Monday, September 27, 2021

13 years of marital bliss etc.

Dear Nick,

Today is the day, 13 years ago, when we stood up in front of so many loved ones and promised to love and I honestly can't remember what else (although I know for a fact that obey was not in there) forever and ever.

This was right after the exchange of rings or maybe between rings, and is possibly my favorite photo of the two of us.

I remember female family friends telling me to marry a man who made me laugh. (One mom told me to marry a nerd, because nerds make the best husbands.)

At the time, or those multiple times, I imagine I was like, uh, I really just want to marry someone cute who takes me out for nice dinners. But as it turns out, I married a nerd who makes me laugh, and I probably should've listened to way more advice from the moms in my life way earlier.

Anyway.

We asked an old family friend to marry us, which meant getting some kind of internet minister certificate. Which he got but then DC somehow made approval complicated.

And DC also wanted us to get tested for syphilis before they would grant us a marriage license.

Neither of us objected, and both our primary care doctors said they were happy to give a blood test, but then were like, an official form? To prove you don't have syphilis? Where does one find this form?

The DC getting married instructions said doctor's offices would have such form.

They had no idea. We had no idea. It was all proving more administratively complicated for our minister and us than it seemed it should be.

And time was ticking.

So in the week prior to the wedding, we got a marriage license in Alexandria, and headed to the office of a lawyer in Old Town who would marry us.

You drove, and as you parked you said, "Watch the door."

I was like, "Yes, yes..." Because let us be frank: you are a person who gives instructions like, all the time. 

I barely knew you and I knew that.

And then I opened the car door without paying attention and slammed it into the metal post that you were trying to get me to avoid. It made a big dent.

You came around to my side and yelled, "God fucking dammit! I told you to watch the door!"

So I said I'd pay for it, which didn't make an sense because all our finances were about to be joined and so if I was paying for it, you were paying for it. Which you pointed out. You were still mad.

At which point I started to cry and said I didn't think this was a very good way to head into a marriage.

I mean, really.

So you apologized for getting so angry and I apologized for ignoring your request and subsequently walloping your car really hard with an iron pole, and we headed into the lawyer's office.

And then some shockingly brief amount of time later, we were actually married.

It was so easy I was wondering why neither of us had ever done that before. (Ha! I'm kidding.)

But for me the day that matters is the day we spent with our loved ones surrounding us. Which was today, 13 years ago.

I look at the photos and I see the faces of people we dearly loved who are no longer with us. I see people we love and still have in our lives.

I am so grateful they were there with us.

So, I think we would both agree that 13 years is no small chunk of time.

This morning I said, "Happy anniversary! I'd marry you all over again!" 

As I was giving you a kiss, Jordan said, "Yeah. Some days I'm not so sure that's true."

What I did not understand before marriage was that staying married turns out to be a choice you make repeatedly. Some days you're in harmony and life flows and is easy and joyful. And some days are hard. Sometimes those days turn into weeks or even months or longer.

Marriage, it turns out, at least ours, is playing the long game. I never had a long game before.

Sometimes, in our marriage anyway, one might spend months of their first child's life awake and seething at night, dividing up the furniture. Sometimes one's husband might be mad at them for pretty much an entire year. 

Sometimes one might consider and perhaps even discuss not being married, and then decide together that in fact, the two of you would prefer to slog through whatever it might be together.

This turns out to be remarkably satisfying.

And sometimes one of you is having the hardest time ever, and the other is there to support you through it, no matter what.

I never had this kind of certainty. 

Happy anniversary, dear.

Today I'd marry you all over again.

I'd just be more careful about the car door.

Love,

Lisa

Friday, September 10, 2021

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

If you know me, you likely already know my story. You know my dad died by suicide in 2006 after multiple attempts.

This was how I told people. Maybe you were one of the kind people holding their breath, praying, sending love, waiting for news.

Maybe you've seen this photo a million times.

I make a point of talking about mental illness and suicide like everyday topics.

I can't talk sportsball, but I can engage in a lively conversation about antidepressants.

(Is that depressing? I honestly don't know.)

Sometimes I think about how different my life would have been if, after my mom and I found my dad after his first attempt, we'd actually talked about it. What if, instead of telling us that we could never talk about it because it would hurt his career, Dad had sat down with us and discussed his struggles?

My sixth grade would've been a lot easier. My everything would've made more sense.

What if I'd grown up in a household where all feelings were considered valid? Where there was no shame?

When I think about the past, I think about the home atmosphere we work to create and maintain for our children.

In the Before times, my son taught anxiety-reducing techniques to other kids at school. I heard from a teacher that he said, "Do you want me to show you something I learned in therapy?" 

I was so proud when I heard this.

He talks about therapy like it's normal. Because to him it is. Because that's how we treat it. Like going to any other doctor. 

I would love to live in a world where we treat mental and physical ailments with the same degree of normalcy.

In Covid times, I know that these calming techniques, that mental health help, are that much more necessary.

My shrink and my acupuncturist told me they've never worked so hard as in these times. Everyone has been in crisis. I have friends who have never, ever manifested anxiety or depression who have struggled with one or both in this pandemic.

Not everyone is able to access help.

I think of how alone I felt in our family, despite/because of? the insistence that we were FINE, and as an adult, how alone I felt in my own depression, until I started talking and writing about it.

I think of how alone, truly, physically alone people have been in this pandemic. And how even the introverts among us need to not feel alone. We may get over-peopled, and we may need more time to recover from people, but we still need to be heard and understood and loved for who we are.

Everyone does.

Recently a dear friend who I haven't seen in person in decades reached out. A friend, though not a close one, had died by suicide. She was wondering what to say to the family. How to talk about it with kids.

She was gutted. And she wasn't close to the person.

She said that if I didn't feel like this was an OK thing to ask me, she understood. She just thought she'd ask, as she trusts me.

I told her that honestly, this is what makes suicide loss different. It's hard to ask about. People don't know what to say.

Even people who weren't close to my dad, or who hadn't seen him in years, decades even, told me they felt like they should've know. Maybe there was something they could have done.

Suicide wrecks the loved ones left behind. It crushes families. 

I told her the same thing I have told others: tell the family you are so sorry for their loss. Offer to be there for them--an ear, a meal, coffee, anything.

The fact that you are there for them, not avoiding because of Suicide (whispered, but also with a capital letter, so I guess whispered meaningfully), means a tremendous amount.

Because we as a society don't know what to do with those left behind.

But before we get to that point, we don't know what to do with those who are struggling. 

Mental health services are expensive. And they are stigmatized. 

Depression is often treated as a choice. Cheer up! Shake it off! Go out and get some fresh air! Watch a funny movie! Don't be so down!

(I haven't heard these things in a long time, but if anyone says them to you, you have my permission to offer them a refreshing cup of nut punch.)

I have a lot of feels about this, as you may know.

What I want everyone to know, to feel in their core, is that all their feelings are valid. Your life might not be as hard as someone else's. Your depression or anxiety or anything else you are struggling with might not make sense.

Mental illness doesn't make sense. Depression is a sneaky liar.

Anxiety? Anxiety is such a tricksy fucker. 

Now that I think about it, I have been told to calm down. I've been told that a lot. To stop worrying. Everything is fine.

But if it's not fine in your being, it is not fucking fine. 

I guess all this to say, if you are struggling, know you are not alone. You might feel alone, completely alone. You might feel like it wouldn't matter if you were no longer here. Like what you take from the world is more than what you give. Like it would be easier for those who love you to not have to worry about you.

Or all of those things. Or none of them, but other things.

I'm just throwing out my familiars here.

(Feel free to use these words with someone you're worrying about. Asking someone if they are considering suicide does not put the idea in their head. If it's an option for them, it's already there.)

If you need help, you deserve help. You deserve help in figuring out how to feel better. It doesn't have to be so hard. You don't have to do it alone.

Love and hugs,

Lisa

A brief list of resources, should you or a loved one need them

Call the suicide prevention lifeline: 800-273-8255

If you hate to talk on the phone (raises hand) and want to chat online: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Or text TALK to 741741

If you want more info, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) website has great resources. This page deals with risk factors and warning signs.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

And now you are 12

Dear Jordan,

Twelve years ago on my birthday, I thought I'd have a baby. 

Because that was my due date. And my birthday. So it was totally meant to be and I was going to have my baby on my birthday. 

Also, and this won't mean anything to you at the moment, I was absolutely not going to have an epidural if I could help it, and certainly not a C-section.

Ha.

And then all last week 12 years ago I waited and waited and waited.

Then 12 years ago on this very day, you were born! 

And you were perfect.

You had the most perfect round head and beautiful skin. You were honestly the cutest baby I had ever seen. Although to be fair, I never really thought babies were all that cute before you.

But you were also the cutest baby so many other people had ever seen. So it was true. Cutest ever. 

Things were really, really hard that summer. That year, in fact.

But the best thing was that we had a baby. We had you. 

And now you are 12! You're almost exactly my height.

I picked you up on Tuesday after seven weeks of camp, and you'd grown like two inches! You're already bigger than me. In 15 minutes you're going to be taller than me.

And not only had you grown physically, you'd grown emotionally.

You have a peacefulness about you. You seem at ease in your skin. You radiate happy.

We were so proud, so very proud, of how you spent that time away from home and embraced it. I know you were homesick. In your letters you'd say how much fun you were having, and that you'd like to come home after first session, and also, could we send your Magic cards?

In one letter you said, "Dear Mom and Dad, I miss all of you, and I miss Nana and India and Wanda most of all."

Daddy said, "We didn't even make the top three!"

We missed you and we were so grateful you could be out in the beautiful woods on the edge of a lake having an incredible summer. After being home, like physically stuck in the house, for so many months, this was such a blessing.

Driving to pick you up, I was so excited. When I arrived at camp and told them who I was there to pick up, they said my smile was huge, and I said, "I can't wait to see my boy!"

When we dropped you off, you were anxious, and you didn't want goodbye hugs or kisses. When I picked you up you were totally cool with me hugging you and hugging you and kissing you and hugging you some more. You were even fine with selfies.

Those seven weeks were so good for you. Being apart was so worth it, seeing how happy you are, and what a good emotional space you are in.

You worked really hard at camp acquiring new skills, and you got your name on the banner for arts and crafts champion. I know you are proud of this. We certainly are, too.

You and I have just been hanging out in Portland in between camp and family camp, and having such a nice time the two of us. We never get this kind of time. You're funny and creative and charming and just a pleasure to spend time with.

Today you got a brownie ice cream sundae and said it was totally better than birthday cake. You're just in such a delightfully positive frame of mind. You were even pleasant about me poking a swab up your nose for the pre-camp Covid test at the drive-through.

Growing up we were so excited to go to the A&W drive-in and to eat hamburgers and drink root beef floats in our car. I know it sounds weird that this was exciting.

And now here we are, driving up to Walgreens and parking at the pharmacy window and poking swabs in our noses, putting them carefully in a tube of noxious liquid, and sealing them in a hazmat bag, all as instructed by the pharmacists behind glass and wearing a mask.

I will tell you that even with my overactive imagination, I could never have imagined this.

Root beer floats would be more fun. Although not poked up our noses. 

Happy birthday, my sweetheart!

You are such a treasure. I love you more than I can express. I love you so big. More than star twinkles. More than sunshine.

Love love love,

Mama

Friday, August 13, 2021

Today I am 52

Today is my birthday.

Honestly, I'm shocked that it's already August. Of 2021. How is it now so soon?

Friday the 13th birthdays are my favorite. I love it when it falls this way.

India and I just did this fun photo shoot to commemorate it. 

I found this dress on a street corner. I don't know how it is where you live, but here you can put stuff out on the curb and people will take it. I've gotten so me very nice drinking glasses. We've given some nice furniture and kitchen ware.

My favorite find, however, is this fabulous dress. Well, it's between this and a small, very old cast iron pan that works like a dream. 

Anyway, when people compiment me on this dress I always say, "Thanks! I got it from the street!"

Nick is all, "YOU NEED TO STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT."

But why? I enjoy that fact. It's like when someone likes your dress and you're all, "And it has pockets!"

I love compliments, I truly do. So this is not to deflect them. But I also love a bargain. If you tell me you got something amazing for like 70% off, I will always be impressed.

Which is not to say I wouldn't support you buying it at full price. If that makes any sense.

During the pandemic, I discovered the clothing of Jordan Piantedosi and it was like the clothes I'd been looking for all my life!

I ordered one and then another athleisure suit to lounge around in to brighten my mood. When I say this turned my life around, I mean it like this: there were months where I wore the same sweats for three days and nights straight, bathed, and then changed into the next set for the next several days.

I wasn't opposed to hygeine, but I wasn't seeking it out, either. Why did it matter, really?

And then I got these fun outfits and they made me feel better. India and I would go out and she'd instruct me to jump, twirl, pose. We giggled and giggled.

I would wear them out to walk Wanda and get random comments from neighbors, and some giggles, and that added to the joy. I was very low on joy.

Somewhere around there, my shrink and I also had a good fight with insurance to up my antidepressant and in the end we prevailed. And I don't know if that helped with joy, but it helped with the opposed of joy. Yoj?

I think this was last fall but it could've been winter or even spring. I don't know.

Last month in Maine friend Pam gave me some gummies to help with sleep. They were sturdy jelly rectangles, and you'd slice a quarter off of one as a starting dose.

I was staying at her house and I felt like they helped, and she said I could take them when I left.

So I took the packet and put it in my dopp kit with the rest of my traveling medicaments. When I took it out the following night, it turned out that in the heat of the car, they'd melted into a solid mass. It wasn't that they were inaccessible--just that you didn't know where one shape or flavor began or ended.

And this is exactly how I feel about pandemic time. 

It's one flexible, shimmery blob. Many things happened in there, some decent and some truly terrible, but I couldn't really tell you when, and I can't necessarily extricate them from other memories. Events have been conflated.

I don't know how much parsing them matters.

We have survived to this point and on the whole, I feel hopeful.

As many of you know, I look at my birthday as my own personal new year. I got my hair done yesterday to celebrate.

I think when my hair goes white I will leave it be, because that will suit my skin tone. The current ashiness of my blonde coupled with greys just flattens my skin tone. There's enough disappointment and flatness in life without adding my hair to it.

Anyway, today I asked India if we could do a birthday photo shoot. She's not always in the mood, but she is my favorite photographer. She has a great eye, and a fabulous sense of whimsy.


It was tremendously fun. India really gets into it and loves action shots that show the clothing. She'd currently like to be either a fashion designer or a supreme court justice, or maybe both. 

Whatever she does in life, I do hope she uses her powers for good. 

Since my last birthday I was diagnosed with Lyme disease (getting diagnosed and getting antibiotics was a struggle, I tell you). In the process they ruled out lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and a variety of other diseases. Thank goodness.

I have had two rounds of antibiotics, and I still have some joint pain but they don't really know why. So.

I've also gotten very into yoga, which honestly I wish I'd discovered before, and really it's my own damn fault for not, having grown up in India where opportunities abound.

But like all my other choices, I had to go about it the hard way, and perhaps just needed to find the right instructor at the right time.

You know I'm not a team player, as I've always had a horror of group activities. Also, yoga studios intimidated me. But this is different. These are friends, and we're pushing each other to be our best selves.

I've discovered yoga is one of very few activities that takes so much of my focus that all those annoying voices in my mind go silent. There's no making grocery lists or fretting about that one awkward thing I said, or whatever else my mind likes to tip toe through while I should be focusing.

It's super difficult and ultimately so relaxing.

Forgive me if my writing is awkward. 

These are muscles I've not used in so long. I think about writing and how much I miss it. But then I wonder what I would even say, when my creativity is at such a low ebb.

I need to just jump back on the wagon or bicycle or whatever that expression is. Get on the horse and lead it to water.

Can't make a sow's purse out of a rat's ass.

I love you all. Thank you for being on this life journey with me!

Love,

Lisa

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Twelve Mays

Twelve years ago today, my dad walked out the door of their house.

Twelve years ago tomorrow, we located him at the morgue.

Two weeks later, we brought him back to the house as a bag of ash.

I write this post every year. 

May has become easier than it was. Or anyway, today is.

This year I didn't realize it was May, or rather what May meant, until I did. Does that sound stupid? Yes. But I felt it in my body. I was having a hard time.

And then recently I realized: it's May. May is my month of loss.

May is the month my dad left and we don't know exactly which day he died. And maybe which exact day doesn't even matter but it still matters to me.

As such, I need to remember and honor these feelings and his loss.

Nobody else needs to remember this along with me, and yet my dear friends Vik and Jess always do. In the middle of the night, when I was up and reading in the quiet darkness I got a text that said, "*hugs*". This morning I awoke to an email with, "I love you". 

It's perfect.

These messages first go straight to my nose, where that weird prickle triggers tears. Then I feel them in my heart.

Or maybe they to to my heart and that tells my nose to prickle. I was never very sciency, although I don't know if that would explain it anyway.

And it's not like an inability to build a model solar house in high school determines your understanding of physiology for life.

You know, I almost wrote that that twelve years ago today my dad walked out of our lives, but honestly, as soon as my mom realized he was gone, our lives became all about locating him.

The question always was: Could we find him in time?

Six times he'd survived.

My brother told Nick that my dad did it for attention. 

My dad's psychiatrist told Nick that every attempt had been so severe, the fact that my dad was still alive made him, an atheist, want to believe in God.

Dad left us today, May 15, on a gorgeous day very much like this one. Humid, ripe with flowering life, full of promise. I suppose it was a day very much like me at the time, six moths pregnant, humid, ripe with flowering life, full of promise.

We found him on the 16th, at the morgue.

This is not new information to any of you who've known me for a while.

You know that my dad walked out and then we searched frantically for nearly two days, and then we knew.

I wished so badly in the days that followed that I weren't pregnant, so I could have a stiff drink or five, or knock myself out with Valium. 

I hated how present I was in my grief.

My life up to then had been so much about my dad. Monitoring and working around his moods, being fearful, being vigilant, searching frantically, begging and praying in the aftermath, cajoling him back to health.

Keeping the secrets, lying to friends, pretending we were fine.

When my dad was fun, he was so much fun. He was great to travel with. He loved London, so we stopped there every summer on the way back to visit grandparents. And he loved musicals, so he shared them with us from young ages. He took me to Evita when I was so small that he brought pillows to the theatre from me to sit on.

My dad was so bright, and he was so dark. I understand now that his mental illness shaped how I grew up. It determined where we lived, not just how we lived.

We left Egypt after two years, rather than four, because Dad was sick, though they didn't know what was wrong.

That was his first attempt.

And we kept the secret.

Dad should've been posted to another country after India, but we went back to the US, because Dad was sick.

That was his second attempt.

And we kept the secret.

His suicide attempts, living around them, working to keep him alive, defined me.

And what I see now was that my life after my dad died by suicide continued to be so much about him, about not having him, about how we lost him.

It continued to define me for so long.

The loss has become less painful, and no longer defines me, though I know it will always be a piece of me. But not the largest piece, not determining my day-to-day actions, or driving me by fear. 

But it's important.

Growing up with my dad has made me both more understanding of people's struggles and less tolerant of bullshit. 

I'm not willing to carry people the way I used to.

A friend of mine is coaching me with boundaries. Mine still aren't great, but I was raised with practically none, so I think I'm doing pretty well considering.

Anyway, it's been 12 years, and some of these anniversaries have been incredibly hard, and this year this one is easier. It's a spectacular day, and I'm about to take my dog for a walk.

And then friend is coming over to sit on our deck and catch up. Nick bought a bottle of Absinthe and he's going to make Absinthe cocktails.

I thuppothe it will make our hearts grow fonder.

Monday, May 03, 2021

When you need a train it never comes

Included for dramatic effect or something

I don't have a plan, and though I have a propensity to blurt out awkward little statements every once in a while, I'm not actually an impulsive person.

I always save dessert for last. Or for tomorrow.

Even as a kid I'd have waited on that marshmallow forever if I needed to.

I'm not even good at planning. So I guess that helps, too.

But sometimes, like today, I think things like: what if I just tripped in front of that huge, heavy truck? 

Sometimes, like today, I think it would be a relief to not be here anymore.

I know for a fact that it wouldn't be better for my family. I have been in spaces before where I didn't know that, and this right now space is not like that. I would be crushed to never see my kids again. 

I have also in other times been in a space where I didn't believe it would ruin there lives if I were no longer here. Not today; I know it would ruin their lives.

I yelled at my daugher after she spent 38 minutes, beginning the second she woke up, scream-crying about the Mondayness of Monday and also everything else. With two minutes left to go, two minutes till we were meeting her friend, she decided to change her outfit.

I'd been so good at sympathy and empathy for 38 screaming minutes, and then I lost it.

We put on her shoes and hustled her down the block, wailing like a banshee all the way.

I hate myself when I yell.

Sometimes I hate myself even when I don't yell.

Today is not one of those days. I don't hate myself.

Everything just feels very heavy and impossible.

Our house is such a mess. 

I think I killed or at least severely damaged my succulent by leaving it out in the sun.

There is so much laundry. So much. So much that I could probably burrow into it and fall asleep and it would be hard to find me.

There is so much everything. And it's all hard.

How come nothing is ever easy?

And then I feel like an asshole, because there are real people with real problems. Not that I'm not a real person. But my god, compared to so many people, my life is so easy.

It's not like it's a fucking tragedy to have housecleaning and too many dirty clothes to deal with.

It's more that I just...think it could be peaceful. Not to be here anymore, I mean. Not to be me anymore.

Like I said, I don't have a plan, and I don't lack impulse control. 

I know bad place this is brain chemicals, and this is temporary. I felt joy this weekend and I know I will again. It's not one of those dark empty places with no hope in sight.

I want to take my mom to the doctor and hug my kids after school and kiss my husband when he gets home. Oh, and walk Wanda.

I don't want to not be here to do these things. Or anyway, not all of me wants to not be here.

So really, I have a great grip on that stupid fucking marshmallow. Although I guess that makes it sound like suicide would be gratification. Which of course it's not.

Maybe I just needed to say all of this out loud. To acknowledge these feelings and remind myself of what they are. And to try to let them go.

This isn't a cry for help. Truly. 

I'm so solidly here, buried under the laundry.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What to wear while rooting through your neighbor's garbage

First of all, if you're wondering if I wear these outfits all the time, the answer is yes.

If you're further wondering if this is the outfit I was wearing while rooting through the neighbor's discards, the answer is also yes.

These suipersuits are improving my pandemic. My goal is to wear them as much as possible while it's still cold because once it's DC hot these will turn me into my own personal sauna.

(Which is pronounced SOW-na. So there.)

Anyway.

On Monday I bought this charming monstera that was just starting to fenestrate from a very nice guy in a plant group I joined a few months ago when I decided that plants would also improve my pandemic. I also bought homemade moss poles from him.

I'm currently considering a worm farm. Nick thinks this may be a bridge too far, much like putting one's penis though plantation shutters to greet the day is, in his opinion, insane.

So.

So I bought this monstera in a very nice pot, and it had a little plastic water-catcher under it in just the perfect size.

Which I accidentally left on the floor in the backseat of our car. I meant to go back and get it out, but I forgot.

And then that night Nick and I had a fight. And he drove the car yesterday.

Since I wasn't calling him and he wasn't calling me, I couldn't say oh by the way there's this plastic thing on the floor of the car that fits the pot of my new plant perfectly.

So last night when we were all back to fine, I mentioned it. And he said, "Oh. I got the car washed yesterday and I put it in the recycling."

I knew, I just knew, he did this maliciously. I didn't say this, however. Till this morning.

This morning Nick was being all lovey and I said, "I know you threw out that container at the car wash on purpose."

He was all, what?

I went on to explain that he clearly threw out the perfect-sized plastic water catcher thing because he was annoyed with me. 

And he said, "I was cleaning out the car. I also threw out a bunch of your mom's tissues that had wound up on the floor. There was no ill intent."

Betty always carries around no fewer than 47 tissues at any time, just in case. And...what he said made sense.

And he added, "They're just in the next door neighbor's recycling."

Oh!

There's a group house next to use which, when we first moved in, was full of mean girls, but it's gone through many iterations since then, and the inhabitants I've so far met there now are nice.

So I traipsed down and began rifling through the giant blue cans that DC uses for recycling. It wasn't on top. Or near the top. I had just decided that maybe it wasn't worth it to me when I heard a voice behind me say, "Hi, Lisa!"

I turned to see our across-the-alley neighbor smiling at me. He and his wife are great.

But I don't know either of them well enough to not seem weird in the neighbor's garbage.

So started to explain about the planter thingy and how Nick threw it out and it was the perfect size and seemed like a waste and...uh...it was starting to seem less worth it since it wasn't right on top and their recycling was kind of disgusting.

As I did this, I closed the bin and sauntered cheerily away from it, to show that I really wasn't digging in it anymore.

Our neighbor said, "Yeah. Digging in refuse can be kind of gross...That's a nice bright springy outfit!"

I thanked him and told him I was trying to cheer things up. It occurred to me that it was probably the perfect outfit, in fact, for trash rifling, because who would go out of their way to do something sketchy in so obvious a getup?

Once I'd thought of that, I felt a little better. Although still weird.

I wished him a nice day and hustled inside.

When I got in Nick asked if I'd found it and I said no, so he went out to look. He came in with it and said that actually, he realized after looking in the neighbor's that he'd put it in our recycling.

He was scrubbing his hands with very hot water. He said, "Our neighbors don't have a great grip on recycling. They had some broken china in there."

"We should totally tell them."

I mean, I do feel like we should, but how do you even start that conversation?

"So the other day I was picking through your recyclables..."

I think that's my bridge too far.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Comme il pleut sur la ville...

Every grey day, of which I believe we've lately had more than our share, I feel like I've never seen the sun. 

It's been raining my entire life.

Intellectually, I understand this is not the case. I have photo documentation. It was sunny on Monday. Maybe even Tuesday. Whichever day India and I did this fun photoshoot with my in my pink supersuit.

And incidentally, there is a photo of my butt that India took either before I jumped or after I landed, and she thinks it's so funny she wants me to put it on her birthday card. No lie.

Anyway.

I can't exactly remember if there was sun on Tuesday, because as I said, it's been grey my entire life.

When the sun is out, it's the best day ever. I feel like this is a childish response, but it is mine. The world is full of hope and I have energy. I'm filled with joy.

I can smile and leap. I know that I radiate happiness, and in the moment, it is true. I beam and it is genuine.

And when there is no sun, it takes all my willpower to get out of bed. Willpower and Nick saying, "Lisa. I need you to. Get. Up."

He has a tone. Nick, who is never affected by the vicissitudes of weather, never pulled up or bogged down by light or lack thereof.

He strides steadily forward in life, accomplishing all he needs to accomplish, never pausing to lament the cloud cover.

Nick has said before that he doesn't envy my lows, but he also doesn't experience the joy of my highs.

So it's been rainy and grey for at least two days or my entire life.

Unless you're with me, you don't know. I still post funny memes and use exclamation points and laugh emojis. (I also wear skinny jeans and have a side part, but that's a whole nother things.)

Yesterday, I turned on the car in the garage before I opened the garage door. Because we live in a place where things disappear quickly if the door is left open, we have it close automatically on a one-minute timer.

And even though we have a sensor, I have this fear that the door will come down on the car if I don't get out in time. So I get in, turn it on, adjust the seat and other bits to my size, start Waze, and generally do all the whatevers necessary to get myself to where I need to go prior to pressing the open button.

As I sat there organizing, I wondered briefly if our garage could fill with carbon monoxide, even though there's a large opening where we come in from the deck.

Would it be possible to sit in there and fall asleep forever?

It wasn't a plan, or even a wish, just a brief wonder.

These are the "just quit" whispers that I know not everyone has. Nick doesn't have a line he needs to keep from crossing, a bridge he sometimes sees.

I thank god that he doesn't. And I know my kids are more likely to.

This isn't any kind of cry for help. I'm fine. I know I've shared this essay before, but I just think it's such a good way of explaining how things are for some of us.

On Wednesday my son said he was absolutely not going to school in the rain.

He's back in a classroom. They're still doing school online, but they have someone in the room to help keep them on track. They get to see friends. They go outside for lunch and recess.

It has changed the state of his mental health.

This is currently only available to the kids who were in the most difficult situations, or who were struggling most online--and still, many turned it down. But we got to a point where it seemed worth the risk with Jordan.  

But Wednesday, with more rain, he was all, "This is the worst day ever. I'm NOT going to school!"

And I understood, oh, I understood. Every rainy day is the worst day ever, unless the sun is also shining, which almost never happens.

We cajoled him out the door, teeth unbrushed, because we could only choose between him brushing his teeth and putting on his shoes, and shoes seemed more critical for walking to and attending school.

He voices the extremes in my head. THE WORST DAY EVER.

Obviously, it's not the worst day ever. Hell, I know my worst day ever, and a plain old rainy day will never come close. But in the moment, I get it, I really do.

I think Tuesday might in fact have been sunny, because I think Nick woke me up and said, "It's sunny!" And I said, "Oh, thank God." And Nick said, "I know you mean that."

Sometimes I think about the spring my dad killed himself. It was a relentlessly grey spring. There was no sun.

They went to Hawaii to visit a friend, and it was unseasonably grey there, as well. 

The day Dad disappeared was sunny and spectacular, but I think by then he'd hit his limit. I know medication, or lack thereof, was the main problem. But I can't help but think that if it had been a glorious spring, he'd have held on longer.

I don't know. What do I know?

I mean, here's what I know: sun lamps are helpful for me, and so is medication. Getting outside always helps, even if it seems like the stinkiest idea ever. Fish oil is good for your brain. 

Wine is a false friend. So is sugar.

I didn't set out to have tea and Cadbury eggs for breakfast this morning, but sometimes that's how it shakes out.

And apparently the sun will come out tomorrow.

I mean really. Not because I'm trying to be all Orphan Annie about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

We are made of stardust

Dear beautiful Patti Jo,

This is one of my favorite photos. You and India met, and I felt like your souls connected.

You were immediately entranced with each other.

I think you look like woodland fairies in an enchanted garden.

I know you are in pain, and I'm so very sorry. I wish I could take it from you. I wish I could cradle you and soothe you, although I don't know that that would be of comfort at this point.

I love your grace, and your kindness, and your gentle manner. I love your humor, the twinkle in your eye, and your lyrical way with words. I love that you save animals, and then, when they get old and don't get out to exercise, you build them an apartment with multiple levels out of a bookcase, and entice them with treats to climb to the top.

I know those days are past, but they are the embodiment of you.

While we will not see each other again in this lifetime, we are made of stardust, and we are all connected, and that doesn't end when this life does.

I know I will see you everywhere.

I'll see you in the blue of the forget-me-nots, the kind we both used to enjoy in Grandma Margaret's garden. In the sparkle of the waves on Lake Superior. In the foghorns--such a hauntingly beautiful sound--reaching out to ships. In the incredible lake fogs, for that matter. The kind that surround you with a soft hug.

I will see you in those mysterious circular glints that show up in photographs, that I just know are loved ones saying hi. I take comfort in the thought that you will be in great company.

I'll see you in the clouds, in the sunshine, in the green of the trees.

For us, you will be everywhere.

You'll be the lush ferns, the birds, the doe in the woods near your house, dipping her graceful head to drink. The dogs and cats, tilting their heads to hear something that we cannot.

You'll be pie enjoyed on the road up the coast. M&Ms eaten giggling in your yard while playing your created games. Bridgman's ice cream. 

You'll sway in the wind like the elegant cattails, and take to the air and float freely.

Sometimes I lament the time we didn't have--the in-between time when we didn't know each other. But mostly I am grateful for the time we did have.

When you were a kid you used to sing, "My best friend is Charlene Foster." I didn't really know you then, and I certainly didn't know Charlene, but my parents told me the story. Or maybe your mom told us one summer. I cannot remember, but Betty and I sang it. It was catchy, somehow.

For me Duluth is all wrapped up with you, and you with Duluth. I come there for family and for memories, and I always will. 

And you gave me the gift of family. You gave me our ancestors, helped me come to peace with my dad and his parents. I think you gave my father peace, finally. 

You gave me the link to future generations, and that is a gift I will continue to share with my kids. I told Jen that now that I have her, I am not letting go.

You'll always be in the the thrill of rides on lakes, in the mud as the kids squish and play, in the splashes of water, and in the terrifying fun of being tossed by cousins into the water.

But most of all, you'll be in the safest, coziest of places, with the rest of our loved ones: in our hearts.

We are made of stardust, and we are all connected. And we always will be.

I love you now and I love you forever.

Lisa

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The window is open, so's that door/ I didn't know they did that anymore...

My mom and I are sitting in the living room drinking Prosecco.

I offered her a glass when she came downstairs around 1:00 pm.

I popped a bottle right at noon, to celebrate President Joe Biden. To celebrate Madam Vice President Kamala Harris.

The kids and I have been talking about a new president since, well, I guess since Trump won the election in 2016.

But we didn't then know we'd have added the joy of a biracial woman as vice president. A woman with an Indian mother!

---

When I decided to have a no-sugar January, and then decided to join Nick in dry January, one of my rules for myself was that January 20 could be a free-for-all. A big day of celebration with whatever.

I didn't join the kids in French toast dolloped with ice cream and berries. I meant to make a protein smoothie, but I needed to get dressed and put on makeup and walk the dog, and there was the inauguration to watch, and then India and I did a photoshoot in my new and fabulous Hypervigilance dress.

All this to say, I never did eat breakfast.

Proseccos is grapes, though. So I guess I had fruit for breakfast?

---

A couple weeks ago, I happened across this amazing and adorable possum design on Instagram. 

I clicked on it, and it took me to the account of Jordan Pientadosi. Her words resonated with me and I  immediately wanted to buy one of pretty much everything on her site.

I believe in art, and supporting artists, and I also feel strongly in wearing clothing that brings me joy and/or makes me giggle.

So I ordered the Hypervigilance dress and as soon as it arrived, I put it on and decided I needed to wear it for the inauguration.

I mean, look! It has ten swords, including one on each arm! Powerful! It has so many eyes!


 It is comfy for sitting around with the dog!

And! I seriously feel like I could kick someone's ass while wearing this if I needed to.

I felt like that was appropriate for the occasion.

I'm lounging around in it all day.

Naturally, for Kamala Harris, I added pearls and Chucks. The only Chuck Taylors I have are gold, but that seemed about right, too.

---

India is all about fashion.

She offered to take multiple photos of me. Since I don't often put on makeup and get dressed in real clothes anymore, and since this is a momentous occasion, I was delighted.

I maybe got her to take more photos than she was all that interested in taking. But I'm still delighted.

---

Betty thought the Prosecco was so tasty that she poured herself a second glass.

She just turned to me and said, "Is Prosecco alcoholic?"

Yes, Mama. Yes, it is.

 ---

I believe in love and I believe in art. 

I also believe in democracy.

I believe we have to pull ourselves back from toxic capitalism, where the wealthy just get wealthier by taking advantage of the poor.

I believe that people like Nick's older sister, who keep calling us "Socialists", don't actually know that schools and roads and anything that benefits people as a whole is a socialist construct.

I don't know if I believe, but I certainly hope, that intelligence will prevail. Intelligence and kindness.

After more than four years, I once again feel hope. Here I am, watching the inauguration intently.

I believe that everything important comes back to love.

Happy Inauguration Day!

Love!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid vaccine and DC lockdown

Let me start by saying that I am so thankful that my mom got her first Covid vaccine. Truly thankful.

Perhaps more so because it almost didn't happen.

And I'm grateful that it was last week because getting across DC would be a nightmare this week. 

Let me add that I'd like to know why NJ State Police cars are parked around the corner from us.

I thought we were about a half a mile north of the designated Green Zone. 

And is it so crazy that we have red and green zones  and police and National Guard in DC right now because our politicians need to be protected from armed Americans?

I mean, we see a lot of police in DC. And we hear a lot of helicopters. But not like this.

A few months ago, the kids and I were out walking when a police car sped around the corner.

I said, "It's the po po!"

And India responded, "Act natural!"

So now that's what we say when we see them. We do our best.

But back to Betty.

I don't know if it's improved since last Monday, but the DC scheduling website was kind of horrendous. You had to enter all your data and fill in those annoying letters and numbers in Captcha twice before it would tell you that the location you selected didn't have any vaccine.

While I was on the site, I was number 125 on phone hold to speak to someone.

Finally I found a clinic in NE that had appointments available. I snagged one for last Wednesday.

As we drove across town Wednesday, there were lots of police cars and people putting up fencing and placing jersey walls.

I've only seen photos of the security downtown, but Nick goes to his office every day. He can't drive or take the bus because of all the roads blocked off. So he bikes.

I asked him to please wear flannel plaid so he kind of blends more.

We live north of the blocked-off area so up to now we haven't seen a big police presence in our neighborhood, but it's very disconcerting.

I am nervous about this week, particularly, of course, Wednesday.

And speaking of, I got a kick ass dress that I am going to wear Inauguration Day. It has 10 swords on it, and lots of eyes. Very powerful. I'm excited.

Anyway, for the shot we drove across town, which gives me anxiety, because driving places I don't know makes me anxious.

Which may sound odd, because I'm always proposing we jump in the car and drive somewhere like Colorado. But it's more cities that make me anxious. Highways are fine.

In fact, I got my first in-person speeding ticket on a highway in Indiana last summer. The officer clocked me going well above speed limit.

Fortunately, I'd slowed down before going by him. I'd been going rather fast.

Which reminds me. Nick handed me a photo ticket the other day. He was all prepared to lecture me. I could tell. He that look. He had a tone. 

He was starting to talk about responsibility and being careful, when I looked at the date and the location of the ticket.

I was all, "Wait, when was I in that neighborhood? What date?"

In fact, I wasn't.

So I suggested that perhaps he should be more responsible and pay more attention.

I will admit to feeling a little smug at that point.

But finally, back to Covid.

I got Betty this precious, hard-to-get appointment all the way across town. Nick printed out the confirmation, and she had her license and insurance.

I'd registered her with her name, her birth date, and our address. I gave my email and phone number so we couldn't miss the confirmation.

We left with plenty of time. We got there a few minutes early.

India and I waited in the car. We'd each brought a book, and were settled in reading. And after about 10 minutes, my mom came out.

I asked how it was and she said they wouldn't give her the shot. Because the information was wrong.

She handed me the paper with the confirmation code to scan and said they wouldn't give her the shot. Because the email was in my name. They told her she didn't have an appointment. 

When I knew for a fucking fact that she did. I was all, "Like hell you don't have an appointment. They're not giving you that shot!"

I threw on my mask and marched into the clinic with her close behind. I went up to the desk with the papers.

I very nicely but extremely firmly told the receptionist that they'd my mother out but she absolutely had an appointment. I said that it was under my email, but that's because she's 83 and doesn't email. I pointed out that the confirmation email was addressed to Betty. The name above the scanner code was Betty. They'd called me the night before asking for BETTY Jordan. 

 She. Was. Registered.

The woman took my mom's information and headed to the back.

A nurse came out to confirm the information. Then another one came out and said that the registration was under my name, but they'd switch it to Betty and give her the vaccine.

I didn't argue about the fact that they were mistaken and I had proof. I almost burst into tears, so relieved she'd be getting the shot.

I stayed inside until they called her back. I was super tense.

Honestly, I think that if an 83 year old person turns up in the correct time slot but there is some detail that is not correct, they should still give that person the shot.

The more people vaccinated, the better for everyone.

In fact, I think they should load up vaccines and medical personnel into ice cream trucks and drive through neighborhoods playing 40s and 50s-era music to entice senior citizens out and then just give them all the vaccine.

But that's just me.

Truly, my mom getting the vaccine is the best thing that's happened to me for as long as I can remember.

We return in February for her second dose.

What is happening with Covid shots (or police presence) where you live?

Monday, January 11, 2021

WTFness of 2021

Many of my friends, perhaps including you, expected 2021 to be a fresh new start.

Goodbye 2020 Dumpsterfire! Hello, 2021!

WTF, 2021? 

It's like Dante's Beatrice ushered us in, and we all popped pomegranate seeds.

I won't recap the terrifying goings-on in DC. But I will say that Nick's office is near the White House, and I was super twitchy about him biking to work because roads were closed and we'd all been asked to stay out of downtown. 

And he was all, "Lisa. I look like one of them."

Which...is true. 

In angry moments I sometimes remind him that he's part of the patriarchy.

---

Sometime in December, I read this article, and I decided that it was time for me to get my nutritional house in order.

My sleep is never restful, and much of this, I am afraid, is age and hormone related. But I was also eating like a kid in a candy store.

When I tell you that all through December I had peppermint bark with breakfast, and cookies and pastries all day long, and more treats well into the evening, I'm not exaggerating. Sugar and sugar and sugar.

So I decided that in January I would limit myself to sugar in my morning tea. 

Nick decided to do dry January, and I've since learned there's a term: Dryuary. Apparently scads of people do this after the excesses of the holidays. So I figured I'd join for support.

Alcohol, fortunately, is not one of my problems. It easily could be, as we have alcoholism on both sides of the family.

I think if they'd been medicated--or properly medicated, or willing to stay on meds--it could have been different. There was a lot of self-medication going on.

But I don't need to get all heavy here.

I had a tiny glass of prosecco on the first, really a few sips, to usher in what I believed would be a good year. I had a hard kombucha on the sixth, to celebrate the wins in Georgia and to recognize the terrifying nature of the attempted coup. 

I haven't yet turned to sugar, my preferred comfort, my snuggle friend, my favorite nighttime dance partner.

Honestly, I'm not looking for perfection; I'm looking to break habits and head toward healthier eating.

This is happening. We are having more vegetables--although let me be honest, anything is more, because many days in December we had zero, much to my shame. But we're again having vegetables at dinner, sometimes with lunch, sometimes as snack.

Friends suggested monk fruit and allulose as sugar substitutes. So far I've only tried the monk fruit, and it is the best not-sugar I've tasted. If allulose is even better, I'll be delighted. It's very very close to sugar and almost not at all weird.

I've kept to sugar in my tea, because milky sugary tea is a pleasure. I'm just lessening the amount of sugar in a teaspoon. Friends had warned that this would be a gateway to sugar cravings, and maybe it has, but I've satisfied them with fruit or dried fruit.

And maybe it's the dried fruit, or the upped vegetables, but something has been seriously giving me crazy gas. I told Nick that fortunately all these farts aren't all that stinky, and he was like, uh, yes, they are. 

Oh.

I guess this means I could live up to my imagined porn star name.

Anyway.

My sleep is still fairly fractured. So far I haven't started sleeping solidly and waking refreshed and ready to charge into the day. 

But it's like Nick says: "You never wake up and regret not drinking." 

This is how I feel about sugar. 

---

And I had an appointment with my psychiatrist last week. A check-in, since he'd upped my medication dose in the fall, after a long struggle with insurance to allow it.

(Can we get rid of for-profit healthcare already?)

Shortly beforehand, I asked Nick if he had anything he wanted me to tell my shrink. He and my mom keep an eye on me, as I recognize I'm not always a good judge of the state of my mental health. I know this, even though I forget sometimes.

And I still have to really think about how I'm doing instead of just automatically saying, "fine" when talking to a mental health professional. I believe I no longer have the urge to lie, but that could be because I haven't ditched my meds lately. 

Which I hopefully will not do again. 

So Nick, my beloved, said, "I think you're doing better."

I'm well acquainted with The Better. The Better annoys me. He'll say better as a compliment, which, I mean, it's preferable to worse. But it's something I don't know what to do with.

Now, the man was not raised with compliments or praise. It was more like criticism to motivate improvement.

As such, he's pretty reserved with praise. And I love to dollop compliments on people. Sincere ones. It just feels good to me.

So knowing our differences, and wanting to report accurately about the state of my mental health, I said, "Do you think I'm doing WELL? Or just BETTER? Because better than terrible might be better, but still is not so good."

He said, "You're definitely doing better. You can still be pretty sardonic sometimes."

I said I didn't really know what sardonic meant, and he said extremely sarcastic. And I was like, well, yeah.

So I said, "OK. I'm going to tell him I think I'm doing pretty well and you said I'm doing better but still a little too sarcastic for your taste."

At which point India piped in with, "Mama. You're getting so much better at driving! I'm very proud of you! You're less anxious about parking!"

I laughed and thanked her. Sincerely. I have tremendous anxiety parking our new car in the garage and I do think I've gotten better.

She added, "And you're very good at sarcasm, Mama! I'm working on it, too!"

May 2021 get so much better for all of us!