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The weather is wreaking havoc on my allergies. One day it’s 75 and sunny, the next we have thunderstorms, the next there’s a low of 38 degrees, the next it’s 55 and drizzly. Any time the weather changes, I wake up feeling like an elephant is standing with its forelegs on my brow furrows and its hind legs on my cheeks. The elephant has taken up permanent residence of late.

To add dust mites to injury, I skipped the thorough housecleaning this week. I did the bathrooms on Friday, but Sundays are for dusting and vacuuming and cleaning the floors and I just… didn’t do it this week. Listen, it was a grey, dreary Sunday and my family just wanted to sleep in and pursue solitary, quiet activities all day and I could not drum the energy it would have required to badger them into doing housework with me. Nor the energetic resentment it would have required to do the housework by myself. At the time, it felt like I was getting away with something, but now I have Regrets; apparently one week plus one day’s worth of dust is too much for my overly touchy immune system.

All this means that I’ve been sneezing a lot. A lot a lot.

Oh – and I have observed something interesting, which is that my sneezing habits have changed over time. I used to be a one-and-done sneezer. But in the past few years, it’s usually a one-two punch of sneezing. I’ve always felt a mix of sympathy and curiosity toward those people who sneeze multiple times in one go – you know, like five times in quick succession, and it’s always five on the dot. It must be so irritating/exhausting to be in a work environment and to KNOW that you will sneeze no fewer than X times and have coworkers say “bless you” after each one, thinking your sneezes are complete. Perhaps this is less of an issue now, in The Time of Zoom. I don’t know.

I do know that my family gets curiously irritated with me when I sneeze. Especially my husband. Look, I get it. Sneezes can be startling and they require a response, so you have to be on the alert when someone gets that watery-eyed look that means an achoo is imminent.  And I am also painfully aware that when my allergies are all hot under the collar, I can sneeze A LOT. Like… a dozen times. Not all in a row, but with a few seconds’/minutes’ pause between each one. 

My husband typically gets annoyed first. “Geez,” he might say. “What’s wrong with you?” But not in, like, a caring/concerned way. More like in the way he might say “What’s wrong with you?” if I started making a spit fountain with my Diet Coke in the middle of a restaurant. (We don’t go to restaurants anymore; this is just an example.) You know. A mix of disdain and annoyance. 

(He has also taken issue with the MANNER of my sneezing. I apparently don’t… let it out enough for him. And I admit, my sneezes are fairly contained. But that’s just the way I sneeze. While I maintain that my sneeze technique just bugs him for whatever reason, he claims that he’s afraid I will rupture an aneurysm in my brain or something; this is apparently a real thing; I just googled it. To appease him, I have tried to be more extravagant in my sneezing, but a) it’s very difficult to change the way you have been executing an involuntary function your entire life and b) it’s gross. It gets saliva and snot all over the place, and by “the place” I mean the interior of my elbow. If most people are sneezing like this, and you KNOW not everyone is making use of their elbow, no wonder colds and flus and other viruses get around so much. Ew.) 

I have pointed out to him that getting annoyed with my sneezing is a ridiculous response. The sneezing is involuntary. As soon as I start on one of my sneezing fits, I try to resolve the issue by blowing my nose and/or taking an allergy pill. He has eased up his cranky commentary with time. (But I’m betting he isn’t less annoyed; he is just biting his tongue.)

(And I get it – really, I do. Anyone who has been around a coworker or a family member with the sniffles or a persistent cough or a throat clearing understands that a repetitive sick noise is very grating indeed. But I kind of feel like the sneezing is slightly different? It’s not daily; even when I have a sneezing spasm, it goes on for minutes, not hours. And it – so far – has NEVER HAPPENED when either of us is trying to fall or stay asleep. Okay, maybe it IS super annoying but it’s TEMPORARY at least.)

Even Carla has to make some sort of comment when I get going. At least she’s not annoyed by me (yet). But she will pipe up with something like, “You’re sure sneezing a lot.” 

Yes, I know. Thank you. I had also noticed that I have just sneezed twelve times in the past three minutes. It’s not fun for ME EITHER, I ASSURE YOU. 

Maybe the REAL issue is what I mentioned before, that social convention requires a response to sneezing. (A POLITE response; “geez” doesn’t count.) And if you feel like you have to respond to every sneeze… and there are 15 sneezes… well, I can see how that would be indeed trying. 

We have a little tradition in our family where you say “bless you” for the first sneeze, and then, should there be a second, you say “gesundheit.” (And the sneezer responds in English to the first blessing and in German to the second. I know. We are weird.) I suppose we could do French for the third sneeze, but no one does. Instead, by the third sneeze, everyone is annoyed.

I propose that, universally, we should acknowledge the first two sneezes, and then – if others follow – we ignore them and move on with our lives. Honestly, I would be FINE without acknowledging them at all; after all, sneezes should belong to the category of other bodily emissions that come with being human – hiccups, gas, sweat – that we all pretty much pretend don’t exist when we encounter them in the wild. I don’t know why sneezes get special treatment; I think originally blessings were meant to ward off the plague, which, okay, perhaps we can all use ALL the blessings we can get these days.

If you are up for feeling ranty about something completely inconsequential in The Grand Scheme, please join me for a VERY long and ranty rant. I am Super Peeved right now, so I am putting it all down here and releasing the peevedness into the universe so that it will leave me alone.

Our final payment for our car was due on Tuesday. We exchanged that car for a new car the previous Saturday, meaning that we did not need to make the final payment. But we forgot that our automatic online bill pay system was on top of things, and was ready to make the payment for us.

The instant we realized this – middle of the nightish Monday – we figured out how to stop the payment. I called the bank on Tuesday, first thing, and they stopped the payment. We could see in our account that the money briefly left… and was then returned.

Great. Easy peasy.

Wednesday, we received an email from the car company saying thank you for your payment. Sigh.

I called the bank and explained what happened. Nope, they said. We can see that you stopped the payment. See? Right there? In your account? It was stopped.

Okay, great.

Yesterday: An email from a Third Party Online Bill Pay Service, which pays bills for our bank. They had submitted the payment to the car company, but our bank would not release the money to pay them. Because we had, you know, STOPPED THE PAYMENT. So our online bill pay service is now suspended and we are on the hook for the money that they paid, even though we supposedly stopped the payment. (The bigger of the two issues is the suspended bill pay service. We have four automated bills coming up before the end of the month, and, okay, I guess if the solution is “just write four checks” it’s not THAT big of a deal. But it is ANNOYING.)

(I have not yet called the car company, to see if they can simply RETURN THE MONEY for the car we no longer own.)

I called the Third Party Service. I sat on hold for 17 minutes (yes I am counting because I am PEEVED) before someone answered. She was polite but not friendly. I explained my issue to her. She needed my social security number and email address and birth date and verified that she could not see any issues.

But… I got this email, I told her. An email that says our service has been suspended.

Nope. She can’t see that there is any issue with my bill pay service.

But… this email.

We went round and round for a bit. Finally, I asked her if the fact that the email went to my husband’s email address was significant. Aha. Yes. Apparently, even though the money with which we pay our bills comes from a joint account, my husband is the one who set up the bill paying system under his name and social security number. Therefore, I cannot make any sort of decisions for the online bill paying system. My husband needs to be the one who calls.

Sigh.

Me: Okay, what are your hours?

Third Party: 8:00 to 5:00. In fact, we are closed right now. [What? Why did they answer then?] [Also, it was past six, so they must have been operating out of a different time zone, which is kind of a relevant detail.]

Me: Well… My husband is not available during those hours. So what kind of information can I get you that would allow me to talk to someone about this issue?

Third Party: Sorry. Only your husband.

Me: But he isn’t available.

Third Party: He doesn’t have to “be available.” All he has to do is get on the phone at the same time, WITH YOU, and confirm that you can handle this without him. [I am paraphrasing.]

Me: I’m so sorry, I must not be being clear. My husband is at work during the hours you mentioned. He cannot make a phone call during that time.

Third Party: He doesn’t have to MAKE A PHONE CALL. He simply needs to be ON THE PHONE while you are on the phone so he can authorize you to take over.

At this point, my frustration boiled over. My voice got high pitched and shaky. I was near tears. I told her how I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I was really frustrated, we had stopped the payment in advance, this shouldn’t be an issue, and we have a JOINT ACCOUNT FOR PETE’S SAKE, I have as much say over the disbursal of the money in that account as he does, so WHY can’t I talk to someone about fixing this problem?

She repeated a) that they are now closed and b) that he doesn’t have to be AVAILABLE, he just has to be on the phone with me long enough to give them permission to talk to me.

So I thanked her, hung up, wrote a bunch of all-caps texts to my husband (who, at 6:37 pm was STILL AT WORK because that is how things are for some people, in fact, for LOTS OF PEOPLE, this can’t be the first time a human has needed to conduct routine business during non-business hours?!?!?!?!), and called the bank.

My thinking is: I called the bank on Tuesday and stopped the payment. Whatever happened next is THE BANK’S FAULT and they should fix it.

My call with the bank started well. The customer service rep was very friendly and nice.

I confirmed with him that we had stopped the payment. Yes, we had. Then I told him my whole sob story, including that Third Party wouldn’t let me untangle the mess and I hoped that he, Bank Guy, would be able to fix it, considering that it was something that happened AFTER I called the bank to stop this payment.

He was totally going to help me. He first did some sort of poking around in the background and then explained to me that only my husband had enrolled in the online bill pay service, which was therefore tied to his social security number. I was not enrolled in online bill pay at all, he informed me. So for obvious security purposes, Third Party couldn’t deal with someone who wasn’t my husband. He said it had nothing to do with our having a joint account. I found this information useful and thanked him.

Then he started… talking around the situation. Saying things like, “And they were saying that they needed to talk to your husband because it’s his information, and then he could easily tell them that it’s okay for you to handle the rest of the conversation.” And, “It’s totally frustrating that things like this happen, ma’am.” And, “You did everything right on your end and it seems like things got a little mixed up.” You know, being really empathetic and showing that he understood the situation. 

Finally, I figured out that he was no longer just trying to be nice. What he was saying was, HE couldn’t help me. (I literally had to ask him, “Are you saying that you cannot help me reinstate my suspended account?”) I still had to deal with Third Party. Which meant that I still had to somehow get my husband on the phone between 8:00 and 5:00. 

I lost it a little. Not angry – just, you know, high pitched voice, shaky, sweating, near tears. Delightful. And I told Bank Guy that my husband CANNOT MAKE THAT WORK. He is NOT AVAILABLE. And I also said, “I did the right thing, right? What happened after I stopped the payment? Why did it not actually STOP?” And he gave me some B.S. answer about how the Third Party system must have gotten confused. I tried to say, Well, since I STOPPED THE PAYMENT, then I think it is up to the bank and the Third Party Bill Paying Service to work it out.

That is when his tone shifted. Nice, patient, empathetic Bank Guy was done with me. He started speaking very slowly and loudly.

“Just to clarify, your husband doesn’t actually have to be on the phone,” he said over and over. (Which, what? YES HE DOES, that is exactly what you are saying.) “He can be on a three-way call with you, and tell Third Party, ‘you can talk to my wife.’” 

“He isn’t available during the hours they are open,” I said.

“I’m QUITE SURE HE GETS A LUNCH BREAK, MA’AM,” the guy said, very slowly and loudly.

At that point, I took a very deep breath, thanked him, and said goodbye. 

Listen. I am not saying that my husband deserves special treatment. He does not! But I AM SAYING that there are probably LOTS OF PEOPLE who are not available between those very specific hours, and that it is ridiculous that they cannot talk to me and YES I KNOW SECURITY CONCERNS BLAH BLAH BLAH I AM JUST MAD, OKAY? 

And I am not exaggerating about his availability! My husband has seventeen patients tomorrow. If he gets to eat lunch on any given day, and that is never certain because he is almost always running late, he scarfs it down between phone calls to patients, or while he is reviewing pathology reports, or while he is writing his patient notes and recommendations. Sometimes in a day he does not get to use the bathroom. He typically leaves the house at sixish and comes home around eightish. This is just how it is.

But, just to realllllly address the skepticism, let’s say he HAS a free five minutes. Is there a guarantee that we will get through to a customer service person in that small timeframe? NO. And do you REALLY think that they are going to let him bark, “Talk to my wife” into the phone and leave? NO. He will have to do all sorts of identification verification stuff before they let him go. So even if he could find a few minutes during his LUNCH BREAK – OMG I am apoplectic about that phrase for some reason – it’s not necessarily going to be enough time. 

PLUS – PLUS!!!! – there should be a SOLUTION other than “just make a three-way call.” What if he were out of the country? What if he were sequestered in jury duty? What if he were dead? (God forbid.) (I am being hyperbolic because I am PEEVED.)

I guess the moral of the story is that I need to be automatically ON EVERYTHING. But man is that frustrating! 

And also! Can we all agree that this is, in fact, THE FAULT OF THE BANK? That THE BANK should be working with the Third Party Bill Paying Service to figure out how to get them their money back? Because I STOPPED THE PAYMENT. I even called back the next day and confirmed it! And they verified it by looking at my account! 

I want THE BANK to call Third Party between the hours of 8:00 and 5:00 and DEAL WITH THIS. 

Man. This is why middle-aged white women get a bad rap, right? I am so worked up about this that I want to go nuclear. I want to call the bank and talk to A Manager. I want to immediately and forevermore remove all our money – checking and savings and money market account – from this bank to another bank. Maybe I am being entitled and unreasonable. But right now, my vision is so clouded by how INFURIATING this all is, that I can’t see that. 

My next call, as soon as they open, will be the car company which apparently got our STOPPED payment. Perhaps they can return it to the Third Party and everything will go away. 

Now I need to go take some calming breaths so I can talk to the car company without shrieking.

Edit: Now I have called the car company. The customer service person asked if my husband had authorized me to handle this — eternal screaming — and I said yes, and he said fine. Then he submitted my “request” to, you know, not accept money that we do not in fact owe them, to a “team” for “review” and told me that it should take 3-5 business days for us to get our check. He was by FAR the nicest customer service person I dealt with this entire time, but I could tell he was a little suspicious of my motives, even after I explained why I was so anxious to get the payment back.

Now I am going to go clean the bathrooms. There’s nothing like a little righteous anger for making it Very Satisfying to scrub toilets and shower pans.

Good Things

We are in the middle of Day 5 of nearly solid rain. Rain is great, don’t get me wrong. And I’ve really leaned into it by making soup and spaghetti sauce for dinners and crawling back into bed with my computer instead of working at my desk in my (chilly) office. But even with these accommodations, it’s not the most uplifting of weather patterns. Plus, you know. There’s all the… You know. * Broad gesture toward the rest of the world. *

Let’s focus on some Good Things, shall we?

  • Questions. Carla has been SO inquisitive lately, like all of a sudden she’s achieved Peak Curiosity, and so we have been investigating some of her queries in the car line in the morning. (While parked. Because of the strict way Carla’s school is controlling crowds and monitoring students’ temperatures, parents cannot release their kids until eight o’clock on the dot, so if we get to school a bit early, we are just sitting in line, waiting.) Yesterday we looked up a.m. and p.m., today we learned the difference between tiaras and crowns. It’s delightful, the things that pop up in her brain to wonder about. I hope she always, always shares her questions with me.
The other day, Carla was so full of questions that I started writing them down so we wouldn’t forget any of them. Just in case you wanted a peek inside a typical morning at my house.

  • Décor. We finally put up our Halloween decorations, and I love them so. I don’t really know what I was waiting for? I adore Halloween – it’s such a low-pressure, high-fun holiday – but I was really resisting the act of decorating for some reason. I think the delay helped build up the anticipation for Carla, though. And then! Joy of joys! She HELPED ME put them up! Like, she was actually helpful and very careful and had Strong Opinions about where to put our collection of glittery pumpkins and how to hang the wall bats. It made the whole process both easier and more enjoyable. 
  • Outdoor explorations. Despite the rain, we went on hikes/walks both Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, and I’m still feeling happy about them. If there’s one good thing to come of this pandemic, it’s that my little family has spent a LOT more time exploring our local park system than we ever have before, and it’s been really fun. A good excuse to get outside in the fresh air, a good excuse to move our bodies, a good excuse to be together. Saturday was sunny and we went on a walk that took us up over a river valley, with some really spectacular views of the river and the fall foliage. Sunday was rainy, and yet we trudged through a deliciously creepy forest until we reached a beach and then walked on the sand and skipped rocks in the pounding surf while the rain pelted us. We got absolutely soaked but I think that made it feel more like an adventure. I’m already looking forward to our next excursion. 
A break in the rain.
  • Target drive up. This continues to be one of the best innovations of the pandemic. It is so easy to order something from the Target app in the morning, and then swing by Target after I pick up Carla from school. They have really fine-tuned the system so that the staff member is walking out of Target with my purchases almost immediately once I’ve arrived. And sometimes lately they have been adding little free samples of things to my bags. It’s very convenient and I love that if they don’t, in fact, have your item in stock, they will ship it to you for free. Do I wish that they offered more food items for drive up? Or anything Lysol-related? Or hand sanitizer or bleach spray or sanitizing wipes? Yes, obviously. But I understand why those things aren’t available, or are so quick to fly off the shelves that they don’t even try. It’s still a very good thing. 
  • A full night’s sleep. I’m in the midst of one of those wake-up-every-morning-at-3:30 sleep patterns. And worse, I have been unable to get back to sleep after I wake up. Sometimes I lie awake for hours, going through all my Get Back to Sleep strategies. There’s nothing worse than finally drifting off to sleep at six, only to have your alarm wake you up thirty minutes later. The whole thing is AWFUL, is what it is. It leaves me bleary and teary and crabby. But! Last night! I fell asleep at about ten o’clock and didn’t wake up until six! (Well, okay, I woke up around one to pee, but I don’t count that because I was able to get back to sleep right away.) One night of solid sleep will do wonders for a person’s soul. 
  • Mums. It seems like all of September I kept seeing mums everywhere. Mums for sale! Mums on porches! Mums hanging from hooks! Mums in fluffy rows outside of grocery stores! So many mums! I got serious mum envy. So a couple of weekends ago, I finally decided that I needed some. I’m not so great at keeping flowers alive; my landscaping preferences tend toward easy and low maintenance. But I found some mums – and, so late in the season, they were HALF OFF – and bought four burgundy mums and two yellow ones PLUS two decorative kale? kales? heads of kale and I am just so PLEASED with them. I have two big planters in the backyard where I planted some as-it-turns-out NOT deer resistant flowers during the summer, and I added one burgundy mum each to those, plus a head of kale. And then I put four smaller planters with one mum each on the front porch – burgundy and yellow – and added a couple of pumpkins. If I were to do it again next year (which, why not?!?!?!), I might try to get some fun fallish grasses or something, to fill out the bigger planters. 
Neither my mums nor my kale; mumspiration
  • Fall toasties.  I made these WONDERFUL fall treats this past weekend: a slice of sourdough bread spread with some apple and onion jam, topped with a slice of apple and a slice of brie, baked until the brie has melted all over the top of the bread and apple. SO GOOD.

We are having unseasonable warmth. Like, shorts and tank tops weather. Yesterday, Carla and I raked the yard and she was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. It was very odd indeed to see her leaping into our leaf pile without cozy fall clothing on. 

I am NOT complaining, but the lingering summer weather makes my craving for fall food – soups and stews and chili – feel a bit unnatural. Well. The heart wants what it wants. Let’s see if I can force myself to enjoy some still-summery-ish meals instead.

Dinners for the Week of October 12-18

  • Grilled Pork Chops with Asparagus
  • Tacos
  • Takeout

What’s on your menu plan for the week, Internet?

Dinners This Week

Well, here we are again. Another week, another meal plan.

On a food note (the only tune I play), I had a dream last night that a group of friends was insisting we all go to Domino’s to get pizza. And I kept thinking that if I were going to splurge (barf – I hate that term) on pizza, I wanted it to be GOOD pizza, not Domino’s pizza. And my husband kept saying that I was being unfair to Domino’s because I hadn’t had in more than a decade. There was no resolution to this dream, just arguing. 

On a totally unrelated note, but yet still also tangentially food-related, I watched the first episode of the newest season of Great British Baking Show and one of the contestants used the phrase “oh, suck an egg” as an imprecation, and I realized how close it is to “effing A.” A very satisfying replacement, I think.

Okay, here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 28-October 4

Never Have I Ever

For a few weeks or months maybe, I have noticed a change in my grief. I still think of my friend every day, but the thoughts are mainly happy and wistful. There is the occasional instance when I come across something I would have normally called or texted her about, and I can’t call or text her, and so there’s nowhere for that desire to go, which is a sad and unbalancing way to feel. But mainly I’ve been doing better. Less sharp stabbing pain, more dull, bearable ache. But I have been having jolts of anticipatory sadness in the past week or so, knowing that the milestone of One Year Since She Left Us was coming up. And today I am really not okay. I suppose this is all normal, and you’ve possibly endured it too, and I’m sorry. 

I dreamt about her last night. It was one of those dreams that feels long and endless, but of course it probably took only a few seconds. In the dream, my friend was alive and cheerful and planning all sorts of fun things to do, but I knew she was going to die before we got to do any of it. So instead of being able to enjoy the planning and the anticipation, all I could do was struggle not to cry, to try very very hard to preserve the illusion – for her – that everything was and would continue to be great. It was an awful, heartbreaking dream — not least because I was with! her! and yet I was ruining that precious time by being sad!

But of course this is how it is for all of us. We are all going to leave this plane of existence at one time or another. We will, and so will everyone we love. And we know that it will happen. And yet somehow we go on, making plans, and falling in love, and having babies, and getting crabby with one another and making poor decisions and wasting time and sleeping in and procrastinating and all the mundane, wonderful activities of a normal life, and pretending for our loved ones and ourselves that everything is fine without falling over sobbing from the absurdity of all of it. I do not know how. 

::EXTREME TONE CHANGE::

Which is all to say that I am craving uplift and distraction. I think I will watch some old episodes of Real Housewivesbecause that is soothing in its ridiculousness. Maybe I will take a nap. Sunshine and exercise are curative, or, if not exactly curative, at least healthful so I plan on walking to the neighborhood grocery store to check out the selection of mums, which I drive past every day and which seem lovely and cheerful and fall-ish. Perhaps, if the store looks un-crowded, I will even dash in and buy an avocado. 

What else can I do to distract myself? If you’re up for it, we could play a little game of Never Have I Ever.

Come on, it’s Friday, everything is awful. I’ll go first.

Never Have I Ever…

… gone more than a day without shaving my legs. And even that is RARE. A friend noticed the cooling weather with relish the other day, saying she was excited to stop painting her toes and shaving her legs. Do most people do that? Go all winter without shaving? It sounds very freeing, but itchy. I have been shaving my legs since sixth grade, if I remember right (I certainly remember being teased by other, more sophisticated girls for how hairy my legs were) (to be fair, they were very lush), and I haven’t stopped since. Once in a while, if I don’t take a shower that day, I won’t shave. But every single time I bathe, I shave my legs. Even if I went swimming at a spa or something, back in the Before Times, I would shave my legs afterward, with those horrible single-blade disposable razors you get at places like that. Even if I forget my razor at a hotel, I call down and get a free one so I can shave. Even when I was pregnant, I shaved my legs EVERY DAY. It’s just MUCH more comfortable to me, to have clean-shaven stems. I do not feel the same compulsion with my underarms. 

…eaten sushi. At least the raw fish kind. Listen, there are just some foods I KNOW I won’t like. Yes, yes, I know you are supposed to try new things ‘cuz they might taste good (TM Daniel Tiger), but I can TELL by the way the raw fish looks that it is going to be a texture I cannot abide. Plus, I have touched a lot of raw fish, so I KNOW it will be a texture I cannot abide. It is beautiful and many many people love it but it is NOT for me.

…lived by myself. I went straight from my parents’ house to college, where I shared a dorm all four years (three of those years, my roommate was the friend I am missing today). Then I went to graduate school and lived with my then-boyfriend. Then he and I moved together so he could attend medical school, then we got married, and have been living together ever since. I think the closest I ever came to living alone was the summer before senior year of college when I got a job in my husband’s hometown so we could be together… and “house sat” for a family who lived across the street from his childhood home. I slept on a mattress on the floor in one of the bedrooms and had to keep the house Show Ready for any interested buyers. There was zero furniture in the house, and it was enormous and had a scary basement. But that was three months AT MOST and I spent much of my non-working time at my husband’s house. 

…broken a bone. Well, caveat, I do think I may have broken a big toe at some point in my youth. But that was never proven and therefore doesn’t count. My husband has broken a couple of bones and it seems like I’m in the minority when it comes to leaving my thirties with all my original bones, intact. Maybe I just run in a fragile crowd, I don’t know. 

…seen my husband’s office. Okay, okay, this is kind of a cheat because he has three offices. (Down from five.) But I have only seen one of the current offices. That’s kind of weird to me, considering how much time I spent in my father’s medical office – and even in my mom’s law office – when I was a kid. I feel like I should be able to picture where he is when he’s at work. Not in a controlling way. I suppose the difference is that it’s not really HIS space; he shares it, since he rotates through, so he has no copies of his medical license and diplomas on the wall, no nameplate on his desk, no framed photos of me and Carla on bookshelves filled with not his books, no trout-themed paintings on all the exam room walls (TM my former ophthalmologist). But STILL! He goes to these places every week and it feels odd to me that I have yet to see them.

Okay. Your turn.  

Cravings

Do I write about anything besides food? Is this a thing where I have A Serious Problem and I am just breezily unaware of it? I’m hoping it’s just Keto, which forces me to think about food waaaayyyyy more than I want to, and way more than is probably healthy.

Right now is my food witching hour. Well. Witching Hour #1. (The second takes place after Carla goes to bed when I flop onto the couch and watch something ridiculous.) This is the period of time between when I am starting to get hungry for dinner (about 4:00/4:30) and when we actually EAT dinner (anywhere between 6:30 to 9:00, depending on my husband’s schedule and/or my ability to time the dinner correctly). 

(This is also some sort of mating witching hour for a local… chipmunk? bird of some sort? other creature that makes repetitive clock-ticking – but, like, a loud cuckoo-style clock-ticking sound, not a tiny click that a normal wall clock makes – noises every single day at right about this time?)

(Well, now whatever it is has finished his business and has moved on. Soon the neighbors will release their dog into their backyard where he will bark persistently until they let him in. Which takes MUCH longer than it reasonably should.) 

Anyway, I am typing this post right now to avoid snacking. I have already snacked on my Allotted Keto Snack, which is an ounce of cheddar cheese, and which was delicious. I have been doing Keto for one week and two days and it has been going fine – you know, as fine as it goes when you hate it and all food seems super sad and/or requires too much chewing. But today I have been smacked right in the face by Severe Cravings.

Maybe if I write them down here I will transfer some of the craving energy from my belly into the Internet. That’s a thing, right? Like how if you post about your baby sleeping through the night, she is guaranteed to wake up seven times the next night and for every night for the next three months? Maybe it’s like that with cravings: I tell you all about them, and then they disappear. Yes. That is going to happen.

At some point, I hope to have a relationship with Keto that is less restricted. Where I can take little breaks. Or even… eat regular amounts of carbs on the weekend or something. I don’t know. But right now, everything feels very fragile and precarious, and I’m worried that one rogue glass of wine is going to tip me right off the wagon and into a bag of tortilla chips.

(Here is where I note that this weekend, we have not one but TWO [outdoor, masked-except-while-eating] family get togethers [of the exactly three families we have gotten together with since March, these are two of them] and so I am already sure that I will be pretty lenient with myself. My husband is making these amazing cookies, for one thing, and for another, we will be watching football [outdoors, on their deck; I don’t understand how this will work either; do they have an outdoor TV?] and football goes so very well with beer. Maybe I will take some Michelob Ultra with me?)

(Also: TWO get togethers??? That seems so incredibly extravagant. But it is also coming at a good time; this is the anniversary of my friend’s death and I am feeling wan and tearful, so being with other friends should be a lovely and welcome distraction.)

I am slightly surprised by the things I am craving most fiercely; for one thing, “chips” is not up there. Not that I’d throw a plate of nachos out of bed, mind you. But I have other carbs on the brain.

  1. Bagel. This is my top food fantasy right now. A thick bagel, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, perfectly toasted. Coated in a slick layer of butter with salt and a nice gooey topping of honey. Oh my GOD. 
  2. Wheat thins. We have a box in the pantry and I ate one this past weekend and it was SO GOOD and I have been thinking about gobbling up its brethren ever since.
  3. Triscuits. We also have a box of these bad boys because I was eating cheese with Triscuits all summer when I needed a little pre-dinner snack. So now when I eat cheese, there’s a Pavlovian Triscuit bell that rings in my head.
  4. Apple anything. A nice, crisp, juicy apple. Apple cake. Apple crisp. Apple pie. ANYTHING WITH APPLE.
  5. Mango smoothie. I think this is a spite craving and will be therefore fleeting; I made a smoothie today with raspberries but before I did that, I looked up how many carbs mango would set me back and it was A LOT. My raspberry smoothie left a lot to be desired, so I have been really jonesing for the mango version I used to make for myself and Carla on nights she had ballet.
  6. Bruschetta. I would love a nice crusty baguette, sliced into pillowy rounds, and coated with wonderful things like spinach and artichoke dip or a mushroomy tapenade. YUM.
  7. Garlic bread. Droooooooool.

I thought for sure I would really want pizza, because I love pizza with all my heart. But I have been making a Keto version (with fathead dough) and I guess it is an adequate-enough stand-in that I am not missing pizza too much. (Yet.) (Adequate is the absolute highest praise I can give the fathead pizza dough. I think all the people who say it tastes just! like! regular! dough! have either been on Keto for too long or have never eaten really good pizza.)

I would also love a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And a Coke. 

I have thinking about Coke so intently today that I may temporarily suspend my “no artificial sweeteners” rule and drink a Coke Zero. We’ll see. 

What are you craving right now?

Thank you for joining me on this cravings journey. It is now time to put my dinner in the oven and feel resentful toward our neighbors and their dog who has, right on cue, begun to bark in their yard.

Dinners This Week

Still, we must eat.

Dinners for the Week of September 21- 27

  • Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa with Guacamole – I am back to requiring one slow-cooker meal each week, because Carla and I have a twice-monthly commitment that puts us back home at dinnertime. I realize “twice-monthly” does not work out to “each week” but I want to build up my repertoire of acceptable slow-cooker meals. Plus, the slow cooker is awesome. I think my husband will turn this beef into tacos. I will make a giant, sad heap of it on my own plate, and top it with as much guacamole as I can.
  • Lemon Cod with Roasted Asparagus – Ugh. I wanted fresh cod, so I went up to the fish counter (standing in line behind a gentleman who CLEARLY had not read the many posted signs asking customers to please stand six feet back from the fish counter; at least his mask was fully on his face unlike MANY OTHER CUSTOMERS) and asked for a pound or a little over of the fresh cod. (Last time I ordered fish, I got about a quarter pound less than I wanted, hence the specificity you didn’t ask nor care about.) It was a pound and a third, which is a little more than a little over, in my opinion. And the cod fillets were very uneven: one side was very thick and the other side was very thin. Which makes it impossible to cook them evenly. So I asked if he had any pieces that were thicker and he lectured me on how I had to take the whole fillet, he simply could not cut off the thin part and just give me the thick part, which wasn’t exactly what I asked for but okay. I get it. I’m not trying to game the fish system, bro. Then, perhaps noticing the panic in my eyes, he told me a fishy secret: they have the same! cod! in the freezer section! But JUST the thick parts! I knew he was trying to help me get exactly what I want, which is very kind, so I went with him to the freezer case and oohed and aaahed over the cod bundles he handed me. But the cod they had frozen was… cod from the fish counter, frozen, and wrapped in plastic. So, literally the same cod. Just… frozen after it had been sitting out for hours trying to catch the eye of some oblivious shopper. I know from experience that the cod takes on a bitter flavor once frozen. I know this because, well, I’ve noticed it, but also because my husband hates it. He is already not super in love with the menus I’m planning lately because HE has declined to join me in a second keto journey IS IT BECAUSE IT IS HORRIBLE AND I ASK MYSELF DAILY WHY I AM SUBJECTING MYSELF TO IT HMMM I WONDER so I didn’t really want to increase the chances he will hate a food he already doesn’t love. But the fish monger was Right There! Gleefully holding out a problem-solving cod package for me to take and then possibly applaud him, I don’t know. And I couldn’t very well reject his fishy offer and go back to the counter and go through the whole cod rigamarole again, could I? Yes, I could have, indeed, people change their minds. But I felt Very Flustered and, you know, indebted to his cod solution skills, so I took the cod he so reverently held out to me. Then, when he’d returned to the fish counter, I put it back and grabbed my second choice, a package of vacuum sealed cod. Then I fled. This is TOO MUCH information about a single cod-related interaction. I also picked up a package of macaroni and cheese for my husband because I am a Very Good Wife.
  • Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Broccoli – This recipe is for chicken, not pork, but my husband is still kind of squicky about chicken. I also bought a parsnip that I can roast for my husband, to bulk up the meal a bit. Has Carla ever eaten a parsnip? Maybe this is a good chance for her to try one.
  • Steak Kebabs with Chimmichurri  – Instead of threading the skewers with tomatoes (per the recipe), which I hate, I will use green and red bell peppers. I will roast a yam for my husband and another for Carla because she (mostly) likes or at least eats small portions of yams!
  • Saucy Pork (with Noodles) – This is based on a recipe from The Lazy Genius Collective, which I try to break down into a more specific recipe here. I will use powdered erythritol instead of sugar in the sauce, which made no difference in the mini-taste test I did, sprinkling some of the erythritol in soy sauce. We roasted, finely chopped, and froze a pork tenderloin a few weeks ago, which will make up the bulk of the meal. I will add thinly sliced snow peas and red bell pepper to the pork and eat that. My husband will eat everything with ramen noodles.
  • Bang Bang Shrimp with Slaw – I am assuming my husband can turn these into tacos if he’s into that. There is way more mayonnaise in this meal than I am comfortable with, but we must lie in the bed we make for ourselves. Even if it is smothered in mayonnaise.
  • Out
  • We are also making whole-milk yogurt. Carla has a list of things she wants to make, and this was one of them. It sounds fairly simple, even though the Instant Pot makes me nervous.

That’s it, dinner-wise. Are you eating anything super exciting this week? Or super NOT exciting? I’d love to hear that, too.

I hope you are doing all right, Internet. Take heart. Eat something delicious. Keep going.

I had to double check that it truly is SEPTEMBER SEVENTEENTH SOMEHOW. This has long been a refrain of my life, the “where has time gone?!?!?!” theme, and yet it never ceases to astound me because WHERE has the time GONE?

Time has taken on even new depths of slippery-ness now that Carla is back in school. (She is SO HAPPY, internet. I know it could go remote at any moment, but for now she is SO HAPPY.) I keep jolting out of whatever I’m doing and thinking, “Where’s Carla?!” as though she’s still in the house somewhere and I’ve forgotten about her. Or I will look at the clock and think, “Oh my god! I need to go get Carla!” even though I may, in fact, have four hours yet before I need to pick her up. 

We have all these new things to do each day – make sure she doesn’t have a fever, answer some “do you have Covid or Covid symptoms?”-style questions via an app before 7:30, make sure she has a selection of masks to take to school with her – and it’s making me jumpy. I will be prepping her breakfast and think, “Oh no! I didn’t take her temperature yet!” Or we’ll be in the car line and I’ll yelp, “Shoot! I didn’t fill out the online form!” Or we’ll be just ready to step out the door and I’ll feel that sick sensation of having forgotten to wash her masks. When, in fact, I have plenty of time to take her temperature and I already filled out the form and she has plenty of clean masks.

And then there’s the new pickup time. The kids all have staggered arrival and departure times, and I need to pick Carla up at 2:45. Which is exactly the time I used to leave the house to pick her up. You are seeing the issue, right? Even though I have set my alarm for 2:30, so that I can leave the house right then to go get her, my brain is always going, “Pshaw, you have plenty of time!” because it still thinks I don’t need to LEAVE until 2:45. And then I’ll be puttering around doing lord knows what until I see that the clock says 2:37 and then I FLIP OUT. I have even included a little note that shows up when the alarm goes off, that says “PICKUP AT 2:45.” Still, my brain is convinced I have more time than I do. We live very close to Carla’s school, so I haven’t been late yet. But it’s been very very close. (I don’t know what would happen if I were late. Nothing, probably. But I like to FOLLOW the RULES.)

This is all part of adjusting to a new routine. I have set myself all sorts of alarms and reminders on my phone so I won’t forget any of the steps. Plus, we have purchased new whiteboards and listed out all the things Carla needs to remember each day (she can’t bring a backpack, but she does need masks and a water bottle) (she also has to take a shower immediately upon arriving home; I don’t know if this will help at all with germ containment, but it definitely helps move bedtime along more smoothly). We don’t have any after-school activities; our only commitment is one day a week, every other week, which helps significantly.  I think we have some good systems in place to help keep us on track. But it’s still early days, so I am feeling off-balance and afraid of making a mistake. 

When I was writing this post, I could not for the life of me remember the word for “commitment.” I was WRACKING my brain and coming up with nothing. Well, not NOTHING. The brain is very helpful, and was serving up all manner of wrong and not-even-remotely correct words. I am going to hope this isn’t a sign of aging but rather a keto-related brain fog, yes I have just started keto again and I don’t want to talk about it. Because I was in the car and unable to Google, I texted my husband. I am sure he lives for these urgent interruptions in helping seriously ill people. Obviously he knew the exact word I needed. He is a brilliant, wonderful man. This is the kind of thing that keeps a marriage fresh.

To change topics rather abruptly, Carla is very into LEGO right now. She’s always liked LEGO; she and her dad love to build scenes from Frozen and the like from sets. A few years ago, her grandmother even made her a big table-top sheet of LEGO that she can build on; it lives in our living room as a permanent part of our décor. But this summer, she’s gotten really into it. She used her allowance to buy a big tub of LEGO, rather than one of the build-something-specific kits, and she’s been busy building things and breaking things down and incorporating her creations into her imaginative play. I love that she finds it so absorbing. The other day, my husband and I watched football and Carla just… played with LEGO. The entire time. 

Aside from the important fact that CARLA enjoys LEGO, I like it because I feel like I can get points for playing with her while not actually playing. Listen, I love my child with the fire of all the stars in the universe, but I do not like playing with her. I do play with her. We play Barbies and we play restaurant and we play pet store and we play all sorts of things. But I do not enjoy it. I enjoy crafting and reading and going for walks with her. I enjoy doing things by myself. Playing, not so much. 

But with LEGO, I have carved out a very clear role for myself: that of Piece Finder. The way it works is that Carla will decide she wants to build something – a park or a hotel or a triceratops or whatever – and then she will tell me, “Find me all the green pieces.” Or, “I need all the 2×2 bricks.” Or, “I need this eye that looks like it’s closed so I can make my alligator wink.” And then I will sift through her giant tub of LEGO pieces and find what she needs. It is soothing and I am spending Quality Time with her and – most important of all! – she counts it as playing.

(“You never play with me!” has been a frequent tearful complaint these past six months, because creating lesson plans and taking her to the dog park and walking along as she rides her bike and watching her swing on the swingset and playing board games with her and taking her on hikes and teaching her how to bake banana bread and designing elaborate chalk obstacle courses with her and searching for bugs and watching Full House with her do not count as “playing.” Omfg.) 

We watched LEGO Masters starring Will Arnett (who normally annoys me, but whom I found rather endearing on this show??? even as he simultaneously sort of annoyed me????) together as a family. When it was airing live, earlier this year, I rolled my eyes at it. Carla kept wanting to watch the previews and I kept discouraging her from wanting to watch it. So lame, I thought. Grown ups playing with LEGOs? Ugh. But it turned out to be a really sweet, charming show featuring extraordinarily talented (and sometimes DEEPLY annoying) contestants and truly mind-blowing creations. The things these people can do with LEGO!!!! It makes me eager for Carla to pursue a LEGO-oriented career, like as a LEGO designer or builder or whatever you call them. How COOL would that be?????? (My husband and I agreed that the prize for winning LEGO Masters should be that you get to design something for LEGO. Or maybe get, like, an internship at LEGO or something. Because the contestants were SO creative and skilled with LEGO, it seems like the $100,000 prize was just not enough.) 

One thing that I found charming about LEGO Masters was that there is all this LEGO specific terminology. Like, I had no idea that LEGO is a plural noun. It’s not LEGOs, which I still have to correct myself from saying; it’s just LEGO. (I feel like kind of a dumbass saying LEGO as a plural. The same way I feel like a dumbass if I try to pronounce a foreign word correctly. Which, in both cases, is a stupid way to feel.) And the little LEGO pieces are called bricks. And they have ALL this lingo for different types of brick usage. It was super fun to learn.

One thing we did NOT learn, which would be intensely helpful: how to easily unpair bricks from one another. I spend a LOT of time breaking my thumbnails trying to get bricks apart for Carla’s various building needs. (We have a little orange thing that’s supposed purpose is for getting LEGO apart, but I do not know how to make it work. Most often, it slips and stabs me.) 

This post is not leading anywhere, so instead of leaving you in as completely abrupt a way as I switched subject matter earlier, I will say that we are now contemplating buying Carla a LEGO dragon. She requested one specifically, and I think it would be an excellent Christmas gift. She also wants 1,000 2×3 black bricks, but perhaps she will need to save up her allowance for that particular purchase.

We did get her a LEGO Advent calendar. There are several options in this category – like a Harry Potter version and a Star Wars one. We got her this one because it seemed a) the most Christmassy and b) it had the most options for actually building things; some of the others seemed to feature a lot of figures and not as many things you can put together. 

I can’t believe we’re thinking about Christmas already, but there you are. Well, I guess this post is ending where it began, with time slipping and sliding away. Before you know it, we’ll all be filling trash bags with scraps of wrapping paper and wondering how 2021 is right around the corner.

Dinners This Week

This weekend, our grocery store was out of yeast again. Well. They had single-serve packs of organic instant yeast for $1.09. But that seems a little desperate, to me, considering you can buy a three-pack of the non-organic instant yeast for something like $1.19. In only moderately related news, the yeast for baking was on the shelf right next to the nutritional yeast which seems like a situation rife with potential misunderstandings. I don’t even know what nutritional yeast is (I think you can put it on popcorn???) but I am pretty sure it won’t make your dough rise.

Also: almost completely out of pepperoni, except for two sad packages of gourmet pepperoni that no one in my house will eat. Hormel all the way, baby.

ALSO: This is the first time in six months that I haven’t purchased a jar of pickles. Carla proclaimed that the pickles from the most recent jar were “sour” (isn’t that… the point of pickles?) and hasn’t eaten one since.

I am glad to be back to a weekly grocery shopping schedule. It feels more normal, for one thing. Plus, we are definitely wasting less food.  (Although I still need to work on limiting my fruit buying.) The next thing I need to adjust my shopping to fit: Not having Carla around all day. She is no longer eating lunch and two snacks at home, which somehow adds up to a LOT less food (and pepperoni) I need to buy. We somehow only went through one and a half pints of tomatoes this week! Either Carla is getting tired of tomatoes, or perhaps she does the majority of her tomato-eating during the school day. Time will tell.

Here’s what we’re eating for dinner this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 14-20

There is no cocktail of the week this week. I have grown weary of cocktails. Well, more aptly, I have grown weary of making cocktails. It is much easier to open a bottle of wine, if one requires an alcoholic beverage. Or to mix a little grapefruit juice into half a can of seltzer, if one isn’t in the alcohol mood.

I am also making this purple plum torte, which I have made for a couple summers running and which I adore. Right now, plums are abundant, so I bought a bunch. If you haven’t tried this torte, it is VERY easy and SUPER delicious and the perfect summer-to-fall transitional dessert. Or snack. Or breakfast.

How are you, Internet? What are you eating this week?