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The Sevens: When a New Decade Dawns

Every time I reach an age ending in seven, I feel big changes coming. My Sevens arrive near the end of the last year of the decade, and looking back, I've gone through major life transitions--or initiated them--around each of those auspicious birthdays. This year is no exception.

When I turned seven on the cusp of the 1990s, I had my first experience bonding with a Very Special Teacher. You know those teachers. The ones with Fred Rogers energy, the ones you don't just like but love, the ones that feel like parents or counselors, the ones who know just what to say to truly make you feel valued, safe, and capable. I hadn't had much luck bonding with teachers in preschool or kindergarten (which I repeated), but here's to Mrs. McNeil in first grade. Everything about school changed for me because of you.

When I turned 17 right before Y2K, I experienced my biggest heartbreaks back-to-back. One was an ordinary breakup with a high school boyfriend. It was my first "serio…
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Blackout Wednesday in the 'Burbs

It's almost time for the Midwest suburbs' drunkest day of the year! Not New Year's Eve. Not St. Patrick's Day. Not the 4th of July. No, not even MSU vs. U of M game day. It's Drunksgiving! Also known as Blackout Wednesday. Each year, I look forward to it with all the enthusiasm that Wednesday Addams had for Thanksgiving.



That's not genuine moral outrage, by the way. I mean, it's a glorious, satisfying, iconic performance of moral outrage. But think about it. We love the character of Wednesday Addams for being a coldblooded mercenary, a sharp and glamorous mascot for all the nihilism of Gen X, who--Hey, speaking of Gen X, are they going to be at Thanksgiving? Did anyone remember to invite them? In the traditional Boomer vs. Millennial showdown over our feast of greed and gluttony, will Gen X sit back and spectate, forgotten as usual, or will they carry a torch for the sickest burn and use it as a diversion to escape social obligation, like our goth princess …

We're All Gonna Die, So.

Happy All Saints, All Souls, Samhain, Day of the Dead, Diwali, or other festival of mortality! We're all gonna die, so let's love it up while we're together.

This year, my family kicked off the season of sweet sorrow by dressing as the three best members of the Addams Family to trick-or-treat at a local park. It's a good thing we took that opportunity for a Halloween "dress rehearsal," because it turned out to be the only chance we had to put on our mysterious and spooky drag this year. Our poor little Wednesday caught the public school pukes two Tuesdays in a row, held out through the next one, and succumbed to a third bout on the morning of Halloween. Sometimes, you spend all month grooming your Gomez mustache (pictured above left) or your Morticia nails (one of which I bent backwards but was able to save--oh, the beautiful agony) and then trick-or-treating is canceled anyway. C'est la vie. We shall carve a pumpkin and roast its seeds for our departed …

My Parents Bought a House in My Neighborhood

Welcome to the West Side, Oma and Opa! My family is among many who have chosen to live closer together as the Boomer generation retires. Whether or not we have children, we want to make sure our parents are within reach so that we can help them stay healthy and free to live in their own homes--and, of course, so they can help us hapless Millennials and Gen Xers with their home renovation skills.
We need each other more than ever now that health care is a nightmare, social supports have been weakened, economic inequality is rising along with sea levels and pollution, and loneliness has become a deadlier epidemic than smoking. I believe that we are also rediscovering, after a few decades of cultural emphasis on independence, the value of family bonds across generations.

Modern science reminds us that humans evolved to live well past our fertile years to give our families the power of grandparents and that close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are healthy for childr…