Tuesday, December 06, 2022


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran. The book begins with the holiday party at a major London law firm. Everyone is abuzz because the firm's most eligible partner is rumored to be ready to settle down. What fabulous woman has captured his heart? Our narrator, Jenny, is sure she knows. After all, she's his personal assistant and secret lover. When she finds out that she will not, however, be his bride, she breaks down. Or rather, she publicly melts down. 

She loses her big city job and moves to a ramshackle rural cottage, left empty by the death of a grandmother she barely knew. As she rehabs the cottage, and her life, she makes friends with the village women. Together they support one another as they work toward the individual goals they vow to reach by next Christmas. And, in true romance novel fashion, she clashes with her gorgeous but grumpy neighbor, Mack.

This book reminds me of another I read last spring: Back in the Burbs by Tracy Wolff and Amber Flynn. In that book, set on this side of the pond, a Manhattanite loses everything in her divorce and moves into the suburban wreck left to her by her favorite aunt. She, too, clashes with a hunky neighbor. 

But that's OK. I just read a big, heavy historic volume filled with real-life horror and heartbreak (see below). Chick-lit that feels familiar and has a warm, fuzzy Christmas overlay is just what the doctor ordered.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Death of a President by William Manchester. This is the closest to an authorized account of the Kennedy assassination we have. Manchester was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy to write it. She and Manchester later had a major falling out, but that was less about fact than detail.

I picked it up hoping to revisit the events as historic fact. There are so many hysterical theories out there and those get more play. But I'm not interested in lurid, tinfoil-hat conspiracies. I wanted to see what happened, hour-by-hour. How did the most famous murder of the 20th century take place? How did the principals behave in the aftermath?

While that's all here, I came away with a greater understanding of human nature than the crime. This book is about how people behave when confronted with an unacceptable reality, and how they move on to grieve. I found it compassionate, universal and compelling. It was also painful. Know that if you choose to pick up this 700+ page book, you may have to put it down and turn away at times.

3. What will read next? I don't know.


Perfect timing

If you read this humble blog often, you know I've been battling the blues a bit lately. While I was doing laundry, a package arrived for me. Big, and from Target. I hadn't ordered anything. I thought it might be from my friend Mindy, who has missed my birthday by a long way this year. 

It was a surprise. A massive, wonderful surprise. It's a heated microfiber throw (aka electric blanket) from a former coworker. "Have a warm and cozy Christmas, Gal. I miss you."

She's a Hindu and an Indian citizen, so she doesn't celebrate Christmas, but this is the second Christmas gift she's given me. Back in 2014, when she was an agency newbie, her desk was near mine. We didn't work together, but because of the proximity she felt she got to know me. She watched me when I didn't know I was being observed (making me kind of like a sitcom). She heard me rhapsodizing about the new bags I wanted and bought me one! Her note said it was because I am thoughtful and "spread the holiday cheer year around." I can quote it because I still have it. I tucked it into my address book for safekeeping. 

I try, you know? Every day I try to live my faith. Or, in classic movie terms, I try to be more Melly and less Scarlett. It means a great deal to me that she sees that in me. And that she has seen it in me when I was just going about my life, without knowing she was watching.

Since covid, we haven't seen one another often. The only time we were in the office together was for major events. She was very upset that I'd been terminated. I was something of a mentor to her.

In the 8 years between the handbag and the blanket, she has had two babies, been promoted twice (she's now a director!) and has spoken and blogged about being a woman of color in American advertising. If I acted as a mentor to her in any way,  I am proud of that.

Plus, her timing was exquisite. I didn't know I needed an electric blanket. It's always very warm in here. And yet today, this electric blanket was exactly what I needed.

PS I read the comments on the post below and those lifted my spirits, too. Thank you, ladies.

Scared and sad

Kathy and I have known one another for 40 years. Our relationship has been fractious at times because of her competitive streak. When we first met, I was a newly-minted copywriter enjoying my partygirl phase. Ten years my senior, she was a divorced mom re-entering the workforce as a creative supervisor. As time went on, I switched my energies from partying hard to working hard and I moved up the advertising ladder. She did not. I endured years of little digs about being a sell out. Kathy always maintained she could have had the career I did, but she wouldn't compromise her integrity. We both know that's not true, and she could be quite mean. 

She can also be very kind. When my mom died, she stayed to the end of the service, just in case I needed support. She drove me to my first colonoscopy. When I had covid in 2020, she called often and sent me a jigsaw puzzle.

For the last three years or so, Kathy has been struggling with some form of undiagnosed dementia. She has medicare, so I don't know why she hasn't seen a doctor. But she hasn't and won't. She used to insist, "I recently had a problem with my brain but it fixed itself." It's gotten so bad she doesn't even bother denying it anymore.

She feels isolated. Our mutual old friends have fallen away. She can be difficult and confusing to deal with. I'm hanging on, but it's hard.

Take yesterday. First she emailed me a photo of the Christmas card I sent her, writing, "Thanks. Perfect. If you answer here, I may not figure out how to answer. I'm aging faster than expected."

OK, I know that's a trap. She gets mad if I don't answer. I know she can't help it, but she's always been quick to anger and dementia hasn't helped. So I replied, "Glad you liked it. Have a Merry Christmas."

In the meantime, she clicked "like" on three of my Facebook posts.

Then she emailed me back, "You have fallen off Facebook. Are you OK?"

I emailed her a screen grab of a meme I posted along with her response. I wrote, "I post and you respond so our Facebook connection is working just as it should. Thanks for your concern."

"Awesome!" she replied. PHEW! She wasn't mad!

Every interaction is a dance through a minefield. 

I know she is lonely and she must be frightened. I worry about her safety. I know she has curtailed her driving and won't get behind the wheel with passengers, but she shouldn't be operating a car at all. She has adult grandchildren nearby and they have keys to her apartment, so I don't have to worry about her (to borrow from the commercial) falling and unable to get up. She mentioned in passing that both her daughter near Boulder and her sister near Seattle have suggested she move in with them, but she doesn't want to give up her freedom.

But I'm scared and sad. I wish this wasn't happening.

My oldest friend is battling clinical depression and other health problems. Henry is still in the looney bin. He may not be out by the time I go to Key West and I may be visiting him in a hospital ward on Christmas Day.

Sometimes all I want to do is nap. Can you blame me?