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Laurie Gould: Don

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Ringtones in the Mourning

Two nights ago I went to a shivah minyan.  In case you don't know, a shivah minyan is an observance at the home of  Jew who has lost an immediate family member, a chance for friends and community members to offer comfort, support, and coffee cake.   This minyan was at the home of a not-particularly-intimate friend from my synagogue, after the passing of his 90-year-old mother.

After our household's end-of-the-day rush I was a bit late to arrive at this gathering, and the prayer service was already underway.  The living room was mobbed with a tight circle of family and friends.  The rabbi encouraged us latecomers to make our way to the few empty chairs at the back of the crowd on the other side of the room -- a journey that involved climbing over a couch-full of the bereaved and stepping over a dozen or so laps and sets of legs..  Looking at the obstacle course and then at my huge purse, I thought the better of it and left my bag in the vestibule, under my coat, before wading my way across to a discreet spot in the rear.

So we sing some songs (“life is like a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is to cross without fear”), and we have some sensitive Marge Piercy readings; and I am musing about mortality, and about the loss of my own father last winter, and about how precious is it for a community to come together to support each other in times of sadness.

And then I remember that my phone is on.  What is worse, I turned the ringer up to full volume while cooking dinner earlier in the evening so that if anyone called, I'd hear it over the noise of frying onions.

In case you’re wondering why I was worried, here’s my current ringtone:

Be it Resolved

It is January, and naturally I am fussing over my New Year's resolutions.   Specifically, I am fussing because I don't have any.   Quite a few years ago I resolved to eat more vegetables and to exercise regularly.  And then I started doing those things.  So with the iconic New Year's resolutions lapsing into personal irrelevance, I find myself at a loss.

Well, that's not entirely true.   I did make one resolution the other day, boldly, in front of my children.  "This year," I announced, "I am going to make more of an effort to work the expression 'polishing the turd' into conversation."

It's a fine expression, and a good resolution.   2016 will surely improve with more references to polished turds.  But there are only so many turds one can polish in a year's utterances.  It still seems to me I'm leaving something on the table, New Year's Resolution-wise. 

Really, though, while there are undoubtedly a lot of things I personally could do to make 2016 truly fabulous, there are so many more things the rest of the population could do to improve my quality of life.   In a truly communitarian spirit, then, I have decided that this year, I am going to make my New Year's Resolutions for other people.

So here goes:

The Music Biz and Me

The past month has been deeply heartening for singer-songwriters everywhere.   Three weeks ago, British superstar singer-songwriter Adele released her new album, “25.”  This is her third album, following her first, “19,” recorded when she was (you guessed it) nineteen years old, and her second album, “21,” recorded when she was 22½. 

Yesterday I read in The Guardian (a highly-respected British paper that I read whenever I look up facts about Adele) that "25" has sold 5 million copies in its first three weeks of release.   This, at a time when musicians everywhere despair of making a decent living by selling their original recorded music!    Adele has shown to the world, over 5 million times, that people will indeed still fork $$ over to listen to new songs from beloved recording artists.  You go, girl!

As a singer-songwriter, I have found Adele’s success to be enormously inspiring.   I am a bit behind Adele, as it happens, with only two albums of original music to date:  “Songs of Domestic Bliss,” released when I was 45, and “Don’t Check the Box!,” released earlier this year, a few months after my 50th birthday.   Like Adele’s, my fans have been flocking in droves to purchase my new release!   Sales to date, five months after the album's release:

Keeping it clean

Today I am going to write about personal hygiene.

I am writing this, in fact, right out of the shower, after a somewhat sweaty yoga class.  I feel clean and fresh and overall pretty great.   Clean is pretty much my favorite way to be.  Of course I am a gardener, so at the right time of year I like nothing better than getting covered in dirt from head to toe.  But part of the delight is the shower afterwards, the chance to start grimy and end sparkling (except for that bit of dirt that gets ground into my fingers in April and never really scrubs off until October).  

I am a daily bather, as were my parents before me, and I raised my children to be daily bathers, as well.  Alas, the younger generation no longer believes in bathing.  My older daughter was in college for about 20 minutes when she apparently learned from her peers that it is not actually necessary to bathe every day.  Less than a year later my younger daughter learned the same "fact" at music camp (music camp!  So much for the notion of the arts as a high-minded pursuit!)

So how much should I be worried about the younger generation's more relaxed standards of personal hygiene?   For answers, I turned to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, figuring that I could rely on them to give me cause for alarm.

Following the Rules

It's time for a little trash talk. 

Thursday is trash pickup day on our street.   Last Wednesday evening, I wheeled my City-issued garbage bins to the curb.  

By Thursday evening, the green recycling bin was empty but the blue garbage bin was still full.  So I filed the online form to report a missed trash pickup.

On Friday morning the bin was emptied, but this sticker was affixed to the lid:

 

Yoga song -- a new video!

Thanks to my wonderful friend and co-conspirator Sheree Galpert for joining in the fun:

 

Woman of Leisure

I am now going to make a shocking confession, and the confession is this:

I am not particularly busy.

My husband is out of town; my one child still living at home is occupied with her over-scheduled 17-year-old life.   I tried to make plans for the weekend with friends; but they are mostly....busy.  Which I, at the moment, am not.

 

Me and Mr. Pavlov

Anyone who has tried to write knows how very easy it is not to.  I do love writing this blog, but getting down to it can be a challenge. There are so many other more compelling activities!  Checking my email.  Ironing the kitchen towels.  Whipping up a pan of brownies.  Eating up a pan of brownies.

To counteract my natural tendency to do anything but write, I try to structure routines that might eventually make writing almost automatic.  In particular, I do my best to write while I am sitting at a certain downtown Boston coffee shop which I frequent on Saturday afternoons, while I am waiting for my daughter to finish her clarinet lesson at Symphony Hall down the street. 

You have surely heard of the great Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his seminal work on the "conditioned response."  Ring a bell each time a dog is fed, and eventually the bell alone, absent the food, will be enough to provoke the dog to salivate.  This is my plan for Saturdays at the Pavement Coffee Shop:  eventually the simple act of walking through the door will provoke the conditioned reflex:   MUST.....WRITE....BLOG!

Packing the farm

Last night I got into my husband's car and was assaulted by a swarm of fruitflies and the unmistakable odor of fermentation.  Steve acknowledged that matters were amiss:  "There's gotta be something under one of the seats; but I looked and I couldn't find it."

Fortunately I have been practicing yoga recently, and by breathing deeply from my belly and finding Threading the Needle pose I was able to contort my arm under the front seat to extract an unspeakably icky something in an advanced stage of decay. 

I'm pretty sure that it was one of these lovely Italian prune plums that Steve bought at the farmers' market near his office:

You Gotta Ac-Cent-uate the Negative

The week after Labor Day is always a wistful one, as we say goodbye to summer's leisure and get back to the business of business and school.   This year it was a particularly wistful week for me, since this is my last year of having a school-aged person living at home.  My younger child is a senior in high school, so I am less than a year away from an empty nest.   I'm sure that this next phase of my life will be full of adventure and freedom and opportunity, and I will embrace it with great enthusiasm when it comes.  But after nearly 23 years of being Mom first and foremost, this is a poignant moment indeed.

I have been doing lots of yoga and meditation over the past year; and if I have learned anything, it's that there is great strength to be found in living in the moment.   I can choose a constructive mindfulness rather than wallowing in anxiety about the future.  I need to focus on the present, to fully embrace the experience that I am having right now.

And so I am approaching this coming transition in a constructive, mindful way.   I am choosing to focus on the stuff I hate right now about having children at home, things in the now that I will not miss at ALL.

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