5 Problems Only People with Multiple Cats Will Understand

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.25.26 AM

  1. You’ll never know who had diarrhea in the litter box.
  2. You never know who shat out a red string. Or a gold thread. Or a rubber band (or two).
  3. You don’t know who left the surprise pile of puke in the kitchen. Or the hallway. Or in the precise place you step when you get out of bed in the morning.
  4. You’re not sure who ate all the dry food. Or the wet food.
  5. You’re not sure who left those scratches on the fake leather ottoman. Or the new leather chair.

The bottom line is there is a shitload of uncertainty and mystery. Unless you install hidden cameras all over your house and watch them, like a psycho stalker (no judgement), these animals co-exist with us, often active when we’re asleep and we have to find the zen with this lack of control and knowledge. I imagine the TV reality family, The Duggers, with their 19 children, had to also acquiesce to this kind of lack of ungovernability.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.25.44 AM

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.26.25 AM

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.26.08 AM

On the flip side, multiple furballs have definitely translated to multiple bliss. Watching the interaction between kitties is equal to watching an older sibling hold the baby’s hand. There are moments of a feline fairytale, which cuddling cats, echoing purr sessions, and lick-fests, which I call kiss-fests. The love you get from one cat is exponentially more from two cats – or three.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 10.25.07 AM

Additionally, cats have a biological need to roughhouse, scratch and bite (LOVINGLY). When cats have sister/brother/roommate cats, they have buddies with whom they can get their aggression out. I recommend getting cats in pairs because innately they are animals who are most content with their pride. They feel happier, safer and more social with cats around them.

Advertisements

Baba’s Eulogy

earlyrussiababa8x10print.jpg

My beloved aunt died on November 25th, and two days later I delivered my first eulogy at her funeral. Two months later, on January 25th, my grandmother died, a few weeks after a bad fall, at age 86. Here I was writing the second eulogy in two months. Only this time, I focused more on celebrating her life more than lamenting her death.

Here is the eulogy I wrote:

My Baba Maya knew where she wanted to go and she figured out a way to get there. She got things done. She was our matriarch, our fearless leader, with a ferocious dedication to her friends and family. She was a trailblazer, a first generation feminist, a card shark, an infamous cake baker, a loan shark, a mama, a wife, a tyawtya, a sister, a friend, a Baba, and a 5-time great-grandmother. People knew Maya Nudelman and when I told them I was her granddaughter # 1, I beamed with pride. For me, like for so many others, she was a significant lifeline whose absence will be deeply felt.

When I think of Baba, I remember the cakes. The constant hum of twirling mixers and tasting buttercream directly out of the star-tipped piping bag. Baba’s cakes were at the forefront of confectionary design in 1984 amongst Brighton Beach and Forest Hills where Bat Mitzvah and wedding cake orders piled in and where she sold her treats to the Russian stores, gaining local notoriety for her “Kievsky torte” and “Mister Eex.”

For 4 decades, through my eyes, one of her main reasons for living was to feed people, especially grandchildren. She asked you if you wanted an orange three times in a row after three insistent “No’s”, a peeled orange would appear in front of you, which you’d obviously eat and so she’d obviously say, “See, I knew you wanted an orange.”

When it came to her granddaughters, she was ferociously devoted to getting to see us. She made her way, by whichever means necessary, even with a police escort, to visit Michelle in Binghamton, with blueberry bleenee – enough for her and her college friends. Or the time I lived on Wall Street, around the corner from the Stock Exchange with crisscrossing traffic patterns she somehow ended up in the high-security rotary in front of the Exchange. In broken English, she convinced the NYPD to rotate the rotunda, for the first time since 9/11 I think, because “her granddaughter lives right upstairs.” When my sister had her first art exhibition at Rutgers University, my grandmother showed up, greeting my sister who was sporting royal blue dreadlocks and proudly posed for pictures with the photos of Reena’s mutilated dolls in the background.

My grandmother perpetually preached the importance of speaking Russian and was my first teacher. I would sit on the gray and white folded table while she assembled layers of cakes and crushed nuts with rolling pins, and I would stare at the “Novoye Ruskaya Slova” in front of me and ask her letters, one by one. “This backwards ‘R’ is ‘ya?’” I would ask? Yes, “ya,” which means “I” is last in the alphabet, she would remind me. That’s how I was taught to remember it – always put yourself last.

Baba was the original “say yes” woman. When invited to a party, she always went. I remember flipping through old photos, stumbling upon strangers or distant relatives and thinking, “who are those people?” She never doubted her need to be there, to share in the celebration; if she was invited, she went, and always brought a generous cash gift.

She never forgot a gift. She felt obligated and called it such, “Ya tyebye dolzhjana.” If it was my birthday or my kid’s birthday, even a month later, she would emerge from the back, cash folded in her hand, our little not-so-secret, secret.

She wouldn’t throw anything out if it wasn’t ripped apart or completely annihilated. Why do you need more towels if the ones you have still function to dry you after the shower? This theory also applies to sheets, couches, pans, plates, clothes. This is a way of life which you cannot beat out of a person. She had cash in the back which she gave readily to her granddaughters as gifts, but she lived in the same apartment for nearly her entire life in America.

On my last visit, I asked her, “How are you, Ba?” and she answered me in the same way she always had, “loochye vsyeah,” better than everyone else. “Vsyaw bootee horosho” she always said. Everything will be good.

Beyond the profound loss of our leader, we grieve an end of an era, a shutting down of an apartment which was a portal to our childhood, to those early days of America, brimming over with innocence and ignorance, possibility and promise was enough to be blissful and hopeful. A youthful joie de vivre, a rose bud yet unopened. We were a family at the brink of opportunities, challenges, American dreams – and she spearheaded it all.

She left this world in peace, nothing left unfinished, unafraid, no debts unpaid, no journey incomplete. She leaves behind a legacy of anecdotes, a lifetime of memories. She has penetrated into every one of us – buried herself deep in our hearts where she will forever smell like sweet cream and be wearing her soft, weathered house dress, and the glasses she often no longer needed but wore for decoration, and her bold red lipstick. I’ll never picture her without her red lipstick.

She’s coming to you now, Deda, no GPS needed. After all, she was our Ultimate Navigator.

“2016: FOAD, but Thanks for Everything” Club

Eight is my favorite number, yet 2008 wasn’t so great. I had thyroid surgery in January, broke my knee in February, got audited in April, and lost my job in June. During 2016, another multiple of eight, every member of my immediate family landed in the emergency room, my mother was in the hospital twice, our apartment got flooded, a scary clown craze damaged our business, and my husband and I both lost an aunt to ovarian cancer.

This morning over breakfast, I tried a final attempt to lure my artist hubby into a last-minute holiday card. I had a funny idea which I thought might hook him:

“How about a toilet bowl showing 2016 flushing down the drain?”

His eyes looked up and he played along for a second. “Yeah and we can show Prince and David Bowie and Gene Wilder…” His voice trailed off, he looked away.

“No?” I knew he wasn’t biting.

“No,” he said and carried on with the loud chewing of the over toasted sesame bagel.

The other day a friend texted me: “2016: FOAD” (Urban Dictionary.com confirmed the acronym is telling 2016 to F-off and die.) “Amen,” I wrote back.

What a year for everyone. Our country endured a public political showdown which left half of us miserable about the outcome. Some are rallying to come together, some rally to call congress people, and I’m hoping to get through each day alive. 2016 had countless heartbreaking deaths, robbing us of geniuses famous and familiar. There wasn’t a person I met who didn’t have a health crisis, a career transition, or a relationship catastrophe yet somehow we’ve made it out, with a week to go, to read and write about it. Survivors. Collectors of life stories. Joining clubs; laughing and commiserating with fellow humans.

I am filled with gratitude for the year I was given and the stories it allowed me to record for posterity. Here are some of the happy highlights:

“I Kept My First Wedding Photos” Club

For years after I got divorced, I didn’t think about the two boxes of wedding photos I left at my ex-husband’s apartment. Last year, a decade after I left the apartment, my Ex moved and asked me if I wanted the photos. One box contains the wedding square-shaped proofs and the other box contains the hand-printed photo album. Instinctively I said I’d take them thinking I always had the option of getting rid of them later. I considered one day our son may want to look through them. I also thought about the people now dead, yet preserved in these photos, from an event which happened, even if the occasion it celebrated has since been rescinded. 

It’s awkward to flip through the photo album and look at me 15 years ago, dressed in a dress which never fit properly, marrying a man I never really matched. We both look younger and more innocent and my eyes dart around the photos searching for clues in the photos. Where is the magic? Where is the spark? Where is the passion?

After the wedding was over, I remember thinking, “That was it?” I had a nervous stomach and diarrhea before they announced us and waited for a euphoric epiphany feeling during our dance. I tried to soak it all in, waiting to be floating in a cloud stamped with “best day of my life” and was grossly disappointed when it never came. I put my black winter parka over my wedding dress and walked the few blocks from the wedding venue, across the street from The Flatiron Building to the W Hotel in Union Square, where we spent the night, overslept, and missed our flight to our honeymoon. We caught a later flight and flew first class. We traveled to three islands and stayed at the Four Seasons in Maui. I had controlled as much as I could to make the nuptial celebration pretty and perfect; what I couldn’t direct was the course of the actual marriage.

It’s easy to analyze this all retroactively; reviewing snapshots with scrutinizing critiques, but in the moment I was clueless, hopeful 26-year-old girl who wanted to be loved so damn badly. I thought I was creating my fairytale, but turns out I was only creating memories. Memories forever immortalized in these two boxes for which I have to find storage in my new house, in my new life, with my new husband.

Incidentally, I am also on the hunt for a photo storage solution for the hundreds of curling black-and-white photos I inherited from my grandmother of my parents’ wedding 43 years ago. They divorced after 25 years and I still look at these photographs longingly, convinced I have never seen either one of my parents as happy or in love as they look in those photos. Also, over 50% of the people in the wedding photos are dead and I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve them as historical artifacts of our ancestry for all future generations.

“It’s Not Always the Worst Case Scenario” Club

Earlier this year I watched a Dr. Oz segment where a psychiatrist suggested coping techniques for those of us who struggle with immediately jumping to Worst Case Scenario explanations. Occasionally I go there too soon, without justified reason and rile myself up unnecessarily. The psychiatrist offered this advice: instead of assuming the worst, think the opposite; assume just as extreme in the best case scenario. For instance, if I haven’t talked to my sister on the phone in a day, don’t assume she crashed her car into a snowy ditch on the roads of Maine; instead, assume she won the lottery and jetted off to Europe real quick (without telling me?!).

This morning my husband drove my daughter to school and forgot his cell phone. Actually, I’ll clarify to say he deliberately chose not to bring it because when my teenage son suggested he bring it, my husband retaliated that he was only traveling a mile away.

It’s an hour later and my husband isn’t home yet. Where can he be? Logically I begin: Maybe he ran into a friend and got into a long conversation about the electoral college? Maybe he decided to grab some bagels on the way home? Only both of those things would still have had him home by now. I review the morning in my head. My husband had mentioned he didn’t feel so great; a little nauseated. He said maybe some fresh air would help. Perhaps he’s standing on a corner deep breathing into his asshole? (His words, not mine.) These are the coherent scenarios I discount immediately.

Of course, it seems absurd to ponder he had a heart attack; he’s a young healthy guy. Yet, I’m staring at the phone waiting for a strange number to reveal itself on the caller ID and it might be a Lieutenant Smith from the Fort Lee police telling me they found my name and number in my husband’s wallet in case of emergency. I hope he moved that card into his new wallet otherwise it’ll be hours before they find me.

My son jokes he’s having a secret affair. I laugh, thinking in the old days my jealous rage would have instantly gone in the cheating direction, but that’s not as scary as dead. Every door slam down the hall makes me crane my neck; my stomach is in a knot. Seriously where is he? I try the extreme good scenarios: maybe he went grocery shopping on his own… or … Nothing. My brain is stuck on dead.

He finally walks in an hour later, hair disheveled (or sexed up) if he’d been sleeping.

“Where have you been?” I ask.

“I just sat in the car in the garage for a few minutes. I told you I didn’t feel good,” he says. He’s looking at me like I’m the asshole.

“You could have come upstairs to sleep,” I say and the lump travels from my stomach to my throat and I burst into tears. “You were missing for over an hour. I was so worried.”

“Sorry,” he says and it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I’m the type of wife from which a husband has to hide in the car.

Maybe this incident will serve as future evidence to remind me not to jump to worst case scenario; better to assume your husband is being slightly inconsiderate. Only he will plead not guilty, insisting it was not his intention to worry me, and contending he is just the illiterate version of time; the direct opposite of me, the daughter of “the Nazi of time,” who can guess the time accurately within five minutes any time of day.

“My Husband, My Editor” Club

When I decided to write every single day for a year, my husband was my biggest cheerleader even though he was inadvertently forced to take on this project with me. Every single day (usually night; minutes shy of midnight), he reads over my autobiographic essays, searching for typos, inconsistencies, and misguided T.M.I., before I hit the blue PUBLISH button. 

This project was my Queen Mary and he was its anchor; invisible but keeping the whole project from floating away or outright capsizing.

Did you ever have a good fight with your husband? One of those PMS-intensified blowouts when maybe you call him a baby or lazy or call his mother (or dead grandmother) a cunt? (Not my proudest moment.) Well, I’ve had days like that (at least once a month) and for the last 337 days, no matter how we end our day, I still had to give my husband a vulnerable essay to edit, including this one.

After any of those arguments, he could have gotten back at me with a red pen, but he didn’t. Not once. He didn’t have any interest in making me look bad any more than I had in minimizing how much I loved him on paper. My husband and I had an instant connection and partnership. Our fast-talking, brash, sarcastic styles feed well off each other. 

We joke about “taking our show on the road,” kind of like George Burns and Gracie Allen, only my husband is the REAL comedian (OK clown, but seriously, is there a difference?) and I’m his deadpan sidekick. I hope we will evolve into a powerful literary couple in 2017, as we vow to work on our romantic comedy screenplay. Before we know it, we can be like Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne or else like Burt Reynolds and Goldie Haun in Best Friends.

When we went on a two-week Hawaiian vacation, I brought my laptop because my project didn’t take a hiatus and my husband, in turn, didn’t either. Before bed each night, the laptop would be propped up in front of him, and he would be forced to end his day (or disrupt his day) with one of my essays. As much as I love to think of myself as oozing positivity or making the best of things, my instinct is to find flaws and imperfections and think of how things and people can do it differently. I am the life consultant no one hired and I spew my findings without request. Translation: Not always the easiest to live with.

The truth is he IS my dream come true. It is he who forced me to own up to who I was (A WRITER), it is HE who kept holding a mirror up when I would feel confused about who I was and what I was supposed to do, it is still HE who reads every single word I write and makes sure I am coherent and don’t make myself look like too much of an asshole. My husband was there to make dinner, even if it was peanut butter and jelly and ice cream with cereal on the couch after the kids went to bed and my husband made my daughter lunch EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS YEAR. You’d think I was the best wife in the world, speaking of him so profoundly, but he has to wait to read it in words because even though I will never admit it again, I’m a passive-aggressive writer. 

I don’t give relationship advice. OK, I do, but I do it subtly. (Not really). My number one healthy relationship must is to SLEEP NAKED (Insert apology here to 14-year-old son who is reading). I’ve been doing it for 23 years and don’t ever plan to stop. My second piece of advice is, give your significant other an autobiographical essay about you to read every single night for a year.

Even science verifies the old adage, “don’t go to bed angry,” and this project has 100% guaranteed it. No matter what either of us feels at the end of the night, the project is bigger than both of us and we honor the year-long commitment. He’s my coach, my cheerleader, my confidant, and always my clown. (And he held other roles which didn’t begin with the letter ‘c’, such as a therapist, lover, best friend, masseuse, photographer, and chauffeur. Crap, that’s another c.)

Obviously, I’ll dedicate my first book to him, but I think *he’s going to want to see some buckeroos to back those hard-earned editing hours. Amiright?

*editor’s note: When Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” he didn’t follow it up with, “So make lots of cash.”

“Grieving” Club

Grief is such that it lodges itself in your throat until you either have to swallow hard or cry it out. The problem with the crying route is it is like disengaging a cork which is clogging up a hole in a pipe, and when unplugged, a deluge explodes from within. Once you let one cry out, the others topple out uncontrollably. Crying only makes me think of more reasons why I will miss my dear aunt.

I will never get another card with her perfect Russian-schooled cursive handwriting. I will miss her face. Her white skin with more wrinkles than her young age deserved. Her green eyes; sparkling with kindness. She was my second mother for the four years she lived in our house with us. She was the only one to come with me to my wedding dress fitting. She was there the day both my babies were born. She was a saint before she died; what does that make her after death?

I want to write about something else. I have just over a month left in my 365 project. I’m supposed to be shaping it all up in a neat bow and crafting paragraphs about lessons learned and planning my steps forward. I’m supposed to be focused on my book publication and getting an agent and really, I’m supposed to care deeply about getting to the fireworks ending of my project and instead life has swept the leg out from underneath me.

I didn’t think her death would hit me as hard as it has. I knew the ritual of the funeral would be a tear-fest and maybe there would be a few consequent sobbing showers, but somehow every song makes me miss her, everything I’m seeing is from her eyes and how she would think about it all. It wasn’t always this way, but for now, she’s all I can think about and all I can write about. It’s every grief stage and it’s cliche and I know it will pass but I could only be right here, right now.

Earlier today Pandora served up one of my favorite gypsy punk bands: Diego’s Umbrella. They played their version of Hava Nagila and it was as if I was socked in the gut; my insides turned and I bawled like a baby knowing my aunt would never dance another hora with us.

Ironically she is in my life in these last few days more than she was physically in the last few years. In death, she has become just what they said: everywhere. This realization is profound and painful at the same time. She is in the clouds and in my vintage typewriter on my desk and in the soft sweater I wear; because I hate itchy ones, just like her. She was my hypochondria soul mate and now I’m left feeling crazy without her validation.

There is nothing we can do to give death the middle finger other than live – out loud and with intention – on the borrowed time we have.

“Writing a Eulogy” Club

I never wrote a eulogy before but have often thought about it, which doesn’t make me morbid since I have spent equal time pondering my Oscar acceptance speech.

Tomorrow we bury my aunt and when they ask if anyone wants to say anything, I will feel the weight of eyes on me, the vocal one, and I will feel compelled to say something but I am not good on the spot. The formula for an essay is an introduction, supporting evidence, and a conclusion but what is the blueprint for a graveside eulogy? Maybe I should jot down some notes. Not a formal speech, but a few random sentences so I sound cohesive.

I don’t have to tell anyone about what kind of a human she was. Everyone who met her instantly identified she was a gentle, kind, soul who loved her family. She took life seriously, every little part of it, including dancing the hora like a professional.

I will forever remember how she sent me a card and present for every single birthday of my life. The card came on my actual birthday or the day before. When I had my children, they too received the cards and generous presents every single year; never one day late.

She didn’t just send any card. She went to a legitimate Hallmark-brand store (no 99-cent cards for her) and would spend an entire lunch hour selecting THE PERFECT card which would convey the exact sentiment she was feeling. Of course, she also included her own standard amendment in typical Russian prose: wishing you health, happiness, luck. “ENJOY your life,” she always added.

My aunt came to the hospital the day after both of my babies were born. I remember I was annoyed that when my daughter was born, she just SHOWED UP! I didn’t feel like receiving visitors but when I saw the smile on her face and the joy in her eyes when she held my baby girl, I felt like an asshole. She came to welcome our family’s next generation and brought me soup and for my baby, her first doll, which we named after her.

When I visited my aunt in the hospital after her first cancer surgery, I wanted to bring flowers. I spent 40 minutes going through every bunch at the corner bodega searching for the ultimate bouquet; I wanted to make sure they weren’t too smelly. When I brought them, she smiled and told me they were her favorite, but “could we please move them to the nurse’s station because she couldn’t possibly tolerate the smell.”

When she first came to America; I was a bitchy teenager and she was always calm, there to love me no matter what, and tell me I looked like my grandmother, her mother. She lived in our basement in Staten Island for four years before moving to Brooklyn. I remember when they discovered cream cheese and incorporated it onto everything in their diet.

Finally, I got my fanciest shirts from my little humble aunt who spent a decade working for the fashionable Vivienne Tam. On top of it all, my simple aunt will always have been my closest link to haute couture.

When one person dies, it seems the effect on the huge universe is small, like a tiny grain of sand disappearing from a beach. But for one family, it’s like you’ve pulled a support beam from under the house. It’s not a matter of how far-reaching any one person’s life is, it’s a matter of how deeply one person’s life impacts those it touches.

“Fell in Love” Club

I have several friends going through a divorce and several others floating in murky marriages. I’ve swum through these familiar rivers and felt like I was drowning but have definitely emerged less cynical and more hopeful, lucky to have found love (THE REAL DEAL) the second time around and witnessing the collapse of other marriages, I am grateful for second chances.

Marriage has peaks and valleys and it takes work, just like any other worthy relationship; with our parents, our siblings, our children. A romantic relationship is organic and malleable and falling in love is easier than staying in love. But it’s also scientifically proven that being madly in love can last

I love to write about loving my husband and about our romance. I reflect on those magic moments which sparked our life. Love sets entire lives in motion. Love is the sun around which our entire universe circles. It’s romantic and perhaps cliche, but ultimately true.

Also, my husband is my 365-project editor and these essays serve as modern-day passive love notes. Reliving our enchanting courtship in my writing keeps it alive. Recounting our romance is the best we have to a time machine and as we muse over where it all began, our eyes lock and transport us there instantly.

Of course, with a cinematic and poetic story like ours, who wouldn’t want to spend a lifetime coasting on its wave?

Here’s a glimpse:

It was a fairytale romance in every sense of the word with NYC the quintessential background and silent, enthusiastic matchmaker; the eternal dramatic third wheel. She hugged us with culture and food and music, sprinkling us with snow storms, remaking the concrete jungle into a perpetual Christmas morning for us to re-wake up to every day. When he had his first party to introduce me to his friends, it was on his rooftop, lit up by the glow of the Empire State Building. (So what if three of his dude friends hit on me and kept asking me what our “status” was.) Before we knew what are status was we were head over heels. Our first vacation was to Disney World. The Magic Kingdom had nothing on our amorous wizardry.

We went to Philharmonic concerts in Central Park where we fell asleep under a blanket after indulging in a rare batch of homemade sangria and woke up to fireworks. We emerged as the happiest, luckiest, most in love couple. We travelled to London and mastered the infamous couples selfie before the teenagers and before Instagram sucked the privacy out of romance. We had a song – and eventually, we had a whole disk of songs. (Back when we still made disks.) We danced in the rain on my fire escape on 97th Street. On New Year’s Eve, we bundled up and watched fireworks over Central Park and the midnight run right after. We strolled the streets of Greenwich Village, giggling like teenagers, feeling like we were getting away with something devious. We walked, fingers intertwined, leaning into each other, reminiscing about our different experiences at our mutual alma mater. We ate shabu shabu and had “love cake” for dessert. We went to see Matisyahu and had so much fun smashing into the crowds, surrounded by our friends, and my boyfriend peed in his beer cup because it was easier than finding the bathroom. When we visited my parents in Staten Island, we always took the ferry with a perfect fall evening sunset to usher us into the dock.

Early on he would say he wanted to “climb in love” with me because falling implied it wasn’t by choice, but he definitely fell. Our connection was instant and it went beyond words. When we touched, we felt a heat. When our eyes met, there was always a mutual spark. We loved all the same things for different reasons and we came from different places, travelled on different paths, but arrived at the same place at the crossroads in our lives when we were destined to meet. 

We could have met a million places around the city, as classmates at NYU or as neighbors on 27th Street … but we met when our hearts were open and ready. 

As Shakespeare is famous for saying “readiness is all.”

“Life is My Writing Prompt” Club

Before I launched my 365-Day writing project,  I came up with a 13-page (10 point font, 1.5-spaced) list of ideas. In the early days of the project, this numbered list guided me; I’d even used the strikethrough feature to cross out the topics I wrote about. As the year progressed and the calendar pages flipped faster than the leaves fell off the trees, I couldn’t keep up with the old stories on the list because new narratives were consistently presenting themselves for write-ups

It was easier to write about something which happened today than to dig deep into my subconscious to recall a story from childhood or adolescence; something which helped define me, shape me, or gave me membership into a “life club.” Whatever crazy shit happens to us as humans, the “life club” concept is designed to help us feel like we’re not alone; we can always find someone who can relate, no matter how ludicrous our situation or experience may seem.

As I hit the 300-day mark of my project, my husband said, “You have to go over your list because those last 66 days are going to sneak up on you and you’ll run out of time to tell the stories you really want to write about.”

When I compiled the initial list of memories, I squeezed my brain like a fist. My pseudo table of contents was like the fresh-squeezed orange juice I get at the cafe; it’s overpriced and comes in the smallest juice glass imaginable. I savored every story on that list; every hurdle I overcame in the name of a story (or club membership).

The more I wrote, the more I felt like I was Lucy in the I Love Lucy episode where there are too many chocolates coming down the conveyor belt and she can’t pack them as fast as they’re advancing down the pike.  Life was once again spitting out stories faster than I could transcribe them. 

But the original list flashed in the back of my mind; how do I hurry up and tell the rest of the stories before the year is up? Once again I’m channeling Alexander Hamilton (or actually Lin-Manuel Miranda) and I feel like I’m running out of time. 

Writing every single day (320 days in a row!) has been one of the most challenging things I’ve set out to do. Not because I found it physically difficult to strike the keys and not because recalling gut-wrenching, honest stories made me vulnerable. It’s not because it has taken away hundreds of hours I could have spent with my family (or TV) – and not even because it has left my house an utter mess, especially in light of a flood.

Writing every single day has been demanding because it is something I “have to do” every day; it becomes another chore, another item on the “things to do list” du jour. It takes longer than brushing my teeth and eating a meal (sometimes all three) and won’t yield an immediate result to pay my bills or fill my belly. Most of all, it’s an additional “have to do” ON TOP of everything else I’m already doing (working, running a small business, mother to 2 kids, 3 cats). As soon as I hit publish on one essay, my mind is on the hamster wheel thinking of tomorrow’s piece. 

Up until this point in my writing life, I have not struggled with traditional writer’s block. I write in order to release, to share, to expel it from my gut so it doesn’t become rancid and cause me resentful reflux. With this project, I’ve acquired a book’s worth of lessons. One is: you cannot attach too much emotion to any particular essay; tomorrow is another day, another piece, another opportunity to write it better. 

The other lesson: life is your writing prompt. Every day, I step out of the house and shake hands with life and get the opportunity to live a story, join a club.

The most important lesson (of course, I may not have had it yet with 46 days to go) has been to crush the notion that I am not a writer. I will pulverize that notion so hard and obliterate it from the rubbish of my mind.