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‘Ain’t Life Grand’ Category

  1. Today I’ll Feel Joy, No Matter What

    October 14, 2016 by Diane

    Start Each Day Like Its Your Birthday quote

    Today I’ll find a reason to feel joy. It doesn’t need to be a good reason. It can be real or imagined, big or trivial. It can be the smile someone sends me, or the smile I send to someone. It can be the penny I find, and the happy dance I do in celebration, or the unexpected gift of one thousand dollars (come on, universe!). It can be the time I spend at the ocean hand in hand with a terrific guy, even if that time is spent in my imagination. It can be the chocolate Javiva from Peet’s that I take to the park, along with a sigh-worthy romance novel. It can be the smell of a book, the taste of a cupcake, the hug from a friend, a new pair of shoes, the view of the mountains from a hiking trail, the sound of rain on the leaves at night, and the feel of cool, fresh, moist air through the window. Today I’ll find a reason to feel joy.

    Today I’ll find a reason to laugh. It doesn’t need to be a funny reason. It can be for no particular reason. It can be while sitting in my car at a stop light, or while walking in the neighborhood in the evening. It can be while folding laundry, washing dishes, taking out the recycling, slicing strawberries and bananas for my granola, or pausing in nature. It can be because of a screwy thought I have, or an odd comment I overhear, or a mistake I’ve made one too many times. It can be while watching an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD, or while talking to my mother on the phone. Today I’ll find a reason to laugh.

    Today I’ll find a reason to shove my anxiety aside. It doesn’t need to be a big reason. It can be small or silly, real or imagined. It can mean setting aside, for five minutes, my worry over the weird pains in my head and the fact that I’m getting older. It can mean sending my short story to someone to read, even if it’s not perfect. It can mean driving over a bridge in the rain, or looking someone intimidating in the eye, or refusing to engage in the latest political discourse. It can mean observing, with great compassion, the adrenaline shooting through my nervous system, and not reaching for an Ativan. Today I’ll find a reason to shove my anxiety aside.

    Today, and every day, I’ll find a reason to feel joy, to laugh, and to set aside my anxiety, no matter what.

    This is my birthday wish.

    This is my birthday wish for you, too.

    Every moment, we’re born anew. And every moment is a gift, an opportunity to experience joy, merriment, and peace.

    Happy birthday, world!

  2. You Can Be the Hero In Your Job Again

    October 2, 2016 by Diane

    child playing with toy airplane

    We played at working, remember?

    We played house and war and spy and doctor and pilot.

    Of course, it wasn’t the real deal. We didn’t clock in and pull double shifts. We weren’t hiding in bunkers as real bullets landed true. It wasn’t us telling a young couple their toddler didn’t make it on the operating table. We weren’t the ones sitting in a beat-up Buick drinking coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and eating bologna sandwiches, and keeping an eye on a particular house halfway down the block to see if Mr. So-and-So was do-si-do-ing with someone other than Mrs. So-and-So, when all we really wanted to do was find a urinal.

    As kids, work was a game. And we were the hero.

    We just cut out the boring, dangerous, and unfulfilling parts.

    What we really wanted, was to be all grown up. Without the responsibility.

    We didn’t want to pay real taxes.

    We didn’t want to wipe real butts and mop real floors and gaze through the window wishing we were outside pretending to be mommy or daddy. No, no, no. Those were dolls we played with, plastic and rubber and cloth, and we could toss them aside when we grew tired of the game.

    Playing adults, we discovered, wasn’t quite the same as being adults.

    And work wasn’t necessarily all that grand.

    Flipping burgers, babysitting, filing papers, getting up at five a.m. to deliver newspapers on our bike in the rain. Where was the fun in that?

    Bagging groceries was entertaining…for about five minutes.

    Same with waitressing.

    Work became something we worked at. If we were lucky, we found something fulfilling to do that paid for the mortgage and groceries, letting some other poor sap bag them. If we weren’t lucky, we suffered the nine-to-five. Or became disenchanted, working the same gig half our life.

    Where did our sense of play go?

    What if we let the kid in us play at working again, but for real this time?

    What if we did our job…as the kid?

    Here’s what. We’d last thirty minutes, tops. Then the whining would start, maybe a tantrum. “WHERE’S MY COOKIES AND MILK!”

    We’d take naps.

    Then, out of boredom, we’d play.

    Bagging those cans of soup and heads of iceberg, we’d get creative. We’d try it with eyes closed. Behind our back. Twice as fast. We’d juggle them. Loft them into the bag. “Two points!”

    Filing contracts, we’d break out the Crayolas and draw pictures all over them first.

    Serving hash browns and eggs, we’d act like famous movie stars.

    Carting away people’s garbage, we’d sing arias.

    Flipping burgers, we’d tap dance.

    Driving the bus, we’d wear a cape.

    We’d find ways to turn work into a game. And if we got pulled into the boss’s office to hear, “You’re fired!” well, we’d kick off those adult-sized shoes and find a hill to roll down on our way home.

    Fact is, once we crossed the line to adultdom, responsibility came with the package. Unless we planned to mooch off our parents for the rest of our lives—or theirs—we couldn’t unleash the kid on our employer’s time.

    But who says we can’t bring that childlike enthusiasm, that creative imagination, that sense of wonder and exploration, to our everyday work? Who says we can’t find a way to bring the play back into working, and still be a responsible adult?

    No one. No one’s saying it, except, maybe, ourselves.

    So go ahead. Whistle while you work. Be the happiest dang garbage collector in the Northern Hemisphere. Be the most awestruck accountant, the most curious sales clerk, the most inventive mechanic.

    Or find the work that makes you feel like a hero again.

    What did you want to be when you grew up? What did you become? What one thing do you do, or can you do, to make your work fun?


  3. What Would the Wives Do?

    September 18, 2016 by Diane

    Elegant composition retro style, vintage perfume bottle

    Merv Griffin was a talk-show host before the Jimmies, before Craig or Seth or Jon or Conan or Leno or Letterman. Merv was a star-struck man who asked his guests safe questions:

    “Do you like to cook?”

    Due to the magic of reruns, I slipped back in time to November 23, 1973, when he interviewed the glamorous wives of famous men like Robert Stack and Johnny Carson and Dean Martin and Aaron Spelling and Sammy Davis, Jr.

    “Oh, yes,” said one of the wives. “I’m a good cook.”

    “Do you go grocery shopping?” Merv’s voice was soft, eager.

    Spelling’s wife giggled. “Sometimes,” she said.

    Silly questions, predictable answers.

    Were any of the wives involved in important causes? Would Merv ask Michelle Obama if she cooked and shopped?

    Who cares?

    Well, evidently I do.

    For some unfathomable reason, I was riveted. Maybe it was the memories that tugged at me. My junior high school graduation, when I wore my hair curled, and piled high on my head. The days when I wore lace and white sandals and Lauren cologne.

    Two by two, they came out as Merv ran a commentary: “Mrs. Martin is wearing a designer gown by Oscar de la Renta…” She pivoted and posed, then took a seat. “And Mrs. Stack is wearing a knock-off, one the home sewer can create from a Vogue pattern for thirty-eight dollars.” Pivot, pose, sit.

    “Would you buy these outfits?” Merv asked each woman.

    The one in the knockoff said, “Well. No.” Gently.

    I was captivated by their grace and charm.

    There were a dozen women, sitting with their legs tucked to one side. They spoke in tones reserved for libraries or Presidential visits. Their nails shone, their hair tumbled to their shoulders in light waves, their teeth flashed Pepsodent smiles. But what struck me most about the wives was their femininity.

    No galumphing around in old jeans and scuffed running shoes.

    “Do you dress like this at home?” Merv asked.

    One of them said she wore slacks. Not pants. Slacks.


    “Do you remember your husband’s proposal?” Merv asked Dean Martin’s wife.

    “Which one? He kept forgetting that he’d already asked me four times.”

    ‘Atta girl.

    Dolly, the wife of Dick Martin from Laugh-In fame, admitted that her hair color came from a bottle. “Oh, yes,” she said, pointing to her red tresses cut in a stylish shag. “I’m getting old.”

    “How old are you?”

    “I’m 29!” she said.

    Merv almost choked.

    “My husband is 59!” she said, and covered her mouth, laughing. “But he looks great, doesn’t he? That’s because of me.”

    They claimed their successes.

    “The most important thing to my husband is work, after me!” Sammy’s wife said.

    They didn’t waste time with humility.

    Too soon, the program was over. And I was left with one burning question of my own:

    What would the wives do in my situation?

    If Mrs. Carson, before she became Mrs. Carson, lived in my playhouse, would she paint the coffee-colored walls a pristine adobe white? Would she take down the dance posters, the Chinese lantern on a hook in a corner collecting dust, the plastic files screwed to a plank, and hang something tasteful—a Van Gogh, perhaps? Would she buy pale pink roses every week and display them on the dresser in a cut-glass vase, next to a silver tray holding her perfume bottles? Most definitely she would eliminate the clutter of books. The desk would hold a sleek laptop and a table lamp. The sheets would be silk, the pillowcases edged in lace. The ironing board would be hauled to the garage and replaced by a comfortable chair to curl up in with a book. Valley of the Dolls, perhaps.

    The wives were all class and grace. I can develop those manners, that soft voice, that proud posture. I can spend hours giving myself facials and manicures, and soaking in fragrant bubble baths, followed by a dusting of talc or a spritz of perfume. I can save my pennies to buy only the finest in fashions, a few select pieces that I handle with care and hang on padded hangers. I can eat meals on good china, with heavy silverware, cutting my lean meat into bite-sized pieces, the fork tine-side down as I bring it delicately to my mouth. I can aspire to be like these paragons of femininity, asking myself in tough situations, “What would the wives do?”

    Instead, I yank on the old jeans, the Gap t-shirt, the running shoes. I pile books onto my dresser, papers on my desk, mail and notebooks and magazines in my hanging files. My sheets come out of the dryer wrinkled, and undone projects lie about on every available surface: a book cracked open at the spine, the Panasonic phone manual to read, the file of bills to pay.

    I do my own grocery shopping.

    And I cook, but I’m lousy at it.

    What would the wives do if their paycheck barely stretched through the month? Would they set their sights on a better paying job, or a husband? I can’t imagine they’d stay stuck. A woman wallowing in a rut wouldn’t attract the attention of the Carsons and Spellings and Martins.

    It’s a good bet the wives wouldn’t be in Target buying socks.

    Okay, maybe they were blessed with perfect genes, and a wealthy upbringing, and braces. Maybe they had a pampered existence their whole life.

    But I wonder, can making those small changes—fresh flowers, smooth sheets, expensive perfume, tailored outfits—affect the results in my life? I believe so. I believe, by surrounding oneself in class, in beauty, it affects the soul, it changes the posture, it rewires the brain, it prompts a brighter outlook. Treating oneself as worthy of finery, with dignity and respect, dictates what you’ll allow in your life.

    None of those wives settled. Not even for a knock-off.

    What do you think?