose death made me cry like I’d lost a favorite uncle. Play Heroes forevermore. Young Americans. Putting Out Fire. Star Man. Anything but Let’s Dance.

Stairway to Heaven. If I never hear this song again, it will be too soon.

Sweet Home Alabama. Ditto.

That one about pina coladas. HOW did that get so much play? How? Why?

champagneHotel California. Yeah. Put the pink champagne back in the fridge. I’m good.

Someone Like You. Adele, if I have to hear you caterwauling about your stupid high school boyfriend one more time, I’m going to scream. I have screamed. That being said, you can sing Make You Feel My Love to me until my death, and it won’t be enough.

Phew! That felt good! Thanks for listening.

 

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Getting Married & Being Married

My little girl is engaged.

The happy couple and Mushroom, their cat

The happy couple and Mushroom, their cat

Oh, we knew it was coming, and we couldn’t be more thrilled, because her fiancé is kind and thoughtful, hardworking and honest. His family loves the Princess as if she were their own, and we love him like a son already. He asked for our blessing, and the ring is gorgeous. He’s a firefighter; she’s a nurse. They’re both wonderful people, and they’re crazy in love and have been for the past six years. They met their first day of college and started dating a few weeks later.

The last wedding I planned was my own. I helped with my sister’s wedding, but it was more of the gardening kind of help, since she got married in our mom’s backyard. Almost thirty years ago, weddings were different—they were just a happy day. Planning didn’t take up your entire brain. I don’t think wedding planner was a career.

The man of honor

The man of honor

McIrish and I picked a place, picked the food, made a playlist. My sister was maid of honor, and my godchild was flower girl. My mother-in-law made the centerpieces with dried flowers from her garden. It was Christmastime. Everyone had a really good time.

The other day, we talked with the happy couple about what they wanted. A small wedding, as the Princess isn’t the type who likes to be the center of attention. She wants to wear a beautiful gown and dance. The food should be good, she said. She’d like to have lilacs in her bouquet. Otherwise…not a lot of requirements. She hasn’t been dreaming of a wedding since she was a little girl…instead, she’s been dreaming of having a cozy house, children, a job she loves, a husband who will stand by her and love her the way her father loves her mother.

The Princess and her maid of honor

The Princess and her maid of honor

Likewise, I haven’t been dreaming of my daughter’s wedding, even though I’ve known she and Mike would get married for a few years now. I figured we’d wait till the ring was on her finger. And now that it is, there’s some work to be done.

What I want for her wedding is that it’s magical, beautiful and fun. I have no color schemes. I have no opinion on food, other than that it be delicious. While I would like all my friends and family who love the Princess to be there, I respect the kids’ wishes for a small, intimate wedding. I want to see my daughter and her husband smiling all day. I want to make this planning time fun and easy for her. She has asked me to do much of the planning, as I’m organized and know how to get things done.

Magical, beautiful, fun.

I remember a moment at my own wedding, which was all those things, too. I was sitting there, eating the delicious food, trying to take it all in, and I had a thought—I just want to be home with my husband. It wasn’t that I was having a bad time, not at all! It was that I was ready for this new stage of my life to begin. Just the two of us (and our cat).

So happy!

So happy!

Getting married was great. We ate and laughed, and I cried a little when my grandfather and I danced during what should’ve been the father-daughter dance. It was a beautiful night.

But being married, all these years…that’s even better. All the happy, ordinary days—more than ten thousand of them!—sprinkled with some real heartbreakers, are so much more important that that one magical, beautiful, fun day in December so long ago.

My wish for the Princess and her firefighter is that they are just as happy and dedicated and blessed as their parents have been.

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Non-buyer’s remorse

 

Dictionary.com defines buyer’s remorse as a feeling of regret experienced after making a purchase, typically one regarded as unnecessary or extravagant.

I do not suffer from this. I suffer from non-buyer’s remorse.

apartment-719984_640Take, for example, that brownstone in a then run-down section of this borough no one ever went to…Brooklyn, I think it was called. The entire house was intact and original, and you’d have to gut it in order to break it into apartments, so the asking price was a hundred grand. This was back in the early 90s, when a certain couple had nothing but love and debt and a skinny cat. A hundred grand might as well have been a million zillion dollars. “We’ll regret this,” said I to my husband, and I made good on that promise. To this day, I remind McIrish that we could’ve owned an entire brownstone in bleeping Brooklyn. Not that we could’ve done anything about that, but when has that ever stopped a wife from bringing up the past?

Seventeen houses on Cape Cod. They were all fixers uppers that would require several years of indentured servitude by McIrish, but guess how much those babies are worth now? A lot.

That sweet little boat in someone’s yard that may have been free. But we don’t live on the water! But we have no boaterly skills! Even so, we could’ve had a cute little boat. For free. I could’ve driven it around some lake or other body of water and not caught fish, as is my hobby. But no. We left it there.

kitten-3422770_640The six black kittens at the cat palace shelter in Pennsylvania. Don’t lecture me about being a pet hoarder! They were adorable! Huck remains determined to reject me. I could’ve had six of my own cats who loved me. I could have.

Any number of perfect articles of clothing that I talked myself out of. “Do I really need it, though?” I like to ask myself. “No. Good for you, Higgins!” Then, a month later, I need it. I realize that my black sweater has been eaten by moths, and my white shirt is stained, and I have nothing to wear to the event that starts in 20 minutes. “Damn it, Higgins!” I say to myself. “Don’t be such a tightwad next time!”

The mysterious paste I got that one time at TJ Maxx. Oh, don’t judge. It’s my favorite grocery store, and never shall I forget the time I did indeed take a chance on the green Thai sauce that took my tuna noodle dinner from disgusting to amazing. I only bought the one jar. There were no jars left the next time I went, nor in any other time since then. I’ll never forget you, green Thai sauce. Someday, I hope we’ll meet again.

bike-1245904_640The bicycle with the couch-like seat and low cross bar in Tiffany blue that was being practically given away by a bike shop at the end of the season. “But I have a bike!” I told myself, fondling the blue bike’s handlebars. Yeah. I do. I rode it today, and boy, does my butt feel it. And every time I swing my leg over my bike’s cross bar and nearly fall, I curse myself for not getting that blue bike, which, in addition to being much more attractive than my muddy gray bike, was kinder for people with balance issues.

Ah, well. The next time I come across a brownstone full of black kittens with a blue bike parked in front of it, you can bet I’m jumping all over that.

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