What we absolutely can’t live without that makes us feel so good



There are days when you might be down in the dumps, feeling sorry for yourself, your kids, grandkids, other loved ones and friends. We know that feeling well. And we regularly experience it on departed loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries, whether a parent, cousin or Margaret’s devoted husband Nolan.

We also know the feeling of down when we lived in lockdown during the pandemic, our bank accounts are going south, when the market tumbles or other events occur. We may feel pain for the world when someone kind is ill or dies or the planet itself with droughts and global warming isn’t in great shape either.

However, we have a game we like to play for a fast pick-me-upper: What we can’t or don’t want to live without. It helps us see the bright side by shifting gears, counting our blessings and moving forward.

Our lists, we realized, make every day seem that much more joyful, interesting, and palatable (in some cases, pun intended.) Some are prosaic and some extraordinary, at least to us. So, we’ll tick them off and explain how each item on our individual lists shapes how we live our lives right now to make tough circumstances bearable and maybe even its challenges surmountable.


  1. Good chocolate. Forget drug store brands. I go for the best. The list is too long to name them all except at the top is Bissinger’s and Kakao chocolates in St. Louis, and La Maison du Chocolat and Li-lac Chocolates in New York City. A great mood elevator. 
  2. Books that introduce me to other worlds. They transport me out of my home temporarily. It’s comfort food for my psyche. Also, magazines and newspapers, print and digital versions, which give me a special window into the world.
  3. Volunteering. It’s like soaking in a warm bath every time I tutor a child, read to inner city children, or help kids with a writing project. Selfishly, for me, it is not just about giving back as much as about what I get in return.
  4. Computer service. I am technically challenged and when I have computer issues, I tend to meltdown. When I lived in St. Louis, I hooked up to a service remotely for a monthly fee. When my computer was hacked, a computer guy at the service told me what to do and whom to call…credit bureau for a fraud alert, LifeLock for protection, while he erased all the stuff the hacker had inserted on my computer. Then, he calmly walked me through the paces about how to change passwords and more. The best money ever spent. I have an equally good computer guy in New York City who has come to my rescue several times. And he can do so remotely. Thank you, Chris and Lynn.
  5. Black down puffer coat. It’s like wearing a warm quilt in the dead of winter and is a godsend in New York City where I walk everywhere, despite the wind and weather. It’s lightweight and easy to throw in the washing machine to clean. It wins hands-down as my favorite and most pragmatic item of clothing.
  6. My children. They are the center of my life, my core, and the glue that keeps me going especially after the death of their father. Although only my eldest son lives in the same city as I do, just knowing I have three kids who have my back wherever they live comforts me when I feel alone in the world.
  7. My siblings. Nobody knows me as well and takes me on unconditionally. Although I can get snarky with them from time to time, I know that I can rely on them to forgive my transgressions. They have my back at all times, are fun, make me laugh, and make me cry. No three people in my life are as welcoming, compassionate, and helpful. And there is no agenda.
  8. Solitude. I covet time to be alone, live in my head, think, write, read, take long walks (one of the bonuses of living in New York City), visit one of the many terrific museums and linger as long as I want to in front of great artwork or a fascinating display. I go to a classical music concert or opera and luxuriate in the music. What a gift!
  9. Hope. This is the ingredient that got me through the worst experience of my life; the death of my husband. And each day, I navigate my new life based on hope that has enabled me to remain healthy and learn how to be happy again.
  10. Sense of humor. When I am feeling blue, reading David Sedaris, watching a movie with Peter Sellers (Being There or the Pink Panther) or Woody Allen (Zelig or Take the Money and Run) or chatting with one of my very funny or clever girl or guy friends, is healing. It’s so healthy to laugh out loud–a deep belly laugh. Laughter releases feel good endorphins and reboots my mood.  


  1. Resilience. I learned from my late father that things don’t always come easily, but hard work and another heave-ho can make the difference. It did when my parents were both ill, and I knew I had to take charge, when I went through two tough years of infertility, moved multiple times and start over, make new friends and find new work, got divorced when least expected, dated 350 guys, fought like hell to get through hand therapy to regain use of my dominant hand and arm and deal with other annoyances that have come my way and even frightened me.
  2. TV, magazines, new cookbooks. Others make fun of it. I admit I love TV and am a news and political junkie. I also consider it as a place to escape and watch soap-opera-style series, from Downton Abbeyto Parenthood, The Americans, Gray’s Anatomy (all 18 seasons) and now Heartland, from Canada. Don’t call while I’m, watching unless it’s an emergency, please. Another reward after writing all day is for me to soak up food, gossip, furnishings from a host of favorite magazine subscriptions. I love when a new issue arrives in the mail. Cookbooks are always piled near my bed. I’m not yet an online foodie, though I love the Food 52 blog. I like thinking up new meals and planning another dinner party. Current new favorite: Ina Garten’s latest book.
  3. Me time. Whether it’s to soak in a bubble bath, paint, cook, take a walk or go to an exercise class, I try to schedule something for me now that I’ve raised my daughters and they have flown the coop.
  4. Thanksgiving. It’s the one holiday I get at my house where everyone comes to me since relatives have taken Passover and Rosh Hashanah. I make a big deal about the table decor, favorite recipes, from onion soup dip and a squash-apple cider soup shooter to my cornbread stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, that string bean casserole for one daughter and pies. I extend the table for as many who want to squeeze around, including friends with no place to go. You’re always welcome (except during Covid).
  5. Shared texts. My two daughters and I text daily–so happy they let me in to news about work, friends, what they’re cooking and my grandsons, the triple loves of my life.
  6. Gal pals. They got me through my divorce, make me laugh, let me cry, and heard all about my insane dating, then welcomed a new beau enthusiastically. They care about me and my entire family, whether they live in my village, 25 miles away or 300 and check in regularly.
  7. My house. It’s old but I bought it on my own after my divorce as part of that large contingent of single female homeowners. It’s mine, provided a haven when I most needed it, and I’m proud I made a wise choice. I doubt we will be together forever since it has stairs and is far from my daughters but for now, we’re best buds. It loves when friends and family fill it up. And I love that it offers a quick walk into its great village where I know all the shopkeepers, can pop into Paul Rudd’s candy store to see if anyone famous is visiting, exercise, paint, have a great farm-to-table meal.
  8. My health. I try to stay healthy–eat well–most of the time, watch pounds, go for checkups, and so on, and when it fails–a broken arm–lets me know loudly little else matters except having great health insurance and good doctors and a dentist nearby.
  9. My work. I love what I do, not every assignment but my work stirs my brain cells, engages me with others and offers a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve made wonderful work friends through the years who’ve become social friends. I’ve met celebs which has been fun. They’re not my friends but I learned they’re like you and me just have a bold-faced name! And having a writing partner of more than 35 years who is the best listener and empathizer and also reads and edits work together and apart can’t be beat. We always have another project jelling and time to laugh.
  10. My piano.I learned to play on a beautiful Steinway baby grand, as did my daughters. My oldest grandson is next in line to begin. When my father had dementia, he still remembered the piano, which he gave my mom for their 15th wedding anniversary. Even near the end, he could still call me up and ask, concerned, “Where is my piano. I think someone stole it.” I’d calm him down and say, “It’s safe with me. Don’t worry.” It’s a possession that’s in our family and hearts forever.