This Is Us

Lessons from a season of table service

Photo: Hans Vivek/Unsplash

I told a lie to get the job. It was 1981 and I said I was 18, old enough to legally serve alcohol. I was 17. I needed cash and something to fill the time that wasn’t school or the bad boyfriend. My place of employment — my first real job — was a mid-range French restaurant on the fringes of Washington, D.C. For a few years, while in college, I worked six days a week, serving lunch, dinner, and private parties. …

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This Is Us

How midlife loosened my tongue

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 boy at the wheel came roaring down the road at an unreasonable speed. Frightening, aggressive speed. When he rounded the corner and…


I ate a gummy and boy, are my arms tired

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…


Training myself to take up space

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Long ago, as a teenage waitress scurrying through crowded kitchens and dining rooms, it was my habit to say “sorry” when I needed to pass.

Sorry to my fellow servers, each of us balancing trays of food and cocktails on flower stalk forearms.

Sorry to the earnest, bow-tied busboys with their baskets of bread and carafes of water.

Sorry to the noisy guests in their Sunday clothes, even on Wednesday, as they jostled in the front door and waited their turn at the tables.

Sorry to the busy shouting men in the kitchen.

Always sorry. Never excuse me. Never nothing…


Looking for signs in the wild

Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash

I saw a fox out the bathroom window early on a cool, spring morning. It was trotting across the backyard, then cut through the path by the marriage tree before picking up pace in the thick. I caught glimpses of the copper coat as it raced through the early green, heading who knows where. It was a beautiful, sleek, healthy fox.

This felt important, symbolic somehow, even though I know it’s not. It was just me needing to pee at the moment the fox cut through the yard. Fox sightings are fairly rare here, and this one seems a meaningful…


Fully vaxed and feeling things

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I got my second Covid vaccine two days ago and have been through some things. We’ve all been through some things, right?

The morning of Pfizer shot #2, I over-hydrate and spray rose water all over myself, because rose and water is supposed to help. I pack a giant water bottle and a jar of mixed nuts, because you never know. An hour of driving and whatever awaits, I wouldn’t want to tempt dehydration and low blood sugar. My husband, Steven, the driver who is also getting his second shot, is hoping for a Popeye’s chicken sandwich as a post-vax…


Maybe the Introverts Were Right

Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

Back in the before times, when we knew nothing of pandemics and lockdowns and the extroverts were after me, I needed excuses. The invitations were relentless.

Let’s take a walk, have a drink, catch a show, have a party, brunch, dinner, come watch me do my thing!

I enjoy all of those things, but it’s mood dependent and my midlife moods have trended towards maybe later. I’m thankful for all my lovely friends and family, but oh my god can everyone just sit down and be quiet.

It hasn’t always been this way. When my grown children chide me for…


An anxious mind considers the end of lockdown

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

The first time — my first whole body, death-is-a-train-and-I’m-on-the-tracks, drop-to-the-floor-and-pray panic — was in Wegmans. There was a typical market crowd, bland music piping in, a bin of green beans before me. I had been shopping for decades without incident — competently, uneventfully, sometimes even happily. That day, however, was the latest emergency flare of what I slowly, dumbly realized was something larger. The list of warnings sent by my body was getting very long, but I didn’t take them seriously until I found myself sitting wide-eyed and quaking on a grocery store floor.

Maybe something is going on here.


This Is Us

These brief flares remind me of my body’s capacity for upheaval and renewal

Photo: Xuanyu Han/Getty Images

Standing in the kitchen on a cool early fall day, chopping the last of the late summer sauce tomatoes, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a bloom of heat in my body. Rapidly expanding heat from head to toe, feeling fall no more, but a heat wave flush, like a sweltering summer day.

Is it me or is it hot in here?

The hot flash is the darling of menopause symptoms, the signal marker of what some consider midlife female malfunction. Hot flash is synonymous with menopause, and those without a clue (men, young women, lucky women) begin their short, practiced list…


A Love Letter to Paper Crafts from an Absolute Beginner

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It started with the pen pals. Pre-pandemic, I fancied myself a serious person. I didn’t spend money on anything particularly frivolous, and didn’t spend much time creating things that weren’t somehow useful. Ephemera was not my thing. If I couldn’t eat it, read it, wear it, or hang it on a wall, it wasn’t for me (except for jigsaw puzzles, a panacea for panic and its cousins in the long, cold months). I am, emphatically, not crafty.

It seems, though, that I was just pretending to be a serious person. A year into the pandemic, I write letters, decorate them…

Lisa Renee

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