I ate a gummy and boy, are my arms tired

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Photo: Glen Carrie on Unsplash

The gummy cubes are tiny, about half the size of a standard sugar cube, and they’re pleasingly packaged in an adorable tin. The accompanying literature suggests I drop them in tea, coffee, or cocktails. Just like sugar cubes. They’re flavored — “like those hot cinnamon candies,” say the people who claim to love me. They taste like stinky boy.

Thank god someone said, “Mom, you should start with half and wait a while.”

My experiment was based on hope and research. Anna Wilcox writes, “Using cannabis to ease menopausal symptoms is nothing new. Back in the 1920s, medical texts identified the herb as a potent analgesic for menopausal women.” Many of my friends and family use marijuana, either recreationally or medicinally; anecdotal evidence suggests that pot can greatly relieve some of the worst bits of midlife. After suffering most of the storied meno misery for many years, I’m all about finding anything that helps. I’ve been tempted for years by positive reports from friends and promising research blooming in the press. I default to the glass of pinot, but as Dana Goodyear writes in the New Yorker, “everyone knows that alcohol is bad for you (kills your stem cells, gives you cancer, makes you grouchy, paunchy, gray), whereas, increasingly, the industry is equating conscious marijuana use with sublime good health.” …

This Is Us

How midlife loosened my tongue

Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Photo: Gwendal Cottin/Unsplash

When I flipped off the speeding truck, I knew things had changed. Sending a hearty “fuck you” to a stranger was a thing I had almost never considered before, but in the moment, it seemed oddly, perfectly natural. I briefly reconsidered the wisdom of this change when he doubled back. And then I did it again.

Walking on my quiet country road in upstate New York, as I do every day, a jumped-up pickup with a tiny red-hat-wearing boy at the wheel came roaring down the road at an unreasonable speed. Frightening, aggressive speed. When he rounded the corner and saw me on the side of the road, he floored it. It scared me, but it also enraged me beyond caring for the fear. Just as he passed, the massive and menacing truck feet from my body, I shot my middle finger high up in the air, thrusting it in his direction with my best angry face and what felt like power. I was shaking, but it felt fabulous, like triumph. …

Notes on a Pandemic and a Democracy in Peril

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Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

I don’t write anymore. I sit at my desk, staring wide-eyed out the window at the rain, the leaves tinged with color, and I think. But I don’t write.

I eat raisins. I use the good pen.

I put bitters in seltzer and call it a night off.

I just did Yoga for When You Feel Dead Inside. Because, yeah. Dead inside.

I think about isolation dinners. Me, never alone. My father, always alone. Neither is ideal. Both are challenges.

The sadness is the thing. It’s amorphous and overwhelming, swallowing the days and me, too. I’m just sad, is a thing we say now. The body is heavy and slow. Time is a two-faced thing: Now slow and languorous, now buzzing with menace and imperative. The world asks for so much. We are in a moment, of the moment, and our leavings will be testament to it — but what to leave? …

Bodies, brains, and bathing suits

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Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

I’m shopping for a bathing suit. I’ve been side-eyeing suits online, sidling up to possibilities, and daring to imagine a world in which I don’t mind trying on bathing suits. A brave new world, free from harsh-lit dressing rooms and a generous helping of self-loathing.

I hate the cliché — the mid-century woman scrutinizing her brilliant, hardworking body as she shrink wraps it for public consumption. Judging the pocked thighs, the soft belly, the shelf that has risen triumphantly on the hips. Worrying the extra dangle on the upper arm, the southward drift of the breasts. The frowny knees, the veins. None of these things were evident in all those magazine spreads and billboards screaming at me for the last half century. …

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Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Trust me

I homeschooled four kids for about a quarter century and have lived to tell the tale. The tale is long and messy, with twists and turns, ups and downs, like any good tale. There are no real villains (no interesting villains at least) and most characters are minor heroes. Homeschooling is, essentially, parenting and parenting is just life. It’s hard, it can be fun, and it’s usually worth it.

I’ve started essays about why you should homeschool and then realized that the arguments are mine, the decision is personal. It’s a fluid decision with endless flexibility. Homeschool this year, and not next. Homeschool elementary, but not high school. Or vice versa. Homeschool forever, or never. …

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Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

End of life dilemma

My great aunt has decided to die. She’s had a stroke at 88, and has decided that the suggested post-stroke things are onerous and difficult. She’s tired and just wants to die now. She is a vibrant ray of sun, a sharp and brilliant participant in the parade of life. It’s stunning to imagine that the woman who recently offered me a mimosa with vodka (“Aunt Evelyn, mimosas don’t have vodka.” “Mine do.”), with her wide mouth laugh and sparkling eyes, is the same woman who is “going home to die.” The woman who demonstrated her exercises to me just a few short months ago, exercises that I was hard-pressed to do myself. The woman who is always reading a good book, and asking for another. Life turns on us in a blink, I guess. They told us this, but we never listen. We imagine the stream running forever into the distance, or at least a lot farther than this, because we can’t (or don’t) imagine much over the horizon. …

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Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

I would like to turn this house
upside down and shake it,
watch the pet hair and foil balls,
the thyme stems and tissue squares
skitter away on the breeze.
Send the socks and keys,
the papers and the batteries
flying out into oblivion.
The dusty rugs and curtains,
neglected piles of clothes
I’d like to watch it all tumble out.
Set the house back down empty
like a brand new dollhouse
and replace only the things
I love
the things that work
the things that help
one at a time
I would like to trim it all
shore it all up.
Polish and perfect each new
empty corner,
fill the space with promise,
fairy dust and
I would shine it all
shake out the dust
the grit
the darkness and the cold.
And then I would cook.
I would make custards and stew,
galettes and granola.
Chocolate things and pots of coffee. …

Self-isolation at the beach

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Photo by Vlad Kutepov on Unsplash

I’m sitting in a small condo on a quiet beach on an island in North Carolina. It’s gray here, breezy and cool, though nothing like the chilly March I left behind in New York. The gulls are yelling and squadrons of pelicans soar inches from the surf, seeking the next meal. The ocean continues its ceaseless lullaby and the sun pops out and reminds us we’re far from home. It would feel like a vacation, a respite, with all the peace and the sound of the tide washing in, and out.

It would be a nice break from the world, if not for the world. …

With a healthy side of recycling guilt

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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The cucumbers were the last straw. “Last straw” probably isn’t the correct term, because, well … straws. So many straws, will we ever see the last one? And, what exactly did I do about it, this “last straw?” Nothing more than march around the house and rant at anyone who was unlucky enough to be in my path.

Three cucumbers, each one wrapped in plastic, snug together in more shrink-wrapped plastic. Giant, individually wrapped cucumbers, wrapped in plastic and then wrapped in more plastic. What could possibly be a reasonable explanation for this? …

Because everyone else is doing it

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Photo by Amadeo Valar on Unsplash

It’s early evening in late January, and I’m having a glass of wine. It’s a nice California Pinot Gris that was more expensive than I usually buy. I’m treating myself to quality instead of quantity. I’m happy. It’s going well.

Three weeks into the new year, I’ve abstained from alcohol for 15 days. I know this because I use a red sharpie to make a dot on the wall calendar for each drinkless day. It’s a method I began a few years ago in an effort to not only minimize my wining, but also to see it. I’m a visual learner and the red dots throughout the year give me a sense of patterns. I enjoy wine and the occasional cocktail, and usually it’s not a problem. But too much, too often, messes with my sleep, my head, my body temperature, and my self-esteem. The red dots cater to my yearning for accomplishment, my need for gold stars. Good job, Lisa! …


Lisa Renee

Write it down.

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