Women Who Inspire

I am honored to be featured today on my friend Whitney’s blog, on her Women Who Inspire series.

What a treat!  I’ve known Whitney for 20 years and love what she’s doing with her blog and with this series in particular.  As I wrote, I think there is still a long way to go in rewriting the script that women are competitive and out to cut each other down.  That has very rarely been my experience and I am thankful for every small step to showing that women can support, esteem, and build each other up.  This series is one of those steps. Thank you! I’m honored to be included.

You can see Whitney’s wonderful feature here.

The Alphabet of Right Now

Hello?  Is this thing on?  Sorry.  Life has been a little “full” lately.  But I wanted to do an exercise I’ve done approximately every couple of years … now feels like the right time. Past alphabets are here: 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017.

The Alphabet of Right Now:

Aquaphor – it’s my duct tape: I swear it holds the universe together.  Also: airplanes.

Bombas – Obsessed.  Not only do I wear these socks every day, I give them to lots of folks for gifts.  I know.  Socks don’t seem that exciting.  But they really are that good!

Composting – 2019 was the year we finally started composting!  Thank you to my friend Jess for motivating me.  Also: coffee.

Dad – I miss him every single day, and I always will.

Early – I am an early person.  I get up early, I go to bed early, I arrive places early.  I don’t think this is going to change, and I’m okay with it.

Family – Ground zero, always, no matter what. Also: friends.

Grateful – I am. More and more. For all of it, mess and beauty, darkness and light, every single thing.

Harry Potter – Still one of m very favorite books/series.  Actually, my favorite character in all of fiction (a question I’m asked surprisingly often) is from the series but is not Harry himself.  It’s Dumbledore.

Instagram – My favorite social media site by a mile.  I love how I feel in touch with people just through Instagram (though I also recognize the fallacy of that).  Please come find me there!

Jigsaw puzzles – Still my favorite way to relax.  I find doing 1000 piece puzzles on our dining room table incredibly therapeutic.  It’s one of the only activities where I truly turn my thoughts off.

Kombucha – Our whole family is into it, kids and adults both.  I’ve pondered making our own but an intimidated.

Library – I’m a devoted patron of my local library.  I order books and when they come in I head around the corner.  I love all the librarians, who know me by name, and often have quick talks about what they’re reading.  Honestly, the library is one of my favorite parts of my life.

Maiden name – I use it (Mead) for work and for writing. Especially with Dad gone, it feels like a vital link to him.  In retrospect, I might not have changed my name at all, but it’s nice to have both.

New York Times crossword – I do one or more on my phone every day.  I do Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and sometimes Wednesday.  For Thursday-Saturday I go into the archives and do Monday or Tuesday puzzles.  I’m not above using google for an answer either.

On Being 40(ish) – A true highlight of last year (and of my life) was the release of this book.  Our paperback comes out next week!  Cool new cover.  I am biased, entirely, but I think this collection is a great gift (and a great read in general).

Podcasts – I listen to them when I run.  Lately, have been listening to The Baron of Botox and Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein.  I’d love recommendations here!  Also: pajamas.

Qwerty – I type really fast, and I have since I learned in 6th grade.  An excellent life skill.  Correlated: my handwriting has gotten terrible.

Reading – My favorite thing to do, then, now, and always.  It’s kind of weird that someone as type A as me doesn’t keep a list of all the books they read but I don’t.  I probably read 2-3 books a week though.  I can’t go to sleep without reading.

Sleep – As I get older, more and more important.  There’s very little that’s more important to me than getting a good night of sleep, and I’m willing to do a lot to help in that area (turn off my phone at least 30 minutes before bed, meditate almost daily, basically stop drinking wine).

Teenagers – I have two of them.  Yes, there’s occasional moodiness, but I must say that on the whole I love having young adult children.  They are interesting, entertaining, funny, and only maddening some of the time.  How I can have teenagers when I still feel like a teenager myself is something I cannot answer, though.

Useful – More and more, something I want to be.

Vertigo – Probably the scariest health experience I’ve had is the couple of weeks I had bad vertigo.  I live in fear if it coming back.

Whitman – My son’s name, for my sister (her middle name).  I love it.

X – yeah, I don’t know.

Yoga – I’ve been practicing weekly or more for 22 years.  I never, ever want to go to yoga and I’m always, 100% of the time, glad I went.  My favorite pose is Half Moon.  What’s yours?

Zoo – I don’t like them and never have.  Something about all those wild animals in the middle of a city makes me sad.


The end of October 2019

A few random thoughts at the end of October.

  1. These are the darkest mornings of the year.  I think this every year, in the weeks leading up to the clocks going back.  Because I am an early riser I spend my first hour or two in darkness now.  I used to find this depressing, but in a strange way I find it comforting now.
  2. I went to Costco this weekend and was incredibly conscious for some reason of the massive number of individual plastic water bottles they sell.  There was more than one person with a cart full simply of water bottles.  I’m fine with the push to eliminate straws, but I do wonder if we’re missing the forest for the trees.  Plastic water bottles (and individual plastic cups) seem like a much bigger problem.  Please stop using individual water bottles, people!
  3. My spinning class on Monday morning played Landslide and I thought yet again of how much I love that song.  It feels like yesterday I wrote about Landslide here (and then I revisited it here) and since that day I’ve thought of it as an anthem of sorts for this parenting journey.  This LIFE journey.  It’s only getting more true.
  4. I started reading Wild Game at last.  Wow.  I highly recommend.
  5. I don’t write about politics much (or ever, other than my post on the eve of the 2016 election) but it’s not a secret that I’m not a Trump fan.  I’ve been saying since he was a candidate that of the many things I find deeply objectionable about him possibly the top of the list is how poorly spoken he is.  For this reason I adored Frank Bruni’s column in this weekend’s Times.

Happy end of October, all.  The decade draws to a close.  Onward.

The Alphabet of Right Now

Last night’s sunset

Four separate times on this blog I’ve shared my Alphabet of Right Now (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015). The time felt right for the fifth installment!

Part of the inspiration for this was the general every-other-year cadence I’ve been settling into with my alphabets, but it was also because of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, whose passing in March I noted with sorrow.  Her beautiful book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, has been on my mind since hearing of her tragic death.  This feels like an exercise she might do, or at least one she would celebrate.  Without further preamble, here is my Alphabet of Right Now.

All-Boys – I’m really excited for Whit to be going to an all-boys school in the fall.  Random segue, but if you don’t know the work of Michael Thompson, I highly recommend it.  Just this weekend I read his interview about How to Invest in Boys and found it, like I found all of his work, resonant, wise, and powerful.

Bittersweet – The definition of right now. I am so, so proud of Grace and of Whit, but I also feel overcome with sorrow that this particular season of life is ending.  Both. At once. In every single minute.

Coffee – This is not a new “c,” but it’s an ever-more-important part of my days.  Years ago Matt and I bought a coffeemaker you could pre-set the night before, and every single morning, without fail, I’m delighted by the fresh coffee waiting for me.  It’s a highlight of my day.

Daylight – The days are so long now, and it’s light when we wake up and light past dinner. I know I’m not alone in loving the light. In recent years I’ve come to love the darkness, too, but there’s certainly a surge of something in this season, when everything feels light and alive in the world.

Early – I’ve been waking up really, really early. Earlier than usual. Sometimes I run, but sometimes I feel exhausted and I don’t. I wish I was getting more sleep, but I admit I like the quiet pre-dawn time to myself, too.

Friends – As always, my dear friends shape my life and provide structure, support, and laughter to and in every day.  Particularly now, as I look ahead to a different season of life, I am grateful for the friends whose nearness, literal or metaphorical, buoys me.

Graduation – Both Grace and Whit will celebrate graduations this spring, from 6th and 8th grade (and eah from one of our school’s distinct campuses) respectively. I know they’ll be particularly charged because both children are leaving their current school.  The end of the school year always carries with it a swirl of emotions for me, and that’s more heightened than ever this year.

Hockey Whit’s team won their division for the first time in our 5 years doing town hockey (and in a rematch of their only other finals outing, against the same team, in the same way). Then they lost the divisional playoff in heartbreaking fashion. As often happens, I found myself grateful for all the ways that team sports educate our children, for all the lessons on and off of the ice.

Italy – Grace, Whit and I had the most wonderful time in March in Rome.  For a week we were just the three of us, walking around, exploring, playing cards, eating pizza, on the verge of returning home and making big decisions and embarking on sweeping changes.  Our visit was sheer magic and I won’t ever forget it.

Jigsaw puzzles – I love puzzles, and do them often.

Kombucha – I am way into Health-Ade Kombucha, especially the Pink Lady Apple flavor. Highly recommend.

Lamott – I’ve always loved Anne, as do many, and her most recent book, Hallelujah Anyway, runs through my head on a daily basis.

Mysteries – I am deep in a phase of reading legal thrillers.  The whole Alex Cooper series by Linda Fairstein (which I wrote about for Great New Books), David Baldacci, John Grisham, Michael Connelley.  These aren’t all I’m reading (see “L”) but I am definitely enjoying plot-driven fiction right now.

No – Saying no is not new for me, but I’m saying no to basically everything that doesn’t revolve around family or work right now.

OpenI’ve written before about being porous, and I’ve never in my life felt more that way than right now. Everything – beautiful and brutal, glorious and gruesome, heartbreaking and happy – pierces me.

Poetry – I’ve been turning to Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Adrienne Rich, and other familiar voices as I grapple with a time of earthquake-style change.  There’s no question, as I’ve said before, that poetry is my lingua franca, the language my soul speaks.

Quotes – Are a lifelong preoccupation of mine. I cherish the small stack of quote books that I’ve been keeping since 1985.  I share some of my favorites here on Thursdays (and the archive is here).

Reunions – I am staring down my 25th reunion in a couple of weeks.  How is this possible?  Yet another experience of time’s ability to be both inexorable freight train and dizzying, telescopic roller coaster.

Summer – None of us can wait, for more unstructured time, for long weekend days together, for sitting on the porch with my parents, for tennis and swimming and sleeping in.  My favorite time of the year.

Teeth – Grace is about to get her braces off.  I’m looking forward to seeing her teeth again, though I know she’ll instantly look like the young woman she already is. Yet another end.

Uncertainty – Don’t like it, never have, never will. Unfortunately I feel afloat in a sea of uncertainty right now.

Veterinarian – What Grace wants to be when she grows up.

Waiting for My Real Life to Begin – It was Gloria, in March, who put this song back in my head, and now I can’t stop hearing it.  It feels particularly, utterly right for right now, a season of endings and beginnings where I need to remember all the time that this is just a moment in my life, and to see through the clouds of emotion that cloud my vision. I’ve written about this particular song before, but it remains central and seminal: just be here now.  It doesn’t escape me that it’s Grace’s real life that’s, in many ways, about to begin.

X – Impossible.

Years – Flying by. “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

Zigzag – The way I experience life.  My experience of time is rarely linear: it spirals and returns again and again to memories that did may not have seemed important as I lived them, then abruptly spikes forward, accelerating into the unknown before returning again.  I think often the switch-back roads in the Alps we drove when I was a child, my dark-haired father at the wheel, my sister next to me in the backseat.  I always got carsick on those drives, and sometimes, as I confront time, I feel that way still.

Proust questionnaire

I love minutiae and questionnaires.  I have a whole category on this blog for “meaningless minutiae.”  It’s not a secret that I don’t think all minutiae is that meaningless, actually.  I’ve answered the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire before, but not for several years.  Clearly some answers will never change, while others fluctuate with the years of our lives.  I would love to hear any and all of your answers!

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Where would you like to live?
Cambridge, Massachusetts

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Evenings and weekends when all four of us are at home, puttering around peacefully.  Getting into bed with my book.  A cold glass of wine with ice in it on the porch of my parents’ summer home.  My annual weekend with my college friends.  Having run. Shavasana at the end of a yoga class.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Over-sensitivity. The faults of those who doubt themselves.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Dumbledore.  He will always be number one.  Also, John Ames in Gilead, Harry Potter, and the butler in The Remains of the Day.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, Georgia O’Keeffe, Anne Frank.

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
Ina May Gaskin, Oprah, Anne Lamott.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Hermione (Harry Potter), Cora (The Underground Railroad), Charity Lang (Crossing to Safety), Lyra (His Dark Materials), Eve (Paradise Lost), Mrs Ramsay (To the Lighthouse).

Your favorite painter?
Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, Helen Frankenthaler.

Your favorite musician?
James Taylor.

The qualities you most admire in a man?
Humor, calm, intelligence, and the difficult-to-define, difficult-to-find ability to make me feel safe.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?
Not taking herself too seriously, but not being flip either.  Willingness to say what she believes.  Ability to make her life reflect her true values.  Not complaining.

Your favorite virtue?
Patience. Faith. Commitment. Resilience.

Your favorite occupation?
I am pretty sure I’ll never be able to pick just one. When I was a child, I wanted to be a doctor.

Who would you have liked to be?
Someone more centered, more confident, more clear.